Things I Learned from R. B. (April 5th, 2020)


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Episode 10

We decided to settle into Shreveport, Louisiana, where I took a job as a professor at a Bible college, teaching drama and also Music Director at the adjoining church.

The college was very small—only twenty students—and the church maintained a faithful fifty. But it garnered me living quarters and a small weekly stipend.

I took the opportunity because I thought “college professor” would look good on my resume.  I also speculated that it would give me several months to think things over before the evangelical church, which financially supported the college, grew tired of me and my creative ways.

R. B. accompanied us, but only in body—somehow absent the heart and soul which had once plumped him up into being human. The misadventure in Minnesota had left him defeated, devoid of confidence. So upon arriving in Shreveport, he found a young couple who had an extra room, and he moved in.

Although he was only ten blocks away from us, we gradually lost contact.

He despised the director of the Bible college and came to church services very infrequently. I did not agree with him about the founder of Hope Bible College,  even though the man wore cowboy shirts, bolo ties, boots and stabled two horses on his property. He and I were not a natural match, but still maintained a strange respect based upon the fact that he yearned for my youthful intervention at his dream institute.

And I certainly loved having my rent paid and enough money to fund my addiction to lunch meat.

There was a small dormitory on site which housed six students. One was the onsite janitor, whom the college touted as “recovering from mental retardation.” He was not really challenged—just a young kid with the shit intimidated out of him. There was also a black student, fulfilling Hope’s MLK moment. And then there were four gentlemen who certainly, in the real world, would have been prescribed anti-depressants, but were instead being sustained by prayer-healing.

Now, I knew my stay would not be long, so I launched.

I wrote two original plays and staged them in a small auditorium where we built a stage and I wired in two banks of overhead colored lights. The proctor of our “college-ette” was thrilled beyond measure when we presented the first play, and not only was the auditorium filled to the brim, but the local newspaper arrived to review it.

Yet R. B. only showed up when I asked him to play organ in the church. He arrived attempting to play with a black gospel-jazz flair. Unfortunately, R. B. was not black, nor jazzy.

In a nutshell, he was frustrated and confused.

He took up smoking, started to socially drink (which the congregation found quite unsociable) and he was touchy. I guess “touchy” was an old-time word we used when a human being was always ready for a fight. For R. B, a grimace had replaced his grin.

My stay at this institute of higher learning turned out to be seven months. It was eventful, troubling, and even though the president of the college loved my talent, he hated the challenge and the competition.

Truth of the matter is, so did I. I was weary of having ideas that had to come under the bar of religious prejudice.

So I left Hope on agreeable terms. R. B. gladly left with me.

I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I was not madly in love with Shreveport, but even less inclined to pack up one more time and darken the road. My wife had a job; my kids had schools.

So I stayed—and so did R. B.

But it wasn’t a mutual friendship holding us together. Rather, it was the need to hold onto one another during a mutual disintegration.

Salient…August 20th, 2018

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There are matters that are too important to ignore or leave to chance. These are salient moments.

“I need to find out for myself.”

This is a rather typical adolescent statement–an attitude that often lingers into adulthood and can even be heard off the lips of the “graying crowd.”

There seems to be an abiding notion that unless we personally experience something, we remain ignorant.

Why do we feel the compulsion to walk so close to darkness?

Why is it necessary to step to the edge of the cliff just to confirm there’s a huge fall available?

Why do we regard those who remain pure of heart and body as simpy or silly?

What causes us to believe that those who have indulged in evil behavior are somehow more suited for offering counsel to the ones going through similar struggles?

Let’s look at some of them:

1. Alcohol, smoking and drugs

Is it really required, in the human race, to try all of these things in order to give an opinion on the variables? Don’t we have enough experience with alcohol to know that it is a killer of the body and the best drink available to promote wife-beating?

How many warnings do we need from the Surgeon General before we accept that smoking turns lungs into coal?

And are there really good drugs? Even the ones we use as medications are chemical poisons. This is why we call them anti-biotics. They kill life. The drugs don’t discriminate good cells from bad cells. The list of side-effects for the drugs promoted on commercials is usually twice as long as the benefits.

Is it wise to dabble–to get a dribble of knowledge? (Maybe we should ask Eve.)

2. Lying.

Once you lie, you’re a liar, which puts you with all the other liars, who can’t hang out with anybody else but the liar’s club. People who require trust can’t interact with you anymore. It’s the nature of the Earth.

3. Pornography.

Perhaps I’m ignorant on this issue, but do men and women actually become better lovers by watching pornography? Or does it twist the brain, causing us to believe that simple romantic encounters lack the pungency to produce orgasms? Can the pictures on the screen ever imitate the patience of nurturing a relationship–smelling and touching the genitalia of the one you love?

Why does the statement, “I don’t smoke, drink, watch pornography and I greatly attempt never to lie” classify someone as a goody-two-shoes, when none of us want to be around somebody with a hacking cough, who is vomiting from being drunk and zoned out on drugs, looking at pornographic web sites, as they lie to us and tell us they aren’t pursuing evil?

So here is your salient moment:

Stay away from the edge.

The reason they call it darkness is because there’s really nothing to see.

 

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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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Ask Jonathots … January 14th, 2016

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I’m fifteen years old and want to be an actress. I watched the Golden Globes and it looked like everyone was intoxicated. Some of my friends think that drinking is no big deal–after all, it’s not “doing drugs.” Their parents drink, after all. Their older brothers and sisters drink. Everyone drinks. What do you think about it?

I personally am not a big fan of camping.

Matter of fact, I only have one clear memory of going on such an excursion. What I do remember about the experience is that you do a lot of walking and while doing this peddling along, you are also carrying everything you need on your back, so that when you arrive at the campsite for the evening, you can open it up and have your “stuff” to make the journey tolerable.

You know what I discovered on the first night? Half of the things I brought were useless, making me tired carrying it around.

I found a nearby trash can and threw these items away, which someone had told me were necessary to have a woods event.

My second day was so much more pleasurable, and when I arrived for the evening’s rest, I had everything I needed–and if I didn’t, I was still happy that I had a lighter load.

  • Thus drinking.
  • Thus smoking.
  • Thus obesity.
  • Thus nervous energy.

Anything we decide to tuck into our lifestyle which we have to carry only makes the journey a bit more difficult, will slow our pace, and in the long run, when we arrive at our destination, will probably have to be abandoned in favor of more freedom.

I’ll tell you what I feel when I watch the Golden Globes and see people drinking. Since they are actors, directors and producers, I would like to follow the story line of their alcoholic curve. Are they really able to hold it to a couple of glasses of wine and an occasional beer, or does the liquor begin to control the dialogue, the circumstances, the party or even the friends?

I would say if you’re able to drink a glass of wine at a meal or have a beer with a bratwurst without feeling the need to carry alcohol into your life for inconvenient times, then you should be just fine. But to look at alcohol as a social statement, a way of relaxation, a means to unwind or a must so that you can garner the right people for your party, is to set yourself up for arriving at your goal toting a burden rather than a benefit.

How many people sitting at the Golden Globes have already been through rehab and countless attempts to stop drinking, or are short months away from a DUI which will place them in the public eye with a frown?

Alcohol is a substance. It warns us of its potency and danger by its flavor and after-effects. If you can incorporate that taste and responsibility in your life without losing control or feeling compelled to imbibe, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

But many have insisted they can, and crashed.

Yes, many have lost their way.

Keep this in mind.

Alcohol never helped anybody get to their dream. 

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G-Poppers…April 24, 2015

 

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G-Popper

A dear friend asked G-Pop if he would talk to her sixteen-year-old son who had recently been arrested for smoking marijuana with some of his friends.

G-Pop asked her, “What is it you would like to see happen here?”

She looked at him, perplexed, and replied, “I want him to stop being stupid.”

G-Pop agreed to have the conversation. The boy arrived and sat down reluctantly on the couch, as if he was perched on a pile of needles.

G-Pop began. “You probably don’t want to be here.”

The young man didn’t know how to answer, so he shrugged his shoulders.

G-Pop continued. “You probably think I’m going to preach at you.”

The teenager made very brief eye contact, then dipped his head. G-Pop began.

“Well, I don’t blame you for not wanting to be here and I can guarantee you, I’m not going to preach at you. I just want you to remember two words–in and of.

There is no doubt, my dear friend. You are in this world. It has beauty, it has humor, it has creativity. But it also has danger, foolishness and paths that take you away from your own good.

This is why you can’t just be in the world, or the world will eventually grab you by the ears and drag you where it wants you to go.

The world is filled with tribulation. What does that mean? It means that people are looking for the most complex way to do things, which they think will make them smart. Actually, the best way to live in this world is to find the simplest way to do things. So even though you have to be in this world, if you’re going to be intelligent, you can’t be of this world.

So how do you know? How do you know what opportunities are beautiful and creative, and what is just tribulation trying to complicate your life?

There’s an old saying, which in this case, isn’t just for old people… “

(At this point the young man actually snickered. A good sign. G-Pop bounced off the energy and punctuated.)

“The old saying is that we should desire to be healthy, wealthy and wise. If you look at the things you do in your life and they fit into one of those categories, they’re probably great.

Does it make me healthy?

Is it going to make me wealthy? For after all, we do need money to do things.

And will it truly make me wise? If it doesn’t, or you’re not sure, take a deep breath and walk away from it until you can think it through. But if it does, enjoy it.

There are many things that make us healthy, wealthy and wise that church people wouldn’t necessarily approve of.

I’ve always loved rock and roll, but when I was your age, I was told it was of the devil. It isn’t.

And when I was your age, marijuana was all the rage, and I was challenged by all my friends to smoke it. Well, I asked myself those questions. Will it make me healthy? Not really. Will it make me wealthy? Most of the dudes I saw smoking it couldn’t hold a job. Will it make me wise? Honestly, it seems like it makes you a little dull. So I passed.

But I did want to have a music career. Everybody told me that was unrealistic. So I asked the questions:

Is it healthy? Sure makes me feel alive.

Is it wealthy? Depends on whether I got good at it.

Does it make me wise? It awakens the creativity in my soul, so yes.

So I pursued it. I was right and they were wrong.

So like I said, I don’t want to preach at you. I just want to tell you that you were born to be in the world, but not of the world.

The world wants to screw around with you and complicate your life. Your job is to keep it simple.

Your mission is to be healthy, wealthy and wise.”

The young man’s eyes filled with tears, so G-Pop gave him a hug.

It’ll be some time before we know if the conversation did any good.

And it will be the young man’s decision … whether he wants to be trapped in the world, or free of the world.

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