Read an Excerpt
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.Art Linkletter
Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.
Arnold H. Glasow
Don't Squeeze the Charmin
I love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh. But I've discovered in mytravels across the country that an inordinate number of church folks are afflicted withsour-puss-itisthe disheartening disease that manifests itself in furrowed frowns andstiff arms folded across chests. It's almost as if those folks think, "IfI'm not suffering, I'm not doing this Christian thing right. I'd better notever look like I'm having fun."
Well, I couldn't disagree more.
A big part of my ministry is making people laugh. When I deliver messages to groups acrossthe country, I intentionally add humor to my presentations, and one of my favorite kindsof humor is impersonations. I've found that one of the best cures for sour-puss-itisis to break out in the voices of some of our all-time favorite characters like BarneyFife, Jimmy Stewart, or Billy Graham. When I'm speaking, these characters are likelyto show up anywhere that has been infected by the deadly sour-puss-itis.
The other night I had a vision featuring one of my favorite characters. Did you knowthateating Mexican food after 9:00 p.m. can cause you to have visions you know not of? Well,it can. And on this particular night, I sat straight up in bed at 3:00 a.m. with asalsa-inspired vision of Jonah. Now you may not know this, but Jonah is a distant ancestorof Forrest Gump. And in my vision Jonah stood and said, "This is my testimony: I wasrunning from God, and I got in my Bubba Gump shrimp boat and sailed away as fast as Icould. But a big storm came up, and I fell overboard. I surely would have drowned were itnot for the giant fish that swallowed me up. I stayed in that stinky belly for three daysand three nights, and then that giant fish spit me out on shore, sort of bit me on thebuttocks. God told me to preach to the Ninevites, so that's what I finally did. Andthat's all I'm going to say about that. Stupid is as stupid does."
Some of the best humor comes from taking an on-the-spot situation and finding the laughterin it. Now you need to know that I got my preacher training from Southwestern BaptistTheological Seminary. In that seminary, I learned how to preach! I knew when to be loudand forceful, and I knew when to talk soft and low. I even knew how to cry when theoccasion required, like during a building campaign. Once, as a young, overly confidentpreacherright out of seminaryI was preaching for a little country church. AndI was feeling pretty good about myself.
I'd developed the habit of making my grand entrance right behind the choir. Being thelast one out made quite an impressive entry. Well, on this particular Sunday I had tovisit the "little room" before services started. This little country church hadonly one little roomit was "coed" before that word was popular. Not onlywas it little, it was right next to the choir room, and it didn't have anyinsulation. No insulation meant the choir knew I was in the little room, and I knew thechoir was in the choir room. As I was completing my little-room tasks, I heard the choirleaving. Could they not wait on me? Didn't they know how important it was that Ibring up the rear of their procession?
So I hurried as fast as I could and hooked up with them just in timejust as the lastones were entering the sanctuary. I made my grand entranceall calm, cool, andcollectedand marched right up on the platform. But when I turned to face theaudience, I noticed several people poking each other in the ribs, pointing at me, andgiggling behind their hands. Within seconds the whole group had broken into full laughter.Well, I didn't know what to think.
I checked my zipperbut it was up and in the locked position. I finally looked downand saw that a six-foot piece of toilet paper had stuck to my shoe in my haste to catch upwith the thoughtless choir. Well, what do you do in a situation like that? You turn itinto laughter. I just took hold of that toilet paper and wrapped it around my leg. Thelittle old ladies in the back were just dying laughing. I almost entitled that message,"Don't squeeze the Charmin." What a great service we had that morning!
People laughed when they didn't expect to laugh. They started their day in laughterand continued it in joy. While there surely are times when you need to be serious,don't fall into the trap of taking yourself too seriously. In fact, the Bible remindsus in Proverbs 17:22 that "a cheerful heart is good medicine." That toilet paperwrapped around my foot probably did more good than the Geritol those ladies took thatmorning!
Healthy relationships include laughter. Every relationship, whether it is with your spouseor your children, can be filled with joy. Laughter puts a spark in your relationships andkeeps your everyday routines from creating boring ruts in your life. Because you investhumor in your relationships does not mean they lack emotional depth. In fact, the oppositeis true. Humor adds new and intense emotions to your relationship. Sometimes an aversionto laughter may be a cover-up for some deep-seated fear. Being able to laugh at yourselfand at situations that aren't supposed to be funny are signs of emotional securityand emotional good health.
I guess that makes ol' Swan one of the most secure and healthy guys around. Because Ilove to laugh, I love to make Lauree and Chad and Dusty laugh. Laughter is one of thefuels that keeps my relationships going. Our homes don't have to be tombs of drudgeryand gloom. Instead, they should overflow with laughter and joy. If you want your childrento come home for holidays and reunions, make it a place worth coming home to. Make it ahappy place to live and then a happy place to visit. You don't have to be a stand-upcomedian to accomplish this task. Just create a climate and circumstance where laughterbecomes a part of your daily life.
You've heard the saying, "Life is what you make it." That means we have achoice. We can choose to have a life full of frustration and fear, but we can just aseasily choose one of joy and contentment.
Show your family that it's okayno, it's better than okayit'sessential to laugh. Fill up your family's love tank with a generous supply oflaughter.
Fill up on the Word
1 Corinthians 13 Pride and anger are enemies of humor, and Paul addresses both of these menaces in the LoveChapter. "Love is . . . not proud . . . it is not easily angered." One of thebasic ingredients of a healthy sense of humor is the ability to laugh at yourself. Whenwe're puffed up with pride, we don't laugh at ourselves; rather we get angry andhuffy when things go wrong. If you want people to feel comfortable around you, to enjoybeing with you, then learn to laugh at yourself and find humor in life's littlemishaps. Laughter oils the squeeky parts of life and keeps your engine hummin'.
Check Your Gauge
1. How do you react when you make a silly mistakelike tripping over the carpet orsaying something really stupid. Do you get defensive and huffy, or do you laugh?
2. When was the last time your family had a good laugh together? What did you laugh about'How did it affect the atmosphere in your home?
3. What's the difference in laughing at your own mistakes and making fun of someoneelse's? Why is one okay and the other not?
4. How does laughter benefit you?
Ready, Set, Go!Make a conscious effort this week to bring laughter and joy into your home.Set a goal to bring a smile to the lips of everyone in your home at least once a day.