Catchy (Sitting 17) Come and See … October 8th, 2017

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Matthew stared at his computer screen which had a heading of “International Federated Mercantile Institution”–a fancy name for “bank.” He had been peering at the same page for nearly a half an hour. Actually, the same number. It read, “Balance: $248,798,565.38.

It was hard to fathom. He had mixed feelings. There was joy over having that much capital to play with, but also a responsibility to turn it into somewhat of a completed vision for what Old Man Harts had desired.

What was originally 250 million had been eaten away by legal fees, surveys, transportation and just the transactions that happen when legal and business minds collide. It was still a hell of a lot of money. A hell of a lot of money for a heavenly purpose.

Matthew remained uncertain about why he had decided to take on the project. Even a week ago his inclinations had been negative. But something happened in Vegas that didn’t stay in Vegas.

He’d had an awakening. Not so much a religious eruption, but rather, a clarity of thought. When he met Jubal Carlos, who was working frantically to assist the homeless, Matthew asked himself what was he doing to make the world just a little less crazy?

He didn’t want to be overly analytical. He was certainly basically a good person. He tried not to purposely do harm to anyone and on occasion his generosity was worthy of note.

But was it possible to do more? Especially if you were granted hundreds of millions of dollars to try?

So after the awkwardness with Jo-Jay and Soos in the suite at the casino, he decided to meet with Tomlinson, and see if he could change the attorney’s mood into a positive direction instead of the grumpiness that had ensued.

He stopped off at headquarters and picked up Sister Rolinda and Prophet Morgan, realizing that the uptight attorney with the bow tie, Tomlinson, would have no counter for such creatures.

Sure enough, when Prophet began to preach salvation to Tomlinson and Sister Rolinda recited promises and possibilities for inner healing, the barrister couldn’t wait to transfer the money and get the crazies out of the room.

It seemed strange to Matthew that in a world of emotional agnosticism, Prophet Morgan and Sister Rolinda carried the day with their passion.

But what finally sealed the deal, causing Tomlinson to loose the purse strings, was the plan. Matthew was going to get Jubal Carlos to travel the country, playing the part of Jesus–in character, in appearance, in wisdom, in knowledge and in pungency.

Jubal already had the look. He had the intensity. And he certainly had the inclination to be a helper of mankind. Keeping him out of churches and just in public arenas–colleges and even rock festivals–would create the adequate controversy that could simulate the upheaval which occurred two thousand years before in Israel, when the real guy walked the earth.

It was a plan that needed tuning, clever applications, great press releases, You Tubes and even maybe a short movie. But once again people could come and see Jesus–even though it wasn’t the actual one, but another human being, carefully crafting an image that was sensitive and faithful to the original.

The slogan for the campaign would be “Come and See.”

Prophet Morgan was ecstatic.

Sister Rolinda thought it had potential, but she wanted to meet Jubal to see if he had the goods.

All systems seemed an outrageously wonderful “go.” There was only one problem:

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 37) Baby Talk… January 15th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Silos went high.

At least they did for Cam Collier, a gentleman in his late forties, born and bred in Quincy, Illinois.

Ten years earlier, he took a risk and purchased nearly all the silos in a four-state area, setting the price on storage and care of the farmers’ wheat and corn.

Everybody needs food. And the most important part of that process is knowing how to store and distribute it.

So Mr. Collier quickly became a millionaire.

Three months ago, he was floating down the muddy Mississippi on a riverboat, gambling away some of his hard-earned dollars, when his eye fell upon a young girl who was working bar-back on the cruise. It was a hot night. She was dressed in a little tank top with sweat pouring down her arms.

She was lonely, lookin’ for a daddy–and Cam was lookin’ for a whole lot more.

They struck up a friendship and in a whirlwind romance of nineteen days, were married and on a quest to find mystical bliss.

So today, in her glorious financial splendor, Kitty, our fortunate recently-married lass, returned to Garsonville to retrieve her little daughter. Anticipating a struggle to regain custody, she came loaded with well-purchased court orders and ten thousand dollars to sprinkle in donations throughout the community, to sweeten everybody’s will in her direction–although as often was the case with Kitty, she had no real comprehension of the situation.

Matrisse had not taken Hapsy into her home so that she could criticize Kitty, or replace her. Matrisse was like a great collector of art, who stumbled upon a precious piece, purchased it, took it home, cleaned it up and placed it on her wall, giving it the honor it deserved.

And Hapsy was deserving.

When the sweet girl had first come to Garsonville, she possessed a frenetic giddiness brought on by any introduction of gifts or sweets. But now she was just happy to sit in a corner with a box of crayons and draw pictures.

Meningsbee found himself cast into the role of the arbiter. Kitty was sure she would need him to convince Matrisse to give up rights to the child. Of course, Matrisse had no rights to the child, and knew it.

So that morning, when Meningsbee stepped out, saw Kitty and retired with her to his office for half an hour, listening to her story, he realized he had only one job: give Hapsy the best chance possible.

“Listen, Rick,” said Kitty, continuing her spiel. “You don’t mind me calling you Rick, do you?”

“Kitty, I don’t care what you call me. I just want you to understand I’m not a fool.”

“I didn’t say you were, Rick.”

Meningsbee pulled his chair closer to her and lowered his voice. “You see, right now you’re high. I don’t know what you’re on, but you’re in the clouds.”

Kitty smiled. “No, sir. I am not high. Crack whores get high. Homeless people–well, they might get high. I, on the other hand, am well-medicated. I have one doctor in Quincy, Illinois, who does nothing but provide me with needed–shall we say “pilling?”–for my various moods. It’s all legal. And it’s all stamped and approved by my local pharmacist.”

Meningsbee just stared at her. Kitty was the worst kind of dangerous. She thought everything was a game, but she didn’t know the rules.

He continued. “Call it what you wish, but I want to make sure that Hapsy has a future.”

“We got money, Rick. Matter of fact, I’ve been authorized by my husband to give your church a thousand dollar donation. Just think what you could do with a thousand dollars.”

“Just think what Hapsy could do with a mother who could walk a straight line…”

Meningsbee made sure there was no condemnation in his voice, but that his message was clear.

“You see, Rick, you’ve got no say here. When I met you in that motel, I was looking for a sugar daddy. I ain’t gonna lie to you. I quickly realized you had no money. But I thought if I followed my latest lead, it might eventually take me to a pot of gold. That was you. Now, you can’t argue with me. My little plan worked. So I’m here to collect what’s mine and blow this town once and for all.”

Meningsbee paused, took a deep breath and replied, “I haven’t talked to Matrisse about this. Honestly, Kitty, it seemed cruel to consider the fate of the little girl. But I don’t believe Matrisse is going to stand in your way. She knows you’re the mother.”

Kitty leaped to her feet, clapped her hands and said, “Well, good. Then let’s go get my sweetie.”

“Is he a good man?” asked Meningsbee.

“Who?” Kitty replied.

“Your husband. Cam, is it?”

“A good man?” She paused, musing. “Well, he’s never hurt me. He’s always willing to help me. And he doesn’t bother me too often. Honestly, Reverend, he’s in his late forties and working too hard and has heart palpitations. Need I say more?”

Meningsbee sat thinking. Kitty got impatient.

“Are we gonna go get my kid?” she finally demanded.

“Well, when we came in here to talk I wasn’t sure what you wanted, but…well, I kind of knew. So I asked Matrisse and Hapsy to stay in the vestibule just in case we needed them.”

Kitty grabbed her purse and said, “Let’s go.”

They went into the foyer, where Hapsy was perched, playing quietly with some blocks. Matrisse was sitting nearby with her purse in her lap and a small smile on her face.

As soon as Kitty came in the room, Matrisse spoke. “So good to see you, Kitty. You’re looking well. Hapsy is waiting for you.”

When the little girl heard her name she peered up from her toys, squinting her eyes as she gazed at Mama Kitty. Then, in an amazing transition of facial expressions, she went from bewildered to aware to a smile to looking over with sadness at Matrisse.

The little girl knew.

She had traveled with her Mama for years.

So she rose to her feet, walked four or five steps over to Matrisse and gave her a long hug and a kiss. She shook Meningsbee’s hand and stepped over to Kitty, saying, “Hi, Mama. Is it time to go?”

Meningsbee fought back tears. He realized that Hapsy was more aware of her mother’s wild ways than any little girl should be.

Meningsbee put his arm around Matrisse and they walked to the front door of the church, watching Kitty clumsily load Hapsy into a car seat in a huge SUV and then hop into the passenger side, close the door and zoom away.

Matrisse stared at the car as it left and said under her breath, “God bless you, Hapsy. I sent angels with you.”

 

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Ask Jonathots … November 24th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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How do you keep politics and religion from ruining a family gathering?

Life is truly about giving–but not merely in the sense of being generous. Rather, it’s about learning early and permanently when to give effort and when to give up.

Giving up can actually be one of the more noble steps of submission to overwhelming evidence. And giving effort is essential to achieve progress.

I bring this up in relationship to your question, because in order to have a good family gathering, you must know when to give effort and when to give up.

First of all, give up on changing people. You can’t, you won’t and you shouldn’t.

If Uncle Fred is a Republican, he will probably leave Thanksgiving evening equally as convinced. If Aunt Margaret is a Democrat, she will likewise ride her donkey out the door. And if any of your relatives claim to be atheists or insist that “all baptism must be by immersion or you’re not saved,” it is always a Godless pursuit to change those who are “all wet.”

So what can you do during a family gathering to be productive, but faithful to your own ideals? There is one simple, easy step:

Never speak in the abstract.

  • Don’t talk about doctrine.
  • Don’t talk about beliefs.
  • Don’t talk about Vladimir Putin.

Talk about your own life–your own goals, your own anecdotes–and in so doing, you gently confirm your beliefs.

In other words, if someone says “the homeless are a blight on the conscience of America,” wait until the conversation changes, and then double back and say, “I was waiting at a light at Wal-Mart, and a fellow was there with a sign, looking for money, so I rolled down my window with two dollars and I gave it to him, and he was so appreciative that it nearly made me cry.”

Then leave it alone.

When it comes to religion, humor is always your best vehicle:

“Well, I was driving down the road and I was nearly out of gas in a country setting and I wasn’t sure I would find a station. So I kept my eyes open, checked my GPS, but also–call me crazy–I said a little prayer. I’m not sure which one worked, or whether they worked together, but three minutes later I was at a gas station getting fueled up.”

Since you can’t change people, give up on that and instead, give effort into what you can change: your attitude toward people.

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Good News and Better News … April 18th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Antioch

Yesterday it was my joy to share my heart with dear souls in Antioch, Tennessee.

In the Book of Acts, it informs us that Antioch was the first city where the new believers in Jesus were referred to as “Christians.” It was meant to be a derogatory term, thrown at this new movement by the arrogant Greeks, who were trying to connote that the people who believed in the Nazarene were just a bunch of “little Jesuses.”

In other words, they had no mind of their own.

I didn’t talk about this to the people yesterday because I figured that over the years they have probably grown weary of the reference. But it did help me realize that the term “Christian” has become synonymous with going to church, or being religious, instead of being like Jesus.

Jesus frustrated religious people. After a while they got tired of being frustrated, so they decided to murder him.

Even though your average church-going people will admit that attendance is dwindling and that people seem to be “leaving the steeple,” they still insist that there’s basically nothing errant with what’s going on behind the stained glass windows.

Here is something I have learned:

If it’s not working, it’s probably not going to get better just because you keep doing it. And if it’s not working, the first step is to admit it’s broken, and then commit to getting it fixed.

The problem in the church is simple–it is a body of believers working under a false premise. The false premise is that we please God by gathering to worship Him.

Jesus made it clear that we please God by being the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

Can you see the difference?

So as I leave Antioch, having had a tremendous morning of fellowship with these dear friends, I can offer them a simple suggestion:

Do one thing.

Yes–just start pursuing one thing that’s different from what you’re doing now. And make sure it doesn’t resemble anything like the present menu offered in church.

Maybe you could adopt one family in the community every week, take $150 and buy them groceries and shoes for the kids. Put a committee in charge of this endeavor.

Then on Sunday morning you can share, having something for prayer time other than weddings, funerals, births and sicknesses.

How about challenging twenty people from your congregation to volunteer just one hour a week in area nursing homes, food banks or homeless shelters–and then have them testify of their encounters.

Maybe the pastor could do the same thing–or take a small part-time job to increase his or her humanity in the community. Play guitar? Start a cover band and play at the local bar on Saturday nights prior to the Sunday services.

Take something that is non-church but filled with Jesus and act it out in your community every week, and see if something doesn’t bloom.

It’s not complicated. I could probably sit here for another twenty minutes and pop off more ideas.

But the notions have to come from the congregation and be a source of excitement to them to make it work.

If we don’t develop a sense of mission about bringing the heart of Jesus to our community, we will gradually implode from over-reverence or bickering from the choir about which anthem should be used for the Introit.

Jesus was simple:

Find a way to be loving, and then go act it out.

So as I leave Antioch, filled with a spirit of joy from encountering these delightful “little Jesuses,” I tell you that your good news is that all you need is one thing to do that is not religious, and that will bring real people into your presence.

The better news is that you’re not responsible for the fruit.

Just the seed.

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G-Poppers … September 18th, 2015

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She came into the room angry and frustrated. G-Pop asked her what was troubling her so.

She explained that she was really pissed off about how the Syrian refugees were being treated by the Europeans. G-Pop sat quietly listening, allowing her to vent for a few minutes until she ran out of steam.

When a few seconds of stillness had settled into the room, he said, “Let’s say you had just finished your dinner and you were sitting down in your chair getting ready to watch some television. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. You rise to your feet, open your door and discover a stranger standing in front of you, obviously distressed. You ask what you can do to help him, and he explains that his home has just burned to the ground and he has no place to go and needs some assistance. The first thing that crosses your mind is that you’ve never met this person before. Is the story true? How would you be able to find out? So you cautiously invite him inside the door while you consider your options. Before you can gather all your thoughts, he explains that he just needs someplace to stay until he can get on his feet and find out what he really wants to accomplish. You ask him if he has family in the area who could assist and he explains in vivid detail that he is from far away and doesn’t know anybody. So while you’re trying to figure out what you want to do, he informs you that he also has a wife and two children.

So now there are four people involved. He goes on to share that as frightened and taken aback as he is, they are completely devastated. Then in passing he mentions that his wife is also pregnant.  You have to make a decision. Trying to be wise, you inquire if he has checked with the local shelters and food banks for possible emergency intervention. He looks at you with a blank stare, not aware of how to go about such a maneuver, and still wishing that you would do something to help. So you agree to invite the family in to sit down while you make some sort of plan to help out. As the wife and two children enter the door, the man goes on to say that his cousin had been staying with them and also has a wife and one child, and is equally as abandoned by the disaster.

“Now you have seven people to deal with. What started as a quiet evening in your home, watching television, has now become an invasion of needy people who seem to be growing in numbers every minute. What should you do?

She looked at G-Pop, wanting to object, even to suggest that the scenario was not the same, but then realized that they were identical.

G-Pop continued. “We are really foolish when we think other people should do what we would not do ourselves. Honestly, there’s not much that I can do about the people who have run away from Syria. Any money sent in that direction would be a drop in the bucket and would take months to reach its destination. So my only recourse is to go into my own community and find the refugees–people without homes, seemingly unwanted humans, rejected souls and struggling families–and before their world utterly falls apart, forcing them to my doorstep, I will seek them out and do what I can.”

G-Pop finished the story and she seemed to understand.

You see, Jesus was absolutely right: the poor will always be with us.

The only thing we can do is share from our bounty before they end up on our porch–and we feel compelled to turn them away.

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Jesonian: Jesus of Parkersburg … October 25, 2014

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Cara is hard at work, desperately trying to finish up an extra half-shift she has taken on to earn some extra money for her two children at home, who want to go on a field trip to Charleston with their class.

Things have been tough since her husband left early last year, without any explanation.

She’s working double shifts for single-digit dollars, trying to singlehandedly be a mother, provider, disciplinarian, and if there’s any time left over, companion to her fledglings.

She doesn’t need much.

Some encouragement would be nice.

Maybe just to not have people look down on her because her clothes are a bit bedraggled.

Maybe one night off, to laugh instead of budget.

She needs Jesus of Parkersburg.

She needs him not to be religious, but rather, helpful.

Maybe to just listen.

She needs him to tell her that she’s still only thirty-three years old, that her life isn’t over, and she’s not just a paycheck trying to fund her little tykes into an uncertain adulthood.

****

Matt has the afternoon off to go to Wal-mart to buy some incidentals–clothing and shoes–for his family. He tries to plan this trip to the Superstore once a month, taking a good bite out of his paycheck, hoping that they can make all the macaroni last as long as the cheese.

He doesn’t mind the hard work at the coal mines. He doesn’t care that often his safety may not be the primal concern of those who run the company. He has enough faith in God to get him in and out of the tunnels everyday without fear.

But it sure would be nice if Jesus of Parkersburg would lighten the load just a little bit. Not much.

Maybe give him a few extra dollars so he could buy some insulation for the house so that the winter months wouldn’t be so brutally cold and expensive.

Maybe Jesus could help him get a break on that medication that one of his young’uns needs, which the doctor insists will help with the repeated seizures.

Matt’s not a demanding sort, but he sure would appreciate a break.

*****

Calvin hangs out down next to the railroad tracks on the east side of town. He’s officially homeless, in the sense that he neither has an address nor a pillow on which to lay his head.

He begs next to the railroad tracks because when somebody does give him a quarter or a dollar, he jokingly runs across the tracks and says, “Thank you. Now, you just helped me get on the right side of the tracks.”

Ever since his wife was killed by a drunk driver, he has lost much of the will to pursue or succeed. It was just the two of them, and now that’s it just one of them, he feels no compulsion to over-produce.

But he sure could use Jesus of Parkersburg.

Maybe somebody could just come along and pop him a twenty-dollar bill so he could remember what the taste of a good hamburger is in his mouth.

Yes, that would be nice.

Maybe Jesus of Parkersburg could help him find a way to get back into life, and feel important to someone again, like he was to his loving mate.

For you see, Calvin’s not miserable. Just underused.

*****

And then there’s Tim–a young man who’s hanging out at the Dairy Barn, even though it’s set to soon close for the winter months.

He’s not sure where to go. A junior in high school, he’s not adept in sports, can’t sing in the choir, couldn’t afford a band instrument even if the school still had a band.

So he finds himself with a lot of time on his hands, with a bunch of mischief trying to tease and tempt him into some unnecessary choices.

Tim sure could use Jesus of Parkersburg.

Just someone to come along, put an arm around his shoulder and say, “Listen kid. Let’s go out, find what you can do really well, and then get you to doing it.”

He might rebel against such interference, but considering that Jesus is so compassionate and full of good cheer, he just might listen.

For after all, when the Dairy Barn closes, where is he going to go?

*****

You see, the problem is, there is no Jesus of Parkersburg.

There’s no Messiah walking around healing the sick and raising the dead.

For the next twenty-four hours, there’s me. Makes me feel sorry for the good folk of this town. They deserve so much better.

But since there is no Jesus of Parkersburg, I’m going to think, pray, laugh and try really hard, in my own clumsy way, to be Jesus… in Parkersburg.

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Populie: Poor, Poor People … September 3, 2014

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bread line

The most wealthy woman I have ever known once complained to me that she was having difficulty meeting her needs.

I realized at that point that poverty is not merely a state of finance, but more often than not, a state of mind.

So it is popular to believe that there are poor people.

The populie comes when we say poor, poor people. It stimulates the sensation of pity. Unfortunately, pity is a two-edged sword.

There is pity that manifests itself as, “I feel so sorry for those homeless and impoverished souls.”

And then there is pity that proclaims, “Look at those people. I’m sure glad I’m not like them.”

They share one thing in common: they turn fellow-human beings into victims.

And once we victimize people, it is very easy to marginalize them and make them less important, or even worse, non-human.

Even though we profess to be a socially aware populace, we still subject those who are less fortunate to live in communities where there are more drugs, more liquor stores and no groceries available without paying a high price and selecting unhealthy foods.

Religion loves “poor, poor people” because it gives them a constituency. It grants them a congregation which is so dependent on mercy that they have to come to church, pray and believe in God.

Politics loves the issue because it divides people between believing we can solve the poverty issue and insisting that poverty is caused by laziness. Go to the booth and cast your vote.

Entertainment–well, entertainment loves it any time that it can box people up into categories and postulate on the extremes of the situation, to develop a dramatic or comedic outcome.

“The poor you will have with you always.”

  • Poverty is not going away.
  • We’re not going to wipe it out in our lifetime.
  • There’s no vaccine against it, nor medication to cure it.

Every chance we get, we should do what we can for others without becoming obsessed with the need. Here’s what is necessary to relieve yourself of the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical presence of poverty:

1. Change your location.

If you were a farmer planting seed in a field that bore no crops, you would certainly hunt out new ground. I have seen people improve their prosperity simply by moving. We have a tendency to surround ourselves with people in a similar plight to our own. This breeds a lack of motivation. Make a new plan, Stan, and hit the road, Jack.

2. Refuse pity.

Every time someone tries to be kind to me by feeling sorry for me, I reject it. Sometimes they’re offended, but usually they are so relieved that they don’t have to continue to be my support system that we actually become better friends.

Pity is offering to put you into a cave. Refuse it. Have an idea. And keep your faith.

3. Work your best.

Don’t wait for someone to give you something to do. You will always end up with what they don’t want to do.

Find out what you’re good at and start doing it–even if it’s in a small way–so people can find you, encourage you and use you to perform the duty for them.

Stop experimenting on things you hope for and start perfecting what you know.

“Poor, poor people” is the populie. It’s a formula for keeping people poor.

The only truly spiritual way to treat poverty is to do what you can for folks while you encourage them to go out and do what they can for themselves.

 

 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

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Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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Click here to listen to Spirited music

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