Reverend Meningsbee (Part 57) Epilogue… June 4th, 2017

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(3327)

Reverend Meningsbee

It was at a rest area in the state of Oklahoma, on I-35, that the Rettner family stopped to enjoy some lunch before traveling on to their home in Dallas, after visiting Grandma in the great state of Missouri.

Grandma had made turkey sandwiches and was known for putting some butter on the top piece of bread and cranberry sauce on the bottom. They were always scrumptious.

So Bob Rettner and his wife, Jenine, along with their son, who they called Little Mike, had decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, to sit outside at a picnic table and talk about the beauty of their Christmas and munch the delicious delicacy prepared by Grandma.

But Little Mike was a bit fidgety. He brought a ball with him and was kicking it along when it bounced against a car and rolled out into the thoroughfare at the rest area.

The little boy didn’t even think twice. He started chasing the ball when suddenly a pick-up truck was bearing down on him. It was a tragedy in the making.

Suddenly, from nowhere, a man came running and snatched the boy up, lifting him out of harm’s way just in time. He set him back on the ground and they walked over together to retrieve the ball.

By this time, the parents, who had been watching in horror, unable to do anything but shout, ran up to thank the stranger.

The mother grabbed Little Mike and the father shook the gentleman’s hand. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say.”

“You already did,” said the stranger. “Thank you is quite enough.”

The mother interjected, “We’re just sitting down here eating some delicious turkey sandwiches left over from Grandma’s table…”

“Grandma’s table?” queried the stranger.

“Yes, the best you’ll ever eat,” said the father. “Would you join us?”

The stranger paused, looked over at the little boy, who smiled at him. “Yes. I would be honored,” he said.

They all walked over to the table and introductions were made.

“I’m Bob Rettner, this is my wife, Jenine, and this is our son. We call him Little Mike.”

The stranger gave the boy a hug and said, “Little Mike–ball chaser.”

They all shared a relieved laugh.

“And what is your name?” asked Bob.

“They call me Richard.”

“Are you returning from Christmas vacation?” inquired Jenine.

“Yes. Yes, I am. I’m returning, I’m going, I’m coming…I guess we all are, aren’t we?”

Bob handed him a sandwich. “Thank you again,” he said. “We’re a family that believes in prayer. Would you like to lead us in grace over these wonderful sandwiches?”

Richard thought for a moment. “Bob, I, too, believe in prayer. But you know what I’d like? I would like Little Mike to pray. Because… well, because I like to listen.”

 

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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

 

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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

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 55) One More Look… May 21st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3313)

Reverend Meningsbee

There should be a certain age when a man or woman reaches the maturity to know of a certainty not to climb up on a wooden ladder purchased by the church shortly after World War II.

Whatever that age is, Meningsbee was short of it.

For weeks, he had asked several of the church deacons to unclog his gutters at the parsonage. He was reluctant to make the request–everybody knows it’s a horrible job. Not only does it involve climbing, but sticking your hands in unimaginable slop.

But drainage was becoming a problem so he found a wooden ladder in the storage room at the church, donned a pair of gloves and climbed. He noticed that the last step creaked just a little bit, and even felt a slight wiggle, but decided it was just adjusting to his weight.

He was in the midst of reaching for a particularly drippy mess when all at once, the ladder gave way. It cracked, tipped and he went flying through the air, landing on the concrete sidewalk.

He was in trouble, unable to get to his feet.

Fortunately Pas Carl was within shouting distance, and immediately came, called an ambulance, and in no time at all Meningsbee was at the county hospital, receiving the news that he had broken both legs–a tibia in his right and a femur in his left.

It was so serious that it was necessary to put him in a body cast up to his waist.

Meningsbee asked the physician if there were other options. The doctor laughed and said, “Yeah. You could have chosen not to break your legs.”

Meningsbee did not think it was funny. He found himself needing the kindness of strangers. Well, maybe not strangers, but the people he normally served were being drafted to be servants to him.

The good news was, he would only be in the cast about eight weeks, and in about four weeks they could change it over to what they referred to as a “walking cast.” Even though he thought that sounded a little like an oxymoron, it did grant some possibility. But for four weeks, he was going to need assistance.

This was especially troublesome since he was in the midst of his faith crisis and did not need to add on a physical one.

His life became very simple in a complex way. Pas Carl and a couple of men came to pick him up every morning to go to the church office, and people came to see him instead of him going to see them.

They retrieved him, took him home and served him lunch, and he spent the afternoon napping. He had never napped before, but as it turned out, it was the best part of the experience. Matter of fact, he was pretty darned sure he was committed to napping for life.

In the evening, a family from the church simply brought over their dinner, and the whole family sat and ate with him. It was a nice system. Annoying as hell, but nice.

It was about two weeks into the recovery that he was rummaging through some files in his office, when he came across a DVD. All that was printed on the label was “First Look.” Normally he wouldn’t give it another thought, but he was particularly bored and aggravated at the ambiguity of the disc.

So he popped it into a nearby computer and sat back to see what it had to offer. To his surprise, it was the first Sunday he was at the church, which had been videoed by one of the members and got stuck in the drawer. He decided to watch.

He laughed when he saw himself come in the church. He looked so out of place–not just a duck out of water, but a duck completely out of “duckdom.”

The congregation seemed rigid and cold compared to the group that gathered now. It felt more like an inquisition than a fellowship.

He listened as he boldly addressed them about the dream of having a “Jesus Church.” Since the video was shot from a distance, he could clearly hear the murmurs from the crowd when he made points that were not pleasing to their traditional sensibility.

Even though he had arrived less than three years ago, in the video he seemed so young, so idealistic, so ill-prepared.

All at once he found himself crying. How could something be both the most amazing and the most disappointing experience of your life?

Amazing because all the things Jesus said would make humans powerful and viable ended up being true. Meningsbee realized that when he relied on Jesus he was very effective.

But it was also very disappointing, because he found himself disillusioned, broken in spirit, and now broken in body as well.

He watched the DVD all the way to the end, and was so glad he did–because at the conclusion the family who had shot the video turned the camera on the father of the family, and the wife–or the woman Meningsbee assumed to be his wife–asked the question, “So what did you think of the new preacher?”

The father stood for a minute, thinking, posing for the camera, and said, “Well, they say he wrote a book called ‘The Jesus Church.’ If you ask me, he’s got too much Jesus and not enough church.”

There was a laugh and the camera was turned off.

Meningsbee’s heart grew in his chest. Suddenly a joy that had been absent for weeks came back inside his soul and took its rightful place. Even though the father in the video didn’t deem himself a prophet, he was one.

The goal that Reverend Richard Meningsbee set for himself driving up to the church that day was to make sure that after he was done in Garsonville, the people would have seen Jesus instead of just a church.

Everything clicked into place. His timepiece with God was reset. Things were good.

Things were really good.

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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 53) Surprise Party … May 7th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

Constable Bill was able to convince Carla that she needed to stay with someone else for a couple of days while the investigation was going on, and also to make sure she was safe and sound from her notorious ex-husband.

Pastor Meningsbee suggested she stay with Mary and Martha, the two sisters from the church, who would love the companionship. They had an old Cape Cod home with three extra bedrooms, so there was plenty of room.

So Tuesday and Wednesday night, Carla tucked herself away in the loving hospitality of the congenial–and talkative–sisters.

On Thursday morning, Meningsbee stopped over, telling Carla that the police thought it was safe for her to go back home, and try to return to her schedule. Meningsbee decided to accompany her, as did Mary.

When they arrived at the stairs leading up to Carla’s apartment, they were surprised to discover Bill was already there. He had been driving by, and thought he would check and see what the status was on the property, and peering to the top, discovered that the door was open.

He had gotten into his squad car, circled the neighborhood, and lo and behold, came upon the faded red-rusted pickup truck that had been sitting out in front of the diner just two days earlier. Opening it up, he found a bloody seat, maps, Gus’s driver’s license and an empty box of bullets.

So he hurried back to the apartment to secure it before allowing Carla to settle in.

Seeing that the group had arrived, he told them to stand back, pulled out his gun and headed up the stairs. He was about halfway along when Carla broke rank, ran up the stairs, pushed past him, opened the screen door, kicked the inside door with her foot and bolted in.

Everyone was screaming at her to stop. The constable recovered first and scurried up behind her, followed by Meningsbee and Mary. Each one reached the top and peered in like little birds peeking over the top of the nest.

Carla was standing completely still, staring down at the body of Gus, who was perched in a chair, apparently having bled to death from his wound.

Bill walked over, checked for a pulse and shook his head. Carla asked him, “Is he dead?”

“Dead as they get,” he said.

She stepped up, reached into Gus’s pocket, pulled out the gun and aimed it at him. She shot once, twice, three times.

Meningsbee shouted at Bill, “Aren’t you gonna stop her?”

He shook his head. “No. He’s already dead. It’s not against the law to kill a dead man. She’s got a lot of pain to work through, and if I’m countin’ right, she’s only got three more shots.”

Carla stopped at four and handed the gun over to the officer. She fell to the ground in a heap as Mary came over to hold her.

Meningsbee said to the constable, “What do you think happened?”

Bill replied, “Well, I’m no professional with autopsies, but I’d say he died.”

Meningsbee sighed. “I know that. I mean, why here?”

“Well, my guess is, if you look at where he’s sittin’, he’s got a direct shot at the front door. I don’t think he planned on giving her another chance to stab him.”

“Damn,” said Meningsbee.

Bill laughed. “That’s kind of funny. My mother used to have an old saying she’d pop off with when she ran across something unusual. She’d say, ‘That’s like hearing a preacher cuss.’ And here we are. And I just did.”

No family could be found for Gus, whose real name was Gerald Blevins. Suggestions were made to send him to a pauper’s grave in the big city, but Meningsbee felt it would be good to have the funeral right there in town, at the church, so that a very damaged and distraught Carla could be surrounded by loved ones.

On Saturday morning at 10:00 A. M., a funeral was held for Gerald Blevins, who no one had known one week earlier. Since there was no family, there was no eulogy, and since there was no eulogy, there was no need to “praise Caesar.”

Meningsbee felt he had one purpose–to let Carla know that the 128 souls who showed up for the funeral were there for her, not a murderous stranger.

He took his place in the pulpit rather than his usual position on the floor to add more gravitas to the situation. He began.

“I knew Gerald Blevins for about twenty-three minutes. I can’t tell you much about him. He claimed to be a Christian, although we know he did many un-Christ-like things. Of course, we all do.

“Now, I’m not saying this to compare each and every one of you to this dangerous fellow. I’m just saying that none of us know the height breadth and depth of our loving and merciful God. For if we found out there was some limitation, all of us might need to shiver in our boots because we exceeded His grace.

“But this gathering is not about Gerald. Gerald will have to make peace with God and settle his own score. This is about Carla. This is about a woman who has struggled all her life. She’s worked harder than any lady should have to, and raised two wonderful children, only to be invaded–yes, that’s the word–invaded by this foul presence.

“Gus said he wanted money. I suppose he did. I have no idea what he was going to use it for. He never told me. I offered to give him a couple thousand dollars of my own money that I have squirreled away from my book royalties. I actually told him I won it in Las Vegas. First, I would never go to Las Vegas. Second, I would never win.”

A nervous chuckle.

“But in that moment of his life, money was more important than his soul, his future, and the feelings of another human being.

“Carla, all of us gathered here today want you to remember, this is your home. There’s no other town in America that’s going to love you any more than we do. And we want you to stay. We want you to try to find happiness. We want you to continue to be part of us. And we want to watch as the love of God settles into your heart and creates healing.

“Would some of you folks come up here and give Carla a hug?”

Carla embraced everyone who came her way in a dutiful manner. She thanked Richard for his kind words. She checked with the constable to make sure no expenses had been incurred by the county for the burial.

Then she went up to her apartment, packed her bags, got in her car and left without saying another word.

Meningsbee was heartbroken. But he understood.

When you live in a small town, once a major tragedy happens in your life, you’re almost always remembered as “that lady who had the crazy husband, who died in her living room.”

Sometimes it’s hard to heal when other people keep probing for a sign of an open wound. Somewhere out there in America, nobody knew anything–and that was the next place Carla needed to call home.

Meningsbee prayed for her. Meningsbee thought about her.

And being a man, Meningsbee always wondered what could have been.

 

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

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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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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