Reverend Meningsbee (Part 34) Old Men Will Dream Dreams… December 18th, 2016


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Reverend Meningsbee

“Preacher! Preacher!! PREACHER!”

The volume rose to such a point that it awakened Meningsbee with a start.

He laid on his bed, confused, trying to place himself in a context with time and location. He was still in his miniscule motel confines, but outside there was someone screaming for a preacher.

He decided to try to ignore it.

But the pleading continued, coming closer and closer.

Meningsbee eased to his feet and peeked out the window. There was an old codger with a gray, unkempt beard and long hair, and an army coat–probably circa Vietnam War–shouting for all he was worth.

“Preacher! Preacher!! PREACHER!”

Fearing that the desperate soul would be arrested for disturbing the peace, Meningsbee opened his door a crack and peered out. The screamer saw him and ran forward.

Meningsbee was afraid and slammed the door, peeking out the peephole. The fellow arrived breathlessly.

“What do you want?” asked Meningsbee through the door.

“Are you a preacher?” demanded the stranger.

Meningsbee paused. He wasn’t sure what to answer, so he opted for the truth. “Sometimes.”

“I need to talk to you. I’ve had a dream and I need someone to interpret it.”

“I don’t interpret dreams,” confessed Meningsbee.

“Then just listen to me,” the old man insisted. “Maybe we can figure it out together.”

Meningsbee peered out one more time through the hole in the door and decided the fellow looked weak enough that he could take him if necessary. He opened up and allowed the very confused gentleman to enter his room. The man found a seat on one of the tiny chairs and launched.

“Preacher, I had a dream and I need you to interpret it for me. It’s driving me crazy. I need an answer. I need to know.”

Meningsbee interrupted. “Well, I need to know how you know I’m a preacher.”

“Oh. That would be Jackie Bee down at the front desk. He said you signed in as ‘Reverend Something or Other.'”

Meningsbee nodded. “Just call me Richard.”

The old fellow reached out and shook his hand but objected, saying, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to call you Preacher. That keeps my mind right.”

Meningsbee shrugged. “What’s your name?”

“They call me Nico because I’m always trying to get enough money together to buy a nicotine patch so I’ll stop smoking.”

“Okay, Nico,” Meningsbee smiled. “What can I do for you?”

Nico leaned forward, folding his hands as if preparing for prayer. “Here it is, Preacher. This is my dream. You see, it’s Christmas morning and I’m sittin’ in front of this beautiful tree with sparkling lights. It’s so chilly in the room that I cozy up to the fire to stay warm, and there’s this one big box–a present–right in front of me. So I unwrap the present, and inside is another box, all wrapped up in the same paper, but a little smaller. Well, I open that one up and there’s another box, wrapped, smaller still. This goes on five, six, seven times. Finally I get down to this itsy-bitsy box. I reach out and I shake it to see if there’s anything inside, and sure enough–I can feel something move. I’m just about ready to get my prize when suddenly–my arms dissolve. That’s right–they just disappear. I have no way of opening up the final box. I know there’s something inside, but I can’t get to it. It’s driving me crazy. It’s like my brain is itching but I can’t scratch it. And then suddenly, there’s the sound of many people laughing. And then I woke up in a cold sweat.”

“Do you live here, Nico?” asked Meningsbee.

“I do, Preacher. I’m on disability. Have been for almost thirty years. Some folks think I’m a little crazy but I think there’s still some good left inside of me, because I wonder if I’m nuts, too.”

Meningsbee laughed in spite of himself.

Nico continued. “So what do you think it means, Preacher? Tell me about my dream. Tell me what God’s trying to say.”

Meningsbee liked Nico. Although still a little alarmed, he felt a shepherd’s heart toward the lost soul.

“Nico, I could tell you a thing or two, or speculate, but I really don’t know what it means. You see, even though I’m a preacher, I’m a little bit lost right now, and I’ve come here hoping I could get an interpretation for my own life.”

Nico squinted his eyes, listening carefully, and then nodded his head. “So what you’re saying, Preacher, is that we’re both screwed up.”

“I guess so.”

Nico stood to his feet. “Well, I didn’t mean to bother you, and I apologize for my screamin’ and hollerin.’ I hope you find your way back to your dream.”

Meningsbee shook his hand and said, “Nico, I hope you find that your dream shows you a way.”

As quickly as the visitor had arrived he was gone. Meningsbee shut the door.

Just a couple of moments passed and there was a knock. The preacher opened the door and there was Nico again.

“Listen… I have a request.”

Meningsbee jumped in. “You’d like some money, wouldn’t you?”

Nico smirked. “For breakfast. My check is not due until Tuesday. I’m on disability. Oh, I already said that, didn’t I?”

Meningsbee shook his head, chuckled and pulled out three one-dollar bills. “This I can interpret. Enjoy.”

He handed the money to the eager receiver. Nico gave him a quick hug and ran down the sidewalk.

Meningsbee stood staring at the departing figure and thought about the dream. How many packages had he opened up in his life, only to find them empty? Or were they just promises, leading to other gifts?

It was much too deep to think about.

Especially without coffee.

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G-Poppers … November 11th, 2016


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She was cursing the air like it was refusing to let her breathe–stomping, throwing things, shaking her fist–the personification of frustration.

As G-Pop returned from a grocery shopping trip, he slowly parked his van in a space next to a young woman who was in a hurry to go nowhere. She had obviously hit her wall and was determined to hit it again and again, to prove the depth of her anguish.

It was a little frightening.

It was like a scene you watch in a movie and take in stride, but when you feel the vehemence ricocheting through the air, it is much different.

So out of respect to her eruption–and a little afraid to step into the emotional lava surrounding her–G-Pop sat quietly in his car, giving her space.

At length she disappeared back into her motel room to procure more of her personal effects. G-Pop took that moment to go into his own room.

Then it occurred to him–a prompting. The real reason to have the Spirit speaking within. After all, there are always two choices:

  • You can shut the door to your room and pretend there’s no pain.
  • Or you can open the door and risk becoming part of the pain of another human being.

G-Pop asked Jan to go out and find out what was wrong–if there was anything the girl needed.

Jan was back in a brief moment, explaining that our friend had her money stolen and they were kicking her out of the motel because she didn’t have finance.

I suppose G-Pop could have spent five or ten minutes trying to figure out if she was lying, or he could have offered a prayer on her behalf. But the best feeling in the world is to know that you did something, even if the critics around you insist it means nothing.

G-Pop looked into his wallet. He had an abundance of one dollar bills left over from the week’s endeavors. He didn’t count them–just grabbed them and gave them to Jan to take out to the damsel in distress.

After a brief delay Jan reappeared, grinning ear to ear, saying that the young woman was moved to tears and they had hugged it out.

Did it make a difference?

Much more than whether G-Pop voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Much more than an aggravated post on Facebook.

Much more than a silent request during prayer time the following Sunday at church.

We are living in uncertain times so it is important to make sure what is certain:

  1. Love your neighbor.
  2. Take responsibility for your life
  3. Be of good cheer.

And G-Pop would note: when you see something that needs to be done, do the part that is within your means.

 

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Cracked 5 … November 1st, 2016


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Signs You Have Checked Into a Really Bad Motel

 

A. Roach spray offered with toiletries

 

B. In night stand, instead of Bible, is the Kama Sutra

 

C. Three blood-curdling screams coming from the ice machine

 

D. Your non-smoking room is hazy

 

E. It’s called “Hotel California.”

 

cracked-5-motel

 

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Good News and Better News … July 25th, 2016


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Good News Tunk countrysideLife is not about feverishly searching for the pearl of great price, but rather, developing a ravenous appetite for oysters–and every once in a while, in a blue ocean, getting a magnificent surprise.

As I sat in the hallway of my motel, getting ready to depart, I listened to the sounds of sweet humanity squirming from behind the doors of the rooms around me–a baby crying, televisions growling and grumbling, a young couple arguing, and even a very robust snorer.

This is reality. It is not an inconvenience to my wishes and dreams, but rather, the climate in which they are permitted to bloom.

This weekend I had two opportunities to be in front of that humanity and accept the portion of their hearts they afforded in my direction.

Good News Tunk bookSaturday morning at the Moscow United Methodist Church, I shared readings from my new book, PoHymn, in front of a sparkling handful of locals who overcame the apprehension of how boring it might be to just sit and listen.Good news Moscow

It was amazing. At that event I discovered that the pastor of my Sunday morning church in Tunkhannock was a former clergyman at this Moscow church. The Moscow folks had such wonderful things to say about him.

Then I was off to see the gang in “Tunk” for two services on Sunday morning. I will be candid with you–the different audiences across America have unique meters of reaction, but the temperature of their appreciation remains pretty much the same. In other words, some people clap their hands and others stare with interest.

Yet people are tired of being told that where they are, who they are and what they’re doing is ineffective and that they must become something else or they will suffer with incompleteness.

The beautiful thing about Jesus was that he met people in the street and started working with them at their own street level. He didn’t wait until they worked up the courage to come to synagogue or to a seminar he held in the hillsides of Galilee. He met them where they were and made it work.

It reminds me of one of the ladies who came to my table yesterday. She told me that the church just loved Pastor Jon. I explained to her that I had just appeared at his former church. She said she loved him because she heard that a local church in their town was holding some sort of bake sale, and even though it was not his congregation, he was over there with them, standing on the street corner, calling to people, inviting them to come and buy some sweets.

She was moved.

Now understand–she didn’t mention his sermons. She didn’t tell me about how well he uses his vestments or conducts the liturgy. She loved Pastor Jon because he was trying to find ways to agree.

If only we could become convinced about how much we actually agree instead of meticulously digging through the dead body of our theology to discover bones of contention.

Finding reasons to agree. You see, that’s the good news.

And the better news is that when you actually pursue this lifestyle, the human race finds you much more agreeable.

Good News Tunk Bulletin

 

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … April 30th, 2016


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Dear Man Dear Woman

 

Dear Woman: About three years ago, I banged up my knee and ended up being sent to a specialist in a big city about 150 miles away, so I had to spend the night in a motel.

 

Dear Man: I’m so sorry.

 

Dear Woman: Well, my story’s not about the injury–well, not exactly. Anyway, when I arrived at the motel, they only had rooms on the second floor, but said not to worry about it because they had an elevator. So I hobbled over to the elevator, spent the night, and the next morning, I was trying to figure out how I could get my suitcase downstairs. I headed off toward the elevator. Lo and behold, it was out of order. So I was on the second floor, seemingly with no way to get down. But I was stubborn. Let me tell you–I wasn’t innately stubborn because I’m a man–no I was taught that men must do everything for themselves. But when I got to the stairs, I realized that there was absolutely no way I could get down, pulling my suitcase awkwardly behind me. I was stymied. There was no one around. It was really odd because I felt this chilling sensation of fear that went all the way down into my bowels. I felt helpless. All at once, a young woman in her early twenties appeared at the bottom of the steps. She said, “Would you like me to carry that bag down for you?” My first inclination was to turn her down. The whole event happened so quickly, but I recall thinking to myself, why would I turn her down? Of course, it was because she was a girl. I’m a man, she’s a woman, so I should be helping her with her bag instead of her suggesting that I needed assistance. I delayed long enough that she piped up, “I’m really strong. And it looks like right now, you really aren’t.” I know it’s silly, but I wanted to bristle. I wanted to explain my history of immense physicality, that this was just a temporary setback. But instead, I surrendered. Surrendering is not a bad thing. Surrendering is when we realize that where we are is where we are–and it’s not going to change simply because we don’t want to be there. I told her I appreciated the help. She climbed up, picked up my bag and carried it downstairs as I stumbled my way, barely surviving the descent with the rest of my limbs intact. I thanked her. She said, “No. Thank you. Lots of guys would have turned me down and ended up hurting themselves, cursing the Earth because they were too stupid to take the help.” With this, she turned on her heel and left.

 

Dear Man: Pretty cool person.

 

Dear Woman: Yeah, I know. But when I hear people stomping around talking about “the woman card,” or “man’s responsibility,” I realize that all this production we put into the gender roles falls apart when any of us is weakened to the point that we need to be uplifted.

 

Dear Man: Sometimes I’m the strong one, and sometimes there are things I just can’t handle. I’m not stronger when I’m controlling, nor am I weaker when I exhaust my possibilities.

 

Dear Woman: There is an element to being a human which makes us tolerable. It’s when we escape the pride associated with our gender and we allow ourselves the interaction which truly makes us valuable to the human tribe.

 

Dear Man: So there is no woman card.

 

Dear Woman: And there is no man card. There’s just the next thing that’s going to happen, and whether we will be honest about how much we will need others.

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Confessing… May 16th, 2015


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II.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

832 miles.

It was the entire round trip from our home to a tiny village in Tennessee, which had opened a coffee-house and kindly invited our fledgling music group to come and share.

They promised to give us dinner and to pass the hat for whatever audience might make its way to the 500-square-foot enclosure.

We jumped at the chance.

We were tired of rehearsing, and considered ourselves quite prepared for public consumption. We scraped together the money to get gasoline, a bag full of snacks and we took off.

It was exhausting, exhilarating, haphazard, crazy, silly, inspiring and probably dangerous.

We didn’t care about the peril. I was just 20 years old and had not yet received my shipment of good sense.

The drive down wore us out and after we finished our little show, the 18 souls who had gathered to hear us collected an offering of $31.22. We thought we had discovered Solomon’s gold.

So when we hopped back in the car to head toward home–with no plan whatsoever on how to actually get there–the first 100 miles zoomed by, as we buzzed with tales of our escapade.

But then, as if struck by a “sleep angel,” we all grew suddenly weary and were in grave danger of running off the road. So we decided to do something none of us had ever done before.

We stopped and took out a motel.

The young lady from our troupe who purchased the accommodations came out and explained that she bought the room for just one person, because if she had included all four of us, there wouldn’t have been enough money.

I had the opportunity at that point to object–or at least feign a concern–but I didn’t.

I felt if we got by with it, it must have been “God’s will.”

So half an hour later, when we were lounging around, getting ready to doze off, there was a sharp knock at the door. It was the innkeeper.

Three of us leaped up and hid in the shower stall behind the curtain while our single, legal member answered the door.

The innkeeper pushed his way in, walked into the bathroom, pulled back the disguise and there we were. He was infuriated.

He demanded that we immediately leave, refunding a fair portion of our money, pushing us out the door and into our car–where we departed, cursing him for what we considered to be his evil spirit.

Somehow or another we made it home.

Candidly, it never occurred to any of us that we were wrong. And if there was a bit of guilty conscience, it was swept away by what we considered to be the owner’s volatile personality.

I thought about that incident today.

I wondered if there was any of that 20-year-old boy still left in me, who thought that “the ends justified the means.”

I do know this–whenever we look for an easier or cheaper way, we open the door to a cheater’s path.

Is there any of that in me?

Is there any part of the grown man I am who would trust my own deceptive tongue instead of risking doing it the right way?

motel we count heads

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 61 (October 3rd, 1970) Kentucky Reign… April 4, 2015


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(Transcript)

The generosity did not stop.

The dime’s worth of grace extended to us by the toll-keeper as we crossed the bridge into the little town was further enhanced when a lovely woman from the local church bought us four nights in a motel, so we could have privacy and a honeymoon.

My friend and his wife, who had just come to the local church, were ecstatic that we were joining them to reach this community with a message of hope and the heart of Jesus.

We no longer had any excuse for being alienated or persecuted. Even though a phone call had been made to our new friends, warning that we might be “trouble,” they chose to ignore the foretelling, and accept us as we were.

We both flourished under this new covenant of mercy.

I immediately went to the local school and told the students that we were going to start a coffee-house in town. There was some pretty good buzz.

I was even invited to come to the City Council to explain the venture to the grown-up types. I wouldn’t say they were excited, but they didn’t lodge any formal complaints.

But the most amazing thing that happened was that we located a deserted, small night club right outside the town. We went to the aged owner of the property, and he was so impressed with our proposal of starting a positive hangout for the teenagers that he said he would rent us the facility for a mere fifty dollars a month.

Everyone was thrilled.

We were so pumped that we went out immediately with three cans of paint that we found stuck in a garage, and commenced painting the walls of the night club.

We were in the midst of this activity when the door to the night club opened, and in walked a Kentucky Highway Patrolman. He asked us what we were doing, and I joyfully recited our mission, goals and hopes about having a coffee-house where the kids from the community could come and interact in a positive environment.

I thought he was receptive, but as he turned to leave, he paused and then pivoted on his shoes. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You are not welcome here. We don’t want this. And you need to leave town.”

I thought he was kidding, so I started joking with him. He leaned in closer to emphasize his point.

“The people of our community don’t want your sort coming here and sharing any new ideas.”

He scared me.

I think he realized he did–because he just finished his words, walked out the door, started his car and pulled away with the full confidence that his mission had been achieved.

I was so shaken by the experience that I started to cry.

I went back to the house where our friends had graciously allowed us to stay while beginning the work and told them about the incident. They were incensed–but also thrilled with an opportunity to make a stand and do something that would be truly significant.

I pretended to agree with them.

But in the middle of the night, my wife and I gathered our things, climbed into our car and drove away.

I ran.

We ran.

We didn’t have any place to go … except back to Ohio.

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