Livin’, Laughin,” and A Buryin’

Why do I take time to write down the stories? Because I enjoy rehashing them. And if they bring a smile or a laugh, so much the better.

So I throw a story or two in, just like I do when I chew the fat with the folks who stop by to chew the fat in my office.

And a joke or six, maybe a half serious comment about something or other, and whatever else I think might cause someone to smile, or perhaps to think.

Because, as John Wesley said, “Sour godliness is the Devil’s religion.”

St. Francis of Assisi said “Leave sadness to the Devil. The Devil has reason enough to be sad.” Martin Luther wrote “Our God is not a God of sadness, but the Devil is. Christ is a God of joy. It is pleasing to our dear God whenever you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart.”

And a fellow whose name has become synonymous with stern and unbending religious stricture, John Calvin, wrote “We are nowhere forbidden to laugh, or to be satisfied with our food, or be delighted with music, to drink wine, or to enjoy the company of our fellows.”

I completely agree. I am well pleased with your company, and I find a few laughs encourages folks to hang around and talk.

Besides, as Francis of Assisi said, “Do you want to know one of the best ways to win over people and lead them to God? It consists of giving them joy and making them happy.”

Or as Bil Keene sez, “He who laughs, lasts.”

The more folks I can inveigle into a laugh the better.

One item that I ran across in the waiting room of Decatur General broke the tension for me. The title was “The Perfect Pastor,” and it was supposed to have been a chain letter. Which went something like this…..

“The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect pastor preaches exactly 15 minutes.”

“The perfect pastor condemns sin but never upsets anyone.”

“The perfect pastor works from 8 AM to midnight. In his spare time, he is also the janitor.”

“The perfect pastor makes $50.00 a week, wears good clothes, reads good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50.00 a week to the poor.”

“The perfect pastor is 28 years old and has been preaching at least 30 years.”

“The perfect pastor has a burning desire to work with teen agers, and spends all of his time with senior citizens.”

“The perfect pastor smiles all the time and keeps a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.”

“The perfect pastor makes 15 calls a day on parish families, shut-ins, and parishioners who are hospitalized.”

“The perfect pastor spends all of his time evangelizing the unchurched and is always in his office when he is needed.”

“If your pastor does not measure up to these standards, simply send this letter to six other parishes that are tired of their pastor, too. Then bundle up your pastor and send him or her to the church at the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 pastors and one of them should be perfect.

But remember, you must have faith in this letter. One church broke the chain and got its old pastor back in less than a week.”

I was thinking, as I read that, that there is more truth than poetry there. In fact, it wouldn’t take much of a workover to describe what folks expect out of any of who volunteer their time and services to a cause.

Now, speaking of preachers, pastors, and such, I heard there was an ecumenical council in Wichita last summer. Of course, they had to open the meeting with a prayer. The delegates were surprised when the moderator began, “Puke and weenie men as we are, er, I mean, weak and puny men as we are….

According to some gossip on a Topeka repeater, during that meeting somebody ran in hollering “The building is on fire.” At the shout of fire….

The Methodists immediately gathered in a corner and prayed.

The Baptists started a shout of “Everybody into the water.”

The Congregationalists shouted, “Every man for himself.”

The Adventists declaimed “It’s the vengeance of an angry God!”

The Lutherans posted a notice on the door, declaring the fire was evil because fire is the natural abode of the Devil.

The Christian Scientists huddled together and agreed among
themselves that there was really not a fire at all.

The Presbyterians appointed a chairwoman, who was to appoint a committee to look into the fire and make a report at the next meeting.

The Episcopalians formed a procession and marched out in good order.

The Unitarians formed a committee, which concluded the fire had as much right to be there as anyone else.

And the Catholics passed a collection plate to cover the damages.

Speaking of committees, did you know there are no committees in Heaven? Nope, nary one. While God was creatin’ the animals a bunch of kibitzing angels told the boss that what He was doing looked like fun. So the Boss told them that he would let them try their hand.

So a bunch of them gathered up and created an animal. The critter had fur like an otter, a tail like a beaver, feet like a frog, and a bill like a duck. God took one look at the platypus and told them he would finish the job himself. And ever since there hasn’t been a single committee in Heaven.

Now, since I have found a subject, I used to know a fellow name of Danny Grubbs. All Dan wanted to be was a preacher. His dad finally sold a quarter section and sent Danny to Southwestern Bible College.

The Southwestern College was big on what would have been called “circuit riding” back in the old days. When they thought a prospective preacher was ready they would send him to this little church or that little church to hold services.

Joe had gotten to that stage and was looking forward to his first preaching experience – when a fellow student wound up in the hospital. The boy had been sent to one of the little pipeline towns that would spring up and fade away over a summer – and the pipeliners didn’t take a shine to the boy’s style of preachment. So they shot him!

The next Sunday Joe got directions to that same church. Joe had sand enough to go, and to preach, all right. But looking out at about three dozen of the worst looking men he’d ever seen he couldn’t help shaking in his boots all the time he was stammering through his sermon. And a mighty short sermon it was, too.

After the preaching was over one of the roughest looking men in the church swaggers up to Joe. “Feller,” the pipeliner sez, “That was the sorriest sermon I ever heard. You ought to pay us admission to listen to a sorry sermon like that. Do you know what we do with sorry preachers around here? We shoots em!”

Of course, poor Joe was about to faint at that point.

“But,” sez the tough, “We ain’t going to shoot no skeeredy cat like you. We are going to shoot the sorry SOB who had guts enough to send kids like you out here.”

That reminds me of the time little Cooter Johnson stopped at the church door to tell Preacher Hollingsworth that when he grew up he was going to give him some money. The preacher knew Cooter because the school used to let the Preacher exhort the students once a week – and Cooter was easy to get to know.

“Well, thank you, Cooter. But why would you give me money?”

“Because my daddy says you are the poorest preacher we ever had.”

Speaking of sorry preachers, I saw a want ad in the Minneapolis Star last summer that began “TAKE OUR PASTOR, PLEASE. Thriving congregation in rapidly developing suburban area desperately needs new, creative, clerical leadership. We would like to trade pastors with a congregation that needs a kindly but do-nothing pastor. We will pay the first year’s salary package plus a substantial bonus for speedy departure. Please respond ASAP box 275, the Star.”

Which reminds of the ad in a newspaper for a position in Lebanon. That ad supposedly ran, “Middle Eastern Diocese looking for candidates for Bishop. Must be athletic, agile, and have great endurance. Former track stars preferred. Salary and benefits negotiable. Package includes private bunker and armored personal carrier for traveling. Must be willing to relocate.” Considering the situation in that part of the world, the qualifications sound reasonable to me.

And thinking about Cooter Johnson reminds me that before the Johnson family moved to town so Cooter and his sister could go to school, they lived so far back in the woods they had to sweep the coon farts off the porch every morning. Cooter had been in school, oh, a couple of months I guess, when he comes home with a question.

“Mama,” sez Cooter, “Preacher Hollingsworth said Jesus was a Jew.”

“Well, that’s right son,” his mama told him. “Jesus was a Jew.”

“Well then,” sez Cooter, “If Jesus was a Jew what’s he doin’ with a Mexican name?”

If memory serves me right, Cooter’s sister was Carol. She was a year older than Cooter, and more than a little outspoken. One time somebody invited the Johnson’s over to their church. And that church was a “holiness” church.

Carol was impressed no end by the old preacher, standing high above the congregation in an old fashioned box pulpit, shouting and waving the Bible like a man possessed. After a while she leaned way over to her Mama and whispered “What will we do if he gets loose?”

Now, speaking of Preacher Hollingsworth reminds me that I spent several hard days working in his plantation. Digging holes to plant folks in. Most of them for good folks who were missed by everyone who knew them. But every once in a while somebody would come along whose departure was a relief to all.

One of those was for Old Lady DuFresne. Now, you talk about a heller, Berta Dufresne had a bad case of naggin’ fever. She nagged husband Bill constantly about things he had nothing to do with and couldn’t do anything about. You know, that kind of naggin’ will upset a man as bad as a plague of flies will upset a horse. For about the same reason.

Not only that but she drove her kids half crazy trying to run their lives, gossiped about everybody within a hundred miles, and the family dog would hide under the porch whenever she set foot outside the house. Yessir, she was a real friend to nobody, a plague to be avoided at all costs.

And one day she cashed in, bought the farm, passed over, croaked. Died! Dead. So I got the job of opening and closing the grave. It was a hot day, too, and when the hearse got there I noticed a little cloud coming up in the west. Didn’t look like much, but those prairie thunderheads will fool you.

Preacher Hollingsworth started preachin’ and that cloud got bigger. A half hour later the Preacher was praising Berta DuFresne to the skies, all about what a wonderful Christian woman she was, patient and long suffering, quiet as a church mouse, and every body was looking at each other wondering where that pack of lies came from.

All at once there was a loud crack of lightning, and we had a prairie shower. About an inch of rain, in ten seconds, like turning a stock tank on its side, sploosh!

Everybody standing there drenched, the preacher trying to separate his notes, and somebody in the back says “See Mary, I told you that’s what lying will get you.”

Stranger

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