Cucumber

Cucumber: (n) a long, green-skinned fruit with watery flesh, usually eaten raw in salads

There are times I feel that the only thing I have available to show off is my ignorance. It is rather annoying.

Because sometimes I don’t know I’m ignorant.

The world is filled with so much information that it is completely impossible to be up to date on everything, leaving one and all with a spotty perspective.

One day I was at a luncheon with four dear women, and the waiter asked the ladies if they wanted cucumber on their salads.

On cue, they all giggled vigorously.

I joined them, not knowing what I was laughing about. (I hate it when I do that, because then people assume I’m in on the joke, and for the next terrifying minutes I have to listen carefully for context clues in the conversation, to try and figure out what has brought about the hilarity.)

These women were very tricky. They actually began to carry on a conversation about cucumbers that was so mystical and laced with code that I was unable to ascertain any true insight.

They started to discuss the smell. This brought on more comic relief. (At least I had the sense to stop laughing and just listen.)

One girl said she enjoyed the texture, which made everybody burst into rolls of levity.

One of the young ladies asked if anybody else had a preference with the size. Did they like their cucumbers short and round, or long and lean? There was not much discussion or disagreement on this one. Short and round won the day.

It became really frustrating to me when the salads arrived and as they nipped and chewed at their cucumbers, they looked at one another and moaned.

I realized they must be playing with me, but there was no hint of deception from any of them. They seemed to be lost in their world of cucumbers, without me knowing how to get to their location.

Wanting to join in, and chomping on my salad, I remarked, “I like cucumbers, too.”

My comment won the laughter fest of the day—although I felt it was directed more in the realm of humiliation than appreciation.

 

 

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Crevasse

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crevasse: (n) a deep, open crack

“It’s just about eight feet.”

God, I hated those words.

Growing up, I was the chubby, endearing, intelligent and funny friend. If you put me in a room watching Chiller Theater or listening to music or eating pizza, I was the star of the show.

But every once in a while, I got myself trapped into doing activities that blubber-boys should never participate in whatsoever.

I was thirteen years old and was asked to go on a hike.

I cannot lie—I went on the hike because at the end of the hike we were supposed to have a cookout over an open fire with marshmallows. They did not explain that there would be a five-hour death march preceding it.

I was panting within fifteen minutes, melting with sweat within a half hour—my legs so weak at the end of fifty minutes that I could barely stand.

This in itself was problematic.

But then we came to the Brave Man Crevasse.

The grown-up in charge of the expedition had mentioned it the night before with starry eyes, nearly breathless over the joy each of us would have in taking what he called “The Great Leap.” Struck by stupidity and still dreaming of marshmallows, I had failed to consider the impact of his statement.

About three hours into the hike, with me praying for death or the second coming of Christ, we arrived at The Crevasse.

Very simply stated, it was where the path ended and then resumed eight to ten feet over on the other side, with a drop of about fifty or sixty feet in the middle

The major problem was that before I could even consider what we were doing or how I personally was going to achieve it, many of my friends boldly took the jump and landed safely on the other side. Applause followed.

Pretty soon it was down to Lance and me. Lance was considered to be the coward of our troop—afraid of every type of bug, and really somewhat terrified of dirt. Lo and behold, Lance decided to choose this day for his epiphany of courage. He jumped up in the air and landed, his foot slipping at the last moment, nearly falling, but grabbed by some nearby buddies, who then alternated with pounding him on the back for his courage and clapping wildly.

So there it was—that universal turn of nine heads in my direction.

Their faces were full of encouragement, nodding as if to send good vibrations in my direction.

I thought about following Lance’s example, then realized I was not born stupid. So instead I stepped to the edge and looked over at the craggy hillside, filled with rocks and bushes beneath. My first thought was, “I wonder if I could survive a fall and get the hell out of here in an ambulance?”

But it seemed unlikely and certainly painful.

The delay was apparently unnerving to my cohorts, because they began to express verbal exhortations, which gradually became more ferocious and even challenging. That’s when the dastardly statement came to be.

“Come on! It’s just about eight feet!”

You see, they were wrong. It was a crevasse. There was no place for feet at all. If it had been just eight feet, I could just walk across. But it was eight huge spaces of nothing but air.

Spurred on by a combination of humiliation, edification and (still) the prospect of dinner, I leaped.

But I did not do it feet first. Instead I leaped with the top of my body toward the ledge, barely catching it with my hands, my feet dangling and kicking, and me ready to fall.

Blessedly, all of my friends who had made it safely to the other side grabbed me by whatever they could reach and pulled me up to safety.

My heart was pounding. It didn’t stop its thumping for a solid twenty minutes.

Every single one of the people who leaped across chose not to talk about it.

I think they were terrified that they nearly lost me in the Great Crevasse on the overly lengthy hike in pursuit of toasting a marshmallow.

 


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Creep

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Creep: (n) an obnoxious deviant

I have been called many things. Fortunately for my soul and psyche, most of them have been positive or relatively neutral.

Yet I certainly have had my share of profane labels attached to my doings.

But nothing—I repeat, absolutely nothing—came close to the day that beautiful Merrilee called me a creep.

It was many, many years ago, but I can still relive the moment, taste the adrenalin in my mouth, and feel my face flush with humiliation.

I was in one of those moods—trying to be clever with everything I said. Although dear Merrilee was extremely attractive, she did have some sort of cardiovascular situation—or maybe it was just a skin disorder—which caused her face and arms to turn red, leaving patches of white skin beneath.

On this particular day, apparently my candid and joking spirit had made her nervous, and she sprouted the symptoms, in ruby red. At that point, feeling I was on a role and drunk on my own wit, I said:

“Dear Merrilee, you look like a thermometer.”

Of course, it wasn’t terribly funny, but because she was a little strained and nervous, she burst into tears.

This caused everyone in the room to gyrate to her cause and move to her side, comforting her. If we’d been on a ship, it would have tipped in my disfavor.

Defensive, I began to explain that I was “just kidding,” and it was the first thing that came to my mind.

Amazingly, this did absolutely no good and just increased the welling of the tears.

One of the girls who was holding Merrilee very close spat at me, “You are such a creep!”

Before I could stop myself, I responded, “I’m not a creep! You’re a creep!”

Well, since I was the one who made little Merrilee cry, it was pretty obvious to everyone that I had won the “creep award.” At that point I finally got the sense to quickly apologize and leave.

I cried like a baby on the way home.

I felt so stupid.

But I have to tell you this—the chance that you will one day be a creep is pretty high. Whether you are an actual creep depends on whether you stay defiant—or if it sinks in, even many years later, what a creep you really were.

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Confess

Confess: (v) to admit or state that one has committed a crime or is at fault in some way

I am fat.

At least 51% of this is my fault.

I am a recovering “liarholic.”

Please help me stay away from the booze of explanation.

I am self-piteous.

Not as much as I used to be. (Of course, adding that caveat expresses a little self-pity.)funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I am egotistical.

But I have been careful to immerse myself in the beauty of humility to avoid the cesspool of humiliation.

I am still somewhat opinionated.

Yet I am generally able to avoid this vice by putting invisible duct tape over my mouth.

I am capable of judging people.

This one is especially dangerous, since I am incapable of being judged.

I am occasionally ungrateful…

As I learn to be grateful for every occasion.

I still catch myself complaining.

I am so relieved when I stop and my brain opens back up for business.

I am vulnerable to sin.

I do so much better when sin and I take different paths home.

I am learning to confess.

Word has it that such an endeavor is the only true doorway to healing.


Mr. Kringle's Tales...26 Stories 'Til Christmas

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Coach

Coach: (n) a person who teaches and trains the members of a sports team

The same tenacity and grit which is necessary to make one successful can just as easily be used to commence a life of crime.

This is the difficulty the adults in our lives face when they train us, and of course, coach us.

They certainly know that initiative, spunk and creativity are essential for forming the building blocks of a prosperous lifestyle. Yet in the moment, these particular attributes, especially when spoken from the nasally nastiness of adolescence, can be obnoxious.

So our instructors often have to find out whether our conduct, being sweet and kind, is a foretelling of goodness or brain death–and if our unwanted opinions prophesy greatness or the possibility of time spent “upstate.”

Let me give you an example.

During a football game, when we were losing 48 to nothing, I ran to the sideline and said the following to my coach: “Come on, coach! This defense you put together for us is just not working!”

I was fourteen at the time, and he was probably in his mid-twenties, trying desperately to survive the humiliation of being drummed by his rival on this field of debauchery.

I noticed that my coach’s face began to twitch. His eyes expanded. The veins in his head popped out, and his countenance became crimson as he slowly said, “Please sit down. Our defense is fine.”

I noticed that he avoided me for the rest of the game, as I avoided many tackles.

Fortunately, he did not personally address my inadequacies and focus on them because of my snippy, snarky comment. He restrained himself, and therefore, I believe I grew up using my precocious nature for good instead of joining forces with the villains to destroy Batman.

It’s not easy being a coach. You don’t always win, but end up stuck with your team, no matter what the score. You can’t blame them or you look like an idiot. You can’t accuse the referees or you appear to be a sore loser.

All you can do is teach what you know, and hope, by the grace of God, it’s enough.

 

 

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Cloak-and-Dagger

Cloak-and-dagger: (adj) characteristic of mystery

I suppose if I saw someone walking toward me wearing a cloak, I might be curious enough about their fashion choice to wonder what they were hiding beneath the bulky garment. I’m not so sure I would assume it was a dagger–more likely twenty unwanted pounds.

But maybe it’s the same thing. Since we don’t live in a time when people are stabbing one another with stilettos over grievances, a redefining of “cloak-and-dagger” for our period might be in order.

I contend that the cloak-and-dagger of our generation is the hiding the real truth of our abilities behind self-promotion. And the dagger which follows is an inadequate performance, leaving our fellow-travelers unimpressed.

Then too often violence ensues.

Because we should never have claimed to be more than who we are, we are inevitably going to fail, which will make us defensive and therefore volatile.

What would happen if we stopped lying about our abilities?

What if we decided not to chase big dreams?

What if we judged our talent on the response to our performance rather than what we think the response should be “if people weren’t stupid?”

Our society is still menaced with the “cloak-and-dagger,” because unless we praise the misguided claims of those around us, they just might turn on us and stab us with whatever is available.

So let me be the first one to take my cloak off and cast aside my dagger. I will do my best to tell you of the gifts I have, mingled with my weaknesses. If you find additional flaws, I thank you for saving me from the embarrassment of humiliating over-assessment.

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Clamber

Clamber: (v) to climb, move, or get in or out of something in an awkward and laborious way, typically using both hands and feet

It’s difficult to know whether we are judged by what we’re able to achieve, or how well we overcame the obstacles that attempt to forbid
achievement.

Yes, you could discuss that one for hours.

It reminds me of the time I took my children to an amusement park. I was still a very young man, but very fat. This created an immediate perplexity. Because I was young, I envisioned things I could do, often not taking into consideration the extra baggage I was bringing along.

Another example:

We went out on a boat trip. They had a little, thin gangplank to get on the boat, which I was grateful to have negotiated. So I assumed that when we returned there would be some sort of similar passageway from the front of the boat onto the dock again.

There wasn’t.

They eased the boat toward the landing, leaving a gap of about three feet between the boat and the safety of the dock. Well, other folks gave it a little bit of a running start, leaped into the air and came down safely onto the pier.

I kept inching my way behind people, letting them go first. I guess I was hoping that I would have a few minutes at the end, to figure out what to do, but failed to realize that all the people stayed on the dock and were going to watch my grand leap.

I tried to make that running start, to clamber with my entire obese body, legs and arms in the air, and land safely.

Just when I got to the end of the boat, my brain said, “Are you crazy?”

An immediate order was given at Mind Central: STOP!!

I nearly tumbled into the water but was able to step back. Then I tried to reach one leg across, and was able to get my foot onto the surface, but I was spread too far to get any pressure on the leg to push me over.

By this time I had secured an audience.

People began to make suggestions. My children were trying to hide and my wife was already being comforted by strangers.

At this point, I decided it was impossible. The ordeal went for ten minutes. The combination of fear, practicality and my limitations was turning me into a sea-lovin’ man.

Finally the captain took a rope and hooked it around some sort of turret and pulled the whole boat a bit closer–with just his sheer brute force. This received applause from those standing by. Even more humiliation.

I still was not able to find a “clambering” approach to leaving the boat. So three guys reached down, grabbed me under my arms and on the count of three, hoisted me up on the dock.

I attempted to land with some authority, stomping my feet a couple of times so the people around me would be aware that I had muscular ability, then quickly grabbed my family and disappeared into the crowd, heading for the refreshment stand.

After all, I was hungry from all the exertion.

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