A preacher who used to come to our church would scold the congregation when we were not vocal enough in our response to his preaching: “Well, if you won’t do it, then I will just encourage myself in the Lord!”. He would start telling himself how much he enjoyed his preaching, and laugh hilariously at his jokes. I liked that. I used to listen to a preacher named Charles Simpson. Great preacher. Sometimes he would stop in the middle of a really good sermon and tell a string of one-liner jokes, just because they popped into his head. I asked him why he did that once, and he said it was because when people laugh their ribs spread apart and it made it easier for him to get to their heart.
I love the unexpected. Sometimes in the middle of the night I start laughing at one of the lines in “O Brother, Where Art Thou”, or at the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man in the original Ghostbusters. (I had to stop to laugh when I typed that!) The other night I watched In Monty Python and the Holy Grail by myself. I needed a good laugh. James Gaffigan talking about McDonalds or healthcare or massages...that guy makes me laugh until tears.
Life is funny if you just look at it with a sense of humor.
I entertain myself. My mind runs along lines of humorous contradictions, fixating on funny things people say when they don’t mean to. I love to tell stories about the people I meet. I am inspired by them. I tell them the way I remember them. But I make no guarantee of accuracy. They may not be 100% factual, but they are always good stories.
Since God is the best at everything, He must be a terrific comedian. You cannot read the Bible without recognizing His lightheartedness and a deep sense of divine humor. It makes God likable, attractive – at least to me. I like being around Him. I look forward to spending time with Him. I imagine that His courts are filled with joy and laughter. No tears, unless there are tears of joy.
You probably won’t find this funny, but I think circumcision is hilarious! I wonder when God made circumcision “the sign of covenant”, if Abraham made a suggestion: “How about a nice Star of David tattoo, or a red dot on my forehead?” God: “Nope. I want you to make a permanent surgical mark on the part of your body that you used when you decided to produce the promise I made you in your own strength!” That’s funny. (I am grateful that Jesus gave us bread and wine as the sign of our covenant.)
Before the flood, people were vegetarians. God suggesting that Noah could start eating animals after spending an entire year cooped up with a bunch of them in a nearly windowless boat is funny. God renamed Jacob “Israel”, which means “he who wrestles with God and prevails”. We all know how that wrestling match turned out. That is funny! Jesus walking on the water in a storm, and “about to pass by” the boat where the disciples were struggling and scared of sinking, is funny!
Cancer can be funny. (Say that out loud right now wherever you are!)
After my SRS treatment a physician friend called me. It was a pastoral call, or at least a deeply appreciated attempt at one. (Pastoral is not his native language, but I am glad he called and I felt loved.) As he was asking me questions about my procedure, he asked what I think was meant as a real question: “Did your neurologist make any comments about the size of your brain…?” He was probably going to say “…tumor”; but before he could, I responded, “Yes. In fact he was deeply impressed with the size of my brain. And he was amazed at the condition of my brain! He said that I may have the heart and lungs of a 70-year-old, but I have the brain of a 4-year-old!” We laughed. After a day at the hospital, I felt normal for a few minutes.
When I was having my SRS procedure, they put a heart rate monitor on my finger. I asked if the nurse would put it on my middle finger, and she did without question. Every time they walked into the room to check my BP and heart rate, I showed them that it was still in place. :-)
I got to do a half-day fly-fishing trip with a concerned friend. As we were about to get into the boat, he put on some sun-screen and asked if I needed any. “I have stage 4 melanoma. What do I need sun-screen for?” We both almost fell in the river laughing.
I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I don’t see a bad ending for me. I am going to be terrific, regardless of whether I stay or depart. But half of the people I know are going to feel pretty bad about my outcome either way. :-)
And if I don’t make it, at my memorial service, when opportunity is given to share memories or say nice things, I have asked several unnamed friends to make up totally fictitious but slightly believable stories about me, and to share it with deep conviction. (Feel free to read this as an open invitation to do the same!)
I had dinner with a surgeon friend last night. As we talked about people praying for me, it occurred to me that I may be the one with cancer, but that he was probably the most prayed for person at the table. “Lord, please guide the hand of the surgeon today!...” I wonder if surgeons realize that is how EVERYONE prays EVERY time they have a patient! When I am at a restaurant, I usually wait until they bring my food, and then I give thanks for it. Maybe I should burst into prayer when I give the order to my waiter, “Lord, guide the hand of the chef in the kitchen tonight!”
I get a cards from people. I got one a couple of weeks ago from my friend, Andres from Philadelphia. He had taken the time to cut and copy about 20 funny comics – Far Side, and stuff like that – and sent them to me. None of them were about being sick. My staff and I took turns reading them and laughing. We all needed a laugh. We were normal again – and we felt loved. Thanks again, Andres!
God does stuff that makes Himself happy – “and for your pleasure they were created”… we are “called according to the pleasure of His will”… we prove ”His good, and pleasing will…” God laughs. He has joy. Jesus said that He is like a King that knows how to throw a great party (Matt 22). He shares His joy (read the parable of the talents). I am sure that He laughs at us, because He takes delight in us. When I get things wrong (a lot!), I don’t provoke God’s anger. He delights in me, probably much like I delight in watching the children when they get so serious about building something out of blocks, or do ballet in my living room, or have intense conversations with their toys, or overfill their glass because they are “helping” at the table. I giggle and laugh and delight and feel nothing but love for them; and I am not even a very good person. God is. God is as good as Jesus. The Father is even greater than Jesus (Jesus said that)! And Jesus was a fun guy. He got invited to parties by people who knew about parties! He hung out with guys with nicknames like Rock and Sons of Thunder. Children liked Him. Blue-collar people liked him. Street people liked him. God is like Jesus. And if God is like Jesus, then we are in good hands and in good company. God is like Jesus, and more.*
Laughter is good like medicine. There is enough about all this to draw me into dark places. It is a good thing to laugh, even if I am the only one who laughs at my jokes.
* (Props to E. Stanley-Jones and his book, “The Christ of the Mount”.)