Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 28) He That Has An Ear … November 6th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

Little Hector McDougal was just fifteen days old when his mama and papa, Jessie and Marty, brought him to the Garsonville Church for an official baptism. The parents were so grateful for little Hector that they could not wait to see him sanctified in all the right spots.

Yet there was some sadness mingled in with their joy. Although Hector was born with all of his digits in place, immediately after his arrival he developed a severe bacterial infection in both of his ears, which left him deaf. No one was sure if it would be permanent, but the hospital certainly wasn’t prepared to offer much hope.

So even though Jessie and Marty had a baby, they had resigned themselves to the fact that he would never be able to hear the praises they so wished to heap upon his ears.

Now, Reverend Meningsbee was not very experienced at baptisms, so he had reviewed the liturgy and pageantry feverishly. He even bought himself a bright-colored tie with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on it, having read somewhere that children were nearly hypnotized by the bright colors.

So you can imagine how surprised the pastor was when he dipped his fingers in the water, placed it on the baby’s head, and the child began to scream and holler like a wounded animal. Everybody immediately turned and stared at the preacher, wondering if he had somehow pinched, shocked, poked, stabbed or wounded the hapless repenter.

Meningsbee just stepped back in horror.

The baby continued to scream with hellish decibels–so much so that Mama felt it necessary to hurriedly leave the sanctuary to tend to her little one. Daddy trailed behind, holding a blanket in one hand and a pacifier in the other.

This left Meningsbee standing there in his Looney Tunes tie, sheepishly looking at the congregation, feeling like he had hexed the young fella.

The screaming continued.

Attempting to be clever, Meningsbee suggested that the gathered sing “Brahms’ Lullaby,” only to realize that nobody knew the words. A nervous, tenuous, but meaningful humming ensued. It did not calm the raging storm which had burst across the brow of Hector McDougal.

As a precaution, a decision was made to rush the little one to the hospital to see if the medical field could somehow remove the screaming curse.

Needless to say, the morning’s worship service was shortened–and considerably less appreciated by the folks who had hoped that their minister would be much more successful on his christening journey.

Stranger still, four hours later the phone rang at Meningsbee’s house and Jessie McDougal, with motherly tears, explained that the little boy had been squalling because he could hear. Apparently it was quite a surprise to him, and set off the onslaught of his throat alarm.

Yes–after testing Hector, the doctors found there was a healing, and he was now able to hear just as well as any other fifteen-day-old infant.

The news spread quickly.

It became known as “the miracle baptism.” Matter of fact, three days later at the Wednesday night “Stay and Pray” service, many of the congregational members contended it was God speaking to the church–to become an international center of healing. They suggested that the whole outreach of the Garsonville Church should be using the sacraments of baptism and communion as vehicles for God to intervene–healing the sick and maybe even raising the dead.

After all, they explained, Meningsbee wanted it to be a Jesus church–and what could be more like Jesus than a “hallelujah healing?”

Meningsbee did not know what to say. He was not sure how they came up with such a conclusion based on Hector’s experience, but he also did not want to dampen their hopes and dreams.

“Folks, it could be that what happened to Hector was meant for Hector and Hector alone. Just his personal piece of God.”

Everyone was baffled at Meningsbee’s ignorance. Certainly God would not give his grace to one poor little boy, and not intend it to be offered to the masses.

Meningsbee persisted.

“I’m just saying, maybe it’s not like Coca-Cola, to be bottled up and served over the counter to anyone with a dollar-fifty who needs a magical elixir…”

No one was listening. Meningsbee was not shouted down. It was worse. He was ignored.

Complicating matters, a news organization–one of them with all the letters in its name–called and wanted to come and do an interview with the church folk, pastor, mayor, city elders and even teenagers, to discuss the strange and bizarre happenings in Garsonville, Nebraska. You see, they deemed that with all the church splits, a suicide, drug overdose and now deaf ears being opened, it was quite a feature story, and the news division felt they could market it pretty well to their listening audience.

Reverend Meningsbee was against it. But the church council saw it as a wonderful chance to share the faith and vision, and show people on the West and East Coast that God truly did favor the prairie.

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Ask Jonathots… October 6th, 2016

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I have a friend who is often depressed and sometimes mentions suicide. What can I say to him to get him out of this?

Stop feeling so guilty.

It is highly unlikely that your words will have sway.

When people are clinically depressed, they need medical attention. If they are mentally, emotionally or spiritually depressed, they need a sense of inclusion.

What does that require?

Unless your friend wants to talk about his problems with you, the more you can create productive links to him–of events, causes, entertainment or just personal exchange, like having a meal–the better off you will be.

When there is no medical reason for the depression, there is always an emotional devastation which has spread mayhem to the spirit and mind. In that case, the only way to encourage him to escape his own sense of doom is to offer a mutual mission or purpose.

I would suggest, if you know your friend is interested in antiques, to plan every week to go  antiquing with him, followed by lunch. Give him something to look forward to.

It also makes you a student to your friend’s expertise. Let’s be candid–everyone likes to be the “smartie” in the room.

If people just need to feel important, they need to repent.

When people need to feel valuable, we should include them.

Always take a suicide threat seriously.

Keep an eye on your friend. But when you are with him, place yourself in the position of being the instructed instead of the instructor. Let him feel dominant.

In doing so, he will look forward to seeing you because you empower him–and just possibly, he will take steps to feel that sense of energy in other aspects of his life.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 23) A Full House … October 2nd, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

The church was full–invaded by human beings of all ages. Two of the older deacons had to remember where the ancient folding chairs had been stocked to be retrieved for sitting possibilities.

The Bachman family had requested that Reverend Meningsbee offer the closing thoughts.

The memorial service began with Alex’s father offering some memories about his son. It was painful. Over and over again, Mr. Bachman had to stop and fight back tears before he could continue sharing about a fishing trip, a crazy journey to Disney World and popcorn-and-movie night with Alex.

The Girls’ Ensemble from the high school sang, “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” careful to change the lyrics when God was mentioned.

There were a couple of poems and a projection on a screen–a collage of visual memories of the young fellow.

Then, when the audience exhausted itself of possibilities, the service was left in the hands of the local parson, to culminate the event and terminate the misery with some sort of inspiration–minus divine content.

Reverend Meningsbee rose to his feet just as a gentleman on the back row suddenly launched into a coughing fit. It was so severe that people had to turn around to make sure he was all right. After his well-being was assured, Meningsbee strolled to the middle of the room, turned and began:

I didn’t know Alex. I wish I had–not just because I can always use another friend, but because I would have something to say about him today. So because I was at a loss for words, two days ago I decided to drive to the school and go down into the furnace room where Alex completed his journey.

I was surprised. First, I was surprised that there were two very long flights of stairs. I thought it was a little odd that they were made of metal. But that’s neither here nor there.

When I finally got into the furnace room, or what I guess you might call the area, I noticed how warm it was. Not hot. Just toasty–makes you want to sit down in the corner with a pillow and go to sleep.

I looked around for a few minutes. You know what I was looking for? I was looking for that pipe where he took his rope, threw it over, put it in a noose, tied it off and ended his life.

It was so peaceful down there. I suppose I could tell you that I felt Alex’s presence in the room, but I didn’t. I didn’t feel anything but machinery at work. It made me think about the note our friend left behind.

“They said it would get better.”

Who’s “they?” Alex didn’t write, “YOU said it would get better.” He wasn’t blaming friends and family. He was talking about “they–them.” Those individuals over there. People who sometimes fail to realize that what may seem to be temporary pain to one person is unbearable agony to another.

“They said things would get better.”

What is better? Gee whiz, I wish we could ask Alex that. Let me do that.

“Alex! What would you consider better? Would better be pressure taken off of you? Bullies leaving you alone? A sense of hope? Maybe just a girl smiling at you. Or maybe girls weren’t the problem. I don’t know.

But better never showed up. How do I know? Alex told me. He said, “They promised it would get better. BUT IT DIDN’T.”

I guess I have to ask myself–and ask you–if Alex was going to be in this room today, sharing a piano piece he had written (by the way, that’s one of the things I learned. He loved to play the piano.) Yes, if he had invited us all to a private concert, would we have packed the joint? Who would have showed up?

Apparently, to get our attention, Alex felt he had to die. That makes me sad. That makes me want to go out and break something. That makes me…well, that makes me want to make sure it never happens again.

I know I was instructed not to mention anything about religion, God or heaven. So I won’t.

But I will close with this thought–it’s a sensation.

Alex might concur.

Because as I climbed back up those metal stairs from the tomb of our loss, I thought to myself, “If there is no God, then we sure as hell need one.”

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 22) Thirty Days Has Remember… September 25th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

One month passed.

It’s one of those phrases a writer inserts to move the story along. But they don’t really move. Stories must be evicted from the hovel where they huddle to escape progress.

Ten days after the “Old Time Religion Community Church” signed its incorporation papers in the living room of Sammy Collins’ home on a table near the fireplace, he was rushed to the hospital, red lights flashing. He had collapsed at work and everyone was certain it was a heart attack. The town was abuzz with gossip and prayer.

As it turned out, it was a ruptured gall bladder, and while he was having his personal rendition of that organ removed, it was discovered that he also had high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

It was suggested he slow down.

Also within the month, a crumpled letter arrived in the mail at Matrisse’s house, postmarked Atlantic City, New Jersey. Inside was a note and a ten-dollar bill.

In her own words, Kitty attempted to explain to Matrisse that she was on an odyssey to find herself, which had taken her to the East Coast, and that she had found a job as a bartender at one of the casinos which had managed to escape bankruptcy.

Kitty said she was sorry and happy at the same time–because she missed her little Hapsy, but knew she was well taken care of, and until Kitty could find all her answers, she was probably better off separated from her growing daughter.

Also, about fifteen days into the “month of remember,” an article appeared in the local paper about Patrick Swanson and the church meeting at the Holiday Inn Express, entitled, “A Gathering for the Young Up-and-Coming Conservative.”

It seemed that Patrick had found his target market, as they say in the world of social media. Being interviewed by the local reporter, he explained that the congregation did not believe in gay marriage, government interference, and were certainly strongly against gender blurring. What they were interested in were young families who wanted to see the country return to its original glisten and gleam.

Then, seven days ago, a young boy named Alex Bachman arrived at school early, went into the lower portions of the building to the furnace room, threw a rope over the top of a pipe and hung himself.

He left a suicide proclamation. It read:

They said it would get better. It didn’t.

Reverend Meningsbee was called by the family and asked if he would be willing to conduct a memorial service at the church building, free of godly trappings, since the Bachman family was a non-religious group of people (what the average Nebraskan would call “avowed atheists”).

The family also wanted Meningsbee to be the moderator–yes, that’s the word they used–for the event, and to give a retrospective on the life of young Alex, ending with a positive message of humanity, and everybody departing to walk to the local park to plant three trees.

At first Meningsbee wanted to decline, offering his best wishes and regards, but then, in a moment of clarity, he realized there was no other place in town they could go for such a commemoration–and that opportunity never arrives resembling anything of what we really want.

So on a Saturday afternoon, with memories of a month full of Garsonville life racing through his mind, he drives to the church, on his way to a presentation which denies the importance of everything he believes.

What should he say?

What did he feel?

Maybe he should have studied more.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … March 5th, 2016

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Dear Man Dear Woman

 

 

Dear Man: Have you done any thinking about our discussion?

 

Dear Woman: Discussion? What discussion?

 

Dear Man: Are you getting senile?

 

Dear Woman: Don’t you have to be old for that?

 

Dear Man: No, just forgetful.

 

Dear Woman: Oh, I know what you’re talking about. The flirting thing.

 

Dear Man: “Flirty Thirty.”

 

Dear Woman: You know, it’s really true. I just feel better when I know that I’m attractive, and I also feel that I am giving good things to people when I let them know that they have beauty also.

 

Dear Man: That was really well said.

 

Dear Woman: So therefore I’m not senile?

 

Dear Man: We shall see. Let’s continue. After you get done with the “Flirty Thirty”–that 30% of each of us that needs to feel attractive–you move into the “Heavenly Seventy.”

 

Dear Woman: The name’s a little cute.

 

Dear Man: I know. But it does help you remember it.

 

Dear Woman: I suppose. So what is the “Heavenly Seventy?”

 

Dear Man: It’s the part of the relationship between men and women which is completely lost because we’re so self-absorbed with maintaining differences, hoping that the thirty percent of flirtation will carry the relationship through.

 

Dear Woman: Thirty percent isn’t a whole of anything.

 

Dear Man: Exactly. But what we’re afraid of is the word “human.” Matter of fact, we’re so frightened that anyone who says “human being” or “human race” is looked on as a doctor–or a hippie from the 1960s.

 

Dear Woman: Why do you think that’s true?

 

Dear Man: I don’t want to subscribe to conspiracy theories, but there is an abiding notion that if we can keep each other separated by color, culture and gender, then we can continue to feel superior to some group and therefore, establish our dominance.

 

Dear Woman: I don’t want to be dominant.

 

Dear Man: Good. Then you’ve got a chance at being human.

 

Dear Woman: So what makes us human?

 

Dear Man: Are you really interested, or is it just that you can’t find a way to get out of this conversation?

 

Dear Woman: To be honest, I don’t know if I’m interested because I don’t know if what you’re going to share is interesting or not.

 

Dear Man: More than your approval, your affection or even your genitals, I need your humanity.

 

Dear Woman: That’s a bold statement. So what is my humanity? What makes up this seventy percent? How do we break down the walls and become human beings?

 

Dear Man: Well, this is just my opinion, but it’s kind of a process. And it starts with, “Will you listen to what I say?”

 

Dear Woman: Yeah, I listen.

 

Dear Man: No, I mean that being human is listening to what someone says without having an opinion about it.

 

Dear Woman: So what you’re saying is, you hear them. You just stop for a moment, listen, and hear what they have to say.

 

Dear Man: Exactly. And then you try to encourage what you can of what you’re hearing.

 

Dear Woman: Obviously, if they’re trying to commit suicide, you shouldn’t suggest methods.

 

Dear Man: Very funny. Obviously. But once you encourage what you can, then part of being a human being is gently but firmly holding them to their promise.

 

Dear Woman: That’s tricky. Some people would call that interference.

 

Dear Man: Not if it’s their idea and their words.

 

Dear Woman: What if they change their mind?

 

Dear Man: Then help them to forgive themselves for failing. It’s okay. It’s all part of being alive. If life was about success, most of the time we’d be depressed.

 

Dear Woman: So it’s important to forgive them and help them forgive themselves for falling short. I see that. So that gives them the chance to start over.

 

Dear Man: That’s why most people are miserable. They’re stuck in a failure from years ago without feeling they have the grace to start over.

 

Dear Woman: So it’s our job to help other people achieve that.

 

Dear Man: And it’s also our job to help them laugh. It’s rather difficult to forget stupidity unless you can laugh at it.

 

Dear Woman: That’s powerful stuff.

 

Dear Man: It’s why the “Flirty Thirty” makes us attractive, but the humanity makes us enjoy each other.

 

Dear Woman: Why isn’t this taught? Why are we so ignorant about this? Why is it all romance and flowers?

 

Dear Man: Because if every problem can be solved by sending flowers, then we don’t have to really care that much, do we?

 

Dear Woman: It’s a great process.

 

Dear Man: Now, let’s make it our own.

 

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Quatrains of Suicide … August 19, 2014

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I feel so bad

Bad is happening everywhere

Everywhere is closing in

In desperation, I exit

cave with light

Sometimes green with envy

Sometimes yellow with cowardice

Oftentimes red with anger

Always black with despair

 

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Recess… November 8, 2013

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children playgroundThe bell rang. Time for recess.

I looked around the room into the faces of twenty-nine other young souls like myself, in Mrs. Arnold’s third grade class and realized that the ringing meant different things to each and every one.

Some were smiling, wiggling in anticipation. Others seemed resigned, as if bored with the prospect. And there were those who were terrified–fully aware that in a few short minutes they would be out on the playground with their peers, trying to compete and falling short of the glory of childhood acceptance.

  • There would be interaction.
  • There would be competition.
  • There would be challenges.
  • There would be ridicule.

It is part of the process. And as we pursue a much-needed campaign against the brutality of bullying, we must be careful not to hamper the interaction among younger folks when they are separated from grown-ups–an exposure that brings about the necessary evolution toward character, confidence and realization.

For when you discuss “peer,” there are three different categories. If you think that each and every time children fuss, argue and fight, it is wrong–bullying–you are disrupting the human jungle that DOES provide a great barometer for cleaning out abnormalities and setting apart better paths.

For instance, I failed to be called a “fat boy” enough in school to rid myself of obesity. I was TOO well-liked, too personable and in some ways, too talented to be challenged over a weakness that has now plagued me my whole life. It should have been taken care of by:

1. Peer presence.

This is just the blending of kids getting together to discover solutions on the best way to get along. It is characterized by talking. This is why sometimes it’s stupid in school, to tell kids to be quiet. They are trying to find a way to blend with each other. Not everything can be solved by an adult guidance counselor. We need our friends to talk with, to blend with and to discover solutions. And sometimes this leads to:

2. Peer pressure.

It is essential in the human race that we learn how to bend. We must discover our differences and even be willing to argue about them in order to produce adequate compromises. Too many teachers think that because kids are arguing, it’s a sign of severe difficulty. The truth is, peer pressure teaches us to bend, acknowledge our differences, and if necessary, fuss our way through them.

I certainly agree that peer pressure can go too far and can lead to the promotion of violent behavior. But I will also tell you there is no person who appears to the youngster to be old, who can intervene and produce the results that they can hammer out, on their own, together.

When you live in the adult world, the only power you have over the young is to teach them right, wrong, manners and gentleness. Then they must go out in the midst of peer pressure and work out the specifics. Occasionally this can get carried away and lead to:

3. Peer persecution.

Some kids feel compelled to bind other children by bullying them.  How can you identify what’s bullying and what is viable peer pressure?

Bullying is when the arguing stops, one person ceases to speak and becomes the target of the other one, who dominates.

That’s right. If two kids are arguing, give them a chance to work it out. But if you come across two kids and only one of them is yelling, ridiculing the other child, who is standing there, without speech, just taking it–you have just come across bullying.

It is a mistake for people who are no longer in school, no longer youthful and no longer understand the playground, to try to come in and make things right for everybody by keeping things calm and on an even keel. You are just making matters worse. Learn the difference.

  • The young students in our country need peer presence. They must be given a human mixer to blend, discovering solutions.
  • Sometimes this leads to peer pressure, where kids will argue, trying to bend to one another’s inclinations, and in the process, uncover differences which eventually are included in the flow.
  • But we should never let it go into peer persecution, where one kid binds another one up with bullying. This is easily identified by the absence of the persecuted child offering any verbal defense.

I recently heard about a young man who felt he was being bullied, so he committed suicide. Here’s my problem with that: why wasn’t there a climate where this young man could express to his parents, family or teachers his need for assistance?

And why are we attacking the very delicate procedure of peer interaction, trying to eliminate anything WE would consider negative, just because in this case, the system failed one young man?

I am saddened by his death, but alerted to the fact that the problem here was not just bullying. It was a fellow who didn’t think he could argue back to the peer pressure, and also did not feel that anybody outside the playground would either hear or have the power to change his circumstances.

We need peer presence. Students must learn to blend.

I think we need some peer pressure, to bend, where kids have the chance to produce some of their own solutions through argument.

What we do need to stop is peer persecution, binding, where one person is silenced as the others continue to rail against him or her.

Can we make these distinctions? If we can’t, we need to stop calling ourselves parents, teachers and leaders.

Our society is overwrought. Some things are necessary to create the cultural revolution in each generation that progresses the idea of humanity instead of trying to keep everything calm, but stalled.

I know it is possible. I did it with all six of the sons I raised. I let them blend and I let them bend. Only when they began to bind each other with persecution did I step in. Because of that, I think each one of them has grown up with a better understanding of who he is and how he fits in.

Bullying–it’s when one person stops talking and runs for cover, only to be chased by an assailant.

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