Colonel

Colonel: (n) an army officer of high rank

Many, many years ago, my younger brother decided to join the Army.

It was a split-second option that popped into his mind based on the fact that he discovered that he was out of money, his transmission was
going out and his prospects with females seemed dreary.

Of course, in his mind the logical thing was to join the military and bivouac himself with thousands of other confused young studly types.

I tried to talk him out of it. He insisted I was against the country and had no patriotism.

Now, I knew my little brother real well. For example, he was not only afraid of spiders, but once peed himself when the word was mentioned–no actual hairy-legged threat nearby.

So in my mind’s eye, the possibility of him becoming a killer infantryman or a marauding marine was not only implausible, but a threat to our nation.

He mocked me. He rejected my counsel. Off he went.

In forty-eight hours–nay, forty-six hours later–I received a phone call from Oklahoma. A desperate wisp of a voice gasping through the receiver, “Get me out of here!”

“Here,” of course, was basic training. And the reason they call it basic training is that you are going to train, and basically, that’s the end of the discussion.

The worst part was that he threatened suicide.

Now, I’ve always heard through the clumps of wisdom that come from the grapevine that you should take it seriously when someone threatens to do himself in.

So I got on the phone. I called the base.

I was connected with a colonel. I shall leave his actual name out of this essay due to respect for his service to the country, and also the fact that he was being harassed by an older brother who had no idea of protocol.

I shall therefore refer to him as “Colonel What the Hell Are You Talking About?” or “Colonel Please Don’t Call Me Again,” or my favorite–“Colonel We Are Going to Come and Arrest You.”

Apparently, by some rule of his job or position, it turned out that he had to take my calls. He was not permitted to dodge them. Therefore, we got to know each other real well. (He has a dachshund named “Scottie.” His wife likes tulips but doesn’t think the word fits them.)

After he interviewed my younger brother, who had huddled himself in one of the bathroom stalls in the barracks, he agreed with me that this young man had no business being in the Man’s Army whatsoever. Matter of fact, we agreed that he had no business being in the Women’s Army.

But the Colonel insisted that his “hands were tied.” I must have heard this phrase a thousand times.

I did not know when to stop. It seemed to me that the only time to cease and desist was when my little brother was back at home, trying to figure out how to borrow money for repair on his beat-up car.

For after all, he was a young, confused fellow whose main concern should have been his frequency of masturbation.

Suddenly something changed.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t believe it was anything I said, but “Colonel I’m Sick of This and Ready to Move On” started to work with me instead of against me.

Two weeks later, my brother was standing back at home, wearing his army greens, sitting around a table of fried chicken, trying to tell his “war stories.”

I took in a deep breath, smiled inwardly, looked over at him and thought to myself, “Thank God you’re home, you miserable little twerp.”

 

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Coherent

Coherent: (adj) a logical theory

A common weakness in those who take pen to paper (though there actually is no pen or paper anymore), who fancy themselves to be writers is the tendency to become exasperated with the reader when he or she pulls up mentally lame–incapable of grasping a deep point or drooling over a clever turn of words.

Actually, to become a good writer, you must “de-brat” yourself. In other words, have the brat removed without losing the childlike quality of simplifying human truth to concepts which are easily grasped. Therefore, don’t put too many steps in your process.

Yesterday I saw an article that advertised “31 Things to Do to Make Your Life Better.” I, for one, am overwhelmed with the notion of Baskin Robbins having thirty-one flavors, let alone remembering them in any sequential order.

Coherence also demands that we use understandable language instead of historical wording. Some words, phrases and ideas are dead. I don’t know if they will ever be resurrected, but presently they are stinking in a tomb.

Just don’t use them. Avoid getting angry with the populace because they’re unfamiliar with your jargon.

And being coherent certainly requires the grace to adjust your thinking when someone finds the flaw in your figuring. No matter how good you may think you are when putting together a respectable thesis, there will always be something you forget.

Rather than losing your cool over being challenged, warm yourself to the idea of learning from your mistakes.

Coherent is when smart meets flexible and they have a child called wisdom.

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Circuitous

Circuitous: (adj) of a route or journey which is longer than the most direct way.

Five minutes. Three hundred seconds.

It is the best time you’ll ever spend–because:

Only the people who don’t know how to parallel park think it’s hard.

Only the folks who never took the time to learn how to put together their dining room table by following the instructions insist it’s
impossible.

Only the rogue souls who are totally convinced that anything outside their own thinking is intrusion will ever benefit from the beauty of counsel.

I don’t care how sure you are.

I don’t care how pure you are.

I don’t care if you think you have the cure.

Take five minutes.

Go over your plan.

Use your three hundred seconds wisely so you don’t end up in the middle of a disaster because you forgot to bring the right parts.

Then you can avoid a circuitous route–where you spend way too much quality Earth time trying to explain why going around in circles was better.

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Chasten

Chasten: (v) to reprove

There are things that work and there are things that don’t.

Perhaps one of the most misleading ideas promoted in our society is the notion that a thousand paths lead to the same singular destination.
This has caused us to believe that we can ignore the wisdom of time and forge our own thoroughfare–and as long as we get “somewhere near it,” we’ve done a good thing by being independent.

Independence is over-rated. More often than not, it’s permission to fail instead of succeed–because leaving the sanctity of good counsel to prove your autonomy usually comes with a bundle of extra problems which have to be explained away later, as you cautiously tout your victory.

But let’s make three things clear:

1. Complaining is not chastening.

Human beings should not have to endure the incessant repetition of a grouchy spirit hounding them over their actions.

2. Assuming is not chastening.

Trying to take on the profile of “the gentle soul” who innocently assumes everyone knows the truth of the matter is often useless and can be vindictive if the silence causes another soul pain.

3. Prejudice is not chastening.

Asking a black man to hold his tongue because he’s “the son of Cain” and therefore not as worthy as white people is not a rebuke granting growth, but instead, instilling inferiority and fear.

Chastening is understanding what needs to be done–seeing that someone has taken a faulty turn and correcting him or her before the misstep turns into a tumble.

It must always be done in love, it must always be done quickly, and it must always be drenched in mercy and grace.

 

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Chaplain

Chaplain: (n) a member of the clergy attached to a private chapel, institution, ship, branch of the armed forces, etc.

One of the major dangers in life is to be overwrought, which means that for some unknown reason we place greater intensity, importance
and value on some matters than others.

We certainly do this with people’s occupations.

If someone says they work at a grocery store, we probably will not launch into a statement of gratitude for providing food for the masses.

But if someone says they’re a chaplain in a prison or the military, we raise our eyebrows, impressed, thinking we’re dealing with a sacrificial individual who is doing really, really valuable work.

The distinctions we make in life cause our prejudice–because there is such a thing as a good chaplain and also a bad chaplain, just like there’s a good grocer and a bad grocer. There are people who do their job well and people who do their job poorly.

So to judge a person who is a doctor as noble and kind is absolutely foolish. Many Dr. Jekylls are actually Mr. Hyde.

I think it would be very difficult to be a chaplain in the military, for the Gospel he or she would preach would not necessarily be in line with either the stars and stripes or the red, white and blue. Jesus had his differences with capitalism, and certainly was not a great advocate of violence.

Yet I respect the chaplain who brings the hope of the Gospel to people who find themselves in the position of making decisions that have far-reaching effects.

So if we can stop our silly bigotry about occupations and start asking ourselves what makes a good person in any situation, then we will be on our way to truly grasping equality and the wisdom of understanding.

 

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Chagrin

Chagrin: (n) distress or embarrassment at having failed or been humiliated.

Life waits around, waiting for human beings to express disappointment so it can squash them like that bug you found in your tent during the
campout.

Even though we contend that a certain amount of disappointment, embarrassment, disgust or sadness is predictable for certain occasions, those who indulge themselves in such a luxury often find that they are left out of the next flow of human activity.

You can be disappointed, but no one really cares.

It’s not because they’re uncaring–it’s because deep in their hearts, each one of us knows that disappointment and embarrassment are useless emotions which must be dispelled as quickly as possible, lest they explode and destroy our will to live.

So when we see this in other people, there is a small part of us that wants to be sympathetic and a huge part that wants to run away in terror.

So beware of the instinct to share your heart if that emotional revelation is filled with chagrin–because even though we all suffer slings and arrows, most of us have learned the wisdom of ducking.

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Caulk

Caulk: (n) a waterproof filler and sealant, used in building work

Not everything is a parable.

Truthfully, you have to be careful with metaphors. You can slice them as thin as the cheese at Subway.

But I will tell you on this Independence Day–I am caulk.

I realized this early on in my life. I am not wood, iron, steel, or as the song says, titanium.

I am caulk. I find the holes and I fill them with my gentle, sweet, comical but purposeful, passages.

I am not here to tear down, nor am I here to be a building inspector, informing you about what parts of life should be condemned.

There are dear, brave souls who do such reconstruction. They free slaves, liberate nations and find actual cures for disease instead of just bizarre treatments.

I am caulk. I come across cracks in the concrete and I fill them in with wit and good cheer.

It buys time. It keeps us from leaking like sieves.

It holds things together–waiting for the hour when common sense can sit down and have dinner with wisdom … and let tolerance pick up the check.

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