Astride (adj): with a leg on each side of.dictionary with letter A

I was so intrigued by horse-back riding that I finally decided I needed to try it.

I found myself at a farm with horses, and decided to ask if they would saddle one up for me, and let me take a crack at it.

Well, because I’m a large man, they had to find a horse that was willing to accept my girth. That took a few moments. Then the saddle had to fit my butt. A little more time passing.

Soon I felt I was creating great inconvenience, but they insisted not–so after about an hour, the horse was brought to me and I was told to mount it.

This became problematic.

If you do not know, horses are tall.

You have to put your foot in the stirrup and hoist yourself in the air–to land astride a creature which tries to stand still, but does suffer from being fidgety.

I was completely unable to get myself up on the horse without using a ladder. (They jokingly explained to me that carrying such a ladder in the Old West would have been completely unacceptable.) But I survived the humiliation and found myself astride this magnificent beast.

I was astounded how high up it was, and how the ground threatened me from beneath, fearing that I would soon be bouncing on it.

But I was determined to continue. I grabbed the reins, the saddle-horn and squeezed my legs around the horse as much as possible, so as not to be expelled.

This action of constricting my legs created a cramp in my crotch. There’s no way to explain how uncomfortable a crotch cramp is. Even when you relax your legs, the cramp doesn’t go away.

But since I had insisted on riding this horse and they had taken a solid hour to prepare the animal for my use, I attempted to ignore the crotch cramp, which by this time, was nearly bringing me to tears.

Then my butt got sore from rubbing against the saddle.

The smell of the horse was not particularly pleasant, and because I was unable to relax, the entire ride was more like a medical procedure performed without anesthesia.

When we mercifully arrived back at the barn and they brought over the ladder, my legs had settled into such a cramp that when I tried to climb off, I tipped the ladder and fell to the ground with a huge thud.

The horse was startled and ran away into the woods, forcing my fine friends, who had accommodated me, to go on a merry chase.

The humiliation only lasted three or four days, but I fortunately have never placed myself astride any beast–ever again.


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Astray (adj): 1. away from the correct path or direction 2. into error or morally questionable behavior.dictionary with letter A

One of the things that bothers me the most about God is the insistence by His followers that He is perfect. Fortunately for my faith, God does not insist on being perceived that way.

The Bible is not a “Holy” book, but rather a “wholly” book.

In other words, it puts all the information in there–good, bad and ugly–and shows us the evolution of a Creator who created us in His own image, with the aspiration that we, too, would evolve.

God makes an earth without form that He has to mess with because it’s pretty useless.

The story says that He gets so fed up with people that He kills them, and then He’s really sorry He did.

He tries to put His faith in one people–one culture–which He hoped would be a beacon to others, but instead, they tout their predominance, causing Him to abandon the notion of a “chosen people,” in favor of people who choose well.

He’s worked His way through prophets, religious revivals, social upheaval and revolutions, always moving towards humanity and away from abstract divinity.

Read His book. It’s a tell-all.

He’s very willing to let us know where He went astray, as long as we are equally as willing to admit where we have gone astray.

It is a wholly truthful story of a Spirited Being finding better ways to love all the time.

I go astray.

It usually isn’t because I have become morally depraved, but rather, have become self-righteous over what I viewed as somebody else’s moral depravity.

Asking human beings to avoid carnal activity is similar to asking your dog to watch your plate of food for you while you go grab some iced tea.

It is not only ridiculous and irrational … but ends up being a cruel set-up.

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Astonish (v): to surprise or impress someone greatly.dictionary with letter A

  • Someone letting another person go in front of them in the grocery store because they have fewer items
  • A homeless man picking up trash in the park where he sleeps.
  • Anyone who lets me into traffic when they don’t have to.
  • A beautiful sunshiny day.
  • Finishing up my daily writing, realizing that something really cool came out of someone like me.
  • Sitting in a room with friends and watching them laugh and feeling a part of it.
  • A really good meal that came out of nowhere from what looked like a broken-down diner.
  • Discovering in the check-out line that the item you purchased is further reduced in price.
  • Reaching into an old jacket pocket and finding $20.
  • Saying a prayer and actually feeling better.
  • Barely escaping being hit by an eighteen-wheeler.
  • Driving through the desert at the end of the day, peering at a beautiful sunset.
  • Going to bed with some aches and pains, to wake up in the morning with them amazingly gone.
  • Reaching the end of the month and having a few dollars left in your bank account after all the bills are paid.
  • Having someone compliment you on how well-behaved your children are.
  • Coming home and discovering that your kids have actually cleaned their room.
  • Having a very tiring day and then the dog comes in and licks your hand.
  • Wondering how you’re going to spend an evening and discovering an old movie you really love is just coming on TV.
  • Overwhelmed by the notion that someone who has known you for twenty years still loves you.
  • Reaching your latest birthday and feeling younger than older.
  • Knowing that you’re not alone, but you belong.

These are some astonishing things that should always be viewed with great astonishment.


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Astir (adj): 1. in a state of excitement 2. awake and out of bed.dictionary with letter A

Angels with attitude.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is the part of the resurrection of Jesus, when the women who have come to prepare his body for burial are confronted by a snarky angel.

Being a bit condescending, he asks these ladies, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

I suppose they could have gotten defensive; it’s possible they could have spit back that the last time they saw Jesus, he was pretty well gone.

But the words have always given me a chuckle of glee.

Why do we seek the living among the dead?

Why do we continue to tolerate a religious system which purposely generates anti-human rituals which historically have proven to be boring and sleep-inducing instead of requiring that life be pumped into these pious services?

Why do we roll our eyes when the word “Congress” is brought up–because we have decided that Washington, D.C. cannot possibly produce anything of lasting quality?

Why do we feel dumbfounded on the issue of race and despaired over the possibility of people getting along instead of gently ridiculing those individuals who still see color instead of character?

Why do we seek the living among the dead?

Why don’t we find the better part of youth–which is energy–and blend it with the better part of aging–which is humble wisdom?

Wouldn’t you like to live in a world full of energetic, humble wisdom?

To do so, you will have to stop coming to your tombs for funerals and start dressing for a party…and demand that what is dead rise up from the grave.


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Asthma: (n) a respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing.dictionary with letter A

ne of the sure signs of dying is difficulty in breathing, which is followed by the surest sign of dying, which is not breathing.

So I can’t imagine a more terrifying condition than asthma, which simulates your death for you over and over again, just in case you forgot what it might be like.

I’ve only had shortness of breath once or twice in my life, and I can tell you, it was mortifying.

Death would not be so bad if you didn’t have to stop breathing. The body just downright objects to that.

I have been underwater for a few more seconds than my lungs appreciated, trying to surface, praying prayers in every single language I knew, including a few I made up, desperately paddling my way to get to oxygen again.

I think because movies have treated asthma as a condition which is handled with an inhaler or some sort of medication, we don’t really pick up how horrifying it must be to be unable to get air into your lungs.

So all of my concern and prayers go out to those who experience this condition, and have been victimized by it–and also a quick prayer for a cure.

I like to breathe.

When I was a kid I didn’t even enjoy going under water and holding my breath to compete with others, to see who could last the longest. I’ve never participated in a contest while going through a tunnel to see who could hold their breath through the whole experience.

I’m pretty well addicted to about 45 inhales and exhales every minute.


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Asterisk (n) :a symbol (*) used to mark printed or written text, typically as a reference to an annotationdictionary with letter A

I had to chuckle.

On one occasion, I found myself invited to write an article about a white supremacist organization that was just forming in the state of Louisiana.

Actually, I volunteered for the opportunity.

Where some people would find such rhetoric and prejudice to be intolerable, I have developed a sense of humor about all human activity, including my own.

If you think of us, as a race, as being comic relief to the mind of God on this stage of earth, then you’re much more likely to be merciful–and also prepared to discover your own flubs and dropped lines.

So as I listened to the keynote speaker of this organization espouse his defenses of their well-known bigotries, I kept envisioning that surrounding his entire mouth should be a collage of asterisks.

The purpose of these implements would be to refer you to an explanation–or at least an excuse–of why this person is saying these far-fetched things.

In other words, when he proclaimed that “black people were really monkeys,” I saw the asterisk next to his words, and went to the bottom of the page and read the explanation, which was as follows:

“This is a man who is very insecure about himself and his sexuality, who feels threatened by men with dark skin.”

It became quite a game for me.

I was able to discover the background, and even the bibliography, for each of his contentions, which always pointed to a sense of inadequacy he projected as weakness onto individuals of a different hue.

I think the leaders of the organization were surprised how jolly I was through the whole event, expecting me to become infuriated and walk out.

But thanks to my comical asterisks, which I used to decorate his speech, I was not only able to survive it, but was also completely prepared to ascertain the source of such hatred.


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Assurance: (n) positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise.dictionary with letter A

“A money-back guarantee.”

How we love such a promise.

Yet there really are no guarantees. And I’m not speaking this from a jaded position. What I mean is, life maintains its purpose and fairness by being unpredictable.

  • For every person who insists they have assurance in their finance, there are stock market crashes and bank closings.
  • For every individual who puts great confidence in beauty, there is the ever-present specter of aging.
  • Even in religion, the “blessed assurance” that “Jesus is mine” is merely a promise of a heaven which we cannot see.

So I often wonder what value a word like “assurance” actually has in the human vocabulary.

Is it merely something we demand from other people, so we can be angry with them later when they turn out to be as inconsistent as we are?

Is it a self-righteous decision to hold some things in place, with the ridiculous assumption that change is normally for the worse?

I don’t know.

But as I’ve gotten older–and hopefully, a little more mature–I’ve asked people to make less promises and give fewer assurances.

Because I think a wiser philosophy is that since we cannot make ourselves taller or lengthen our lives, we should be content to accept the value of the moment for the beauty it possesses instead of trying to lock in a permanent situation … which is usually beyond the scope of us mere mortals.


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