Catchy (Sitting 56) The Quintets…. July 8th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jip, Cho, Bo, Jack and Sam were five young men from all over the world who got together, tried to learn each other’s full names, failed miserably, and so settled for shorter handles.

They shared two things in common.

Each member of the quintet was a trusted intern for an Ambassador to the United Nations.

Jip was from Japan; Cho, China; Bo, Russia; Jack, England, and Sam, the United States.

Their other commonality was a deep-rooted faith in Jesus, especially fresh since the recent awakening sweeping the world. Realizing they were just interns, they focused on what they could do to make a difference.

So every morning, a half-hour before going to work with their Ambassadors, they met in the pantry of the kitchen of the Bruxbury Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, where they lodged while in the Big Apple.

The purpose for the meeting was simple: the five young men chatted and conversed–calling it prayer and hoping their heavenly Father would give them insights on how to impact the more traditional and often vicious side of the United Nations.

They decided on kindness. Rituals were begun:

Jip walked into his boss every morning with fresh flowers.

Cho brought in an array of new teas from China to allure his superior.

Bo slipped a little vodka into the coffee, with a wink.

Jack ordered very expensive marmalade from England.

And Sam always stopped off to pick up a Nathan’s hot dog from down the street, which made his boss beam.

At the end of every session in the pantry, the gentlemen closed with a single thought:

“In kindness, beget kindness.”

They believed their purpose was to create a comfortable, gentle and merciful environment for their employer which just might cause him or her to go into the United Nations with a warmer heart.

It is difficult to know whether it was the vodka in the coffee or the ever-changing climate in the world, but matters of statehood were becoming more civil and less sectarian.

The quintet of interns took no credit for it. They just gave the glory to the Father.

*****

Matthew was dismissed from the hospital feeling a decade older and looking two. He sensed that he was becoming an old man before he had ever been an adequate young man. He felt sick. He looked sick. His skin was yellow from the liver infection and his eyes drooped, as if they were desperately preparing to leap from the perch on his face.

Matthew finally came to the conclusion that alcohol was a problem. In his crude way, he had decided that it was coming down to a choice between Jack Daniels or Jane Pussy. Knowing that he was not going to leave the latter alone, he chose to break his covenant of life-long affection for Mr. Daniels.

He sought some counseling and joined a couple of programs, and after a few weeks, he was a shaky non-drunk.

Refinement.

Yes, Matthew decided he needed some refinement to escape the smear of liquor, and also the goodness of the infernal revival.

So he went to a grand opening of an art display in one of the larger casinos. He was unaccustomed to attending such gala events and always felt lonely because it was required that he step forward and introduce himself, and he would rather frequent the darker corner.

So he found himself strolling around behind the displays when he heard a horrific sound–like a wounded animal. He followed it, turned and discovered a young woman with dark-brown hair adorned in a cocktail dress. She had her back to him and was holding some sort of horn. She was blowing into a reed.

“That was you?” he asked.

Without turning around, she responded, “I suppose you’re referring to the sound.”

Matthew stepped around so he could see her face. It was a sturdy, but beautiful one. “Are you calling ducks?”

She blew her reed again and replied, “No. Just any barnyard animal. And considering the pile of food on your plate, looks like I got me a hog.”

She looked up, her eyes twinkling. Matthew was instantly in love. He had forgotten he was carrying a plate full of food, favoring the shrimp puffs. But here was a woman with a biting sense of humor, unafraid of his advances.

She continued, “What I’m blowing is my reed, because I play the oboe. I play the oboe with a string quartet, which makes us a quintet. And you might think to yourself that being the only reed instrument in a quintet of strings, there would be a measure of alienation. And if by alienation, you mean incrimination, jealousy, anger, disdain and misery–well then, you would be right.”

Matthew eyed her for a moment, and then inquired, “You don’t like to play the oboe?”

“Uh, no,” she replied flatly. “No one likes to play the oboe. The oboe is like William the Conqueror going out to find a few innocent serfs who have not yet signed up for the clarinet. He captures them and imprisons them in double-reed bars.”

Matthew squinted. “Do you always talk this way?”

She paused as if in deep thought. “Yes, come to think of it. I do. Do you enjoy it? Or were you intending to be mean?”

Matthew held out his hand and said, “My name is Matthew Ransley.”

She reached across the short distance and shook only his fingers. “My name is Leonora Fenzi. But just go ahead and call me Leonora Fenzi.”

Matthew smirked. “But that’s your whole name.”

“No, there’s a middle one. Juniper. As a courtesy to you, I left that one out.”

“Fenzi,” said Matthew. “Is that… Well, I don’t know what to ask. What nationality is that?”

Leonora laughed. “Well, presently I’m attending a conservatory in Paris, but my nationality is Uncle Sam’s House. I grew up in Kewanee, Illinois.”

“I’ve never heard of that,” said Matthew.

“Oh, Paris? it’s right there in the middle of France,” mugged Leonora.

Matthew laughed out loud. “Paris I knew. It was the Illinois city that threw me.”

Leonora stood to her feet, blew a couple of notes on the oboe, and then said, “Do you know that I was the best oboe player in Kewanee, Illinois?”

“I know this one,” responded Matthew quickly. “You were the only player in Kewanee, Illinois, right?”

“No. There were two,” replied Leonora seriously.

“Really?” said Matthew.

“Yes,” Leonora responded. “The second player was a young girl with Down Syndrome, whose mother bought her a horn because the girl thought the keys were much shinier than on other instruments.”

“So…was she a close second?” asked Matthew, with a wry smile.

Leonora walked across the room to Matthew. “What brings you to this opening? You don’t look the type.”

“Is there a type that comes here?” asked Matthew.

“Yes,” said Leonora, reaching over and taking one of the shrimp puffs off his plate and popping it into her mouth. “Gay and rich. You’re not either one, are you?”

“Well, I’m not gay,” said Matthew. “I applied for years, but never got accepted to the club.”

He waited for her to laugh but she didn’t. “Anyway,” he continued, “I am fairly rich. Well… let me put it this way. I have money at my disposal.”

“Disposal?” questioned Leonora. “An interesting term for money.”

Matthew changed the subject. “What are you doing after you get done playing here?”

“Let me see,” she mused. “I’ll be going off with the string quartet to complain that the patrons didn’t listen to the music, and discuss how the shrimp puffs tasted like they were swimming on the bottom of the creek. And we’ll probably have a long discussion about how Wilhelm’s violin needs a new bridge. Yeah. That’s pretty much it.”

“Any of that you could avoid?” Matthew pursued.

“Only if I can get away.”

He steadied himself. “Would you like to go out to dinner with me?”

Leonora looked him up and down, glanced to her right and left, and posed. “Honestly, if you look at it from my perspective, you could be a serial killer. Many of them are quite charming, at least I hear. But you know, I’m going to say yes to the invitation–mainly because you’re so goofy, I don’t think you would know how to dispose of a body.”

Matthew furrowed his brow. “That was the most unusual yes I’ve ever heard, but I’m gonna take it. I thought we would go to an actual restaurant in Vegas instead of a buffet. What do you think?”

She suddenly turned and marched across the room quickly, speaking over her shoulder. “I think that would be fine because I don’t really care right now. I have to go play more Mozart.”

“I like Mozart,” shouted Matthew to her retreating frame.

Without turning, Leonora replied, “Oh, shut up. It’s the only name you know.”

Matthew stood and laughed. He threw aside his plate in a nearby trash can and thought to himself, “This could be good. This could be really good…”

 

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G-Poppers … March 9th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Pop received this significant portrait just a couple of days ago. He looked at it for a long time, greatly moved by the genteel nature, and found it quite evocative. He was curious about what the caption should be for such a thousand-word image.

Is it:

“Science embracing humanity with knowledge and insight”

“Mother Nature nurturing the children of Earth”

“Jesus welcoming the children the disciples had rejected”

“God admiring His handiwork”

“The Physician standing watch over the patient,” or

“The perseverant prayer restfully awaiting the touch of the Heavenly Father”

Actually, it’s a quick snapshot of G-Pop’s son, cradling his newborn child. The boy’s name is Julius.

Like all of us, Julius will need much tender-loving care to become “a caesar.”

 

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Good News and Better News … October 31st, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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coldwater-back-wall-1From everything I hear in the news media, our country is “angry.”

People are mad.

I’m not really sure what they are so upset about, but I guess that’s why pundits get to dress up and over-explain.

Yesterday when I arrived at the Coldwater United Methodist Church, I met people who are trying really hard to be kind and gentle in an atmosphere of crudeness and despair. Even the pastor of the church is beginning a new phase of her life, expanding the horizons of her ministry–completely and totally by faith.coldwater-set-2

Even though we accept the veracity of the reports about the frustration in our country, the constant repetition of complaint does nothing to alleviate the pain.

But it really revolves around a three-step process:

1. Stop being mad at me.

Yes, I need to stop being mad at myself. Most of the antagonism I feel toward other people is centered in my own dissatisfaction with my choices–especially when it comes to lying. For after all, once we start deceiving ourselves and others, we’re grouchy and fussy because we fear there’s the chance we’ll be challenged or get caught. So the best way for me to stop being mad at myself is to set in motion no lying–and that goes for exaggeration, too.

2. Stop being mad at others.

No grudges.

The grudge is always a piece of pride we fester because we’re not willing to discuss our feelings, fearing that we just might have to compromise. When we no longer insist that other people are “just so stupid that we couldn’t possibly reason with them,” we begin to address the animosity we have with mankind as a whole.

3. Stop being mad at God.

Most Christians would insist they feel nothing but love for their heavenly Father. But since He is our Dad and we are His children, there’s a good chance that occasionally we’ll be pissed off over the household rules–especially since religion comes along and puts the doctrines in stone. You can’t have a relationship with God through religion.

So–no religion.

Religion will not make you closer to God. It makes people prejudiced, self-righteous and nasty.

So I contend that a good portion of what I am called to do is remove the arrogance of anger so that the congregation can manage to forgive themselves, others and God.

That’s the good news.

The better news is: when you have no lying, no grudges and no religion, you find it much easier to relax and enjoy your relationships.

coldwater-jesus-note-3

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Good News and Better News … May 7h, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2929)

West Virginia Jon and Jan

Wedged, Virginia.

Yes, squeezed in between West Virginia and Virginia is the little village of Peterstown, where I was fortunate to spend my Mother’s Day Sunday with the fine brothers and sisters of the Mountaineer State.

I don’t know whether it’s the blessing of aging or a submission of my well-traveled soul, but I seem to be finding greater delight in the human beings around me instead of constantly taking an inventory of their deficits.

I don’t know if the world is getting better or not, but perhaps if I decide to get better, the world might just seem that way.

The good news is that I see a gradual awakening in the American population–an alarm clock going off, letting us know that we’re in need of a new morning. Honestly, no one is springing out of bed to face the day. Most of us are reluctantly reaching over to punch the snooze button, hoping to gain a few more moments of unconsciousness.

But the alarm continues to sound.

It rings in our politics, our racial relationships, our families, our educational system, and certainly in our churches.

As it pertains to the latter, we are mercifully beginning to understand that church is not a dining experience, where we perch, get served a meal, and sit around with our friends discussing the menu and the quality of the attention given to us by the waitress.

Church would be better described as a self-service gas station, where we roll in knowing we need fuel, but understanding that we’re going to have to give something to get it.

That’s what I sensed Sunday morning with the Peterstown conclave.

They might be willing to be served–but they also were completely open to the idea that it is their turn to give back to the system.

God did not create human beings to worship Him. The angels had already filled that position. God created human beings for companionship and to replenish the Earth.

So every minute we spend in His house, we should enjoy sweet fellowship among our friends and great conversation with our Heavenly Father, preparing ourselves to replenish the Earth.

And what does “replenishing the Earth” mean?

Giving back just a little more than we take.

So I come out of my experience in “Wedged, Virginia” rejoicing over the alarm that is awakening our culture from a deep sleep of emotional and spiritual lethargy.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that we human beings are always smarter, sharper and funnier when we’re involved–instead of sittin’ on our butts, waiting for the dinner rolls to be served.

West Virginia Composite 2

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 2) Front and Center… May 8th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

There was a great glut of human traffic which came to an abrupt halt in the vestibule of the Garsonville Church, as each stalled congregant stared down at their church bulletin, which was only a half-sheet of paper, and mused over the meaning.

It read:

Welcome to Jesus Church!

1. Enter! Take a seat in one of the first five rows on either side

2. Greet One Another

3. A Hymn (Congregation’s choice)

4. Thought Luke 14: 16-24

5. An Effectual Fervent Prayer

As you leave, please drop your offering into the red, heart-shaped box at the back door

That was it.

Through mutterings, groans, misgivings and sighs, the congregation made its way into the church, reluctantly sitting in the first five rows as requested. (Well, three families departed in a huff, and Deacon Smitters perched himself in his accustomed assigned seating near the back door.)

Promptly at eleven, Reverend Meningsbee arrived, shaking some hands and beginning the service. After singing “Wings of a Dove,” as requested by a nine-year-old who was more curious about the title than familiar with the tune, the Reverend spoke.

“Thank you, one and all, for taking a seat front and center. You may wonder why I made this request. In Luke the 14th Chapter, verses 16-24, Jesus tells the story about a man who planned a feast. Of course, we know he’s talking about God. So God has invited people to His feast. They immediately begin to make excuses. They’re too busy, they’re financially engaged, they have responsibilities… Anyway, they turn Him down.

At this point, God says something very interesting. He tells His servants to go out and invite as many people as possible–good or bad–so His house will be full.

Do you realize that every Sunday morning we insult the Heavenly Father by scattering all over this building in little pockets of family, social cliques and pews of tradition, flaunting the obvious emptiness of our sanctuary, never realizing that God wants His house to be full?

We don’t take back seats anywhere else. We don’t go to a concert of our favorite musical artist and sit in the nosebleed section. We don’t go to a restaurant and look for the worst table in the establishment.

But we come to church and think it’s our right and privilege to avoid contact with the altar of repentance, and stay closer to the back door of evacuation.

Not anymore.

If God wants His house full–and He does–since we don’t have enough people to fill it up, we’re going to begin to fill this church from the front to the back. That will give us a sense of being full because we’re all sitting close together, facing the front, unaware of the vacant seats behind us.

This is our first step.

This is our attempt to make this a Jesus Church instead of a church that’s suited to our picky, personal preferences.

So I thank you for being involved in this beautiful experiment. I thank you for your cooperation…”

All at once the pastor was interrupted by a middle-aged man on the third row.

“You do realize, three families left this morning, and there may be more who won’t come back next week?”

The pastor paused, and then spoke in a gentle, metered tone.

“I do. I also understand that the way we’re doing church is driving more people away than bringing them in. I believe those three families will return when they see that what’s happening here is meeting the needs of human beings.”

The questioner shook his head and sat down in disgust.

Meningsbee said a prayer and started to walk away, then stopped in his tracks, turned and spoke to the back of the room.

“Deacon Smitters, we will look forward to you joining us front and center next week. Good day to all of you and God bless.”

The Garsonville Church sat quietly for a moment, as if trying to wake up from a really bad dream.

Undoubtedly the week ahead was going to be filled with vigorous discussion and angry dissension.

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Jesonian: Horizontal … October 4th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesus with starsWhen disciples start thinking about Heaven, they soon lose interest in the Earth.

It’s the weakness of religion.

It is the erroneous, and perhaps devious, perception that pleasing God is the only thing necessary, even if we have to hurt people to do it.

It was Dr. Luke, in the 9th Chapter of his story about Jesus, who highlights this unfortunate practice.

In the process of just a few verses, the disciples make it clear to Jesus that they are no longer interested in humanity or any improvement in their own personal growth.

  • They want to chase their destiny.
  • They want to point out division.
  • And ultimately, they want to dominate.

Let’s be precise: Jesus was interested in horizontal relationships between human beings instead of a vertical connection with God.

He explained it this way: “By this they shall know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another.”

But this didn’t stop the disciples from coming to Jesus, wondering who was going to be the greatest.

They also were very upset about some individual they ran across who was doing miracles in Jesus’ name, but would not submit to the common curriculum.

And it culminated with wanting to rain fire down from heaven because a Samaritan village failed to recognize them.

But drawing from a deep well of patience, Jesus answers them. “Who is the greatest among you? It will be the one who receives a child in my name and the one who contends they are the least that truly shall be the greatest.”

What should you do with someone who believes the same way you do but won’t join your club?

“Those who are not against us are for us.”

And concerning fire from heaven, he told the disciples they did not understand what Spirit they were serving, because “the Son of Man came to save lives, not destroy them.”

The Gospel of Jesus is about horizontal relationships among Earthlings.

So even if we insist that some particular scripture is true and it is being broken by brothers and sisters around us, our only responsibility is to love them.

The disciples were baffled because the disciples were religious. They never totally understood Jesus. Why?

Jesus was not religious.

He came to show us how the Kingdom can work, how Father God and Mother Nature are in unity, and how we–the children of Earth–can get along together.

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Good News and Better News … September 14th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Gooe news Reedsburg

Many years ago, I sensed a voice within me, encouraging me to go out and share my heart and abilities with the world. Some people would say it was the voice of God, while others would probably insist that it was just me, declaring my own bidding.

I don’t care.

I heeded the call, and that decision has taken me on an exotic adventure.

Yesterday morning, I was in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. Since your travel plans probably don’t have you going there in the near future, let me tell you that it is a quaint, Midwestern town and that my experience was delightful and insightful.

I found people who still possessed an inspirational ilk.

They believe in the belief of believing.

They still contend that belief stimulates the joy of true believing.

Let me tell you a little bit about them:

1. They don’t want to give up.

Even though they’re fully aware of the dangers of our society, they insist that there are still many ways of escaping the insanity, while still recognizing reality.

2. They hope there is a God.

They are not so arrogant as to stomp around the room, insisting they have been to Mt. Heaven and had dinner with the Divine. Their expression of confidence lies in a hope that a Heavenly Father is still working with human beings.

3. They want to do something.

It’s not so much that our generation is lazy, as that we are paralyzed with fear and mocked by those who are convinced that nothing can be done. “Give me something to do” is probably the best five-word phrase that can fall off the lips of any human being. That doesn’t mean we don’t trust God or believe in His grace–it’s just our simple way of thanking Him for sending mercy our way.

So even though I found these Reedsburg folks to be delightful and insightful to my life, I was very pleased to bring them even better news.

I told them:

A. God wants to be human

God has no desire for us to become more religious, more heavenly or even more angelic. He came to Earth in the form of Jesus to make it clear that He loves human beings and wants to see if we can learn how to do this better.

B. God knows we are all made of heart.

We had several breakthroughs yesterday–they were all emotional realizations, not scriptural translations. We are creatures who add to our faith by feeling, lest we become boring and discouraged.

C. If you share your life, miracles will follow.

Certainly some of the best parts of the service yesterday were when people opened their mouths and their life poured out. God doesn’t want us to be perfect, God wants us to be honest.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stop-off in Reedsburg. I hope they did, too. And I hope they remember … no amount of prayer to the heavens is equal to a simple conversation and confession to one another.

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