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person holding camera lensMy son knows when I happen across a spider in the house by the karate-sounding “ke-yai!” noise I emit. The spider is startled by me, too, but I’m sure its perspective is different.

Growing up, Mama Spider taught her son about humans: “Don’t stare honey. I know that’s a face only a mother could love, but God has a purpose for all creatures. Now let’s get out of here before that monstrosity squashes us!”

That seems to be how some religious groups see each other: If you’re not just like us, you’re a threat. The other day, my Lyft driver asked me if I was a Christian. When he went on to say something pejorative about Muslims, I knew we didn’t share the same perspective.

In photography, “perspective” is a term for a visual effect that causes objects to appear smaller as their distance from the viewer increases. In life, if you haven’t gone through a particular experience, it may seem far away and foreign to you.

Your perspective can change based on your status in society and net worth as well. Asked about how young comedians can get their big break, Jerry Seinfeld said, “The good thing about comedy is that anyone who’s talented usually makes it.” It must be spirit-crushing for struggling comics out there to hear their comedy idol make such a statement when they haven’t found success yet. 

The only way to keep your own karma clean is to assume there’s validity in the experience of others. So before you squash that spider — or another human being’s spirit — take a moment to adjust your lens. It might just broaden your perspective.

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Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NIV

“Mouthwash Cancels Out Benefits of Exercise.” Even before reading the article, it was clear the headline was misleading. Sure enough, hours later, it was revised to: “Mouthwash Cancels Out Key Benefits of Exercise, One Study Finds.

These old newspaper headlines show the importance of word choice:

Amphibious pitcher makes debute funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

Of course, sometimes, the editor is just having fun with wordplay, as in the case of the psychic who couldn’t predict her own arrest.

Choosing just the right word is an editor’s job, but it’s just as important for you and I to give consideration to the impact of the things we say to one another.

With all the negativity in the news lately, it’s more important than ever to choose your words carefully. You never know what someone’s going through as you encounter them in the course of a day.

So if the cashier should have said, “Thank you, have a good day,” but didn’t, maybe she just can’t wish you what she doesn’t have herself. Maybe her baby wouldn’t sleep last night and the dog wouldn’t stop barking. Perhaps when she got to work two minutes late, the boss read her the riot act. It’s possible she can’t find the energy to have a bad day, and at the same time, wish someone else a good day.

If you’ve been there yourself, try to find it in your heart to forgive these minor infractions. Your kindness could be the catalyst that enables her to have a good day, and in turn, wish a good day to others.

Time, Scholarship“Gravity” would be a great name for a girl, like “Charity” or “Felicity.” And you know, Gravity used to be my friend. We could hang, she and I. But lately, she has not been kind to me. Just like Time used to be on my side. Now, he just keeps rushing past, like he doesn’t even recognize me!

To tell you the truth, my old pal Gravity has just been bringing me down. As you get older, you realize that “the tincture of time” only applies to broken hearts. Not faces, hands, and…other assets. 

But Gravity’s just doing her job, and Time is on the clock, too.⏰ They all work for Providence. Nobody can play a role for which they’re not designed. The same is true of humans; we were made to live the full spectrum of experiences, including aging. 

At least it rolls out slowly, like a grey carpet of sorts. At first, you think, “Grey? Where’s the red carpet treatment?” On second thought, you realize that grey is a great choice for a carpet. Hides the dirt. Goes with every kind of decor. It’s soothing.

So, eventually, you’re going to look older as you age. I know that’s no great newsflash, but until you experience it, you may not realize it can affect how you feel about life. 

But you’re still the same person you always were. Gravity and Time may be contractually obligated to do their jobs (as an older person, I’ve realized they must be Teamsters), but Providence is ageless, and there’s no expiration date on Grace.

It’s just been me and my son in our house since he was eight-years-old and he’s 20 now. Oddly enough I’m still 29! (And I have been for the last 25 years.😏)

Well, it’s just been us and our (late) pet-partners, Sheena, the black lab/border collie mix, and later on, KitKat, a former street-cat tabby. 

So I’ve always put my son first and my own needs on the back burner.

I realized the other day that he’s probably doing the same thing for me.

In trying to take care of each other in this way, it’s led to a bottleneck in terms of actual communication. As an example, something as simple as setting the temperature in the house can lead to a mutually neutral response.

“Cole, honey, do you want me to turn on the AC? Are you too hot?”

He’ll answer, “Are you too hot, Mom? I’m okay either way.”

So I realized we need to work on communicating with each other. 

Oddly enough, the answer is for each of us to put ourselves first. I’ll aim to be more declarative, saying instead, “Honey, I’m hot, so I’m going to turn on the air. If it gets too cold for you after a while, let me know and I’ll adjust it.” And he needs to do the same. 

You can’t get what you want until you can put it into words. Take care of yourself so you can be there for your loved ones.

Okay. So you say you want it all? Noted.🗹 

First, you’re going to have to start with “nothing” as a baseline. See, that way, you have a frame of reference. 

Next you’re going to have “some,” to help you learn how to manage “it all” when it arrives. If you don’t learn from this phase, it’s okay. We’ll helpfully let you start over at “nothing” again to get those More Muscles in shape.

Very few ever get to “it all” because even the ones who seem to have “it all” are deeply in debt, sick from their secrets and alone in a crowd. 

The “all” you’re really seeking isn’t a big pile of money, a perfectly-coiffed and curated persona on Instagram and a happily-ever-after with a stranger you met by swiping right on a dating app.

Actually, the ache for “it all” embedded within you is something else. Just as you’ve got a heartbeat, that’s your soulbeat. It’s:

  • Being who you are, no matter what room you walk into.
  • Learning every day that you don’t have all the answers, but that the questions themselves are sometimes the point.
  • Working toward a goal to engage all your faculties and your faith at the same time.
  • Using your own experience to know that people causing pain in your life are in pain themselves and greeting that grief with grace.
  • Getting to know and love yourself just as you would a “soulmate” so that you don’t end up with a “cellmate,” both locked into the self-defeating notion that you’ve failed to complete each other.

Life really is simpler than you make it out to be. 

  • Find your forte. Do that with all your heart. 
  • Find your community. Connect and show you care. 
  • Be yourself. If you meet a partner on the same page, be yourselves together.
  • Do your best. 
  • Take care of yourself. 
  • Be kind. 

Whatever you can’t figure out, turn it over to me in prayer. You may come to realize that in some ways, you already do have “it all.”

What if you found out you’d never be able to lose weight as long as you held a grudge in your heart? Say you hatched a plan to exact revenge and succeeded in getting your “pound of flesh,” only here’s the catch: you have to wear it on your person as a saddlebag! I can only imagine how quickly most of us would find a way to be forgiving.

We seem to hold onto grudges as a means of survival, as if being cynical will protect us from being hurt or betrayed ever again. Perhaps your body is listening and thinks you want to keep a wall between you and the possibility of being wounded again, a “blubber buffer,” if you will.

Or maybe God’s getting tired of hearing you complain about that last boyfriend who never bought you flowers, and now he’s gone and married a florist! The injustice! So the maker of all things decides to teach an object lesson. You stop hurting when you stop hating, child. Until you do, I’m going to physically add weight to you until you get the correlation. Zap! You’re zaftig.

Whatever the particulars were, whoever the players were, the only way to release yourself from past pain is to love yourself more than you hate the ones who hurt you.

When you lighten up and let go of that heavy burden, the least that will happen is that you’ll have more time for the blessings in your life. You may not lose weight, but you’ll lose hate. And that’s how you make space for grace.

What if you had an outfit that brought you good luck every time you wore it? You’d put it on and, instantly, everything in your life would go well. I bet you’d wear it every single day! But here’s the catch: It came to you from Icarus, the farthest star known to man, and it’s got alchemical properties. 

While you get the hang of wearing it, you may randomly:

  • Become invisible
  • Be able to read minds at will
  • Hit all the winning lottery numbers in every state at the same time

On the other hand, you may also:

Would you take the risk?

If only it were as simple as putting on a scarf or tucking in a pocket square!

Well, you can actually create your own personal pocket of grace. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the positive
  • Surround yourself with people who lift you up
  • Stay on the path to the “yes” life

And before you know it, you’ve created your own good vibes. Oh, and it helps to give thanks to the one who made it all possible. No, not some corporate sponsor or mystery philanthropist! The one who made it all: you, me, the sky, earth and sea. Here’s another word for that pocket of grace: Faith.

What if we come to find out we’re all just a bunch of free-range chickens in the backyard of some giant, benevolent aliens? 

Then we’d have no need to beat ourselves up when we make a mistake. Or regret choices we made when we felt we had no choice. We’d get back to basics pretty quickly. 

Be the best free-range chicken you can be! Don’t peck at the other hens. Keep your feathers clean. Get some sun in the yard. And then, you know what? Go lay an egg! 🥚

I’m not trying to insult you! Remember: you’re a free-range chicken on an alien outpost. The normal human insults have no effect on you now. Go sit on it. The egg, that is!

The aliens have thought of everything to give you a comfortable life as a beloved pet, including heated hen houses, high-quality feed, and a trail by the water.

So why don’t you go jump in the lake?🤽

No offense, of course! This is all just an exercise to show that the mean-spirited things we humans say to insult each other are all just code for: I’m aiming these specific words at you to make you feel bad. Why? It’s usually because you, or someone else hurt me, and since I don’t know how to manage these feelings or resolve them, I’m sitting in a pool of poison. All I’ve been taught by society is to pick it up and throw it at you. 

When others aim their poison arrows of pain at you, don’t engage. Let them carry their toxins on down the road. Keep your eyes up, heart open, and if you come across a bump in the road, well, just… take a flying leap… of faith, that is! Safe travels, dear hearts.💖

It’s been said that “life is short,” but, what if it turns out it’s long?

I looked in the mirror as I was smiling one day and realized I had a dimple. Oh! That’s nice. Always wanted to have dimples. Two weeks went by before I realized that it wasn’t a dimple. It was a wrinkle! 

Horrors!

It’s actually a laugh line. Hmm. That’s not a bad thing, is it? To have laughed in life. And to have lived a while. Both good things. After a moment, I shrugged. You know what? It’s okay to wear your life on your person. Some may choose to erase their lines with a nip and tuck or an injection, and that’s their choice. I wouldn’t judge them for it. If I had the means, I might even make the same choice.

But self-acceptance is a life-long process. When I was younger, I was always self-conscious about my appearance. Wanted my make-up just so. Clothes to be in style. But as your body changes, your outlook changes. 

Just as you’ve got a favorite comfy armchair, a lived-in body can be a comfort. You know how to adjust as you bend to lift up a package as you get older. You’re grateful that, despite health conditions, you can still get around reasonably well and take care of yourself.

The true wake-up call is that you’re still you. It’s hard to explain to younger people, but you feel like the same person you always were on the inside, even as your features change with age. The fact is, there’s still so much to look forward to in life, and, God willing, you may live to a ripe old age. You might as well become your own best friend.

Oh, hi there. You caught me doing my index-finger isometrics so they’re strong enough to open my closet door. 🤞 You see, my house was built in the 1960s (so was I, for that matter), and it seems to have been designed by a sadist. (The house, that is. Not me.)

This closet door is virtually impossible to open. It’s as if they took a thimble from someone’s sewing kit, jammed it into the door and called it a day. I’d like to meet the sadist who designed it so I can accidentally poke him in the eye with that finger. It’s nice and strong now. I jest of course! I’d probably just smack him with a hanger. Oops! Jesting again. But you can sense my very real frustration.

There are so many things around my house that need fixing, and not a penny in the budget with which to hire a contractor. The microwave broke last week. The fence needs repair, there are leaks from the ceiling, and the floors need to be re-finished. 

Instead of just sending missionaries overseas to convert people, we should also have a team right here at home with a program to “un-vert” people. To make it very clear, I’m not trying to convert you. I’m trying to convince you that people of faith have no ulterior motive. I’m just here to make your life easier. Can’t open that closet door due to its Lilliputian thimble-like handle? Let me fix it for you. People would join in droves!

Such a program doesn’t exist yet, but until it does, the best way to present your beliefs in a positive light is to follow the golden rule. Sure, stay on message, but be a person about it. You can’t save a soul with a bonk on the head, and, try as you might, some doors will always remain closed.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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