Reverend Meningsbee (Part 45) The Singing Castles … March 12th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Answering the phone at the parsonage of a small town church was always an adventure. Usually on the other end was someone with a need who wanted the pastor of the church to do something about meeting it.

Tricky business.

When do you say yes, how can you say no? Many charlatans have made a living off of fleecing the sheep simply by making them feel guilty if they don’t assist.

When Meningsbee returned from the diner after the shocking encounter with Carla, he was in no mood to be a pastor, a consoler or a benefactor to anyone jangling him on the phone. The first four times it rang, he ignored it. But it kept ringing and ringing and ringing. Finally his sense of concern overtook his reclusiveness.

Answering it, he found himself talking to a gentleman named Matthew Castle. Matthew tried to explain his situation, but nothing was clear. So Meningsbee agreed to meet him at the church.

When the pastor arrived, there was a big, old-fashioned recreational vehicle sitting in the parking lot, with hand painted letters which read, “The Singing Castles.” A man got out of the vehicle, walking toward Meningsbee. Matthew was a tall, thin country man, with one of those overly seen Adam’s apples, slicked-back hair and some sort of leather jacket that looked like it was picked up on sale at the Goodwill store.

After shaking Meningsbee’s hand, he called out–and the rest of his family emerged from the vehicle.

First was his wife, Luka–as it turns out–an immigrant from Turkey. Then his two children, Marco, about sixteen years of age, and Joan, around fourteen. The children were friendly but bashful, and the wife maintained a subservient position.

Matthew explained that they were a traveling family who held revival meetings in churches. They were having some trouble with their motor home, needed to get repairs done, and he wondered if the pastor would like them to hold a revival while the vehicle was being tended to.

A quiet, rumbling chuckle erupted inside Meningsbee’s soul. He was trying to imagine his rather traditional congregation and how they would receive The Singing Castles.

While he deliberated, Matthew suggested that the family sing a song–a capella–right out there in the middle of the parking lot. He gave them all a pitch and they launched into a rather rousing rendition of “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Meningsbee listened patiently, thinking to himself that it really wasn’t that bad. The young girl especially had a pleasant voice, and the mother sang some good harmony, though it was colored with accent. Daddy sang bass and Marco sang tenor.

They were getting ready to go into a second verse when Meningsbee interrupted. “Listen, our church would not hold a revival, but I see no reason why you folks can’t come on Sunday morning and sing for us, and we’ll collect an offering. And meanwhile, until you get your vehicle going, if you want to park it here in the lot and plug into our electricity, help yourself. That is the way it works, right?”

Matthew grabbed his hand, shook it firmly and then gave him a huge hug. In the brief encounter, Meningsbee was pretty sure he smelled both tobacco and alcohol. It didn’t matter. Acts of charity don’t require that those who benefit measure up to a particular standard.

As it turned out, the Castles ended up being an industrious sort. They launched out onto the grounds, cleaned everything up, and straightened up the basement of the church, which had needed a good “caring to” for a long time.

And on Sunday, they sang. And they sang. And they sang some more.

Their musical sound had country overtones, but included an accordion. The congregation seemed to love them. They especially laughed uproariously when the father introduced the family and pointed out that they were very Biblical. They “were the Castles, but they were also Matthew, Marco, Luca and Joan.” (To make the joke even more corny, each one of them spoke their own name at the right moment, in sequence.)

When it came time to take up an offering, the little Garsonville church came up with five hundred dollars. Also, one of the congregation members noticed that the motor home had a couple of sags and twitches, and agreed to fix them for free.

The Castles didn’t bring a new theological revelation. Matter of fact, their theology was rather out-dated and old-fashioned. They weren’t the best singers you’d ever hear in your life, and certainly would be snubbed on every coast. Their grammar lacked punctuation and their manners were rustic. Their clothing was old and desperately in need of some stitching and retouching.

But their hearts were pure. Whatever caused them to drive around the country and share their music was certainly not greed, nor was it selfishness. It was some deep-rooted belief that the best way they could be together, stay together and remain happy was to sing the Gospel and drive from place to place in their magical chariot.

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The NoOne Caper … September 24, 2012

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I had a dream.

It was in late October, 2011. As far as I know, I wasn’t thinking about anything particularly philosophical or even considering what I might be sharing in the coming year, 2012. But I had a vivid vision, filled with emotion, anxiety, joy and energy, about conveying a specific mission in that coming year. It was a typical dream in the sense that the images had significance in the moment and were difficult to explain later, when sleep had disappeared.

But there is one thing that came out of the experience that is as clear as a bell–it was six words. They were to become my central theme as I journeyed across the country in 2012: NoOne is better than anyone else.

Two immediate problems presented themselves.

First, Janet pointed out to me that “no one” was not a compound word, and that it should be dubbed the Seven Word Tour. I normally try not to be stubborn, but I really felt impressed from my nighttime visitation, that the theme was to be six words. So we went on the Internet, checked with grammar sources, and found what one often does when seeking an answer concerning the English language–it could be this, it could be that. Some sources said that “no one” was two separate words. Others insisted it was a normal compound word, separated because it was thought that the two o’s placed together looked rather odd. (Honestly, that’s why I like it. Two o’s look like a pair of eyeballs staring at you, checking out your reaction.) So even though I have great respect for English grammar, I decided that since I was given license, I would pursue my own path. (However, even though I validated the choice, I still occasionally have folks come up to me, thinking they are clever by pointing out that it’s really seven words. I just smile.)

The second problem was a little bit more deeply ingrained within our culture. After all, we live in a society that holds conventions in which discussions ensue on how important it is to not mistreat cows while simultaneously serving fillet mignon at the banquet. In other words, some notions have become high-sounding ideals instead of practical pursuits. Unfortunately, that’s kind of what has happened with “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We have basically decided that this principle is completely implausible, and even though we allow it to be spoken in public, everyone quietly retreats from its purity because of its difficulty and seemingly inhuman feasibility.

So I knew when I stood in front of an audience and said, “NoOne is better than anyone else,” I would receive mixed reviews–at best a nod of assent followed by a quiet grunt of disapproval.

But I came to the conclusion that everything evil that has ever happened in our world was forged in the fires of supremacy. When we believe that we are to live our lives by the rules of the jungle, using domination as the settling ground for all conflict, we are admitting that possessing a larger brain and an eternal spirit is useless to us.

This is not the surrender that we should accept without a fight. Let me repeat it: everything born of darkness in the human experience begins with the notion that “i am better than you.”

  • Six million skeleton, slain, Jewish innocents were thrown into mass graves because one man was able to propel a message of the supremacy of his supposed Super Race.
  • Over three hundred denominations of churches met yesterday in America, not simply because they favor one style of worship over another, but because at some point, doctrinally, the forefathers of their faith believed they had found a more enlightened path which made them better than their brothers and sisters.
  • The Republican Party believes it is better than the Democrat Party.
  • The Democrats believe they are better–more high-minded–than the Republicans.
  • A white man, even though enlightened by his experience and journey, will still sprout nervous energy when in the presence of a black man–not quite sure how to carry on a conversation because the whole climate of his world has screamed his preeminence over his darker-skinned brother.

This pervasive philosophy not only creates an impasse, but an obstinate, disguised anger that pouts in the corner, refusing to participate in détente.

When I looked at those six words–NoOne is better than anyone else–I realized I was headed for an experience rife with blessing and froth with controversy. So if you will allow me, over the next several days I will give you the ten objections I have received to my dream message from October 2011–NoOne is better than anyone else.

These assertions tickled me but also gave me pause to find the reasoning, both spiritually and intellectually, to prop up this valuable axiom.

So tomorrow I will start with what I call The California Consideration–the two objections presented to me while I was in the Golden State. I hope you will come along. It will be great fun, and like all good things that are entertaining, will certainly have its moments of inspiration.

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

Clazzy… April 21, 2012

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She bounced back into my life about seventeen years ago in the midst of a nasty divorce and custody battle over her three children. Even though she had spent the majority of her time growing up learning to play the oboe and performing in orchestras, she was working a regular job and was a bit shell-shocked by the whole experience of exploding matrimonial promises.

We invited her to come and live in Nashville, Tennessee, and she settled in, prepared to be normal. The process was interrupted. I was finishing up a novel entitled I’M … the legend of the son of man, so she decided to pitch in and assist in the editing process. She continued her involvement by helping me find someone who was willing to publish the volume, and then when I got the crazy notion to go out and tour across the country, reading from the book and showcasing music, she volunteered to help schedule the events and accompany me on the tours, playing her oboe.

Somewhere along the line we got the idea of starting a symphony in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Even though she had never conducted an orchestra, she was excited about the notion of multiplying her talents–standing before the orchestra instead of existing within it. In the process, we kind of stumbled on a new style of music which we dubbed Clazzy“the spirit of classical with the soul of jazz–pop-minded.” She liked the name so well (and was looking for an excuse to abandon her former surname) so she became Janet Clazzy, conductor of the Sumner County Symphony.

Ten symphonies later, with many concerts and countless adventures into the school system, she joined me on a new endeavor.  I was prodded by one of my sons to start writing screenplays for independent films. She leaped in, found the Final Draft program necessary for such an occupation and became the typist for all seventeen of the motion pictures I have penned. When we discovered that a musical soundtrack was needed for movies, she began writing tunes for the films, creating beautiful melodies to enhance the stories.

All the while, she continued to be mother to three children, tour the country and dazzle audiences with her oboe, which had now taken on a new companion, as she also mastered the WX-5 Wind Machine, a horn sporting the sounds of 250 different instruments.

When I decided to start writing this jonathots column four years ago, she was there on the first day and remains here on day 1,491–typing away and assisting in my cursory edits. She tours America, having criss-crossed with me at least nine times, in front of tens of thousands of people, often exhausted, never complaining, and always looking for a way to make it better.

You may want to know what her secret is. Somewhere along the line, seventeen years ago–my creative partner, Janet Clazzy, decided that the most important thing in life was to find out what matters. Lots of people worry about what’s in their face or what has inconvenienced them. Some people become overly concerned with obligations or traditions. But Janet has found a key–she asks herself, “Does it matter?” And if it does, she buckles down and finds a way to do it.

And because she knows she is doing what matters, it brings joy to her heart and good cheer to her soul.

Last night as we prepared to head off to Long Beach, California, for a concert, she opened the back door of the van and our amplifier fell out and crashed down on the concrete. She felt really stupid. Matter of fact, it bothered her so much that she became preoccupied with her mistake (even though, as it turned out, the instrument survived the mishap). But the professional she is–and the human being she’s become–she shook it off and gave those lovely folks a tremendous performance from her heart. Why? Because it matters.

It’s not a very deep thought, but Janet has taught me–and is available to teach others–that at the beginning of the day, if you find out what really matters, by the end of the day you discover that you’ve accomplished valuable things … and your importance is assured.

Today is her birthday. She is on the road. She is getting ready to perform in Whittier, California. She hasn’t asked for any special presents. She hasn’t demanded an elaborate cake with trimmings. She’s just happy because she’s doing what matters. And you know the beauty of it? Because she’s found what matters, the gift that God, nature and those who love her bestow upon her soul is to let her know, on this her birthday … that she matters.

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Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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