Cracked 5 … August 8th, 2017


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Things a Pirate Might Bring or Wear to a Church Service

A.  2 eye patches (to eliminate lust altogether)

 

B.  His “Holey Bible,” which slides easily onto his hook

 

C.  A cross to replace the peg in his leg

 

D.  A “prayer rat” instead of his usual parrot

 

E.  A praise bandana

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 2) Front and Center… May 8th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

There was a great glut of human traffic which came to an abrupt halt in the vestibule of the Garsonville Church, as each stalled congregant stared down at their church bulletin, which was only a half-sheet of paper, and mused over the meaning.

It read:

Welcome to Jesus Church!

1. Enter! Take a seat in one of the first five rows on either side

2. Greet One Another

3. A Hymn (Congregation’s choice)

4. Thought Luke 14: 16-24

5. An Effectual Fervent Prayer

As you leave, please drop your offering into the red, heart-shaped box at the back door

That was it.

Through mutterings, groans, misgivings and sighs, the congregation made its way into the church, reluctantly sitting in the first five rows as requested. (Well, three families departed in a huff, and Deacon Smitters perched himself in his accustomed assigned seating near the back door.)

Promptly at eleven, Reverend Meningsbee arrived, shaking some hands and beginning the service. After singing “Wings of a Dove,” as requested by a nine-year-old who was more curious about the title than familiar with the tune, the Reverend spoke.

“Thank you, one and all, for taking a seat front and center. You may wonder why I made this request. In Luke the 14th Chapter, verses 16-24, Jesus tells the story about a man who planned a feast. Of course, we know he’s talking about God. So God has invited people to His feast. They immediately begin to make excuses. They’re too busy, they’re financially engaged, they have responsibilities… Anyway, they turn Him down.

At this point, God says something very interesting. He tells His servants to go out and invite as many people as possible–good or bad–so His house will be full.

Do you realize that every Sunday morning we insult the Heavenly Father by scattering all over this building in little pockets of family, social cliques and pews of tradition, flaunting the obvious emptiness of our sanctuary, never realizing that God wants His house to be full?

We don’t take back seats anywhere else. We don’t go to a concert of our favorite musical artist and sit in the nosebleed section. We don’t go to a restaurant and look for the worst table in the establishment.

But we come to church and think it’s our right and privilege to avoid contact with the altar of repentance, and stay closer to the back door of evacuation.

Not anymore.

If God wants His house full–and He does–since we don’t have enough people to fill it up, we’re going to begin to fill this church from the front to the back. That will give us a sense of being full because we’re all sitting close together, facing the front, unaware of the vacant seats behind us.

This is our first step.

This is our attempt to make this a Jesus Church instead of a church that’s suited to our picky, personal preferences.

So I thank you for being involved in this beautiful experiment. I thank you for your cooperation…”

All at once the pastor was interrupted by a middle-aged man on the third row.

“You do realize, three families left this morning, and there may be more who won’t come back next week?”

The pastor paused, and then spoke in a gentle, metered tone.

“I do. I also understand that the way we’re doing church is driving more people away than bringing them in. I believe those three families will return when they see that what’s happening here is meeting the needs of human beings.”

The questioner shook his head and sat down in disgust.

Meningsbee said a prayer and started to walk away, then stopped in his tracks, turned and spoke to the back of the room.

“Deacon Smitters, we will look forward to you joining us front and center next week. Good day to all of you and God bless.”

The Garsonville Church sat quietly for a moment, as if trying to wake up from a really bad dream.

Undoubtedly the week ahead was going to be filled with vigorous discussion and angry dissension.

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Effective … August 23, 2012

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There are things I like and there are things that work. Sometimes, blessedly, they’re the same, but many times they aren’t. I have discovered that maturity is being able to distinguish between them. For after all, to continue to do something that is not effective simply because you like it may be the accurate definition of senility.

So I don’t think that getting old begins at fifty, but actually initiates its death-hold on us whenever we insist that our particular preference should be pursued even though it isn’t practical to the need. I think we have to take a good hard look at many things in our society with regard to this dilemma.

Certainly the way we elect a President in this country is not effective. The campaign is too long, the issues are generalized and the attacks are personal–and ultimately, we elect individuals who immediately have to prepare for the next election instead of considering the better options for the people.

Likewise, the distribution and sale of food in this country is inequitable and ineffective. Although we insist we want Americans to be healthier, the foods that would benefit the populace are over-priced and often unavailable at the local markets in the poorer neighborhoods. Meanwhile, we have dollar menus in fast food restaurants offering all the delicacies that lend themselves to heart disease.

“Ineffective” also shows up in our religious system. We have become intently involved in the pursuit of a worship service, when Jesus, himself, made it clear that “man was not created for the Sabbath.” In other words, God doesn’t need church. The Sabbath was created for man. Human beings are the ones who need fellowship, confirmation, exhortation and direction.

So we tiptoe through the tulips to get into the sanctuary to listen to a prelude written by some dead German three hundred years ago and then quietly wrangle ourselves through a series of hymns with language that, although beautiful, is a bit arcane. In the last ten to twenty minutes we insert some homily with a point to reinforce the value of the Bible and the religious experience and close off to race to coffee, cookies and Danish and talk about everything but our lives and our Heavenly Father.

I suppose if it was just an organization that we started on our own, built to our specifications, it would be just fine. But it was Jesus who started the church and it should be Jesus who is harkened to as to the operation of his organism. What IS effective? If you’re going to minister to people, the meeting together on a weekly basis should have something in it that is people-friendly and meeting the needs of the people.

What was a “Jesus church service like? It isn’t hard to discover. All you have to do is read the gospels and ascertain his approach to an audience of humans.

1. He always started off by telling stories. We call them parables. They were just little tales applicable to life and drew parallels to how much simpler God is than we make Him out to be–how He has already placed snapshots of His style in the everyday world. (Without practical application, religion quickly veers towards ritual. When ritual arrives, HOW we do something becomes more important than WHY we’re doing it. And when HOW becomes the most important part of spirituality, we not only become picky over our processes, but critical of others who don’t revere our version.) Jesus told stories. It’s how he started off his worship services.

2. A time for healing. The stories stimulated the imagination and willingness of the people. They felt the liberty to express their needs for healing and direction. I don’t know whether you would call it Q and A, or just an opening for people to be emotionally vulnerable instead of merely reciting a call to worship. But there was a time for healing–getting down to business. If people are leaving church the same way that they came, they can eventually skip that step, stay home, read the newspaper and have pancakes. That’s how simple it is. If church is not a place for us to discover both inner and outer healing, then how would it be any different from clogging your mind with a morning of viewing Meet the Press? After Jesus told stories, he allowed a time for people to receive healing and express their faith, so that he could agree with them for newness. Let’s be honest–healing is exciting, even if it’s just an emotional exhilaration someone experiences just by being prayed for by those who care for them. It brings joy.

3. This leads to the third step–a time for rejoicing. In the Jesus church service, there was always celebration after the healings. There was always a time to give glory to God and to appreciate the benefit. Jesus often used this energy from the healings to attract others who were curious, but uncertain of the format. Rejoicing is a powerful draw to those who are living a life floating in the doldrums. (The absence of rejoicing seems to be the presence of complacency. Truthfully, complacency is what causes people to divert their attention to the next shiny object.)

So Jesus tells stories, allowing people to express their need for healing. He agrees with them, their faith makes them whole and the exuberance lends itself to rejoicing.

4. Singing. It is at this point that I believe we can insert our ecclesiastical obsession for singing. Singing should never be used unless it is the by-product of joy. Even if a song is tender and heartfelt, it still sounds better coming from a being enraptured by joy.

After the singing, it’s time to go out the door to eat those Danish, but this time, to discuss how beautiful it was to be together rather than to determine whether we prefer cheese over prune. It’s called being effective.

Politically, we need a sixty-day election cycle culminating with debates that are only allowed to center in on the issues, with no television advertising permitted at all, removing the electoral college–and whoever gets the most votes wins.

As far as the food supply is concerned, we should encourage farmers to grow more and more produce instead of paying them off to keep their land fallow, and get those fresh fruits and vegetables into smaller and smaller markets, so people will have choices.

And when it comes to the church, we need to cease contending that we are worshipping God, but instead, do honor to His name by helping human beings live better lives. We need to be effective. Jesus had a very simple four-step formula:

  • Tell
  • Heal
  • Rejoice
  • Sing

This is the order that touches human hearts instead of asking the emotional part of people to step out of the way in an attempt to expose the spirit. It’s impossible to do. Our emotions and spirit are linked together and must be ministered to simultaneously.

We don’t need to be effective; we can continue to follow our own particular likes and dislikes to no productive conclusion. But if you want to be like Jesus, you’re going to set your sights towards ministering to humans instead of trying to impress God. In doing so, your Father in Heaven will deem you effective.

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Crueler Donuts… May 18, 2012

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Once upon a time, for a brief fourteen seconds, I nearly convinced myself that I didn’t really like sweet things. During the sharing of such a fable, I even espoused some disdain for desserts. I said I preferred meats, vegetables and fruits over sugar-laden snacks, pies and cakes. In the midst of the relating this fairy tale, somebody walked through the room carrying a platter stacked with donuts. It was like the wicked queen displaying the magical poison apple to Snow White. My devotion to meat and vegetables was gone—my intent devoid, as I reached over with trembling hand and seized one of the lovely, circular specimens and stuffed it in my mouth.

Over the years I’ve had a great love affair with donuts, which I have, so to speak, tried to keep undercover. Because there is nothing worse than watching a really fat person eat desserts. Everybody just nods their heads and goes, “Oh, I see how it happened …”

But donuts are tough. (Or is it moist?)

I think my love affair with donuts began back in 1971, when for a brief time, I was homeless. Well, that’s a little too dramatic. I wasn’t living under a bridge using newspapers for blankets, but my wife and I didn’t have enough money for gas, food and lodging, so lodging ended up taking a back seat, and in our youthful optimism, we sponged off our friends for a spare couch or space on a patio for sleeping purposes. As you probably realize, one wears out one’s welcome quickly with such presumptions. So eventually we ran out of friends willing to lodge us for the night, and others we contacted had been fully warned of our mooching activities.

One alternative remained. (You would probably insist there was another alternative, called going out and getting a job, but honestly, that did not even enter our adolescent mindset—to pursue such an obtuse process.)

So the alternative we found was to borrow my mother’s key to the loan company that she managed, make a copy and quietly slip into the back room well after dark, sleeping on the floor of the establishment. We had to make sure that we didn’t go in until the rest of the town had gone to bed, and be out before dawn.

We had a morning ritual where we drove in our beat-up van down to North Columbus to a donut shop run by one of my dear friends who had not yet figured out that he would be better off free of our companionship. It was his job, as manager of the donut shop, to throw away all the donuts from the previous evening at about six-thirty each morning. He explained that if we would be there before the trays were dumped into the trash, that we could have as many of the rejected sugar treats as our hearts desired.

We never missed a morning.

It became one of the staples of our diet. We would usually get a couple dozen of those free blessings, buy a loaf of bread, a pound of bologna, a half-gallon of milk and two oranges. Allotting for the fact that we didn’t have to pay for the donuts, the whole day’s food expense was less than four dollars. It seemed to be an ingenious system.

(After a while, we did notice that we were gaining weight. In a state of denial, we assumed it must be the oranges, so we stopped buying them. But it was not until we got caught being squatters in the back of the loan office that we finally stopped making the trek down to get our donut bonanza, and mysteriously, after that, stopped gaining weight and actually lost a little.)

But it was through that experience that I learned to love donuts—so much so, that now, I never eat them at all—because if I did, I would have no idea when to stop.

I used to have favorites, but after a while that seemed like a waste of time and created forbidden territory that was neither satisfying nor particularly intelligent. One of the donuts I never really enjoyed was crullers. In my obese piety, I held that they were “too heavy” and more like cake than a real donut. But that particular abstention was overcome one morning when I arrived at my friend’s donut shop and ONLY crullers were available. For that day, and many days to follow, they became my favorite.

Donuts may be the only reason I ever actually drank a cup of coffee.  Matter of fact, let me tell you the top five things I like about donuts:

1. They’re portable. You can take them from place to place. They travel well. They don’t require a fork or a plate.

2. You can eat three and claim you ate one. Unless there’s someone minding the box as the “donut police,” it’s difficult to determine who is consuming what and how much has been depleted.

3. The hole in the center—an illusion of fewer calories. You can always say, “It’s not that much” because at least half of it is empty space. Which brings me to:

4. They actually make donut holes. Also one of my favorites. Especially when they filled the little donut holes with whipped cream.

5. Eating donuts seems to be spiritual. A great way to have fellowship, or even, in some cases, overcome addiction, survive divorce, or be a part of any support group whatsoever. Because there is no church or organization in America that doesn’t greet you at the door with, “After the service is over, we have donuts and coffee available…” You see what I mean? Who could hate such an innocent vehicle of human joy and interaction?

Donuts bring people together.

But several years ago, I decided that donuts were not for me. If you are what you eat, then I was beginning to resemble a jelly filled donut—big and round, with lots of goo at the center. I did extremely well—as long as I didn’t look at them, smell them or have some really wicked person offer a fresh glazed one that was still warm.

Then, on August 14th, 2011, it happened. I even remember the time—7:32 P.M. I was driving along with my wife, Dollie, and my partner, Janet, when we passed a Dunkin Donuts and I thought to myself, why not? After all, we deserved a treat, didn’t we?

So I rolled into the parking lot and told Janet to go in and get us some of the delicious items. Jan is a wonderful woman, but not someone you want around when you have an addiction to donuts. Janet has never met a sweet treat that she was not willing to consume in excess. So when I told her that we should get MORE than a dozen—so we could “save them up for the week”—she readily agreed to go in a select a variety of two dozen.

Long story short, we went back and in probably less than two hours, the three of us consumed all two dozen.

Ridiculous, you may cry. Gluttony, you might charge. But we didn’t care. Having been deprived of them for so long, we gorged.

About an hour and a half later, my stomach and brain began to conspire in some sort of mystical journey of hallucination—not that dissimilar to how people describe an LSD trip.

I was sleepy. I was alert. I was fidgety. I was sick to my stomach. I had a headache. I think I had a conversation with the devil about sprinkles or icing. Needless to say, it was a bad trip. (Stay away from the purple icing…)

I think that evening cured me once and for all—because as much as I love donuts, they are crueller. What they do is tease you with their ease. They please you with their taste. And they attack you with regret.

For after all, we want to make sure that we are the ones eating the food, and not the food, in some strange way … totally consuming us.

 

   

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