The “Ish” Family … October 12, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

The movie wrapped up, completed with a beautiful spirit and great energy. It was a little script I had written called $6 Man–about a homeless fellow who was trying to maintain the custody of his daughter while also assisting other fellow-street-dwellers, instructing them in converting abandoned dumpsters into shelter. When I first wrote the screenplay and passed it around, everybody was thrilled, but once the movie was shot, some nay-sayers arrived who suggested that the whole project was going to fail because the ending of the story was a bit distasteful and didn’t present a Hollywood-style conclusion. Matter of fact, even people who were in the film, participated in the production and backed the project were completely overtaken by the criticism and were totally convinced that the ending should be revised.Why? Because we have this notion that good things should bring about great results. There’s no foundation in it. If goodness always resulted in earthly reward, then rich people would be some of the most virtuous individuals walking on the planet. But if God were to suddenly shine a spotlight on the most righteous human being, it would probably not beam down on Wall Street.

Goodness has a reward because it gives us the confidence to not be afraid to tell the truth.

I thought I was doing a good thing by rising from my discomfort, getting a wheel chair and heading off to do my gig in Sycamore, Ohio. Matter of fact, the process of renting the chair, learning how to use it and loading it in the van all went extremely smoothly.

And then … here came the “Ish” family. The Ish family consists of a threesome who always show up whenever you have the audacity to pursue something which is considered to be abnormal. May I introduce you to this trio?

  • First there is Foolish.
  • Please welcome to the party … Childish.
  • And then, a little less verbal and very nervous, is Skittish.

When I left yesterday afternoon, my journey of faith–to overcome my physical limitations with my legs and continue my work–was immediately greeted by obstacles from this trinity of fussiness.

First of all, the road to our journey decided to just end, taking us on a detour which may not have completely encircled the globe, but surely was only one turn short of that. (Thank you, Foolishness.)

We arrived at the church to be assisted by some wonderful human beings, but we were still completely inept in using the wheelchair and getting in and out of the doors of the church. (A big shout-out to Childish.)

In addition, the sanctuary only had two aisles to get to the front of the church–neither of which were exactly wheelchair accessible. (Enter, stage right: Skittish.)

And then, to completely discourage our odyssey of faith, only eleven people showed up for the gig, making us feel ridiculous for going through the exertion of pursuing it–for only such a small number. (There’s another “ish” in there somewhere, but I can’t identify it.)

On top of all that, I had not truly factored in how humiliating it would be as a man, to be rolled into the room in a wheelchair to do what I have done for forty years? (I guess that’s the threesome, collaborating.)

So when the program was over and I was awaiting Jan, who was loading equipment with some of our new, kind friends, I happened to look in a pane of glass to see a reflection of myself. God, I looked pathetic. If possible, in that seated position, I looked fatter than ever.

I was discouraged.

Foolish came over and spoke in my ear. “Do you see how ridiculous this is? You’re getting older, you’re fat, you have diabetes. Give it up. It’s not worth it.”

Without missing a beat, Childish jumped in. “Aren’t you tired of hurting? You need to go someplace and play. This isn’t fun anymore. Maybe it seemed like a good idea, but now the other kids on the playground are laughing at you.”

Before I could take a deep breath of faith, Skittish was in my other ear. “Isn’t this scary? What if there’s something SERIOUSLY wrong with you? I know you’re getting around, but there’s always the possibility that you have something like Legionnaire’s Disease,–an unknown virus from the deep jungles of Africa, and it’s attacking the back of your thighs and will eat your whole body away…”

They are quite a tag team. They take faith and try to make it look stupid. They are worshippers of conventional wisdom, which only works if you’re at a convention and everybody there is willing to call it wisdom.

I took another glance at my image in the glass before me, laughed, and instead of waiting to be pushed to the van, I rolled myself to the door to make my own escape in my own way. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I have no expertise with the wheelchair, I got one of the metal pieces caught on the door frame and couldn’t go forward or backward. So now, I was not only stuck in a wheelchair, but I was hooked to the framework of the church like a helpless marlin.

Needless to say, Foolish, Childish and Skittish laughed in glee, having their points well-established through my efforts.

But I welcomed a spirit of relaxation into my soul, took a look at my dilemma, and in no time at all, through pursuing calm instead of frantic, I dislodged myself, rolled out into the parking lot on my own, opened up the back doors of the van from my seated position, turned myself around the corner and over to my van door, locked the wheels of the chair like a true professional, and climbed up into my seat.

I did it.

It was a beautiful fall night, life was going on and I succeeded in surviving the trepidation of a wheelchair in front of eleven people in Sycamore, Ohio.

I did not get a Hollywood ending last night. The exertion felt exhilarating at the time, but I paid the price upon returning, with a sense of exhaustion. I wake up this morning grateful to those in Sycamore who helped me so dearly and showed up to see my present leap (or perhaps better stated, crawl) of faith.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. What am I hoping for? That’s simple. Two things:

1. I am hoping that I will learn through this painful experience that I am addicted to food and must put myself on guard for the rest of my life, to make sure that my weight is always heading downwards instead of climbing for the stars.

2. I am hoping that this process will not kill me.

I am not denying reality. As you can see, I am hoping for something substantial.

So on Day Two of my little journey, I cannot report to you that I have a Hollywood ending which would please all of the spectators milling around. But as in the case of my movie, $6 Man, there is a way that life works–and a procedure–and the more you learn to honor the truth of the matter instead of trying to make everything easy and acceptable, the greater the chance you have of being present when a miracle actually happens.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

A Petty Party… April 16, 2012

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Apathy, lying and envy.

They are like three homely sisters perched on their beds late at night, brushing their hair, gossiping about all the faults of their friends and neighbors until they are adequately convinced they are better than everyone else and can ease into their beds to snore the night away.

A petty party.

It begins with apathy. “I don’t care to become better.” The only trouble with the doctrine of self-esteem is that it often stagnates the human spirit into accepting the present status instead of improving the situation. We are just “better” when we’re trying to do better. We are happier when we don’t accept sadness as “our lot.” We are more spiritual when we don’t settle for religion.

Because after we become apathetic, lying joins the party. “I will lie and do whatever is necessary to deceive people so that I look better.” Once you accept the fact that apathy is going to be your profile for ongoing endeavors, you immediately face a difficulty. The world around us demands improvement, so if we’re not going to actually improve anything, we’re going to have to lie about it. And if we do decide to lie about it, there will be a challenge to our claims–which brings us to envy.

What is envy? “I will destroy what you are doing–which is obviously better–with my lies.”  For after all, the accomplishments of a dedicated soul can be devastated in a  moment of time by a careless lie told by an envious bystander. It’s what concerns me about our country. You see, “patriotic” I understand–loving the freedom, liberty and “justice for all” that sets this nation apart as a beacon of the possibility of truth. What I do not understand is the apathy that creates lying and a nasty bit of envy, causing us to replace “patriotic” with “pettry-otic.”

Yes, we have begun to tear down other people’s ideas, the endeavors of governments not our own and the accomplishments of individuals across our world simply because they’re not American. Rather than setting a higher standard for ourselves based upon the luxuries and freedoms we enjoy, we have decided to lower our standards and simply criticize the rest of the world.

I refuse to join this petty party. I feel the only way I personally achieve greatness is by utilizing my gift, enjoying the fruits, and simultaneously analyzing how I can do it better. I am astounded that both Republican and Democrat are guilty of pandering to the American public with a political philosophy of, “I’m okay–you’re okay” instead of challenging this great nation to greatness. There is no excuse for a country with as much financial possibility as we possess to either be in debt or to lack in the creative abilities to place us at the forefront. But because we’ve decided that we don’t want to get better, and no one can tell us that we should, we welcome the spirit of lying, which causes us to become envious of other cultures, attacking them and finding fault with their ways. Here is the definition of greatness:

“I will continue to do what I know to do until I am shown something better and then I will gratefully receive it and include it in my life–to pursue better.”

If that is not the mission statement of our country, then we have lost our way. In this election year, I don’t know if there will be anybody with enough guts to say that we Americans have become lazy and have replaced the pride over past accomplishments for the pursuit of present ones. Will anyone have the truthfulness to tell the American people that we JOINED the banks and Wall Street in a financial gluttony that has left us all a bit destitute? Will anyone have the audacity to say how ridiculous it is that we are still fighting racial issues in our country after nearly four hundred years of struggle? And is there any politician who will be willing to speak aloud that American productivity has dropped as we’ve allowed apathy, lying and envy to replace workmanship?

As I stood in front of the congregation in San Diego yesterday morning, I gazed upon a group of people who had so much potential, yet are told by their society that they need not concern themselves with transformation, but instead are given the constant message that “they are all right because they are Americans and Christians.” Well let me tell you, being American and Christian comes with a truckload of responsibility. Being an American means to give freedom to everyone else if you expect it for yourself, and being a Christian requires that you love your neighbor everywhere just as much as you love yourself.

There’s a petty party going on. Criticism, sarcasm and frustration have triggered apathy, lying and envy in us instead of challenging us to ask that most holy question:

“Thank you Lord, for blessing me. Now … how can I do it better?”

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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