PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … August 22nd, 2018

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Caught Up With God

by Jonathan Richard Cring

I caught up with God last night.

It’d been a while

I had been busy with me.

His matters–more universal.

“How ya doin’ with that life I gave you?” He asked, with a twinkle in His eye.

“Livin’ loud and free,” I replied.

“Oh, my. Sounds bold,” He countered.

“Let there be light, bolder still,” I returned.

He smiled.

I loved His smile. Always warm and left me enlightened.

He looked tired, but not aging–the kind of weary you might see in a friend when you suggest a nap instead of another cup of coffee.

I searched for words.

I suddenly realized why the visits between us were less frequent.

There was a great mutual appreciation, with not much common interest.

“I thought we could catch up,” He suggested.

“Good.” I nodded but remained silent.

I don’t know why He makes me nervous.

There has been no vexation between us. No major disagreement.

There are many things I like, which I hear He thinks are sins.

And the thoughts that cross my head seem unworthy to share with such a pure soul.

Yet venturing for a night that would be memorable for its difference, I said, “Sometimes I stay away from You when I don’t need to.”

I looked deeply into His eyes to see if I had hurt His feelings.

That was not my intention, but certainly could have been the conclusion.

He maintained a stare, as if waiting for more explanation. So I decided to push on.

“Sometimes I just don’t believe in You. Sometimes I feel foolish thinking that the apparition I’ve created of your presence has any truthfulness. Or for that matter, value. Sometimes I grow weary of my own mythology.”

I stopped speaking.

Only half of what I shared was honest. Like many words spoken in a spat, the majority are stirred to hurt instead of reveal.

But why did I want to hurt God?

Why did I want Him to know that I didn’t need Him?

Why was I taking this moment of reunion and turning it into a cup of poison?

Then…

God just walked over and quietly sat down in a chair.

Though He did not motion for me to join Him, the energy compelled me to find a nearby seat of my own.

The two of us, seated.

Old friends?

Or just strangers who finally realized the extent of the disconnection?

He spoke. “What would you think or feel if I said I don’t always believe in you?”

“I would be horrified,” I responded. “Even if I have made you up in my ego, I need you to be supportive. I need you to be my permanent cheerleader. I need you to give me unconditional love.”

“And what do I get for this gift?” He asked, tilting His head and squinting His eyes.

I didn’t pause for a moment. I answered immediately–almost impetuously.

“My guaranteed doubt.”

The Most High laughed.

“Quite a good deal,” He said, rubbing His chin. “Perhaps I should jump on it right away, in case you change your mind.”

I excused myself and went into the bathroom.

I sat in my stall, realizing that I was manufacturing an event in my head that was probably more spirits-in-a-bottle than Spirit-in-my-life.

Suddenly, there He was. In the stall with me, leaning against the wall.

“Stalk’er much?” I asked.

“It’s not really stalking,” He noted. “I thought we were still having a conversation, and just changing locations.”

“It’s a perfect example,” I interjected. “I am a person. I value my privacy. There are times I don’t like to be chased by a spirit or a theology or reminded of my inadequacies by a black book with a lousy cover.”

God burst into laughter.

“How true! For them to claim it’s the Word of God, and not even have great cover art… So much like those who only believe so they can hold it against those who don’t.”

“Would you turn your head?” I demanded. “I would like to finish here.”

Before I could complete my phrase He was gone.

I wondered if it would be another season of absence, or if I would find Him sitting in the chair when I left the restroom.

I stood in front of the mirror and splashed some water on my face.

I realized I was not ugly. Maybe just a little facially displaced.

I smiled, thinking how I wanted to share that with Him. How much He would enjoy it.

We always could make each other laugh. That’s for sure.

It’s just that sometimes, He doesn’t know how to stop my tears.

Feeling I was “stalling,” and then thinking that I must share that pun with Him also, I opened the door and stepped out.

He was gone.

There was this amazing smell in the air.

What was it?

Garlic, tomato and just a hint of oregano.

Of course.

All the ingredients of Chicago deep-dish pizza.

I breathed in deeply.

I shook my head.

He knew it was my favorite.

Our guest reader is Isabella, who is a student at Florida State University.

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Good News and Better News … March 5th, 2018

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A Jesus mask: Putting the face of Jesus on things we have decided are nice, easy, positive or comfortable.

In doing this, we attempt to transform the Gospel into a social message which is palatable for our chosen lifestyle, never really asking ourselves if it has a universal flavor.

Honestly, I almost didn’t write about this today–there are so many examples that I didn’t know how to isolate them off to the number of paragraphs you would be willing to read–but I trust that you might be willing to do some investigation on your own. So let’s look at three of the masks:

1. If you work real hard, you can get whatever you want.

You hear this on every talk show. During the Olympics it became a mantra. The variations, like “dream big, get big” pepper the common dialogue of the average day.

We put Jesus’ face on it. We decide it sounds like Jesus. But Jesus spoke a startling phrase: “To those who have, more shall be given, and to those who have not, even the little they have will be taken away from them.”

2. Giving to the poor is the highest form of charity.

It makes for a great nightly news story–some individual or organization passing sandwiches out to the homeless, complete with a hygiene kit of toothbrush, toothpaste and a small washcloth.

We’re moved to tears. We put a Jesus mask on it.

But Jesus said “the poor you have with you always.” They’re not going to go away. “Do for them what you can” but don’t make it an all-encompassing mission.

Poverty is more than a lack of things. It is often a lack of understanding.

3. God has a wonderful plan for your life.

Now we’re really crying, because even though we’re going through these huge problems, in the long run God will pluck us out of our pain and place us on higher ground. Unfortunately, although we put the Jesus mask onto this concept, his message was quite different.

Jesus said, “Except ye repent, you will perish.” In other words, ladies and gentlemen, you are in the middle of an evolving situation and an evolving planet, so you’d better evolve or you will dissolve.

Jesus is not against positive thinking. Jesus just wants us to understand that thinking good thoughts and clinging to them by faith is not the same as “letting your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”

The good news is that the Gospel is meant for humans.

The better news is, the Gospel makes us better, not things better.

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Ask Jonathots … December 29th, 2016

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I am so frustrated. What happened in 2016??

Well, I’m not quite certain of your particular frustration, or what crosses your mind as a grievance concerning the year.

But certainly overall, the United States abandoned its sense of “civil” rights. In pursuing rights it is essential we maintain a civil attitude.

Somewhere along the line it became more important to chase down an agenda or voice opinions of opposition than to find ways to peacefully coexist and respect one another.

In the process, we had a lot of shouting without having any real interaction.

  • It became important to be right.
  • It was essential to win.
  • It was a game to degrade your opposition.
  • And it was considered fair play to dig up dirt and heap it on your opponent.

Because we humans are susceptible to selfishness, once we realized that our leaders were participating in playground antics, we felt the freedom to lessen our general toleration while increasing our volume.

It created a caustic environment.

So all the political parties, all the religions, and all the intellectuals who were supposed to guide us in ways of structured sensibility, instead became armed forts, where rocks were thrown across the chasm.

This will only change when we return to civil ways to establish our rights.

So what is civility?

1. It is impossible for me to completely be right.

I am human and therefore not only capable, but susceptible to error.

2. Listening means shutting up.

There is no such thing as listening with one ear as you prepare your speech to contradict your enemy.

3. Treat every human with the respect and reverence you would give to God.

If you don’t believe in God, treat every human like you would your mother.

4. Be fully aware that in a democracy you will need to include other people who have lifestyles and ideas which are completely opposed to your own.

If it isn’t killing anyone, you will have to learn to adapt.

5. Practice kindness whenever you can.

In other words, if there are going to be conflicts, we need to also have many moments of gentleness in between, or we will start bashing each other instead of learning to enjoy one another.

In 2016, rights became more important than civility.

It was not merely a liberal problem nor a conservative problem. It became universal.

Help change 2017 by making sure that the way you express your opinion is just as respectful as the passion with which you proclaim it.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 13) The Back Door… July 24th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

“I know what you want to hear, and honest to God, I’d love to give it to you. Matter of fact, I must have picked up the phone half a dozen times this week, to call one of you and share my heart and feel comforted by your listening ears and what I’m sure would have been your kind words.

But I can’t.”

(A universal frown emerged on the collective countenance of the congregation.)

Meningsbee continued.

“I want to, but do you understand? There are things more important than what I want. Things more important than what you want. I can tell you that I went to Sammy Collins’ house on Monday night–made my famous beans and weenies–and prepared for whatever God would set before me. Patrick was there but no one else. I mean, Sammy and his wife were there, but that was it.”

(A deeper frown)

“You’re going to want to know why, or maybe you already know and I’m just being stupid here. Maybe you heard a lot more than I think. But I can’t share without betraying what I believe, what I hold dear and what makes me who I am.

I don’t think I’ve ever explained to you about my faith. I mean, I’ve shared it with you, but probably never explained it. Since none of us know what really happens when we die, everything we talk about in this sanctuary is theory. There are Christians who believe they’re right no matter what, but since no one has gone beyond death and come back with a completely unbiased report, we’re really doing this whole thing grasping at the air.

Can I be honest? It’s why lots of people give up.Their desire to be something or do something suddenly exceeds their comprehension of belief, so they split the scene.

Listen, I made my peace with God a long time ago by making sure that if He doesn’t exist, it doesn’t make any difference to me.

You might think I’m getting off the subject. Maybe I am. But really, it’s all the same point. I can’t tell you what happened at Sammy Collins’ house because it goes against who I am–who I’ve decided to be. Who I think I need to be to make sense to me.

You see, I sat down one day and decided what I would need to be if there were no God or heaven. I would still need to make a case for myself. After all, I’m here. Whether it was a miracle of creation or a process of evolution–TA-DA! Behold, I have arrived.

Even if I found out that God was all made up, I would have to include people. They’re around, you know. Except on Monday night at Sammy’s house.”

(A refreshing, hearty laugh.)

“You can’t live without running into folks. So you should make sure the cushion you keep between you and them prevents bruising.

And also, daggone it, while I’m here I might as well be creative. If you’re going to do everything the same all the time, you’re going to start hoping for heaven, which… Well, you know. We’re not sure.

And I’ve always believed in respecting life. If it’s alive, it deserves a chance.

See, I call this my back door. When I get discouraged or you guys piss me off, I go there–to that back door–and I open it up and I imagine a world without God and realize that it still would require His spirit. Does that make sense to you?

Well anyway, much as I would like to tell you my story and share my disappointment, I can’t. Because the God that’s in my heart is certainly real, whether the God of the Universe is or not.

You know, it’s funny. I’ve never told this to anyone before. I’ve never spoken it out loud–mainly because I thought it made me look like a freakin’ atheist. I’m not, though. I believe it all. I’m just ready, in case it’s not exactly what’s been advertised. I’m prepared to make sure that the things I would have done get done. And one of the things is to keep what happened Monday night to myself.

If it’s any comfort, if I was going to tell anybody, it sure would be you cool dudes.”

Everybody laughed.

But then something strange happened. Two or three, and then five or ten people rose to their feet, came up and hugged Meningsbee with tears in their eyes.

The emotion he had been holding back all week long suddenly burst, and the good reverend fell to his knees, weeping.

The rest of the congregation joined the others around him, sprouting their own tears. Even four or five visitors stood on the perimeter with misty eyes.

Reverend Richard Meningsbee didn’t ponder what was happening.

He just let it happen.

 

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Three Ways to Be Wanted … November 6, 2014

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Everybody yearns to be wanted.

Are there universal aspects of human behavior that make us more appealing to the tribe than others? Of course there are.

So it’s ridiculous to continue to preach a gospel of individuality when a certain amount of conformity is necessary for us to get along and succeed with our brothers and sisters.

So let me offer three suggestions on how to make yourself more wanted by friends, and even strangers.

1. Stop complaining.

I mean, completely. And when you do slip up and begin to grump and growl, catch it and apologize. It’s a piece of self-righteousness that we must acquire, otherwise we will find ourselves hanging around with folks who believe that complaining is an option rather than a vice.

To identify what complaining is, let me give you a definition: Complaining is when your expectation has been dashed and detoured by reality and you still feel you have the right to an opinion.

You don’t, I don’t and neither does anyone else.

One of the most appealing aspects of human character which draws people your way is a reputation for “taking one on the chin” without bruising up for a week.

2. Start listening and remembering.

Some people say they’re good listeners, but they’re horrible at remembering.

  • If people tell you they don’t like pickles, don’t keep serving them.
  • If you hear that someone is searching for a specific item and you run across it, buy it and present it to them.

We extol the virtue of listening, but it is a useless attribute if we don’t allow the information to become part of our conscious memory.

Listen–yes indeed, but more importantly, remember the preferences, deeds and desires of others.

3. Pick a mood.

You don’t have to be happy all the time. But you do have to land on a general temperament which people can trust. Even though we may not admit it, we get frustrated by folks who are high one day and “in the pit” the next. Matter of fact, we tend to become amateur psychiatrists, diagnosing what their condition might be.

Unless you have a neurological disorder or a mental illness, your moodiness is your choice.

All of us desire to be wanted. But to achieve this status, we must pack our knapsack with the kind of supplies that make us valuable on this great camp-out called life.

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