Reverend Meningsbee (Part 41) There’s Always a Space … February 12th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

When Meningsbee’s wife, Doris, died, a minister friend counseled him to take some time and give himself the luxury of grieving.

So for six months, Richard permitted his heart, soul and mind to reminisce and dream delightful thoughts about his dear friend, Doris.

There seemed to be a healing. It got a little easier to consider her gone, though there was never any real “ease” in the notion.

After the six-month grieving period, Meningsbee decided to reenter his life of writing and pastoring, only to discover that the emotional stitching he had done on his internals busted loose, and he was flooded with a deluge of remorse.

He thought he was crazy. He even thought he heard Doris moving about the kitchen.

Sitting at breakfast, his mind wandered. He saw her perched in the chair across from him, with her feet tucked up under her butt, with her long, graceful fingers caressing a coffee cup–closing them around the handle, bringing it to her lips, sipping slowly and then giving a seductive little contented shiver. It was so beautiful.

Her peace of mind made him feel like a man.

Even one Sunday at church, during a communion service, his eyes filled with tears. The congregation thought he was moved by the experience with the Holy Meal, but actually it was the scent of the communion wine that brought a memory of a green lotion Doris once applied to her feet–to heal her corns. He giggled inside, remembering her smearing the fluid on her feet and quipping, “I was a girl. Now apparently I’m going to become a grandma with corny feet, and completely skip woman.”

Then, three weeks ago Matrisse’s sister from Chicago came to town, and a blind date of sorts was planned. She was an extraordinarily attractive woman–intelligent and the general manager of a corporation in the Windy City. But because she was just coming off a divorce, she ended up discussing her misgivings and in no time Meningsbee found himself counseling and consoling her instead of considering her. The movie was cancelled and she expressed her gratitude for his words of wisdom with a peck on the cheek.

Meningsbee realized there’s no such thing as “getting over” someone you loved.

There’s always a space–always something they did that was so unique that it couldn’t be duplicated by the actions of another.

Exactly three days before she passed away, Doris rose in the morning after they’d had a fussy tiff with each other the night before, bounced into the room, hugged his neck and said, “Reverend Richard Meningsbee, you are my favorite annoyance.”

How can you forget that?

Somewhere along the line, the preacher just decided to stop fighting the urges to love her.

People are not replaceable–we just learn to appreciate what other people have to offer.

There’s always a space–a space forever occupied with visions of Doris.

 

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Good News and Better News… January 30th, 2017

 

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good-news-lighthouse-point

I had the privilege of sharing in Lighthouse Point, Florida.

What a fabulous name. Opens the door for all sorts of clever interpretation–especially for a writer who might become overly exuberant.

But what struck me was that we were returning for our third occasion to be sponsored by Pastor Gabe, in yet another of her assigned churches.

She is a dynamic woman. Let me change that. She is an outstanding person–a breast cancer survivor, a minister, an individual with a delightful sense of humor, and also, as I found out yesterday, enjoys watching reruns of “West Wing.”

During a conversation with Gabe, she mentioned that this present church was about the same size as all of the other churches she had pastored.

Kind of small.

Although she did not express any sadness or misgiving about the size, I thought to myself, “We live in a country that thinks the bigger things are, the better they are.”

Although that might apply to hamburgers and ice cream cones, it certainly does not come to play in discussing a church.

For you see, a church is not an organization, a meeting hall, a service or a club. A church does not become more impressive because there are more butts in seats.

A church is a place where those who are seeking maturity can come together to strengthen one another.

Factually, I don’t know if you can do that with more than a hundred people at a time. You can jam fifteen thousand Christians into an auditorium, but it doesn’t mean that a single-mindedness of joy and faith will be produced.

Yes, the purpose of the church is to encourage people to “grow to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Jesus.”

Whenever you gather more than three or four hundred together, you’ve got to have a program with praise band singers and create some sort of atmosphere of worship, hoping that somewhere over the coffee and donuts provided in the fellowship hall, human conversation might somehow ensue. But that’s not who we are.

We need fullness.

In the human experience, fullness occurs when we allow ourselves to feel. So when I go into a church and people are reluctant to express emotion, I know they’ve convinced themselves that they’re in a worship service instead of a fellowship.

We also need to reach a certain measure.

What is that measure? A sense of survival. After all, we will never succeed if we can’t first survive. We learn to survive by hearing the testimony of others–like Gabe, who herself survived the horror of disease.

We realize we are not alone. For after all, there is nothing lonelier than being in a room with ten thousand people and knowing nobody.

And finally, church should grant us stature.

In other words, we know we can grow. Why? Because we just testified to people about our new discovery.

This is the atmosphere that was intended for the church of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • I can feel
  • I can survive
  • I can grow

And what Pastor Gabe, and all of us, need to celebrate is that the church is not noteworthy because of its sanctuary. It becomes the light of the world because it lights up its members.

The good news is that America is doing well because people like Pastor Gabe are on the job, with an attention to detail and a care for fellow-travelers.

The better news is that we in the church become a highly functioning organism when we motivate the souls around us to grow “to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Jesus.”

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Good News and Better News… January 16th, 2017

 

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good-news-glasses

If you don’t have the right outlook, you better “look out,” because trouble’s coming.

Everybody knows that.

But sometimes we think we can maintain a bad attitude and still expect good results.

Or we believe it’s not necessary for us to do any more than we’ve already done. God, Nature and people should just be happy we showed up.

Jesus doesn’t mingle well with other religions.

For instance, there’s no such thing as a Christian Buddhist. Jesus taught us to feel; Buddha suggested it was completely unnecessary. Never the twain shall meet.

There is no such thing as Judeo-Christian. Moses espoused an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and Jesus required that we creatively find ways to love our enemies.

And there is certainly no spiritual common ground between Christianity and the Muslim faith. Whereas the Muslims are the children of Abraham and the followers of Mohammed, Jesus was quite insistent that He existed long before either of them.

Christianity is not a temperamental faith, but it is a faith that addresses our temperament. And if you’re going to assist human beings in achieving their goals and becoming better citizens, you must first and foremost teach them to open their hearts.

Yes. We are all emotional people.

It doesn’t matter what culture you come from–any attempt to disguise or dampen the emotions will leave the individual imbalanced.

So if we try to have church without giving everybody an emotional experience, what we’re really advertising is a study group with hymn singing.

No wonder we’re having some trouble with attendance.

  • People need to connect.
  • They need to feel.
  • They need to realize that someone else in the room cares about them.

The Bible needs a face. Yours will do.

But right now, we spend too much time spiritualizing, meditating and promoting Zumba classes. All these things can be wonderful, if they undergird an emotional experience.

Our outlook comes from our feelings, maturing in our spirit, renewing our mind and affecting our life choices.

The good news is that Jesus said “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

The better news is that when we plump up the abundance of our heart with feelings of goodness, we just talk better.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … November 19th, 2016

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Dear Man Dear Woman

Woman: “Separate but equal.” It was a Supreme Court decision justifying segregation in this country, as long as it didn’t limit the rights of any one party or race.

 

Man: I’m familiar with that.

 

Woman: It didn’t work. Why?

 

Man: Well, first, it was prejudiced–bordering on racism with the intent of limiting the quality of one group of people over another.

 

Woman: How could that be, since it was intended to be equal? Let me answer my own question. The minute we segregate into cultures, genders or races, we do so to generate a superiority in our environment, while touting that it’s just a way for people to honor their traditions.

 

Man: What brought this to your mind?

 

Woman: Genders in this country are also under the misrepresentation of “separate but equal.” All of our comedy and even drama states how different men and women are from each other, and how they naturally clump. But we insist that both sides are equal.

 

Man: That’s interesting. So what you’re sharing is, the “separate but equal” propaganda is inserted into the roles of men and women, allowing for a male dominated society to continue to control, while pretending they are granting equal status to the other side.

 

Woman: Exactly. But what’s most important is how it is promoted and believed to be true. Because even though we know that human beings are heart, soul, mind and strength, we are first attracted to each other physically, which leads to some sort of romantic or sexual encounter.

 

Man: So you’re saying that we start out with the most base part of our nature–our sexual drive–to foster the foundation of equality. That sounds like it’s not going to work.

 

Woman: Worse than that. It makes us believe that since we’ve had a sexual encounter, we should have breakfast conversation and attempt to turn it into a relationship by including the mind without ever really engaging the brain.

 

Man: Thus the awkwardness that occurs when people try to start a relationship, which usually fails.

 

Woman: Because we can’t get it to an equality of emotion, sharing our feelings without fear, laughing at them sometimes, but always allowing them to be expressed. Here’s the truth–a man and woman who can’t find emotional equality will never find spiritual unity.

 

Man: What is emotional equality? Aren’t women more emotional than men?

 

Woman: Women are more verbally emotional, maybe, but men are equally as emotional–just not able to find the outlets to release these conflicted sensations.

 

Man: We fall back on a separate but equal decision for men and women because we really want to keep it physical, and we’re nervous about the mental. This prevents us from finding an emotional equality which just might lead to spiritual unity.

 

Woman: That’s it. I know it sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo–until you put it into a real life situation. For instance, a guy and girl meet at a bar. They get a little tipsy. She goes home with him, they have sex the first night they meet. They wake up the next morning. It is very topsy-turvy–they don’t know what the other person is thinking. Yet they found the experience pleasant enough that they try to engage in conversation over donuts and coffee. It feels forced. But they decide to meet again later in the week, which leads to another sexual encounter and more uncomfortable interaction. At this point, there are emotions–nervous, tense, resentful, curious, maybe even selfish. If they were able to reveal their feelings, laugh at one another, and realize that this unorthodox beginning was still salvageable as long as they were in unity about their emotions, they could progress their possibility. But the usual pattern is to hide emotions and try to “think” their way through it, which eventually leads to misunderstanding and what we call a break-up.

 

Man: So men and women will never be equals until they find emotional equality and admit their vulnerabilities, which opens the door to spiritual unity.

 

Woman: It’s a unity which God refers to as the two literally “becoming one flesh.” This is not just a reference to the entwining of sexual intercourse, but also the willingness to become equivalent mentally and emotionally, and therefore find unity spiritually.

 

Man: But as long as we’re separate but equal, we will hook up and try to think our way into an entangled relationship, frightened to share our emotions and never really convinced of any unity.

 

Woman: Absolutely. So just as separate but equal did not work in the South, it is also not going to work in the gender wars–to create harmony and oneness. This is why those who begin with emotions and sharing as friends often garner a similar mindset which leads to sexual intercourse, lending itself to the opportunity for unity.

 

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Good News and Better News… November 14th, 2016

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good-news-belmont-sunflowerJesus offered a tender warning to each of us: Mother Nature does not favor us more than a tree branch full of sparrows.

Therefore we will be greatly disappointed if we do not access our willingness to repent and our endearing quality of good cheer. Without repentance and cheer, we become exhausted in our futility.

What is it that exhausts us?

This was fresh on my mind when I drove to the Belmont United Methodist Church in suburban Dayton, and encountered some excellent new friends. Pastor Randy, Mike, Janet, Terry, Larry and a whole bunch of other sparkling souls made us feel at home (once they realized we had arrived with no intention of robbing the joint.)

And as I had the blessing of standing in front of the congregation on Sunday morning to share my vision, it occurred to me that the actions and craziness of our society had worn out the people sitting in front of me.

But there were some surprises. There was one lady who came all the way from Mansfield, Ohio, after seeing us last week, and brought along one of her friends, who lives in Dayton. There was a great sense of anticipation in the air–that the spirit of innovation might just visit us with a baptism of rejuvenation.

Being exhausted is debilitating. It makes us believe we can’t do what we once did, and if we could, we’d rather not. So to get rid of that exhaustion that causes us to falter in the midst of our journey, we need to declare war on two nasty little faith drainers:

The first one is judging.

It will nearly wear you down to a nub of nothing if you think it’s your job to evaluate the lives of other people. It’s hard enough to breathe on your own. It’s even worse when you try to take the breath out of the life of someone else.

We are grouchy when we judge, we are ill-tempered, we are picky, we are fussy and we end up taking our eyes off of our own ability.

The second exhausting activity is complaining.

Every time we convince ourselves that we don’t have enough, we always end up failing to use what we have. Complaining happens when the brain overrides the spirit and creates an unholy alliance with aggravated emotion. We have an exaggerated sense of importance which causes us to think that we’re worthy of more than our daily bread.good-news-belmont-sign

So the first thing we did in Belmont yesterday was judge judging and complain about complaining.

Suddenly energy began to fill the room. We were no longer feeling the need to criticize other people or critique God and Nature because they failed to give us the quality we think we deserve.

The good news is that when you stop judging others and complaining about your life, exhaustion gets tired and leaves.

The better news is that when exhaustion stumbles away, we actually want to do things instead of feeling like we have to.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … November 9th, 2016

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pohymn-reunion

Reunion

Through the years of deep devotion

Conjuring up great emotion

Friends who never really knew us

Sat together on the school bus

Trying to survive younger years

Scared of life, obsessed by fears

We huddled together to find a friend

Handed a diploma, watching it end

Start a family, get a house

Live the dream with our spouse

Ignoring the desire of our heart

Never certain where to start

We gather together to talk of weight

Careful not to discuss our fate

A memory is what connects our lives

Becoming dutiful husbands and wives

Children come, grandkids, too

I got six, how about you?

“You’re looking good” is what we say

Wouldn’t have it any other way

We take some pictures, promises are made

But problems at home cause memories to fade

We will do it again–I’ll contact you

Stay safe, dear heart, and be well, too

Reunion, communion, count the years

A basket of joy … a bucket of tears

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 13) The Back Door… July 24th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

“I know what you want to hear, and honest to God, I’d love to give it to you. Matter of fact, I must have picked up the phone half a dozen times this week, to call one of you and share my heart and feel comforted by your listening ears and what I’m sure would have been your kind words.

But I can’t.”

(A universal frown emerged on the collective countenance of the congregation.)

Meningsbee continued.

“I want to, but do you understand? There are things more important than what I want. Things more important than what you want. I can tell you that I went to Sammy Collins’ house on Monday night–made my famous beans and weenies–and prepared for whatever God would set before me. Patrick was there but no one else. I mean, Sammy and his wife were there, but that was it.”

(A deeper frown)

“You’re going to want to know why, or maybe you already know and I’m just being stupid here. Maybe you heard a lot more than I think. But I can’t share without betraying what I believe, what I hold dear and what makes me who I am.

I don’t think I’ve ever explained to you about my faith. I mean, I’ve shared it with you, but probably never explained it. Since none of us know what really happens when we die, everything we talk about in this sanctuary is theory. There are Christians who believe they’re right no matter what, but since no one has gone beyond death and come back with a completely unbiased report, we’re really doing this whole thing grasping at the air.

Can I be honest? It’s why lots of people give up.Their desire to be something or do something suddenly exceeds their comprehension of belief, so they split the scene.

Listen, I made my peace with God a long time ago by making sure that if He doesn’t exist, it doesn’t make any difference to me.

You might think I’m getting off the subject. Maybe I am. But really, it’s all the same point. I can’t tell you what happened at Sammy Collins’ house because it goes against who I am–who I’ve decided to be. Who I think I need to be to make sense to me.

You see, I sat down one day and decided what I would need to be if there were no God or heaven. I would still need to make a case for myself. After all, I’m here. Whether it was a miracle of creation or a process of evolution–TA-DA! Behold, I have arrived.

Even if I found out that God was all made up, I would have to include people. They’re around, you know. Except on Monday night at Sammy’s house.”

(A refreshing, hearty laugh.)

“You can’t live without running into folks. So you should make sure the cushion you keep between you and them prevents bruising.

And also, daggone it, while I’m here I might as well be creative. If you’re going to do everything the same all the time, you’re going to start hoping for heaven, which… Well, you know. We’re not sure.

And I’ve always believed in respecting life. If it’s alive, it deserves a chance.

See, I call this my back door. When I get discouraged or you guys piss me off, I go there–to that back door–and I open it up and I imagine a world without God and realize that it still would require His spirit. Does that make sense to you?

Well anyway, much as I would like to tell you my story and share my disappointment, I can’t. Because the God that’s in my heart is certainly real, whether the God of the Universe is or not.

You know, it’s funny. I’ve never told this to anyone before. I’ve never spoken it out loud–mainly because I thought it made me look like a freakin’ atheist. I’m not, though. I believe it all. I’m just ready, in case it’s not exactly what’s been advertised. I’m prepared to make sure that the things I would have done get done. And one of the things is to keep what happened Monday night to myself.

If it’s any comfort, if I was going to tell anybody, it sure would be you cool dudes.”

Everybody laughed.

But then something strange happened. Two or three, and then five or ten people rose to their feet, came up and hugged Meningsbee with tears in their eyes.

The emotion he had been holding back all week long suddenly burst, and the good reverend fell to his knees, weeping.

The rest of the congregation joined the others around him, sprouting their own tears. Even four or five visitors stood on the perimeter with misty eyes.

Reverend Richard Meningsbee didn’t ponder what was happening.

He just let it happen.

 

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