Salient … May 7th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3666)

I’ve never been involved in politics. (I did have a passing interest in the candidate, Abraham Lincoln, but it turns out I was WAY too young to vote.)

I now stand back quietly and watch as the Republicans jab the Democrats, and they, the Democrats, wrestle with their more conservative opponents.

Honestly, it bores me.

Since I don’t believe political solutions bring about lasting change, it’s rather doubtful that I’d want to invest my limited lifespan into band aids for gaping wounds.

Yet today I must be honest and share a salient concept that has absolutely nothing to do with politics–although it may refer to those who are politically involved.

There seems to be some sort of bumbling campaign to make the American public accept more and more bizarre circumstances, and deem them “normal.”

For instance, a man who allegedly has a romantic tryst with a porn star actress during the time when his wife is preparing to give birth to their son, and once again, allegedly arranges for a financial payoff to this woman, using his lawyer to be the “bag man,” granting her finance so she will remain quiet about the circumstances.

These are the facts as evenly distributed as I can present them.

Now, here’s what I did today: I took that story and I considered what I would feel and think if it were alleged about five members of my community: my plumber, my banker, my minister, my son’s teacher and the local handyman.

What would I think if there were rumblings that my plumber had sexual intercourse with a porn actress and paid her off to secure her silence? Well, I suppose I would still keep him as my plumber as long as he didn’t come in the house and talk about the details or flaunt it in front of the community.

But if it were my banker, I would have to consider that anyone involved in a financial institution who would put together gag money might be a little suspect in other monetary matters. I might have to change banks.

My minister? Well, candidly, I do think there’s a difference between judging someone and condoning unsuitable behavior. No, I don’t have a problem with a minister saving the lost, but I am a little squeamish on him screwing the lost.

How about my son’s teacher? That’s a toughy. Can a person be a good teacher and still be accused of immorality and cover-up? Is it just an issue of whether the teacher shares with his class? Or is it tainted too much by the fact that the students become cognizant of the discrepancy?

And then there’s the handyman. That’s the guy who comes to your house to do the chores that you might be able to do yourself, but not without swearing at the heavens. Does he have to maintain a certain moral code and integrity for me to allow him to trim the hedges?

As you can see, it differs with the distinctions among jobs. Where trust, honesty and fiscal responsibility come into play, considering the allegations becomes more pertinent.

So of the five people I mentioned, in order for me to maintain peace of mind, I would probably have to find a new banker, a fresh minister and request that my son have a different teacher.

It’s not because I am judgmental or inflexible–it’s just that certain occupations require quality or they diminish in value.

What, if instead of plumber or banker, I insert President of the United States?

So here is your salient moment:

Don’t accept what is unacceptable simply because everybody around you decides to accept it, so what they do will be considered more acceptable.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … April 26th, 2017

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Shadow People

Tiptoe through the room

With a sense of gloomy doom

The message of the day

Has already slipped away

Leaving a darkened view

Instead of a holy renew

Peering for the sinister

Ignoring the need to minister

They wander to their wonder

To dwell upon the blunder

Energized by the pain

Pleased that all’s insane

They whisper to the hearer

Attacking those much dearer

Destroying a reputation

With distorted information

While insisting it is good

What God “would” and “should”

Piously shaking their head

Parsing the words that were said

Is there evil about?

Can we cast some doubt?

There is too much joy in this place

So it is balanced by their frowning face

The Shadow People always arrive

When revival threatens to come alive

And they dim the light of contentment

By pointing toward some resentment

We can never let them go

We just pray that they will grow

But evil thrives in their glance

Destroy your hope if they have the chance

The Shadow People will come again

To douse the fire and find the sin

They speak in tongues with no understanding

Critical of others and always demanding.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 44) Guilty By Association … March 5th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

It is a matter of common acceptance, if not perfectly proven, that a small town block is shorter than a city one. This may never have been confirmed, but certainly is taken for granted.

About a block-and-a-half from Meningsbee’s home was a brand-new coffeehouse called “The Garson-Fill.”

Even though Richard was not averse to making his own pot of brew, there was just someting fun about walking the short distance every morning to sit in a chair, lean back, drink his limit and order half a muffin.

Another attraction at The Garson-Fill was a lovely waitress named Carla. She was that mysterious age women often reach–where you can’t tell if they’re thirty-five or forty-five. She was beautiful in a rugged sort of way–the kind of well-traveled face that’s like a good map–easy to read.

She was also easy to talk to. After two or three visits, the preacher worked up the courage to do so. He found out that she had gotten married in her late teens, quickly had two children but had been divorced for seventeen years. Her offspring were both grown and on their own, and she had taken the job at The Garson-Fill because she had met the owner at a positive-thinking seminar. Carla seemed to like her work.

It was on visit five–or certainly by six–that Meningsbee realized he was attracted to her.

The idea of being drawn to another woman other than Doris was terrifying. It wasn’t so much that he felt unfaithful, but rather, paralyzed in awkwardness. He hadn’t flirted, dated or even considered mating with anyone else for decades.

But now here was Carla.

She seemed to like him, too–sometimes. It was rather odd. Some mornings he would come in and she would be bubbling and anxious to see him because she had a story to tell or a blessing to share. But when he had ventured to invite her to the church, she quickly changed the subject and started talking about her new duties of baking pastries.

He liked her. He knew deep in his heart that it would never go any further unless he let her know his sentiments, and set up something that didn’t involve playing the roles of customer and waitress.

It took about a month. One Wednesday morning, he cleaned up a little shinier, brushed his teeth a little harder, sprayed his cologne a little longer and headed off to have his usual morning repast–but this time, to finish with a tip and an invitation to dinner.

He was so excited. He was optimistic. He just knew she was going to say yes. There was a twinkle in her eye that let him know that in her private moments, she had considered the two of them together.

For the beauty of a woman is not in her ability to hide, but rather, in her great gift to reveal.

However, once he was at the cafe, some cowardice seeped in. So he took a long, long time chewing on his muffin, trying to work up the courage to ask Miss Carla for an evening of her company.

Finally, the little diner cleared out. She was busying herself cleaning off her last table when he called her to his side.

“Carla,” he said, “I know you know that I am a widower and that I’m the pastor of the church. I’ve really enjoyed our times together here…”

She suddenly interrupted him. “Oh, dear God, you’re not going to ask me out on a date, are you?”

Meningsbee’s left eye began to twitch uncontrollably. How should he respond?

Carla sat down in a chair near to him, patted his hand and said, “Listen. You’re fine and all. No, no. You’re probably better than fine. You just don’t understand.”

Meningsbee managed some speech. “What do you mean, I don’t understand? I don’t understand what?”

She quickly looked around the room to make sure nobody was listening. Assured that they were alone, she whispered, “I like you. I mean, I like you. But I can’t like you.”

Meningsbee must have looked very confused, because she inserted, “Oh, I don’t know how to explain it.”

She stood to her feet to walk away, and Meningsbee reached out and grabbed her apron, holding her in place. She pulled away as if struck by lightning.

A flash of fury came into her eyes. “Goddamnit, don’t you ever touch me!”

Meningsbee stood to comfort her and she pushed him back down. She pointed her finger in his face. “You have no right to touch someone! Do you understand that?”

He did, so he nodded.

She was obviously fighting back tears, and he realized he had unearthed some nasty piece of evil that bewitched her.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Don’t be sorry,” she replied. “I mean, don’t touch people unless they ask you to, but…Oh hell. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I just thought we could spend some time together,” said Meningsbee. “If that doesn’t work out, that’s fine.”

She sat back down and said, “But it might work out. And you see, it can’t. There’s a problem that exists between us that can’t be changed.”

“What is that?” said Meningsbee, making sure he maintained his distance.

“You’re a preacher, right?”

He nodded.

“You believe in God.”

He nodded again.

“Jesus?”

“Yeah,” Meningsbee said. “I guess it’s kind of a package deal.”

“You’re a Christian.”

“I am. Proudly.”

“Proudly.”

“Proudly,” she repeated louder. “You see, Reverend, that’s my problem. I’ll never be with a Christian. Because for four years, my husband proudly beat me every day … in Jesus’ name.”

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 41) There’s Always a Space … February 12th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

When Meningsbee’s wife, Doris, died, a minister friend counseled him to take some time and give himself the luxury of grieving.

So for six months, Richard permitted his heart, soul and mind to reminisce and dream delightful thoughts about his dear friend, Doris.

There seemed to be a healing. It got a little easier to consider her gone, though there was never any real “ease” in the notion.

After the six-month grieving period, Meningsbee decided to reenter his life of writing and pastoring, only to discover that the emotional stitching he had done on his internals busted loose, and he was flooded with a deluge of remorse.

He thought he was crazy. He even thought he heard Doris moving about the kitchen.

Sitting at breakfast, his mind wandered. He saw her perched in the chair across from him, with her feet tucked up under her butt, with her long, graceful fingers caressing a coffee cup–closing them around the handle, bringing it to her lips, sipping slowly and then giving a seductive little contented shiver. It was so beautiful.

Her peace of mind made him feel like a man.

Even one Sunday at church, during a communion service, his eyes filled with tears. The congregation thought he was moved by the experience with the Holy Meal, but actually it was the scent of the communion wine that brought a memory of a green lotion Doris once applied to her feet–to heal her corns. He giggled inside, remembering her smearing the fluid on her feet and quipping, “I was a girl. Now apparently I’m going to become a grandma with corny feet, and completely skip woman.”

Then, three weeks ago Matrisse’s sister from Chicago came to town, and a blind date of sorts was planned. She was an extraordinarily attractive woman–intelligent and the general manager of a corporation in the Windy City. But because she was just coming off a divorce, she ended up discussing her misgivings and in no time Meningsbee found himself counseling and consoling her instead of considering her. The movie was cancelled and she expressed her gratitude for his words of wisdom with a peck on the cheek.

Meningsbee realized there’s no such thing as “getting over” someone you loved.

There’s always a space–always something they did that was so unique that it couldn’t be duplicated by the actions of another.

Exactly three days before she passed away, Doris rose in the morning after they’d had a fussy tiff with each other the night before, bounced into the room, hugged his neck and said, “Reverend Richard Meningsbee, you are my favorite annoyance.”

How can you forget that?

Somewhere along the line, the preacher just decided to stop fighting the urges to love her.

People are not replaceable–we just learn to appreciate what other people have to offer.

There’s always a space–a space forever occupied with visions of Doris.

 

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Good News and Better News… January 30th, 2017

 

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good-news-lighthouse-point

I had the privilege of sharing in Lighthouse Point, Florida.

What a fabulous name. Opens the door for all sorts of clever interpretation–especially for a writer who might become overly exuberant.

But what struck me was that we were returning for our third occasion to be sponsored by Pastor Gabe, in yet another of her assigned churches.

She is a dynamic woman. Let me change that. She is an outstanding person–a breast cancer survivor, a minister, an individual with a delightful sense of humor, and also, as I found out yesterday, enjoys watching reruns of “West Wing.”

During a conversation with Gabe, she mentioned that this present church was about the same size as all of the other churches she had pastored.

Kind of small.

Although she did not express any sadness or misgiving about the size, I thought to myself, “We live in a country that thinks the bigger things are, the better they are.”

Although that might apply to hamburgers and ice cream cones, it certainly does not come to play in discussing a church.

For you see, a church is not an organization, a meeting hall, a service or a club. A church does not become more impressive because there are more butts in seats.

A church is a place where those who are seeking maturity can come together to strengthen one another.

Factually, I don’t know if you can do that with more than a hundred people at a time. You can jam fifteen thousand Christians into an auditorium, but it doesn’t mean that a single-mindedness of joy and faith will be produced.

Yes, the purpose of the church is to encourage people to “grow to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Jesus.”

Whenever you gather more than three or four hundred together, you’ve got to have a program with praise band singers and create some sort of atmosphere of worship, hoping that somewhere over the coffee and donuts provided in the fellowship hall, human conversation might somehow ensue. But that’s not who we are.

We need fullness.

In the human experience, fullness occurs when we allow ourselves to feel. So when I go into a church and people are reluctant to express emotion, I know they’ve convinced themselves that they’re in a worship service instead of a fellowship.

We also need to reach a certain measure.

What is that measure? A sense of survival. After all, we will never succeed if we can’t first survive. We learn to survive by hearing the testimony of others–like Gabe, who herself survived the horror of disease.

We realize we are not alone. For after all, there is nothing lonelier than being in a room with ten thousand people and knowing nobody.

And finally, church should grant us stature.

In other words, we know we can grow. Why? Because we just testified to people about our new discovery.

This is the atmosphere that was intended for the church of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • I can feel
  • I can survive
  • I can grow

And what Pastor Gabe, and all of us, need to celebrate is that the church is not noteworthy because of its sanctuary. It becomes the light of the world because it lights up its members.

The good news is that America is doing well because people like Pastor Gabe are on the job, with an attention to detail and a care for fellow-travelers.

The better news is that we in the church become a highly functioning organism when we motivate the souls around us to grow “to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Jesus.”

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 38) Gramps Creekside… January 22nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

The local mailman decided to enter the cabin when he heard the old tick hound, Queenie, howling.

He found Gramps Creekside dead in his bed.

Now, “Gramps” was not his given baptism name. His bank signature read “Benjamin Donnelly.” But everybody in town called him Gramps because he seemed to be more aged than anyone else they knew–and “Creekside” because many years before he built a small cabin by a creek about three miles outside of town.

Gramps had the legendary blending of cantankerous, kindly and wise. He always seemed to have a good word when it was needed and a little piece of sass when the world became too complacent.

It’s safe to say that everybody in the town, at least once a year, made a pilgrimage out to the little cabin to visit with the old man as he sat and mused over life, spitting tobacco in his ‘toon.

Meningsbee had made such a journey just three days earlier. Feeling the need to be around someone as old as the hills, with the possibility of receiving irreverent counsel, he headed out and sat in the old man’s only extra chair.

As always, Meningsbee tried to start out nice, but Gramps just didn’t like preachers.

His contention was that ministers didn’t have enough work to keep them busy, which caused them to get nosy about other people’s business. Gramps had only attended the church one time, on no particularly special Sunday, and walked out giving Meningsbee the sideways compliment, “You’re better than most.”

So when the news came to town that Gramps was dead, there was a shudder of grief and a reluctance to accept the reality. Deep in their hearts, people knew they would get over his departure, but the absence of his freewheeling style of observation would certainly deplete their world.

The pastor was asked to conduct the memorial service on Sunday afternoon. The church was filled with those who had been graced by the touch and the gruffness of the aging philosopher.

On Saturday, Meningsbee went out to the cabin and walked around, looking for hints as to what to say at the memorial service. There wasn’t much there. Apparently, the old man had savored tobacco and beef jerky.

Gramps had a Bible on his nightstand, what appeared to be a year’s supply of black coffee, three dozen fresh hen’s eggs in the ice box and many cans of Vienna sausages.

Meningsbee picked up the Bible, opened it, and a little slip of paper fell onto the floor. He retrieved it up and read the brief paragraph with a smile. He had found his subject for the service.

When Sunday afternoon rolled around and everyone had tearfully finished their tributes to Gramps Creekside, the Reverend stood to his feet and said:

“Searching through the limited belongings of Benjamin Donnelly, who we lovingly know as Gramps Creekside, I quickly realized that this was not a man who was laying up treasures on Earth.”

The audience laughed.

“Matter of fact, in the whole cabin I could not locate a second pair of shoes, though he granted himself the luxury of three pair of underwear.”

More laughter.

“What I did find was a Bible–a Good Book which had the strokings of many a finger-passing. In that Bible was a note, handwritten by Gramps himself. It read: ‘Am I starting? Am I done? Don’t rightly know. Guess I’ll go on.'”

Reverend Meningsbee paused for a second to allow the words to sink in, and then continued. “Just like you, at first I was perplexed by the meaning, but then it was so much like Gramps that it was like he was whispering in my ear. You see, here’s a man who wasn’t sure how much time he had or whether it was time to leave. But because he didn’t know, he thought the smartest way to live was to keep going full speed until something stopped him. When I read the words, they convicted my heart. I thought about all the things that have stopped me recently, just because they challenged my ego. I thought about all the matters I worry about, which don’t amount to more than dust on a country road. And I realized that Gramps sat out there, not totally convinced that anybody cared, but always prepared to receive a visitor and encourage a heart. We are too busy being busy to really be busy. That’s the truth of the matter. Let me tell ya’–we’ve taken the last few months and allowed the world around us to come in and dissect us like a bunch of frogs. They’ve looked at our insides and concluded that we’re pretty messed up. Well, so be it. Truth is, everybody sitting in this room could tell a nice story about Gramps–and a bad story about him. He wasn’t very bigoted but he was impatient with children. I once heard him tell a mother of a fussy child at the grocery store, ‘Why don’t you leave that little brat home so the rest of us can enjoy squeezin’ our favorite loaf of bread?’ She was offended. But I will tell you–she is in this room today. Because less than six months later, when her husband died, Gramps was out in her driveway, shoveling snow so she could get to work. You see, it’s not about being right. It’s sure not about being wrong. As Gramps said in his note, it’s about keepin’ the thing going until it’s over. He did not lay down for a nap on Thursday thinking he was going to die. Never crossed his mind. That’s the way it should be.”

The service concluded and the folks trailed off to the cemetery to lay the old man to rest. It was decided by the city council to leave the cabin as it was for a while, so people could go out to visit and reminisce.

For the next two months there was a sweet spirit of revival that swept across Garsonville. Not a “Holy Ghost shouting” kind, but a gentle reflection, where everybody asked themselves, “Am I starting? Am I done? Don’t rightly know. Guess I’ll go on.”

 

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G-Poppers … March 4th, 2016

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Jon close up

G-Pop got a message. His son was worried about the present political climate in our country.

G-Pop shares some of his concerns.

Yet, the whole situation reminds G-Pop of a teacher he had in high school–Coach Dunne.

The coach was young, charismatic, energetic and loved by all the students. So obviously, he had a great influence on the attitudes on campus.

Coach Dunne was also the guidance counselor–and all of the 118 people in G-Pop’s class made their way into Coach Dunne’s office to discuss with him their dreams and aspirations–even G-Pop.

He remembers it like it was yesterday. For you see, Coach Dunne had an approach:

He sized you up, and then he almost prophetically shared where he thought you should go with your talents, appearance, abilities and inclinations.

He had three favorite phrases:

1. You seem to be…

2. You look like…

3. You would be happy doing…

His words were cushioned with mostly praise, but also tarted with exhortation. He was convinced he knew your destiny.

So to G-Pop he said, “You seem to be a nice young man who’s interested in God. You look like you might want to pursue music, but I’m just not so sure you have the right stuff to make it.”

And then Coach Dunne concluded by saying, “You would be happy doing the work of a minister.”

G-Pop didn’t want to be a minister.

So he told Coach Dunne that he planned on pursuing music and creative arts. The guidance counselor shook his head, expressing great doubt.

Dunne thought he was doing a good thing by guiding students with his wisdom. G-Pop called it “Dunning.” It’s the belief that we can judge what’s right for other people based on their appearance, IQ and general demeanor.

This is directly reflected in the atmosphere of our political parties:

The Republicans contend it is their mission to bring all cultures and all ideologies under submission to the Constitution and Judeo-Christian principles.

The Democrats, on the other hand, believe that the poor, the indigent and the disenfranchised are being subjected by billionaires and a cruel society into an existence of poverty and degradation.

Both of these organizations are obsessed with the idea that human beings can be evaluated by the “Dunning” process. Both parties want to keep people in their culture, in their families, and bound to existing limitations.

It is utter foolishness.

And until we have leadership that tells the truth and does not try to force a reality on the populace based upon race, creed, gender or orientation, we will have a society that is splintered, separating the citizens by culture.

This should have been the message of Coach Dunne:

A. Be human.

In other words, find reasons to have commonality with everyone around you.

B. Do something of your own choice.

In other words, take a risk that what you think you can accomplish can actually be achieved.

C. Live with it.

Don’t get defensive if you fail. Don’t get prideful if you succeed.

Because the truth is, not one of us can live off our ancestors–and we sure as hell can’t control our children.

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