Reverend Meningsbee (Part 56) Merry Christmas… May 28th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3320)

Reverend Meningsbee

Pas Carl was nervous.

This particular Sunday fell on Christmas Eve, and big plans had been made, choir numbers prepared, and even a special video tribute to the birth of Jesus had been filmed by Russ and Tracy (who by the way, had recently gotten married.)

The sanctuary was packed. Where was Meningsbee?

Pas Carl called his house. No answer. He kept looking out the window, gazing past the four inches of snow that had fallen two days earlier in honor of the season, for signs of his friend. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful, frosty Nebraska morning.

Yes, all that was lacking was one minister.

Everything was in place. Everything was prepared.

There was an understanding between Pas Carl and Meningsbee that if for some reason the senior minister was late, or out of town, that the associate would be prepared to step in and take his place.

So as the assistant looked out the window, waiting for his mentor, he saw a young boy coming up the steps, carrying a red envelope. The boy opened the door, entered the church and said, “I’m looking for Pas Carl.”

Carl raised his hand, and the little boy handed him the envelope. “What is this?” asked Carl.

“I don’t know,” said the boy. “Some old man gave me ten dollars to bring it here.”

The lad started to walk away, then stopped and turned around.”Oh, I almost forgot. The old man said not to open it until the end of the service.”

Pas Carl did not know what any of it meant, but it was time to begin, and Meningsbee would probably do one of his slip-ins about twenty minutes after the start, and everything would be fine.

The Christmas Eve service was gorgeous. A decision had been made to blend the best of contemporary music with traditional by placing a rock and roll band, which now attended the church, onstage with the piano, organ and a string quartet, especially hired for the occasion.

Everybody was excited, thrilled and filled with the music and joy of the season. Still no Meningsbee.

The service was completed, and Pas Carl stood to his feet. He was about to apologize and tell the visitors that they had missed the pastor, and what a great man he was, when he realized that he still had the envelope the boy had brought.

He opened it up and unfolded a letter. At the top, written in magic marker, was “PLEASE READ TO EVERYONE.”

Pas Carl glanced down and saw that it was signed by Meningsbee, so he obediently commenced to share.

“To my dear friends, church family, souls who have struggled with me and to the visitors who have always brought such blessing to this house, I apologize for not being with you this morning.

“I have taken my leave. I realize it is not ideal to do it this way. I probably should have given much notice, visited each one of you individually and sat through a tribute dinner, where each of you would have told sweet little lies about how good you thought I was.

“But that’s not me. Some of you may think it’s selfish for me to leave without notice, but I leave as I came–a surprise–with a deep love in my heart for each and every one of you, and a stronger conviction than ever before that possessing the mind of Christ is the only way to save the church.

“I can’t tell you what the past three years have meant to me. I cannot possibly measure the value each one of you has to my soul. But I have literally sat around for the past sixteen weeks–eight of them in a cast–watching this beautiful unit function without me, and with such a magnificent sheen of glory that I realized that it was time for me to find my next adventure.

“For after all, I’m really not a pastor. I am an explorer. I don’t know how you would classify that in Biblical terms, but I’m on Earth not just to be a Christian, but to be a follower of Jesus, who takes His heart everywhere.

“It would be my great suggestion that you hire Pas Carl as your new leader. He’s young. He will make mistakes. When you see him do things that remind you of Jesus, encourage him. And when he doesn’t, pray for him.

“I might drop in from time to time. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure where I’m going. But wherever it is, it’s going to be very difficult for them to be smarter, more loving, more generous and more human than the saints I’ve met here in Garsonville.

“It was an honor to be your pastor. It was more than an honor to be your friend. Pray for me as I pray for you.

“So my Christmas gift to you this year is to graduate you onto the next phase of your journey. We shall not do it together, but nothing can separate us.

“And my gift to myself is to go out and explore.

“With all my heart, with all my devotion, with all my hopes, with all my dreams, and with all my strength,

Reverend Richard Meningsbee”

Pas Carl finished the letter and fell to his knees in tears. The congregation wept, but there was also a great joy.

Each one of them knew that Meningsbee would eventually have to leave. He was a restless soul, whose itch was set by the Divine. They were just fortunate that for a blessed period of time, they were able to feel his warmth.

The congregation departed hugging each other. There were 345 human beings present that morning, and all of them left having felt a little bit of Jesus.

THE END

 

Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

*******

To our friends at Roseland: click the piano for information on Cring & Clazzy

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 56) Merry Christmas… May 28th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3320)

Reverend Meningsbee

Pas Carl was nervous.

This particular Sunday fell on Christmas Eve, and big plans had been made, choir numbers prepared, and even a special video tribute to the birth of Jesus had been filmed by Russ and Tracy (who by the way, had recently gotten married.)

The sanctuary was packed. Where was Meningsbee?

Pas Carl called his house. No answer. He kept looking out the window, gazing past the four inches of snow that had fallen two days earlier in honor of the season, for signs of his friend. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful, frosty Nebraska morning.

Yes, all that was lacking was one minister.

Everything was in place. Everything was prepared.

There was an understanding between Pas Carl and Meningsbee that if for some reason the senior minister was late, or out of town, that the associate would be prepared to step in and take his place.

So as the assistant looked out the window, waiting for his mentor, he saw a young boy coming up the steps, carrying a red envelope. The boy opened the door, entered the church and said, “I’m looking for Pas Carl.”

Carl raised his hand, and the little boy handed him the envelope. “What is this?” asked Carl.

“I don’t know,” said the boy. “Some old man gave me ten dollars to bring it here.”

The lad started to walk away, then stopped and turned around.”Oh, I almost forgot. The old man said not to open it until the end of the service.”

Pas Carl did not know what any of it meant, but it was time to begin, and Meningsbee would probably do one of his slip-ins about twenty minutes after the start, and everything would be fine.

The Christmas Eve service was gorgeous. A decision had been made to blend the best of contemporary music with traditional by placing a rock and roll band, which now attended the church, onstage with the piano, organ and a string quartet, especially hired for the occasion.

Everybody was excited, thrilled and filled with the music and joy of the season. Still no Meningsbee.

The service was completed, and Pas Carl stood to his feet. He was about to apologize and tell the visitors that they had missed the pastor, and what a great man he was, when he realized that he still had the envelope the boy had brought.

He opened it up and unfolded a letter. At the top, written in magic marker, was “PLEASE READ TO EVERYONE.”

Pas Carl glanced down and saw that it was signed by Meningsbee, so he obediently commenced to share.

“To my dear friends, church family, souls who have struggled with me and to the visitors who have always brought such blessing to this house, I apologize for not being with you this morning.

“I have taken my leave. I realize it is not ideal to do it this way. I probably should have given much notice, visited each one of you individually and sat through a tribute dinner, where each of you would have told sweet little lies about how good you thought I was.

“But that’s not me. Some of you may think it’s selfish for me to leave without notice, but I leave as I came–a surprise–with a deep love in my heart for each and every one of you, and a stronger conviction than ever before that possessing the mind of Christ is the only way to save the church.

“I can’t tell you what the past three years have meant to me. I cannot possibly measure the value each one of you has to my soul. But I have literally sat around for the past sixteen weeks–eight of them in a cast–watching this beautiful unit function without me, and with such a magnificent sheen of glory that I realized that it was time for me to find my next adventure.

“For after all, I’m really not a pastor. I am an explorer. I don’t know how you would classify that in Biblical terms, but I’m on Earth not just to be a Christian, but to be a follower of Jesus, who takes His heart everywhere.

“It would be my great suggestion that you hire Pas Carl as your new leader. He’s young. He will make mistakes. When you see him do things that remind you of Jesus, encourage him. And when he doesn’t, pray for him.

“I might drop in from time to time. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure where I’m going. But wherever it is, it’s going to be very difficult for them to be smarter, more loving, more generous and more human than the saints I’ve met here in Garsonville.

“It was an honor to be your pastor. It was more than an honor to be your friend. Pray for me as I pray for you.

“So my Christmas gift to you this year is to graduate you onto the next phase of your journey. We shall not do it together, but nothing can separate us.

“And my gift to myself is to go out and explore.

“With all my heart, with all my devotion, with all my hopes, with all my dreams, and with all my strength,

Reverend Richard Meningsbee”

Pas Carl finished the letter and fell to his knees in tears. The congregation wept, but there was also a great joy.

Each one of them knew that Meningsbee would eventually have to leave. He was a restless soul, whose itch was set by the Divine. They were just fortunate that for a blessed period of time, they were able to feel his warmth.

The congregation departed hugging each other. There were 345 human beings present that morning, and all of them left having felt a little bit of Jesus.

THE END

 

Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

*******

To our friends at Roseland: click the piano for information on Cring & Clazzy

Reverend Meningsbee (Part 54) Angel Unaware… May 14th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3306)

Reverend Meningsbee

Pas Carl had family all over the world.

That’s what Meningsbee had decided. Matter of fact, it was so comical that he started a list of all the alleged relatives.

There was an aunt who lived in New York City, a great uncle from San Francisco, a third cousin who was a whale hunter in Alaska, a half-brother who lived in Key West, Florida and a godfather who lived in (you guessed it) Rome, Italy.

The most recent surprise was an announcement that an aunt from Houston, Texas, was coming to town and wanted permission to share with the ladies at the church about a program she conducted called “Turning Dreamers into Doers.” Her name was Shannon Tremaine. She was an author.

Pas Carl believed that she and Meningsbee would have a lot to talk about. But Meningsbee was in no mood for additional encounters. The events surrounding Carla’s departure had finished off any remaining pornography in his life, like an atomic bomb landing and obliterating all life in sight. He was definitely not lusting.

But he was also not passionate. He had lost the drive–whatever that truly was. He had tremendous memories of what he wanted to do and even what he could do, with no desire to actually do it anymore.

So he offered no objection to Pas Carl’s aunt coming to share with the women, but let the young man know that he wanted limited involvement. He was resetting his spiritual clock. Even though Carl did not know what that meant, he thanked Meningsbee and left the office.

Meningsbee had gone through this once before in his life, right after Doris died. There are three clocks inside every person, Meningsbee felt. One sets the timing on survival. The second is the world around us, dictating time. But the third is a watch, to let us know when we’re in sync with ourselves and God.

Meningsbee knew very well that the first clock was off. His sense of survival was weak, his passion energy almost nil. And his fight was overshadowed by a specter of fear.

He was going through the motions–on the schedule being dictated to him by friends, the church, the town and circumstances. He was following a time clock instead of following an ideal.

He seemed to be doing it well. People were complimentary. Some folks even noticed that he appeared to be looking healthier. But he had lost his timing with God. The Spirit was still contacting, but he was missing the calls. His mind was drifting when it needed to be focused, and his wishfulness had overtaken his willingness.

He knew the symptoms. He just didn’t know if he could escape the disease. He had barely been able to do it after he lost his love. It took writing his book, “The Jesus Church,” to shake him and wake him up to the greater needs around him.

At that time, he just got tired of seeing sensible people lose out to shouters and detractors. He grew weary of watching the words of Jesus being turned into a cardboard religion, pre-fabricated and lacking its original soul. And he was very, very upset that the younger generation had gained its sense of purpose by denying the purpose they had with their Creator.

“The Jesus Church” pulled him out of his nosedive into oblivion. But by no means was he in the mood to write another book, and he certainly wasn’t going to become youthful and optimistic again.

No, the only way an aging man can continue to believe in faith is to deny many of the realities around him–but rather than making him foolish or ignorant, hope carves off years of scars, leaving fresh skin.

He was in the midst of considering his transformation when he met Shannon Tremaine. She was forty-seven years old. He knew that because it was one of the first things that popped out of her mouth. She could have passed for thirty-five, but she wanted everybody to know that age was insignificant. What mattered was the spark.

She was so well-received at the women’s meeting that they begged her to stay two more weeks and hold seminars. By the end of the two weeks, she had gathered a crowd of nearly a hundred souls from the community, to come and hear her message.

Meningsbee felt compelled to attend one of the sessions to see what was drawing all of these ladies. It was on a Thursday night in the church basement, with almost sixty-five women in attendance, that Pastor Meningsbee sat down and listened for the first time to Shannon Tremaine.

She was passionate. She was emotional. She was driven. She was saucy. She was iron. And simultaneously, she was as soft as cotton. In a moment of time, she unveiled the tenderness she had for each person in the room.

Her message was clear: politics gives you false hope, an education gives you a degree, religion steals your will to excel and your family will limit your possibilities. The only friend you have is truth, and the reason it is known to make you free is because it liberates you from the need to lie.

She went on to explain that the three great lies always began with the same words: (1) I couldn’t because… (2) I am not suited… (3) I don’t have the time.

Shannon electrified the room–a space normally used for potluck dinners and storage. She was not a typical motivational speaker, relying on props, slogans and testimonials to portray her vision. She just spoke it into existence, and her words were so much a part of her that they were believable.

It reminded Meningsbee of the statement in the Good Book, when it says that the people “were astonished” at Jesus because he addressed them “with authority.” Not domineering, just well-traveled.

The end of her meeting that night was almost like a revival. Women came to the front of the room in tears, and departed clapping their hands. She promised a personal word–a mantra of sorts–for each one of them and did not fail to deliver.

At the end, she slowly walked over to Pastor Meningsbee and said, “Even though you did not come up to the front, would you like a personal word also?”

Meningsbee paused. She waited a moment to give him a chance to think, but then inserted, “To delay receiving a blessing is either saying you’re not worthy of it or you don’t want it. Now, which one is it, Richard?”

He was surprised that she used his first name. He liked the way she said it.

“I guess,” he said, “I would have to say that I don’t want to feel unworthy by being offered a blessing.”

She smiled. “My word for you is really easy. The position of savior has already been filled. You may have heard of him. We call him Jesus. At no time have I ever heard him referred to as Richard.”

Meningsbee interrupted her. “I’m not trying to be a savior.”

She interrupted right back. “That’s true. You think you are the savior, and shouldn’t have to try so hard.”

Meningsbee looked her right in the eye and said, “What’s wrong with wanting to save people?”

She stared right back at him. “Because not even Jesus can do that. Jesus said he came. Jesus said he shared. Jesus said he gave. But when he was done coming, sharing and giving, he was hanging on a cross. I wouldn’t call that successful, would you? But fortunately, he went from being a dreamer to a doer, because his resurrection proved his point.

“I don’t know you real well, Richard Meningsbee, but I tell you–you’re dead. And I’ve seen many dead men. And unfortunately, I’ve run across very few who were able to admit it, climb in the tomb for a few days, and get resurrected.”

She looked around the room, realizing that nobody was left, and said, “I guess it’s just us. This is my last night in town. If you’re ever looking for a new dream to do, come to Houston. I can use you.”

She leaned up on her tiptoes and gave him a sweet, tender kiss on the lips. She patted his face and walked away.

Richard stood completely still in the middle of the basement of the Garsonville Community Church, afraid to move.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 51) Under the Weather… April 23rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3285)

Reverend Meningsbee

Shortly after the premiere of “Eden,” it was as if the community fell under a spell.

People just started getting sick–lots of flu, colds, injuries. An ever-growing list of those diagnosed with cancer during prayer time. A few of the prominent couples in town filed for divorce. It sent a shock wave through the community.

Meningsbee was fully aware that those who live on the prairie are not without the knowledge of the real world, but the decision to stay there was often an attempt to escape it. Sometimes superstition smothered common sense.

Some of the members started talking about “curses.” There were musings that the sins of the town were taking root and that God had removed His favor from them and that everything they tried was laying an egg.

Meningsbee attempted to encourage folks, but a dark slime of depression settled in.

Meningsbee went to prayer. Normally when it came to prayer, Meningsbee liked to listen. If he was in a group of people, they often deferred to him to lead in prayer, but he frequently requested that someone else do it so he could just enjoy.

But sometimes he knew it was important for him to pray–find a good closet, shut the door and turn down all the noise. Just allow his spirit to be free of fear and open to the possibility of solution.

While he was in prayer, he remembered a question that one of the women from the Ladies Auxiliary had posed. “Pastor Meningsbee, how do you know it’s not a curse? It’s not like evil would let us be aware of its plan.”

He thought long and hard on that. People spend an awful lot of time fighting, cursing or chasing the devil. Yet if there were actually a creature who spawned darkness and evil, it was unlikely that people would be able to deter him from his ways.

So where does that leave us? he thought. Exactly. It leaves… us. What do we know we can do? What do we know we can be? What do we know we can think, that will keep the effects of gloom out of our minds and open the door to good cheer?

From that time in prayer, Meningsbee put together a message, which he shared the following Sunday.

After praying for a grim list of sick folk and listening to a hymn sung with no enthusiasm at half-volume by weary people, he offered a simple thought.

“The only thing I can do, the only thing you can do, is control what comes inside us. Because once it is inside us, it’s going to feed us or it’s going to starve us.”

He stepped out into the middle aisle and pointed out five or six different individuals.

“Do you believe that if you eat better, you might just feel better? But if you’re like me, when you get depressed, you want to eat things you know are bad for you, but they temporarily make you feel good.

“And if your mind is clouded and unclear, should you be watching things on television or at the movies that leave you with more questions than answers? For the Good Book tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

“And if you’re pretty sure that life has temporarily decided to suck, should you be sitting around listening to people who have prime, juicy examples to confirm your conclusion? What should you be hearing?

“Now I know some of you think we’re under a curse. I don’t happen to agree, but let’s say you’re right. How should we break the curse? It’s against the law to sacrifice virgins anymore. I don’t think any of us are up for an exorcism.

“God only asks you and me to take responsibility for what we handle. So I don’t know about you. Maybe it’s just a bad time, or maybe it’s a curse. But here’s what I can do.

“I can eat better. I can stop watching trash on TV. And I can listen to people who have a message of hope instead of those who’ve given up. You know what? I feel better just thinking about feeling better. How about you? How many of you feel better just thinking about feeling better?”

Nearly everyone in the sanctuary raised their hand.

“Now, we can’t expect our brothers and sisters who don’t come to church to set a miracle in motion, but if our town needs a miracle we need miracle workers. And Jesus says that begins with faith.

“So if you dear souls have the faith to say to this curse, ‘Be thou removed’ and you do not doubt in your hearts, it will go away. Especially if we start eating better, looking for light and listening for good reports.

“Now I want you to do something we don’t normally do in this church. If you heard what I shared today and you thought to yourself, ‘that’s a pretty doggone good idea,’ I want you to come up here and stand with me.”

The entire congregation stood to its feet in clumps and intervals and moved to the front altar area.

Reverend Meningsbee made his way to every single soul, squeezing their hands and simply saying, “Let’s be well.”

Now maybe the good news was there all the time, or maybe the community was so depressed it was unable to see anything but bleak possibilities. But starting that very morning, Garsonville got healed.

It was their faith that made them whole.

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 50) Lights, Camera, Inaction … April 16th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3272)

Reverend Meningsbee

Russ and Tracy were the local and only filmmakers in Garsonville.

They referred to themselves as “cinemaniacs.” They loved movies. They loved making movies.

They could tell you the back story of every single Hollywood blockbuster that ever rolled across the silver screen. They spent hours discussing their preference on a particular type of electronic cord or the do’s and don’ts of good lighting.

They lived together, unmarried, in a small apartment above the downtown apothecary. Although such relationships were frowned on in the small town, the people accepted them and concluded in their minds that they must be brother and sister.

Russ and Tracy, along with Carl, came to see Meningsbee, possessing the excitement of three ten-year-old children who just discovered they had a snow day. They wanted to make a documentary–the story of the Garsonville Church since Meningsbee had arrived, including the controversy and also the burst of recent growth. For last Sunday, there had been 230 people in attendance at the church.

Meningsbee listened carefully to their plan, and was greatly surprised to discover they had already “townfunded” $4,223 from the citizens.

Meningsbee had his doubts. To him, it kind of felt the same way as the first time somebody described sushi. It sounded like a good idea, but something was a little fishy.

Actually, he had two major concerns, so he voiced them.

“Listen,” he said, “before I give my blessing to this project, I need to know, number 1, do I have to do anything different, weird, unusual or fakey?”

The three assured him that all he had to do was be his glorious self.

“Secondly,” he continued, “do I have to wear makeup? You see, about ten years ago, I did a talk show in Rhode Island and the girl at the studio insisted I wear makeup because she noticed that my lips were so thin that they crawled back into my face. Since she was the professional, I agreed to let her smear some stuff on my forehead, and then she took lipstick and put it on my mouth. It was kind of dark brown in color. Later on, when I caught a glimpse of myself on the TV monitor, I looked like one of those Old West gunslingers lying in the pine box before they carried him away to Boot Hill.”

Russ and Tracy assured Meningsbee there would be no need for him to wear makeup unless he really enjoyed it.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Meningsbee. “I think I can get the church to agree to take a $5,000 donation that’s just come in, and give it to you guys to make this idea come to life.”

Jubilation rocked the room.

Two weeks later there were cameras and lighting equipment in the streets of Garsonville, and the citizens were solicited for their opinions, insights and any stories they might like to share with the documentarians.

It took three months to shoot the whole thing. There was a complete sense of community–enthusiasm beyond measure–and with Russ and Tracy telling one and all there was a possibility that the little flick might be going to film festivals, everybody was preening and preparing for “bright lights and big city.”

Meningsbee gently but firmly warned the folks that they had been equally enthralled with USBN. But you see, this was different. This was “home town kids doing home town things to express the beauty of the home town.”

After three weeks of shooting, there was another forty days of editing, at which time it was decided there needed to be a premiere of the documentary at the local high school. They decided to call it “Looking for Eden,” and the premiere was only twenty-five days away.

The auditorium only seated 500 people, and the interest level seemed so strong that it was decided there would be two showings–one at 6:45 P.M. on Saturday, and one at 2:30 P.M. Sunday afternoon.

Posters were printed, the newspaper interviewed the filmmakers and all potential stars, and Meningsbee sat back and watched his congregation and community go just a little bit crazy one more time.

He, himself, had filmed two segments for the project. One was a question and answer session in his office, and another one had him sharing spontaneously from his heart as he walked slowly down the main street of Garsonville. Both scenes seemed a little bit contrived and incomplete to Meningsbee, but Russ and Tracy said the dailies looked great–the dailies being the footage they looked at each afternoon, to make sure quality was being maintained.

Watching the town prepare for the event was similar to eyeballing a seven-year-old boy in church who needs to pee. He’s not quite sure what to do with himself so he wiggles around, hoping a bathroom is in his near future.

Premiere night arrived. A couple of limousines were hired for the filmmakers and the more prominent dignitaries from the town, and the auditorium was packed all the way to the walls, with people who came to see a tribute to their town, which amazingly, included their mugs.

It started off all right. There was a song played by a local boy as the opening credits rolled.

But then the actual movie began. It wasn’t bad. The camera work was good, the sound was adequate.

But it was just boring.

What Russ and Tracy did not take into consideration was that Nebraskan folks sometimes take two minutes just to say hello. Slow paced life. Slow paced speech. Slow paced moving picture.

One of those just didn’t work.

People began getting fidgety, with lots of bathroom trips, several coughing fits, and some of the younger people couldn’t help but release agonizing yawns.

After two hours and thirteen minutes, the ordeal was over. Some folks hung around for a little while to express their appreciation, but most scurried out as quickly as possible, hoping and praying that this piece of cinema would never be seen anywhere else.

Matter of fact, on Sunday afternoon, the only people who came out to see the movie were Reverend Meningsbee, four or five close friends and two couples who had been out of town and just drove in, and were unaware of the reviews.

Russ, Tracy and Carl were discouraged. “I guess we’re just boring,” said Russ.

Meningsbee put one arm around Russ, the other around Tracy and drew them in close.

“No,” he said. “And you guys did a great job. Matter of fact, I was pleasantly surprised. Because let’s be honest, it could have been worse. When you put a close-up on our community, it’s like watching pudding cool and thicken. It’s not pretty, it’s not camera worthy, but it’s solid and you can count on it.”

Meningsbee took the three filmmakers out to an early dinner and they sat around and talked about life, dreams and love–and newer and better ways of looking for Eden.

 

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

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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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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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 35) A Finer Diner… January 1st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3173)

Reverend Meningsbee

Meningsbee was spooked.

He wasn’t exactly sure why–maybe it was being awakened by a stranger pounding on his door. Or it could be the haunting dream that Nico shared about empty boxes at Christmas time. Or maybe he was just baffled by why he was traveling through Texas, spending money to pretend he was a vagrant.

Whatever the reason, he gathered up his blankets, pillows and the few items he had brought into the motel room, threw them into the back seat of his car and headed out on the road.

He didn’t know where he was going, but he knew one thing for sure: it wasn’t Garsonville.

He wasn’t ready.

So he puttered around from little village to tiny burg for a couple of days, realizing he was going to have to call the church and have someone stand in for him on Sunday. It wouldn’t be a big deal–the congregation was practically on auto-pilot anyway. All the changes he had suggested had brought about a freedom and liberty which gave the people a delightful blending of humility and confidence.

So when he called the office to tell them he would be delayed, the secretary didn’t even question him.

He wasn’t going to Garsonville–but he did feel compelled to at least head in that direction.

So two days later, he found himself sitting in a small diner in Amarillo, Texas, when he looked up from his breakfast of two eggs, turkey sausage and toast, and saw Mercer.

At first his brain didn’t register. But after a second glance, he realized it really was Mercer, walking in the door of the diner.

Mercer was a member of the Garsonville congregation–a quiet, sturdy fellow who was so invisible that Meningsbee had never even learned his last name. He was also a little afraid of Mercer, because the fellow sometimes showed up wearing a camouflage tie.

But then, all of a sudden, in the middle of Amarillo, Texas, Mercer had appeared, with a little smile on his face.

Meningsbee could not disguise his shock, and as Mercer made his way to the table and sat down, he said, “Are you surprised, Reverend?”

“More than surprised,” said Meningsbee. “How did you find me?”

Mercer leaned back in his chair, peered at the Reverend and replied, “Well, I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I worked in Army Intelligence, and it didn’t take me long to follow the paper trail you left with your credit cards.”

Meningsbee frowned. Mercer continued, “Oh, don’t be upset. You can find anybody anytime you want as long as they’re willing to sign on the dotted line.”

“What are you doing here?” whispered Meningsbee.

“Well, I came to find you,” said Mercer. “Seems like I did a pretty good job.”

“Okay…” Meningsbee was not sure what else to say.

There was a slight pause and then Mercer filled in the silence. “What seems to be the problem, Pastor? Are you addicted to pills?”

Startled, Meningsbee replied, “Pills? No. Why would you think that?’

“Oh, it’s just that sometimes you have that pasty-white face of a heroin user.”

Meningsbee shook his head. “No, I’m not addicted to pills. Just pasty white.”

“Hookers?” asked Mercer.

“Again–no,” punctuated Meningsbee.

“Then it must be gambling.”

“Listen, Mercer. I don’t gamble.” Meningsbee realized if he didn’t speak up, Mercer would continue his probing. “If you must know, I’m very upset about what’s happening in our town with the broadcast, and also the intrusion they’ve made into my personal life.”

“You mean how they stole your computer?” asked Mercer.

“How’d you know that?”

“Once again–I was in Army Intelligence. If I want to know it, I can pretty well find out. What was on your computer?”

Meningsbee sat quietly. He didn’t know what to share with Mercer. He didn’t know anything about him. So he decided to be evasive.

“Personal things,” Meningsbee said flatly.

“Like pornography, you mean?” asked Mercer, leaning forward and lowering his voice.

“Maybe like that,” said Meningsbee, relenting.

Mercer chuckled. “Listen, Reverend. Nobody thinks you’re perfect. Lots of people don’t even think you’re good. There are even some folks who think you’re pretty bad. So here’s how it works–the people who know you aren’t perfect will forgive you. The people who think you’re kind of good will be alarmed that you made a mistake but they’ll get over it. And the people who think you’re bad will just think worse about you. You can’t win people. God’s been working on their hearts for thousands and thousands of years. Isn’t that what you preach? But you also can’t run. That’s somewhere in the Bible, isn’t it? So I came out here on my own to find you and let you know that our little town needs you. We’ve made some stupid mistakes trusting these big-town phonies. Now we look pretty ridiculous. We could sure use someone to help us get out of this. What do you say?”

“Are you gonna tell anybody about our conversation?”

“Well, I’ll tell you this, Parson. You got no business lookin’ at that trash. But it really ain’t my affair. Do I disrespect you for doing it? A little. But I’ll get over it. The point is–will you? Because pictures on the Internet will never replace the wife you lost.”

Maybe it was the tenderness of the statement.

Maybe it was too many days on the road in Texas.

Or maybe it was just dissatisfaction with his turkey sausage.

But Meningsbee broke down in tears.

Mercer stood to his feet and patted him on the shoulder. “Do you need me to follow you home, or do you know the way?”

Meningsbee chuckled. “I got my GPS set.” He looked up. “Thank you, Mercer.”

Mercer sprouted a big smile. “You don’t know my last name, do you?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t.”

“Well, good. That’ll make it harder for you to track me down.”

Mercer turned and walked out of the diner as Meningsbee stared straight ahead.

It was time to go back.

It was time to take on his responsibility.

And it was time to stop being afraid.

 

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