Reverend Meningsbee (Part 52) Black Tuesday… April 30th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

In the midst of the Garsonville healing, Richard Meningsbee, in his spirit, just decided to participate. For nearly three weeks, he didn’t peruse, view or “oogle”any pornography on the Internet.

He wasn’t sure why. Honestly, he was a little afraid to contemplate it. Was it the arrival of Carl, with his purity towards the work? Maybe it was the movie being such a flop. Or was it just realizing that Jesus was right when he said the physician needed to heal himself first, before he could hang up a shingle and start treating sick folk.

It was perplexing. For he was still tempted–there was a huge vacuum in his life, which lay empty, mocking him and making him feel less than needed and certainly never wanted.

On Tuesday morning, he woke up yearning for a cup of coffee that wasn’t made by his own hands. He had not been back to the Garson-Fill to see Carla since the day she rejected his invitation to dinner and startled him with her revelation about domestic abuse.

Why did men want to hurt women? Was it because women reminded men of how much more they could be? Or was it because men knew that if they struck out at other men, there was the danger of incurring injury. Meningsbee never understood it.

But his mind was burdened with thoughts of Carla. He wanted to see her–but to what end? She had made her position clear. After all, he thought, she might take off running or maybe even leave town, which would be horrible considering that she had established new friends and great possibilities. So up to now he had stayed away out of respect to her feelings.

But today he thought his feelings needed a little attention of their own. He wondered if he could just be friends with Carla. Maybe he could begin to replace her image of Christian men being brutal with a Christian man, yearning to be an equal and merciful.

Whatever the reason, on Tuesday morning Meningsbee was uncontrollably driven to go to the Garson-Fill.

He decided to wear a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and put on a ball cap so Carla wouldn’t think he was trying to impress her with his appearance. It was probably silly, but he thought the effort was important.

He started out the door three times, but turned and sat back down. He didn’t want to blow this. He was in a fragile place, where climbing the mountain was possible, but also possible was falling off the cliff.

On his fourth attempt he made it out the door and headed down the street to the Garson-Fill. It was nine o’clock in the morning and a “Closed” sign was hanging on the door. That in itself was weird. He had never seen that before. Maybe someone was sick. Or maybe they were closed.

But even from a distance he could see inside, and there were people moving about. He was just about ready to turn and walk away when he heard a huge bang coming from the cafe. He turned to look.

He really couldn’t tell that anything was wrong–yet for a brief second he caught a glimpse of Carla. She was talking to a man.

Meningsbee figured she must be busy. Maybe she just hadn’t gotten the chance to open up yet because of her conversation. It seemed like a horrible time to interrupt.

But he did anyway. Completely unsure of his reasoning, he followed an inkling in his spirit. He just felt something needed to be done. The situation was akilter.

Coming to the door of the cafe, he knocked on the window with a smile on his face, waving at Carla. The gentleman she was talking to turned around, and when he did, Carla frowned at him and waved him away.

He knocked again. Something was certainly awry.

The man said something to Carla. She sighed heavily, walked over with the keys, opened up and spoke through a small crack in the door.

“Richard, we are closed today.”

She spoke slowly, obviously trying to control her emotions. Richard looked into her eyes. She was in some sort of distress.

“Oh, gee,” he said. “Couldn’t I just get a cup of coffee? Aren’t you glad to see me?”

She took a quick glance over to the man, and realizing that he wasn’t observing her, she shook her head. Meningsbee boldly grabbed the door, opened it and entered the cafe.

He stuck his hand out to the stranger, and said, “Hello. My name is Reverend Richard Meningsbee.”

The man snickered, held out his hand and they shook.

“I’m Gus.”

Meningsbee made his way over to a nearby table and sat down. “You know, I’ve always wondered if Gus is short–like for Gustave–or if someone just decides to name someone Gus.”

Gus glanced over at Carla and then back at Meningsbee. “No, I’m just Gus. Is this your boyfriend, Carla?”

“No,” said Carla, as she hurried to get a cup of coffee for Meningsbee.

“Well, Reverend,” said Gus. “Is she right? Or is she your sweetie?”

“Well, she is sweet,” said Meningsbee. “But look at me. I’m a mess. No woman would want me. That’s why I’m a preacher. I came to God. I heard He doesn’t reject anyone.”

Gus chuckled and turned to Carla. “He’s a funny one, Carla. A funny preacher. A funny ugly preacher. Right?”

Gus turned again to Meningsbee, obviously trying to stir some anger.

“Well, you know, Gus,” said Meningsbee, “I think you have to have some kind of characteristic about your face that stands out enough to be ugly. My face just kind of looks like God forgot to fill in the blanks.”

Gus laughed again. It was a big laugh–because Gus was a huge man. He stood about six foot four and weighed nearly 300 pounds.

The sight of him made Meningsbee’s bowels tingle in fear, but the reverend tried to maintain his composure, because he believed that Carla was in danger.

“What brings you to town, Gus?” asked Meningsbee.

“A financial transaction,” said Gus, looking over at Carla. “Isn’t that right, dear?”

She tensely nodded her head.

“I see you called her ‘dear,'” said Meningsbee. “Are you family?”

Gus sat down on a stool near Meningsbee. “Carla didn’t tell ya’? Well, she’s my wife.”

Was your wife,” fired Carla over her shoulder.

She walked over and set the coffee down in front of Meningsbee. “Just the way you like it, Reverend. Four sugars.”

It was a signal–Meningsbee never put sugar in his coffee. He always told Carla that if he wanted cake, he’d take sugar. What he wanted was a good cup of coffee.

“So you say there’s a financial transaction,” continued Meningsbee as he tried to choke down the sweet fluid.

“Yeah,” said Gus. “It seems that Carla here owes me a lot of money.”

“Really?” said Meningsbee. “Carla, do you have a lot of money?”

She shook her head but refused to speak.

“Come on over here, dear,” said Gus. “Don’t be anti-social.”

Turning to Meningsbee, he added, “Don’t you hate it when a woman is anti-social? It makes you think she doesn’t like you. It would be easy to take that personal.”

Meningsbee decided to act. “Gus, I don’t think Carla wants you here. I think it’s time for you to leave.”

“I can’t do that, preacher,” Gus said. “I haven’t had the chance to show you my gun.”

He pulled out a massive pistol. Meningsbee knew nothing about firearms, except that they kill, and this one certainly looked like it was capable.

“A gun?” said Meningsbee. “Now, Gus, why would a big fellow like you need a gun?”

“Because sometimes people just don’t listen to my voice,” he replied, pointing the gun at Carla.

“Let’s all calm down,” said Meningsbee. “There’s gotta be a way to work this out, right? After all, you wouldn’t have come to town unless you were trying to get some money to start something. What is it? A new business?”

“Don’t play me, preacher,” Gus said. “I understand your game. I’ve been a born-again Christian all my life. Washed in the blood of the lamb. I was the youngest boy at the Bay City Pentecostal Assembly to ever speak in tongues. I know the Word. You understand what I’m saying? I know the Word. And the Word says, ‘Women, submit to your husbands.'”

“Well, that’s my mistake,” said Meningsbee. “I didn’t know you two were still married. I thought you were divorced.”

“Divorce is a sin,” said Gus. “She may want to indulge in it, but neither I nor the Lord God recognize it.”

“Listen, Gus,” said Meningsbee, leaning forward. “I don’t think you want to use the gun.”

Suddenly Gus stood to his feet, shifted the gun in his hand, pointing it right between Meningsbee’s eyes. “I can tell you’re no prophet, because you’re wrong. I would love to use this gun. You see, I’ve got nothing to lose, which means I might have everything to gain. And if I blow your head off, and then blow my head off, we’re gonna gain our souls, even though we’ll lose the world.”

Carla gave a screech. “Gus, stop it! Leave him alone! He’s not part of this.”

“Sure he is,” said Gus, lowering the gun and pointing it back at Carla. “If he was really a man of God, the Holy Ghost would have told him to stay home for his coffee today. Am I right, preacher?”

“Or the Holy Ghost sent me here to help you both,” said Meningsbee. “There is that, you know, Gus.”

“The only help I need is money,” said Gus.

“Well, I can get you money,” said Meningsbee. “I’m a signer on the church account. I probably shouldn’t be. How much do you need?”

“I don’t want that money. That’s God’s money. It would be filthy lucre. I want hers.

“How do you know she has money?” asked Meningsbee.

“She sent five hundred dollars to my cousin, Reno, who’s dying of cancer.”

“I see,” said Meningsbee, a little surprised.

“If she’s got five hundred, she’s got a thousand,” Gus concluded.

All at once the town constable pulled up in his cruiser and headed for the front door of the Garson-Fill to get his morning espresso and crueller. It was a ritual.

Gus became nervous. “Now, we do need to get rid of that smokie!”

Meningsbee interrupted. “I think maybe I could do that. Could I do that? Gus, would it be all right if I did that?”

Gus tucked the gun away under the zipper of his coat and said, “You damn better well.”

It was actually pretty simple. Meningsbee knew Bill. He told him they were having trouble with the water filtration system and that they were closed for the day.

“Well, what are you doing here?” Bill asked.

“Carla called me,” Meningsbee replied. “I had told her I used to work with this kind of stuff years ago. She thought I might be able to help.”

“Well, Meningsbee, you are a man of many talents,” said the cop. “Now I gotta go find me a cup of coffee and a donut.”

He turned and walked away, and Meningsbee shut the door and stepped back to his place.

“I’ll make you a deal, Gus. Why don’t we go over to the church together, and I’ll give you two thousand dollars out of my personal account. Not God money. Just preacher money.”

Gus took the gun out and pointed it at Meningsbee again. “Do you think I’m stupid? The second I leave here she’s gonna call that cop back.”

“Good thinking,” said Meningsbee. “So let’s tie her up. There’s got to be some rope somewhere.”

Gus squinted doubtfully. “How does a preacher get two thousand dollars of his own money?”

“I’m a little embarrassed to admit it,” said Meningsbee. “But three weeks ago I won it in Las Vegas.”

“A gamblin’ preacher?” Gus shook his head and turned to Carla. “Is that what you settled for, girl? A sinner–just barely dipped in grace?”

Then Gus made his mistake. He turned to look for rope, and Carla took her opportunity. She grabbed a knife she’d found in a drawer just beneath her hands. She ran over quickly and stabbed Gus in the back.

He grimaced in pain and buckled to his knees. In doing so he dropped the gun on the ground. Meningsbee wasted no time. He grabbed the gun, and while Gus was trying to regain his footing, he took Carla by the hand and they ran out the front door into the street, flagging down the constable, who had decided to try the convenience store for his breakfast.

It didn’t take more than two minutes for the constable to comprehend the situation and head over with them to the diner. But in that length of time, Gus was gone. His truck had disappeared and he apparently was on his way to other mischief.

Bill warned Carla that it was very possible that Gus would return to seek revenge for the stabbing, but she wasn’t afraid.

Meningsbee, on the other hand, was terrified. He was so grateful that he had worn a ball cap, hoping that Gus would never recognize him on a normal day.

Carla was strong. Carla was determined. And for the time being, Carla was safe.

 

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Jesonian… April 29th, 2017

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I’ve done enough.

Had enough, given enough, loved enough, lived enough.

Prayed, worked, cried…

ENOUGH

Laughed enough, cared enough and decided enough.

Tepid.

The temperature of America.

Ninety-eight point sick of buying, crying, lying, sighing, trying, vying…but in no hurry for dying.

Somewhere along the line, lukewarm has been presented as a virtuous temperance. Matter of fact, in our religious communities–especially Christian churches–the concept of pursuing, believing, striving and reaching has been discounted in favor of “immeasurable grace” that seems to cover a multitude of misunderstanding.

Yet the GPS of the Gospel is definitely set for the second mile.

Jesus had a disdain and dislike for anyone who was trying to glide through life without offering full commitment. From the manger in Bethlehem, where shepherds were beckoned from their work and wise men were required to travel hundreds of miles to follow a star, to the Book of Revelation, where Jesus tells one of the new churches that they were so noncommittal that they made him vomit, we see a Savior who wants us to be involved in saving ourselves.

It is the woman who touched the hem of his garment who was healed.

Another lady crawled across the floor so that she could stand upright and walk.

The blind man screamed at the top of his lungs for healing, even though the crowd thought he should shut up.

A centurian broke all protocol to ask a Jewish teacher to heal his servant, while admitting he was not worthy to have the Master come to his home.

It was the thief on the cross, who expressed faith in a “fellow criminal” hanging by his side, who achieved Paradise.

We are lying to people when we tell them that simply showing up will get them “up for the show.” The mere presence of praise songs in a church service does not promote worship–unless the people’s hearts are ablaze with gratitude.

Clever teaching of the Gospel with insightful stories falls flat unless it is heard by human beings who are looking for reasons to be energized.

The Pharisees hated Jesus because he was passionate. He ate, he drank, he fellowshipped, he interacted with all cultures, while never condemning anyone unless they condemned others or sat idly by, waiting for life to get better.

Don’t ever forget his words to the Jewish elder, Nicodemus: “You must be born again.”

And don’t ever think that you can tiptoe up to Jesus with a tepid, American attitude, feeling you’ve already done your part–and ever get his attention.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 51) Under the Weather… April 23rd, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

Shortly after the premiere of “Eden,” it was as if the community fell under a spell.

People just started getting sick–lots of flu, colds, injuries. An ever-growing list of those diagnosed with cancer during prayer time. A few of the prominent couples in town filed for divorce. It sent a shock wave through the community.

Meningsbee was fully aware that those who live on the prairie are not without the knowledge of the real world, but the decision to stay there was often an attempt to escape it. Sometimes superstition smothered common sense.

Some of the members started talking about “curses.” There were musings that the sins of the town were taking root and that God had removed His favor from them and that everything they tried was laying an egg.

Meningsbee attempted to encourage folks, but a dark slime of depression settled in.

Meningsbee went to prayer. Normally when it came to prayer, Meningsbee liked to listen. If he was in a group of people, they often deferred to him to lead in prayer, but he frequently requested that someone else do it so he could just enjoy.

But sometimes he knew it was important for him to pray–find a good closet, shut the door and turn down all the noise. Just allow his spirit to be free of fear and open to the possibility of solution.

While he was in prayer, he remembered a question that one of the women from the Ladies Auxiliary had posed. “Pastor Meningsbee, how do you know it’s not a curse? It’s not like evil would let us be aware of its plan.”

He thought long and hard on that. People spend an awful lot of time fighting, cursing or chasing the devil. Yet if there were actually a creature who spawned darkness and evil, it was unlikely that people would be able to deter him from his ways.

So where does that leave us? he thought. Exactly. It leaves… us. What do we know we can do? What do we know we can be? What do we know we can think, that will keep the effects of gloom out of our minds and open the door to good cheer?

From that time in prayer, Meningsbee put together a message, which he shared the following Sunday.

After praying for a grim list of sick folk and listening to a hymn sung with no enthusiasm at half-volume by weary people, he offered a simple thought.

“The only thing I can do, the only thing you can do, is control what comes inside us. Because once it is inside us, it’s going to feed us or it’s going to starve us.”

He stepped out into the middle aisle and pointed out five or six different individuals.

“Do you believe that if you eat better, you might just feel better? But if you’re like me, when you get depressed, you want to eat things you know are bad for you, but they temporarily make you feel good.

“And if your mind is clouded and unclear, should you be watching things on television or at the movies that leave you with more questions than answers? For the Good Book tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

“And if you’re pretty sure that life has temporarily decided to suck, should you be sitting around listening to people who have prime, juicy examples to confirm your conclusion? What should you be hearing?

“Now I know some of you think we’re under a curse. I don’t happen to agree, but let’s say you’re right. How should we break the curse? It’s against the law to sacrifice virgins anymore. I don’t think any of us are up for an exorcism.

“God only asks you and me to take responsibility for what we handle. So I don’t know about you. Maybe it’s just a bad time, or maybe it’s a curse. But here’s what I can do.

“I can eat better. I can stop watching trash on TV. And I can listen to people who have a message of hope instead of those who’ve given up. You know what? I feel better just thinking about feeling better. How about you? How many of you feel better just thinking about feeling better?”

Nearly everyone in the sanctuary raised their hand.

“Now, we can’t expect our brothers and sisters who don’t come to church to set a miracle in motion, but if our town needs a miracle we need miracle workers. And Jesus says that begins with faith.

“So if you dear souls have the faith to say to this curse, ‘Be thou removed’ and you do not doubt in your hearts, it will go away. Especially if we start eating better, looking for light and listening for good reports.

“Now I want you to do something we don’t normally do in this church. If you heard what I shared today and you thought to yourself, ‘that’s a pretty doggone good idea,’ I want you to come up here and stand with me.”

The entire congregation stood to its feet in clumps and intervals and moved to the front altar area.

Reverend Meningsbee made his way to every single soul, squeezing their hands and simply saying, “Let’s be well.”

Now maybe the good news was there all the time, or maybe the community was so depressed it was unable to see anything but bleak possibilities. But starting that very morning, Garsonville got healed.

It was their faith that made them whole.

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Jesonian… April 22nd, 2017

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Cousin John was creating quite a stir.

He had found himself a wide spot on the Jordan River at Bethabara and was dunking people to cleanse them from their sins. News of the words and deeds of the flamboyant relative/prophet had reached Nazareth, and members of the community were split on their opinions of the events–based upon whether they had any family ties with the locust eater.

There was a lot of conversation in the home of Joseph the Carpenter, since Brother John was a part of the bloodline. Papa had died a year earlier, leaving the household to the care of his eldest son, Jesus. That oldest boy, though loyal, faithful and true, had never found great solace in carpentry, and with the death of his father, had become disillusioned with the daily chores.

After Joseph’s death, he had slipped away for a few days into the wilderness to think, and upon returning was greeted with the reports of his cousin’s outreach.

Some jealousy tried to slip in–for Jesus also felt a great calling to share a message with mankind. Knowing that John had already begun such an endeavor created a spiritual itch in him which he desperately needed to scratch.

In these fleeting moments of jealousy he was tempted to join the critics of his cousin. But ashamed of those inclinations, he decided to instead go to Bethabara and observe for himself.

It was a first step to sanity.

If something good is going on in the world, go hear it, understand it and support it.

So without announcement, he arrived at the encampment of the Baptist. He spent two weeks doing nothing but listening to his cousin, watching the events unfold and noting how John handled the contrary natures of the scribes and Pharisees.

He heard the Voice.

He dodged a huge clump of jealousy and instead developed a deep sense of admiration.

After hearing the Voice, it came time to make a choice.

Was he just going to be a watcher? Was he going to go back to Nazareth and try to be the dead carpenter’s son?

John talked about the Kingdom of God being at hand and the need to repent. Jesus stayed up one night thinking about his own repentance. For after all, there is nothing more sinful than believing you are sinless. He saw his errors. He saw where his discontentment with carpentry often came across to his family as if he had a feeling of superiority.

He knew he was tempted like everyone. He was touched with the same sicknesses that each and every human being experiences.

He wanted John’s baptism. He needed John’s baptism. It was the righteous thing to do–because if there was to be a mission, the first step to usher in the possibility was to make a choice.

Jesus made a choice.

He stood in line, waited his turn and stepped down into the Jordan River with his cousin to be cleansed.

To his surprise, the Prophet prophesied. The burly preacher called him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus had only met John a handful of times. There was no private coalition. So he took John’s words into his heart as he immersed himself in the experience of the Jordan River baptism.

He rose from the water, walked to the shoreline and realized it was time for him to begin his own work. What was the best way to do that?

How could he change the noise in the world around him?

He smiled and took off across the countryside, bellowing, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

He borrowed the message of his cousin.

It had been a successful slogan–it was a great place to start.

At that fateful day at the baptism of Jesus, no one would ever have guessed that the Nazarene’s work would spread across the entire planet and that John would historically be viewed as a forerunner.

It was all made possible because Jesus had the sensitivity and wisdom to hear the voice and then make a choice before he went out to change the noise.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 50) Lights, Camera, Inaction … April 16th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

Russ and Tracy were the local and only filmmakers in Garsonville.

They referred to themselves as “cinemaniacs.” They loved movies. They loved making movies.

They could tell you the back story of every single Hollywood blockbuster that ever rolled across the silver screen. They spent hours discussing their preference on a particular type of electronic cord or the do’s and don’ts of good lighting.

They lived together, unmarried, in a small apartment above the downtown apothecary. Although such relationships were frowned on in the small town, the people accepted them and concluded in their minds that they must be brother and sister.

Russ and Tracy, along with Carl, came to see Meningsbee, possessing the excitement of three ten-year-old children who just discovered they had a snow day. They wanted to make a documentary–the story of the Garsonville Church since Meningsbee had arrived, including the controversy and also the burst of recent growth. For last Sunday, there had been 230 people in attendance at the church.

Meningsbee listened carefully to their plan, and was greatly surprised to discover they had already “townfunded” $4,223 from the citizens.

Meningsbee had his doubts. To him, it kind of felt the same way as the first time somebody described sushi. It sounded like a good idea, but something was a little fishy.

Actually, he had two major concerns, so he voiced them.

“Listen,” he said, “before I give my blessing to this project, I need to know, number 1, do I have to do anything different, weird, unusual or fakey?”

The three assured him that all he had to do was be his glorious self.

“Secondly,” he continued, “do I have to wear makeup? You see, about ten years ago, I did a talk show in Rhode Island and the girl at the studio insisted I wear makeup because she noticed that my lips were so thin that they crawled back into my face. Since she was the professional, I agreed to let her smear some stuff on my forehead, and then she took lipstick and put it on my mouth. It was kind of dark brown in color. Later on, when I caught a glimpse of myself on the TV monitor, I looked like one of those Old West gunslingers lying in the pine box before they carried him away to Boot Hill.”

Russ and Tracy assured Meningsbee there would be no need for him to wear makeup unless he really enjoyed it.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Meningsbee. “I think I can get the church to agree to take a $5,000 donation that’s just come in, and give it to you guys to make this idea come to life.”

Jubilation rocked the room.

Two weeks later there were cameras and lighting equipment in the streets of Garsonville, and the citizens were solicited for their opinions, insights and any stories they might like to share with the documentarians.

It took three months to shoot the whole thing. There was a complete sense of community–enthusiasm beyond measure–and with Russ and Tracy telling one and all there was a possibility that the little flick might be going to film festivals, everybody was preening and preparing for “bright lights and big city.”

Meningsbee gently but firmly warned the folks that they had been equally enthralled with USBN. But you see, this was different. This was “home town kids doing home town things to express the beauty of the home town.”

After three weeks of shooting, there was another forty days of editing, at which time it was decided there needed to be a premiere of the documentary at the local high school. They decided to call it “Looking for Eden,” and the premiere was only twenty-five days away.

The auditorium only seated 500 people, and the interest level seemed so strong that it was decided there would be two showings–one at 6:45 P.M. on Saturday, and one at 2:30 P.M. Sunday afternoon.

Posters were printed, the newspaper interviewed the filmmakers and all potential stars, and Meningsbee sat back and watched his congregation and community go just a little bit crazy one more time.

He, himself, had filmed two segments for the project. One was a question and answer session in his office, and another one had him sharing spontaneously from his heart as he walked slowly down the main street of Garsonville. Both scenes seemed a little bit contrived and incomplete to Meningsbee, but Russ and Tracy said the dailies looked great–the dailies being the footage they looked at each afternoon, to make sure quality was being maintained.

Watching the town prepare for the event was similar to eyeballing a seven-year-old boy in church who needs to pee. He’s not quite sure what to do with himself so he wiggles around, hoping a bathroom is in his near future.

Premiere night arrived. A couple of limousines were hired for the filmmakers and the more prominent dignitaries from the town, and the auditorium was packed all the way to the walls, with people who came to see a tribute to their town, which amazingly, included their mugs.

It started off all right. There was a song played by a local boy as the opening credits rolled.

But then the actual movie began. It wasn’t bad. The camera work was good, the sound was adequate.

But it was just boring.

What Russ and Tracy did not take into consideration was that Nebraskan folks sometimes take two minutes just to say hello. Slow paced life. Slow paced speech. Slow paced moving picture.

One of those just didn’t work.

People began getting fidgety, with lots of bathroom trips, several coughing fits, and some of the younger people couldn’t help but release agonizing yawns.

After two hours and thirteen minutes, the ordeal was over. Some folks hung around for a little while to express their appreciation, but most scurried out as quickly as possible, hoping and praying that this piece of cinema would never be seen anywhere else.

Matter of fact, on Sunday afternoon, the only people who came out to see the movie were Reverend Meningsbee, four or five close friends and two couples who had been out of town and just drove in, and were unaware of the reviews.

Russ, Tracy and Carl were discouraged. “I guess we’re just boring,” said Russ.

Meningsbee put one arm around Russ, the other around Tracy and drew them in close.

“No,” he said. “And you guys did a great job. Matter of fact, I was pleasantly surprised. Because let’s be honest, it could have been worse. When you put a close-up on our community, it’s like watching pudding cool and thicken. It’s not pretty, it’s not camera worthy, but it’s solid and you can count on it.”

Meningsbee took the three filmmakers out to an early dinner and they sat around and talked about life, dreams and love–and newer and better ways of looking for Eden.

 

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Jesonian… April 15th, 2017

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A Saturday many, many years ago, the beaten, bruised and bloodied body of Jesus of Nazareth lay still in the darkness of a borrowed tomb, as his spirit communed with the angels and his mind reasoned over the unfoldings of a truly abundant life.

We are not privy to those thoughts.

Matter of fact, all we know of the life of Jesus comes from four major biographers who borrowed pieces from one another, and each, in his own way, had an agenda to offer insights to please his readers.

There is no autobiography.

So we aren’t sure of the emotion in the words attributed to him. Therefore theologians decipher and agnostics disembowel the remnants of the script left to us of this magnificent life.

Yet every once in a while, we get a deeper glimpse. Such is the case in Matthew the 23rd Chapter, Verse 37-38:

“Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets and stone them which are sent unto you. How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

The great debate over the centuries has been whether Jesus was Jewish or whether he came, in a certain sense, to abolish Judaism in favor of the New Covenant.

If you study the writings of Martin Luther, you might begin to believe that the Great Reformer was anti-Semetic. Yet in many evangelical churches, there seems to be a return to Jewish traditions, including them with their Christian rituals.

What did Jesus feel about the Jews?

What was the heart of the matter?

First and foremost, you must understand, for Jesus to include Gentiles and Samaritans in his movement immediately made him an outcast from the Jewish religious community.

Matter of fact, the Jewish Council that condemned him to death granted him none of the courtesy that was normally extended to brethren.

The reality that Jesus did not believe that the Jews were special because they were the “children of Abraham,” but rather put forth the opinion that God “could take stones” and make offspring of Abe, certainly did not put him in favor with those of the Zionist profile.

Yet John tells us that he “came to his own and his own received him not.”

When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he did use the phrase “we Jews.” It is the only time he did, but he certainly had a kindness and favorability for those who lived in Judea and Galilee.

But Jesus was a man of vision–the Gospel would never reach China or the Native Americans if it were left in the hands of the Jews. The Jewish people had already aggravated the Romans to the point that the annihilation and dispersion of their kindred was inevitable, if not imminent. The Gospel would only survive in the hands of the Greeks and the Romans, who would take it to the rest of the world.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that when the early church was trying to force Gentile converts to comply with Jewish practices, the former Pharisee condemned them and called them “Judaizers” for limiting the scope and power of the message.

In the two verses recited above, Jesus announces the fate of Judaism.

It is in a coma.

It is left desolate and abandoned.

It is awaiting a day when it can be awakened and all the promises given by the prophets can be fulfilled.

But for a season, it was set aside in favor of salvation and “loving your neighbor” being shared with the entire world.

Basically, if you want to sum up Jesus’ feelings on Judaism, it’s very simple: Jesus loves them.

He just does not believe they’re “chosen people.”

There are no chosen people–just people who choose well.

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 49) Troubling the Water … April 9th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Professor McIntosh.

Meningsbee always remembered him fondly.

He was one of those college professors who thought it was his job to come up with the most clever way to communicate ideas, gauging his success on how dazzled his students would become or how they would squint at him, perplexed, acting as if they didn’t understand.

He was a character.

One of his primary theories was that everything in the universe was based on physics and chemistry–even people–that even though we advance the idea that loving our neighbor as ourselves is a noble pursuit, that certain chemicals, reactions and even structures of different individuals actually inhibit them from making connection–even though they try. Sometimes they even get married, attempting to work out a relationship, only to discover that they suffer from a perpetual awkwardness whenever they’re together alone.

The reason for the walk down memory lane was that recently Meningsbee had come to the conclusion that his old professor just might have stumbled upon some wisdom. Because try as he might, there was one gentleman in the Garsonville congregation who just could not tolerate the pastor.

Matter of fact, Meningsbee found himself referring to this gent as “Mr. Jackson, from the bank,” because he had never heard his first name. He thought it was “Maynard,” but considering how unusual that seemed, he was hesitant to try it out loud.

So whenever Meningsbee entered the room, Jackson stayed for a few moments, but excused himself pretty quickly. At first he thought it was a coincidence, but then some of the other church members noticed it, and began to check their watches, timing when Jackson made his exodus.

Meningsbee thought about going to talk to Jackson, but reconsidered. Honesty only works when two people agree to the terms. Otherwise, the person who chooses not to share his heart can simply terminate the peace offering by saying, “Problem? What problem?”

But recently Meningsbee had become worried.

Mr. Jackson had begun spending a lot of time with young Carl. He offered to buy the young man a new suit. Whenever Carl was doing something in the church, like a special song or maybe a sermonette, Jackson would specifically invite the other members of his family.

Meningsbee was concerned about being too paranoid. How much was he reading into the circumstances? But it just seemed that Jackson was trying to create a rift between Carl and the senior pastor.

Meningsbee was not an idiot. He knew he could be imagining everything. Yet something was amiss. Carl was not quite as gentle and free-flowing when the two of them were together. He seemed to be making stubborn stands over things that really didn’t matter that much. Meningsbee was stymied. What should he do?

Then came the petition.

It was presented as a lark. Matter of fact, it was printed off on pink paper with yellow flowers. It stated:

“We, the undersigned, demand that Pas Carl get the chance to preach at least once a month on Sunday morning. We do this by the authority granted to us by nobody, in the spirit of true bumbling.”

Even as they presented it to Pastor Meningsbee, they did so with an overstated bow and a giggle.

He took the flamboyant petition into his office, sat down and stared at it. He knew one thing: solving problems was not about having all the answers, but instead, knowing when to use the answers.

Since it was Sunday morning and he had the petition in his hand, he decided to follow up on the frivolity of their offering with some silliness of his own. He reached into a trunk of toys he kept in his office for kids who needed a distraction for when they were waiting for their parents and he pulled out a red plastic fireman’s hat, which was obviously too small for his head. But he placed it on top and fastened it down to the side of his face with scotch tape.

He walked to the door of the sanctuary and then skipped down the aisle to the front of the church, and turned around with his fireman’s hat tipping precariously.

The look on the faces of the congregation: amused, confused, not certain how to react, even though some of them couldn’t help themselves and began to giggle. Borrowing from the energy of a Broadway play, in overstated tones, he began.

“When you come to the Garsonville Community Church, what are you hoping to see? An aging minister wearing a child’s fireman’s hat? Of course not. But look! It’s still provided.”

A big laugh.

“But what do you come here for? What is inspiring you today? I’m not talking about what inspired you when you were sixteen years old and you could barely wait for Halloween so you could go on the hayride and make out with your boyfriend or girlfriend. I’m talking about what inspires you in church today.

“You know what inspires me? You know what rings my bells? You know what keeps my firehat in place?”

He reached up and touched the side of his face. “Certainly not the scotch tape. What gets me moving–what gets me excited–what makes me want to race to work every day is the opportunity to work with that young man over there…”

He pointed to Carl.

“And try to do great things for all of you out there.”

He pointed to the congregation.

“What should I say about Carl? Pas Carl. I wish I had known half of what he knows when I was his age. I would now be twice the man. I wish I was half as good-looking. I wish I could say I rescued a boy out of a well. I wish I’d had my hands in dirt more, growing crops, or milked a cow or two. That is what you do to them, right?”

He leaned forward and the congregation laughed. “Because every time I get to work with him, I know we’re doing something great for you. But the amazing thing is that even though we’re enjoying this blessing, we sometimes forget that it never happens because of one thing. It’s when all things work together to the good.

“Would you say it with me? All things work together to the good.

The congregation repeated it.

“And when you start tearing that combination apart, trying to focus on what’s the better part, or the best part, it stops working together. Now, even though I couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t do without Carl–he’s a smart fellow. He’ll tell you he’s young. He’ll tell you that he couldn’t do without me.”

Carl hung his head.

“And even though there are people in this congregation that don’t love me–heck, maybe you don’t even like me–you still receive my love and the thrill of my soul to be your shepherd.

“I had a professor in college named McIntosh. He believed that everything in life is based on chemistry. What if he’s right? What if we take one Richard Meningsbee and mingle it with a Sarah, Matreese, Bob, Sally, Darla, Daniel, Mr. Jackson–Maynard, I presume?–and Carl, and stir it up. We know what we’ve got then, don’t we? We have this beautiful eruption called church.

“What if we remove one of the ingredients? Will it be the same? Will the chemical reaction be as intense? I, for one, think not.

“I was offered a petition, requesting that this young man, who I love, be able to preach one Sunday a month in this church. I tell you–no. You’re absolutely wrong. He should preach two Sundays a month in this church. Starting next week.

“And before I finish here, I need you to seriously take a moment and let me know, by raising your hands, how many people like my hat.”

Hands went into the air, applause rattled the room and everybody left church in joy.

Everybody except Mr. Maynard Jackson.

He never returned again.

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