What Do I Want? … April 28, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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What do I want JonathanAs I scanned the congregation yesterday morning at Highland Hope United Methodist Church, looking into the varied countenances of those attending, I was reminded of a question posed to me two nights earlier by a young man after my concert. He was a precocious fellow with a bit of edge, but a curiosity that was born of purity rather than guile.

He asked me, “Mr. Cring, what is it you want?”

In other words, if I actually had a say in the matter, what is it I would like to see happen in the spiritual, social, cultural and maybe even political climate of our country?

People who pursue good cheer

Good cheer that leads to truth

Truth sensitive to humans

Humans searching for hope

Hope grounded in reality

Reality that uses talent

Talent which grows

Growth moving towards mercy

Mercy that believes in change

Change that births better people

Yes, I would love to see a church that has followers of Jesus instead of merely observers of the after-effects of the doctrine of blood atonement.

Jesonian: excited about the announcement that Jesus still has good ideas.

 

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A Simple Questionnaire … March 10, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

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  1. What do I want?question marks
  2. What do I need?
  3. What do I have in ability?
  4. What do I fear?
  5. What am I doing?
  6. What do I desire to do?
  7. What is the bridge?

Even though it’s a very simple questionnaire, it is filled with important inquiries, which help us understand more about ourselves and our aspirations.

The confusion of every generation is the ongoing belief that we are not confused. People on their way to the discovery of truth always start out with a bit of personal perplexity, questioning, and maybe even feelings of insecurity, because the road to candor is never clear, but always filled with revelation and sometimes, shocking realities.

So let me be the first to jump in and answer these questions.

First, I want to write, teach and share with my generation without being inhibited by so many restrictions and fears. I would like to escape the rigidity of all the systems that exist, which are determined to bring people into submission to a set of rules instead of helping them find the true cause.

Secondly, I don’t know what I need. I feel pretty comfortable with that because the Good Book tells us that God knows what we need even before we do. Excellent. Maybe that’s why He’s such a good partner–he brings the plastic spoons along for the yogurt, because nobody else thought about actually eating them.

My ability is to use insight with humor, and hopefully a gentle spirit, to communicate difficult ideas and contentious causes in a season where people are so easily offended. I do it through art, music, and hopefully, giggles.

I have a dual fear–falling short of my goals because of my age and physical limitations, and losing my solvency and embarrassing the people around me because my ideas are solid but my bank account is dwindling.

What am I doing? Good question. I’m finishing up a seventeen-year career, working faithfully in the mainline denominational churches, to bring a message of common sense, realizing that I can no longer limit myself to such a tiny market, but must at least attempt to expand my borders.

What I desire is to take that which has been forsaken by society, which has callously cast away great means of communication, replacing them with Instagram, and use these methods to reach people with a simple message of hope and personal responsibility. Just because it’s popular to believe that theater, newspapers, books and even musical albums are obsolete because of downloading, it’s not necessarily true. If I owned Facebook, I would also decry any other form of communication that wasn’t “me.” The world will always return to intimacy. It may take a week; it may take a year. We will come back to needing one another.

Which leads me to the final question. What is the bridge? Just as with my need, I don’t have the foggiest idea. But I’m excited about the search; I’m thrilled about the quest. I feel like a Knight of the Round Table pursuing the Holy Grail.

And I know this: it takes courage to chase something that half the people need and the other half don’t believe in.

But those are the only adventures that are truly worthwhile.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

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A Way That Seems Right… October 4, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Simply put, I liked it–speckled with pickles and pimento, with a sweet-tasting lunch-meat flavor.I was twelve years old and madly in love with pickle-pimento loaf.

We did not purchase it very often, for two reasons. My mother thought it was a little too expensive at 79 cents a pound, when bologna was 58 cents a pound. The second reason it was rarely purchased in our household was that I was fully capable of eating a pound of it in one sitting without blinking an eye (even though I am not sure what eye-blinking has to do with consumption…)

But you see, there is one little sidebar to my story. My mother and father also liked pickle pimento loaf, so from time to time they bought it and hid it–never fully aware of my skills of investigation.

Yes, I always found it.

I knew they didn’t want me to have it; I knew it had been set aside for adults only. So I carefully stole a couple of pieces from the package and then supplanted some Saran wrap underneath the remaining lunch-meat to make it appear to still be a full unit. I thought I was extraordinarily inventive–that is, until my appetite caused me to go back for more and more of the delicious treat–until eventually my saran wrap facade was unable to disguise the depleting pile.

I always got caught.

I didn’t care. I was twelve years old and working under a singular philosophy: I want what I want. It was a way that seemed right to me.

Time presses on–and fortunately for my moral character, my fervor for this particular outlook matured and evolved. If it hadn’t, I probably would have become a drug dealer, a criminal, or worse yet… a politician.

Move ahead in time to when I was twenty-one years old. I started a music group. We were desperately trying to do three things at the same time, which as you know, is the definition of juggling. We wanted to be great entertainers. We wanted to make enough money so that we could continue to travel around and share our talents. And we also needed to make enough moolah to pay bills in our stationary life, so we would not be regarded as dead-beats. It’s an awful lot of pressure when you’re twenty-one.

So when I arrived at a motel one night in Smyrna, Georgia, I told the innkeeper that I wanted a room for one person when actually there were four of us. The difference between purchasing a room for one person and four was seven dollars. I wanted the seven dollars and didn’t see any reason why the innkeeper should have my money–when whether I had one person or four in the room, the room was still occupied. It made sense to me. It was a way that seemed right. After all, I was only trying to save money.

I was living under a new precept, having tempered my original “I want what I want.” I now honored “I need what I need.”

Unfortunately, one of the members of our troupe was not a very good sleuth, so we got caught with four people in the room and were asked to leave the premises because of our lie. Amazingly, I was infuriated at the proprietor and spent the next twenty minutes driving down the road, cursing him for being a greedy and selfish loser.

It would be many years before I realized that I was the culprit of mediocrity that evening. Yes, it would be some time before I abandoned the idea of I need what I need, and gained a functioning mindset for a mature adult. I did, however, eventually vacate the useless idea. If not, I would have become a small-minded, provincial individual, trapped in a little world of my own, with no perspective on the needs and feelings of those around me.

When I was twenty-five years old, a new spiritual rave was sweeping the nation. It was the belief that as long as “God was on our side, He would pay all the bills.” Yes–we didn’t need to worry about stepping out in faith and spending money, as long as our mission was ordained by the Most High. I read in a book that a famous evangelist wrote a check on a Friday afternoon with no money in the bank, trusting God to provide the funds by the following Monday, when the check would arrive for cashing. In the story, God not only provided, but gave abundance above the original written amount.

I was so impressed. I was so overtaken by the concept that I wrote my own check with no funds to back it up. All the giddiness mentioned in the story–stepping out and believing–flooded my soul. After all, I was doing what was considered to be spiritual work. I was saying to the world around me, “I believe what I believe.”

When Monday morning rolled around, unlike the testimony shared in the book, I did not receive financial manna from heaven. I had to scamper around to figure out how to cover the check and in the process, ended up setting in motion a series of very bad choices, which ultimately ended up with me deeply in debt to an individual who had trusted me, and now was stuck holding the bag of my foolishness.

I was devastated. I didn’t understand why God forsook me. After all, “I believed what I believed.” There was not a smidgen of doubt inside me. Truthfully, it would be many years before I realized that the promise for daily bread is actually a promise for daily bread. It’s not even a promise for weekend bread. I would have to shed the fantasy that believing something was like building a concrete wall and recognize that the Word of God is actually more like water–yes, the water of the word–moving along towards actual solutions instead of insisting on its own way.

When I was twelve years old I lived under the concept of “I want what I want.” It was a way that seemed right to me. The problem? It forced me to steal, lie and deceive.

When I was twenty-one, I pursued a path that proclaimed, “I need what I need.” It caused me to be self-righteous and arrogantly angry at people who insisted I follow the rules.

When I was twenty-five, I jumped on a bandwagon in a false parade of Godliness, and decided I would force the hand of my heavenly Father by writing a check in His name. I thought that if “I believed what I believed,” then God was bound by his Word, and His love for me, to perform tasks.

It has been a journey. Now I only have one moving part to my faith, philosophy and interaction with others. I pursue what is true. And you know something? It changes on me every day. It requires that I revise my thinking and shed stubborn little pieces of “I want what I want,” “I need what I need,” and “I believe what I believe,” which still try to cling to the inner lining of my soul.

  • It leaves me saying “I’m sorry” more often than ever shouting “I’m right.”
  • It makes me vulnerable, but valuable.
  • It causes me to pause instead of leap.
  • It thrusts me forward towards revelation instead of merely talking about consecration.
  • It permits me to listen to people I never thought I would agree with, and discover that they hold a piece to my puzzle.
  • It allows me to go to bed at night with a bit of uncertainty over the quality of my efforts, but rejoicing in that precious insecurity.

If I had stopped at twelve years of age and made it my lifestyle to want what I want, I could never have expanded beyond my limited appetites.

If I had insisted that I need what I need, I would have justified decisions that would have kept me from meeting the quality folks who have assisted me in discovering a better path.

And if I had locked myself into I believe what I believe, I would be defending my religion instead of living it out in joy.

I now pursue what is true. I often fail, but the failure is merely confirmation of the veracity of the mission.

“There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end of it is destruction.” That’s what Solomon said in the Book of Proverbs.

I wonder how he knew that. Do you suppose they had pickle pimento loaf back then?

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The Dental of Mental … May 4, 2012

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“Let me sink my teeth into it.”

It was a popular phrase long before the current craze of vampire movies. Deciding what to “bite off” and putting some energy into it is a valuable process in our lives. How should we determine it? What should we bite into?

There are three basic reasons that people bite things off, making the new taste their project. Sometimes they bite things off because everyone around them, including their families, tells us that it’s perfect, encouraging them to “take it on,” even making it clear that if they don’t, they have passed on a golden opportunity. Can I tell you that guilt is one of the worst motivators for human beings? And it is usually followed by a sense of dread, interpreted as “being responsible.” Biting off something because someone else wants you to do it will always leave a bad taste in your mouth.

The second motivation that often taunts us is that we “need” to do something.Whenever it appears that I need to do something, I purposefully delay, to make sure that my choice is not generated in frustration or futility, but rather, by my own inclination. Because the only reason to bite anything off is because I WANT it.Yes, the only question that needs to be asked by anyone at any time before biting into a new piece of life is,Do I want it?”

It doesn’t mean that everything we bite off is good for us, or even necessary–because there are only two things that human beings require to maintain their sanity: (1) The choice was my own; and (2) if I find out it was a stupid one, please permit me a road to retreat and repent

The “dental of mental health” is to choose to bite off only what you want, not what others tell you is required or what you believe you need. Everyone knows–once you bite something off, you’ll have to chew it, and chewing is the process by which we prepare food to leave the delicious world of our taste buds and enter the unknown of digestion.  So as we consider what we want, the only question we really need to pose to ourselves is, “Can I chew it?” In other words, “Can I be patient?”

Chewing is being patient. It is also making sure that we drain the last bits of flavor out of what we’ve bitten before discarding it for more practical use.If we can’t enjoy the process of chewing, then we’ll probably end up trying to swallow everything whole, which will certainly cause us to choke in our hour of need. Can I be patient? Patience is one of those words that’s thrown around without definition, so let me give you two applications:

  1. It tastes good enough that I don’t mind keeping it in my mouth for a while. Don’t think you’ll chew very long on something bitter.
  2. I don’t mind being patient and chewing on it, because I know when it finally reaches my body, it’ll be good for me.

The main piece of success in my life is that I have learned to enjoy the chewing process. If you need instant gratification or immediate appreciation, you will never draw all the taste out of every experience, but will either become reluctant to bite anything off in the first place, or end up gulping, swallowing life whole, without tasting.

Can I be patient? Because after all, when the chewing’s done in the “dental of mental,” it comes time to swallow. What I have bitten off has now been chewed and no longer resembles anything of what I once took on. Swallowing is asking yourself the question, “Am I ready to evolve?”

Some folks believe that if their plans change, they have lost the integrity of the experience. Yet, plans changing IS the experience. Swallowing is what transfers food into energy.Change is what transforms “choice” into fruitfulness.Without change, we arrogantly begin to believe that everything we put into our mouths should remain there instead of being absorbed. How many evolutions will I have to absorb to get the full benefit of what I’ve bitten off and chewed? Well, let me swallow the next one and we’ll see how it goes. Am I ready to evolve?

Which leads to the final step in the dental of mental–digestion. Will what I have bitten off, chewed and swallowed produce the nutrient of even greater desire? There is nothing more discouraging than beginning a project and finishing it by saying, “I will never do that again.” Most people are not lazy–or vacant of purpose. They are afraid to bite things off because the last time the chewing and swallowing produced indigestion. It was dissatisfying and left them with a severe case of heartburn.

Yes. The heart, rather than being rejuvenated through the experience, is aggravated and disappointed.

So–will what I want be patiently evolved in me to end up producing even greater desire to do more? Because that is the essence of mental health. At the end of our experience, we should be fatigued, not exhausted. We should feel exhilaration, not exasperation. And we should want rest–in order to pursue again–instead of escape, to avoid contact.

If you don’t do what you want, you end up being on somebody else’s mission, which means that even if it’s successful, you lose the credit.

The dental of mental health: biting, chewing, swallowing, digesting.

  • Do I want it?
  • Can I be patient?
  • Am I willing to evolve?
  • Does it appear that it will produce even greater desire?

Don’t cheat yourself out of great mental health. Even though the world around you insists that you need to accomplish their desires, never sink your teeth into anything that you don’t really want.

  

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Primarily… January 10, 2012

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Sixty-three per cent.

I am told by those who schedule me for engagements across the United States that sixty-three per cent of those who are contacted about the possibility immediately say no. That leaves thirty-seven per cent who express some interest.  I am further informed that about half of them eventually choose to decline, bringing it down to about eighteen per cent who actually welcome me into their environs. Eighteen per cent. I don’t think I could win ANY election with that, do you? I don’t think eighteen per cent would impress any pundit pouring over the numbers from New Hampshire today. Matter of fact, someone from the outside might look at those numbers and say, “Gee whiz. Maybe you ought’a find something else to do. It sure looks like you’re not very popular.”

Popular. What an interesting word. From the first day I stepped into kindergarten, popularity and how it worked was very clear to me. It had something to do with giving people what they think they want. Of course, humans, being fairly fickle, have to constantly revise themselves to the ever-changing demands. So the “popular people” in high school did not necessarily go out and change the world, invent something or cure a disease. No, they married their popular counterpart, had children and tried to teach their off-spring to be popular.

I do not understand how we elect and vote for a President in this country. If I were running for office (you can stop giggling now), I would immediately do three things:

1. I would make two videos–one on the best of my accomplishments, entitled The Best and a second video of my faults and bloopers in life and surname it The Worst. I would play both of them equally so as to make it clear to the constituency that I am capable of good AND bad, with a greater inclination to discover the good because I’m not afraid of admitting that I’ve done bad.

2. After making those two demonstrations of the equality of my actions, I would challenge the competition by asking them to do the same. Anyone who’s afraid to deal with his or her bloopers is never going to be a good leader. Anyone who feels the need to qualify his or her mistakes in some lengthy explanation is going to try to justify future bumbles. I would even the playing field by making us all human–or let us all realize that nothing of any human good will come of it.

3. And finally, the third thing I would do is put out a daily report on how I would choose, as President, to handle the situations facing our present administrator. If I believe it’s a serious job, I should not fault the man or woman holding it for having some difficulty. But if I cannot offer solutions to the problems that exist now, and only project what I might do in the future, I probably am not only worthless, but also potentially a liar. Offering a plan, day by day, of how one would handle being President of the United States is the only real way to let the public know what they’re getting with the deal.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? There is what the public wants, what they require and what they need. Politics, religion and entertainment continue to pander to a confused populace materials which they are guessing are adequate to the desires of the current whining. A few bolder souls might make suggestions on doing things better, but the minute those are rejected as impractical–or worse, un-American–those brave adventurers quickly retreat back to advertising the status quo.

What people NEED demands that we look at the history of the human race, the hearts of our species and both the spiritual and physical needs of each other. At times it means being out of step with the current trends and perhaps even at odds with what seems to be the “taking the poll” way of doing things.

But what people need is, after all, what they need. So I continue to travel across the country with an eighteen per cent approval rating because my message is not borne of popular opinion, hatched from a voting booth or manufactured in a Madison Avenue board room. No, my message is, “NoOne is better than anyone else.” It seems simple until you sit down and realize how many different ways we express our superiority to others. But when we abandon that foolishness–to be better than others–we allow mercy, tenderness and humor to return to our lives.

So let them hold the primary today in New Hampshire, and let America once again believe it can vote in the favorite flavor. I will continue to travel around the country and joyously share my little piece of heaven. I may not ever become President, but by the grace of God … I don’t ever have to lie.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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