Dayton

Dayton: (n) a city in SW Ohio

Growing up in Central Ohio, Dayton was eighty miles away—just far enough that you felt going there was “taking a trip.”

I’ve always liked Dayton.

When I first started as a musician—impoverished and therefore ridiculed by friends and relatives as being irresponsible—I had a little place I went to in Dayton to perform my songs, where they treated me like I was on the top forty—and also, in some way, like I was a long-lost relative from Yugoslavia.

They loved me.

Therefore I loved them.

That’s when I learned the system. It is so much easier to love people when you know they’ve already made the leap to love you. It is certainly possible to love people when they’re considering loving you so you can share those feelings back with them in a considerate way.

Yet it is nearly implausible to love someone who has decided that you are not pleasing.

Loving those who don’t love you.

There’s really not any nobility in it—even though for centuries we have touted that true spirituality is ignoring one’s feelings in an attempt to aspire to more god-like actions.

But since we’re not supposed to be gods—we’re human—it seems forgivable to go ahead and feel at least “iffy” about those who place us in the reject pile.

I felt rejected in my hometown.

I wasn’t perfect, or even close to it.

It wasn’t that I didn’t do things that were worthy of critique.

It’s just how quickly those around me were ready to criticize.

In Dayton, I felt human.

I felt that my presence brought a smile.

I believed they even looked forward to seeing me.

I heard applause.

I received edification.

And because I did, I grew. I experimented. I took some chances.

I found out that my right hand and my left hand could do much more on the piano than I had imagined.

My voice could go higher.

I could actually sing on pitch.

My music gained emotion.

I was willing to listen to those who favored one tune over another without sensing an attack.

Somewhere on the eighty miles over to Dayton, my visit there and the journey back, I always healed.

The process was faithful—every time. I left home despondent, curious if the evening would make it better. I took a deep breath, put together a show, played it the best I could and expanded in the appreciation.

My heart grew, and I drove home—a little less defensive.

It was heavenly.

It was an experience I grew to cherish—and named “The Dayton Effect.”

 

Cruel

Cruel: (adj) willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.

You do know that your clock doesn’t say, right?

I’m talking about when we casually cite, “The clock says…” and we note the time.

Since clocks can’t speak, they can’t say.

Some folks would say that’s being picky. (Actually, it’s a little trick you learn in writing to make sure you don’t have grumblers and complainers instantly mocking you because you claim to have a talking clock.)

But two nights ago, I caught my clock reading, “2:53 A.M.”

Suddenly I was wide awake.

It’s amazing that during some of these midnight stirrings, it feels like you could get up and build a bridge. And then, five hours later when you’re supposed to get up and bridge something, you can barely move.

We are strangely constructed, curiously functioning and unfathomable in our conclusion.

But since the clock read “2:53,” I decided to ask what the plot was. Yes—my brain always has some sort of idea it’s brewing, contrary to what I might think about during the day, and also frequently critical of my self-assured attitude.

The question on this particular awakening was, “How have I been cruel?”

When I’m better prepared—after the selection of my favorite shirt and a good breakfast—I would probably insist that I’m not cruel. But my brain was reading something else at 2:54 in the morning. So I stayed quiet and listened.

This is the lecture I received:

You are cruel when you withhold appreciation simply because you believe you’ve already expressed your favor.

You are cruel when you know someone requires a hug and you supply a handshake instead.

You are cruel when your friend has contacted you by text or email, and you arbitrarily decide to return it—the next day.

You are cruel when you hear an ignorant statement made in your presence and you let it go without comment, thinking it’s none of your damn business.

You are cruel when you turn into cement over an issue of spirituality, politics or morality because you think it makes you appear more righteous.

You are cruel when you comply to the mediocrity of a situation or the indifference of a room because there’s no need to be a boat-rocker.

You are cruel when you no longer believe you’re capable of being cruel.

I don’t like it when my clock reads.

I guess I’m just like everyone else:

I would be completely satisfied with an ignorant time piece.

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Corollary

Corollary: (n) an immediate consequence or easily drawn conclusion.

Although it is not simple to explain to a six-year-old, nevertheless it still needs to be taught.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I had to instruct all of my children in a simple principle:

If you lie to me, we’ve got nothing—no relationship, no interaction, no possibility, no way of drawing close to each other.

Because lying comes with a corollary.

If my children lied to me, they were telling me they did not believe that truth would give them standing—even though I told them that no matter how bad they may think the truth might be, it was never as evil as the tiniest lie. And if they lied to me, they were saying they did not believe the truth could be heard and that they would still be able to continue being loved and appreciated.

Once they showed me they didn’t care about the truth, I knew they didn’t care about my feelings. Without the truth, I have no way to measure the depth and breadth of my relationship with anyone.

Once they created the corollary that they didn’t care about my feelings, they were making it obvious that their pride was more important than our relationship. You can see—it’s difficult to continue a friendship at that point.

Since their pride was more important, the only thing left for me was to leave them to their pride without my respect, trust and affection.

We create corollaries every day.

We make exchanges.

We explain through our actions not just what we think of a certain situation, but what we think about one another.

And even though we all would like to live in a vacuum, inside a bubble where we would be free of commitment, criticism and responsibility, no such world exists.

We have this world—where the truth does make us free—because suddenly we are liberated from all condemnation, incrimination, scrutiny and most importantly, no longer in fear of being doubted.


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Congregation

Congregation: (n) a group of people assembled for religious worship

Walking in the door, I’m uncertain.

Everyone is dressed nicely, but seem to be caught up in a quiet spirit–a somber profile.

I glance into the room, where everyone is beginning to gather, and notice that it is illuminated, but with a subdued glimmer.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I’m not sure what to do. I do not know who I am in this place. Moments before, I was in my car with all my stuff around me–familiar parts of my existence. Now I am in an unusual space with an unusual sensation, unusually uncomfortable.

Why have I come?

Better question: what is it I need?

I desperately need to be bolstered. Yes–there’s the word–uplifted. Made to believe that the faith I place in myself, my family and the world around me is justified.

What else? I could use some joy.

I could certainly benefit from appreciation.

I wouldn’t be averse to a hug, as long as it was accompanied with a warm welcoming.

Though I believe in God, I don’t exactly know what He wants from me. I have concluded that He needs my passions placed in appropriate directions, and for me to do my best to treat my neighbor as myself.

Does He demand my praise? Interesting.

It is so quiet I can hear myself think. That’s not good. I spend too much time mulling things over in my brain.

I need to escape–break out of the jailhouse of my own imprisoned opinions.

I need to hear music that stirs me.

I need to hear words that encourage me.

I need to be around people who are invigorated by being around each other.

I have stepped into a room which has been sanctified for worship.

I am uncomfortable.

I am part of a congregation.

I’ve lost myself.


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Conducive

Conducive: (adj) making a certain situation or outcome likely or possible.

There is a rumor that’s been going around for almost two thousand years–that the three greatest forces on Earth are faith, hope and love.

It persists.

There have been extravagant attempts to extinguish this trio and replace them with work, money and power, but in the end, there they are–standing tall.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Faith, hope and love.

But there are certain things that are conducive for these three to thrive. If you don’t have them, then it may certainly seem that they’ve gone away, at least for a season.

Faith requires a questioning love. That’s what is conducive to its growth. Questioning because that’s the only way we can put our faith to a true test, to see if it will hold the water necessary to contain the hope we all need.

But faith does not work without love, and I’m talking about the kind of love that appreciates those who launch out and try new things without fear.

Now, hope needs to have a chance to be acted out with a good plan. This is what is conducive to its well-being. Too many committees snuff hope out simply because a cynical spirit refuses to believe that either God or human beings can give their very best in the crunch. I guess we’re stuck with “us” and Him.

Finally, love requires that balance of affection and commitment to be conducive to our real lives. Too much affection and we become overly dependent on the appreciation of others. Too much commitment and we soon forget what it’s like to be inflamed and engorged in passion.

So as you can see, simply extolling faith, hope and love does not help much if we’re not willing to create an atmosphere which is conducive to their breathing.

 

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Chit-chat

Chit-chat: (n) inconsequential conversation.

Perhaps the greatest kindness we do to other human beings is to listen to them. But we must be aware that if we point eyes and ears in their direction, we also must be prepared to endure.

Sometimes it astounds me–what people think is important. Even more bewildering is why they think I would feel it is important.

Yet at the cost of the losing a huge wedge of my time, I will stand and listen to people rattle on about their granddaughter’s or their grandson’s innate ability to play piano, beginning with the surprising revelation that at age five they had mastered “Chopsticks.”

On top of this. visual aids suddenly appear. Yes, pictures come out of purses and wallets. (This requires that I comment on how attractive the children are, no matter how much their features may contradict my praise.)

It’s called chit-chat. And the main problem with it is, once you’ve been targeted as a victim, you lose hours of time for very little appreciation.

After all, nobody walks away and says, “That guy is a magnificent listener!” Actually, they stroll away thinking how interesting they must have been–for me to remain for so long.

Yes. I end up encouraging a verbal criminal–someone who forces himself on other humans, raping them of all sensibility.

Chit-chat is often used to avoid real conversation about pertinent issues. It’s a way of saying “I like you” without ever saying, “I love you.” It’s a way of being heard without needing to listen, especially if you develop the annoying vice of interruption.

When the world is falling apart and the meteors are streaming to the Earth and the atomic bombs are exploding in every direction, there will be some person standing on a street corner, boring a friend, talking about his daughter’s amazing second-place finish in the school spelling bee.

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Cajun

Cajun: (n) descendants of French Canadians dwelling mostly in Southern Louisiana

I try. I really do.

Being a congenial type, I always attempt to blend in and be open-minded, if not compliant.

Living in Louisiana for three years, it was assumed that I would eventually develop a taste for Cajun food. At the root of most Cajun food is
crawfish.

They love it.

A crawfish looks about the size of a newborn lobster. It’s bug-like. It doesn’t have much meat in its claws or its body, so much work has to be done to acquire nibbles.

The natives tell you that the best part of the crawfish is acquired by sucking out the insides of the head. As appealing as that may sound, it took me many months to garner the courage. When I did work up the nerve to suck the contents of the brainpower of the average crawfish, I was surprised at how much it tasted like salty snot.

I smiled, wanting to be a local advocate of cultural affairs. But after a while, I had to let my stomach and my conscience come clean. The food was too hot, it was too much work and it was filled with so much rice that I walked around for the next few hours like I was recovering from an LSD trip.

Cajun comes with food, accent, music … and attitude.

I never developed an appreciation for any of it.

 

 

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Bubbly

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Bubbly: (adj) used to describe a person who is full of cheerful high spirits.

When you remove tenderness and compassion from everyday life because, you will very quickly end up with a society that denies kindness while Dictionary Bfearing tragedy.

It’s tricky business.

I know there are people who think there’s a master plan of evil to destroy the world, and sometimes what we see certainly seems to confirm that theory.

But we are all too intent on coming across cool. Because of that, we’re never hot nor cold. We’re so afraid of being light-hearted and bubbly that we accidentally cuddle up to darkness.

It amazes me what younger audiences consider to be corny.

  • They don’t like silly humor.
  • They don’t like sentimentality.
  • They don’t like to hear too much praise given to an idea.
  • They don’t wish to give tribute where it is due.
  • They believe in the power of the unsaid–the silence that is supposed to project appreciation, but actually lacks volume and intent.

Can bubbly be obnoxious? I suppose.

But the truly dangerous profile is the stoicism which considers appreciation to be overwrought and gratitude assumed.

 

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Bravado

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Bravado: (n) a show of boldness intended to impress

After some consideration, using the intelligence I have available, I’ve decided that the word “bravado” really has no context unless modified by the adjective “false.”Dictionary B

Although I believe a certain amount of confidence is necessary to pursue our activities, it must always be saturated in the humility of knowing that the possibility of error is looming.

Bravado is the sensation that by simply bullying the available space around us with our superiority and all-knowing attitude, we gain the attention that will grant us the opportunity to dominate.

But just as in the cartoon, the little fish swallows the guppy and is then eaten by the bigger fish, who goes along for a second or two, and then is consumed by a yet larger member of the watery world, only to have him ultimately swallowed by the whale–such is the destiny of all bravado.

We may screech and scream our prowess–only to be overtaken by one who is more adept at screeching and screaming.

What is the correct profile to maintain an efficient amount of self-esteem?

  1. Find what you can do
  2. Practice it until you can do it in the dark
  3. Look for your opportunity to do it
  4. Be extremely grateful for any appreciation and praise you receive.

In my opinion, this is the definition, full extent and boundary which keeps bravado from becoming … totally obnoxious.

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Brag

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Brag: (n) a boastful statement

“If you don’t toot your own horn, it won’t get tooted.”

This statement is often said in public, and even though most of us are uncomfortable with the “brassiness” of it, we usually let it go by without contradiction.Dictionary B

Actually, I toot my horn so others will tell me how good it is. I require that confirmation.

Does this make me needy? It certainly makes me aware that my own sense of appreciation of my ability has limited quality to my soul.

It’s risky.

Since everybody is tooting their own horn, will they have time to stop and enjoy my melody?

Will I be left in obscurity?

Will I be ignored in favor of other horns which blare louder?

Perhaps. But the problem with bragging is that eventually circumstances arise which demand that we back up what we have claimed. Our reputation is whether or not we can confirm our bragging. If we can’t fulfill what we claimed, we will be deemed liars.

Jesus told a wonderful parable about arriving at a banquet and making a decision not to sit at the head table.

Yes–even if you think you’re worthy of it–even if you were invited to sit there–don’t. Seat yourself with the other guests until your host notices you perched below, and in front of all the attendees, calls you up to a place of honor.

Yes, I like that.

I can avoid bragging by doing amazing work and being discovered by those who are looking for such excellence, who call me up…and blow my horn for me.

 

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“Quite literally the best Christmas stories I have ever read.” — Arthur Holland, Shelby, North Carolina

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