Catchy (Sitting 57) Avoid the Saddle…. July 15th, 2018

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Matthew leaned up from his prone position on the bed and kissed the very naked back of Leonora, the oboist.

“Don’t do that,” she complained. “Now my back is all wet from your gooey lips and I feel cold.”

“You’re welcome,” said Matthew with a lovey-dovey hum.

The two of them lay in the bed, very still, for a solid minute, maybe two. Matthew interrupted the silence.

“You had a great idea,” he said.

“Which one?” Leonora asked.

“You know. When you decided to divide our evening into two parts–dinner, then the movie–and you declared it two different dates, and so when we ended up coming to my place to have sex, it was like we were finishing up the second date…”

“Actually the third,” corrected Leonora. “You forgot about the time we spent with the quintet in the Gallery.”

“So we waited until the third date, then, to have sex. Very proper,” Matthew noted approvingly.

“I thought so,” purred Leonora.

“You know what I like?” asked Matthew.

Leonora suddenly sat straight up in the bed and turned to Matthew. “You’re one of those. One of those goddamn guys who can’t keep his mouth shut and go to sleep. You’re part girl. That’s it, you know. You’ve got to have conversation, commentary, closeness and cuddle-wuddles to make you feel like what we did had really deep meaning, instead of being like two baboons cracking a nut.”

Matthew eased up to sit on his butt. “Wow. There’s an image I don’t need. So are you gonna think I’m weird if I tell you that this was great, and it felt great and you were great?”

Leonora sighed. “No, I think I pretty well knew that when you finished your orgasm by singing ‘American Pie.'”

“I always liked that song,” said Matthew. “Very underrated.”

“And so are you, my dear,” she said, patting him on the head. She pulled back the sheet and walked across the room totally naked, attempting to gather her belongings.

“Are you leaving?” asked Matthew.

Leonora turned to speak to him as she squeezed into her panties. “Yes. I have a life. My horn calls me. I have friends. Somewhere in my house I have a pet cat, even though he rarely makes an appearance. I just assume he’s still there because the food disappears and the house smells like shit.”

As she finished speaking, the doorbell rang. Matthew looked over at Leonora and mouthed, “I don’t know…”

He leaped to his feet and said, “Hold on a second. Let’s both put on those thick white terry cloth robes, and go to the door and answer it, pretending we are Mr. and Mrs. Normal Tourist from Des Moines, Iowa.”

“Make it Rapid City, South Dakota and you’ve got a deal,” said Leonora.

They donned the robes and headed to the door. Opening it, they found Soos standing there with a gentleman who greatly resembled Jubal Carlos, but with a much different haircut.

Matthew, displaying great shock, asked, “Don’t you think you should call me first before you just show up?”

Soos pushed past him, gave Leonora an uncomfortable hug and stepped into the living room. “We tried to call. You don’t answer, you’re never home, your mailbox is full. It’s almost like you’re dead, but nobody’s found out yet.”

The Jubal lookalike held out his hand. “I’m Jasper–Jubal’s brother. Nice to meet you.” He, too. walked right past the visitors from the Dakotas and stepped into the living room.

Jasper and Soos found nice seats on the couch as Matthew pointed to Soos and said to Leonora, “This is my friend from college. We call her Soos… Ahhh…You’ve already been introduced to Jasper…”

He turned to Soos and Jasper. “This is my…What should I say? My protegé in love.”

“What the hell?” Leonora gave a quick wave to Soos and Jasper.

Matthew, stung by his own awkward description, stumbled into the room. “What is it you want, Soos?”

Soos looked around the room, her eyes falling on nine or ten bottles of Jack Daniels, sitting in a corner, abandoned.

“Well,” she said, “I thought that since you’re the executive producer of this organization, you might like to have an update.”

Matthew sat down in a big, plump chair. “Well, actually, I get updates on the news broadcasts.”

“Well, that’s not very personal,” said Jasper.

“Exactly,” said Matthew. “That’s what I’m trying to avoid. Getting personal.”

“Who are these people?” Leonora asked Matthew, obviously perturbed.

Soos stepped in to offer an explanation. “We are his comrades, business cohorts and missionaries, if you will, on this project to make Jesus popular again. You may have heard of it…”

Leonora rolled her eyes like eyes had never been rolled before. “Yes, I’ve heard of it.”

Turning to Matthew, she asked, “Are you part of this?”

Matthew pointed at Leonora and said, “Great question. I got the thing started. Jubal Carlos, who’s his brother…” He pointed to Jasper. “Picked up the ball, and now it seems that Little Boy Blue is blowing the horn of insanity.”

“No shit,” said Leonora.

“Ooh, a non-believer,” Soos squealed with some giddy glee. “I love non-believers.”

“I am not a non-believer,” snapped Leonora. “I just don’t call it God. When I was asked in college about my faith, I told them I was a Panist.”

Jasper wrinkled his brow. “Panist?

Leonora stepped across the room and found her own seat in a straight-back chair. “Yes. Greek. Pan–all. Ist–me. I believe in everything, everyone and every creature. I make no distinction between the busy ant and your Jewish God.”

“Wow,” said Soos. And nothing more.

Matthew sat back admiringly. For the first time in many years, he realized he had made love to a woman who actually had a brain.

Soos, unperturbed, launched.

She explained that Michael Hinston had become an inspiration in Soulsbury to all around him–a leader and compassionate man, seeking to help others.

On and on she spoke. Of miracles. Moments. She mentioned the wonderful series done by Jennifer Carmen in North Carolina, featuring Jubal’s life and story. She nearly cried when explaining that the United Nations had put out a proclamation stating that this was to become the “Decade of Kindness.”

When Soos finally slowed up, Jasper jumped in. “Word has it you’re not that enthusiastic about the things we’re doing, Matthew. Is that right?”

Matthew just sat and stared at Jasper. He didn’t want to hurt the feelings of a man he had just met, but he also didn’t want to lie and pretend–especially in front of his exciting new lover.

“It’s just my experience,” said Matthew, “that the more you believe in God, the weaker you become. I’m tired of being weak.”

Jasper stood to his feet, strolled across the room, turned on his heel and began.

“Did you ever hear the story, “Horace the horse? Yes, Horace the horse lived in a barn. Unlike the other horses, he determined he never to be trained, saddled and used to herd cows and ride across the plains. So every time the saddle was brought in his direction, he spit, snorted and kicked, scaring away all those who tried to tame him. The ranchers who owned the horses decided to refuse Horace any food. So when the other horses went out to work for the day, and Horace had a lot of time on his hooves, Horace decided he would trick them by trying out the pig feed and the chicken portions. At first he felt very smart, but he got weaker, sicker and pretty soon, he could barely stand on his four legs.”

“One day a young girl–the daughter of the owner of the ranch–brought him an apple and a bag of oats. It tasted so good. The next morning Horace the horse decided he’d join his brethren. So when they placed the saddle on his back, he didn’t look on it as a burden, but instead, an opportunity to carry someone else’s burden.”

Jasper stopped his story like a preacher does when he finishes and it’s almost time for the Doxology.

“What the hell…?” asked Matthew. “Horace the horse??”

Leonora interrupted. “Oh, you didn’t understand, Matthew? Our friend Jasper, here, thinks that all God’s creatures should be saddled. Saddled with guilt. Saddled with fear. Saddled with rules. And saddled with worry.”

She paused. “And if we’re not saddled, well, they’re going to tell us right now–there’s no way we can be happy.”

Jasper tried to interrupt but Leonora held up a hand. “No,” she said. “You shut the fuck up. You come waltzing in here, and you’ve decided that you’ve got so much God you just have to spill it on everybody else. Well, here you go, big fella. Some of God’s horses don’t want saddles. They want to run free. They want to see a mountain in the distance, and believe it’s thirty miles away, start running toward it and discover it’s a hundred. But they still keep running. Here’s your problem. That little Dixie accent you throw in so you’ll be like part of the people? You think it makes you sound real. Simple. You know what I hear when you talk like that? I hear little girls screaming, running from the church that was just firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan. So if your goal today was to impress me with how wonderful your Lordy Lord is, well, you just made me hate the son-of-a-bitch even more.”

The room fell still.

Soos quietly stood to her feet and said, “You’re absolutely right. We’ve been rude.”

Jasper nodded his head, and walked toward the door. “I was wrong. I must have gotten in my preacher mode.”

The two left without saying another word, finding their own exit. After the door shut behind them, Matthew sat in his chair and Leonora walked over to stare out the window at the Las Vegas playground below.

They had learned a lot about each other in a very short period of time.

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Catchy (Sitting 37) Wishes… February 25th, 2018

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Turns out the Iowa State Fair is held in Iowa–Des Moines, to be exact.

Matthew was anxious to connect with Soos and find out what was going on with all of the articles sprouting up about movements and changes in the church.

He discovered the team was heading to Iowa, and decided to fly out and catch up with her. She suggested they make a day of it and walk around the Iowa State Fair, enjoying the visual treats and “all the yummy eats.”

Soos said she would meet Matthew at the food truck that advertised red, white and blue cotton candy. This made him grumpy–it wasn’t exactly GPS.

But upon arrival he quickly recognized that this particular truck was right in the middle of everything and very easy to spot. He looked around for a moment and then saw her, walking toward him with a huge funnel of something-or-other.

Like a twelve-year-old girl, she ran up, hugged him and handed over the concoction.

“It’s called a cheesy-fried-enchilada funnel cake,” she explained. She thrust it into his face, and Matthew found himself eyeballing instant cullinary death, but bit into it anyway.  As with most foods geared to kill the human race, it was absolutely scrumptious.

Soos had found a picnic table nearby where they could sit and talk–a stone’s throw from the hog pens. They sat down, and by the twelfth bite of the funnel cake, Matthew felt a bit queasy at the mixture of Mexicali and pig stink.

Begging off the rest of the treat, he said, “I traced all of these reports and stories about the churches back to you.”

She looked up, a little surprised but with a twinkle in her eye.

He continued. “I just had to come here and find out what’s going on.”

Soos stuck a huge bite of red, white and blue cotton candy in her mouth, and told her story.

It turned out that right after Morgan’s death, Jubal decided it was time to step out–be bold and not just repetitive. He explained that “good things stop being good if they don’t get better.” So one day after a rally, the team, which had now grown to eighteen travelers, was asked a question. “What do you think a Jesus wish list would be?”

Soos continued to explain that this stimulated a five-hour discussion. About halfway through, somebody started typing up the ideas, and the gathered accumulated twenty possibilities. After much discussion, they honed it down to a holy seven, which they called “The Seven Wishes.”

  1. Jesus would wish to bless children.
  2. Equality for women.
  3. Expose what’s fake.
  4. Heal the sick.
  5. Bring good news.
  6. Reward the truth.
  7. No one is better than anyone else.

Matthew sat and listened quietly as Soos shared her story.

“After they finished the list,” Soos explained, “Jubal said that if we want to address this effort, we need a little army, not just their soul patrol. I thought it was time for me to speak up, so I suggested that ‘good news stories’ should be planted on the Internet and other publications, discussing eye-opening, ground-breaking ideas that reinforce these seven wishes.

“Here was my thought. If people believed the churches were thinking about Jesus’ wishes, maybe the masses would be more likely to consider the churches.”

Matthew interrupted. “Well, how many did you do?”

“Let me see,” said Soos. “A story was released that the Catholic Church, along with considering women for the priesthood, would announce all the names of the priests who were pedophiles, promising to remove them from the ministry, and set in motion a deep healing for the victims.”

She went on. “Another story was that the Mormons, who for years quietly maintained a doctrine of the inferiority of the black race, were now developing a new slogan for the Latter Day Saints: ‘no one is better than anyone else.'”

Soos clapped her hands. “Here was one of my favorites. The Southern Baptist Church of America was offering an apology to the descendants of the slaves.”

“And,” she added, “the Unitarians, who historically did not believe in miracles, were commencing a new program for laying hands on the sick, to see them healed.”

Unfreakingbelievable,” said Matthew, shaking his head.

Soos continued. “Each story was carefully worded, cushioned with an opening statement such as, ‘rumor has it…’ or ‘sources say…’ or ‘notables within the denomination report…’ while never actually claiming that the information was solidly grounded in fact. The stories were so filled with goodness…”

Matthew jumped in. “You can’t tell me that Jubal went for this.”

Soos shook her head. “No, he didn’t like it at first. Matter of fact, he was standing strongly against it. Then I explained that as long as we were presenting the purity of what these churches say they believe, challenging them to follow their own doctrines, we were merely beckoning them to their own spirit.”

Matthew roared. “What bullshit double-talk.”

Soos was offended. “I don’t need your cynicism. I would like you to consider what’s happened. These churches found themselves in a position to deny the reports, but if they did, they were forced to explain why they were against the concepts. Or they had to make a claim that such movements were under advisement–and in so doing, open the door for their congregants to discuss freely.”

She reached over and touched his hand. “Do you get it, Matthew? People are discussing. People are questioning now because they care. Nobody cared before. Now it’s actually a topic–able to be discussed instead of the forbidden religion which should never be brought up during table talk.”

Matthew listened, unconvinced. What was the possibility of law suits? What if the plan were exposed, called them out for being the charlatans they supposedly were fighting?

Then all at once, Soos changed the subject. “I want you to try something before you leave the fair. It’s just around the corner, over next to the pig barn.”

Matthew was a little taken aback with the transition but played along. “Okay. What’s this special thing next to the oinkers?”

“It’s a huge roast pig leg on a stick,” said Soos.

Matthew winced. “Let me get this straight. So while I’m sitting, staring at living pigs, you want me to munch on a roast pig leg that’s been cooked?”

“Barbecued,” corrected Soos.

“Oh–barbecued,” said Matthew. “That’s different. I’m just curious, Soos. Would you be comfortable sitting in front of a daycare filled with children, chewing on a barbecued leg from a little girl?”

“How good does it taste?” she said, smirking.

Even though Matthew never partook of the pig leg, they talked on for another couple of hours, just catching up.

Soos had changed. She had probably hoped Matthew had changed also.

He hadn’t. The whole project was just a gig to him. He wasn’t ashamed. Somebody had to keep his feet on the ground while the others floated to heaven. That was his job–to be the grownup in La-La Land.

But there was something contagious about Soos’ spirit. As she told stories of city after city, where human beings joined together to escape the dusty sameness, she grew more and more excited.

It was nearly erotic. Of course, Matthew viewed everything through the sunglasses of sexuality.

He realized how much he had missed her. He had never found her especially romantically attractive, but on this day, the gleam of her skin, the sweet smell of her sweat, and the mustiness of her breath left him curious.

After the lengthy conversation, filled with laughs and thoughtfulness, Soos excused herself to leave. Matthew was waiting. He knew that if there was a connection with her–if she was interested in him, or if there was a possibility for a sweet fling–she would inquire as to when she would see him again.

It’s just what women do. At least, that’s what Matthew assumed.

Soos hugged him, kissed him on the cheek, whispered a verse of scripture in his ear, grabbed the rest of her huge Slurpee and jogged down the Midway, in a hurry to get back to what was her real love.

He watched her run away as the growing distance between them fostered a deep sense of loneliness. He had never considered Soos to be beautiful, but all at once, he could easily envision himself ravaging her in bed.

There was no doubt about it–she was going to make some man a wonderful companion, and one hell of a lover.

 

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Catchy (Sitting 14) Abashed … September 17th, 2017

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Matthew knew.

Yet he was surprised to find out that Landy Loren also knew. She sent him an email.

“Dear friend: Sorry to hear that Tomlinson is not interested in making Jesus popular. I can think of two hundred and fifty million reasons for it being a great idea, but since, so to speak, another lawyer is going to snuff out the light of the world, be comforted that I am dropping my lawsuit. It wasn’t anything personal. Just business, you know. Yours, Landy Loren”

Matthew pondered. Was it that obvious? Was it completely evident to everyone that this request of an eccentric billionaire to try to popularize Jesus of Nazareth was about to go the way of the dodo?

Why? What was the real reason?

Matthew understood that the controversy scared the hell into everybody. Panel after panel met to discuss the idea, and snubbed the possibility as being either irrelevant or irreverent. There was one little boy in a small Midwest town, who quietly said, “I’d like to meet Jesus.”

But generally speaking, the reactions were negative. An angry man in Birmingham, Alabama, bellowed at Matthew, “Jesus doesn’t need your help to do his job!” while an Episcopal Bishop in Chicago, Illinois, wearing the drapings of his profession, spoke in a nearly inaudible voice and asked, “Which Jesus are we talking about?”

Matthew felt abashed–that uncomfortable sensation of being embarrassed for feeling something he wished he didn’t. The whole experience had just left him uncomfortable in his own skin. Where he was usually blithe and carefree, uproariously overjoyed over his abiding indifference, he was suddenly plagued with fits of introspection.

It was maddening.

But he couldn’t deny the bizarre union of souls who had come together, who would never have made acquaintance if it had not been for the project. Finding Soos, Michael and especially re-linking with Jo-Jay had been enriching to his tired soul.

He felt something for Jo-Jay. He wasn’t sure what it was, but it was more than just a passing business interaction. He could tell because when they chatted together, the tones were soft, nearly whispers; and upon leaving her presence, there was the tingle and ooze of romance.

But Matthew was too busy to be romantic.

He was too busy to think about his life.

And he was much too busy to take on any new silly project which no one wanted to happen anyway.

It was when Sister Rolinda showed up at the office to offer her services to the cause that he gained a little piece of insight on his turmoil. Rolinda had been a nun for thirty-eight years in the Roman Catholic Church, and had left (or been ousted, depending on the story you believed) because she no longer wanted to be a sister, but demanded the full status of the priesthood.

The Pope disagreed, along with all of his cohorts. So she left.

She was a sage with a hint of oracle. When Matthew was in her presence, he believed there was a chance she was actually hearing something from the heavens she was trying to translate into Earth words. She was creepy, sweet, kind and prided herself on making the best pineapple upside-down cake this side of the Mississippi. One day she stared deeply into Matthew’s eyes and said, “You have been chosen to do this.”

A chill went down his spine.

For after all, what could bring together a Congressman, a hippie, a prophet, a former Catholic nun and his business partners, who normally had no interest whatsoever in the content of anything, especially their character.

But he realized the longer he waited the more likely it was that Tomlinson would close the door. And once it was shut there would be no way to gain entrance.

He needed to move fast.

He needed to decide if he wanted to go back to being “Matthew the Rambler,” or investigate this new, confused being crawling out of his own skin.

He remembered a statement made by an old man in Des Moines, Iowa, during one of their test marketing meetings. The aged gent had slowly and deliberately stated, “It’d take Jesus to make Jesus popular.”

Matthew agreed.

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Elizabeth the First… November 15, 2012

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Ill-suited.

Similar to wearing a turtleneck and a cardigan sweater to a Metallica concert. That was me last night.

I arrived in the tiny burg of Elizabeth, Indiana, to a church that planned a concert with us, but had focused its efforts on bringing in an audience of children to view the performance. It was not a malicious act on their part–they have a rich and fulfilling ministry of reaching out to neighborhood youth on Wednesday evenings, with a meal and a time of kindness, so as to express the church’s tenderness to the kids. The pastor just wanted to afford these fine young ones a new experience.

Unfortunately, I found myself ill-suited.

I was suddenly thrust in front of fifty or sixty young humans between the ages of seven and fourteen. Understand, the last time I was their age, Lyndon Johnson was President and the Beatles had just invaded America. Neither one of those particular insights would be valuable to this present crop of offspring.

I had three immediate emotions–I was a bit frustrated with the fact that I had ended up in this dilemma, unable to share freely from my given talents and resources. Secondly, I felt a tad diminished, and perhaps even insulted, to have my abilities displayed in such a limited and specific capacity. And third, I felt like an absolute brat for feeling the previous two.

I was at war with myself. I had no idea how I was going to transform my material into the kind of vernacular and visual comprehension that would reach this particular generation of earth-dwellers. On top of that, the handful of adults who attended the event–teetering between chaperones and prison guards–were so preoccupied with their positions as instructors or overseers that they were not of any particular assistance in increasing the attention span or cultural depth of the room.

No, it seemed this was going to be a show for kids. What was I supposed to do? Of course, my worst fear was boring them. I think the reason we fail most of the time with young humans is that we have a two-fold agenda, instead of seeking out a single purpose. Especially in the church, we not only want to welcome these fledglings into our presence with entertainment and excitement, but also feel a necessity to indoctrinate them into our religious system at the same time. We must understand that religion is a hindrance to true spirituality. It doesn’t matter whether you’re six years old or sixty. You waste time by trying to get children to believe in God by teaching them the etiquette, stance and correct posture for praying. My job was NOT to convince these dear children that the church is the answer to their problems. Not only would such an endeavor be fruitless, but also not particularly honest.

In the few moments before I was introduced, I realized that the mission of the evening was not that much different for these little ones than it is for an average adult congregation.

  1.  See if you can get them to step out of themselves for a few moments and think about the beauty of life.
  2. Show them that good cheer is not an occasional option to relieve tension, but the only way to live to avoid it.
  3. Make sure they understand that Jesus came to side-step religion and offer the option of a personal relationship.

Once I clarified those thoughts, it became rather simple. Oh, I did a few extra songs that had some pep. I told more stories than commenting on cultural phenomenon or scriptural twists and turns, and I made the show a bit more interactive than you might do at the downtown First United Methodist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, on a Sunday morning. But other than that, I simply introduced them to Jesus, who already made it clear that he loves the little ones and wants to bounce them on his knee and bless them.

I was ill-suited going into the event and equally so coming out–so I simply relied on the ideas of my favorite messenger, Jesus, who told us that each and every one of us needs to become just like these little children to enter the Kingdom of God.

I shall not drop my present outreach to become a minister to children. But I am grateful that the message I share can reach all ages, all races, all denominations and all levels of faith … or doubt. It’s because I try to keep my message as simple as possible, centered around the heart of Jesus instead of the doctrine of the church.

It was a good evening. I was so glad I experienced it because it showed my weaknesses, and gave me a chance to bolster some of my previous failures into better efforts. Yes, my friend, if you’re going to become more accomplished, you have to start out being willing to do things poorly.

Elizabeth the First was God’s gift to me–to both inform me of my inadequacy and show me that His grace is sufficient to my need.

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