Debbie

Debbie: (n) a female given name.

As she skipped her way into a small frat house at Cincinnati Bible Seminary, to sit around in a tiny room with about fifteen other post-high-school strangers, to listen to imitation-hippie-music with a Christian twist, she illuminated the whole surroundings with her smile, which foretold of just a pinch of naughtiness.

She never made you work hard to feel appreciated.

I don’t think she ever met a man she didn’t like.

She wasn’t easy—just uncomplicated.

She loved to laugh.

She thrived on flirting.

And she sang like singing was second nature to her soul.

I had come to the gathering that night to find a vocalist for my up-and-coming band, and by the end of the evening I left with Debbie as my new cohort.

I traveled with her for almost three years. We threatened to become romantic, whispered promises—and we sang great music.

With my tunes, her voice and our buddy, we went all over the United States, appearing on national television, hitting the religious charts and getting to sing a song on the Grand Ole’ Opry.

She has remained my friend throughout the journey.

Even though we will never recapture those thirty-six months of music and magic, we maintain a deep-rooted friendship.

I doubt if she will ever read this.

But I know if she did, she would concur.

And oh—by the way—one of my fondest memories as a young man is the first day that she arrived poolside, wearing a bikini.

She had amazing lungs.

Current

Current: (adj) new; present; most recent

I have never gone lockstep with the obvious.

I’m also quite reluctant to be in awe of the over-produced or exaggeratedly promoted.

I smile when people tell me that “the current position on something or other is as follows”—considering the fact that human beings change their minds more often than they change the batteries in their smoke detectors (by far).

Yet I know there are many individuals who are greatly impressed that something has been thrust forward for popular consumption, therefore making it the current fad.

Actually, one of the easier ways to make an immoral decision is to give heed and credence to what has the loudest promoter.

I’m not telling you that silence is golden, or obscurity invites purity.

I’m just saying that the easiest thing to do in life is advertise.

It doesn’t involve creativity, doesn’t require honesty and can change its emphasis in mid-campaign.

When I sit down and decide whether a practice is worthy of my support—one which has become current with the times—I ask myself three questions:

  1. Does it encourage people to accept one another and also challenge them to be better?
  2. Is it honest enough to admit there may be error?
  3. Is it open to revision—or closed off because those who are pushing it want to guarantee the reaction they desire?

If it passes those three questions, I’m prepared to accept any current movement, spirituality, kindness, politics, music or interaction.

If not, I quietly walk away, let everyone play with their toy for a while, and then warmly welcome them back, helping them overcome the instinct to be jaded.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Culture

Culture: (n) a particular form or stage of civilization

What if I don’t like your color?

I can’t really say that—it makes me look like a bigot. I can’t let you know that I’ve been raised so sheltered that the hue of your skin gives me the creeps. I associate your color with matters that are not desirable.

All I really want is for you to stay away from me.

I have noticed that insulting you doesn’t cause you to disperse. I can talk behind your back and make you feel uncomfortable, but there’s always a chance you will defiantly remain.

I can insist that you’re inferior, but then every once in a while, you do things to disprove my contention.

What if I just don’t want to change my opinion? If I’m open-minded, my brain might slip out of its casing and wiggle away.

What can I do to make sure you stay away from me, but at the same time not incur your wrath or revenge?

What will cause us to remain separate without making it seem like it’s social segregation?

I do not want to be condemned by the self-righteous souls who think they’re superior because they learned how to tolerate you.

I don’t hate you—I just don’t want you. Shouldn’t I be allowed to get what I want? I mean, America being free and all.

So me and my friends got together and came up with this great idea.

We’re going to pretend that you are different by establishing how unique you are—how outstanding your customs and the climate in your community.

We will admire your cooking without ever partaking.

We will compliment your music without downloading a single song.

We will ooh and ahh over your costuming as if it’s coming from a faraway land, humiliating our beige and brown.

We will explain that you have a way of doing things that’s simply marvelous—as we have a way of doing things that is equally proficient.

We won’t talk about things like racial prejudice or fear of mixing.

We’ll call it culture.

It sounds so…well, cultured.

In doing so, we establish that you have found your way of doing things and we have found our way of doing things and there is no reason for the two paths to cross or for us to talk you out of your preferences and abandon ours.

We have invented a new racism.

It’s friendly, seems educated and is flexible.

You have a culture.

We have a culture.

Now, if you’ll be so kind, take yours over there and we’ll keep ours right here.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Culpable

Culpable: (adj) deserving blame or censure; blameworthy.

I was born in a hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Honestly, the single incident didn’t do a whole lot for me except provide me life.

I was born again in a little church and got baptized.

It felt good for a while, but then I discovered that I had to keep going and scrounge out some purpose.

When I was eighteen years of age, I wrote my first musical number.

It felt mighty good to be creative. It was rewarding on that first composition and continues to be so. But it’s not the highlight of my life.

I saw sons born into my household and sons who came through my front door.

They were all amazing, but they didn’t provide the backbone and meaning for my journey.

I really became a human being the day I allowed myself to be culpable for my actions and I was not afraid to admit the wrongs I engineered.

Before that day, I avoided confrontations—even lied, cheated and rewrote history to prove I was not at fault.

This dodging of responsibility occasionally made me the “Bad Dad,” a mediocre workman, an insufficient artist, an unpredictable lover and a horrible Christian.

My life began when I was prepared to admit where I screwed up.

Any human who is not willing to be culpable for his or her own actions is not only obnoxious but dangerous to the whole tribe.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crunk

Crunk: (n) a type of hip-hop originating in the southern U.S. and characterized by heavy bass and call-and-response vocals.

If there are social graces, then there most certainly must be social “clumsies.”

I’m speaking of those moments when we become so frightened that we’re going to appear ill-informed that we foolishly pretend we know something about a matter that we have absolutely no connection with whatsoever.

Somebody might mention a word and rather than us asking, “What in the hell is that?” we simply nod our head.

Then someone notices our vigorous head-wagging and challenges us by asking, for instance, what our favorite crunk song is.

At this point, beads of sweat break out on our brow–though we might be a bit relieved because we now know that crunk has something to do with music. (Our first guess was probably that crunk was the past tense of crank.)

Meanwhile, rather than quickly admit that we were caught—or that we don’t have any insight whatsoever on the subject, we try to come up with a generic answer in hopes that the subject will be changed, and the integrity of our all-knowing status will remain.

So in answer to the question about our favorite crunk song, we might say, “There are so many—but I am heartened by the fact that it’s gaining notoriety, and they seem to be including more women.”

We internally smile, thinking that mentioning the addition of new female crunkers was particularly ingenious.

Then we look into the eyes of our questioner.

He knows we’re full of shit.

Now what do we do?

We try to revise the topic. But with our limited musical knowledge, it’s a bit difficult to make the jump from crunk to James Taylor.

We wish to disappear and think it might be a good idea to hasten our exit, even though we just arrived at the party and it might appear suspicious.

Then it happens.

One of those snide, beautiful, skinny women standing nearby snarls, “You don’t know what crunk is, do you?”

For some reason the whole room goes silent. Everyone’s attention is suddenly focused in our direction—people waiting for an answer.

Here are the options:

Come clean and admit that we misrepresented our knowledge on the subject.

Or faint.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C


Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast

Good News and Better News

 

Crescendo

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crescendo: (n) a gradual, steady increase in loudness or force.

I do realize there’s a danger in over-analyzing things. It can become tedious, if not obnoxious. Yet I will tell you—life becomes much simpler when you first realize it’s supposed to be simple, and then you start looking for the parallels that dwell behind every experience and lurk beneath each rock.

Over the years I have played my share of music.

Some people have even accused me of being a musician.

I’ve written songs and I’ve composed about eight symphonies (though Mozart and Beethoven shouldn’t be worried about their day jobs.)

Music has taught me a lot.

That’s not a very profound statement, but once again—simple.

Music knows what the key is meant to be in every situation.

It finds a melody, so some sensibility can be mustered for the hearer.

It certainly acknowledges the need for harmony.

And it has a great desire to strike a chord of commonality among us.

But never does music teach us anything more than it does with the crescendo.

Some people live their lives full out, loud, always punctuating their crescendo to the maximum. Then when they need to say something essential or shout out a truth, no one listens because they are always blaring and trumpeting their feelings.

The wisdom of music is to start your piece quietly and build.

Let’s be honest—if the audience doesn’t want to hear the song or doesn’t prefer the tunefulness of it, playing it more loudly does not achieve much of anything. But if you can acquaint all those around you with a theme they really embrace, by the time you get to the finale, you can generate a crescendo that triumphs the message and the music to the climax.

I used to be of a mindset that the louder I said something, the more emphatic and powerful it became. But I just ended up in a room with a bunch of fellow bellowers, shouting over the top of one another.

I shall never forget the night I was playing a concert, and the band that was on right before our troupe closed out with a screaming anthem, leaving the audience leaping to its feet, applauding wildly.

I realized there was no way to top that, so I looked for a bottom. I took the stage with just my guitarist and sang our sweetest, most childlike ballad. By the time I finished, the attention was mine. If I had desired, I could have manufactured my own crescendo. There was no hurry. It wasn’t a competition.

Turn down the noise.

First in your own mind—your own twitter—and then patiently let it all tone down around you.

Take a deep breath, pick your moment, make sure it’s timely…

CRESCENDO.

 


Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast

Good News and Better News

 

Covet

Covet: (v) to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others

I don’t think I would ever earn a dollar if I didn’t covet money.

I certainly would never go on a diet if I didn’t covet the physique of someone boldly handsome.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I would never practice my music if I didn’t covet the style, grace and ease of those who have mastered instrument and voice.

I don’t know whether I would be interested in my spiritual life if I didn’t covet something beyond the mundane drivel of thoughts my brain often considers to be adequately enlightening.

I don’t think I would mow my grass if my neighbor didn’t make me covet a manicured lawn.

I’m not so sure I would do much of anything in my life if I didn’t covet a more gleaming path.

We must remember that the removal of evil is certainly a high-minded—and high-handed—pursuit. Because if you take away the lust, the coveting, the curiosity and the yearning of the human being, you might end up with a self-righteous, religious fanatic who is completely intolerant about why anyone would covet anything, since life is so sinful and unfulfilling.

Donate Button


Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast

Good News and Better News

 

Country and Western

Country and western: (n) another name for country music

When I was a pukey little kid filled with pimples and promise, we called it hillbilly music. It was another thing we were permitted to “be better than” in an environment where our white skin gave us free pass to nearly every privilege.

It was particularly humorous because I lived in a state of the Union in which the hillbillies who made that music were not more than a “state of mind away.”

I grew up with gospel music, which was hillbilly music sung on Sunday, including a Wurlitzer organ. I didn’t care. It was the gospel.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

And the gospel, to me at that point, meant four-part singin’, clappin’ and words about my unworthiness but soon inexplicable admission to heavenly bliss.

After I escaped the educational system (when we both breathed a sigh of relief) I ended up in Nashville, Tennessee, surrounded by people who were not hillbillies, but just favored a twinge of “twang to their “thang.”

My opinion soon changed because they liked the music I was writing and offered me opportunities to record it, and even some open doors to perform it.

I never became a huge follower of country and western music, and to this day only enjoy it in small doses.

But the same could be said of Pepto-Bismol. Every once in a while, you need a little to calm your innards.


Donate Button


Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast

Good News and Better News

 

Correctional Facility

Correctional facility: (n) a prison, especially for long-term confinement.

I think it’s safe to say that a plurality, if not a majority, of people think about prisons just about as much as they do the city dump or changing the batteries in their smoke detectors.

It’s not that we’re uncaring. It’s just that sometimes we are at such a loss as to know what to do that rather than taunting ourselves with the frustration of considering something, we pretend it vanished into thin air. (Kind of like when you pick your nose and pull one of those crusty funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
things out and rub it between your fingers until there’s no further evidence…)

Early on in my career in music and the arts, our musical group was invited to come and perform at the State Prison. I was traveling with two girls, and most folks thought it was a very bad idea for us to go to such a dangerous and potentially violent arena.

But if you think about it, as long as you’re not sleeping in, a prison is one of the safest places on earth. Everyone is restrained, threatened and guarded. (Perhaps we should consider this profile for Washington, D. C.  I digress.)

We did not take the gig because we wanted to bring hope or good cheer to the prisoners. No—it was because we were just starting out, and anyone who wanted us to play was our next best opportunity. (After all, you get tired of performing at nursing homes or church pot luck dinners.)

We arrived at the prison and discovered that the entire population was not invited to the concert. Matter of fact, only 150 inmates would be present—these being members of a Bible study held twice a week in the rec hall.

Well, I was young and impetuous, so I objected. I said that if I’d wanted to come and play my music for a bunch of Christians, I could have gone down to the Baptist Church, which “may or may not have just as many felons.”

Both the warden and chaplain were patient with me. They realized that I was immature and did not understand that I was carrying along with me two delicious “human treats,” which these men had not partaken of in some time.

They explained that even though they could protect the girls in our group from attack, they certainly could not shelter them from the trauma of being accosted with foul language.

I grumbled.

Well, we did our first show in front of the Bible Club, and it went so well that the warden asked me if we would do another show in front of about 200 of the inmates who were presently on “good behavior status.”

I immediately agreed.

Boy—did I learn a lesson. If those 200 prisoners were the “good behavior boys,” I shudder to think what would have happened if they had released the lions on us young Christians.

It was loud, overbearing, and it was difficult to get the inmates quiet enough to listen to the music—and only when the beat reached a certain level of intensity did they clap their hands and participate in the event.

Afterwards I felt humbled. I told the warden and the chaplain that I was sorry for being such a jerk.

They corrected me. The warden said, “Don’t you ever give up on the idea of trying to help someone—especially if it looks hopeless.”

I nearly cried.

Even though there’s a reason they call them correctional facilities—because most of the time, correction is the name of the game instead of rehabilitation—it is not our right to ever give up on those that God decided to create in His image.


Donate Button


Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast

Good News and Better News

 

Cornhusker

Cornhusker: (n) a Nebraskan

It would be much easier to claim that you’re a cow if you’re able to chew your cud and moo. Producing milk would also be a positive.

When I graduated from high school and opted not to go to college because my wife and I were pregnant with possibilities, I realized that I did funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
not want to be the kind of guy who didn’t go to college and worked at the kind of job this kind of guy is forced to take.

I liked music. I thought I had some talent.

No one ever actually sat down with me and made suggestions on how to use my ability or guided me in a direction of turning my existing efforts into some sort of cash flow.

I was told that I was not allowed to do anything but get a job and take care of my family.

I didn’t want to do that.

Now, I’m not asking you to side with me on this issue, nor am I desiring your cultural rebuke. I’m just explaining that if I were claiming to be a singer and a musician, I needed to go “music” somewhere.

So discovering in a very obscure newspaper a notice that there was a coffeehouse opening up in Kearney, Nebraska, I contacted the fellow beginning it on the phone, told him about my little group, and said that we would love to come and share at his new venue. He was thrilled (since we were from Ohio and he was all the way in Nebraska.)

It didn’t even cross my mind to look at a map. Before I knew it, the gentleman invited us to come and sing at the coffeehouse with the promise that he would “help out with gas.”

At that point in my life I had a van which creaked and squeaked just driving around town, threatening to break down at a moment’s notice. I didn’t care. Nor did my three other comrades.

We set out for Kearney, Nebraska. Matter of fact, when I began this essay today, I had to look up how far it was from Columbus, Ohio, to Kearney, Nebraska. I am so glad I didn’t have the Internet back then, because the distance one way is 968.4 miles.

We packed in some soft drinks, made some sandwiches, gathered as much money as we could borrow and pull out of couch cushions, and took off. We joked about “touring to the Cornhusker State,” never realizing that it would be many, many hours—twelve to be exact—before we would be anywhere near those who were traditionally proclaimed “huskers of corn.”

I’m happy to report that we actually made it there.

As is often the case, the opportunity was even smaller than I could have imagined. But the fourteen people who showed up said they were really impressed with our songs and happy we had made the trip. They gave us thirty dollars for our gasoline, a bushel of sweet corn and a peck of apples.

It was my first payday.

The round trip, as you can imagine, ended up being nearly two thousand miles.

But I was young, looking for an adventure, and especially trying to find a way to escape—for one week—from hearing all the town cronies telling me what a deadbeat I was.


Donate Button


Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast

Good News and Better News