A Tiny Step–November 5, 2011


Packed up.

There’s no feeling quite like it and I wish you could all be there to experience the sensation. The program is done, folks are greeted, the equipment is loaded and you find yourself prepared to journey back to where you have selected to headquarter yourself while on tour. There’s a little chill in the air that’s able to reach your soul because you’ve allowed yourself to be open to other human beings.  It prompts a bit of giddiness.

It was Thursday night in Summerville, South Carolina, near Charleston, and I was about two hours from a good night’s rest. I got on the freeway and did what I always do. I set my cruise control at 65 miles per hour … because that was the speed limit. You would have thought I was rowing a boat in the middle of a muddy creek. Everyone passed me–and some of them even honked at me because I was presumptuously driving too slow for their taste.

At 65 miles an hour, it was going to take me two hours to get home. Driving 70 miles an hour, I would have gotten home in one hour and fifty minutes–ten minutes sooner.  Driving 75 miles an hour I would have gotten there twenty minutes earlier. This is a big deal to some folks, or at least it seems to be.

Also, it annoys me when I am driving along at 65 miles an hour and I have to suddenly slam on the brakes because the guy driving in front of me, going 75 or 80 miles an hour, suddenly notices there’s a police car ahead. So we go from the ridiculous to the sublime. Yes–he drops all the way from 80 to 50, sheepishly creeping by the police car and hoping that radar has not caught his errant behavior.  I pass him, continuing to drive 65 miles per hour–the big, fat tortoise that I am.

I don’t feel self-righteous about this issue. I just think we need some place to start–yes–to begin to have integrity as a bulwark for our character. We are constantly bombarded by examples of lying and cheating on television and in the movies–and especially on the scandal-ridden news programs which pepper our minds with negative images of our fellow-man. I think we’ve actually begun to believe that most lying is inevitable and some lying is even necessary.

Here’s what you have to do to drive 65 miles an hour home from Summerville, South Carolina, and not get frustrated or be tempted to speed:

1. Make a plan. The reason most people feel the necessity to break the law and drive too fast is that they’ve convinced themselves that they’re way too busy to spend time in a car, scooting along to their destination. The art of planning is the essence of escaping worry and frustration. Just being able to leave ten minutes earlier saves you from having to slow up in front of policemen or eventually get that ticket when they inevitably catch you. Planning has become a negative in our country, associated with anal behavior, female tendencies or even poor mental health due to fussiness over meticulous detail. And boy, does it show up! We have people who can’t keep their word on deadlines, government in gridlock and organizations that repeat the same activities over and over again until people totally lose interest. Yes, I had to plan my trip to Summerville AND back. Yes, I went into much detail. Yes, I prepared myself physically for the excursion. And yes:

2. I surrounded myself with pleasantness. The reason most of us are in such a hurry is that we’re trying to get away from unpleasant activities we have failed to transform into reasonable joys. I am the great benefactor of sitting in a van and traveling with two delightful women who converse with me and I with them instead of staring out the windows, acting like we’re looking for icebergs on the Titanic. Because folks don’t plan well, they miss the opportunity for great pleasantries with one another. Matter of fact, you can do some of that planning for the next day while riding in your car, going the speed limit.  How about a book on CD? I have a couple if you’re interested.  How about music of your choice instead of the radio? Once again, I have some of those also. How about a cup of coffee and a really tasty, cheap hot dog from your local convenience store?  (Everyone knows calories consumed in a car in the pursuit of a journey don’t count on your waistline.  At least, I heardthat’s what I’ve heard …) By simply driving the speed limit–a small step–you will learn to be a better planner and surround yourself with desirable possibilities, causing you to use a great human attribute:

3. Patience. Patience is not gripping the steering wheel like it’s a life preserver in an ocean storm, but rather, relaxing in your planning and pleasant environment, knowing that what’s up ahead isn’t any better than what you presently have. Jesus said, “In your patience you possess your souls.” A powerful thought. Is it possible that this entire human journey is going to boil down to God evaluating how willing we were to drive the speed limit, patiently evolving our plan, in a pleasant mood? For the sake of many of my dear friends, I hope not.

Take a small step.  Take one day of your life and drive the speed limit. Take a few minutes ahead of that to plan your day so it’s feasible. And then reward yourself by surrounding yourself with really neat things, so you can happily enjoy yourself when others drive by and honk at you.

We need to take some small steps to move toward honesty so we don’t have to frown at ourselves in the mirror.

But instead, we can look clearly … into our own clear eyes.


Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

Making a Path–November 4, 2011


Back in 2000, when I had the honor and privilege of purchasing a house by the lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee, I arrived to do a walk-through and discovered that it was truly beautiful–but had one malady. The entrance was basically inaccessible. It was built on a hill and to get to the front door you had to park in the driveway, climb up a bunch of steps and skirt around a walkway to arrive at the entrance. Your other option was to drive into the garage and enter the house from below, climbing a large flight of stairs to finally land in your living room.

I know there are people who would insist it was a hidden blessing, granting me opportunities for exercise upon every arrival to my abode. I may be a bit overwrought, but I think such people should be killed.  i didn’t feel I should have to exercise every time I wanted to enter my living room. So I went ahead and purchased the home, already knowing that I was going to build a circular driveway to take me right up to my front door, where I could park my car, get out like a normal person and step in, sans aerobic.

I made a path.  I found a way to get to the front door of my own home which offered more ease and comfort, taking away the trepidation of coming home.

I thought about this same thing last night as I sat in my green room in Summerville, South Carolina, before the show. I realized that in a few moments there would be a bunch of people coming to an auditorium to listen to my music and hear my insights on this thing called life.  Believe me, I do not think I am special or worthy of such consideration–so I take what I do very seriously.

Too many people in the United States are making the door to truth inaccessible to the public, requiring them to climb over many obstacles, struggling to get to the prize.  Matter of fact, there seems to be a bit of pride about making the human journey arduous, as if we achieve virtue or perhaps even heavenly reward by climbing and trekking. I just find it difficult to believe that a God who made human beings would come up with a salvation plan that is both difficult to comprehend and nearly impossible to obtain. Some theologians would insist that He did this so that we would become frustrated at our attempts for excellence, and would therefore depend solely upon His grace. I hope that’s not true. I hope God is not a manipulative tyrant who wants to taunt His children instead of helping them to grow into ingenious forces of nature.

So as I sat in that room, thinking of those who were about to gather, I decided to prepare a path for them that was easier to climb to get to the door of their possibilities. I decided to talk about good cheer–because without it, we become grumpy and repel others, ourselves and ultimately, God. I selected to talk about God Two–yes, a God who actually cares about His children instead of hitting us over the head with ten commandments etched in stone.

I determined to share with them that the entire message of the universe really boils down to, “No one is better than anyone else.”

And finally, I told them that when they don’t have enough faith, if they will bring their five loaves and two fishes, Jesus will be faithful to take their problems and make them smaller so they can begin to walk toward their own solution.

Here is what I would like to tell all the politicians and ministers in this country: if you want to help people, you need to do three things: 

(1) You need to develop a message that people can understand. We wouldn’t ask monkeys to do algebra or even give up bananas.  So we certainly should not ask humans to reject their egos in totality or deny their human appetites. We just need to love people the way we love ourselves and temper those appetites that are trying to kill us off too soon.

2.  Every message needs to be “people friendly.” You can share a story about Moses from the Old Testament as long as you leave out the big words, the facts that don’t make any difference to anyone alive today–and as long as you share something that is on point to the reality of our twenty-first century existence.

3. And finally, any path you build to a door of discovery needs to be people-challenging. I will make a bold statement here: conventional wisdom, if it’s more than twenty-four hours old, is generally speaking, wrong. Why? Because the Bible says the Lord’s blessings are fresh daily. And if you’re not ready to receive daily blessing because you are living off of yesterday’s ideas, you will probably accidentally reject a great potential. Tell people to question what they believe and ask their belief to give them two options–heaven AND earth.  After all, anything that truly is of God works in both realms. It’s why Jesus prayed, “Father, Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.” Why would he pray it if it’s not possible?

So by the time I took the stage last night, I was giddy. I knew I had shed all conventional wisdom, all religiosity, all of my frustration and I was ready to make a path to the door. By the end of the evening, some people saw the path and raced with me to the prize. Some people walked out and said, “It’s just not hard enough, not enough exercise and I don’t believe it’s going to get me to heaven.”

Maybe they’re right. Maybe God is just a fussy little accountant, registering all of our sins in a booklet to prove to us how unworthy we are.

But can I tell you this? If that’s what He is … please tell Him I’m closing my account.


Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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