Catchy (Sitting 46) Liary… April 29th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Carlin Canaby was the only son of Joshua and Myrtle Mensterhall, itinerant evangelists who toured the south, holding revival meetings in Southern Baptist churches.

Carlin was born in a tiny town in Mississippi and by the time he was two years old, was singing “Jesus Loves Me” to congregations to help promote his father and mother’s ministry. He was as cute as a button, but became more and more unfastened as he got older, and was privy to the hypocrisy of the whole process.

His mother and father were often cheated out of offerings, as churches insisted there was some errancy in the message which caused them to dock the payment. But more often than not, there was no explanation at all–just a paltry sum handed over after fourteen days of work.

This never seemed to hamper Joshua’s enthusiasm to “preach the Gospel to every living creature.” That is, every living creature unless they were black, Hispanic or involved in some untoward practice viewed as heinous by the religious system he revered.

Carlin’s mother, Myrtle, had the personality you would expect from someone named Myrtle. She was nervous, uptight and deathly afraid of anything that resembled a germy speck of dirt. She played just enough piano to accompany Joshua’s incompetent singing.

The pair had very little appeal, and even though revivals were scheduled to last for two weeks, they were often cut short due to lack of attendance.

Still, everything went along reasonably well, with biscuits, grits and gravy provided by the local churches, until Myrtle became involved with Reverend Rudy. Reverend Rudy was a chunk of a man, with a girlish giggle and a prancy walk. He loved to lean down into the faces of young boys and ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up–with a big whiff of tobacco bouncing from his breath.

Carlin didn’t like him. He especially found him distasteful when he walked into the room and discovered that Reverend Rudy was very interested in his mother’s groin. Rudy pretended to be dabbing off some imaginary coffee which had spilled on her lap, but it was obvious to the thirteen-year-old Carlin that there was more going on south of the border than picking cotton.

Sure enough, 24 hours later, Reverend Rudy and Myrtle announced their intentions to pursue a life together, just as soon as a quick divorce could be acquired from Joshua Mensterhall.

Carlin’s dad was devastated. He had lost a wife, a piano player and an accountant to try to keep the wheels of the Gospel somewhere in the middle of the dirt road.

And even though Joshua was not the unfaithful one, word spread that he was “a divorced man,” so the revivals lined up for the future canceled, one at a time.

Myrtle made it clear that she didn’t want the boy, so Joshua took Carlin, and for a season they were homeless, panhandling and street preaching.

One day an old black gentleman named Carlton Canaby happened by while Joshua was pontificating to passers-by on a particularly difficult passage from Jeremiah. The Negro gentleman asked him what he was trying to accomplish. Matter of fact, they decided to have coffee together, careful not to enter any restaurant, but instead, getting styrofoam cups from the local gas station, and heading for a nearby park.

Joshua poured out his heart to Canaby, who ended up being a reverend himself, with the National Baptist Church. (This was the Negro outgrowth from the Southern Baptist.) Pastor Carlton decided to invite the pale preacher in, to hold a meeting. Even though many of the parishioners at Pastor Canaby’s church objected to a white man preaching–especially one teetering in an adultery situation–the friendly pastor insisted, and Joshua and Carlin were scheduled in for a two-week revival, complete with eats.

Joshua was horrible. Being a white man raised in the south, he thought himself superior to those he was teaching. On the third night, a young man in the congregation rose to his feet, interrupting the sermon time and said, “You don’t know much about colored folks, do you?”

Those in attendance burst into laughter and Joshua stood, red-faced and defensive. Canaby came forward, easing the tension, and said, “Our brother is here to learn, to heal, to grow and to be himself without apology.”

For some reason, this touched the heart of Joshua Mensterhall. He burst into tears and fell on his knees, pleading to the heavens with an anguished cry. The congregation surrounded him and the true revival began.

It lasted for two months, until one night, after the service, Pastor Canaby was abducted by some angry white men in a pick-up truck. They did not approve of mixing races, so they took Canaby into the woods and hung him from a tree. Fortunately for Reverend Canaby, they had twisted the rope too tight around his neck. It caught on his shoulder muscle, which sustained his life until others arrived and cut him down.

But he was never the same. Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen from the hanging, or just a good old-fashioned dose of fear. He retired into his own soul, where he seemed to receive some comfort.

Shortly thereafter, Joshua died.

Carlin was made a ward of a missionary family named Richardson. They were traveling on mission to Equador. Carlin hated every minute of it. He nearly burst in anger, waiting for his eighteenth birthday so he could run away and start his own life.

When he did, he rejected the name “Richardson” and “Mensterhall,” and took on the name “Canaby,” in honor of the brave dark man who had befriended a bewildered white minister and his frustrated son.

Since that time, Carlin had made it his life work to expose hypocrites with his organization, “Liary”–which was defined as finding a way to tell the truth in the most pleasant way possible, without flirting with the lie.

Carlin had recently received a phone call from a notable businessman, asking him to intervene in the Jubal Carlos campaign, to assist by softening some of the blows of disapproval that were coming over assumed scandals.

This is what brought him to the hotel, where he found an extremely defeated Matthew Ransley.

Matthew immediately liked Carlin, but Jubal Carlos was quick to express his disfavor. Jubal didn’t like anything associated with lying–even if it was an attempt to prevent its severity.

Matthew found himself in a war: one in his heart, his soul, his mind and the excesses that were gradually eating away at his body.

He thought to himself, I wonder how Carlin would spin my life? What positive things could he find that would sweeten my tale?

It was obvious there was a transition coming. Would it take them deeper into the discovery of Jesus, or just make them another clever organization with a hint of charlatan?

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Jesonian … March 10th, 2018

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Not every morning supplies a miracle. Weeks can go by without walking on water–or water turning into wine, for that matter.

Truthfully, life is more like dry cereal looking for milk–not much to be excited about unless you brought along your own thrills.

This was true in the life of Jesus, too.

Fortunately, the Gospel writers tell us about the good moments and also the bad ones. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John share that sometimes Jesus just hung out, to “tarry” with his friends. And just like us, often his activities were dictated by the whim, intensity and preoccupation of his audience or critics.

In the Good Book, Matthew 19, there is such a situation. Jesus is minding his own business when he is confronted by the Pharisees, who seem to spend a lot of time worrying about things that don’t matter to anyone else. They were especially distressed over the issue of divorce–not because they were against it. The Law of Moses and also the Oral Law, which had been constructed by religious leaders over many centuries, allowed men to divorce their wives simply by leaving a note on the pillow.

The Pharisees felt that Jesus had a different outlook on the subject, so they confronted him about the dilemma.

Jesus made it clear that he believed divorce to be chauvinism. He explained that marriage is meant to be an experience between people of equality, who decide to leave their families to form their own union.

They were very upset.

Yet escaping their probing, Jesus arrives back in camp to discover that his disciples, who had been cut from the same homespun philosophies and bigotry as the Pharisees, were chasing away the women and children. After all, they thought, Jesus was too important to have time for women, who were lesser, and children, who were insignificant.

The feminist in Jesus comes to the forefront. He rebukes his disciples. He tells them to bring the children–which meant the women, also–to him, and he lays hands on the tykes, blesses and enjoys them.

Often we wonder how miracles occur. Miracles happen because people who know how to treat women and children humbly ask for them.

It isn’t about extended periods of prayer, nor ministers on Sabbatical studying the original Greek. Rather, miracles are about people who know how to play with children–people who are aware that a woman is not a “weaker vessel.” When these people pray, God listens.

Jesus treated women as humans. On this week, with “International Women’s Day,” we need to consider what this entails.

Jesus gave women empathy, but not sympathy: You are as good as men, but don’t pull up lame and fall back on femininity when you think it’s to your advantage.

So even though Jesus showed compassion on the woman caught in adultery, he looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Go and sin no more.”

He relished a conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria, but when she said she “had no husband,” he reminded her that she had married five husbands, and was now living with another man.

When his mother tried to interfere with his work, he spoke to her as an equal, not as a son, and said, Back off. It’s not my time.

And when busy Martha was doing all the housework, using the “gift of helps” to feed the disciples and Jesus, he stopped her and said, Your sister Mary has decided to listen to the teaching instead of playing “Harriet Homemaker. Follow suit.”

Life is not about what we do when we’re trying to be spiritual or contemplative. Life is lived in the cracks–those moments that seem insignificant when the world around us has cast a negative vibe and it is our job to bring the light.

Jesus believes that spirit begins with how women and children are treated.

I, for one, think he’s right.

 

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Cracked 5 … August 22nd, 2017


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Things God Thought About Creating Instead of Humans

A.   Computers–could have skipped one million years of murder, adultery and bad sitcoms

B.   Carb-free pasta. Certainly a better choice.

C.   Talking monkeys. Washington, D. C.??

D.   Paint with a brain–artsy-craftsy

E.   Grass that makes music, instead of musicians making music using grass

 

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Jesonian… June 3rd, 2017

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This week, one of my sons will celebrate his birthday. He is the pastor of a church. Like most children, he has grown up to be his own man and sometimes listens to my counsel, but many times opts to pursue different voices.

It is the way of our tribe.

But as I considered his birthday, I realized that he does not require a new shirt, pants, tennis shoes or a subscription to “Boys Life.” He has the ability to get all of those things on his own.

What he needs from me is what I have always given him–an honest report. So as a gift to my son, and maybe even a piece of usable information for you, I present the “Seven Practices of a Good Shepherd.”

I use Jesus as my example. If you’re going to be a Good Shepherd–a pastor or leader of human souls:

1. Don’t mess, interfere, refer to, question or condemn anyone’s sex life.

When a crowd of people tried to get Jesus to discuss adultery, he turned away, stooped down and fiddled in the dirt as if he never heard them.

2. Stop trying to make friends.

You’ve been called to make disciples. That is the root word for discipline. As a shepherd, your journey will be to guide people in the direction of their better possibility. Sometimes they will be grateful; sometimes they will be temporarily offended. But they must always know that your heart is to see them “grow to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ.”

3. No preaching, a little teaching, tell stories, make it visual.

Jesus never preached a sermon. He took time to teach his disciples. He told stories to the masses. But most importantly, he gave visual evidence of the power of his word by transforming lives.

4. Family is not everything.

Although we seem trapped in an overly sympathetic mood toward those who share our DNA, Jesus was faithful to his kin until his kin refused to be faithful to his mission. When his family thought he was crazy for preaching the Gospel, he walked away from them until they could grow up.

5. Touch the heart, stir the soul, renew the mind, strengthen the weak.

If you’re not emotionally connecting with people, you can never stir their souls. Therefore their minds will remain concrete, and they will be weakened by their own lack of maturity.

6. Respect free will.

Although you may be tempted to tell people that God has a wonderful plan for their life, the truth of the matter is, God has a wonderful life for their plan. There’s only one thing greater than love–that’s free will.

Even though God loved the world, when the world did not love Jesus, he granted free will to them to make their own decision. From that poor choice–to crucify–He granted them salvation through Jesus’ blood.

If God gives free will, a Good Shepherd can never take it away. So when people decide not to like you, honor their decision.

7. Religion kills.

If you don’t know what religion is, it can be defined simply as a belief in some sort of plan to reach God.

God does not need to be reached. He has done all the reaching. God needs to be acknowledged. God needs to be included. There is no magical plan of salvation. Salvation is when we finally grow permanently comfortable with the fact that God loves us.

So there’s my gift to my son, which I hope you may find of interest also.

I shall tell him that this is his birthday present from his dad, and I hope he likes it … because I didn’t keep the receipt.

 

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Jesonian… March 18th, 2017

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Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Caiaphas immediately objected to the use of the word “Lord.”

He said, “Jesus is a seditionist, an enemy of the people who caught the masses at a vulnerable time when they desperately needed hope, advertised some well-paid shills with proclaimed miracles, and robbed the children of Israel of their personal identity in favor of what he referred to as the ‘Kingdom of God.’ He did not honor our traditions, he did not recognize the birthright we possess through Abraham, to be the chosen Children of God. He was rude, contemptuous, bawdy, loud and hung around with a bunch of sinners, welcoming iniquity.

“It was necessary to evaluate him by our laws, judge him and therefore condemn him, to make sure we keep the House of David first and foremost. We must go on.”

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Pontius smiled and then snickered. “Jesus was a peasant, and deluded on top of that. Certainly harmless. I never made any doubt in that conclusion. Truth is, I saw him as a bargaining chip. I was constantly at war with the Council of the Jews over tiny matters which should have been insignificant, but they claimed had heavenly proportions. I needed one over on them. I needed to grant them a favor which would grant me a host of favors from them. I am not an animal. I am not a barbarian. I do not slaughter people just to behold the mayhem. But when the dignity of Rome–my only Lord–is put in jeopardy, then Rome must come first. Rome is greater than any man–even Caesar. Just one Galilean was lost, opening the door to a plethora of negotiations, where the Jews would be at a disadvantage.”

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Peter wasn’t. He was scared. Outnumbered, without any weapons, he ran. And when confronted with his involvement with Jesus of Nazareth, he denied him three times. Quickly. For Jesus had jokingly said that Peter would do so before the cock crowed three times. But as anybody knows, the cock crows quickly. Ashamed, broken, but also defensive, Peter stalked away into the night, cussing up a storm, insisting that it was merely human for him to put himself first.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

No, Deborah was asleep. She was exhausted. Since “that day,” she had found the need to take on numerous chores and occupations to earn a decent living for herself and her son. It was difficult to imagine what she would have had to do to stop the insanity that led the mob to Golgotha. But maybe if she had just seen him one more time.

She remembered the first occasion. Financially devastated, with no food in her house, she decided to sell her body to get money for food. Obviously possessing the luck of a witch, her would-be lover ended up being a member of the Pharisees who was conducting a “sting operation” to capture a prostitute who was ready to commit adultery, then drag her off and throw her down in front of the crowd at Jesus’ feet. They wanted to stone her. She just wanted a loaf of bread. But Jesus, using his compassion, his wit and his style, saved her life. He told her to go and sin no more. She heeded his advice. Unfortunately, “sinless” takes more work. Exhausted, she fell into bed every night, setting aside a crust of bread for her little boy in the morning. So when they were crucifying Jesus, she was asleep, trying to build up the energy to honor her promise to never be so foolish again.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Who, me? No. I wasn’t born. I honor his life everyday by trying to understand what he was communicating to us.

Caiaphas thought he was a phony.

Pilate thought he was a pigeon.

Peter thought he was a great distraction.

And the woman caught in adultery knew him only as a Savior.

He’s my friend.

What would I have done if I knew they would crucify him? How would I have tried to stop it? Would I have written a nasty editorial to the Jerusalem Times? Would I have stood there as one voice among so many, demanding his release?

Or would I have rolled over and gone back to sleep?

 

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Jesonian… March 4th, 2017

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Long before the empty tomb, Golgotha, the Garden, the trial, the healings, the miracles, the Sermon on the Mount or even the water turned to wine, Jesus stopped off in the wilderness for forty days to deal with his appetites and the essence of his humanity.

Jesus was a human being. Much of Christian theology is rendered ineffective because clergy are unable to fathom this.

His relationship with God, based upon being the only begotten Son, is completely unknown and irrelevant to us. Why? Because when he lived in our presence, he had no special favors, no advantages and claimed to be a “son of man”–just one of the gang.

Jesus was sent to Earth.

According to the story, Satan was cast down–his punishment, to be bound and limited to Earth.

And for the period of time that Jesus was here, he was in the same situation, except that he was granted the Holy Spirit.

So when we talk about Satan tempting Jesus, what we’re really discussing is the pernicious nature in all of us which makes us aggravated with the way things are.

That is the definition of sin.

The sins of the heart trigger the sins of the flesh.

Therefore when you boil down the three temptations, they are nothing more than a series of lamentations:

1. “I’m hungry. Why are there just stones and no bread?”

2. “Here I am–so cool, and nobody knows me. I’m not famous. Maybe if I jumped off the Temple…”

3. “I need a short cut. Maybe if I worship what everybody else worships, they’ll all think I’m really neat and I can rule the world.”

It is the nature of human beings to want to control. It’s foolish, since there are too many people, animals, weather formations and evolutions going on for us to ever stick a flag anywhere and claim it’s our turf.

Therefore we fail. When we can’t control we either pout or we cheat.

Jesus took the time in the wilderness to abandon his human instinct to control–because during his ministry, sometimes people had faith and sometimes they didn’t. The Pharisees were more interested in traditions than compassion and the disciples were often as dull as your wife’s shower razor.

We fail because when we realize that our plan has gone awry and we’ve lost control, we become depressed and don’t recognize the opportunities around us.

I know it’s hard to believe, but there really is only one sin. We start it early, keeping it to our grave:

Pouting.

  • “It’s not fair.”
  • “It’s not good enough.”
  • “It isn’t what I planned.”
  • “People don’t understand me.”
  • “I’ve been cheated.”
  • “I’m the wrong color.”
  • “I’m mistreated.”

From that position of pitiful, we try to beg enough sympathy to be loved and considered. If that doesn’t work, we cheat, lie, deceive, commit adultery, take drugs or any other sin that’s ready to jump on our backs like a monkey.

Jesus took forty days to deal with his humanity. He accepted the fact that he did not have control and would have to work with what was available.

It was only after the Resurrection, on his way to ascend to heaven that he proclaimed, “All power is given unto me in heaven and Earth.”

So let’s stop controlling, and instead … work with what is available.

 

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Good News and Better News… November 23rd, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Lawrence composite

There is a church in Lawrence.

I know this to be true because I was there just yesterday.

It is filled with beautifully flawed people–the kind God really loves. For after all, when we insist we’re beautiful, but without flaw, we become obnoxious to everyone we encounter. And when we spend too much time bowing our heads, feeling we are flawed without beauty, we make our Creator look like a failure.

Yes, coming to the end of another year of traveling across the country, I will tell you: humanity is a holy mess.

We are butterflies, still trying to tote our cocoons. It keeps us from flying high in the sky where our colors can be seen.

The people of Lawrence, like all the folks I’ve met this year, are absolutely outstanding, industrious, faithful and willing–but still unfortunately held in check by the burden and the beast of religion. They are so close to being free. Really, they’re just two steps away.

I spent the morning trying to convince them that those two steps were well worth the effort. It’s the same message Jesus had for religious people in his day, who were frightened of the terrorism of the zealots and angry with the Roman government.

Jesus told the people they were the “salt of the earth” and not to worry so much about the world around them, but instead, to focus on the emerging talent and ability within them. Most of them were unable to make the transition.

Yes, may I say to my dear friends in Lawrence: you are merely two steps away from the message of Jesus, to cut the cord of your cocoon so you can soar like butterflies.

All you have to do is get rid of superstition and bondage to the Old Testament.

For superstition makes us believe that God is angry with mankind, when Jesus told us he loves the world; and the Old Testament is filled with the same type of Sharia Law that insists women are inferior and that stealing and adultery are mistakes punishable by death.

The reason Jesus is powerful is because he does not expect human beings to become righteous. He challenges us to respect one another, and therefore become human beings.

Lawrence, I tell you that I love you dearly, as I adore all of the congregations I encountered this year across America.

But butterflies were meant to stream across the sky, not to stay earthbound …  fearful of climbing.

 

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