Reverend Meningsbee (Part 55) One More Look… May 21st, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

There should be a certain age when a man or woman reaches the maturity to know of a certainty not to climb up on a wooden ladder purchased by the church shortly after World War II.

Whatever that age is, Meningsbee was short of it.

For weeks, he had asked several of the church deacons to unclog his gutters at the parsonage. He was reluctant to make the request–everybody knows it’s a horrible job. Not only does it involve climbing, but sticking your hands in unimaginable slop.

But drainage was becoming a problem so he found a wooden ladder in the storage room at the church, donned a pair of gloves and climbed. He noticed that the last step creaked just a little bit, and even felt a slight wiggle, but decided it was just adjusting to his weight.

He was in the midst of reaching for a particularly drippy mess when all at once, the ladder gave way. It cracked, tipped and he went flying through the air, landing on the concrete sidewalk.

He was in trouble, unable to get to his feet.

Fortunately Pas Carl was within shouting distance, and immediately came, called an ambulance, and in no time at all Meningsbee was at the county hospital, receiving the news that he had broken both legs–a tibia in his right and a femur in his left.

It was so serious that it was necessary to put him in a body cast up to his waist.

Meningsbee asked the physician if there were other options. The doctor laughed and said, “Yeah. You could have chosen not to break your legs.”

Meningsbee did not think it was funny. He found himself needing the kindness of strangers. Well, maybe not strangers, but the people he normally served were being drafted to be servants to him.

The good news was, he would only be in the cast about eight weeks, and in about four weeks they could change it over to what they referred to as a “walking cast.” Even though he thought that sounded a little like an oxymoron, it did grant some possibility. But for four weeks, he was going to need assistance.

This was especially troublesome since he was in the midst of his faith crisis and did not need to add on a physical one.

His life became very simple in a complex way. Pas Carl and a couple of men came to pick him up every morning to go to the church office, and people came to see him instead of him going to see them.

They retrieved him, took him home and served him lunch, and he spent the afternoon napping. He had never napped before, but as it turned out, it was the best part of the experience. Matter of fact, he was pretty darned sure he was committed to napping for life.

In the evening, a family from the church simply brought over their dinner, and the whole family sat and ate with him. It was a nice system. Annoying as hell, but nice.

It was about two weeks into the recovery that he was rummaging through some files in his office, when he came across a DVD. All that was printed on the label was “First Look.” Normally he wouldn’t give it another thought, but he was particularly bored and aggravated at the ambiguity of the disc.

So he popped it into a nearby computer and sat back to see what it had to offer. To his surprise, it was the first Sunday he was at the church, which had been videoed by one of the members and got stuck in the drawer. He decided to watch.

He laughed when he saw himself come in the church. He looked so out of place–not just a duck out of water, but a duck completely out of “duckdom.”

The congregation seemed rigid and cold compared to the group that gathered now. It felt more like an inquisition than a fellowship.

He listened as he boldly addressed them about the dream of having a “Jesus Church.” Since the video was shot from a distance, he could clearly hear the murmurs from the crowd when he made points that were not pleasing to their traditional sensibility.

Even though he had arrived less than three years ago, in the video he seemed so young, so idealistic, so ill-prepared.

All at once he found himself crying. How could something be both the most amazing and the most disappointing experience of your life?

Amazing because all the things Jesus said would make humans powerful and viable ended up being true. Meningsbee realized that when he relied on Jesus he was very effective.

But it was also very disappointing, because he found himself disillusioned, broken in spirit, and now broken in body as well.

He watched the DVD all the way to the end, and was so glad he did–because at the conclusion the family who had shot the video turned the camera on the father of the family, and the wife–or the woman Meningsbee assumed to be his wife–asked the question, “So what did you think of the new preacher?”

The father stood for a minute, thinking, posing for the camera, and said, “Well, they say he wrote a book called ‘The Jesus Church.’ If you ask me, he’s got too much Jesus and not enough church.”

There was a laugh and the camera was turned off.

Meningsbee’s heart grew in his chest. Suddenly a joy that had been absent for weeks came back inside his soul and took its rightful place. Even though the father in the video didn’t deem himself a prophet, he was one.

The goal that Reverend Richard Meningsbee set for himself driving up to the church that day was to make sure that after he was done in Garsonville, the people would have seen Jesus instead of just a church.

Everything clicked into place. His timepiece with God was reset. Things were good.

Things were really good.

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Ask Jonathots… October 27th, 2016

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Is there any such thing as a good war, a necessary war or a productive war?

I am always frightened of pat answers.

I’m talking about those responses given which attempt to be clever or cover a multitude of opinions in order to please everybody. We know that life doesn’t work that way. Actually, truth is a poison ivy that leaves everyone scratching.

So when you talk about war, it’s easy to take familiar stances.

For instance, “war is fine as long as we’re protecting the innocent.” The problem, of course is, who is really innocent?

And most people who decide to go to war tout that they’re doing it to “shelter the needy,” but have ulterior motives.

There are those who say war is necessary to promote our way of life. In other words, “these people are going to do what’s right or we’ll kill them.”

And there are people who contend that war is acceptable when we, ourselves, are attacked. Then the question comes, at what level? Are we talking about a bombing of our whole country, or an aggressive move toward one of our ships?

The truth of the matter is, war is so wrong that it must be won by people who know it’s evil.

If we begin to believe that there’s a righteous war, or our cause is anointed by the heavens and we’re allowed to enact violence, then we become the latest plague on the planet.

  • War is wrong because it kills people.
  • Killing people is against life.
  • God is a promoter of life.

So what should we feel about war?

I think many wars are avoided by choosing our skirmish.

In other words, if we step in early enough and rip the bad seed out of the ground, the ugly cactus of conflict doesn’t have to pop up in the desert.

If we use diplomacy, a show of force and a line in the sand that we really do follow through on, we have a much better chance of avoiding a death toll and devastation.

Should the United States have become involved in World War II earlier? Yes–the U. S. should have stepped in when Hitler decided to annex part of Austria–long before he took over Poland, all of Europe and bombed the hell out of England.

We should have noticed the political upheaval in Viet Nam and addressed it with the tools available–a show of force and diplomacy–instead of sending human bodies to shoot at human bodies.

War is not inevitable. More often than not, it’s a refusal and a denial of existing problems, hoping they will go away, only to discover that they multiply.

For instance, in a marriage, long before there’s a divorce, there are a thousand junctures where communication and conversation could have changed the outcome.

War is caused by delay.

Delay is triggered by politics.

And politics is the notion that by pretending everything is good, we will get elected.

Choose the skirmish.

Avoid the war.

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Innocent Blood … September 5, 2012

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Seven things: it really seems like a lot.

For the Proverb claims that there are “seven things that God hates.” I kind of wish it were two. You see, if it were just a few items, I could ignore it, assuming I didn’t fall into the narrow definition. But seven? Just the law of averages leads me to believe that I just might be included in there somewhere. As I look these over,  I realize that at the core of all of them is this nasty human vice of wanting to be better.

For instance, the proud look. It proclaims, “I am better than you.”

The lying tongue. It states, “I am better than truth.”

Just with that pair right there, you have the foundation for a social malaise that causes us to contend that as long as we have confidence in ourselves, then telling the occasional fib to protect our position is just logical. Tricky stuff. But not nearly as tricky as the third hated thing:

“Hands that shed innocent blood.”

After we reach the point where we believe we’re better than other people and that we are sure we’re better than the truth, it’s an easy slide into the evil position of believing we’re better than life–especially that life over there, that isn’t like us.

Innocent blood.

In this election year, the reason I have trouble supporting any party–including those who claim to be independent–is that there is no consistency in the principles they follow, and no meter stick applied across the board to create an equality of conclusions. Nowhere does this show up any more blatantly than the with issue of life and innocent blood.

After all, those who want gun control in our country and to limit the distribution of fire arms will also tell you that it’s completely all right to abort a child. And those folks who are against aborting children and will tearfully tell you that it’s murder, have absolutely no difficulty declaring a war and dropping drone bombs on areas, resulting in collateral damage, including little children.

Perhaps Shakespeare was right when he said, “To thine own self be true.” If we really believe that hands that shed innocent blood are hated by God, we must understand that He puts great sanctity on the life which He created.

And that also goes for animals–because the proclamation does not say, “innocent human blood,” just “innocent blood.” So is it all right to kill a porpoise to get a good catch of tuna? Shall we continue to use animals to test products if there are other possibilities which would only increase the cost and not eliminate the benefit?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I think it is a risky venture to try to define God only using the criteria of what is easiest for us to do. God doesn’t care if it’s easy. God is concerned that we treasure life.

An amazing thing happened in 1944. For thousands of years, war had been fought on battlefields, with armies basically lining up like chess pieces to confront each other man on man. But then the Allies landed on the beach at Normandy and headed across Europe to expel the Nazis from Germany. To do so they often had to go from village to village and house to house, bombing the terrain indiscriminately, killing saint and sinner and placing them in a common mass grave. Yes–the enemy began to hide out amongst the innocent.

Ever since 1944, all the fighting our troops have done has fallen into this dangerous, precarious status. It happened in Korea. It most certainly happened in Viet Nam. And more recently, our forces found themselves uncertain of who was civilian and who was the enemy in the Iraq War and also the actions in Afghanistan.

It often becomes difficult to know who is innocent. But it is our responsibility, if we are people who believe in a divine Creator, to recognize His preference for avoiding the shedding of innocent blood.

Can we do this and still maintain a powerful worldwide presence? And if we decide to bypass such a precaution based upon the diplomacy of our own needs, how can we as a people survive, claiming we believe in life when we actually exterminate it?

Even though I am just a mortal, simple man, I feel compelled to develop some consistency on this issue in order to confirm to you and myself that I actually believe there is a God in heaven and I’m not dealing with a masterful myth. So here goes:

1. Guns–guns should be distributed based upon need. How do we determine need? I have no idea. But to arm human beings, who are emotionally driven creatures, with personal missiles to destroy their neighbors, be they human or animal, is irresponsible. Then how should the debate be formed? There are many areas in our lives where we are asked why. “Why do we want this?” “Why do we qualify for that?” Guns should be no different.

2. War. The purpose of war is to honor the thing that God hates. It is to track down those individuals who are shedding innocent blood, and as meticulously as possible, execute them. When we begin to believe that the ends justify the means, or even that trying to save money or time to conclude a conflict by killing innocent people is appropriate, we become part of the problem instead of the solution.

3. Capitol punishment. You know my stand on this one–if God did not execute the first murderer, Cain, who killed his brother, Abel, I seriously doubt if we have the right to do so. What is the alternative? To me that’s where the debate should happen, instead of trying to determine the most humane way to snuff out our villains.

4. Abortion. When we begin to believe that we have a choice to take human life which has no power to object, then we are shedding innocent blood. I think women should be granted every choice possible–but I do not believe abortion on demand is the correct way to handle the population explosion or levels of inconvenience. There are plenty of people who want to adopt children and there are certainly lots of folks who are presently forbidden to adopt, who would make better companions for these little ones than a cold grave does.

5. Animal rights. I believe animals can be consumed for food. I don’t have anything against people who are vegetarians but I do believe that it is clear throughout our history that to serve human children and the family with food is not only appropriate but necessary. But any execution or mistreatment of animals–to shed their blood for no cause other than sport, boredom or ease–is wrong.

There you go. Since war has become a house-to-house affair, we must become much more adept at conducting the extrication of malevolent folk, and in so doing, remain a civilized society that honors human life.

Consistency.

Republicans are against abortion, but welcome the free distribution of guns to the masses. Democrats contend that gun control is essential to protect human life, and then place the decision to terminate a human existence on the fears of a young, frightened girl.

The debate will not be easy. It never is. But to scurry into our camps of lies and deception and pretend that we are pursuing righteousness when actually we are just defending a political platform is to miss the whole point of why the writer of the Proverb told us there are things that God hates.

  • Yes, a proud look makes you communicate that you think you’re better than other people.
  • A lying tongue conveys that you believe you’re better than truth.
  • And hands that shed innocent blood make it clear that they are better than life.

Two thousand years ago, the skies were darkened, the earth shook and a religious institution was eventually toppled because they took the innocent life of the Prince of Peace and shed his blood on a cross. God in His mercy turned it into salvation. But He wept over His son’s massacre.

Make a decision. Be bold. Stop rationalizing to fit the agenda of your party or the common jargon of the day’s chatter. We can’t shed innocent blood without incurring God’s hate.

Find the villains, isolate them and protect the innocent. It is the work of the angels–and because it is the work of the angels, it will demand heavenly wisdom.

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