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! 😆

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Published in: on January 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm  Comments (4)  
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Cold Is In The Eye Of The Beholder


winter-1419055-mSunday when I arrived at church around 7:45, there were still ice crystals clinging to some of the poinsettias planted out front. That was cold for sunny California.

Montreal, Canada, recently had an ice storm and they have more cold weather coming. The forecast low for next Tuesday is -10°F.

I got word from friends on Facebook that during the recent cold snap the temperature where they live dropped to -19°F. Water freezes at 32°, so we’re talking serious cold.

Except . . . I remember reading a story by Jack London called “To Build A Fire.” If I recall correctly, the story was set in the Yukon during an especially cold spell. The temperature dropped to -75°F. That’s the kind of cold that kills people.

Cold in SoCal doesn’t seem all that cold any more. Except it still feels cold. Everybody Sunday was wearing layers and putting on jackets and knitted caps. Some even donned gloves. The snow level during our last (mini) storm fell as low as 2000 feet.

That meant anyone going to the mountains had to have chains for their car, and Interstate 5, one of the main roads north, was closed for a few hours through an area called the Grapevine because of snow.

We’re all better now. Tuesday we warmed well past our seasonal average, and yesterday the high in LA was reported to be 85°. That short heat spell is gone and we’re closer to normal today—a perfect 70° though it’s getting a little chilly as evening draws near.

Yes, cold is in the eye of the beholder. This evening feels cold compared to yesterday’s high, but Denver is far colder, as is Atlanta, Waco, TX, Chicago, Green Bay, and pretty much anywhere else in the US.

When it comes to cold, there is no definitive standard. Cold comes on a sliding scale, understood by different people to mean different things. Beauty is understood by many to be the same—a quality that varies from person to person.

The problem today is that things which have definitive, measurable standards are viewed as if they too are on a sliding scale.

Sin is a behavior that many understand to be on this sliding scale. Swearing, gossip, lying, jealousy hardly make a blip in the ranking. Taking office supplies from work is on the low end too, cheating on income taxes, a little higher. Further up still might be yelling racial slurs at someone, then domestic violence followed by breaking into someone’s home to steal jewelry or electronics. Going into a fast food restaurant and robbing the service staff at knife point is another notch up. Eventually we get to the really horrible things like selling drugs, rape, sex trafficking, murder, terrorist activity.

Of course, a rape victim might put that crime closer to the top of the scale, and someone who has been physically abused by a spouse might slide that crime higher. Crime, sin in general, is in the eye of the beholder.

Or is it?

Certainly different sins have different consequences meted out by society, but what does God think of sin? Are some sins not so bad and therefore He turns a blind eye or winks at what we do as long as we promise to try harder next time?

From what Paul says in Galatians, it doesn’t seem as if God ignores the “minor” sins. If fact, He puts the ones we consider minor onto the same list as the biggies:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

So jealous people are just as bad off as sorcerers, dissenters as far from God’s kingdom as idolaters. That nice socially acceptable sliding scale of sin seems to crumple under God’s scrutiny.

He has a definitive standard for behavior—righteousness, purity, holiness. In other words, the definition of good is never mostly____, fill in the blank. Mostly kind. Mostly sweet tempered. Mostly peace loving. Mostly God-fearing.

Neither evil nor good are a moving target, and consequently sin isn’t on a sliding scale. We know from our own experience that we don’t hit “good” a hundred percent of the time.

As Scripture states it, someone who breaks the law is a law breaker, a trespasser, a sinner.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. (James 2:10-11).

What’s the point? God told Adam there would be consequence if he fell short of the glory of God. That transgression would result in his death. When he did sin, his death meant a change in his relationship with God, his wife, his environment, and ultimately a change in himself.

Death.

Spiritual death, relational death, environmental death, physical death.

Not surprisingly, people today don’t like this death sentence. Some ignore it; many turn to a belief system that tries to undue it (reincarnation, for example, or universalism) or at least some part of it (annihilation).

Some rail at God because according to the sliding scale they use to measure sin, death is too harsh a consequence for every sinner.

The problem in each of these instances is that people want to take God’s place. He’s the Judge. Not only is that His role, He fulfills it perfectly:

And He will judge the world in righteousness;
He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity. (Ps. 9:8)

Trusting that God is right, He’ll make no mistakes, should take away any doubt or fear about what comes after this life. It should stop the vain attempts of humans to pick up the gavel and play judge.

We often talk about the need to let God be on the throne of our lives, but I think there’s an equal need to let God be in the judges box.

Published in: on January 8, 2015 at 6:36 pm  Comments (3)  
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Then God Said . . .


Happy winter. This, the shortest day of the year, marks the “official” start of the winter season. And for once, it feels like it here in SoCal.

December is often the interlude between our short and long rainy seasons, the first being a few weeks in November and the latter taking up most of February and sometimes part of January or March.

This year things are different.

For one, the climatologists were predicting we would be in a drought. Last year we had a surprising year of “normal” rainfall (most years either give us a shortfall or an abundance), but that, the experts said, would be followed up this year with more drought—the pattern we’d fallen into previously.

Instead of drought, we’re looking at perhaps the wettest December in recorded history here in the LA basin. My local paper quotes one expert as saying, “This is a very unusual event. Nobody really saw it coming.”

Well, “nobody,” of course, leaves out God. But we’ve gotten pretty good at doing that here in America, I think. Sure, we bring Him up during “the spiritual season” as the USA Weekend magazine article “How Americans Imagine God” called it. But not one person they quoted—and the article was primarily a composite of what people said in answer to the title question—said God is sovereign or Creator or intimately involved in the affairs of men.

“God is love” came out as the “one gleaming, common thread” weaving throughout the answers. “Christians, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists alike describe a loving presence who offers a pathway to goodness, peace and brotherhood.”

So god, the consensus seems to be, is all about the feel-good stuff. The rest?

Apparently nature, at least, has a mind of her own. From a public works spokesman quoted in today’s weather article: “[Slow, steady precipitation] doesn’t cause as much problems as when the weather decides to drop a lot of rain in a short amount of time.” (Emphasis mine.) Of course, this man may have been speaking euphemistically, but I’ve heard many similar references regarding nature, as if the elements create a collective conscience that dictates things like hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and yes, rainstorms.

The Bible makes it clear that God is in fact in control of nature. He brought the flood Noah and his family lived through. He withheld rain for seven years in Egypt and later did the same for three years in Israel. He made the sun stand still and a shadow reverse direction. Jesus Himself calmed a storm with just a word.

None of this should be surprising because God laid the foundations of the earth, after all. He counts the stars and knows them by name, feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies.

And an impossible thing like a virgin giving birth? No problem for God because He rules what He created.

If He spoke the world into being, can He not speak a little rain—unexpected as it was to all the students of His work—into being as well?

How topsy-turvy our world has become when we assign god (however you understand him or her to be) to that little brotherly-kindness corner over there; nature, that little weather corner over there; and Man, pretty much the rest of the room.

Apparently we have forgotten, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 6:28 pm  Comments (3)  
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