Cross

Cross: (n) the structure on which Jesus was executed.

Word has it the angels appeared at his birth.

There were doves flying about as he was baptized.

He certainly favored his time with children.

His whole message about life began with the word, “Happy.”

He wanted us to consider lilies.

He told stories about sparrows.

He fed five thousand people with bread and fish.

His hands possessed some healing.

It says that he wept.

He marveled.

He talked about seeds, planting, fishing.

He favored the second mile.

They claim he personally emptied a tomb—more than once.

People walked after they met him. They hadn’t done that before.

People could see after an encounter with him—some of them born blind.

He was moved with compassion.

And he had the ability of looking at the world around him and discerning how things work—without bitching.

Yet with all this symbolism—all this imagery—all this amazing storytelling, he is known for a cross.

Unfair.


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Crosby, Bing

Crosby, Bing: A twentieth-century American singer and actor.

For about a decade, the United States was enamored with three male singers. (Of course, you could argue this point, and your three would probably be as good as the three I’m going to present.)

But for the sake of discussion, let me say that this trio of crooners was:

Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby

They were very different men, and not just by having individual names, but by lifestyle. It was intriguing that for the first time in our history, Mr. Cole, a black man was included in the upper echelon of the singing triumvirate.

Bing Crosby was fascinating because he was known for comedies and light, romantic romps—and his famous baritone voice was relished by young and old alike. Matter of fact, to this day it is nearly impossible to envision a cozy seat by the fireplace at Christmas without hearing old Bing intone, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

Then out come the books:

  • Accusations that he was cruel, vindictive and even abusive to his children.
  • A womanizer.
  • And assertions that he may have had more in mind than snow when he sought a “White Christmas.”

You see, this syndrome was not invented by our 24-hour news cycle.

Throughout our history, we have loved to create heroes and extol the talent in a person so that we could turn around and expose dirty details to bring the elevated champion down a notch or two.

For instance, people insist that George Washington, the father of our country—the man who suffered at Valley Forge—who persevered to win us our freedom?

Tee-hee-hee: he had wooden teeth.

Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, who held our nation together through the Civil War?

Tee-tee-hee: he might just have slept in a bed with another man.

We are incorrigible children in search of information to feed our gossip frenzy.

It’s fine if it is truthful.

But if it is not, we are still willing to consider it, to tickle our fancy.

I don’t know whether there is a celebrity or a notable who has not suffered under this microscope of mangling.

But for me, I still hear a gentle man, smoking a pipe, singing “White Christmas,” cutting up with awfully silly jokes, with Bob Hope, while they’re On the Road to somewhere or another.

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Croquet

Croquet: (n) a game played by knocking wooden balls through metal wickets with mallets.

I was totally astounded that somehow or another, with the passing of years and obvious wrangling of internal forgetfulness, I had wiped the word “croquet” from my mind as a therapeutic solution.

Because when I suddenly heard it, some horrible memories flooded my mind.

Yes, when I was a boy—a young boy—my parents decided to buy me a croquet set to play in our back yard.

I am not dedicated enough to the writing of this essay to gamble my fragile psyche by going into too much detail about the game.

Let me put it this way:

Croquet was obviously conceived by someone who only had two or three distinct abilities, and wanted to showcase them in a single gaming effort, knowing that others might certainly not have any of the predispositions to survive the damn game at all.

A wooden mallet hitting wooden balls, which must travel on grass and go through little wire tunnels called wickets that are suspended in the soil, and in doing so, step by step reaching the holy peg you must hit with your ball to make you the winner.

With football you get a touchdown.

Baseball, a home run or at least a hit.

Basketball? Swish. Two points.

Croquet? A wooden ball that barely rolls over grass through a wire container several times over to end up supposedly victoriously banging against a wood rod.

Not only is there no payoff, but the amount of frustration that goes into the process is downright demeaning.

I played with it two times—once because my parents stood over me on my birthday and made me, and the second time was when a younger cousin came to visit who thought he was so smart, and I thought surely I could defeat him at this ridiculous endeavor.

I was so pitiful at it that he beat me.

I will now try to retreat back into my sanctuary of disremembering, hoping that the word “croquet” never comes up again, and I won’t have to relive the horror of wooden mallets, wooden balls, metal frameworks and a winning peg.

I just want you all to appreciate that I went through this today just for you.

You are loved.

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Crop Up

Crop up: (v) to bear or yield a crop; the result

Occasionally, I find myself sitting in a meeting with people from a ‘planning committee,’ and because a certain subject has drawn extensive conversation and disagreement, the chairman of the event will close off the topic by remarking:

“Well, let’s just see what might crop up.”

It is one of those statements we make when we think further debate is more tedious than something that might attack us because we did not prepare for it. Of course, often we are either too smart or too intimidated to settle for such an ambiguous assertion.

For instance, if four or five of my friends and I were standing at the bottom of a mountain, and someone said, “Let’s just climb up,” and one of my buddies responded, “But we don’t have a rope and we’re old and out of shape.” Then if another fellow piped up to object, “Listen, let’s just get started and see what crops up,” truthfully, we would not follow that advice.

Certainly, when we were younger and experimenting with our sexual loins and we became so excited that we were ready to indulge in intercourse with another human being and this partner said, “I hope you don’t mind—I have chlamydia,” the normal reaction would most definitely not be, “That’s ok. Let’s just see what crops up.”

What I’m trying to say is that there are moments when we are of sound mind—even when we seem to be possessed of unsound intentions.

So why can’t we make voting one of those?

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Crop Rotation

Crop rotation: (n) the system of varying the planting of successive crops

Sometimes I’m a bit saddened when a good idea sprouts to the surface.

It’s similar to when early farmers planted crops and the bounty was so immense that they planted them over and over and over again—until all the nutrients were drained from the soil and the returns became less and less and less.

Finally, someone realized that if they planted different crops for a while, they could come back and plant the original crop again and get fruitfulness from all.

In our day, a good idea will come along—shall we say, a fresh crop—and because it worked so well or was received with joy, it’s planted over and over again, until eventually it is so common that the impact it once had is gone.

It’s a little procedure that runs like this:

  1. The arrival of the great idea.
  2. The mass production by the imitators.
  3. The deterioration of the idea as the cheapskates come along and debilitate it.
  4. The cynics who mock the copycats, making us believe there was never a good idea in the first place.

Rotate your crops.

If something great happens, don’t assume it’s going to happen again. Isn’t that why we call it great—because it doesn’t happen all the time?

In the process of rotating your crops, you won’t get tired of corn because soybeans will need to be sold.

Likewise, you won’t get tired of love because it’s so plentiful.

America is a great idea. It’s not worn out.

But it would benefit us to rotate fresh concepts into our lives—so the beautiful topsoil of freedom can have a chance to build itself back up with the nutrients that truly do enable us able to say, “Hat’s off. This is great.”

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Crop

Crop: (n) the produce from the ground.

As the piercing tones of the political pundits wrangle with one another over decibel level, it never occurs to anyone that the United States of America cannot be compared to any other place, because unlike these other locations, this nation has a heart, a soul, a mind and a body.

Without understanding this, you begin to believe that you can nurture the mind of America while ignoring the heart, soul and body—or foolishly believe that you can honor the soul and ignore the other parts of innovation.

During my nearly thirty-five years of travel across the country, stopping off in villages, towns or bustling cities, I immediately understood the crop that comes from the soil of this great nation.

America has heart.

It has emotion. If you live on the coasts, you may think that the middle states are agrarian and backward. Matter of fact, there are people who would not even know what the word agrarian means because they consider it backward.

On the other hand, if you land somewhere deep in Nebraska, the antics of the West Coast may be discussed over the dinner table with a sneer and a frown, as those huddled around faithfully consume their biscuits and butter.

You cannot love this country, its people, its purpose, nor envision its destination without traveling to its heart, musing over its soul, mulling its mind and allowing the body to bring strength to the economics and the gross national product.

What is the crop of America?

  • Iowa believes it’s corn.
  • Silicon Valley in California would insist it’s technology.
  • The Ivy League schools on the East Coast would certainly extol the importance of higher education.
  • And those who dwell in the South will spend hours testifying of the importance of family, devotion and hospitality.

It is difficult for us to be at war with each other.

We need one another so intensely that we end up really fighting ourselves.

So when I drove my van into beautiful downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with corn fields and soybeans surrounding my journey, I knew I was in for an evening of warmth, reflection and conservative reaction to new ideas. They were never averse to progress—just wanted to make sure that no sacred lanes were destroyed to make super-highways.

When I went down to Lebanon, Tennessee, I was fully aware I was in for an evening of a probable potluck dinner, some hand clapping and folks who were frightened that they might lose the spirit of their faith by accepting too much of what, for them, seemed abnormal.

In a journey out to Palo Alto, California, surrounded by the students and faculty of Stanford University, my heart was engorged with the explosive energy of learning, experimenting and researching to find answers to problems that plague the populace.

And then, finding myself weeks later in New York City, I watched the ships come and go, feeding an economy which generates the crop of prosperity, making the whole landscape well-funded.

What is the crop of America?

It is the freedom to have a heart, a soul, a mind and a body—and to treasure each and every part.

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Crooner

Crooner: (n) someone who utilizes smooth but exaggerated singing

Late one night, as a friend and I drove across the expanses of the American prairie, where it was so lonesome and dark that even the prairie dogs had turned in for the night, we quickly discovered that we were getting sleepy.

We tried eating.

We tried listening to the radio.

We tried talking. (I think we confessed all the sins and indiscretions from our youth at least three times over.)

While flipping around the radio, we discovered a channel set aside exclusively for old-time singers like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

We were deeply surprised at how much production was put into each and every song, and how these crooners took every single tune and made it sound the same as the others—simply by homogenizing the words and blending the tones together to develop the same consistency on every ballad.

We got tickled.

We decided to take great rock and roll songs and sing them to one another as if we were crooners. From “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, to “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues, to “Hang On Sloopy,” by the McCoys, to “Get Back” by the Beatles—each rendition was funnier than the last.

After all, rock and roll is known for separating words and lyrics, almost in a syncopated style. When you smear it all together, it not only loses its beat, but certainly threatens to remove all meaning.

Crooners are interesting vocalists.

They took a time in our history, when we wanted our background music to be nearly symphonic, and then they added cottage cheese vocals, to make everything resound with romance.

Still, I don’t think anything else could have kept us awake that night, as we drove across Americana.

It was especially funny when we decided to do our “crooner rendition” of the Kiss song, “I’m Gonna Rock and Roll All Night and Party Every Day.”

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