Reverend Meningsbee (Part 36) A Rebuking Hour… January 8th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

About twenty-five miles outside Garsonville, Meningsbee pulled his vehicle onto the side of the road because the tears in his eyes had become so overwhelming that he couldn’t see to drive anymore.

He didn’t know why he was crying.

Certainly there was a lot of incrimination and anguish behind the tears–but something else was emptying his well of discontent. He didn’t know what it was and he didn’t want to think about it–he just wanted to get back to Garsonville.

Home.

Was it home?

Or was it really just a place he had inserted himself to make some theological point? It certainly seemed to have grown beyond that. He had a very tender heart for the people he served.

After a few minutes, some good old-fashioned thinking dried up the gushers in his eyes and he headed toward the parsonage.

He arrived there on Saturday evening, about nine o’clock. There was just enough time to put together some notes for the next day, crawl into bed and collapse from exhaustion.

The next morning, he purposely arrived a little later so he wouldn’t have to field a series of “narthex questions,” leading to stymied silences.

The congregation was already seated and singing “Sweet Hour of Prayer” as he made his way down the aisle to the front, turned and waited for them to finish the beautiful hymn.

He took a pause, not trying to be dramatic, but staring at the people, searching for words. He began.

“Jesus once preached a sermon that was so pungent, pointed, relevant and convicting that the Bible says everybody left. At least five thousand people.

Jesus was saddened. He turned to his disciples and said, ‘Are you going to go away, too?'”

All at once, Meningsbee was interrupted by a woman in her forties, standing to her feet.

“Reverend, my name is Sarah–Sarah Rothchild. I don’t go to this church. I don’t go to any church. But I came here today because this church found a way, through its message and love, to permeate through the doors and windows of my home and reach me–even without my attendance. We haven ‘t left you, sir. There aren’t five thousand disciples marching away, grumbling about your ministry. You keep leaving us. You keep running away. You came here to do something magnificent–different–personal–and dare I say, human. And then because some critics have come along to challenge you, you scurry away like a little spider to quietly spin your web of self-pity. We need you. But most of all, we need you not to run away. I don’t know if I’ll join this church, but I do know this town is better since you came here. And I decided to dress up and join you folks today so I could rebuke you. Isn’t that a Bible word? If it isn’t, it should be. I’m here to rebuke you for being a coward.”

One of the ushers stepped forward with the intention of leading Sarah out of the church. Meningsbee held up a hand, motioning for him sit back down. The pastor turned back to Sarah to listen. Sensing that she was finding disfavor, Sarah became defensive.

“I didn’t come to make trouble. I just believe that the only way you can prove what you say is to stick around after people disagree with you. I think it’s time for you to either pack your bags, leave Garsonville and admit this was just a game to you. Or else hang in here with us and see if we can’t make it through these problems–especially getting out of the condemnation from these horrible shows on TV.”

Sarah looked around the room for some sign of support. Everybody was afraid to move. So she reached down, grabbed her purse, turned around and was ready to dash out of the sanctuary.

Meningsbee stepped forward, stopping her.

“By the way, Sarah, that is officially called a rebuke. And you helped me discover what I was crying about last night as I drove into town. I am a coward. Not something you’re really able to say about yourself, until you hear somebody else accuse you of it. I’m scared. I’m not scared of being wrong. I’m scared of being right…and all alone. So if you’ll forgive me and give me another chance, I would like to try to do better. I would like to try…”

Meningsbee stopped.

He didn’t know what to say and had probably already said too much. He bowed his head.

One after another, the congregation members rose, walked up and gave Meningsbee their rendition of Christian greeting, love and hugs.

The last one to come to him was Sarah, his rebuker. She started to say she was sorry, but before she could speak, Meningsbee erupted with a revival of tears.

He fell on her shoulder and cried like a little boy who had just skinned his knee. She patted his back, weeping along with him. The Garsonville elect stood back and watched, like little children seeing a deer in the forest for the first time.

At length, everybody headed out of the church.

But as the first congregant opened the door, standing there was Kitty, Hapsy’s mom.

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G-Poppers … November 11th, 2016

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Jon close up

She was cursing the air like it was refusing to let her breathe–stomping, throwing things, shaking her fist–the personification of frustration.

As G-Pop returned from a grocery shopping trip, he slowly parked his van in a space next to a young woman who was in a hurry to go nowhere. She had obviously hit her wall and was determined to hit it again and again, to prove the depth of her anguish.

It was a little frightening.

It was like a scene you watch in a movie and take in stride, but when you feel the vehemence ricocheting through the air, it is much different.

So out of respect to her eruption–and a little afraid to step into the emotional lava surrounding her–G-Pop sat quietly in his car, giving her space.

At length she disappeared back into her motel room to procure more of her personal effects. G-Pop took that moment to go into his own room.

Then it occurred to him–a prompting. The real reason to have the Spirit speaking within. After all, there are always two choices:

  • You can shut the door to your room and pretend there’s no pain.
  • Or you can open the door and risk becoming part of the pain of another human being.

G-Pop asked Jan to go out and find out what was wrong–if there was anything the girl needed.

Jan was back in a brief moment, explaining that our friend had her money stolen and they were kicking her out of the motel because she didn’t have finance.

I suppose G-Pop could have spent five or ten minutes trying to figure out if she was lying, or he could have offered a prayer on her behalf. But the best feeling in the world is to know that you did something, even if the critics around you insist it means nothing.

G-Pop looked into his wallet. He had an abundance of one dollar bills left over from the week’s endeavors. He didn’t count them–just grabbed them and gave them to Jan to take out to the damsel in distress.

After a brief delay Jan reappeared, grinning ear to ear, saying that the young woman was moved to tears and they had hugged it out.

Did it make a difference?

Much more than whether G-Pop voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Much more than an aggravated post on Facebook.

Much more than a silent request during prayer time the following Sunday at church.

We are living in uncertain times so it is important to make sure what is certain:

  1. Love your neighbor.
  2. Take responsibility for your life
  3. Be of good cheer.

And G-Pop would note: when you see something that needs to be done, do the part that is within your means.

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 25) Go Help Someone Else … October 16th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

Meningsbee had always found it much easier to memorize the Beatitudes than to adhere to them.

Along with his “wayward wishings on the Web,” he seemed to have an inability to express consideration to other Earthlings. He didn’t feel animosity, just found that fellowshipping was better performed, in his mind, by reading a fine book.

When he woke up on Wednesday, it struck him that he had not interacted with Matrisse and little Hapsy for some time.

Guilt settled in.

Like many mortals, Meningsbee pretended to despise guilt, but often welcomed it as a warm comforter for a chilled thought. So the first thing he did was incriminate himself for failing to be in contact, and treating Matrisse like she was a drop-off center for abandoned children.

He fussed over that for a season, nearly sprouting a tear, and then was able to don appropriate pastoral garb and head off to her house. The activity did lift his spirits, and he began to feel like a preacher again. After all, when you stand behind the holy desk and thunder everlasting truths, it is good to give a damn about souls.

He arrived at the house, took a deep breath, and exited his car. As he walked up the steps to offer solace and comfort to Matrisse, the door flung open in front of him and there she was–squared off, staring at him as if some monster had invaded her porch.

“What do you want?” she challenged.

Stunned, he tried to respond. “I just came over…”

She interrupted. “You came over here because you’re a parson–and think you should interfere in people’s lives when they haven’t asked for your help.”

He paused, surprised, because she had pretty much nailed the situation. That’s exactly what he thought.

She continued. “Listen, Reverend, I’m not like other people. It’s not as if I despise them for being weak, but my thought is, I go to church to take the Word, to answer my questions, to create the sentences for me to go out and make a statement. I don’t cry a lot, but I also don’t bitch. I don’t fuss with other people, especially if they decide to learn their lesson and not fuss with me. And I don’t judge a young girl who had a baby because she forgot how to close her legs, who right now would rather be just a lost child herself. Hapsy seems happy. I feed her. I love her. She laughs. She thinks I have a big belly. So I pretend my stomach can talk, using my belly button as a mouth. She thinks that’s hilarious. I am not looking for help and most certainly–dear God–I’m not looking for pity or the wise words of some seminarian who spent too much time at the library. Let me take the message you preach on Sunday and act it out–so this little girl has a chance to be something other than a stripper, or a nervous sermon-maker.”

She took time out to breathe, glaring at Meningsbee, content she had made her point. He thought about explaining his motivations or trying to convey to her the need to let the community of believers share in her struggle, or just allowing him fifteen minutes to come inside and have a cup of her most delicious tea.

But he waited too long, because Matrisse punctuated her soliloquy with one final thought. This one was a little more tender.

“Listen, Richard. Why don’t you…”

She paused, leaning forward, changing over to a whisper.

“Go…find…someone…else…to help.”

Richard–Reverend Meningsbee–the Shepherd of the Garsonville Church–agreed.

He smiled, turned on his heel and walked back to his car.

As he climbed in, he thought, if the world had been filled with folks like Matrisse, Jesus could have retired instead of being buried by his critics.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 15) The Word Went Forth… August 7th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

There was a pretty good crowd gathered.

Apparently in the midst of a whole lot of shuffling going on in Garsonville, some aces were being dealt in the direction of the church–new people, searching folk and “institutions” who had been around so long that they had streets named after them.

Meningsbee quickly introduced Kitty and Hapsy to one of the dear ladies of the church, who opened up her wing and pulled them close, sitting them on the fourth row next to her. Kitty looked frightened, but sufficiently worn out that she didn’t put up much of a fuss.

Meningsbee stopped worrying about his surprise visitors because he was so excited about today’s service.

He didn’t sing a hymn, figuring there was enough melody in his heart for the whole room, and he skipped the prayer, assuming the Heavenly Father fully knew his intentions.

“Okay, let’s get this rolling!” he said with the vigor of a football coach. “I’d like to invite up Number 1 and Number 2 of the pieces of paper I passed out last week.”

After a brief pause, Carl, one of the long-standing members, and Kimberly, a new mother, eased their way to the front and stood side-by-side.

“Well, since I have two, that must make you one,” said Carl with a wry smile.

Kimberly nodded, and shared, reading from her paper, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

She stopped.

Carl waited momentarily and then looked at the audience with a twinkle in his eye. “Well, I guess that’s all she’s got to say.”

He opened up his paper and read aloud, “My dear friends, we are not spiritual. We are just people, so stop trying to act like you’re angels.”

His delivery was perfect, because everybody burst out laughing. Carl looked over at Meningsbee, who had posted himself nearby at a grease board, magic marker in hand.

The good reverend wrote down, “Number 1.”

He turned to the congregation and said, “True words. So based upon what I’ve heard here, I would sum it up with this.”

He turned back to the grease board and wrote in big letters:

1. WE’RE HUMAN.

From over his shoulder he said, “I’ll take the next two.”

Up walked Dexter, about nineteen years of age, and Brian, maybe fifteen.

Dexter read, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Brian, confident that Dexter was finished, leaped in and added, “It won’t kill us to feel for other people.”

A few more giggles.

Meningsbee wrote down on his board:

2. WE CARE.

Monique, the church secretary and Mr. Jackson, Vice-President of the bank, offered:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and, “Don’t be in such a hurry to worry.”

To which Meningsbee responded, compiling his list:

3. WE CAN WAIT HERE TOGETHER.

Things took off.

Martha and Mary, who amazingly actually reversed the roles from the Bible, with Martha being the more studious one, shared, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled,” alongside, “We ain’t smart enough to not listen.”

Meningsbee jotted down:

4. WE’RE STILL LEARNING.

Meanwhile, keeping up with the names was a real trick for Meningsbee, who had only been there a little over a month. So the next pair slipped up and said their piece, Meningsbee unable to retrieve their names.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” and, “Don’t look down on other people because down is readily available.”

Meningsbee listed:

5. WE NEED MERCY

Next up was Mrs. Mason, in her eighties, and Toby, who was, well, just Toby–one of those young men who can lift half a file cabinet but doesn’t say much about anything else.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” and, “If you’re not going to be clean with people, you come across dirty.”

Meningsbee’s translation:

6. WE ARE GROWING TO SHARE.

Then someone named Steve, and Billy, who liked fishing:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” and, “Eventually you’ll start a fight that will finish you.”

7. WE WANT TO GET ALONG.

(Meningsbee’s writing on the grease board)

Next was Hector, from the grocery store, and Sharon, leader of the women’s Bible study, who popped right up and pointed out, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” along with, “You can’t do enough good to be considered good by everybody.”

Up on the board:

8. WE BETTER NEED CRITICS BECAUSE THEY’RE HERE.

Then came Mr. Tomlinson, whom the Reverend didn’t know much about, and Thomas, who was anything but a doubter. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil things against you for my sake.”

Thomas looked down at his note and smiled. He proffered, “Some folks ain’t happy unless they make you unhappy.”

Meningsbee scrawled on his board:

9. BUT CRITICS CAN BE NASTY.

For some reason, everybody really enjoyed that one, and just giggled on for a few seconds.

The next two up were Sandra and Cory, who were engaged to be married in a couple of weeks at the church. After some “oohs and aahs” of admiration for the cleverness of luck putting them together, Cory said, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Sandra tagged on, “People like good if they don’t have to change.”

Meningsbee jotted:

10. WE’RE IN GOOD COMPANY.

And finally, up popped Tracy, the photographer, and Russ, who aspired to be a movie-maker. Tracy went first. “These are the ideas that we will use to run this church. We’re going to call them The Ten Dears of the Garsonville Church.

Russ jumped in. “We know it sounds kind of corny, but after all, we do live in Nebraska.”

Great laughter.

Russ held up a finger, letting everyone know that his little speech wasn’t over. “Hold on!” he said. “There’s more. To use movie lingo, I have a sequel. Now, if you’ll look on the board and join me:”

Meningsbee pointed to #1 and everybody read aloud: WE’RE HUMAN.

Then #2: WE CARE.

#3: WE CAN WAIT HERE TOGETHER

#4: WE’RE STILL LEARNING.

#5. WE NEED MERCY

#6. WE ARE GROWING TO SHARE

#7. WE WANT TO GET ALONG

#8. WE BETTER NEED CRITICS BECAUSE THEY’RE HERE

#9. BUT CRITICS CAN BE NASTY

#10. WE’RE IN GOOD COMPANY

The congregation burst into applause. Meningsbee took that moment to look over and see what Kitty and Hapsy were doing. Hapsy was sitting upright, clapping her hands, only pausing to chew on a cracker that had been graciously provided for her.

And there was Kitty–sound asleep.

Meningsbee felt a twinge of disappointment that Kitty had missed the impact of the service. But there would be other days.

Yes…many glorious other days.

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Getting in Character … July 27th, 2015

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Siskell and Ebert

From Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, Shakespeare asserts that “all the world is a stage and all the men and women, merely players.”

A good performance does not guarantee a good response.

Learning this may be the secret to both contentment and success.

Somewhere along the line, we have acquired the idea that good things eventually receive acclaim. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are factors at work in the marketplace of humanity that are often geared to eliminate competition by thrusting good ideas, good sensations and even good performances to the rear. Otherwise, mediocrity would have no chance of surviving–and we all know that the mediocre is often hoisted on the shoulders of the masses and proclaimed to be excellent.

So the first thing we must do is establish a standard for ourselves that is higher than present expectation.

There’s a simple reason for this:

If we do receive rave reviews, then we know that it was brought about by concerted effort rather than luck. And if we don’t, we can have confidence that any persecution or retribution that comes our way is more than likely being spawned from some pit of prejudice or jackal of jealousy.

So if we’re not going to always receive what we’re due for our performance, what is the purpose of trying to excel, or stepping out on the stage of life to display our hearts in the first place?

Every real performance which is practiced and perfected affords us four delightful conclusions:

1. We can stop lying.

That in itself should be enough to encourage us toward developing the glorious rendition of our part.

2. Every good performance exposes our insecurities.

Isn’t it fascinating that rehearsal always brings the faults to the forefront, and then we can decide whether we are secure enough to improve them?

3. Performance eliminates conceit.

There is no need to be conceited about something that is obviously good. Conceit is generally birthed in a person who privately fears that what he or she has to share is insufficient. So they try to cover it up with pomp and circumstance.

4. And finally, the pursuit of a great performance, whether regaled with honors or not, gives us a huge opportunity to overcome our fears:

  • Fear of failing
  • Fear of obscurity
  • Fear of being critiqued
  • And fear of suffering injustice while knowing deep in our hearts that we’re doing something of great quality

The truth of the matter is, great does not always rate. It doesn’t come with a guaranteed award.

But it does reward us with a true sense of confidence… that we have stepped out and found our best.

 

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Getting in Character…July 13th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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heart

From Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, Shakespeare asserts that “all the world is a stage and all the men and women, merely players.”

“Not believable.”

It is the two-word epitaph for every actor’s performance which seems dead-on-arrival. It is pronounced by critic and audience alike when the scene set before them lacks sincerity, legitimacy and heart.

Sometimes it is caused by the script being underplayed; often it’s a result of overacting. But somewhere along the line, the actor has failed to take the words that he or she has committed to memory and equally commit them to heart.

  • The emotion is phony.
  • The emotion is lacking.
  • The emotion is pre-determined and therefore sits on the shelf too long, arriving stale.

There is a certain amount of emotional purity necessary to convey who we are to the world around us. When this is lacking, the jungle sense inside every mortal comes to the forefront, screaming “this is not real.”

So since the world is a stage and we are actors, what can we do to guarantee that our contribution is believable? Because long before we are valuable, we need to establish that we are as we say we are.

To gain this pure heart, you must:

1. Be the first person around you who is not afraid of sharing your feelings.

You can be selective. You can release it slowly–just as long as you’re forthcoming and not being “caught”–trapped in a web of lies.

2. Realize that your feelings are inescapable, yet they only gain the possibility of change when shared well.

No one is suggesting that there has to be an outpouring from the heart of every single sensation that happens from moment to moment, but when a reality exists, to deny it, mask it or reject it is to set yourself up for being exposed instead of controlling the update on your own situation.

3. Know that people can trust you because they are fully aware that you’re willing to be honest.

Without this kind of emotional purity, human beings spiral down. They end up in the basement of consideration, relegated to a position of worthlessness because they were unable to deliver what they advertised themselves to be.

Fear makes us doubt.

Doubt makes us defensive.

Defensiveness turns us into liars.

And all liars end up looking like fools.

 

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Three Ways to Have Your Own Resurrection … April 2, 2015

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flash of light bigger

Coming back from the dead.

Pretty dramatic stuff.

Of course, we have a tendency to look on it as a regeneration of the physical body from “demise to rise.”

But there are many deaths–many lingering emotional and spiritual illnesses that teeter us on the verge of destruction other than just being killed off and stuck in a tomb.

In this Easter season, I would love to encourage you to find your own resurrection.

We all have dead places in us–areas in our lives we have given up on and tried to bury under an avalanche of forgetfulness.

But maybe there’s still hope. Maybe those youthful dreams and aspirations don’t have to be placed in the grave.

So how would you like to have your own resurrection? May I suggest three ways to achieve this magnificent celebration?

1. Every once in a while, let your critics catch up with you and criticize.

Even though we would love to be a self-contained unit, we all need input from the outside. Take a deep breath, put yourself in a good mood and let those who think you aren’t so great speak their minds.

Listen for content. If it gets personal, ignore it. And when you get done listening to your critics and siphoning off the portions that can be utilized, then ask yourself a very important question: who is more likeable, human and marketable–me or them?

2. Kill off some of your own “christ complex.”

Don’t wait for others to trim away your self-righteousness and crucify you in your own sense of importance. And always remember that doing good has its own reward, and also avoid sharing with the squares. Rejection often comes into our lives because we try to change the minds of those who are trapped in mindless activities.

Pride is what keeps us from discovering our pride, which always causes us to just become more prideful.

3. Take a few days away to bury yourself in awareness and appreciation, and then return to newness of life.

The value of being quiet is that you can hear voices from the outside and voices from your inside. There is no shame in silencing yourself in order to have the chance to discover what is really important.

  • Your critics will never destroy you unless you become defensive and angry.
  • Getting rid of some of your false expectations will only lighten your load and make you more valuable to the world around you.
  • And finding some solitude to heal and immersing yourself in awareness and appreciation, will only rejuvenate you in vitality.

I recommend this process once a year. If you pursue it, you can achieve what others haven’t:

Coming back from a dead past to a promising present and a fulfilling future. 

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