Reverend Meningsbee (Part 57) Epilogue… June 4th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

It was at a rest area in the state of Oklahoma, on I-35, that the Rettner family stopped to enjoy some lunch before traveling on to their home in Dallas, after visiting Grandma in the great state of Missouri.

Grandma had made turkey sandwiches and was known for putting some butter on the top piece of bread and cranberry sauce on the bottom. They were always scrumptious.

So Bob Rettner and his wife, Jenine, along with their son, who they called Little Mike, had decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, to sit outside at a picnic table and talk about the beauty of their Christmas and munch the delicious delicacy prepared by Grandma.

But Little Mike was a bit fidgety. He brought a ball with him and was kicking it along when it bounced against a car and rolled out into the thoroughfare at the rest area.

The little boy didn’t even think twice. He started chasing the ball when suddenly a pick-up truck was bearing down on him. It was a tragedy in the making.

Suddenly, from nowhere, a man came running and snatched the boy up, lifting him out of harm’s way just in time. He set him back on the ground and they walked over together to retrieve the ball.

By this time, the parents, who had been watching in horror, unable to do anything but shout, ran up to thank the stranger.

The mother grabbed Little Mike and the father shook the gentleman’s hand. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say.”

“You already did,” said the stranger. “Thank you is quite enough.”

The mother interjected, “We’re just sitting down here eating some delicious turkey sandwiches left over from Grandma’s table…”

“Grandma’s table?” queried the stranger.

“Yes, the best you’ll ever eat,” said the father. “Would you join us?”

The stranger paused, looked over at the little boy, who smiled at him. “Yes. I would be honored,” he said.

They all walked over to the table and introductions were made.

“I’m Bob Rettner, this is my wife, Jenine, and this is our son. We call him Little Mike.”

The stranger gave the boy a hug and said, “Little Mike–ball chaser.”

They all shared a relieved laugh.

“And what is your name?” asked Bob.

“They call me Richard.”

“Are you returning from Christmas vacation?” inquired Jenine.

“Yes. Yes, I am. I’m returning, I’m going, I’m coming…I guess we all are, aren’t we?”

Bob handed him a sandwich. “Thank you again,” he said. “We’re a family that believes in prayer. Would you like to lead us in grace over these wonderful sandwiches?”

Richard thought for a moment. “Bob, I, too, believe in prayer. But you know what I’d like? I would like Little Mike to pray. Because… well, because I like to listen.”

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 56) Merry Christmas… May 28th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3320)

Reverend Meningsbee

Pas Carl was nervous.

This particular Sunday fell on Christmas Eve, and big plans had been made, choir numbers prepared, and even a special video tribute to the birth of Jesus had been filmed by Russ and Tracy (who by the way, had recently gotten married.)

The sanctuary was packed. Where was Meningsbee?

Pas Carl called his house. No answer. He kept looking out the window, gazing past the four inches of snow that had fallen two days earlier in honor of the season, for signs of his friend. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful, frosty Nebraska morning.

Yes, all that was lacking was one minister.

Everything was in place. Everything was prepared.

There was an understanding between Pas Carl and Meningsbee that if for some reason the senior minister was late, or out of town, that the associate would be prepared to step in and take his place.

So as the assistant looked out the window, waiting for his mentor, he saw a young boy coming up the steps, carrying a red envelope. The boy opened the door, entered the church and said, “I’m looking for Pas Carl.”

Carl raised his hand, and the little boy handed him the envelope. “What is this?” asked Carl.

“I don’t know,” said the boy. “Some old man gave me ten dollars to bring it here.”

The lad started to walk away, then stopped and turned around.”Oh, I almost forgot. The old man said not to open it until the end of the service.”

Pas Carl did not know what any of it meant, but it was time to begin, and Meningsbee would probably do one of his slip-ins about twenty minutes after the start, and everything would be fine.

The Christmas Eve service was gorgeous. A decision had been made to blend the best of contemporary music with traditional by placing a rock and roll band, which now attended the church, onstage with the piano, organ and a string quartet, especially hired for the occasion.

Everybody was excited, thrilled and filled with the music and joy of the season. Still no Meningsbee.

The service was completed, and Pas Carl stood to his feet. He was about to apologize and tell the visitors that they had missed the pastor, and what a great man he was, when he realized that he still had the envelope the boy had brought.

He opened it up and unfolded a letter. At the top, written in magic marker, was “PLEASE READ TO EVERYONE.”

Pas Carl glanced down and saw that it was signed by Meningsbee, so he obediently commenced to share.

“To my dear friends, church family, souls who have struggled with me and to the visitors who have always brought such blessing to this house, I apologize for not being with you this morning.

“I have taken my leave. I realize it is not ideal to do it this way. I probably should have given much notice, visited each one of you individually and sat through a tribute dinner, where each of you would have told sweet little lies about how good you thought I was.

“But that’s not me. Some of you may think it’s selfish for me to leave without notice, but I leave as I came–a surprise–with a deep love in my heart for each and every one of you, and a stronger conviction than ever before that possessing the mind of Christ is the only way to save the church.

“I can’t tell you what the past three years have meant to me. I cannot possibly measure the value each one of you has to my soul. But I have literally sat around for the past sixteen weeks–eight of them in a cast–watching this beautiful unit function without me, and with such a magnificent sheen of glory that I realized that it was time for me to find my next adventure.

“For after all, I’m really not a pastor. I am an explorer. I don’t know how you would classify that in Biblical terms, but I’m on Earth not just to be a Christian, but to be a follower of Jesus, who takes His heart everywhere.

“It would be my great suggestion that you hire Pas Carl as your new leader. He’s young. He will make mistakes. When you see him do things that remind you of Jesus, encourage him. And when he doesn’t, pray for him.

“I might drop in from time to time. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure where I’m going. But wherever it is, it’s going to be very difficult for them to be smarter, more loving, more generous and more human than the saints I’ve met here in Garsonville.

“It was an honor to be your pastor. It was more than an honor to be your friend. Pray for me as I pray for you.

“So my Christmas gift to you this year is to graduate you onto the next phase of your journey. We shall not do it together, but nothing can separate us.

“And my gift to myself is to go out and explore.

“With all my heart, with all my devotion, with all my hopes, with all my dreams, and with all my strength,

Reverend Richard Meningsbee”

Pas Carl finished the letter and fell to his knees in tears. The congregation wept, but there was also a great joy.

Each one of them knew that Meningsbee would eventually have to leave. He was a restless soul, whose itch was set by the Divine. They were just fortunate that for a blessed period of time, they were able to feel his warmth.

The congregation departed hugging each other. There were 345 human beings present that morning, and all of them left having felt a little bit of Jesus.

THE END

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 56) Merry Christmas… May 28th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3320)

Reverend Meningsbee

Pas Carl was nervous.

This particular Sunday fell on Christmas Eve, and big plans had been made, choir numbers prepared, and even a special video tribute to the birth of Jesus had been filmed by Russ and Tracy (who by the way, had recently gotten married.)

The sanctuary was packed. Where was Meningsbee?

Pas Carl called his house. No answer. He kept looking out the window, gazing past the four inches of snow that had fallen two days earlier in honor of the season, for signs of his friend. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful, frosty Nebraska morning.

Yes, all that was lacking was one minister.

Everything was in place. Everything was prepared.

There was an understanding between Pas Carl and Meningsbee that if for some reason the senior minister was late, or out of town, that the associate would be prepared to step in and take his place.

So as the assistant looked out the window, waiting for his mentor, he saw a young boy coming up the steps, carrying a red envelope. The boy opened the door, entered the church and said, “I’m looking for Pas Carl.”

Carl raised his hand, and the little boy handed him the envelope. “What is this?” asked Carl.

“I don’t know,” said the boy. “Some old man gave me ten dollars to bring it here.”

The lad started to walk away, then stopped and turned around.”Oh, I almost forgot. The old man said not to open it until the end of the service.”

Pas Carl did not know what any of it meant, but it was time to begin, and Meningsbee would probably do one of his slip-ins about twenty minutes after the start, and everything would be fine.

The Christmas Eve service was gorgeous. A decision had been made to blend the best of contemporary music with traditional by placing a rock and roll band, which now attended the church, onstage with the piano, organ and a string quartet, especially hired for the occasion.

Everybody was excited, thrilled and filled with the music and joy of the season. Still no Meningsbee.

The service was completed, and Pas Carl stood to his feet. He was about to apologize and tell the visitors that they had missed the pastor, and what a great man he was, when he realized that he still had the envelope the boy had brought.

He opened it up and unfolded a letter. At the top, written in magic marker, was “PLEASE READ TO EVERYONE.”

Pas Carl glanced down and saw that it was signed by Meningsbee, so he obediently commenced to share.

“To my dear friends, church family, souls who have struggled with me and to the visitors who have always brought such blessing to this house, I apologize for not being with you this morning.

“I have taken my leave. I realize it is not ideal to do it this way. I probably should have given much notice, visited each one of you individually and sat through a tribute dinner, where each of you would have told sweet little lies about how good you thought I was.

“But that’s not me. Some of you may think it’s selfish for me to leave without notice, but I leave as I came–a surprise–with a deep love in my heart for each and every one of you, and a stronger conviction than ever before that possessing the mind of Christ is the only way to save the church.

“I can’t tell you what the past three years have meant to me. I cannot possibly measure the value each one of you has to my soul. But I have literally sat around for the past sixteen weeks–eight of them in a cast–watching this beautiful unit function without me, and with such a magnificent sheen of glory that I realized that it was time for me to find my next adventure.

“For after all, I’m really not a pastor. I am an explorer. I don’t know how you would classify that in Biblical terms, but I’m on Earth not just to be a Christian, but to be a follower of Jesus, who takes His heart everywhere.

“It would be my great suggestion that you hire Pas Carl as your new leader. He’s young. He will make mistakes. When you see him do things that remind you of Jesus, encourage him. And when he doesn’t, pray for him.

“I might drop in from time to time. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure where I’m going. But wherever it is, it’s going to be very difficult for them to be smarter, more loving, more generous and more human than the saints I’ve met here in Garsonville.

“It was an honor to be your pastor. It was more than an honor to be your friend. Pray for me as I pray for you.

“So my Christmas gift to you this year is to graduate you onto the next phase of your journey. We shall not do it together, but nothing can separate us.

“And my gift to myself is to go out and explore.

“With all my heart, with all my devotion, with all my hopes, with all my dreams, and with all my strength,

Reverend Richard Meningsbee”

Pas Carl finished the letter and fell to his knees in tears. The congregation wept, but there was also a great joy.

Each one of them knew that Meningsbee would eventually have to leave. He was a restless soul, whose itch was set by the Divine. They were just fortunate that for a blessed period of time, they were able to feel his warmth.

The congregation departed hugging each other. There were 345 human beings present that morning, and all of them left having felt a little bit of Jesus.

THE END

 

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To our friends at Roseland: click the piano for information on Cring & Clazzy

Reverend Meningsbee (Part 55) One More Look… May 21st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3313)

Reverend Meningsbee

There should be a certain age when a man or woman reaches the maturity to know of a certainty not to climb up on a wooden ladder purchased by the church shortly after World War II.

Whatever that age is, Meningsbee was short of it.

For weeks, he had asked several of the church deacons to unclog his gutters at the parsonage. He was reluctant to make the request–everybody knows it’s a horrible job. Not only does it involve climbing, but sticking your hands in unimaginable slop.

But drainage was becoming a problem so he found a wooden ladder in the storage room at the church, donned a pair of gloves and climbed. He noticed that the last step creaked just a little bit, and even felt a slight wiggle, but decided it was just adjusting to his weight.

He was in the midst of reaching for a particularly drippy mess when all at once, the ladder gave way. It cracked, tipped and he went flying through the air, landing on the concrete sidewalk.

He was in trouble, unable to get to his feet.

Fortunately Pas Carl was within shouting distance, and immediately came, called an ambulance, and in no time at all Meningsbee was at the county hospital, receiving the news that he had broken both legs–a tibia in his right and a femur in his left.

It was so serious that it was necessary to put him in a body cast up to his waist.

Meningsbee asked the physician if there were other options. The doctor laughed and said, “Yeah. You could have chosen not to break your legs.”

Meningsbee did not think it was funny. He found himself needing the kindness of strangers. Well, maybe not strangers, but the people he normally served were being drafted to be servants to him.

The good news was, he would only be in the cast about eight weeks, and in about four weeks they could change it over to what they referred to as a “walking cast.” Even though he thought that sounded a little like an oxymoron, it did grant some possibility. But for four weeks, he was going to need assistance.

This was especially troublesome since he was in the midst of his faith crisis and did not need to add on a physical one.

His life became very simple in a complex way. Pas Carl and a couple of men came to pick him up every morning to go to the church office, and people came to see him instead of him going to see them.

They retrieved him, took him home and served him lunch, and he spent the afternoon napping. He had never napped before, but as it turned out, it was the best part of the experience. Matter of fact, he was pretty darned sure he was committed to napping for life.

In the evening, a family from the church simply brought over their dinner, and the whole family sat and ate with him. It was a nice system. Annoying as hell, but nice.

It was about two weeks into the recovery that he was rummaging through some files in his office, when he came across a DVD. All that was printed on the label was “First Look.” Normally he wouldn’t give it another thought, but he was particularly bored and aggravated at the ambiguity of the disc.

So he popped it into a nearby computer and sat back to see what it had to offer. To his surprise, it was the first Sunday he was at the church, which had been videoed by one of the members and got stuck in the drawer. He decided to watch.

He laughed when he saw himself come in the church. He looked so out of place–not just a duck out of water, but a duck completely out of “duckdom.”

The congregation seemed rigid and cold compared to the group that gathered now. It felt more like an inquisition than a fellowship.

He listened as he boldly addressed them about the dream of having a “Jesus Church.” Since the video was shot from a distance, he could clearly hear the murmurs from the crowd when he made points that were not pleasing to their traditional sensibility.

Even though he had arrived less than three years ago, in the video he seemed so young, so idealistic, so ill-prepared.

All at once he found himself crying. How could something be both the most amazing and the most disappointing experience of your life?

Amazing because all the things Jesus said would make humans powerful and viable ended up being true. Meningsbee realized that when he relied on Jesus he was very effective.

But it was also very disappointing, because he found himself disillusioned, broken in spirit, and now broken in body as well.

He watched the DVD all the way to the end, and was so glad he did–because at the conclusion the family who had shot the video turned the camera on the father of the family, and the wife–or the woman Meningsbee assumed to be his wife–asked the question, “So what did you think of the new preacher?”

The father stood for a minute, thinking, posing for the camera, and said, “Well, they say he wrote a book called ‘The Jesus Church.’ If you ask me, he’s got too much Jesus and not enough church.”

There was a laugh and the camera was turned off.

Meningsbee’s heart grew in his chest. Suddenly a joy that had been absent for weeks came back inside his soul and took its rightful place. Even though the father in the video didn’t deem himself a prophet, he was one.

The goal that Reverend Richard Meningsbee set for himself driving up to the church that day was to make sure that after he was done in Garsonville, the people would have seen Jesus instead of just a church.

Everything clicked into place. His timepiece with God was reset. Things were good.

Things were really good.

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 54) Angel Unaware… May 14th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

Pas Carl had family all over the world.

That’s what Meningsbee had decided. Matter of fact, it was so comical that he started a list of all the alleged relatives.

There was an aunt who lived in New York City, a great uncle from San Francisco, a third cousin who was a whale hunter in Alaska, a half-brother who lived in Key West, Florida and a godfather who lived in (you guessed it) Rome, Italy.

The most recent surprise was an announcement that an aunt from Houston, Texas, was coming to town and wanted permission to share with the ladies at the church about a program she conducted called “Turning Dreamers into Doers.” Her name was Shannon Tremaine. She was an author.

Pas Carl believed that she and Meningsbee would have a lot to talk about. But Meningsbee was in no mood for additional encounters. The events surrounding Carla’s departure had finished off any remaining pornography in his life, like an atomic bomb landing and obliterating all life in sight. He was definitely not lusting.

But he was also not passionate. He had lost the drive–whatever that truly was. He had tremendous memories of what he wanted to do and even what he could do, with no desire to actually do it anymore.

So he offered no objection to Pas Carl’s aunt coming to share with the women, but let the young man know that he wanted limited involvement. He was resetting his spiritual clock. Even though Carl did not know what that meant, he thanked Meningsbee and left the office.

Meningsbee had gone through this once before in his life, right after Doris died. There are three clocks inside every person, Meningsbee felt. One sets the timing on survival. The second is the world around us, dictating time. But the third is a watch, to let us know when we’re in sync with ourselves and God.

Meningsbee knew very well that the first clock was off. His sense of survival was weak, his passion energy almost nil. And his fight was overshadowed by a specter of fear.

He was going through the motions–on the schedule being dictated to him by friends, the church, the town and circumstances. He was following a time clock instead of following an ideal.

He seemed to be doing it well. People were complimentary. Some folks even noticed that he appeared to be looking healthier. But he had lost his timing with God. The Spirit was still contacting, but he was missing the calls. His mind was drifting when it needed to be focused, and his wishfulness had overtaken his willingness.

He knew the symptoms. He just didn’t know if he could escape the disease. He had barely been able to do it after he lost his love. It took writing his book, “The Jesus Church,” to shake him and wake him up to the greater needs around him.

At that time, he just got tired of seeing sensible people lose out to shouters and detractors. He grew weary of watching the words of Jesus being turned into a cardboard religion, pre-fabricated and lacking its original soul. And he was very, very upset that the younger generation had gained its sense of purpose by denying the purpose they had with their Creator.

“The Jesus Church” pulled him out of his nosedive into oblivion. But by no means was he in the mood to write another book, and he certainly wasn’t going to become youthful and optimistic again.

No, the only way an aging man can continue to believe in faith is to deny many of the realities around him–but rather than making him foolish or ignorant, hope carves off years of scars, leaving fresh skin.

He was in the midst of considering his transformation when he met Shannon Tremaine. She was forty-seven years old. He knew that because it was one of the first things that popped out of her mouth. She could have passed for thirty-five, but she wanted everybody to know that age was insignificant. What mattered was the spark.

She was so well-received at the women’s meeting that they begged her to stay two more weeks and hold seminars. By the end of the two weeks, she had gathered a crowd of nearly a hundred souls from the community, to come and hear her message.

Meningsbee felt compelled to attend one of the sessions to see what was drawing all of these ladies. It was on a Thursday night in the church basement, with almost sixty-five women in attendance, that Pastor Meningsbee sat down and listened for the first time to Shannon Tremaine.

She was passionate. She was emotional. She was driven. She was saucy. She was iron. And simultaneously, she was as soft as cotton. In a moment of time, she unveiled the tenderness she had for each person in the room.

Her message was clear: politics gives you false hope, an education gives you a degree, religion steals your will to excel and your family will limit your possibilities. The only friend you have is truth, and the reason it is known to make you free is because it liberates you from the need to lie.

She went on to explain that the three great lies always began with the same words: (1) I couldn’t because… (2) I am not suited… (3) I don’t have the time.

Shannon electrified the room–a space normally used for potluck dinners and storage. She was not a typical motivational speaker, relying on props, slogans and testimonials to portray her vision. She just spoke it into existence, and her words were so much a part of her that they were believable.

It reminded Meningsbee of the statement in the Good Book, when it says that the people “were astonished” at Jesus because he addressed them “with authority.” Not domineering, just well-traveled.

The end of her meeting that night was almost like a revival. Women came to the front of the room in tears, and departed clapping their hands. She promised a personal word–a mantra of sorts–for each one of them and did not fail to deliver.

At the end, she slowly walked over to Pastor Meningsbee and said, “Even though you did not come up to the front, would you like a personal word also?”

Meningsbee paused. She waited a moment to give him a chance to think, but then inserted, “To delay receiving a blessing is either saying you’re not worthy of it or you don’t want it. Now, which one is it, Richard?”

He was surprised that she used his first name. He liked the way she said it.

“I guess,” he said, “I would have to say that I don’t want to feel unworthy by being offered a blessing.”

She smiled. “My word for you is really easy. The position of savior has already been filled. You may have heard of him. We call him Jesus. At no time have I ever heard him referred to as Richard.”

Meningsbee interrupted her. “I’m not trying to be a savior.”

She interrupted right back. “That’s true. You think you are the savior, and shouldn’t have to try so hard.”

Meningsbee looked her right in the eye and said, “What’s wrong with wanting to save people?”

She stared right back at him. “Because not even Jesus can do that. Jesus said he came. Jesus said he shared. Jesus said he gave. But when he was done coming, sharing and giving, he was hanging on a cross. I wouldn’t call that successful, would you? But fortunately, he went from being a dreamer to a doer, because his resurrection proved his point.

“I don’t know you real well, Richard Meningsbee, but I tell you–you’re dead. And I’ve seen many dead men. And unfortunately, I’ve run across very few who were able to admit it, climb in the tomb for a few days, and get resurrected.”

She looked around the room, realizing that nobody was left, and said, “I guess it’s just us. This is my last night in town. If you’re ever looking for a new dream to do, come to Houston. I can use you.”

She leaned up on her tiptoes and gave him a sweet, tender kiss on the lips. She patted his face and walked away.

Richard stood completely still in the middle of the basement of the Garsonville Community Church, afraid to move.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 53) Surprise Party … May 7th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

Constable Bill was able to convince Carla that she needed to stay with someone else for a couple of days while the investigation was going on, and also to make sure she was safe and sound from her notorious ex-husband.

Pastor Meningsbee suggested she stay with Mary and Martha, the two sisters from the church, who would love the companionship. They had an old Cape Cod home with three extra bedrooms, so there was plenty of room.

So Tuesday and Wednesday night, Carla tucked herself away in the loving hospitality of the congenial–and talkative–sisters.

On Thursday morning, Meningsbee stopped over, telling Carla that the police thought it was safe for her to go back home, and try to return to her schedule. Meningsbee decided to accompany her, as did Mary.

When they arrived at the stairs leading up to Carla’s apartment, they were surprised to discover Bill was already there. He had been driving by, and thought he would check and see what the status was on the property, and peering to the top, discovered that the door was open.

He had gotten into his squad car, circled the neighborhood, and lo and behold, came upon the faded red-rusted pickup truck that had been sitting out in front of the diner just two days earlier. Opening it up, he found a bloody seat, maps, Gus’s driver’s license and an empty box of bullets.

So he hurried back to the apartment to secure it before allowing Carla to settle in.

Seeing that the group had arrived, he told them to stand back, pulled out his gun and headed up the stairs. He was about halfway along when Carla broke rank, ran up the stairs, pushed past him, opened the screen door, kicked the inside door with her foot and bolted in.

Everyone was screaming at her to stop. The constable recovered first and scurried up behind her, followed by Meningsbee and Mary. Each one reached the top and peered in like little birds peeking over the top of the nest.

Carla was standing completely still, staring down at the body of Gus, who was perched in a chair, apparently having bled to death from his wound.

Bill walked over, checked for a pulse and shook his head. Carla asked him, “Is he dead?”

“Dead as they get,” he said.

She stepped up, reached into Gus’s pocket, pulled out the gun and aimed it at him. She shot once, twice, three times.

Meningsbee shouted at Bill, “Aren’t you gonna stop her?”

He shook his head. “No. He’s already dead. It’s not against the law to kill a dead man. She’s got a lot of pain to work through, and if I’m countin’ right, she’s only got three more shots.”

Carla stopped at four and handed the gun over to the officer. She fell to the ground in a heap as Mary came over to hold her.

Meningsbee said to the constable, “What do you think happened?”

Bill replied, “Well, I’m no professional with autopsies, but I’d say he died.”

Meningsbee sighed. “I know that. I mean, why here?”

“Well, my guess is, if you look at where he’s sittin’, he’s got a direct shot at the front door. I don’t think he planned on giving her another chance to stab him.”

“Damn,” said Meningsbee.

Bill laughed. “That’s kind of funny. My mother used to have an old saying she’d pop off with when she ran across something unusual. She’d say, ‘That’s like hearing a preacher cuss.’ And here we are. And I just did.”

No family could be found for Gus, whose real name was Gerald Blevins. Suggestions were made to send him to a pauper’s grave in the big city, but Meningsbee felt it would be good to have the funeral right there in town, at the church, so that a very damaged and distraught Carla could be surrounded by loved ones.

On Saturday morning at 10:00 A. M., a funeral was held for Gerald Blevins, who no one had known one week earlier. Since there was no family, there was no eulogy, and since there was no eulogy, there was no need to “praise Caesar.”

Meningsbee felt he had one purpose–to let Carla know that the 128 souls who showed up for the funeral were there for her, not a murderous stranger.

He took his place in the pulpit rather than his usual position on the floor to add more gravitas to the situation. He began.

“I knew Gerald Blevins for about twenty-three minutes. I can’t tell you much about him. He claimed to be a Christian, although we know he did many un-Christ-like things. Of course, we all do.

“Now, I’m not saying this to compare each and every one of you to this dangerous fellow. I’m just saying that none of us know the height breadth and depth of our loving and merciful God. For if we found out there was some limitation, all of us might need to shiver in our boots because we exceeded His grace.

“But this gathering is not about Gerald. Gerald will have to make peace with God and settle his own score. This is about Carla. This is about a woman who has struggled all her life. She’s worked harder than any lady should have to, and raised two wonderful children, only to be invaded–yes, that’s the word–invaded by this foul presence.

“Gus said he wanted money. I suppose he did. I have no idea what he was going to use it for. He never told me. I offered to give him a couple thousand dollars of my own money that I have squirreled away from my book royalties. I actually told him I won it in Las Vegas. First, I would never go to Las Vegas. Second, I would never win.”

A nervous chuckle.

“But in that moment of his life, money was more important than his soul, his future, and the feelings of another human being.

“Carla, all of us gathered here today want you to remember, this is your home. There’s no other town in America that’s going to love you any more than we do. And we want you to stay. We want you to try to find happiness. We want you to continue to be part of us. And we want to watch as the love of God settles into your heart and creates healing.

“Would some of you folks come up here and give Carla a hug?”

Carla embraced everyone who came her way in a dutiful manner. She thanked Richard for his kind words. She checked with the constable to make sure no expenses had been incurred by the county for the burial.

Then she went up to her apartment, packed her bags, got in her car and left without saying another word.

Meningsbee was heartbroken. But he understood.

When you live in a small town, once a major tragedy happens in your life, you’re almost always remembered as “that lady who had the crazy husband, who died in her living room.”

Sometimes it’s hard to heal when other people keep probing for a sign of an open wound. Somewhere out there in America, nobody knew anything–and that was the next place Carla needed to call home.

Meningsbee prayed for her. Meningsbee thought about her.

And being a man, Meningsbee always wondered what could have been.

 

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

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3292)

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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