Catchy (Sitting 52) Jen… June 10th, 2018

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Manning the desk as weekend program director at a television station is an honor for an up-and-coming reporter, but also an acknowledgement that this particular individual does not have enough seniority to escape weekend work.

At thirty-three years of age, Raoul Matteen was the youngest person to be given the position at WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was permitted a skeleton work force of about seven other people, in order to, as they say, “keep the home fires burning.” But he was fully aware that if any home fires in Charlotte, North Carolina, actually did start burning, they would usher in the real staff.

Arriving back from lunch on Friday, Raoul, who insisted on being called Matt to simplify matters, was informed that he had a visitor. The receptionist rolled her eyes in a seductive way and announced that there was a tall young woman with long, brunette hair waiting to meet with him. Matt decided to act miffed, as he had seen his mentors do many times before. But after putting up the illusion of “being too busy,” he asked the receptionist to send the young woman in.

In walked Jennifer Carmen.

She was wearing a beautiful black dress and black patent-leather shoes. She had been in town for three days, spending most of her time out at the Soulsbury Campgrounds. (She had purchased three identical navy-blue jogging suits with white piping for her visit to the revival park, hoping not to draw too much attention to herself.)

Yet she needed to know. Or he needed to know.

At no time did Jennifer Carmen forget that she was really Jubal Carlos with an extensive–and expensive–makeover. He walked around for three days, greeting people, introducing himself as “Jennifer,” and was even able to pull off his disguise to people who should have known him–Jo-Jay and Soos, primarily, who just welcomed him as “another one of the girls.”

He was confident he could pursue his plan.

The idea was simple. He decided to go to WCNC on the Friday, knowing that the young manager would be willing to meet with Jennifer, and that he could make an impression as Jennifer, to set up a scenario to meet with the higher-ups on Monday.

When Jennifer walked into the room, Matt stepped back, a little surprised, his eyes widening. Jubal smiled inside. He extended his hand with as much feminine grace as he could muster, and daintily shook Matt’s nervous paw before sitting down elegantly in a nearby chair. The budding executive decided to speak first.

“My name is Raoul Mateen, but everyone calls me Matt.”

Jubal cleared his throat to ensure that the voice he had rehearsed was fresh and ready to go.

“Well, Matt, my name is Jennifer Carmen, but everyone calls me Jen.”

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence. Since Matt had never had a meeting with anyone, he wasn’t sure how to conduct one. Sensing his inexperience, Jubal (Jen) continued.

“I don’t want to take too much of your busy time, so let me cut to the chase. Please forgive me for saying that. It’s such a cliche. As a writer, I’m always fighting cliches. You know what I mean?”

Matt nodded his head, totally fascinated.

“Let me phrase it this way,” continued Jen. “Let me tell you what I have, which you might be able to use.”

Jubal purposely paused for a second to see the wheels turning in Matt’s brain. It was deliciously devious. He then commenced his ‘Jen plan.’

“I am good friends with Jubal Carlos. I have been since youth. We grew up in the same neighborhood. We were always best buddies, and I know him like I know my own soul.”

Matt leaned forward in his chair and picked up a pen, fiddling with it in his right hand.

“Why haven’t you come forward earlier?” he asked slowly.

“Jubal asked me not to,” replied Jen flatly.

“And why did he ask you not to?” asked Matt, doing his best to interrogate.

Jen crossed her legs, tilted her head upward as if thinking, took a Kleenex and dabbed at the corner of her eye.

“Because there’s so much to tell. It’s difficult to know where to begin, and often in the world of the press, if you begin and even tell it all, they think there’s something being withheld.”

Matt tilted his head to the side, then stretched his neck and nodded his head, agreeing.

Jen resumed. “What I am suggesting, in the light of the Soulsbury phenomenon, is a series of articles–interviews, if you will–between Jubal and myself, enlightening the American public about this secretive man who has come on the scene to bring music and joy.”

Matt scrunched his face in displeasure. Even to a novice such as himself, the whole thing sounded crazy and contrived. He decided to present Jen with what he considered to be an insurmountable difficulty.

“Tell you what,” he said. “This is beyond my pay grade. My instinct is that our station would want one of our top reporters to conduct the interview, since we know nothing about you. No disrespect. So if you just come back on Monday and ask for the program director, and present your case to him the way you have to me, we can see about putting one of our award-winning journalists on the matter.”

Jen smiled. “Did they train you to say that, or have years of caution made you careful? Is it because you’re a foreign national and you don’t want to make waves, or does your upbringing tell you to be nervous with the white elitists?”

Matt stood to his feet, pointed to the door and responded angrily, “I think I’m going to ask you to leave. If I have problems, they’re certainly not going to be discussed with some stranger walking into my office and insulting me.”

Jen remained seated, but lifted her hands as if surrendering. “I’m very sorry. I guess I’m a little bit energized with the possibility of seeing this story get into the right hands, and maybe a little jumpy, or shall we say, defensive, about it?”

Matt put his arm down and eased back into his chair. “What was your name again?”

“Jennifer Carmen, but you can call me Jen.”

“Jennifer,” Matt concluded, “I am just not willing to be the fool. Do you know what I mean? When you’re working your way up the ladder, it’s a dangerous thing to try to skip rungs to get to the roof quicker. That’s when your foot can slip. And if you slip, you fall. And if you fall, there’s nothing or nobody to catch you. I’m doing real fine without your assistance. If this is a great thing, let somebody else determine that. But if it’s a setup for an asshole, I am not interested in pursuing the position.”

Jen leaped in. “Exactly. I wasn’t asking you to make a decision. I was asking you to allow me to go this weekend to the camp, meet with Jubal, do an interview and bring it in on Monday morning and let you read it. And if you think it’s good, take it to your bosses and see if we can’t make a deal.”

Matt leaned forward. “Are you telling me that Jubal is in North Carolina?”

Jen replied, “I’m telling you that I know where Jubal is. I’m not about to tell you where he is until I can strike a deal on these interviews. Let’s just look at it practically. You want to do something good for the station; the station wants first dibs on a great story. Jubal has things to share with the country, and I want a Pulitzer.”

Matt laughed. “A Pulitzer, huh? A Pulitzer about a cabana-band-leader who travels the world, hyping joy and handing out hamburgers.”

Jen stood to her feet, as if to leave. “Laugh all you want, Matt. But he’s the one changing the world. Not you.”

Jubal headed to the door, confident that he had sunk the hook deep into the guppy’s lip. As he was about to step through the door, Matt rushed to his side.

“Listen, Jen. I think you’re reading me wrong. Yeah. What have we got to lose? Monday morning bring me in, uh-h…” Matt paused, thinking. “Let say fifteen hundred words. Let me soak it up, pass it around to some copy-writers. If everyone’s hot on it, we’ll take it to the brass. That’s the best I can do. I can’t pay your expenses.”

Jen turned slowly, stuck out her hand for the shaking, and inserted, “I didn’t ask you to.”

Matt reached out and shook her hand. Jen turned on her heel and walked out the door. Matt called after her, “Where are you staying? In case I want to get ahold of you?”

Jen kept walking and without turning around, threw over her shoulder, “I’ll see you on Monday morning.”

 

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Catchy (Sitting 12) A Collision of Colossal … August 27th, 2017

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Susannah Lacey, known as “Soos” during her infamous days of cavorting around the campus with the “Leaven of Seven,” was waiting at the headquarters when Matthew arrived on Wednesday morning. She looked exactly the same, except age had etched a little worry and miles onto the terrain of her frame.

She gave a big smile as Matthew came into the door, raced up and gave him a hug. taking his breath away.

They had never been terribly close. It was an awkward situation. Matthew always suspected that Soos had a crush on him, and she believed it was the other way around. So not so certain that any crush existed, no romance ever came to fruition.

But Matthew had a great respect for Soos. She was a “reasoner.” When it seemed like all problems were surrounding the “Leaven of Seven,” threatening to destroy their idealism, she came through like Joan of Arc, rescuing their innocence. (Usually it consisted of buying a pizza or finding some marijuana, which made them all feel nasty-cool.)

She explained to Matthew that she had gotten his message and was heeding the call as if he were Commissioner Gordon turning on the Batman beam to summon the crusader. Matthew was not terribly familiar with the reference but giggled anyway.

While the greeting was still in full swing, in walked Prophet Morgan. He hadn’t left the offices since his arrival. Prophet was a pleasant enough sort, though he had the sniff of the brimstone which accompanied the fire of his faith. Matthew thought he seemed sneaky. Having heard his full story, Matthew thought it was a miracle that Prophet Morgan wasn’t in either an insane asylum or jail upstate.

At age five, his drunken father, who was an evangelist with a tent revival, decided to bring his little boy up onstage to pray for people, and lo and behold, the tiny Prophet Morgan laid his hands on a woman and spoke in an unknown language. The next morning she awoke completely healed.

No one took the time to wonder if she would have been healed anyway, or if she was really that sick in the first place. The word spread like a grease fire–a five-year-old prophet with the gift of healing, sent by God to the backwoods of Arkansas to transform His people.

In no time at all, huge crowds were showing up at the tent revival meetings and Prophet’s father was getting rich on the proceeds of his sprout.

About a year into the process, at age six, Prophet had a nervous breakdown. Matthew guessed that’s what you’d call it. The six-year-old started running around the room, only stopping to bang his head against the wall. He was placed in a mental institution, where he stayed until he was twelve.

Prophet explained that no one ever told him why he was there or how he would ever get out. One bright, sunny day, someone left the back door open to the asylum while spray-washing some chairs. The twelve-year-old detainee simply strolled out, started running, and never stopped.

That was the story thus far. Obviously there were many more tales to be told. But Prophet Morgan was a young man burdened by old demons.

He took an immediate liking to Soos, who found Prophet to be a bit bizarre in appearance but just ethereal enough to grease her wheels.

While the two of them were making friends, the phone rang. It was a call from Michael Hinston, from Washington, D. C. Matthew was surprised to discover that Michael had a change of heart and was now interested in the “make Jesus popular” project.

Matthew hung up the phone scratching his head, trying to figure out why, all of a sudden, all these elements were falling together. Well, if not together–at least colliding with one another.

Another phone call came in. It was Marcus Tomlinson, who had originally asked Matthew to consider the 250 million dollar project. He explained that he would be flying in the next day to talk about the future of the idea.

As Matthew hung up the phone, he felt there was a gloominess emanating from Tomlinson–coming with some bad news. Or maybe it was good news.

Maybe the burden of making the decision about this bizarre errand would be taken off Matthew’s shoulders.

He wasn’t sure.

Prophet Morgan stepped over and slapped him on the back, awakening him from his thoughts of deep escape.

“Quite a day, huh?” said the prophet.

“Yes. A lot going on,” Matthew answered, preoccupied.

Prophet looked off in the distance. “I remember an old Creole woman in Louisiana I once met, who said about this kind of day–the one we’re living in right now–she called it a ‘collision of the colossal.’ Lots of things happening, but no way to be sure if any of them smell of God.”

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 39) Indian Giver… January 29th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

During the swelling sweetness of satisfaction that settled into the souls of the Garsonville citizens, some surprising news came to the forefront.

USBN went bankrupt. (Well, at least some sort of business conclusion that’s too difficult to understand.)

The network had suffered severe financial losses due to litigation from civil suits, and was sold to another company which planned on dividing up office supplies and disbanding the whole idea.

The people of the town believed it was the hand of God–or at least the Almighty giving a finger.

They all felt redeemed, relieved and relaxed. There was a realization that reaching for the stars only makes you fall off the step-ladder.

It was about a month later that the Garsonville Church had visitors–two, to be exact–Buford Thomas Baxter and his wife, Harriet, both certainly in their mid-to-late seventies. They arrived dressed as televangelists, creatures roaming the Earth many decades ago.

Buford didn’t waste any time.

He asked for a private moment with Reverend Meningsbee and when that was acquired, he launched into his story. He explained that he had been teaching a Sunday School Class down at the Southern Baptist Church, and because the people did not want “the full Gospel,” and wanted to “hide their sins in secret places,” the pastor had requested that he leave and find other sheep to tend. So he had looked all over town to find the greatest need.

Buford hugged Reverend Meningsbee and said, “Even though I know you have a heart to do right, you have a wrong to achieve it. So I am here as your servant–to be used any way you see fit–to turn this congregation around in the direction of heaven’s portals.”

Meningsbee didn’t know what to say.

Deep in his heart he knew this was not a good fit, especially considering that during the coffee time after Sunday School, Buford and Harriet tag-teamed their way through the congregants, explaining how prayer was “more than talking to God.” It was “negotiating the deal through fasting, consecration and long bouts of seclusion.”

Buford was particularly intent on letting everybody know that he had once appeared on Gordon Gaines’ Gospel Gala during the season when the show had millions of viewers. (The ministry of Gordon Gaines had been terminated many years ago, when it was discovered that he was romantically linked to a large number of his staff. For a time, the scandal made for great TV, and brought sadness to those who believed in a simpler approach.)

By the end of the morning service, Buford and Harriet had succeeded in annoying nearly everybody, with many of the faithful whispering to Meningsbee that he needed to get them out of there as quickly as possible.

To do so, the pastor had to promise that he would meet with Buford on Tuesday for lunch.

So on Monday morning, Meningsbee prayed–probably not right, like Buford would have him do, but the best he knew how.

He came up with an idea. He rather liked it.

So at the Tuesday luncheon, he said to Buford (and Harriet, who came along for the chicken salad and tomato soup) that there was really no room in the Sunday schedule for anyone else to participate, since the congregation was already fanning out and covering a multitude of activities, but there was a lovely clearing of land just beyond the parking lot of the church, where he believed that Buford and Harriet should have the chance to set up some sort of tent, hold some meetings and see if God might bring them a gathering of souls.

Meningsbee finished his proposal and watched the wheels turn inside the mind of the aging man. There was a brief silence, when suddenly Harriet stepped in and gave her vote of confidence. She believed it was a tremendous opportunity, thanking Meningsbee for his openness.

So three weeks later, Buford and Harriet launched a tent revival on the far side of the Garsonville Church property, which ran for exactly four nights.

The first night there were seven people.

The second night, six.

The third night, five, if you counted the baby.

And the fourth night…one.

Yes, a Native American of the Pawnee tribe. He sat on a hard, wooden chair as Buford preached for a good, solid hour. Or at least, that’s how Meningsbee heard it.

The next morning, the Native American, a descendent of the chief, came to the church to talk to Reverend Meningsbee. He asked the parson if it would be all right to invite the Baxters to come and pastor a small congregation of four Native American families about thirty miles away.

Meningsbee wasn’t quite sure why he was asking permission, but he gave it freely.

So Buford and Harriet Baxter packed up all their belongings and went down the road to become the pastors of the Pawnee People’s Fellowship.

Meningsbee lost contact with Buford after that, but he never heard anything negative–or of a new uprising from the Pawnee Nation.

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Good News and Better News … February 22nd, 2016

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Composite with borders

Jesus never answered a question the way the asker hoped he would respond.

“Who is my neighbor?”

“It’s that guy laying on the side of the road wounded, that everybody’s ignoring.”

“Is it right for us to pay tribute to Caesar?”

“Sure–if it’s Caesar’s gig.”

“How many times should we forgive people?”

“490 seems fair.”

“What must I do to be saved?”

“Go give your money away to the poor.”

If you’re waiting for truth to emerge from the mass of human opinion, you will spend your life following foolishness.

Thus, the layout of the four pictures in today’s array.

Picture 1, with Jan on set. We arrived in Christ Lutheran Church on Hilton Head Island and set up our equipment. It was the first and best thing we could accomplish.

Because of the nature of the promotional beast in America, Janet and myself maintain obscurity. No one cared that we set up our equipment, but we knew it was important to do it well, and to be ready.

The next picture shows the ceiling of the beautiful church we were in. They are lovely people, but they are religious. It is my job to take that religious fervor and try to turn it into a common sense faith.

Then you see a picture of my wheelchair, sitting by itself in the parking lot. That’s to remind me that showing my weakness only lends itself to creating strength. No one is self-sufficient. We have weaknesses, and if we’re willing to admit them to others, we open the door to a mutual humanity.

And finally, there’s a picture of a rear view mirror. Honestly, I cannot go forward without understanding where I’ve come from, and learning from those experiences to benefit myself, and therefore enhance the life of others.

Humility is not an option we select when we are in a particularly good mood or have sung a moving hymn. Humility is survival–allowing ourselves wiggle room just in case our frailties show up instead of our strengths.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the people at Christ Lutheran yesterday. They were sparkling, delightful and intriguing.

And it was my joy, since I knew they were aware of the Christ, to reacquaint them with Jesus. Long before he got the promotion to be the Christ, he walked among us as Jesus, changing lives, challenging stereotypes and transforming the world.

That’s the good news.

The better news lies in a comment that the dear pastor made to me right before I was departing on Sunday. He said one lady had commented that the service was “the closest thing to a tent revival she had ever seen in the Lutheran church.”

I don’t know if she meant that as a compliment, but I do know this–I am moving ahead in my mission, looking forward to the day when we will be so hungry for revival that we won’t care whether it’s in a steeped-ceiling cathedral or a stained-canvas tent.

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Good News and Better News … February 21st, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2852)

Composite with borders

Jesus never answered a question the way the asker hoped he would respond.

“Who is my neighbor?”

“It’s that guy laying on the side of the road wounded, that everybody’s ignoring.”

“Is it right for us to pay tribute to Caesar?”

“Sure–if it’s Caesar’s gig.”

“How many times should we forgive people?”

“490 seems fair.”

“What must I do to be saved?”

“Go give your money away to the poor.”

If you’re waiting for truth to emerge from the mass of human opinion, you will spend your life following foolishness.

Thus, the layout of the four pictures in today’s array.

Picture 1, with Jan on set. We arrived in Christ Lutheran Church on Hilton Head Island and set up our equipment. It was the first and best thing we could accomplish.

Because of the nature of the promotional beast in America, Janet and myself maintain obscurity. No one cared that we set up our equipment, but we knew it was important to do it well, and to be ready.

The next picture shows the ceiling of the beautiful church we were in. They are lovely people, but they are religious. It is my job to take that religious fervor and try to turn it into a common sense faith.

Then you see a picture of my wheelchair, sitting by itself in the parking lot. That’s to remind me that showing my weakness only lends itself to creating strength. No one is self-sufficient. We have weaknesses, and if we’re willing to admit them to others, we open the door to a mutual humanity.

And finally, there’s a picture of a rear view mirror. Honestly, I cannot go forward without understanding where I’ve come from, and learning from those experiences to benefit myself, and therefore enhance the life of others.

Humility is not an option we select when we are in a particularly good mood or have sung a moving hymn. Humility is survival–allowing ourselves wiggle room just in case our frailties show up instead of our strengths.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the people at Christ Lutheran yesterday. They were sparkling, delightful and intriguing.

And it was my joy, since I knew they were aware of the Christ, to reacquaint them with Jesus. Long before he got the promotion to be the Christ, he walked among us as Jesus, changing lives, challenging stereotypes and transforming the world.

That’s the good news.

The better news lies in a comment that the dear pastor made to me right before I was departing on Sunday. He said one lady had commented that the service was “the closest thing to a tent revival she had ever seen in the Lutheran church.”

I don’t know if she meant that as a compliment, but I do know this–I am moving ahead in my mission, looking forward to the day when we will be so hungry for revival that we won’t care whether it’s in a steeped-ceiling cathedral or a stained-canvas tent.

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If You’re Happy and You Know It … June 9, 2013

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church campMaybe it’s the notion that it’s summertime or that I drove by a lake on the way to my Sunday gig–or just the sunshine filling the air with warmth instead of chill that makes me reflect back on church camp. Church camp is one of those terrifying experiences mingled with lasting memories and benefits that are only recognized as you find a little gray creeping into your temples.

It’s terrifying because you are suddenly thrown together with a bunch of strangers who you deem to be more attractive, lining up to trail down to a lake for swimming, staring at one another in disbelief and confusion.

Lasting memories happen because it may be the first place you got kissed on the lips that wasn’t initiated by some overbearing aunt, and benefits arrive because a vesper service in the woods can certainly make God seem closer than scooting your bottom on a pew, hoping the sermon will end real soon.

But one of the things I remember is that joyous little ditty, “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” For all of its simplicity and child-like quality, it is actually a theologically profound message.

For after all, it declares:

  • If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”
  • “If you’re happy and you know it, lift your hands”
  • “If you’re happy and you know it, lend a hand”

and it closes out with the sublime realization that

  • “If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.”

No kidding.

I just wonder. If there was such a device as a face-ometer, which was used to evaluate the contentment of a human being, and it was brought into church on a Sunday morning, would the meter  register joy, or immediately dip into the red for a reading of malcontent?

What we consider to be childish often is what God considers to be truly human. So we have given clapping hands, lifting hands and lending a hand over to the care of the world for their celebrations of music and mission, and we use our hands only to fold in prayer or clutch an offering plate to procure funds.

Is this really the best deal? Some mainline denominational churches have such a fear of revivalism that they’ve forbidden clapping hands–and certainly lifting hands–as the taboo of tent revivals.

But if you go to a rock concert, people clap their hands ferociously and if a slower song comes on, they all lift their hands to the sky and wave them in unison. They even take their cell phones out to shine a beam and give light to the situation. Therefore an overpaid singer on a stage who is crooning some melancholy tune is worthy of hand-waving, but not “our Father which art in heaven…”

A politician posturing his political position is appreciated by applause but for some reason, we think God would prefer not to be touted quite so loudly.

If it were possible to express happiness without smiling, being joyful or exuding physical energy, I would be more than willing to accept the sobriety of typical religious worship. But the truth is, even those stern-faced, ardent believers who sit in their seats and fold their arms in an aggravating position of disapproval will go out to a football game or a country music show and hoot and holler at the players.

Sooner or later we have to realize that when people are happy and they know it, their faces will surely show it.

And a God who claims to be pretty upset when we worship other gods probably isn’t too pleased when clapping hands, lifting hands and lending a hand is reserved for adventures other than the kingdom of God.

So I must warn the good folks of Carlyle, Illinois, that I am of a conviction that happiness always shows up in what we do, not in what we pledge, plead, narrate, recite or hymn-sing.

So if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, lift your hands and lend a hand. You might be surprised that once your face is notified of your intentions to be ecstatic, you will take the tension off those wrinkles and end up looking a lot younger.

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