Gratitude, Day 4—Play


I have a neighbor who has a young dog, about two years old now. Another neighbor just recently got a puppy, and those two hit it off. They love to run and chase and play tug of war and wrestle, and then run some more. I have to say, it’s really entertaining to watch.

I remember a time when I was young that our cat had a litter of kittens and as they grew, they loved to play with each other. We used to sit in the living room and just watch those kittens jump and chase each other and wrestle.

Recently I heard someone describing a cruise they went on and this person said a school of dolphins chased them. Well, not chased, I thought. But play? No doubt.

And then it dawned on me. Animals of all kinds play. Mostly their young, but even older pets can play. In other words, play is something God built into His creation.

No wonder we humans like to play: board games and card games and video games. We like to horse around. We invent games like Mother May I or Kick The Can or Hide-and-Seek. We play games we turn into sports like skate boarding and skiing. We play because . . . we were made to love play.

I’ve wondered off and on if play is good. I mean, what does play accomplish for the kingdom of God? Aren’t we to be good stewards of our time?

Well, yes, we are. But “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” or something like that. Yeah, not from the Bible, I know. And I might be tempted to think play is something we should outgrow, except for those dolphins chasing the cruise ship. And the dogs frolicking in the snow. And kittens chasing rainbows. In other words, God gave the instinct to play.

Sure, just like anything else, we humans can misuse God’s gift. We can turn it into an idol. We can become addicted. We can spend time playing when we are supposed to be working or worshiping or serving.

But play when we don’t use it in the wrong way, is a great gift from God. It adds enjoyment and relaxation to our days. It takes our minds off problems and heartaches. It gives us opportunities to laugh and to celebrate and to make memories.

And like all God’s good gifts, He reveals something about Himself in them. God shows that He has a sense of humor, that He laughs. There are some verses in Scripture that back this up. Sarah, when she learned that in her old age she would give birth to a son, said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”

In Proverbs, this: “A joyful heart is good medicine.”

God shows a sense of irony, too, which is actually a type of humor. Take the Apostle Paul, for example. He was bent on chasing down Christians and doing away with them one way or the other. But God, in a great ironic twist, says, No, no, no. I want you, the Christian hunter to be the greatest evangelist FOR Christ in the first century.

There are others. Haman, for example, showing up in the palace to ask the king if he can hang Mordecai, and the king calling Haman to him to ask what he should do for the man he wishes to honor . . . which turns out to be Mordecai! Ironic twist.

One thing I know for sure from the book of James:

Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.

Praises. Sort of like thanksgiving. So, how grateful I am to God that He has given us play, which leads to laughter and cheer.

If you’re like me, you get a kick out of watching animals play, so here’s a video you might enjoy.

Published in: on November 6, 2018 at 5:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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Laughter Is The Best Policy


us_navy_laughingOK, actually honesty is the best policy, but laughter is right there beside him.

I have to say, I used to turn my nose up on the many, many pictures posted on Facebook with cute or clever or wise sayings inscribe on top. The technical name for this, I guess, is memes. Some people seem to post nothing more than memes, and quite frankly I rarely read their posts. Until recently.

What I’ve experienced of late is angst, disharmony, despair, confusion, criticism. Yep, lots of criticism. It’s his fault, it’s their fault, it’s our fault, it’s this other group, it’s our group, it’s the fault of those behind the evil conspiracy.

Enter a belly laugh-inducing meme.

Or even better are the funny pet videos. I have to say, some have made me laugh so hard, I nearly put them on my own site. I mean, a meme or a pet video has to be pretty hilarious for me to share it.

But given the seriousness of the news, the negative tone, and the disagreeable disagreements, funny feels refreshing.

I think other people might agree. Some of the biggest responses to my Facebook posts are to the ones that are humorous.

Of course there’s a real, physical reason for this. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers. There are other benefits to laughter that we may not realize right away: it lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, exercises your abs, is good for your heart health, improves sleep, and increases your chance to win the lottery.

OK, not that last one. But laughter has numerous physical benefits. No wonder we enjoy laughter as a tension reliever. No wonder movie makers and playwrights include a little comic relief in their stories.

Interestingly, science has grabbed hold of laughter, and it’s become a topic of study. Apparently people in all cultures laugh, so laughter is considered one of the universal languages.

Laughter isn’t dependent on jokes either. Circumstances and people seem to be the most important factor.

When I was growing up, I remember a couple of instances when we as a family broke into laughter. The thing was, the harder we tried to stop laughing, the more we laughed. Once we were in a diner and a rather large woman squeezed herself between two tables. We thought that was funny but didn’t want to be rude, so we tried to control our laughter. Finally my sister and I went to the bathroom to get the laughter out of our system.

I remember laughing as a family at some of the I Love Lucy shows. Funny, slapstick comedy made the funnier because we were together laughing.

Once we got to laughing in church. It didn’t end well.

My dad could make me laugh simply by adopting a loud fake laugh. My sister-in-law got my sister and me laughing so hard because she pressed an invisible laugh button.

I think we need a laugh button, invisible or not, in America today. We need to solve the great divide in our country by laughing together. Maybe then we could move toward common solutions instead of divided arguments.

Laughter reminds me that we’re all human. What makes one person laugh, will probably make other people laugh, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. People are people, and we seem to forget that sometimes.

Yep, laughter is the best policy. At least for the short term. It’s only a fleeting burst of joy, but it has longer-lasting effects. I’d like to hear more of it and less of the vitriolic over-talking that seems to be so popular these days.

Published in: on January 31, 2017 at 6:47 pm  Comments (5)  
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Laughter Is The Best Medicine


woman laughingPeople don’t often think about it, but God has a sense of humor. He has to since He made Humankind in His image, complete with a sense of humor. As an aside, a sense of humor is one of the things that sets humans apart from animals. I’ve never seen a dog pull off a good practical joke and they don’t really get knock-knock jokes, which I suppose could be blamed on the fact that they can’t make a fist. But that’s neither here nor there.

I’ve been thinking about winter, largely because the news has been carrying stories about the far-reaching cold blanketing (but not in a warming way) the US of late. A number of people have a hard time with winter, not simply because they don’t like the cold, but because they get depressed.

My Aunt Doris was one who had difficulties with winter—something about the reduced exposure to the sun’s rays, I believe.

More and more people, on either their blogs or Facebook have remarked about how they can’t wait for spring and they’re glad the days are once again getting longer. One blogger I follow, InsanityBytes, mentioned the winter issue in a recent post about hyperbole. Here’s the pertinent paragraph:

A headline this morning declared “80 million Americans Threatened.” That sounds rather ominous, so I decided to read the article. What threatens us this morning is “winter.” Well, when did that start happening?? There ought to be a law! This is a great offense indeed. I’m quite annoyed by this winter thing and liable to join some social justice campaign against it, perhaps engage in a bit of anti-winter advocacy. Winter definitely needs to be stopped. 80 million Americans threatened, ban it!

laughter-1-58874-mWell, I don’t know about you, but I got a good chuckle from that as I generally do when I read InsanityBites’s posts. Maybe I share her sense of humor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people did. It’s not dirty, crass, mean-spirited, or ugly, though she does often make a point which might make a person take a hard look inside or smart a little if they’re not willing to.

So, where am I going with all this. I think God gave us humor, but it’s hard to engage in laughter during winter time. People tend to bundle up with scarves in front of their mouths, so others can’t see them smiling and may even think that little chuckle they emitted was just them clearing their throat.

Plus, so many more people are staying home because of the cold, so there’s not the happy camaraderie and accompanying humor we experience the other three seasons. Too bad, I think. We’re left with the news and bad TV sitcoms, neither of which provides genuine laughter (just the mocking, snickering kind).

Oh, sure, there’s the occasional funny pet photo posted on Facebook, and thank goodness for YouTube!

But seriously, we’re missing out if we don’t get a chance to laugh uproariously every now and then. This principle is actually Biblical:

A joyful heart [laughter in the King James Version] is good medicine,
But a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22)

Not surprisingly, science has now proven that laughter is actually, physically good medicine because when we laugh our brain releases endorphins—a natural analgesic. But according to the Mayo Clinic, it also “enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles . . .” In addition, laughter “fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure.”

Medicine.

Maybe we’ve grown too distant from each other—not like families of yesteryear who regularly sat down together for meals or played games once in a while or talked to each other. Talked and laughed.

dancing-girls-63133-mSome of the greatest belly laughs I can remember were with my family when I was growing up. My dad had a way of keeping us laughing once we got started. Of course there were a few times when laughter wasn’t really appropriate, but trying to hold it in only made the situation funnier and made us laugh harder.

As a family we tickled and teased and joked. We enjoyed comedy, too, from Shakespeare’s plays to classic I Love Lucy. (I saw a slice of one of those old shows recently, and it still made me laugh).

So maybe the best way to get through winter is to laugh our way through it. I imagine if we laugh hard enough, another benefit will be to raise our body temperature! 😆

Published in: on January 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm  Comments (4)  
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