Catchy (Sitting 29) Prayer Do Well … December 31st, 2017

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Matthew had finally gotten the hint.

After pursuing Michael Hinston for nearly three days, it had become completely obvious that “Mikey” was avoiding him. The latest evidence was that Matthew found Michael in the lobby of a hotel, and Michael feigned having an anxiety attack, pleading to go to the hospital and therefore refusing to speak to him. It was a scam. (Of course, it would be difficult to prove it, and certainly boorish to accuse.)

So Matthew decided to take two days off from trying to contact Hinston, and pursue a different approach. Via Michael’s Facebook page, he discovered that the Congressman was going to be meeting with some Boy Scouts from Ohio for a prayer breakfast on Saturday morning at some sort of local “Pancakes-R-US.”

Without any warning, Matthew descended upon the private affair. Upon walking through the door of the restaurant, put his arm around Michael and introduced himself to all the boys and men in uniform, as “the Congressman’s old friend from college.” As Matthew had anticipated, Michael was in no position to contradict him.

So Matthew sat through the entire breakfast, including the little speech offered by Hinston, waiting for the chance to corner him afterwards, with a series of questions which remained unanswered, festering in his soul.

As Michael stumbled through his little talk, which was half Biblical and half anecdotal, Matthew was astounded at how his dear friend had settled into a malaise of confused identity.

Matthew nearly chuckled aloud when Michael made some reference to Nehemiah. Nehemiah? How irrelevant was it to find the most irrelevant parts of an irrelevant book, to try to make an irrelevant point?

He stifled his giggle.

After an hour-and-a-half of too many carbs, too much sweet and a bounty of Bible, the meeting was over. Michael tried to excuse himself out the back door, but Matthew anticipated his selected exit and was waiting for him. As Michael exited the rear kitchen door, Matthew was standing there, waiting patiently.

“Not leaving, are you?” asked Matthew, stepping toward him and nabbing his arm. Michael lurched back in horror (the way cowards often do.)

“No,” said Michael. “I was just going to go look for you.”

Matthew smiled and decided to let the little lie wiggle away. He continued. “I just have three questions, Congressman–and knowing you’re a busy man, I will recite them to you all at once in their order of importance. First, what do you know about Jo-Jay’s condition, and why she ended up in the hospital?”

Michael attempted to reply but Matthew held up his hand to stop him. “No, no, no. I said three questions. Secondly, why are you avoiding me? And finally… Let me see. Yes. Where in the hell did you get that ugly tie?”

Michael squinted at Matthew and replied, “The tie was a gift from my children, and I would prefer you not let them know you think it’s ugly.” Michael actually smiled.

Matthew was relieved that underneath the crustiness of dried-up government red tape there might be a human being languishing in terror.

“Second answer,” Michael continued, “I wasn’t avoiding you. I was just busy. And finally, I don’t know anything about Jo-Jay. You remember, we weren’t exactly close. She was the one who came up with the awful nickname, Mikey.”

Matthew chuckled. “That’s just Jo-Jay. If she can’t get your love, she’s gonna get your goat.”

Michael bristled. “Always defending that pack of ne’er do wells, aren’t you?”

“Ne’er do wells,” Matthew repeated. “Are we going to continue the whole conversation in Olde English? Or betwixt will we return to the common man’s vernacular?”

Michael attempted to pull away from the hold Matthew had maintained on his arm. “I think I’ve answered your questions.”

Matthew laughed out loud. “To those people in there you may be Congressman Hinston, but to me, you’re the goddamn little twerp I used to send on beer runs. So don’t get uppity. I’m not in the mood for it. Jo-Jay is in a hospital, quarantined with an Amazonian virus, and all the clues point to you.”

“What clues?” demanded Michael.

“I guess I overstated my premise,” said Matthew. “Just one huge clue. She wrote your name on the mirror of the compact I found in her purse. She’s either really horny for you or she’s trying to let us know that you’re mixed up in her trouble.”

Michael frowned. “You are a foul spirit.”

“Back to the Olde English,” Matthew noted. “And thou art a fuckin’ liar.”

The moment froze in its heat. The two men might have gone to blows had it not been for a ten-year-old Boy Scout who came out asking for an autograph.

Michael stared at Matthew. “I should probably sign this young fellow’s menu, don’t you think?”

Matthew shook his head, released his hold on Michael’s arm and stood back, patiently waiting for the ceremony to finish. But instead of signing the boy’s paper, Michael put his arm around the little scout and walked back into the restaurant to join all the others who still remained.

Matthew felt angry, foiled, trapped and foolish. He walked back to his car. On the way, he noticed a black SUV, which he assumed belonged to the Congressman, since most of the cars in the parking lot had Ohio tags. Matthew leaned down to the back tire on the driver’s side, stuck a toothpick in the plug and released the air until it was flat. He rose to his feet, walked to his car, climbed in and headed off to the hospital.

It was a childish thing to do–letting the air out of the tire–but it brought him a strange sense of satisfaction.

As he drove to the hospital he received a text from Walter Reed Medical Center, pleading with him to come as quickly as possible. A chill went down his spine. Why would they send such a text? It had to be bad news.

Matthew felt one of those urges that occasionally overtake the human spirit–to just drive on, change his name and start over again. But he was needed.

So he parked at the hospital, jogged inside, went up to the quarantine level, and as he stepped out of the elevator, a doctor grabbed him by the coat sleeve, pulling him down the hallway.

“What’s going on?” asked Matthew.

“It’s too hard to explain,” replied the doctor.

They arrived outside Jo-Jay’s room, and through the door Matthew could see, much to his surprise, that standing next to her bed was Jubal Carlos. It seemed he had slipped past security, into her room, without anyone being aware. He stood there, holding her hand and talking to her.

Matthew turned to the doctor. “What’s happening?”

“Hold on,” said the doctor, pointing back into the room. “Look.”

Matthew turned, and as he did, he saw that Jo-Jay had shifted in her bed and was sitting up, talking to Jubal.

“Oh, my God.”

That’s all Matthew could say. The doctor just shook his head. “Honestly, there wasn’t anything we could do for her. This fellow came in the room, and the next thing we knew, she was sitting up, talking. Just like that.”

“Can I go in?” asked Matthew.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” replied the doctor.

Matthew didn’t wait. He opened the door, walked inside and Jo-Jay gave him a smile.

“What are you doing?” Matthew addressed his question to the entire room.

Jubal started laughing. “Well, I would like to tell you that I came in here and laid hands on her, prayed for her and she was healed. But the truth of the matter is, once I got in here I turned into an absolute chicken and stood about seven feet away, trying not to breathe the air. I was about ready to pass out from a lack of oxygen when this little princess woke up on her own, looked at me and said, “Where in the hell am I, and why in the hell are you here?”

Matthew looked back and forth between Jubal and Jo-Jay to see if they agreed on the story.

“Are you okay?” he said to the frail patient laying before him.

“No,” said Jo-Jay. “I was kidnapped, abused, and dumped in the Amazon Jungle. How have you been?”

“Better than that,” said Matthew.

Jubal interrupted. “Now, we’re not gonna do something weird and pretend that she was healed by me, right? I realize you’re promoters, and that’s the kind of thing you do.”

Matthew shook his head and Jo-Jay replied. “The last thing I remember was getting on a plane, and the next thing I knew, I was staring at you, and you looked scared.”

Jubal smiled. Matthew smiled. Jo-Jay was all business.

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 11)… September 9th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Most troubling.

I was a very naive, impressionable fifteen-year-old boy with a volatile battle between carnality and spirituality raging in my soul. I was very enamored with the pastor of my local church.

He had baptized me. In many ways, he had befriended me. And he had welcomed me into the small-town church, which was now growing because young people were bumping up against each other, carrying the fellowship they felt at school into a second Sunday morning experience.

I had also made another friend. He was a young minister from a different denomination–a forbidden one–who was cool, cared about me and loved rock and roll music.

So when I was talking to the pastor of my “every week church” about this young fellow, he suddenly frowned and warned, “Stay away from him. He preaches a social gospel.

I did not know what that meant, nor did I ask. But it sounded really bad. And the delivery was enough to nearly make my heart stop. “Social” could be “socialist,” which was communist. Don’t want any of that. So I cut off all ties with the young minister, much to his chagrin.

For you see, my pastor taught redemption. “The blood of Christ cleanses from all sins.”

And later on in my life, as a young man, I ran across those who preached “the full Gospel.” They believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles were just as available to believers today as they were in the time of Peter, Paul and Mother Mary.

The bizarre fact is that these three renditions of the Gospel of Jesus–social, redemption, and full–don’t generally get along very well.

It is troubling.

It’s what makes the evangelical church anemic–because it lacks social passion along with personal motivation.

It makes the “social Gospel people” appear to read from a book that in many ways they no longer believe in.

And often the “full Gospel people” contend that without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you don’t have the presence of God working in your life.

It’s really quite befuddling.

  • Because you can’t start a fire with just a match.
  • Nor can you ignite a flame with kindling.
  • And no fire is possible minus oxygen.

It is the joining of all these forces that makes fire ablaze.

Therefore, to follow Jesus, you must have a social consciousness that shares a redemptive message, believing that God is still in the business of healing and moving by the Spirit.

Why would we want anything less than that? Why would we want to focus on one of these factors of fire, yet end up flameless?

Troubling.

I deeply believe in the social Gospel of Jesus. I believe there’s no need for me to bring my gift to the altar if I am not reconciled with my brothers and sisters. I believe I am to be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

But I also believe that when I have obvious, evident weakness, it is the redemption of God’s grace, through the life-saving blood of Jesus, that pulls me through. But once I am redeemed, I am compelled, challenged and exhorted to trust that the same spirit that dwelt in Christ also dwells in me.

My gospel should be full.

And when it is full, redemptive and socially aware, I become of value to myself, mankind and the heavens.

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Good News and Better News… August 14th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3399)

 

For some ridiculous reason, I occasionally get embarrassed by being happy. I give in to the pressure to act adult, disgruntled, and get tempted to complain about my problems. This is not my nature–I normally have a bubble in my soul which releases a fresh batch of ooey-gooey jubilation.

Yet this seems to bother those who wonder if I have any sensibility about the pain in the world or the suffering in some country they are barely able to pronounce.

I have been called to “brighten the corner where I am.” I am not in Afghanistan. I am not even in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Yesterday I found myself in Haines City, Florida, at the Lamb of God Lutheran Church with Pastor Joe, sitting and sharing with some of God’s wonderful flock.

I was not sheepish. I shepherded these dear souls through a journey laced with the human essential of good cheer. Say what you will about church but it has one function and one alone: find other human beings on the journey and fellowship with them.

Therefore, the byproduct of every experience taking you into into the House of God should be good cheer. For in the world, you only have tribulation, so we need some place to go where we can be of good cheer. It must be the church.

We must stop thinking that the arrival of Cring & Clazzy was a “breath of fresh air,” but instead, understand that stale air is not acceptable.

We cannot go from sucking in oxygen to inhaling fumes. As a congregation, as people, as children of God, as sane humans, we must stand up and demand good cheer:

  • Good cheer in the singing
  • Good cheer in the liturgy (if you have it)
  • Good cheer in communion
  • Certainly good cheer in the sermon
  • Good cheer in the benediction

And even good cheer when you reach the vestibule and discover that your favorite donut has already been eaten by the kids, who were released too early from children’s church.

I talked to some of the most intelligent, caring people you’d ever want to find. I just wonder whether they have the gumption to demand that the church be what it was meant to be–a safe place where we encourage one another, even so much more as we see the world going crazy around us.

The good news is that the world is full of tribulation, and therefore offers no harbor.

The better news is, we can be of good cheer if we start demanding purpose instead of settling for anemic programming.

 

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