Reverend Meningsbee (Part 54) Angel Unaware… May 14th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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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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Chair Person… November 6, 2012

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Here’s how it works.

With the present condition of my lower limbs, I basically divide my life into two segments. For short efforts, jaunts or tiny toddles, I get up on my pins and hobble along, trying to maintain as much of a stride as humanly possible, to exercise those muscles and let those joints know that we haven’t settled next to a pool in Boca Raton. For longer distances, shopping excursions and moments when I am not sure where I’m heading, I opt for the wheelchair. It’s a pretty good system–especially when you consider that it’s the only one available.

So last night when Janet and I took the stage and I rolled up to the front to our set, I discovered there was a dear lady also in a wheel chair, sitting close to where I would dismount from mine, to assume the piano bench. So I rolled up next to her–similar to being in a gridlock on a San Francisco freeway–and we had a moment of delightful eye contact. Then I eased out of the chair and onto my musical perch. She was not more than four feet away from me.

She was a chair person.

It’s a title we normally grant to someone in charge of a meeting, so that is why it’s so applicable, because this dear soul was in charge. All through the presentation, she whispered her approval, appreciation, encouragement, joy and admiration. I think some of her friends and other members of the audience privately desired that she remain a little more quiet. (*Isn’t it interesting that “normal” people always want to stifle what they consider to be extreme outbursts of praise? It happened at the triumphal entry of Jesus and it occurs every day when we all become more concerned about being “civilized” than appreciative.)

There are seven steps involved in being successful at what I do. I honestly don’t think this would be much different in any occupation, but I could be wrong, as I often am just to confirm my status in the great race.

The first step is always overcoming disappointment. After all these years of travel and experience, conventional wisdom might say that I should be performing to packed houses. They rarely are. I normally receive a congregation that consists of the chosen few minus those who have previous plans or a great excuse for absence. It doesn’t bother me. It really doesn’t. Usually it is of more concern to the sponsor, who is horrified that his or her efforts rendered such a trickle. We have to be careful about disappointment–it often can be arrogance wearing a mask of piety.

The second step, for me, is being grateful for each and every face that has come out to beam in my presence. Many of them don’t smile at first because it is too heavy a commitment. I am patient.I can’t expect them to grin at me in approval simply based on my comely features.

Which leads me to the third step, which is finding a door. Yes, all of us human beings have a door–and it’s somewhere near our hearts. Trying to communicate to human beings on a spiritual level is comical. They are preconditioned to throw their religious attitudes your way and block any attempts at revision. Coming at them from a mental angle can be baffling, both to me and to them. I talk about human things in a human way to human beings seeking out human answers. It’s a great door.

And when I finally find that door, I get to my fourth step–I always try to enter with love. God does not give me permission to be a grouchy, fussy bigot to His children. If I can’t encourage, edify and exhort people, my best profile is to shut the hell up. I try to find a way to love everybody in the room. (It’s made so much easier when I have my fellow-chair-person not four feet away from me, leading the charge for acceptance and inclusion. She was precious.)

After I enter with love, the fifth step is to be patient and wait for those who are drawn to me and feel they might benefit by rubbing up against my spirit. There is nothing more intrusive than insisting that you’re right and deciding for other people that they need what you’ve got. They will find you. It’s why you must let some people leave your presence hurriedly–almost rudely–because there is absolutely nothing you can do for them right now.

And when these souls DO show up at my table, my sixth step is to listen. My dear God, they were courteous enough to open their ears for me for an hour–it won’t hurt me to give them sixty seconds or so. After the show, my dear lady who created her own front row of observance came to the table and we chatted for quite a while. Her life has not been easy. The wheel chair is just an outward sign of a life that has been crippled by difficulty. But she was hopeful. She was joyous. She had a great sense of humor. And she even boldly piped up at one point that she thought one of the best things in life was enjoying a Miller Highlife with a bologna sandwich. This might have embarrassed some overhearers, who thought it inappropriate to say such words in God’s house, but since Jesus turned water into wine, I think she was on safe turf. Yes, the sixth step is to listen.

Do I always like what I hear? Of course not. But God hasn’t made me a judge. It isn’t my job to decide who makes it into the camp and who ends up sleeping in the woods. I’ll leave that to the Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals. Don’t ever forget–if you think one group of people is smarter and better than another, you’re just a bigot. You may be a well-educated one, but it doesn’t mean you’re any prettier.

Finally, the seventh step in my journey on any given night is to leave humbly. For naked I came into this world and in a similar unclothed fashion I will depart. My strength is not in my talent or my spirituality, but rather, in my humanity.

I am a chair person.

Right now I am rolled in, to roll out what I have. Last night I met another chair person. She lives that way all the time and still loves being alive.

I can recommend this seven-step process. Shall we review?

  • Step One: overcome disappointment.
  • Step Two: Be grateful for what is set before you.
  • Step Three: Find a door.
  • Step Four: Enter with love.
  • Step Five: Wait for those who are drawn to you.
  • Step Six: Listen to them.
  • Step Seven: Leave humbly.

Much thanks to the folks in Brookville, Ohio. Much appreciation to my fellow chair person. She confirms that the seat of power is not in how we stand, but rather … in what we feel.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Not Really Evil … April 29, 2012

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In Los Angeles

When two dreams are separated and ignored, what lies between is a nightmare–a surrender to sleep, devoid of rest.

Such was my life for a season. About twenty years ago I stopped traveling. I ceased writing. I refrained from sharing. I removed creativity, suffocating my dreams. I settled into the San Francisco Bay area in a motel room with my wife and three children and attempted forced domestication. I worked the “dead man’s shift” at the front desk of the same motel to cover my expenses.

I was at that position late one night when he walked in the door. I had heard rumors from the maids and maintenance staff that he had checked into room 214 and was planning on staying a while, but it seemed so unlikely that I dismissed it as idle chatter. But all at once, in the night hours, he came strolling in, looking for a book of matches.

It was Evil Knievel. I didn’t know much about him. I mean, I had a cursory understanding of his fame and the bold endeavors he had undertaken by leaping over things with his motorcycle. So I was a bit starstruck and dumbfounded at the same time. I fumbled around, found him some matches and he stood there, staring at me, saying nothing. It was very intimidating.

I wanted to speak or maybe even ask a question, but each idea I formed in my mind was more stupid and comical than the previous, so I pretended to be working on some figures behind the desk–as he continued to stare. He only stayed for ten minutes. During that time he asked me three questions.

1. “Have you always been fat?” (That one was easy. I said “yes” and then began a sentence to explain, trailing off prior to verb usage.)

2. “Does the motel offer anything other than Danish for breakfast?” (Another easy answer. We didn’t. We wouldn’t. We can’t. And we shouldn’t. All the excuses I had been provided.)

3. And finally, he said, “What’s your name and what in the hell are you doing here?” (He tricked me with a two-part question. Through my flustered condition, I still was able to retain my name–Jonathan Richard Cring–but I was not sure what I was doing there, though I couldn’t confirm it was hell. But in a strange burst of boldness, I flipped it. “Let me ask you, Mr. Knievel. What in the hell are YOU doing here?”)

He gave a quick laugh which turned into a smoker’s cough, with a long clearing of the throat. “Damned good question, my man,” he said. He turned on his heel, walked out, disappeared around the corner and I never saw him again. About three weeks later he checked out of the motel and I followed his career enough to know that he had a couple of come-backs over the next few years before he took his final leap over the River Styx into eternity.

But in that brief visitation with this man, who had achieved such great fame and now was discussing breakfast choices, I realized that I had escaped down a hole simply because it appeared in front of me. I had decided that traveling around the country with my family, sharing a message of hope and love, was a bizarre thing for a father to do and that I was tired of being out of the box. I wanted to be normal. So I settled in and began to live in a motel, which in itself was extraordinarily abnormal. So here I was, trying to please an existing social system that was not of my heart or making, and even though I had forsaken all of my sense of calling and the energy which rattled my soul to excellence, I had still fallen short of the demands of my culture. What a fool. Just like Evil Knievel, I was hiding away because the hideaway was made available.

It was shortly after that visit that I packed my bags up and took my family back out on the road to reestablish our identity, such as it was. Because life does not consist of a marching army of conformed troops adorned in the same uniform. Life is a personalized journey through a wilderness, where survival is contingent on using what is available while maintaining the best attitude you possibly can.

Evil walked through my door that night–but he really wasn’t so bad. He wasn’t mean. Evil wasn’t out to get me. The main thing I will remember about Evil is that he was lonely. Loneliness is what we’re left with when we follow a voice that is not our own, which ends up not being God.

For after all, respectability is achieved when my needs are covered and you are happy over my choices. Contentment is when my needs are supplied … and I am happy with my choices.

  

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