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

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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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Jesonian: The Kingdom of God Is … November 9, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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mustard seed tree

Gospel means “good news.”

The Kingdom of God is within me.

So the good news is that I am meant to be involved in the process of loving mankind … and being happy doing it.

With that in mind, consider that the good news needs my passion to be real.

The good news is a reflection of my heart.

The good news is made more powerful when I express joy.

The good news becomes real to others because they see me open my life to change.

So therefore the good news becomes what I love and also what I avoid.

Likewise, the good news is living because I am living.

And the gospel is Jesus in me–the hope of glory.

And me on Earth–the hope of peace.

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Tossing the hot potato…. June 27, 2012

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It got tossed my way yesterday morning. The hot potato, that is.

In actuality, I think I’ve only played the game “hot potato” once in my life. I was eleven years old and a family in our neighborhood befriended me, inviting me to go on a camping trip, because, I think, they thought I was a fat lonely kid and a trip to the woods might do me some good–and who knows? Maybe Mother Nature would choose to adopt me.

I remember hating every minute of it. It was hot, sticky and demanded a lot of physical activity. The day culminated in a campfire, where songs were sung and potatoes were wrapped in aluminum foil and thrown into the fire, to later be extracted and tossed around an encircled gathering of human beings in some sort of alleged exercise of fun, to escape burning your hands before you passed the potato on to another person for their potential searing.

Once again, I hated it. First, I had never played before, so I wasn’t very good. So when someone tossed me my first potato, it shocked me and scorched my hands, so I quickly flicked it off in another direction and it ended up striking the family’s four-year-old son in the head, causing him to weep profusely, greatly diminishing the levity of the moment.

I didn’t get it. Why would I want to toss around a hot potato instead of just letting it cool down, opening it up and reaching for the butter and sour cream?

But as I’ve aged, I have realized that life is just a gigantic game of “hot potato.”So back to my story from yesterday–I was pulling out of the parking lot of my motel into a busy thoroughfare, feeling that I had adequately procured a space for entrance. I accelerated, attempting to join beehive of morning activity. Suddenly I was greeted with the sound of a blaring horn, and upon looking in the rear view mirror, I saw a man in his late forties shaking his fist at me, gunning his engine and going around me as quickly as he possibly could, continuing to honk. Apparently I had displeased him. It was obvious that I had interrupted his proposed plan–to refuse to slow up until he got to his destination.

As often happens, we ended up side-by-side at the next traffic light. He rolled down his window and cursed at me, explaining that he was angry because I nearly got killed. (Actually, he was driving a Mazda and I was in a large black conversion van. My demise was unlikely.)

But as I looked at him, I realized that he had tossed me the hot potato. He had reached into the fiery coals of his anger and had thrown a sweltering spud my way. I didn’t respond. The light changed and we were off on our separate paths.

But it got me thinking. Since life IS like a game of “hot potato,” where you are thrown things without much explanation and can often find yourself in the middle of heated exchanges, it seems to be very intelligent to learn how to handle the burning questions. So there are only three things I could do after this encounter with my belligerent brother: (1) I could lower my expectations of him, assuming that his intelligence rested somewhere in his buttocks; (2) I could relive the situation in my mind, playing up my innocence until I could conclude that I was simply accosted by an escaping mental patient who crossed my path; or (3) I could realize that our human journey is a game of “hot potato” and this one was tossed my way–and I could take a moment to review how well I coped with cooling down the situation and passing it on without bopping a four-year-old in the noggin.

Yes, I do believe that one of the secrets to life is reflection. Those who perform this action actually prepare themselves for the next game of “hot potato,” becoming a bit more aware of how heated each situation can be, and therefore prepare themselves for the encounter. Those who think it’s “over-thinking”–to reflect on such trivial matters–normally end up being constantly surprised by the pace of daily activity and bewildered by the negative reaction of the world around them. They risk becoming jaded.

Here’s the truth: we cannot afford to be cynical about human beings in any way, shape or form. Allowing one droplet of sarcasm into our existence takes away our ability to both participate with our fellow-travelers and also to dominate. Because in the long run, the person who knows how to handle the hot potato the best always wins the game.

So even though you may feel it’s silly, I pulled over into a parking lot and sat for five minutes and relived my situation with Mr. Horatio Hornblower. I asked myself three questions:

1. Is it possible that I misjudged the distance and did cut this fellow off a little bit?

2. Did I communicate anger to him simply because he was angry with me?

3. Is there anything I would do differently in the future, since this hot potato will certainly be thrown my way again?

It was an amazing five minutes of reflection. First of all, upon revisiting the situation in my mind, I realized that I might not have been as careful pulling out of that parking lot as I thought I was. I could have missed something. Secondly, I had to admit that even though I didn’t bad-mouth my attacker, I did internally question his sanity and call him a name or two in my brain. And third, I realized that the first thing we do in the day is always suspect and therefore demands more of our attention instead of taking anything for granted.

My dear sweet friends, I know that the hot potato is coming my way very soon. I don’t want to pretend that it’s cold. I certainly don’t want to become offended because I’m ill-prepared to toss it in the right direction. And I don’t want to criticize the game simply because I don’t play it well.

In a few moments I will rejoin human traffic. My fussy fellow from yesterday will be on my mind. I no longer remember him as my enemy, but rather, like one would a really bad teacher from high school who still managed to get you through chemistry class. In other words, he could have done better, but because he was there, I did learn something.

The hot potato WILL be tossed your way. You can walk out of the experience with burned fingers, cursing the game, toss it off in a bizarre direction, inflictiung pain on others, or you can realize it’s coming and be prepared to bounce it in your hands, taking a moment to find where you want to place it.

It’s up to you. It’s up to me.

And even though I now understand the nature of the game much better,  hot potatoes are still favored by me when loaded with blue cheese dressing and bacon bits.

   

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