Good News and Better News … January 8th, 2018


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3546)

Bethel United Methodist Church in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Although I’m not privy to your traveling plans, it does seem unlikely that you will ever make your way to darken the doors of this particular sanctuary. I did–just yesterday morning.

With a day that folks from Wisconsin would call “brisk” and those from South Carolina deemed “polar ice cap,” some very faithful locals gathered in the building to see what the weather and the road had brought to them via our humble efforts.

It started the day before, when Wally, Johnny and Collin arrived to help us set up, and all of my equipment, which had been sitting in the back of the van, tried to “fuzz out,” insisting it was Floridian. Overcoming those little missteps, we got all hooked up, and by Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit, resilient fellow that He is, arrived in a parka.

These are beautiful people. They are delightful human beings that the political parties take for granted, and the more snotty members of our society deem to be “simple.”

It’s a huge mistake. They are full of integrity; they have hearts which can be moved with the notion of a loving God, and after a considerable amount of time, they are even willing to embrace odd-looking strangers like Janet and myself.

As I sat and chatted with these adorable brothers and sisters, I was struck by a usable idea. All during my childhood and even in my adult years, I have been encouraged by society to “find my voice.”

Yes, “find your voice.”

But yesterday it struck me that this notion is the misconception that’s driving our problems into the ditch. People are trying very hard to find their own voice, and when all these individual voices speak together, what we have is” Tower of Babel II.”

Life is not about finding your voice–it’s about finding the voice.

The voice is humble, encouraging, respectful, open-minded, free of prejudice and also gentle and kind, with good cheer.

I suppose if you sat down all the people of Bethel United Methodist and had a political discussion, they might be at each other’s throats in three minutes.

That’s why we should never do that. We should take all things pertaining to government–“Caesar”–and let them stew in their own juices.

What we need to think about are the things that belong to God.

I’ve stopped trying to find my voice, and I’m looking for the voice. It is a voice that:

1. Encourages others.

2. Knows when to shut up.

3. Doesn’t repeat information unless there’s a personal experience.

4. Looks for a reason to be kind.

5. Quotes things that lift people up.

6. Refuses to accept complaining as natural.

7. Notices when things get better.

This morning I feel as joyous as a new baby colt. (They are joyous, aren’t they? I would think so.)

Because the good news is, I got to spend time with Wally, Johnny, Collin and the blessed souls of Bethel.

And the better news is, I got to practice once again finding The Voice instead of insisting on promoting mine.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 49) Troubling the Water … April 9th, 2017


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Reverend Meningsbee

Professor McIntosh.

Meningsbee always remembered him fondly.

He was one of those college professors who thought it was his job to come up with the most clever way to communicate ideas, gauging his success on how dazzled his students would become or how they would squint at him, perplexed, acting as if they didn’t understand.

He was a character.

One of his primary theories was that everything in the universe was based on physics and chemistry–even people–that even though we advance the idea that loving our neighbor as ourselves is a noble pursuit, that certain chemicals, reactions and even structures of different individuals actually inhibit them from making connection–even though they try. Sometimes they even get married, attempting to work out a relationship, only to discover that they suffer from a perpetual awkwardness whenever they’re together alone.

The reason for the walk down memory lane was that recently Meningsbee had come to the conclusion that his old professor just might have stumbled upon some wisdom. Because try as he might, there was one gentleman in the Garsonville congregation who just could not tolerate the pastor.

Matter of fact, Meningsbee found himself referring to this gent as “Mr. Jackson, from the bank,” because he had never heard his first name. He thought it was “Maynard,” but considering how unusual that seemed, he was hesitant to try it out loud.

So whenever Meningsbee entered the room, Jackson stayed for a few moments, but excused himself pretty quickly. At first he thought it was a coincidence, but then some of the other church members noticed it, and began to check their watches, timing when Jackson made his exodus.

Meningsbee thought about going to talk to Jackson, but reconsidered. Honesty only works when two people agree to the terms. Otherwise, the person who chooses not to share his heart can simply terminate the peace offering by saying, “Problem? What problem?”

But recently Meningsbee had become worried.

Mr. Jackson had begun spending a lot of time with young Carl. He offered to buy the young man a new suit. Whenever Carl was doing something in the church, like a special song or maybe a sermonette, Jackson would specifically invite the other members of his family.

Meningsbee was concerned about being too paranoid. How much was he reading into the circumstances? But it just seemed that Jackson was trying to create a rift between Carl and the senior pastor.

Meningsbee was not an idiot. He knew he could be imagining everything. Yet something was amiss. Carl was not quite as gentle and free-flowing when the two of them were together. He seemed to be making stubborn stands over things that really didn’t matter that much. Meningsbee was stymied. What should he do?

Then came the petition.

It was presented as a lark. Matter of fact, it was printed off on pink paper with yellow flowers. It stated:

“We, the undersigned, demand that Pas Carl get the chance to preach at least once a month on Sunday morning. We do this by the authority granted to us by nobody, in the spirit of true bumbling.”

Even as they presented it to Pastor Meningsbee, they did so with an overstated bow and a giggle.

He took the flamboyant petition into his office, sat down and stared at it. He knew one thing: solving problems was not about having all the answers, but instead, knowing when to use the answers.

Since it was Sunday morning and he had the petition in his hand, he decided to follow up on the frivolity of their offering with some silliness of his own. He reached into a trunk of toys he kept in his office for kids who needed a distraction for when they were waiting for their parents and he pulled out a red plastic fireman’s hat, which was obviously too small for his head. But he placed it on top and fastened it down to the side of his face with scotch tape.

He walked to the door of the sanctuary and then skipped down the aisle to the front of the church, and turned around with his fireman’s hat tipping precariously.

The look on the faces of the congregation: amused, confused, not certain how to react, even though some of them couldn’t help themselves and began to giggle. Borrowing from the energy of a Broadway play, in overstated tones, he began.

“When you come to the Garsonville Community Church, what are you hoping to see? An aging minister wearing a child’s fireman’s hat? Of course not. But look! It’s still provided.”

A big laugh.

“But what do you come here for? What is inspiring you today? I’m not talking about what inspired you when you were sixteen years old and you could barely wait for Halloween so you could go on the hayride and make out with your boyfriend or girlfriend. I’m talking about what inspires you in church today.

“You know what inspires me? You know what rings my bells? You know what keeps my firehat in place?”

He reached up and touched the side of his face. “Certainly not the scotch tape. What gets me moving–what gets me excited–what makes me want to race to work every day is the opportunity to work with that young man over there…”

He pointed to Carl.

“And try to do great things for all of you out there.”

He pointed to the congregation.

“What should I say about Carl? Pas Carl. I wish I had known half of what he knows when I was his age. I would now be twice the man. I wish I was half as good-looking. I wish I could say I rescued a boy out of a well. I wish I’d had my hands in dirt more, growing crops, or milked a cow or two. That is what you do to them, right?”

He leaned forward and the congregation laughed. “Because every time I get to work with him, I know we’re doing something great for you. But the amazing thing is that even though we’re enjoying this blessing, we sometimes forget that it never happens because of one thing. It’s when all things work together to the good.

“Would you say it with me? All things work together to the good.

The congregation repeated it.

“And when you start tearing that combination apart, trying to focus on what’s the better part, or the best part, it stops working together. Now, even though I couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t do without Carl–he’s a smart fellow. He’ll tell you he’s young. He’ll tell you that he couldn’t do without me.”

Carl hung his head.

“And even though there are people in this congregation that don’t love me–heck, maybe you don’t even like me–you still receive my love and the thrill of my soul to be your shepherd.

“I had a professor in college named McIntosh. He believed that everything in life is based on chemistry. What if he’s right? What if we take one Richard Meningsbee and mingle it with a Sarah, Matreese, Bob, Sally, Darla, Daniel, Mr. Jackson–Maynard, I presume?–and Carl, and stir it up. We know what we’ve got then, don’t we? We have this beautiful eruption called church.

“What if we remove one of the ingredients? Will it be the same? Will the chemical reaction be as intense? I, for one, think not.

“I was offered a petition, requesting that this young man, who I love, be able to preach one Sunday a month in this church. I tell you–no. You’re absolutely wrong. He should preach two Sundays a month in this church. Starting next week.

“And before I finish here, I need you to seriously take a moment and let me know, by raising your hands, how many people like my hat.”

Hands went into the air, applause rattled the room and everybody left church in joy.

Everybody except Mr. Maynard Jackson.

He never returned again.

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Good News and Better News… January 30th, 2017


 

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(3103)

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 36) A Rebuking Hour… January 8th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3180)

Reverend Meningsbee

About twenty-five miles outside Garsonville, Meningsbee pulled his vehicle onto the side of the road because the tears in his eyes had become so overwhelming that he couldn’t see to drive anymore.

He didn’t know why he was crying.

Certainly there was a lot of incrimination and anguish behind the tears–but something else was emptying his well of discontent. He didn’t know what it was and he didn’t want to think about it–he just wanted to get back to Garsonville.

Home.

Was it home?

Or was it really just a place he had inserted himself to make some theological point? It certainly seemed to have grown beyond that. He had a very tender heart for the people he served.

After a few minutes, some good old-fashioned thinking dried up the gushers in his eyes and he headed toward the parsonage.

He arrived there on Saturday evening, about nine o’clock. There was just enough time to put together some notes for the next day, crawl into bed and collapse from exhaustion.

The next morning, he purposely arrived a little later so he wouldn’t have to field a series of “narthex questions,” leading to stymied silences.

The congregation was already seated and singing “Sweet Hour of Prayer” as he made his way down the aisle to the front, turned and waited for them to finish the beautiful hymn.

He took a pause, not trying to be dramatic, but staring at the people, searching for words. He began.

“Jesus once preached a sermon that was so pungent, pointed, relevant and convicting that the Bible says everybody left. At least five thousand people.

Jesus was saddened. He turned to his disciples and said, ‘Are you going to go away, too?'”

All at once, Meningsbee was interrupted by a woman in her forties, standing to her feet.

“Reverend, my name is Sarah–Sarah Rothchild. I don’t go to this church. I don’t go to any church. But I came here today because this church found a way, through its message and love, to permeate through the doors and windows of my home and reach me–even without my attendance. We haven ‘t left you, sir. There aren’t five thousand disciples marching away, grumbling about your ministry. You keep leaving us. You keep running away. You came here to do something magnificent–different–personal–and dare I say, human. And then because some critics have come along to challenge you, you scurry away like a little spider to quietly spin your web of self-pity. We need you. But most of all, we need you not to run away. I don’t know if I’ll join this church, but I do know this town is better since you came here. And I decided to dress up and join you folks today so I could rebuke you. Isn’t that a Bible word? If it isn’t, it should be. I’m here to rebuke you for being a coward.”

One of the ushers stepped forward with the intention of leading Sarah out of the church. Meningsbee held up a hand, motioning for him sit back down. The pastor turned back to Sarah to listen. Sensing that she was finding disfavor, Sarah became defensive.

“I didn’t come to make trouble. I just believe that the only way you can prove what you say is to stick around after people disagree with you. I think it’s time for you to either pack your bags, leave Garsonville and admit this was just a game to you. Or else hang in here with us and see if we can’t make it through these problems–especially getting out of the condemnation from these horrible shows on TV.”

Sarah looked around the room for some sign of support. Everybody was afraid to move. So she reached down, grabbed her purse, turned around and was ready to dash out of the sanctuary.

Meningsbee stepped forward, stopping her.

“By the way, Sarah, that is officially called a rebuke. And you helped me discover what I was crying about last night as I drove into town. I am a coward. Not something you’re really able to say about yourself, until you hear somebody else accuse you of it. I’m scared. I’m not scared of being wrong. I’m scared of being right…and all alone. So if you’ll forgive me and give me another chance, I would like to try to do better. I would like to try…”

Meningsbee stopped.

He didn’t know what to say and had probably already said too much. He bowed his head.

One after another, the congregation members rose, walked up and gave Meningsbee their rendition of Christian greeting, love and hugs.

The last one to come to him was Sarah, his rebuker. She started to say she was sorry, but before she could speak, Meningsbee erupted with a revival of tears.

He fell on her shoulder and cried like a little boy who had just skinned his knee. She patted his back, weeping along with him. The Garsonville elect stood back and watched, like little children seeing a deer in the forest for the first time.

At length, everybody headed out of the church.

But as the first congregant opened the door, standing there was Kitty, Hapsy’s mom.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 27) Carpet Bombing … October 30th, 2016


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Reverend Meningsbee

You can’t have valleys without mountains. It’s the beauty of the landscape of life.

In the midst of the sludge of mundane activity and the alarm of tragedies, there are everyday decisions which either tickle the funny bone or leave us with a tiny ball of aggravation which tends to growl for weeks after the infestation.

Mike and Maggie had been wed for thirty-two years. They were married at the Garsonville Church. They had served on almost every committee, and faithfully performed the duties of nearly all positions. Although they loved each other dearly, they rarely agreed when it came to matters of what should be done with the sanctuary.

Ten years earlier, they had a huge conflict–long before Meningsbee arrived–about carpet.

Maggie was a traditionalist, a woman whose grandparents came to America from Ireland during the potato famine. She had fiery red hair, now streaked with gray, and possessed a Catholic passion with her Protestant faith.

Her husband, on the other hand, was a progressive–well, as progressive as you dare be in Garsonville, Nebraska. He nearly convinced a majority of the church board to sell the organ to put a down-payment on a project to build a gymnasium, so the local kids could come and play games on Saturday, with the intent that they might decide to stay over for Sunday services out of curiosity.

The measure lost by one vote. Maggie’s.

Even though the two loved each other faithfully, they rarely agreed on God’s will for Garsonville.

So when it was time to purchase carpet ten years earlier, Maggie insisted the only suitable color for the sanctuary was red. She had two reasons. Red carpet was a sign of welcoming and also a tribute to the blood of Jesus.

Mike strongly disagreed. He contended it was “just too red.” He led a group which desired cranberry carpet from Dalton, Georgia. Amazingly, this time, unlike the gymnasium, the “cranberries” won.

So the sanctuary was covered with cranberry carpet, much to the chagrin of Maggie and her crimson cohorts.

Now, recently…

There had been complaints that the cranberry carpet was looking dingy and needed to be cleaned, so it was agreed to find a contractor to remove all the pews so the carpet could be shampooed. It was quite a job.

Several local carpet cleaners bid on the job but it was the Garsonville Bubble-Uppers, a new firm in town, which underpriced the competition and was given the contract.

Arrangements were made to hold services elsewhere for two weeks so the cleaners could have full access to the church and be able to do a great job.

Everyone was elated. Maggie thought cleaning the carpet might make it more red, and Mike was convinced that such a cleansing would restore the original beauty of his cranberry vision.

But no one was prepared for what happened.

One of the young men working with the Bubble-Uppers thought it might be a good idea to add a little bleach to the concoction which was traditionally used by the company. He didn’t inform anyone of his decision–just poured it in.

So they scrubbed the carpets faithfully, only to discover when they returned the next day that the cranberry carpets had been transformed.

They were orange.

Bright orange.

The Bubble-Uppers were very apologetic, and refused to charge the church for their services, but a very shocked and bewildered congregation restored its pews on top of a carpet ablaze with bright fall-colored pumpkin.

Everyone was afraid to say too much about it–they knew there was no money in the budget to get new carpeting.

So for the first time ever, Mike and Maggie came to consolation.

Mike decided that orange was better than red and Maggie was convinced that it was closer to red than that horrible cranberry.

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 20) Twenty-One Steps … September 11th, 2016


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3061)

Reverend Meningsbee

Sunday morning in Nebraska was a living and breathing confirmation of the wisdom of the Creator God–to set aside a day of rest.

With nothing to do but prepare homemade waffles, walk the dog and dress for church, the citizens of Garsonville breathed a collective sigh of relaxation and relief. For just a little while, life became slower, and the craziness of the 21st century was mollified by simplicity.

That morning, Meningsbee barely got seven steps into the door of the church before Matrisse grabbed his arm and pulled him down to whisper in his ear.

“Kitty is gone.”

He pulled back so he could look into her eyes. She just sadly shook her head.

Realizing he couldn’t stop to converse any more, he made his way toward the sanctuary, where after a few feet he was nudged to the side by Bob Harborhouse, one of the original church members on the pastor’s selection committee. He was also one of the people who left over the fearful prospect of sitting closer to the front of the church. Meningsbee remembered that during his trial sermon, Bob introduced himself as a “groomsman carpenter,” explaining that by day he took care of a stable of horses and at night, he was in the first stages of starting his own furniture company–all original designs.

Bob said to Meningsbee, “I’m back with my family and about ten other people from the old church, but I do want you to know that Sammy Collins has begun his own congregation with about fifteen individuals who are meeting this morning at his house.”

Trying very hard to disguise his disappointment, Meningsbee nodded and headed into the sanctuary. Right before entering the holy of holies, he was once again stopped, this time by Theresa, the volunteer church secretary. She explained that someone had vandalized the women’s bathroom. It appeared that the scoundrel had poured two bags of marshmallows down the toilet.

Having no immediate clever come-back, Meningsbee nodded and told her he would make the announcement.

So as he inched his way up the middle aisle to the front of the church, looking at what was really a pretty good attendance, he wondered what conversation in his first twenty-one steps into the house of God could be addressed.

But before he could get started, Mark Layton, a former member of the church and also a history teacher at the local middle school, stood to his feet, firing a challenge.

“Reverend Meningsbee, I know you think you know what you’re doing, but before you came to our town, we were just a small country church with gentle ways and hopes for better lives for our families. Since you’ve been here, we’ve had division–and now there are three congregations meeting where once there was just a single body of believers. Do you really think that division is the work of God?”

There was some hissing and booing from the other members, who had come to church for a more enlightened experience, but Meningsbee quickly silenced the naysayers.

“Mark,” Meningsbee said, “When I was a young boy, my mother bought a brand new vacuum cleaner. It was quite a contraption. It had all sorts of shiny, silver metal pipes that came with it. They were extensions, so she could do various things to sweep up corners and such. I was only six years old, so I took one of those shiny metal pipes and quickly discovered that it was the perfect size for me to take a ping-pong ball, stick it inside and place my mouth over the end of the tube, and blow out really hard, and pretend I had a dart gun.”

The congregation laughed.

“It was great fun,” Meningsbee continued. “Then one day I picked up one of my ping-pong balls and it felt a little funny in my hand, like it was bigger. You know what I mean? But I tried to put it inside that metal tube anyway. It barely fit. But the worst part of it was, I couldn’t blow it out. Now, I probably should have told my mom or dad that I messed up one of the metal pipes on the new vacuum cleaner, but I was scared. Being a kid, I just hoped it would work out. It didn’t. And later, when my mother tried to sweep the floor, the machine didn’t work because of my little ping-pong ball mistake. They took it to the repair shop and received a gloomy report. Because the metal tube I had put my ping-pong ball in happened to be attached to the engine of the sweeper–and without that tube, well, the whole mechanism was basically useless. But the repair man was able to tell them that there was a ping-pong ball in there that he couldn’t get out unless he cut the tube in half. Well it didn’t take my parents too long to figure out where the ping-pong ball might have found its origins. They took me to the side and asked me why I didn’t tell them that I had made a mistake. I looked at them with tears in my eyes and said, ‘I just wanted everything to be all right, the way it was.’ You see, Mark, it wasn’t all right. It still looked like a vacuum cleaner but it didn’t work. Something was stuffed up inside, blocking the suction. When I arrived at this church, you had all the right equipment, seating, and even pretty good doughnut choices for the after-glow service.”

More giggles.

“But it wasn’t a church. Maybe it was a club. Maybe it was a way to escape and pretend we were better than the world around us. You can make up your mind on that. But the Book of Hebrews tells us that a church is a place where we come to strengthen one another. Not just praise or worship or gather to sing or say all the right words. So here’s my opinion: if we have to disrupt the eighty-eight souls who came to this church to try to reach the thirteen hundred who never have, then so be it. In my mind’s eye, it’s a small price to pay. So Mark, you are welcome to join us in worship this morning, or please–do not feel condemned or criticized if you would like to leave now that your question has been answered.”

There was a moment of silence. The people were absolutely still. At length, a softer, more tender Mark Layton piped up.

“I’m listening.”

Church continued.

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Good News and Better News … June 13th, 2016


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2971)

Good News Stephens City

You might find the picture I’ve selected for this morning’s essay to be a bit odd. After all, considering the possibilities of objects and people available to me at the Stephens City United Methodist Church, to focus on a plant sitting between two chairs might certainly be considered obtuse.

Yet as I arrived in the foyer yesterday morning, this vision leaped out at me. It prompted a notion: something is growing in the midst of the furniture.

Feeling very blessed to be invited to share with the church on Pastor Bob’s final Sunday, I came with an open heart and a yearning soul.

Hearing reports of treachery in Orlando and the pernicious inhumanity that continues to speckle the globe, I was in need of a baptism of hope with a refreshing splash of good cheer. For after all, the world will not be changed through contemplation, but instead, by each one of us concentrating on what is good, pure and worthy of praise.

So I salute the Stephens City United Methodist Church because it is a plant growing in the midst of all the religious decor.

1. They stood at the door and welcomed us in without exuding the “sneer of beholding the queer.”

2. They tried to find reasons to help us. They wanted to connect. It was so refreshing to see other human beings who were prepared to link.

3. They sat close to us in the sanctuary rather than perching themselves far away.

4. They clapped their hands when we played “I’ll Fly Away” instead of acting like a bunch of music critics on America’s Got Talent.

5. They believed in belief. Most people recite belief instead of holding the conviction that it still has power.

6. They honored Pastor Bob, who had served them for 730 days, and blessed him as he headed for the new assignment procured by the United Methodist Church.

7. They sang with the gusto of passion instead of being careful not to be heard.

8. They laughed without fear. They laughed without reservation. And they laughed like they were supposed to be laughing.

9. They cried because they cared. Maybe it was the thought of so many dead fellow-Americans who were attacked by a maniac that made their hearts a little more sensitive. I don’t know, but they were willing to be touched.

10. They gave because they understood, not because it was required.

11. And they are blessed because they are blessed.

Maybe I caught Stephens City on a good day. Yet the real pulse of our country is not in the devastation of a night club in Orlando. It is when we realize that life is short and each one of us is fragile, so we decide to express our feelings freely.

The good news is that Pastor Bob labored well.

But the better news is that there is something growing in the midst of the furniture.

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