Decked Out

Decked out: (adj) decorated or dressed up

Nothing makes me giggle more than remembering something I did and trying to grasp what caused me to do it.

The truth of the matter is, life refuses to match up with itself.

What I mean by that is:

  • When you need to look your best, you have your least money.
  • When you need to perform your best, you’re too inexperienced.
  • And when you need to be making really quality decisions, you find yourself completely uncertain, staring down at your shoes.

I think life enjoys this.

I think life relishes offering us opportunity when it knows we can’t possibly take it.

I am sure life thinks it’s funny—giving us rare glimpses into success when we’re so dopey that we couldn’t possibly muster the reasoning to pull it off.

When I was young, I traveled on the road with a music group. We were pretty good—but we were very poor.

Even though it’s very important to dress up for a performance—or at least look clean and well-laundered—it is difficult to achieve this when you’re dressing out of the back end of an old, brown Econoline van.

I remember arriving at a performance one night and discovered that it was going to be much bigger than I  thought.

I had two outfits to wear onstage. The first was a leisure suit—powder blue and white snow.

The second outfit was a gold shirt with a pair of plaid pants, which, for some reason or another, were considered cool for that season.

I wanted to be decked out for this show.

I should have thought of that two days earlier—because the leisure suit had a two-inch stain on the right leg. The gold shirt and plaid pants were wrinkled. And I couldn’t find my belt.

I sat for a good fifteen minutes trying to measure whether it was better to be stained or wrinkled and beltless.

Then I quickly slipped on my plaid pants and gold shirt and went out to finish the setup of our equipment.

It was a fiasco.

The pants refused to stay up.

Finally, to my embarrassment, they dropped down to my thighs before I could grab them and yank them back up to the border of decency.

I looked around the room to see who might have caught a glimpse, and there, in the back of the auditorium was a little girl about eight years old, shocked and ready to scream, who beat a trail to Mommy.

The pants and shirt were not going to work.

I went backstage and changed into my leisure suit and spent the whole night trying to lay my arm over the stain so nobody would notice.

But it, too, was a little wrinkled, so I never really felt like I achieved “decked out.”

I was nervous about my stain all night.

And lo and behold, my left shoe picked that night to break a lace.

I thought I did adequately until one of the girls in our band walked up and patted me on the shoulder and said, “Nice stain.”

 

Concoct

Concoct: (v) to create or devise

I have discovered that I don’t need to concoct as often when I’m not afraid of being honest.

When I am afraid–terrified of reality–I will concoct a scheme to explain my actions, which I certainly hope is plausible to those who hear, or at least is so uninteresting that they will choose not to challenge it.

I believe that concocting is a covenant we make with one another, promising that if you will believe my concoction, I will not question yours.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Therefore, we will leave it all to luck–to establish whether we survive fiasco, or whether the plans we’ve made will get their just desserts and play out to a dark conclusion.

This does not sound interesting to me.

I don’t like to lose, but the best way to keep from losing is to fail small, so you don’t screw up big.

And if you fail small and catch it while it still has a pacifier in its mouth, you can keep it a baby problem instead of turning it into an adolescent rage.

But it does demand that you keep your “concoct” to yourself.

 

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Blunder

Blunder: (n) a stupid or careless mistake.Dictionary B 

The human race is constantly coming up with more gentle terms to cushion the word “failure.”

If we think we have been outstanding, “victory” or “success” seem to cover it well. But when some error occurs, the degree of severity has to be tenderized by the selection of the appropriate word.

Sometimes we’ll start off by saying, “It was a misunderstanding.”

Or “We misspoke.”

Occasionally we work up the courage to pronounce our last effort “a mistake.”

But it’s very unusual for human beings to be so forthcoming as to admit a blunder.

Other words avoided are “fiasco, a big pile of poop, idiotic”… and of course, the more truthful and cleansing pronouncement:

I fucked up.

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Blameless

Blameless: (adj) innocent of wrongdoing.

Dictionary B

People were killed because they happened to be in a night club with a man who brought a gun and a nasty vendetta.

It doesn’t make sense.

Human beings who insist on the world being sensible end up either committing suicide or writing really bad poetry.

But we are not blameless.

I want to find my fault in the fiasco. I am weary of studying the scrambled brains of troubled little boys.

None of us are blameless.

All have sinned and fallen short of glorious possibilities.

An attempt to point fingers–especially prompted by political motivations–is what truly enrages our Creator.

So I went off yesterday morning and did what I think I do best. I shared a message of good cheer enjoined with personal responsiblity.

For after all, I will never change the world by focusing on its tribulation.

I am also useless if I quietly intone to others, “Be patient because God is in control.”

I find value in the human tribe when I bring a spirit of good cheer with a simple idea on how to make things just a little bit better.

I didn’t shoot one bullet at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida.

But legislation is useless. I must share a responsibility to make this world a little bit more pleasant by offering a courtly grace to the next brother or sister I encounter.

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Barrel

Barrel: (n) a cylindrical container bulging out in the middle, traditionally made of wooden stavesDictionary B

Imagine my surprise when I first discovered that monkeys didn’t actually come in barrels.

I don’t even know where that saying came from. I’m a little surprised that PETA has not lodged a formal objection to the whole concept.

It astounds me how certain words evoke images in my mind, often without rhyme or reason. When I hear the word “barrel” I think of the hard candies I used to eat, called Root Beer Barrels, which seemed to last four days in your mouth.

I also think about the rustic planters I put in my front yard for a season, which were called “half-barrels,” and held soil for showcasing pretty flowers.

But the “barrel of monkeys” thing keeps popping back to my brain and annoying my sensibility. Because if you think about it, a barrel of monkeys would be much more frustrating than fun.

Could it be that somewhere along the line someone actually had a whole barrel of monkeys, and they were desperately trying to get rid of them, so they put out an ad in the local circular, trying to get somebody to purchase the damn things so they wouldn’t have to deal with a bunch of wiggling and squiggling primates?

Yes, maybe that’s where all the erroneous ideas have come from–some hapless individual is desperately trying to get out from under a bad investment and comes up with an advertising spin to market a fiasco.

Maybe that’s why we still call it a “Presidential campaign.”

 

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Barnstorming

Barnstorming: (v) to make a rapid tour of an area, typically as part of a political campaign.Dictionary B

Many years ago, I was in the process of purchasing a house. I remember arriving at one prospective residence, stepping in the door, and immediately having my nostrils attacked by a ferocious amount of stinky.

I immediately knew there was a dead rat in the house. (Maybe it wasn’t actually a rat; maybe it was a cat or dog. But somewhere in that home was a dead creature that was decaying.)

I turned to the real estate agent and asked him if he smelled it, and fearing that he was about to lose a sale, he pretended to be oblivious to the nasal assault.

I just laughed at him.

I feel the same way when I tune into America today during our political season. Even though the barnstorming of rallies is filled with music, cheers, banners and funny-looking hats, I smell a rat.

It stinks.

I turn to people around me to see if they notice the same repellent odor and most of them are wearing the banners, hats and reciting the slogans, so they feel compelled to ignore the putrification.

I have no such loyalty.

I sniff rotting ideas being passed off as acceptable.

I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent–you can barnstorm away but I will be sniffing for the smell. Here are the four things that stink up American democracy:

1. “We have got to get rid of them because…”

If we’re a democracy, we can’t get rid of anybody. We can try to channel, adjust, expand, get creative with approaches or admit that we’re ignorant of what to do, but freedom is freedom.

2. “What they’re doing overseas is so bad that we…”

I don’t know why we’re in such a hurry to pick a fight. I guess it’s because we spent so much money on military toys that we feel like we should at least play with them.

Here’s a clue: the more we stay out of wars, the less people will die. Just a thought.

3. “It’s against the Law of God…”

Well, since God is not here to be His own attorney, we’re relying on your interpretation of His statutes. It’s called “hearsay.” That interpretation needs to be mingled with an understanding of Constitutional American law.

Yes, there is a Caesar we answer to and there is a God we answer to, and you can’t take what was meant for liberty and Caesar and question it by citing God.

4. “That Party doesn’t do anything right, but we…”

In my lifetime I have watched Republicans do stupid things and good things. Likewise, the Democrats have had their share, going both ways.

The difference between complete fiasco and partial fiasco is how cool-headed, practical and willing our leaders are.

  • A reactionary Republican or Democrat always do equal damage.
  • A peace-making Republican or Democrat are a glory to all of us.

Let the barnstorming begin.

I will be sniffing for rats.

When I smell them, I will tell you–and you can either pretend they don’t exist because they’re part of your house … or admit that you smell them, too.

 

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Axe

Axe: (n) a hand tool with one side of its head forged and sharpened to a cutting edge

It has been my discovery that trying to tell stories about my physical prowess always leaves the hearers a little suspicious.dictionary with letter A

Even though this tends to offend me, I have to be honest and say that when I hear others explain to me how strong they are or how powerful they perceive themselves to be, I am torn between laughing out loud and finding a quick way to exit.

Such was my experience with the axe.

When I was a kid, my dad grew some pine trees which we eventually used as Christmas trees for our house, since there weren’t enough of them to ever constitute a good cord of wood.

So it fell my lot one season to go out and chop down the Christmas tree and bring it back to the house.

I was thrilled (as most fools are on the way to the errand).

I had never wielded an axe. Matter of fact, I was quite pleased that I knew using an axe involved wielding.

So when I arrived next to the pine I had selected, I looked at it and noticed that the trunk was really only about five or six inches across. How hard could this be?

Now, I do not know whether the bottom of my pine was made of steel, or if my axe was not made of actual metal–but I must have hacked at that thing for a good twenty-five minutes, never succeeding in hitting the same place twice.

So when it finally tumbled over (glory be to God) the trunk looked like a pencil that a beaver had chewed up.

I carried it back to the car and into the house, found some way to get it into the tree stand, feeling a great sense of accomplishment.

But I can tell you–for the next week and a half, I could not move my arm nor my shoulder, to such an extent that I missed a day of school, to lay in my bed commiserating over my axe fiasco.

So looking for an adequate summary for this tale, I will borrow a bit of wisdom from my African-American brothers and sisters:

I will never again “axe” for an axe.

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Apocalypse

dictionary with letter A

Apocalypse (n.)1. an event involving great destruction. 2. (The Apocalypse) the final destruction of the world, as described in the biblical book of Revelation.

It didn’t take me long in my travels to discover that there are only two things that motivate human beings: fear and love. And the truth is, if you have one, you don’t have the other.

Those who fear are greatly inhibited from loving.

And those who love have comfort, which protects them from fear.

Let me share my own little bubble of naiveté: if the world is actually going to end, don’t tell me. Matter of fact. don’t talk about it.

You can feel free to suggest ways that I can prevent such a cataclysmic occurence. That will be fine. But when you start talking about times, dates, circumstances or blame, please leave me out.

Because I will tell you, in my lifetime I have seen the threat of such annihilation twice:

During my whole growing up years, people were building bomb shelters, preparing for the inevitable tossing back and forth of nuclear weapons.

And then the Cuban Missile Crisis took us to the brink of a global fiasco, flirting with devastation like cheap whores at a bar near closing time.

I didn’t care for it–and not just because we were so close to oblivion. It was also the tension leading up to it and the apprehension that remained following.

I run across many religious people who pray for such an Armageddon so they can go home and be with Jesus. Isn’t it interesting that the Savior who prayed to stay here with us is now plagued with disciples who pray to go?

How bizarre.

  • I don’t want the world to end on my watch.
  • I don’t want to stand before God and have to explain why the whole damn thing blew up while I was idly figuring out the day and the hour.

I plan on going to my demise kicking and screaming, needing to be convinced by any divine being who has prepared a place, that this heavenly offering is actually better than what I had.

 

 

 

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Antietam

dictionary with letter AAntietam: historic site in northwestern Maryland, known as Antietam Creek, the scene of a major Civil War battle in September of 1862.

It was a lost cause.

Unless you’re a careful student of history, you may fail to realize that Abraham Lincoln was probably the most hated man in America.

Not only had he been elected President, causing the South to secede from the Union, but he had also made a decision to surround himself, in his cabinet, with competitors and critics.

When the war began, it was a fiasco. At the First Battle of Bull Run, the South nearly ended the entire conflict with one day’s murder and mayhem. But Lincoln continued, searching for a means to keep the country together, and possibly in the process, heal some old wounds and atone for the sins of slavery.

The problem was, the North couldn’t win a battle. Not even close.

So rather than being considered a great leader or a man of vision, he was viewed by his contemporaries as a clumsy goofball, ill-prepared for the challenge of repairing the breach.

He kept replacing generals in charge of the Army of the Potomac, hoping that someone might grow a backbone or at least field an army.

Lincoln had two goals:

Primary was to keep the Union together, for a reason which he almost singularly held within his breast. Everyone else had varying degrees of indifference on the issue.

But secondly, he realized that emancipating the slaves was not only an important step of contrition, but also would keep England and France out of the war,siding with the Confederacy. But it was certainly difficult to issue any kind of Proclamation in the midst of defeat.

The Battle of Antietam was a standoff, with more soldiers killed on the field than in any war in history, and Lincoln seized on that result, deeming it a moral victory, and set in motion to free the slaves.

Even though the Union became more proficient at war and eventually wore down their Southern brothers, it was the Battle of Antietam that gave Lincoln the doorway to make the Civil War about something other than states’ rights. In doing so, he robbed the countrymen clad in gray of the possibility of gaining international acceptance, therefore stifling their resources to those found within their own borders.

It was enough.

It’s why we still honor Abraham Lincoln today instead of shaking our heads in sadness over another failed Presidency.

Antietam was a bloodbath which ended with no conclusion–except permission for a President to change the rules and certainly, change the world. 

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Acolyte

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dictionary with letter A

Acolyte: (n.) a person assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession.

I make no judgments on traditional religious practices which I may or may not consider to be part of my lifestyle.

Yet some of the more humorous events have happened to me while watching young and old try to walk down to the front of the church and light the ceremonial candles.

We call them acolytes. They are usually young people who have been convinced they have been granted an honor by sitting through a couple of classes, hearing an over-explained description of an age-old process, which appears to be VERY simple until Sunday morning arrives and they are put in the position of being the fire-starters.

One of my favorite visions is the young acolyte wearing the ceremonial robe with a pair of dirty tennis shoes sticking out of the bottom. I won’t even go into the symbolism.

I recall being at one church and an acolyte came forward to light the candle, only to discover that his magic fire stick was not making connection with the wick. For some reason the thing would NOT ignite. So in a moment of humanity, he proclaimed for all to hear: Aw, shit.”

Laugher ensued (even though I am sure folks sought absolution later.)

I DO like it when there is a hovering grown-up presence off to the side, nervously watching the youngsters go up to light the candles, like a mother hen concerned that the chicks will not know how to receive the nourishment of the grain being thrown by the farmer, breathlessly anticipating a fiasco–nearly apoplectic.

And of course, you can’t forget the acolytes who come forward dragging their feet, completely disconnected, barely able to get through the process before collapsing, exhausted, on the front pew designated for their position.

I know that the lighting of the candles is a symbolic portrayal of “bringing in the light of Christ” to our spiritual gathering. But like most human attempts to honor divine concepts, it is always laced with inadequacy, comedy and apathy.

I am not suggesting we should train and pay acolytes who are more professional in their approach.

But in conclusion, my favorite of all the events was when one of the deacons at a church realized that the trainee acolyte was having difficulty lighting the candle. The deacon ran up to the rescue, tried to light the candle himself using the apparatus, was equally unsuccessful, and so reached into his pocket and pulled out his cigarette lighter, leaned forward to complete the job, had his cigarettes fall out of his pocket, bounce on the altar–and scatter all over the top of the prepared communion.

In the seconds that followed, you could sense the man’s horror. There were probably countless revelations about his character revealed through this single action–and speculation on whether it would be appropriate to remove one of his cigarettes from the holy goblet, nearly rendering him paralyzed.

At length he gathered up his smokes and retreated to his seat to languish in his humiliation.

Being an acolyte is another one of those rites of passage that you have as a young person, which older people tell you is very, very important–but no one ever really mentions … after their eighteenth birthday.