Dudley … August 10th, 2017

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DUDLEY

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Good News and Better News… July 31st, 2017

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I was sitting in the nursery of the Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee, Florida, between services, snacking on some fruit which had graciously been provided by Pastor Giuseppe and glorious souls who have a knack for putting together such compotes, when I was struck–or perhaps just “pwanged”–by a simple revelation.

The world is always moving. It is our job to note the direction.

Just because the pace seems harried, leaving us all in the flurry of busyness, does not mean that we’re trudging forward. Sometimes we go backwards, often it’s just side-stepping right or left. We even become distracted by hitting a wall and continuing to push instead of stopping long enough to find a way around it.

Church is still a beautiful thing–it’s just that in the present march of humanity it seems irrelevant.

For we classify information that comes our way into three categories:

1. Philosophical.

This ranges from our educational system, to reading books, to listening to someone explain the value of a gluten-free diet.

2. Religious.

Once again, this could be anything from a Bible conference to a yoga class to hearing a testimony about someone’s ordeal or joining with others in prayer over some nasty bit of business that’s come along.

3. Necessary.

Every single day of our lives, we alter the gauge on what we feel is necessary for our existence. This explains the tremendous success of Amazon and Wal-mart. These companies have made it friendly to come and buy things we want at reasonable rates, and in the case of Amazon, have them delivered to our door without even needing to leave the comforts of the breakfast nook.

Candidly, if a piece of information is not necessary, we deem it useless. Once something becomes useless, it only receives attention if it can prove–even temporarily–that it has the value of Wal-mart or Amazon.

So something beautiful, like church, which at one time was considered necessary because it initiated relationships, faith, music, cooperation and a sense of community, has now been completely shoved to the rear by the collision of social media and the rising tide of agnosticism.

When I went into the second service I took the realization with me. I discovered that being philosophical or religious bored even those individuals who still remained in the holy sanctuary.

Give them what’s necessary.

When Jesus came to Earth, the common people were slaves to the Romans and subjected to criticism from the religious system.

Jesus told the people they were “the salt of the Earth, the light of the world,” but that they needed to take responsibility for their lives and not wait for either the Romans or Judaism to save them.

He made the message of God necessary. He referred to it as “daily bread.” He told people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and to “take no thought for tomorrow” but to live for today.

You will never meet a more promising group of people than I encountered at Nativity. But I will tell them that until the message they share is necessary in people’s lives, a philosophical or religious content will leave folks cold–staying at home and watching television.

The good news is that Christianity can still be about Jesus.

The better news is that he came to give us life–necessary life–and it more abundantly.

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Good News and Better News… July 24th, 2017

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Sunday morning, bright and early, I headed off with my buddy, Janet, to St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Melbourne (even though the words “bright and early” should never appear in the same sentence.)

Over the years, Ms. Clazzy and I have learned a very important lesson: those who have gathered in a church are not there to see us, no matter how much we’ve been advertised. And they’re not necessarily there to learn about God, either.

They are accustomed to gathering. It is a tradition. Each one has his or her reasons for being there–ranging from preparing the coffee to loving the organ music, to appreciating communion, to getting stuck with usher duty.

So it is ridiculous for the two of us to think that we will come in and move mountains, or even rearrange dirt piles. Our job is simple–and made easier by the kindness of those who assisted us with our equipment and by the tender spirit of Pastor Blaine Johnson.

We are to be grateful for those who’ve attended, encourage what we see that’s positive, and gently address what’s missing.

Without the initial burst of gratitude for what is available, you immediately becomes the eternal brat who is never satisfied unless you get your own way.

Do I wish there were more people at St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, since there aren’t.

Do I wish I was going to larger churches than St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, because I’m not.

I am grateful for all the souls before me.

Then there are things that come out which are delightful and positive. There are people who greet you even though they have never seen you before. There is a sense of organization that lends itself to progress instead of chaos. Opportunities.

Yet in the midst of Jan and myself being grateful and reveling in the positives set before us, some missing spaces are obvious. Shall we refer to these as an absence of the presence?

  • An absence of the presence of jubilation.
  • An absence of the presence of radiant joy.
  • An absence of the presence of personalizing the message of Jesus to our own endeavors.
  • An absence of the presence of giggling.
  • An absence of the presence of the hand clapping which symbolizes confirmation of inner glee.

Just quietly ask the question, what’s missing?–and then allow the Spirit of God to offer suggestions.

So while grateful for the congregated and my celebration of the positives, I talked to them about passion–the ability for the heart to stimulate praise instead of relying on the memory.

Did we make progress? Will next Sunday’s service at St. Timothy reflect any of the energy of the visitation?

It’s a foolish question; irrelevant.

Because the good news is that Pastor Blaine and the fine folks of St. Timothy found it in their hearts to invite us to come and share our talents.

And the better news is that God, in His infinite wisdom, leaves it up to each individual soul to determine what he or she will do with what has been seen and heard.Donate Button

 

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 4)… July 22nd, 2017

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jesonian-cover-amazon

Still a bit troubled.

It’s this whole thing about salvation: “By grace you are saved through faith.”

The Apostle Paul shared this sentiment, and it set in motion the essence of the Protestant movement, so that today we are most concerned about the salvation of the soul.

Meanwhile, the emotions, the mind and the physicality of the church members wane, having no better effect than those in the world.

I suppose a case can be made that once we are eternally rescued and given a place in heaven, temporary years on Earth don’t seem quite as valuable.

Of course, one could have that opinion if one had not read the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus was intent on having God’s will done on Earth as it is in heaven.

He believed in personal responsibility.

He challenged his followers to go the second mile.

He told us that those who have purity of heart– emotional clarity–would see God.

He asked us to think about the world around us and how it works.

And certainly, he challenged us to be born again–not merely accepting the frailties of our genetic code, but rather, setting in motion a transformation which makes us “new creatures.”

The church offers soul salvation and then wonders why many people opt for “off-campus” emotional healing, renewing of their minds and physical exercise with healthy eating.

If salvation is a gift, why are we told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?

If salvation is a gift, why did Jesus tell Zacchaeus that he had “achieved” it by giving back the money he had stolen?

Imagine how powerful the Christian church could become if we simply taught that the salvation of our souls is an eternal work, demanding the grace of God to inaugurate our emotional healing, renewing of our minds and enhancement of our DNA.

It is troubling.

It is troubling that the church contains people who are going to heaven … yet having a hell of a time getting there.

 

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Good News and Better News… July 10th, 2017

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There’s only one rule.

Everything else is suggestions based upon respect to that principle.

The one rule is simple: love your neighbor as yourself. It also has a valuable addendum: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, while you’re loving yourself and your neighbor, you’ll probably end up doing something, so start learning to:

Do for two.

Me and you.

So powerful is this rule that it has intelligently been dubbed “Golden.” It is not a thought. It is not a point of discussion. And it is not debatable based on our particular definition of “neighbor.” Matter of fact, it affords us the expansive notion that these others we are to “do unto” include dogs, cats, trees, the sky and the entire cosmos. (He that has an ear, let him hear.)

But this Golden Rule cannot be replaced, displaced or even considered equal with other practices.

For instance, I believe in prayer. Sometimes it’s very helpful in assisting me to love my neighbor as myself. But it is not a substitute.

I like to read the Good Book. It gives me insights on better ways to communicate with my neighbors. But reading is not living.

Going to church offers fellowship and encouragement to pursue the goal–yet attendance to such a worship experience does not guarantee adherence to the ultimate truth.

Jesus did not die for the sins of the world–he died for the Golden Rule. Because without it, the world is beset by sin.

I just thought I should mention this to you today, just in case you were getting caught up in recent spiritual fads and Biblical chicken tracks.

The good news is, there is a rule.

The better news is, when applied, the gold makes us all rich.Donate Button

 

 

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … July 5th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Little Laddy

Come, get a look at me

Learn the ways from what you see

Total, whole, completely

I am the sample

Your living example

Of what you need to be.

Should you smile

A surly profile?

Fishing perch

Pray in church

Treat her kind

Blow her mind

I am ever-blessin’

A bloodline lesson

When facing defeat

Should you cheat

Never cry

Don’t be shy

Savor the lie

Don’t ask why

Always be a man

Share what you can

Feed the strong

Try to get along

But don’t back down

Love the loveable

Honor the usable

Cling to those of your own mind

Gather with folks of your kind

Watch, listen, don’t object

Note results

Practice affect

When you’re older

You’ll be bolder

The world grows colder

Justify to her

While life seems to blur

What you heard, saw and trust

It will make you one of us

So relax and observe, my little laddy

Someday you’ll become just like Daddy.

 

 

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

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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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