Chiller

Chiller: (n) short for spine-chiller.

My parents tried.

As I get older, I vaguely understand that my mother and father attempted to comprehend what was in the mind of a thirteen-year-old boy.

They didn’t do well–that’s why I used the word “tried.” Maybe I should have added “and failed.”

But once a month they would let me have some friends over to spend the night on Friday evening, and after my parents went to bed, we would gather in front of the only television in the house, which happened to be in the living room, and watch “Chiller Theater.”

The movies weren’t really scary–they were 1930′ or 1940’s ilk, chocked-full of silly props and plagued with over-acting.

But with seven or eight young boys in a dark house, poking each other and wrestling, the experience soon turned into a scream fest.

My father would appear from the bedroom, which was adjacent to the living room in our tiny bungalow, and mutter something to the effect of, “You boys need to keep it down.” But my recollection of how it sounded in my ears was: “Youwse keep the clown.”

So since the order was vague, we would quiet ourselves for a small period of time, and soon be right back to the decibels necessary to make us feel like we were really partying.

I think my parents hated “Chiller Theater” night. This was proven by the fact that they always insisted, when the fourth Friday came around, that I had added incorrectly, and it wouldn’t be until next week. Unfortunately for them, I carried a calendar with me and pointed out their mistake.

So when I hear the word “chiller,” I think of six or seven pubescent and pre-pubescent boys gathered in a tiny living room, wrestling, trying desperately not to knock over furniture, while screaming just enough to prove that we were the true “Monsters of Might” instead of those displayed on the screen before us.

 

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Children

Children: (n) plural form of child.

Four sons were brought into this world by my sexual cooperation. In other words, I’m their dad.

Three other young gentlemen arrived on my doorstep because they were no longer safe and sound in their home environment.

As I look back on it, I must be truthful–because I’m a writer, a vagabond, a searcher and a proclaimer, I may not have been the best choice of a man to have
children. Fortunately for me, my offspring generally disagree.

My approach with children was really simple: I have a life. It is my time to have a life. You are welcome to come along if you don’t complain too much.

They quickly became convinced that their dad was cool, because he wasn’t like other dads. Of course, when they came into their teen years, they became critical of me not being like other dads. The charm of my uniqueness had worn off.

Children exist for two reasons:

  1. To remind us how bratty human beings really are.
  2. To give us a chance through instruction, love and tenderness to make a better generation.

I cuddled with my children but I never coddled them.

I loved them but I avoided getting lovey-dovey.

I gave to them, but never gave into their demands.

I respected them as long as they respected themselves.

I laughed with them as long as they realized there was a season to weep.

And when it was time for them to move on, I granted them the autonomy to be themselves without feeling loaded down with ancient family history.

The Good Book says we are the children of God. It’s very true–because after all, we are a bratty group which needs discipline, but still possesses the potential of bringing new hope for a new generation.

 

 

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Chaff

Chaff: (n) worthless things; trash.

The Good Book might be really interesting if we actually understood it. Or maybe the problem lies in the fact that it has been so misunderstood that sometimes it doesn’t always appear to be a “good book.”

But when Jesus described the process of separating the wheat from the chaff, to the average reader of twenty-first century America, the
concept is alien, if not totally obscure. I suppose because we are no longer an agrarian society, the disposition of wheat does not necessarily tingle our brains.

Wheat that is used for making flour is often surrounded by a protective casing called “chaff.” For generations they removed it and cast it aside so the “pure wheat” could be extracted and put to use.

Have I ever told you the purpose for advancement? The real value of education and allowing knowledge into our lives is the discovery of an obvious, practical application. Therefore, today we know that the chaff that used to be thrown away is really quite good for us. It may be a little coarse and sometimes tasteless, but it enters our bodies like a dietary roto-rooter and cleanses us from all internal nastiness.

It is no longer thrown away. It is turned into cereals, granola and even used in supplements.

Gradually the human race moves forward and understands that the Creator of the Universe made sure that all the answers to our problems are available in a nearby field, a clump of rocks, a splash from the ocean or a stroll through the forest.

 

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Centurion

Centurion: (n) the commander of a hundred men in the ancient Roman army.

I’m not sure what causes a person to be open-minded.

Certainly rejecting fear would help.

Relieving yourself of the conviction that you and all your co-horts possess the only answers would also be beneficial.

But in the Good Book, there is the story of a centurion. He has a servant. Now, we know the centurion is in charge of a hundred men, which
means he’s been given some rank and confirmation of the authenticity of his ability. So why would such a fellow be concerned about a servant? How would that relationship have sprouted?

We know that the gentleman was not only a commander, but was also open to the idea that opportunities can come from unlikely places. So rather than having a servant who hates you, why not have one who loves you?

But when that servant becomes sick and you realize that all those possessing medical knowledge who surround you are inept in advancing a cure, then it becomes necessary to use your open mind to consider a more unorthodox option.

How about an itinerant preacher from Nazareth, who is disrupting his religious community, but supposedly has healing in his hands?

The centurion did not allow his sense of Roman superiority to overwhelm him, leaving him without a remedy. He sent a messenger to ask Jesus to heal his servant. When Jesus started to head his way, the centurion was sensitive enough to realize that if this Nazarene came into his home, the young man would be considered unclean because he was at the hearth of a heathen.

So the centurion told Jesus just to say the word, and the servant would be made well. After all, as a centurion, he did that all the time with his soldiers. “You go do this. You go do that.”

Jesus was impressed. He said, “Never have I seen so great a faith.”

So maybe the definition of faith is when we realize we don’t have anything to lose, so being open-minded about other choices just might be life-saving.

 

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By-product

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By-product (n) a secondary product made in the manufacture or synthesis of something else

The Good Book calls it “the fruit of the Spirit.”

That was back when people saw fruit growing on trees or bushes. They understood fruit was the by-product of planting, a process and a passage of time.

They comprehended that Spirit would come into a situation, and the evidence of that blessing would be the by-product of fruit.

But now we call our fruit “produce” and buy it at the market.

We now approach our humanity much the same way. If we can’t pick it up quickly, buy it over the counter or assume that we already have it, we are too impatient to wait for something of the Spirit to grow to a point that it creates a by-product.

And even though the Good Book lists many things, it refers to all of them as a single fruit. It’s a lesson–that beautiful teaching that comes our way, informing us that you can’t have one without the other.

Some groups want to be loving but not joyful.

There are other organizations that will talk to you about the joy of gathering, but they find no peace.

Of course, there are peacemakers who have absolutely no patience for waiting at the bargaining table.

Is it possible to insist you are patient without expressing kindness?

Or does kindness ever fail to manifest goodness?

There are human beings who will tell you they can be good without ever being faithful.

I heard someone tell me they had faith, but felt no gentleness toward mankind.

And of course, there are many of us who think we’re gentle or forgiving, but we have no self-control.

When the by-product is born from the true Spirit, the love makes you joyful. That burst of joy makes you perpetuate peace. Realizing you’re dealing with human beings, you bring along buckets of patience plus the wisdom to know that greasing the wheel with an abundance of kindness is never a bad idea. Goodness arrives, and it’s so good that we actually decide to be faithful to it at all costs.

Then we get a surprise.

Being faithful makes us less nervous. We become gentle. And when gentleness settles in, we don’t feel the need to be erratic and out of control.

There are by-products.

There is living proof that the Spirit is at work inside a human being. When the Spirit is absent, you may see lots of trying, but the only by-product is aggravation.

 

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Bushel

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Bushel: (n) a measure of capacity

The Good Book was written in ancient Mesopotamia, translated in Merry Old England when men wore powdered wigs, and is now trying to be understood by a Smart Phone generation.

Problematic.

One of the examples that immediately jumps to mind is that Jesus suggested that we should not hide our aspirations, talent and insight “under a bushel.”

That was the King James translation.

Dare I say that most of the people in this country under the age of thirty have probably never seen a bushel of anything.

Most of them would think the word “bushel” is a mispronunciation of our 43rd President.

Yet truth leaps over generational gaps and maintains its integrity. Therefore we should take obscure terms and translate to make them comprehensible. (And by the way, the more emotionally charged we can make that presentation, to give it lasting quality in the human spirit, the better.)

Therefore, what was once translated from the Good Book writers as a “bushel” really is a prison cell–a place where we lock ourselves up and cease growing because the fear of failure, inadequacy, and even the apprehension over accidentally doing something evil has left us lying on our bunk, biding time.

We’re still alive, we’re still breathing, we’re still consuming three square meals a day and every once in a while we stroll through the court yard. But we desperately try to avoid confrontations and we shower in fear.

A bushel is where you gather an abundance.

There is so much fruit that you can’t put it in a bag.

A little box won’t contain it.

It needs a bushel basket.

If we don’t believe that God has called us to be fruitful, we will arrive with a tiny teacup instead of showing up with a gallon jug.

 

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Burnout

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Burnout: (n) physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

One of the most interesting little stories in the Good Book, whether you hold to its authenticity or not, is the tale of Moses and the burning bush.

Although I’m sure most folks are greatly impressed by the fact that God spoke to Moses from the flames, the thing that strikes me is that according to the story, the bush was burning, but not consumed.

In other words, God wanted to talk to Moses, but being a great caretaker of His creation, He decided it was not necessary to kill a bush to do it.

Isn’t that amazing?

Yet there is a deep, abiding, adult attitude–that we prove our prowess by stressing out and warning people how “burned out” we are with our circumstances.

Can we teach ourselves that it is possible to produce light without fire? Because it is completely plausible to emit an incandescence from the soul, which pours out of our eyeballs with a sense of enlightened contentment.

I have a simple rule: if it gets hard, stop.

If it seems difficult, take five. And if I’m convinced I am being punished, quickly climb down from the cross.

The only light that is truly powerful is the one that’s generated from my own heart, as I comfortably, joyfully and simply live out who I am, realizing that I possess illumination.

 

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