My Favorite Jim… May 17, 2012

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In the late winter and early spring of 1980, I found myself in a recording studio, spending one hundred hours laying down the tracks for a Broadway-style musical I had written called Mountain. It was the Sermon on the Mount, set to music. Even though the tunefulness of it gained much appreciation and buzz, my expertise in putting together such a monumental project was based more on presumption than actual knowledge.

So I was quite grateful when two friends came to join me in the process, to enlightened me where I was in darkness and give energy to my bulb of inspiration. It happened that both of them were named Jim. One of them was a pastor of a church who looked like a male model and had a burning passion to share the gospel, but also a secondary agenda of trying to remove all pornography from our community. The other Jim was an entertainment promoter with a delightful sense of humor, an interest in the gospel’s ability to enhance the brotherhood of man, with a very private lifestyle which he rarely shared with anyone. (To avoid confusion, let me call the minister “P. Jim”–for either Preacher or Pastor.)

P. Jim was an interesting blend of rock and roll with rock of ages. We don’t have many people like him around nowadays–because the sixties and the Jesus movement made him desirous of being open-minded, even though his theology sometimes wanted to “corral” that horse sense. Jim, on the other hand, grew up in a very religious home and was doing his very best to distance himself from such godly frugality.

Both of them came to planning sessions for the work on Mountain.  P. Jim would usually steer the conversations towards evangelism and the potential the musical had to “reach the lost.” And Jim nodded his head as he sat with a pencil, adding up how much this proposed evangelism was going to cost. The combination was perfect. I got to play the part of the artist who was not concerned with mere Bible verses nor touched by the insensitivity of money matters. The project was finished, the results were amazing, the casting was completed and two debut performances were scheduled–when a problem arose.

P. Jim called me out to a local restaurant for a cup of coffee. He was nearly in tears. He had found out through the spiritual sour-grape line that our other Jim was a homosexual. (If I may take a moment, this was a time in our country when there was no such thing as “gay.” Those of the more generous inclination in the heterosexual community referred to the “others”  outside their righteous world as homosexuals. If they were NOT generous, the words “queer” and “faggot” fell off their lips.)

P. Jim was a generous soul–but he was certain that he would not be able to continue his support for the Mountain project if Jim was going to be involved. He finished his speech, dried his eyes with a napkin and looked at me, waiting for my response.

I said, “Is that it?” He nodded.

“Okay,” I replied. I got up and started to walk out of the restaurant. Shocked, he grabbed my arm and pulled me back into the booth. He wanted to know what I was going to do.

I said, “Well, I guess I’m going to figure out how to do this project without your support.”

P. Jim was bewildered. No–beyond bewilderment. Actually, he was doubly baffled–first, that I was ignoring the potential judgment of God on our endeavor by allowing this sodomist to continue to participate. And secondly, he was bruised that I felt that he could so easily be cast away without it making any difference.

I explained my feelings. I wanted to have both of them. I wanted to have P. Jim, with his passion for God and love for humanity, and Jim, with his knowledge of the business and ability to raise funds so that the idea could get off the drawing board and into construction. But if P. Jim was going to make an issue over something that was really none of my business in the first place, I would go find the spiritual passion elsewhere and stay with what was working.

To say that P. Jim was flabbergasted would be the classic understatement. He began to throw scriptures at me–and I had a parcel of my own. Scripturally, we came to a dead-even draw. He tried to intimidate me with what would happen when people found out there was a homosexual involved in the planning. I told him it was America. There was no such thing as bad publicity, just ways to further entice people to come out to appease their curiosity. P. Jim wondered how I could do a mission on the Sermon on the Mount while still promoting evil.

I said, “Jim whether it’s evil is for God to decide when He finally closes the door on this little pawn shop of earth He’s put together. I know two things–I don’t have the right to judge and God looks on the heart and not the outward appearance. And Reverend Jim, our mutual friend, Jim, has more heart for this project that maybe the both of us put together.”

P. Jim frowned. He told me he would go think about it. Honestly, I never expected to hear from him again. And if you moved ahead thirty years in time, that WOULD have been the end of P. Jim’s involvement in my life. But you see, P. Jim grew up during the Civil Rights era, Viet Nam, Watergate, Woodstock and disco. His brain was not buried in cement, but rather, sloshing around in the quagmire of a Biblical swamp.

About five hours later, my phone rang and it was P. Jim. (I had already told Jim that we were going to lose the pastor and his church. Jim was devastated by the news and offered to resign. I explained to him that I wouldn’t have made a stand just so I could lose BOTH of them.) But anyway, back to my phone call, as I said, it was P. Jim. He was once again in tears. He apologized for interfering in the progress of what was truly an inspirational notion to bicker over the finer parts of religious law. He told me that if I had a belief in Jim, then he had the faith to stand behind my belief.

We had an amazing premiere, with P. Jim and gay Jim standing backstage together, applauding and hugging.

I lost contact with these two fellows shortly after that. I heard that P. Jim’s church eventually shut down and the porn stores he had been trying to get rid of in the community not only didn’t fold, but multiplied. Jim left the entertainment field and returned to a more normal life, becoming an accountant and a man discovering more about his identity.

But I will never forget that season, when the preference of two individuals–one for and one against–was set aside to pursue common passion.

Well, I entitled this particular essay My Favorite Jim, so you might ask, which one IS my favorite Jim? To answer that, I think I’ll fall back on the wisdom of Jesus. “Anyone who does the will of my Father …”

 

   

 

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Eco-Quality… April 3, 2012

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A gift.  For a gift to have true value it has to possess two attributes–it has to truly be “mine” and I have to understand it. I have received presents that were not gifts, because the instructions came in German or Chinese and I was unable to access the true worth of the intention.

Likewise, around the age of sixty-one through seventy-two and beyond, we receive a gift. Unfortunately, most people of that age do not believe there IS a blessing imparted their way. Maybe it’s because the instructions are in the language of logic and we’re looking for something deeper or more mature. Maybe it’s because we focus too much on the difficulty of implementing the gift and fail to recognize the benefits. I’m not sure. But the ecosystem of Planet Earth is perfectly balanced within the human species by having us begin as children and basically end the same way.

Estrogen and testosterone removed as chemicals of dependence, we arrive in our later years once again on an even playing field, able to communicate if we so desire.

It is an eco-system that proffers quality, which I have blended to form a new word: eco-quality.

We are children again. As children, we can either choose to be child-like or childish. Verily, verily I say unto you–the greatest natural resource unused in this country is not natural gas trapped beneath the surface, but rather, our retired, aging, experienced, elderly population, which is set aside to vegetate and die. Maybe it’s because they never got over their addled essence and have decided to live a life that is adversarial rather than friendly. Maybe it’s because they wish they were still “kidding” and become overly involved in the lives of their grandchildren–ending up  interfering more than enlightening. Perhaps it’s because they think they’re still in their forties, struggling to make ends meet and haggling over the price of toilet paper at Costco. But more often than not, they get stuck dissing in action, and continue to pick at one another, finding fault and resenting each another because everything didn’t turn out quite as perfectly as planned.

So instead of having a flourishing, mature population, full of experience and wisdom, we have bratty old folk who need to have their diapers changed, bitching about eating their strained prunes and broccoli. I cannot disagree with those young humans who find this both annoying and pathetic. If you reach sixty-one years of age and the things you wanted to do with your life have still not happened, do yourself a favor and get up off of your rocker and imitate some of your aspirations with the energy you still have remaining. If we can teach our graying citizenry–many attending Woodstock, who were part of the disco revolution and survived all sorts of financial meltdowns–yes, if we can teach them to take on the better parts of chilled-hood and put that into practice in their everyday, senior citizen existence, we can unleash an intelligence for our youth and probably save a lot of money on medical care.

When children are happy they do two things–they learn and they play. If you reach sixty-one years of age and you think there is nothing for you to learn, you might just want to go to meet your Maker, who will be more than happy to explain to you the error of your conclusion. There is nothing more exciting, amazing and enthralling than an older person who is still willing to learn. We insist that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but since we are not of the canine species, we might want to rise a little above our “dogged” determination.

Learn. What’s necessary in order to learn? Two things: (1) “I don’t know,” and (2) “please teach me.” Since testosterone has ceased making men sexually obsessive, and estrogen isn’t cloying at women’s souls to keep them domesticated, we can actually enjoy things together and learn simultaneously.

And of course, play. There is no joy in longevity if we can’t find a way to pleasurably do everything. If life is a chore, please bring sundown so we can go home. But if we can find a way to make grocery shopping interesting, going to church a new vista of experience, or even a doctor’s visit to be a time of learning and information-gathering, then every day seems to have purpose and potential.

Yes, the greatest resource that is lost in our society is not the oil from old fossils, but getting our old fossils who are still alive to squeeze out some oil of gladness.

God gives us the tools:

1. We are not living in the pressure cooker of addled essence, where our hormones are screaming demands, making our bodies twitch with indecision.

2. We no longer have the pressure of “kidding.” I will be honest with you and hopefully others will join me–I enjoyed being a parent, I find grandparenting interesting, but I am glad I am back to my life being my own, thank you.

3. We have the intelligence to dodge the futility of Re-Spend-ability–causing us to fret over money–and  instead can take our experience and patience–to use it more wisely.

4. Hopefully, we will cease from dissing in action,  generating an atmosphere of tension, which has digressed to an ongoing silence of dissatisfaction.

Learn and play. Everybody gets older, but no one needs to get old.

The years from sixty-one to seventy-two and beyond should be conducted with two mantras:  (a) “I really know a lot, which makes me want to know more.” and (b) “if it ain’t fun, it ain’t done.”

A simple submission to these two precepts would change our society from a youth-crazed, fad-driven mania to a more balanced situation of looking at things through the eyes of experience instead of need and greed.

Let’s not kill off our old people, but let’s create eco-quality,  joyously returning to our chilled-hood, when male and female were much the same and we we had great fun bouncing a ball … and learning our biology.

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Listen to Jonathan sing his gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, accompanied by Janet Clazzy on the WX-5 Wind Machine

 

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Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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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