Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 33) Another Tank of Gas… December 11th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

Nebraska suddenly seemed cold–frigid.

The meeting with Hector put a chill down Meningsbee’s spine, causing him to yearn for some warmth. He thought about sharing his dilemma with some folks he trusted in the congregation, but realized that there’s an assumption made in the human family–that even when a soul confesses, somehow or another he or she is withholding a portion of the story.

He felt trapped–squeezed into an ice box.

So he went to his house, grabbed a bunch of blankets, quickly packed a suitcase, stuck a variety of canned meats and beef jerky in his glove compartment, got into his car and headed out.

His choice for this particular retreat was south. He just wanted to drive until he could feel warm.

He journeyed for three days.

One night he stayed at a cheap motel in a town in Texas called Bullywok. Another night he used the blankets and slept in the back seat of his car at a rest area. And on a third evening, trying to pursue some personal discovery in his life, he checked into a YMCA to interact with other human beings and see what the experience might be like. (He found the Y rather pleasant except for being greatly unnerved by sharing a shower with other men.)

He drove and he drove until he landed somewhere in South Texas. The sun rose, and by ten o’clock in the morning, the air was warm enough for him to emerge from his car and walk around a local park in short sleeves.

He was so damn far away from Garsonville. But maybe he always had been. Maybe the idea of inserting himself into that small community was not only intrusive, but implausible.

Disheartened.

It’s when your heart stands on the outside of your body and makes fun of you for believing you could make a difference.

During his journey, the fifth episode of “Gar-SIN-ville” aired. He watched it in a diner outside of El Paso.

He was surprised at how those enjoying their “blue plate specials” basically ignored the program as he listened carefully for the revelation of his hidden sin.

It was never mentioned.

He felt deeply foolish to have run away from his home town and his congregation simply because a scary man said “boo.”

He called back to the church and asked one of the deacons to handle Sunday service as he settled into Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, at a small motel that offered everything in miniature. Tiny towels, tiny bed, tiny service.

He didn’t care.

He just laid down on the small, uncomfortable single bed and stared at the ceiling.

Who in the hell was he…and why was he running?

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Good News and Better News … September 5th, 2016

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Good News Adrian

There is a quiet revolution bubbling in our land. You must silence the busyness of your mind to hear the rumbling.

But it’s there.

It’s a weariness over the lack of authenticity. For instance:

The music industry, which has marginalized itself to harmonics and beat, is once again yearning for melody and emotion.

Movies, once satisfied with merely selling tickets, have a rebirth of interest in entertainment that inspires.

The government, intended to be of the people, by the people and for the people, is struggling to move out of the madness of political disarray.

The medical field is pondering healing instead of stealing.

Education is focusing on teaching.

And the church…

Well, the church is in need of ministering to humanity instead of preaching a form of godliness.

Yesterday morning I found myself in Adrian, Michigan. It was a beautiful sanctuary. It was filled with people–mostly of retirement years–who listened to my Jesonian message with anxious hearts, but with brains retired to quieter thoughts. I could see it written on their faces: “You should have caught us thirty years ago. Now we’re too old.”

But it will be the repentance of the older saints which will convict younger believers to transform their lives.

In pursuit of worshipping the Christ, we have lost Jesus.

We need to find him.

With all my heart and soul, I enjoyed, loved and appreciated the people of Adrian. But early in the morning, when Jan took a picture of the church before the service began–when it was empty–I realized that this is the crux of our dilemma.

The church will continue to empty if we don’t empty ourselves of the emptiness of religion.

God never intended us to come and praise Him only with our lips. Jesus said the church is defined by our “love one for another.”

That is the good news.

The better news is that it will truly be much easier to attend a church that embraces human need and human desire than one that audaciously contends it can speculate on the whim of the Divine.

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Ask Jonathots … March 31st, 2016

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ask jonathots bigger

My fiance was raised as a Catholic and I grew up Presbyterian. We plan to compromise after we’re married by going either to a Lutheran or Episcopal. But I don’t really like the solution. Neither one of us think the denomination makes any difference, but it did get me thinking. What do you think about this dilemma–especially since we want children?

I have always been of the contention that what you believe is much more important than where, when or even how you believe.

I think the problem with a compromise in spirituality is the notion that all outlets for the Christian message actually offer the heart, soul and mind of Jesus of Nazareth. They really don’t.

In the pursuit of finding the climate that suits a congregation, a church often has to place the more intense convictions of the faith on the back burner. It’s not a malicious act, but it is a purposeful one.

So I think it’s possible to visit every denomination for one Sunday or a couple of Sabbaths, introduce your own belief system into their atmosphere, and have an absolutely delightful time. But after a while, they will desire that you acquiesce to their cultural preferences instead of sharing your more basic beliefs.

So I think the decision of whether you go to an Episcopalian, Lutheran, Catholic or Presbyterian because you think they all believe in the same God is errant. What you want is to go to a church that understands the important values you treasure and leave there with a soul-satisfying experience.

I think many people think of going to church like they got a DUI and now have to do community service. They find it to be a duty, responsibility and now a sentence–to atone for a sinful nature.

I, for one, do not believe that such attendance to a religious service does us much good unless we actually find a way to become emotionally involved.

So my suggestion? The two of you should sit and write down the five things you agree upon, spiritually and emotionally, and then find a church of any denomination that agrees with most of them and grants you the conducive surroundings.

The sooner we understand that church is not about the delivery system of the worship service, but rather, the message and how it impacts our lives and touches our hearts, the better off we will be–and the less likely we will be to leave the institution because we find that Sunday morning family time is much more fulfilling.

 

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Heaven’s Gates(ville) … January 26, 2014

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cring and clazzy billboardThe words are quite stunning.

Though if you stop and think about it, it not only makes sense, but sets in motion a way of thinking, a passage of human heart and a philosophy of life which challenges us to excellence, while providing a plain path.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Although this phrase is contained in the famous Lord’s Prayer, and often receives no more notice than other lines within the structure, it really is the heart and essence of the mind of Jesus.

Think about it. What is my job?

To find out what heaven is going to be like and do my best every day to construct a prototype in the life provided around me. In so doing, I achieve two goals:

  • Confirm that I actually believe in something instead of mouthing words.
  • Bring a little heaven down to earth.

Where it gets complicated is in trying to summarize heaven to a few ideas instead of getting all caught up in “streets of gold, gates of pearl” and ten thousand years of praise and worship.

I made an attempt. And since I’m in Gatesville, Texas, this weekend, I thought I would share with them the three aspects of heaven I feel are transferrable to earth:

1. God.

I don’t think I want a heaven without God. Gee whiz–I think I could get universal agreement on that. The problem is, God has a speckled reputation. Some people think He’s mean, some would portray him as the hall monitor of morality, and others find him ethereal–floating in the clouds. But after all that gets done, the most universal thing I find about God, and certainly played out through his son, Jesus, is that God is love. Any attempt to portray Him with different light is a dilution of His power.

So if heaven exists with a God of love, it is my mission on earth to bring that love–to myself first and then to others.

2. Unity.

I have good news. There will be no political parties in heaven. No denominations. No races. No religions. All that will survive in the place of Supreme Reward are those who have faith and mercy.

No race. No religion. No politics in heaven.

So it stands to reason that if I want to make a little piece of heaven on earth, I should replicate that in my interactions with my brothers and sisters. I have found a quick way of phrasing that phenomenon. I tell everyone I meet that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” Yes, I bring a bit of eternal life every time I eliminate the differences between people and replace them with similarities.

3. Joy.

Since God will dry all our tears in heaven, it is safe to believe that the greatest gift of eternal life is joy. So I believe it will be the mission in my life–however long I am allowed to stomp about–to teach happiness, live happiness, share happiness and be happiness.

Yes. “Be of good cheer.”

Verily, verily I say unto you, sadness and worry do nothing to aid our dilemmas–just start the misery early.

So I believe heaven will be a place with God, unity and joy.

This morning, in Gatesville, Texas, I will tell people that God is love, and any other representation is afoul.

I will insist they understand that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” To build little boxes for people is the busy project of the devil’s workshop.

And I will certainly espouse joy and tell the dear folk to “be of good cheer.”

It is not of much value to bring earthly fear to earthly creatures who are basically a little lower than the angels and a bit higher than the monkeys.

Bringing heaven is allowing the God of love to unify us in good cheer.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

New Life… January 4, 2014

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New Life

I picked up my calendar and noticed that tonight I’m going to be sharing at New Life Lutheran Church in Pearland, Texas. I couldn’t help but notice the two words: New Life.

I like that idea. I think everybody wants a new life to some degree, even if they’re enjoying the essence of their present journey. “New” is fun and fresh, and “life” is beautiful, if for no other reason than it’s the absence of death.

But I have never been a soul satisfied with the offerings of organized religion. I want new life, but Heaven and the promise of eternal existence is not enough to get me through Earth.

I need some heaven done here.

This is what Jesus promised in the Good Book–that it was possible for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. I’ve always wondered why we thought Heaven was going to be so special if we weren’t impressed with the adventure God offers us on Earth. It’s like owning a Toyota Camry and being dissatisfied, and having the company offer you a Tercel. Still made by Toyota. No reason to believe the different name will make things better.

So I go to Jesus to find out what he thinks life is. Two things jump out immediately. He contended that life should be “abundant” and life should be “joyful.” Actually–full joy.

So what is abundance? I suppose it could be interpreted as “wealth” or accumulation. But I think in this case it means variety.

Yes, I will know that I have new life when I’m not afraid of what’s coming. If God was with me yesterday, why would I believe that overnight He’s abandoned me simply because today offers a different dilemma?

Yet, it is what plagues us. We really gain new life when we’re not afraid of what’s coming and we welcome the abundance because we know it grants us the wisdom to use our talents to gain our security.

And I need joy. Joy is the decision to be happy while you’re pursuing contentment.

If you do it the other way around, you’ll end up quite disappointed, trying to find contentment as a means of determining your happiness. This means that every disruption of your experience, actually bringing abundance, will distress you instead of bless you.

Yes, “new life” is the ingenious blending of abundance and joy.

So as I talk to these folks tonight I will share with them that Jesus did not come to try to make things comfortable. Instead, he came to comfort us as we grow able to handle our circumstance while maintaining our good cheer, eager for a chance to prove that what is in us … is up to the challenge.. 

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

Practical … October 24, 2013

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Nuts-and-Bolts1Meanwhile, back at our dilemma:

The problem we face here on the road at the end of our yearly odyssey will not disappear just because we throw some cynical attitude its way. Trials and tribulations are not impressed with our disgust. And also, you must understand that heavenly conclusions cannot be achieved without pursuing some sort of earthly application.

To put it bluntly, prayer becomes useless if we haven’t tuned our senses to the world around us and find ourselves ready to move out on the opportunities that come our way.

Therefore it is just as possible to pursue a darkened path by saying we have faith in God, but not taking the cues from the world around us, and instead, insisting that our particular miracle must float down from the heavens.

This lends a second possibility in approaching our human quagmires: practical.

Amazingly enough, the Good Book, which is often portrayed as ethereal, is actually better presented as a handbook for planet living. Practical divides into three parts:

  • Count
  • Contend
  • Control

First of all, we should count what we actually have. Don’t expect any progress to be made if you’re not willing to invest what you already possess. Much of the cynicism and darkened conclusions will depart when we realize we have resources.

Case in point: when you’re trying to feed five thousand people, five loaves and two fishes don’t seem like very much, but they aren’t nothing–and at least it affords the opportunity for in-depth conversation.

Secondly, after we know what we have, we need to contend. What does that mean? It means, “Where are we?” Knowing our resources will not always stimulate faith, but sometimes will weaken our resolve. There will be some human effort involved in achieving divine conclusions, so it is necessary for us to understand our emotional state, our spiritual belief, our mental awareness and our physical strength. If we are going to be an army, we need to be well-fed, well-trained and well-armed.

And finally–control. Sometimes the whole problem cannot be whipped in one whack, so we should work on our negotiation skills, to buy time to take on our difficulties one piece at a time.

For instance, here on the road, it is ridiculous for me to worry about what we’re going to do at the end of next month. Instead, I should focus on what happens today and at the end of this week. Won’t that get me closer to my goal?

Count: what do we have?

Contend: where am I emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically?

Control: can I divide this up into smaller pieces?

Pursuing this path removes the specter of darkened cynicism, which opens the door to our Creator being willing to link with His creation. Once that relationship is initiated, our third possibility comes to play.

See you tomorrow.

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Darkened … October 23, 2013

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dark room oneAs much as I enjoy traveling across the United States, meeting the fabulous collage of human beings afforded to me, one of the more difficult aspects of the journey is finding a way to end the year’s activities and partake of Thanksgiving and Christmas without depleting my coffers in the process.

And you must add onto that the fact that most of the venues which normally open their arms are particularly busy themselves, at the close of the season, with projects pre-determined.

This year we ran head-on into this dilemma. Like every other American, it appeared we were going to end up with more things in our “required” pile than we had in our “possess” pile. It was a problem. Or shall I say, it IS a problem?

It made me realize there are really three ways to handle the everyday blow-ups that happen to our well-conceived plans. The first way is what we shall refer to as “darkened.”

We fall back on our upbringing, whether conservative OR liberal, and believe that by becoming either constrictive or free-wheeling, that we will overcome our circumstance. This philosophy is prevalent in our society, characterized by conservatives who allow too little and liberals, who allow too much. They both insist they are making their stands on the basis of protecting liberty, but merely shutting the door does not keep the cold out and opening the door and turning up the heat does not seem to make it any more toasty either.

It is darkened–a pursuit of resolution with an inclination toward cynicism. It is traditionalism honored over common sense. And since the conservatives allow too little and the liberals allow too much, they are immediately at war with each other, resorting to insult and defamation of character instead of rhyme and reason.

We must be careful that when we’re talking about the realm of the emotions and spirit that we don’t emulate the political scene in our country, which has driven us into a gridlock of name-calling and stonewalling.

  • I am not conservative. Sometimes the answer to a problem is to open up possibilities beyond what we have accepted as normal in the past.
  • I am not a liberal. Just because people desire or campaign for some particular right, that it should be granted to them if it’s contrary to the common good.

But because this stalemate persists, the conscience of our country has become darkened, and cynicism has replaced the willingness to try new ideas and to evolve old ideas to fresher conclusions. How do you know that cynicism has entered your life?

1. You have an idea of how things are going to play out before you even try them.

This isn’t the fruit of experience. This is a careless disregard for the possibility of the grace of God and human effort to bring about miracles.

2. You think that restricting people or giving abstract freedom is the way to control natural events.

Free will IS intact–that’s why the dialogue on what is best for everyone needs to be in place.

3. You have gradually bought into the mantra that people are “no damn good.”

You certainly cannot preach a message that “God so loved the world” and also be a little pissed off all the time.

Our society has become darkened by a cynicism that promotes either a conservative or a liberal agenda instead of what is nurturing for human beings. We can’t allow too little and we can’t allow too much.

So what is viable?

See you tomorrow.

 

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