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

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3152)

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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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 32) Episode 4… December 4th, 2016

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(3145)

Reverend Meningsbee

When Episode 4 of “Gar-SIN-ville” aired on USBN, the entire town sunk into a puddle of melancholy.

The citizens had hoped to be recognized, heard, appreciated and valued, but instead were diminished by carefully edited interviews into creatures of weakness, frailty and in some cases, iniquity.

For instance, it was aired that the Swanson church, while pursuing “the perfect soul mate,” had members who slid into illicit affairs, deep confusion and even domestic violence.

Sammy Collins and his little congregation were characterized as bigots who were actively attempting to prevent the settling of Mexicans into the community.

Perhaps saddest of all was that the Bachman family was brought to tears on camera, discussing the suicide of their son, as Mr. Bachman was captured pleading, “I wish I did believe in God–so I could hate him.”

The community had chosen to be candid and forthcoming, hoping their stories would be welcomed with understanding. But the clever editing of the USBN staff made the town appear to be the most hypocritical community since Salem, Massachusetts burned imaginary witches.

In response, the Holiday Inn Express canceled the contract on Swanson’s church, refusing to let them meet there. The few folks who were coming to Sammy Collins’ house for church were too embarrassed to be seen parking in the driveway. And the Bachmans were bombarded with criticism and evangelistic rhetoric, warning them of a devil’s hell.

To complicate matters, Meningsbee received another visit from USBN. This time they sent their chief counsel, Hector Geminez, to the church office with a threat–veiled as an opportunity.

“We have noticed in all of our dealings in the town that your church could certainly use a kitchen and a pantry, which could be mobilized into a food service for those who are less fortunate in the community,” Hector shared, posing concern.

“We’ve thought of it,” said Meningsbee.

“Well, thoughts don’t feed many people, now, do they?”

Meningsbee paused and then challenged. “What is it you want, sir?”

“Please call me Hector.”

Meningsbee nodded.

Geminez continued. “I have been authorized by USBN to inform you that we have a donation of $25,000 for your church to put together such a kitchen and pantry to aid the community.”

“And why would you do that?” asked Meningsbee.

Hector sat for a long moment, eyeing the reverend. “Listen, pastor. We are both men of the world, even though yours is a bit cloistered. So let me not mislead you. The Garsonville series is doing so well in the ratings that we’re thinking about changing it into a weekly series. Since we have so much footage, we could easily cover a season.”

Meningsbee must have appeared startled, because Hector inserted, “Now, I know this is…ah…displeasing to you, so it was our hope that if you and your church could find a purpose by helping others through this kitchen arrangement, you might be willing to give your backing to such an endeavor.”

“Why do you need my backing?” asked Meningsbee. “The people in this town don’t necessarily like me that well. Why do you think my support will carry any weight?”

Hector suddenly stood to his feet, accentuating the drama. “Oh, but you’re wrong, good Reverend. They may not like you but they respect you.They believe you have insight. We’ve had several people unwilling to cooperate just simply because you placed a fear in their hearts that our intentions are not pure.”

“Well, they aren’t pure,” said Meningsbee.

Hector squinted his eyes. “They are pure in the sense that they represent the truth of the information that’s been provided to us. The public has a right to know what goes on in communities like Garsonville.”

“No, they don’t,” said Meningsbee. “None of us have the damn right to stick our noses in anybody else’s business. And by the way, you can quote me on that, Hector.”

“Well, they told me you might not be cooperative,” Hector said, easing himself back down in the chair. “So I wanted to let you know that we have data about some of your personal dealings–or shall we say, problems?–that might be intriguing to the people of the town.”

Meningsbee smiled. So it was USBN that had stolen his computer, to copy his browser.

He paused, wanting to make sure that his reaction came from a quiet place in his soul instead of the fury of his rage. He waited so long that Hector decided to continue.

“Now, we’re not threatening you. And we really don’t want to use what we have. God knows we all have a private life, right, Richard? What we want to do is make this arrangement to everybody’s mutual benefit. You get a food pantry to help the poor and we get a season of highly rated television programs that enlighten the American public.”

“So you feel you’re enlightening the American public,” barked Meningsbee.

“Well, it does say in the Good Book that the truth will make you free,” cited Hector.

“My dear friend, you have no idea what that verse means. Truth is a beautiful thing when it is revealed by the person with the secret. But truth is a nasty monster when it’s disclosed by strangers, leaving the exposed person condemned.”

Hector stood again and walked to the door, turning as he put his hand on the knob. “Listen, I didn’t come here to have a theological discussion. I’m an attorney. I deal with legal ramifications. We don’t need your blessing to do anything. We don’t need your permission to expose you. We were just providing a courtesy–to you, your congregation and the community–which might create a general welfare for all parties involved.”

He concluded, “I know you’ve heard the phrase seventy-two hours. In case you don’t know, that means three days. If I don’t hear from you in three days, I think you can assume that your predilections will be included in the format of Episode 5. You can have a kitchen–or be dealt a heaping helping of humiliation. It’s up to you. Nice meeting you, by the way.”

Hector Geminez turned the knob, opened the door, walked through and disappeared.

Meningsbee felt like chasing him down and giving him a good piece of his mind, but thought better of it.

He realized that he would probably need all of his brain to figure out what to do next.

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 30) Anchored … November 20th, 2016

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(3131)

Reverend Meningsbee

Katrina Middlesex was the news anchor of the USBN station. She insisted on being referred to as an anchor rather than anchor-woman or anchor-person, citing that she had no intention of “skirting” her responsibilities.

She requested a “meet and greet” with Reverend Meningsbee. Partially flattered but mostly trapped, the pastor agreed, but decided to make the pow-wow at his church office instead of his home. He selected that atmosphere because he didn’t feel comfortable talking to her in his private environment, and didn’t want to offer tea and crumpets (since he didn’t care for tea and had no idea what crumpets were).

She arrived promptly and didn’t waste time. Before her backside had completely hit the cushion on the chair she fired a question.

“What is it you have against this series we’re doing on your town?”

Meningsbee was equally as willing to commence. “It’s intrusive. You don’t really know these people. Many of the things you’re examining are multifaceted story-lines, and you’re focusing on one sensational aspect. And to be blunt, Ms. Middlesex…”

She interrupted immediately. “No, call me Katrina.”

Meningsbee relented. “All right, Katrina. To be candid, I don’t think you really care about the people on a human level, but rather, see them as caricatures for your network’s unfoldings.”

She smiled. “Well, well. You certainly don’t hold back, do you?”

“I’m not trying to be blunt, nor do I mean to be rude,” said Meningsbee. “It’s just that the commission I have here and the calling I enjoy asks me to be a shepherd, and that involves protecting the sheep from outside forces…”

Katrina interrupted again. “You mean like wolves? Do I look like a wolf to you?”

“Yes, actually, you do,” answered Meningsbee. “You don’t know you’re a wolf because you hang around with people who have teeth. The folks in Garsonville are simple, and dare I say, toothless.”

She giggled a little bit–almost girlish. “I don’t think you know the people quite as well as you think you do. Not only are they more complicated than you describe, but a bit more greedy. I’ve had numerous requests for revenue for the stories they’re providing, assuming, I suppose, that our network is making tremendous profit from their profferings.”

Meningsbee remained silent. A little piece of his soul was burning from the statement–partially due to the nastiness of her tone, but mostly because he was fully aware that the folks of Garsonville had been cast under the spell of big-town profit and gain.

Katrina waited for a moment, and then pursued. “Let me give you an example. The little boy with the miracle ears…”

Meningsbee jumped in. “Katrina, it was not a miracle. At least, not what you mean by a miracle. The young boy had a medical condition which the doctors felt might take care of itself and might not. It was beautiful that his inner awakening of healing happened during his baptism, but certainly it wasn’t due to an angel touching his ears.”

“Oh, ye of little faith. Wherein do you doubt?” Katrina chided.

“I believe in God,” said Meningsbee. “I just think the miracle He gives us is life, and we’re trying to learn how to use it and to pursue all of its meaning.”

Katrina opened up a notebook and began to read. “I have stories here of adultery, one horrible recounting of incest, somebody even referring to the fact that they might have witnessed a murder in the town. Are you aware of all this, Pastor Meningsbee?”

The Reverend sat for a long moment, staring at the self-satisfied anchor. “No,” he replied. “Nor do I wish to know. You see, my dear, repentance is something people do when they understand the depth of their error. Recounting is what they do when they’re in front of foolish people who are looking for the darker side of humanity.”

Ms. Middlesex smiled, but exuded no warmth. It was obvious she had no affection for the simple parson who stubbornly refused to submit to her charms. She rose to her feet and headed toward the door. Turning, she delivered one final statement.

“Richard…may I call you Richard?”

“You just did,” said Meningsbee.

“Richard, I have stories on everybody in this town. Including you. It is my job to discern which ones are suitable for air and will bring the most viewership. I try to use gentle discretion, but I am a business person, not a theologian.”

Meningsbee stood to his feet and stepped toward her. “And if all the atrocities done in the name of business would have taken into consideration the worth of a human life, we wouldn’t need theologians…because we’d be so close to God.”

Katrina squinted at him, extended her hand, which he took, shook and she slid out the door.

Meningsbee was a little baffled by the whole situation, not sure why she had come in the first place, but he exited the building, climbed into his car and went home. He was in the mood to have a good cup of coffee and retire to the cubby-hole he had set aside for personal time and study. Procuring his coffee, he headed into his little den of thought.

At the door he suddenly stopped, staring into the room–startled.

His computer was gone.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 29) The Crowd of the Press … November 13th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3124)

Reverend Meningsbee

On Thursday, shortly before dawn, a crack team of seventeen go-getters–including technicians, make-up artists, investigators, reporters and what they call the “camera darlings” who actually speak on the air–arrived from the USBN, the United States Broadcasting Network.

One of their representatives had come into town two days earlier and spoken to the elders, pastors, school administrators and parents who were chosen to be part of the series proposed about the Garsonville community. Meningsbee was invited, but only stayed long enough at the meeting to lodge his objection, suggesting that a measure of privacy was warranted for the experiences that the town had endured over the past few months.

He was ignored.

The townsfolk could not wait to be inspected by the lenses of the intruding horde from the West Coast. Although Meningsbee refused to be interviewed, Patrick Swanson, who still had his church out at the Holiday Inn Express, was scheduled, as was Sammy Collins, the Bachman family, numerous teenagers from the high school and David’s mother. (She had asked Meningsbee what he thought about the offer to share her story, and even though he discouraged her, she still felt it would be good for some other parent to know the warning signs of a depressed child who was contemplating suicide.)

Patrick Swanson planned on taking full advantage of this publicity, and touted that his congregation was known as Swanson’s Sweethearts.

Sammy Collins got wind of it, and during his interview, shared about their vision of being Collins’ Crusaders.

As the promos began to be aired on the station, the congregation at Meningsbee’s church wondered if it might be a good idea to develop a nickname. Trying to keep from laughing, the Reverend donned a serious expression and replied, “Maybe you folks could be called Mening’s Bee Stingers…”

No one found it humorous. (Often the wit of the pastor escaped the understanding of his faithful.)

Meningsbee stayed out of it, figuring it would only last a few days.  Then a rumor spread through town that the USBN had decided to do a full six weeks worth of broadcasts about burg, based upon the information they had uncovered.

Meningsbee was suspicious.

For you see, there was a time in history when journalism was the reporting of a story, but now, having to fill twenty-four hours of space, journalists were attempting to make things into stories. What were they up to?

A small hint was given when the advertisement for the series was released on air, entitled, “GarSINville … what is happening amidst the corn?”

This obvious slight escaped most of the townspeople.

They were grateful for the attention and hungry to be heard.

They were desperate to feel important.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 24) The Unbroken Circle … October 9th, 2016

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(3089)

Reverend Meningsbee

It was Meningsbee’s style to arrive at the Garsonville church mere moments before the service was set to begin.

He chose this profile not because he had a flair for dramatics or wanted to bring attention to himself, but rather, desired to communicate that he was arriving with the congregation instead of waiting to greet them.

But a phone call from a very confused deacon, Mack Robbins, had summoned him immediately to the church because of “strange doings.”

Now, the term “strange doings” in a small Nebraska town could range from a fourteen-cent hike on the price of gasoline at the local pumps to somebody wanting to show off a two-by-four that had stuck itself in a tree during a tornado years ago.

But in this case, Deacon Mack was very concerned because fifteen young people from the high school had arrived at the church early with candles in hand and had slowly marched to the front of the sanctuary, sat down lotus style in the front, lit their candles and quietly hummed some unknown tune. (Mack did not recognize the melody, but felt it was not a common hymn.)

Those who were arriving for normal church did not know exactly what to do. Should they be seated? Should they ask the young people what they were up to? Or should they freak out, call their minister and plop the problem on him?

Being good religious folks, they chose the latter.

So when Meningsbee arrived, he saw his entire congregation standing in the vestibule, peering through the partially frosted windows, staring at the circle of adolescent candle-bearers. Collectively, his sheep turned to him, looking for direction from the shepherd.

He whispered, “Why don’t we just go sit down?”

Everyone nodded as if they had heard wisdom from the great King Solomon.

The ninety-five people tiptoed their way into the sanctuary, found seating places and then waited for the Reverend to take care of the bizarre predicament.

Meningsbee perched himself near the front, crossed his legs and then, as if he had sat on a cactus, leaped to his feet, stepped up onto the altar, found a candle, lit it and eased onto the floor with the students.

This was very baffling to the Nebraskans. Was the parson suggesting they do the same? Many of them had not been that close to the floor since the last time they fell and couldn’t get up. So they chose to sit quietly and see where the odd escapade would head.

After a few moments, the youngsters stopped their singing. When they did, Meningsbee took the opportunity to do a little singing himself.

“Michael row the boat ashore, alleluia…”

Meningsbee glanced at the congregation, encouraging them with his eyes to sing along. Some did.

The students listened through one or two passages, and then joined in to the best of their ability. When the song was done there was a moment of silence. Meningsbee spoke.

“It is very important for all of us to return to the last place we sensed something good. Although our questions will never be answered in full, we should remain full of questions. I want to thank you for coming today and giving us the soul of our service. It was Jesus who said that we are the light of the world. You have brought light into our presence. It was David who told us to sing a new song. You have brought us a new song. And it is every intelligent teacher and prophet throughout history who tells us to challenge ourselves. You have sat here, humbly offering your gratitude and expressing your desires. We welcome you. You have made our church today. You are our church today. We thank you. And we want you to know that you’re welcome here anytime–to bring anything you feel–to help us understand the depth of your soul and what’s important to you.”

One of the young men from the circle of visitors spoke up.

“We didn’t mean to interrupt. We thought you would just go ahead and have your service.”

Meningsbee replied, “You see, son, that’s the mistake we make in the church. We think you’re supposed to come in here, learn about what we do, follow the routine and develop a taste for it. That’s not really what church was meant to be. Church is the people coming, expressing what they need, and letting the opportunity of being with God supply it. Don’t ever forget that. And when you come back here again, it’ll be the same way. We don’t exactly have an order of service. We let the service that needs to be provided grant us order.”

The unbroken circle of young folks nodded in approval. The congregation smiled as some cried.

If church was supposed to be a series of beautiful moments of human interaction and revelation, then Garsonville was slowly on its way to becoming a church.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 20) Twenty-One Steps … September 11th, 2016

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(3061)

Reverend Meningsbee

Sunday morning in Nebraska was a living and breathing confirmation of the wisdom of the Creator God–to set aside a day of rest.

With nothing to do but prepare homemade waffles, walk the dog and dress for church, the citizens of Garsonville breathed a collective sigh of relaxation and relief. For just a little while, life became slower, and the craziness of the 21st century was mollified by simplicity.

That morning, Meningsbee barely got seven steps into the door of the church before Matrisse grabbed his arm and pulled him down to whisper in his ear.

“Kitty is gone.”

He pulled back so he could look into her eyes. She just sadly shook her head.

Realizing he couldn’t stop to converse any more, he made his way toward the sanctuary, where after a few feet he was nudged to the side by Bob Harborhouse, one of the original church members on the pastor’s selection committee. He was also one of the people who left over the fearful prospect of sitting closer to the front of the church. Meningsbee remembered that during his trial sermon, Bob introduced himself as a “groomsman carpenter,” explaining that by day he took care of a stable of horses and at night, he was in the first stages of starting his own furniture company–all original designs.

Bob said to Meningsbee, “I’m back with my family and about ten other people from the old church, but I do want you to know that Sammy Collins has begun his own congregation with about fifteen individuals who are meeting this morning at his house.”

Trying very hard to disguise his disappointment, Meningsbee nodded and headed into the sanctuary. Right before entering the holy of holies, he was once again stopped, this time by Theresa, the volunteer church secretary. She explained that someone had vandalized the women’s bathroom. It appeared that the scoundrel had poured two bags of marshmallows down the toilet.

Having no immediate clever come-back, Meningsbee nodded and told her he would make the announcement.

So as he inched his way up the middle aisle to the front of the church, looking at what was really a pretty good attendance, he wondered what conversation in his first twenty-one steps into the house of God could be addressed.

But before he could get started, Mark Layton, a former member of the church and also a history teacher at the local middle school, stood to his feet, firing a challenge.

“Reverend Meningsbee, I know you think you know what you’re doing, but before you came to our town, we were just a small country church with gentle ways and hopes for better lives for our families. Since you’ve been here, we’ve had division–and now there are three congregations meeting where once there was just a single body of believers. Do you really think that division is the work of God?”

There was some hissing and booing from the other members, who had come to church for a more enlightened experience, but Meningsbee quickly silenced the naysayers.

“Mark,” Meningsbee said, “When I was a young boy, my mother bought a brand new vacuum cleaner. It was quite a contraption. It had all sorts of shiny, silver metal pipes that came with it. They were extensions, so she could do various things to sweep up corners and such. I was only six years old, so I took one of those shiny metal pipes and quickly discovered that it was the perfect size for me to take a ping-pong ball, stick it inside and place my mouth over the end of the tube, and blow out really hard, and pretend I had a dart gun.”

The congregation laughed.

“It was great fun,” Meningsbee continued. “Then one day I picked up one of my ping-pong balls and it felt a little funny in my hand, like it was bigger. You know what I mean? But I tried to put it inside that metal tube anyway. It barely fit. But the worst part of it was, I couldn’t blow it out. Now, I probably should have told my mom or dad that I messed up one of the metal pipes on the new vacuum cleaner, but I was scared. Being a kid, I just hoped it would work out. It didn’t. And later, when my mother tried to sweep the floor, the machine didn’t work because of my little ping-pong ball mistake. They took it to the repair shop and received a gloomy report. Because the metal tube I had put my ping-pong ball in happened to be attached to the engine of the sweeper–and without that tube, well, the whole mechanism was basically useless. But the repair man was able to tell them that there was a ping-pong ball in there that he couldn’t get out unless he cut the tube in half. Well it didn’t take my parents too long to figure out where the ping-pong ball might have found its origins. They took me to the side and asked me why I didn’t tell them that I had made a mistake. I looked at them with tears in my eyes and said, ‘I just wanted everything to be all right, the way it was.’ You see, Mark, it wasn’t all right. It still looked like a vacuum cleaner but it didn’t work. Something was stuffed up inside, blocking the suction. When I arrived at this church, you had all the right equipment, seating, and even pretty good doughnut choices for the after-glow service.”

More giggles.

“But it wasn’t a church. Maybe it was a club. Maybe it was a way to escape and pretend we were better than the world around us. You can make up your mind on that. But the Book of Hebrews tells us that a church is a place where we come to strengthen one another. Not just praise or worship or gather to sing or say all the right words. So here’s my opinion: if we have to disrupt the eighty-eight souls who came to this church to try to reach the thirteen hundred who never have, then so be it. In my mind’s eye, it’s a small price to pay. So Mark, you are welcome to join us in worship this morning, or please–do not feel condemned or criticized if you would like to leave now that your question has been answered.”

There was a moment of silence. The people were absolutely still. At length, a softer, more tender Mark Layton piped up.

“I’m listening.”

Church continued.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 17) Parking Lotsa… August 21st, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3040)

Reverend Meningsbee

It was apparently the Sunday that would never end.

As Meningsbee headed out the door of the church, evicted from the House of God by Sister Matrisse, standing next to his car was a smiling Sammy Collins, with all the jovial attributes of a freshly pardoned Thanksgiving turkey.

Sammy rushed toward him, vigorously shook the pastor’s hand, and gave him a huge “Day of Pentecost” bear hug–the kind that leaves you torn between appreciation and embarrassment.

Releasing his grip, Sammy blurted, “Are you prepared to take in about fifty ready-to-go souls who already know where the exits are and the location of the bathrooms?”

With this he laughed–very pleased with his joke, which he obviously had rehearsed.

Meningsbee crinkled his face. This gave Brother Collins permission to continue.

“Whoo-ee! We had a big blow-up this morning down at the church at the Holiday Inn Express–so much so that the front desk lady came and told us to tone it down. We were bothering the other guests who were still enjoying their continental breakfast.”

“What was the problem?” said Meningsbee, concerned.

“I confronted him,” said Sammy. “Yes, I confronted Patrick Swanson about what he said to you in my living room the night I invited you over to fellowship in my home.”

“You heard?” asked Meningsbee.

“Yes. I snuck in the dark room where my kids keep their toys–nearly tripped over a Tonka truck–but I was curious why Patrick wanted to talk to you. Never one to be shy, I decided that since it was my home, I had the right to know.”

“So you’re the one who told everybody in the church about our conversation.”

“Absolutely.”

“Well, he thought it was me,” cited Meningsbee.

“Sorry about that, but I had to let him think that way until I could get all the friends and neighbors organized for the revolt, and the opportunity to return to the Garsonville Church–our home church. Preacher, most of my kin is buried out there in the back section of the property. I could show you their gravestones. This is my church. This is where I want to live. This is where I want to die. So we’re comin’ back.”

Meningsbee stood quietly. The joy on Sammy’s face had disappeared quickly as he told his tale of dissension and vengeance. He was now flushed and also a bit bewildered about why the good reverend was not jumping up and down for the chance to include more sheep and coffer stuffing.

Meningsbee realized he had to say something. “Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. I love ya’. But the church is not a club, though it might seem that way since we collect weekly dues. It’s not a game. The choices we make are often life and death. You must believe me when I tell you that the church also is not a family reunion, though we are all part of the same bloodline. God knows, it’s not a political party. We’ve already chosen our leader. Sammy, well…it’s an adventure. Or maybe a competition. Yes, it’s an adventurous competition, to see who can love their neighbor as themselves the most and still remain deliriously happy.”

Sammy’s dark cloud burst. “Listen, Meningsbee, I didn’t come for a sermon.”

“Oh, you’ve gotta forgive me,” said the pastor. “I didn’t get to preach one today so I guess I felt a little cheated.”

Sammy frowned like a frowning man frowns when frowning is in order. “So you don’t want us?”

“I don’t get to choose,” said Meningsbee. “I was just explaining to you how we view the kingdom of God.”

So … Sammy Collins turned on his heel and walked back to his car sadly because he was very religious.

 

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