Banter: (n) the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.Dictionary B

I do not know whether you’ve heard yet, or discovered it in the obituary columns, but banter has died.

The silly, challenging, comical, poking fun and sometimes nearly flirting with degrading conversations that friends once had with each other have been murdered because the movement of social media has deteriorated our interaction to, “please like me–or I hate you.”

Here is a startling statement: every piece of critique or even criticism is not necessarily meant to be confrontational.

I sometimes find myself joking with strangers in a grocery store, only to discover that they become alarmed if I even connote that they are anything short of divine.

Here’s what I know for sure–repentance is impossible if you already think you’re God.

If all your ways are righteous in your own eyes, then you will fail to realize that your emotional soul may be desperately in dissaray or on the verge of disintegration.

Introspection is what the human race requires to survive and to make sure that we don’t kill each other off.

And the best way to allow for introspection is to permit banter, which is a “safe zone,” where suggestions or ideas for discussion can be hatched without blatantly or viciously attacking another person.

Yes, long before I tell you that I think you’re an ass, I could have relieved some pressure by asserting that “even a monkey could learn how to change the toilet paper roll.”

We think we become more civilized by saying the right thing all the time, when all we’ve done is set up a situation for saying what we really feel–at the wrong time.

  • I would much rather you would joke with me than insult me.
  • I would prefer that you would poke fun at my foolishness instead of gossiping about me behind my back.

Banter is the gentle comedy we use to steer our friends in a different direction, so we don’t have to intervene … and constantly send them to rehab. 

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Ave Maria

Ave Maria (n): a prayer to the Virgin Mary used in Catholic worship. The first line is adapted from Luke 1:28. dictionary with letter A

Everyone pretty much insists that they are not bound to be politically correct, even as they correctly utter everything politically.

I understand political correctness. Having a sensitivity for other people’s feelings, ideas, talent and faith is always a noble adventure. And actually, there are very few times when we should make a stand over some issue or terminology simply to prove our point.

I am not Catholic.

Yet when I sat down to write a novel on the life of Jesus, where he shares his own story, and I was compelled to fill in the missing years which are not normally spoken of in historical or scriptural writings, I ran headlong into the character of Mary of Nazareth.

You have billions of people in the world who believe that she was not only the mother of Jesus but also divine herself.

So rather than playing it safe, keeping a Catholic approach to her character, or disregarding those traditions in favor of a Protestant approach, I decided to research it as a writer.

What do we really know about the life of this woman?

My study opened up a vista of possibilities.

  1. She was probably a girl in her early teens, living in abstract poverty, when she found herself pregnant, believing deep in her heart that it was due to the bidding of an angel of the Lord.
  2. In sharing her story, she risked being stoned.
  3. She had the faith that her betrothed, Joseph, would come around and love her and protect her instead of becoming her primary accuser.
  4. She birthed her child in what might be considered some of the worst possible circumstances.
  5. Within two years she was forced into exile in Egypt to avoid having her son murdered.
  6. She returned to her home town, where the rumors of her pregnancy were still circling about.
  7. By my count, she had a total of seven children, counting the names of the ones listed in the Gospels. (Now, I know the Catholics believe these to be cousins, but to each his own.)
  8. She had to deal with her oldest son deciding to leave home, walking away from the family business.
  9. She mistakenly thought he may have turned crazy, and sent her other children out to get him, only to have him turn his back on the whole family to pursue his mission.
  10. She found herself in front of a cross, staring up into the bleeding and dying countenance of her beloved first-born.
  11. She was there to witness the resurrection.
  12. And she was present for the founding of the church that bore the name of her son of promise.

My research unveiled the character of a woman who was powerful, enduring, confused, pondering and finally, faithful.

Honestly, when I got finished, all I could say was … “Ave Maria.”

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dictionary with letter A

Ap·pe·tite (n): a natural desire to satisfy a bodily need, especially for food.

I stumbled across a conversation on the Internet between two women, arguing with one another about food.

Each of them had posted a picture of herself, so I had a quick visual of the combatants.

The extraordinarily slender woman was piously offering advice on better food choices that her “friend” might want to select to escape the rigors of obesity.

The “friend” in this case, who was a plump lady with a big smile, lamented in her diatribe about people who judge her by her appearance, offering way too much advice on how she could become more attractive and meet their standards.

It fascinated me in this day and age, when people are so convinced that we are “born a certain way,” that we excuse all of our prejudice against one another based on the necessity of consuming food.

For I will tell you this–because I am a fat man, I know more about calories, good food choices and what is healthy than twenty skinny people. I can tell you exactly how much I overeat, and how those particular carbyhydrates or sugars affect not only my plumpness, but also my mood.

There is no chubby person in America who couldn’t apply for a license to become a dietitian.

The sooner we realize that our appetites are primal, if not genetic, the better we will be able to address them, bringing them under our scrutiny if not our control.

I have the metabolism of a sloth, so I also have to fight to escape having the exercise regimen of the same creature. In other words, I would much rather hang from a tree by two claws than fall to the earth and run about hunting bananas.

Add to that the fact that I do not eat because I’m hungry. I tend to eat because the refrigerator has not yet been emptied. It seems to be my mission.

I don’t expect someone who’s thin and burns calories by looking at a book to comprehend this dilemma. But I do think one of the more cruel aspects of human prejudice is to squint at the weaknesses in others as we smirk at our own.

Appetites are what confirm that somewhere along the line we had a merger with the jungle. Addressing them, acknowledging a problem and controlling them is what confirms that we have a divine lineage.


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dictionary with letter AAntidote: (n) a medicine taken or given to counteract a specific poison.

Sometimes I do dorky things just to make sure that people don’t believe I have become divine overnight through a particularly good sleep cycle.

Actually, it is my penchant in life to attempt new things, which always opens the door to the possibility of playing the fool.

I went with my wife and children to Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico, where my mother-in-law had retired.

She did not like me.

I don’t know whether it was something actually problematic between us, or if she felt the need to act out the typical plotline for a sitcom between son-in-law and mother-in-law.

She had a house on the beach. So one morning I took the children out to enjoy the ocean, only to discover that the entire landscape was covered with dead jellyfish. Unwilling to be deterred from our sea-time pleasure, and since the jellyfish were up on the shore and not in the water, I let the kids splash around while I sat, carefully watching them,

Meanwhile, more dead and dying jellyfish were washing onto the shore. I didn’t think much about it, until one of them brushed up against me, and with his last aspiration, stung me on the leg.

It didn’t hurt. Kind of a magnified bee sting. But in no time at all, the wound began to swell and I was sick.

It was a strange sense of ill will. I knew I was in trouble.

I made my way up to the house with the kids and told my wife and mother-in-law what had happened. Being a great veteran of the region and the sea, my mother-in-law grabbed some Adolph’s meat tenderizer and spread it on my wound, telling me “that always works.”

It didn’t. I was getting sicker and sicker. My mother-in-law told my wife that I was just being a wimp.

So I finally had to bypass old mom and asked my wife to call the local doctor. He arrived about fifteen minutes later with his satchel, saw the sting and reached in and pulled out one vial of what had to be several hundred of antidote.

He explained that some people are just allergic to jellyfish. By this time I was quite frightened. He calmed me down, gave me an injection, and in a matter of about an hour, I was just fine.

It amazed me that something so small could make you that sick, and that something even smaller could make you better.

I was grateful for the antidote.

But unfortunately, my mother-in-law still thought I was a wimp.


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dictionary with letter A

Animal: (n) 1. a living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized organs and nervous systems 2. any such living organism other than human beings

Sometimes I feel like a cop, standing in the middle of a thoroughfare, attempting to direct traffic, with two huge trucks bearing down on me from different directions, seemingly unwilling to yield.

It’s how I feel about the overbearing nature of the secular community playing “chicken” with the zealots of the religious contingency.

One group screams that human beings are “just animals,” knowing it will aggravate their adversary, as the other gathering of souls touts the eternal nature of our being and the need for God.

I have found in my life that when you maintain a philosophy and speak it aloud more or less just to annoy others who disagree with you, you not only lack the power of your own conviction, but you are infiltrating the world around you with unnecessary conflict.

I decided a long time ago that human beings are monkey-angels. There is no denying our similarity to the family of animals but there is little doubt that we have some DNA in common with the angels of God.

I don’t know why we can’t come to this conclusion:

  • I think it would be nice to have a member of the animal kingdom who has graduated to a spiritual sensibility for respecting the planet and caring for the weaker members of the jungle.
  • Simultaneously, I think there is a certain adorable quality to us motoring a spirit but being a trifle inept in steering it.

As John Merrick, the Elephant Man put it so well, “I am not an animal.”

Perhaps better phrased, “I am not just an animal.”

There is a living, breathing soul within me that aspires to the Divine … while wallowing in the mud.

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dictionary with letter A


Angel: (n.) a spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger from God, typically represented in human form with wings and a long robe.

Perhaps the accusation could be made that I am a soul who is susceptible to suggestion.

  • For if I watch a television show about weight loss, I become determined to pursue at least twelve hours of frugal eating.
  • Viewing a football game makes me want to toss the old pigskin.
  • And going to church makes me want to believe in a God of love, a Jesus of compassion and angels of mercy.

While others debate the existence of divine creatures, or even become vehement in their attacks or defense, I find this boring. Here’s what I think:

If there are no such things as angels, then we should pretend to be them.

If there is no Jesus who loves children and touches the lepers, why not impersonate him?

And for some reason, if God does not exist–a Father which is in heaven for the human race–then maybe it might be nice, in a small way, to comfort the fatherless.

Religion, to me, is not believing in the supernatural, but instead, taking the natural world around me and trying to do something super with it.

Will I be disappointed if I find out there are no angels? Not really–because I’ve read enough about them that I can steal their profile and try, in my miniscule way, to be angelic to my fellow humans.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if it turns out that the key to life is how well we imitate good things, and that our little performances actually become the only representation of the heavenly tale? Weird, huh?

Anyway, I think angels are cool–proclaiming messages of hope, helping out folks who are hungry, having a good word for those in despair, and arriving at just the right moment to do the right thing.

Since angels are cool and I like to be cool, I will continue to take on the role to the best of my stumbling ability.

Likewise, I will be a big, fat bald Jesus to those I meet.

And if necessary, I will come down from a theological perch of understanding and offer my shoulder to those who are crying … just like any good god should.



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dictionary with letter A

Ambidextrous: (adj.) a person able to use the right and left hands equally well.

I think each and every one of us is always looking for bragging rights.

But to be honest with you, there are certain things that most human beings are unable to do.

Ambidextrous is certainly one of them.

When I was a kid I had this friend who treated girls really lousy. When I was much, much younger I didn’t mind, because I was in that whole masculine hornet’s nest of believing that females might actually have cooties.

But this guy was really bad. It’s like he wanted to humiliate girls all the time–hurt their feelings, and came darned close to being physically intrusive.

So what we did every once in a while was challenge his macho nature by asking him to show us how he could throw a football left-handed, even though he was a right-handed person.

He fell for it every time.

He was terrible at throwing a ball with his left hand. I would say that he threw like a girl, but actually, most of the chicks I knew threw better.

But we wouldn’t laugh at him to his face. Instead, we applauded each time he threw this awkward pass into the air–trying to convince him how much of a stud he was. And when he ran to get the ball so he could show off again, we took that brief moment to burst out in laughter, only to calm down upon his return, further pumping up his ego and make him promise to do it again.

I do not think he was ever aware that we were using his pseudo-ambidextrous claims to make fun of him the way he made fun of the other portion of our species–the ladies.

Just a footnote: as it turns out, as he got older, he turned into a real nerd, and was so introspective that he never actually had a date with a woman. Considering how he treated them, it was probably a blessing sent from the heavens, ordained by the Divine to protect His second and certainly more improved human creation.

But I will never forget, and can even conjure the image in my mind to this day–him lurching back with all his might and attempting to heave that ball fifteen or twenty yards across the grass.

It was hilarious.