Read an Excerpt
a positive plan for creating more fun, less whining
By KAROL LADD
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Karol Ladd
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLaughter: The Perfect Glue for Family Bonding
* * *
Genuine laughing is the vent of the soul, the nostrils of the heart, and it is just as necessary for health and happiness as spring water is for a trout.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
When is the last time you had a good, hearty laugh? Really, honestly, take a moment to think about it. Hopefully you don't have to think back too far. Sometimes just the memory of a gut-wrenching guffaw starts me laughing all over again. (I had to stop writing several times during this paragraph just to regain my composure.)
Without a doubt, a good dose of humor levels some of the bumps in life and lightens the load of our day-to-day routine. Victor Hugo said, "Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face." I'd add that laughter is the sunshine that melts the winter frost that sometimes settles on human relationships.
We need to laugh more often with family and friends. Not only is it good for our health; it's good for our life. Perhaps you are thinking, But I don't feel like laughing. My life is the pits right now. I want to invite you to take a short mental vacation from the pit you are in and travel to a place of heartfelt joy. You will find that as you fill your heart and mind with cheer, your perspective may change on the challenges you face.
Now, I don't want to gloss over the fact that there are times in our lives when we must grieve and cry. As Solomon said, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven ... a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). Realistically, there are certain times in all of our lives when we must work through the pain of loss or hurt or grief. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not diminishing the importance of those times, but I am saying that there are many opportunities for delight and laughter as well. And sometimes humor may be the God-given salve that helps soothe the hurt and heal the pain.
Humor can be sticky. By that, I mean that laughing together can bring family members closer and create a unique bonding by smoothing over some of the prickly edges. In his book The Laughter Prescription, Dr. Laurence Peter says humor serves an important role in easing tensions, both in the individual and in relationships with others. "Laughter provides the outlet for otherwise unacceptable feelings, behaviors and impulses by facilitating talking about or acting out conflicts and emotions in a safe, nonthreatening way."
My dear friend Beth, mother of four, can attest to the blessing of laughter. When her youngest son was a curious toddler, he happened to find several paint bottles on the kitchen table. Being the industrious toddler that he was, he wanted to paint with his newfound treasure. Unfortunately, there were no paintbrushes to help him out; but who needs paintbrushes when you have open a positive plan for creating more fun, less whining bottles of paint? Little Kyle took a bottle in each hand. While holding them upside down, he walked through the beautifully carpeted family room, then the dining room, and was about to enter the kitchen when he met up with Beth.
She will never forget this poignant moment of decision. Here she stood, looking at her proud toddler with nearly empty paint bottles and her newly decorated carpet. At this point she could have screamed bloody murder or she could have stayed quiet, calm, cool, and collected. Neither of these options worked for her. Instead, she began to laugh hysterically. The humor of the moment had hit her like a wave of cool, fresh water. She knew her son had not done this out of direct disobedience or defiance. It was simply childhood foolishness. Yes, he needed to learn not to do it again, and that would come in a moment.
Wise Beth chose to make this a fond family memory. You can be sure that either way it would have been a memory, but Beth chose a fond memory through laughter instead of a horrible memory through screaming. She gathered the family together for a good laugh. They took pictures, and then they all worked together to clean up the mess. The sibling who left the paint bottles out had double duty, I'm sure. Kyle's paint incident happened almost twenty years ago, but the family still laughs about it to this day-thanks to Beth's ability to see the lighter side of life.
Certainly we can't laugh at every wrong thing our kids do. We shouldn't make them think that it's OK or funny to make a mess or act irresponsibly. Handle laughter with wisdom, but don't miss opportunities to allow laughter to build your family memories and bond you in the process.
The Laugh Cure
Humor helps keep family challenges and unforeseen circumstances in perspective, and it can prevent our stress levels from rising out of control. Yes, humor can have a healing effect both emotionally and physically. A number of years ago, Norman Cousins, the famous editor of the Saturday Review, was told he had a severe case of an incurable, progressive, connective tissue disease. He decided that instead of sitting around and allowing the pain to take over, he would become proactive in his healthcare management and especially in his attitude. One of the things he decided to do was to obtain copies of old television shows and movies he had always enjoyed, such as Candid Camera and Marx Brothers films. He also decided to read humorous books. He reported that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter would relieve his intense pain for hours.
While Norman was in the hospital, he started a routine of watching movies, laughing, sleeping, watching movies, laughing, sleeping, and so on. After a while, he was moved out of the hospital because his laughter was disturbing other patients, but he continued his treatment with astounding results. Using massive doses of vitamin C and a tremendous amount of laughter every day, he experienced a gradual withdrawal of his symptoms and eventually regained most of his freedom of movement. You can read his entire story in his book, Anatomy of an Illness.
When former actress Lisa Whelchel became a stay-at-home mom with three young children, she invited a handful of friends to gather at her home once a week to play games and enjoy some good ol' mom time together. The women found that the time of laughter and fellowship was therapeutic and provided a good dose of encouragement. They began affectionately calling their gathering "The Good Medicine Club," because their laughter together changed their attitudes and helped them through some of the challenges of motherhood in a positive way. Lisa carries on the tradition today with her MomTime clubs and events.
If we took an official Laugh-O-Meter around the world to detect the source of most of the earth's laughter, sadly, I'm not sure we would find the highest meter reading in Christian homes and churches. Yet Christian families ought to be among the most joyful people on earth. Why? Not because we have fewer problems, but because we have a God who loves us and is with us through the difficulties. We have a wonderful heavenly Father, who has allowed us to partake in his wonderful grace through his Son, Jesus. He invites us to cast our cares and needs on him. He gives us hope and peace and forgiveness.
In fact, Paul implored the early Christians, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4 NKJV). Certainly there are times to grieve and cry, but let's not miss the wonderful opportunities to experience joy. In his book Lighten Up! humorist Ken Davis says, "The world is desperate for any sign of joy. Men and women have searched the realms of materialism, hedonism, and even religion looking for joy. They've even peeked into churches. They've studied the faces of those who claim to know the author of joy -and found nothing joyful at all. Churches ought to be filled not only with the sound of solemn prayers and practical lessons from God's Word; laughter too should be heard bouncing from the walls."
Good, Clean Laughter
Let's be careful to keep our laughter in the right context. As the philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wisely noted, "Men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they think laughable." Fun and amusement should not come at the expense of another. We must guard ourselves carefully from trying to get a laugh or a rise out of people by putting another person down. Sarcasm can often hurt another and dismantle someone's self-esteem. Laughter at the expense of another is not funny at all.
So how do you generate good, hearty, belly-busting guffaws, even when you may not feel like it? Consider some of the following:
Visit clean joke sites on the Internet, such as www.ahajokes.com, www.cleanfunnyjoke.com, or www.tickleu.com.
Sign up to receive daily jokes from sites such as www.clean-joke-of-the-day.com.
Watch good, clean movies that make you laugh.
Play fun games together.
Keep a joke book or riddle book in the car or by the dinner table so you will have it readily available.
Read books with humorous stories, jokes, or cartoons.
Rent a video of sports or commercial bloopers.
Get together with a hilarious friend.
Watch videos of stand-up comedians, such as Anita Renfroe or Chonda Pierce.
Create a humor survival kit complete with joke books, squeaky toys, funny games, hilarious pictures and cartoons, and funny shows on DVD.
Do the activities from a fun, innovative, brilliantly creative book (wow, one comes to mind immediately-A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun, Less Whining!).
Seriously, good, hearty laughter is easy to come by. It may take a small amount of deliberate effort, but the payoff is worth it. Having fun together as a family increases your probability of chuckles and hopefully will lead to a full-blown explosion of hilarity.
It's easy to think that life's too busy or serious to take time for fun and laughter, but the truth is that life is too short not to. More important, our family life is enriched and strengthened through the smiles and laughter we share together. Let's make a decision to move in a positive direction by providing more opportunities for laughter with our kids.
Family Fun Devotional
Read: Proverbs 15:13; Philippians 4:4
Why do you think God created laughter?
What is one of your favorite funny memories that you have enjoyed as a family?
What are some reasons that Christians have to rejoice?
Do a family joke search. Tell everyone they have twenty minutes to find a funny joke to read or tell to the family. It would be a good idea to have some joke books available. (I get most of mine from a half-price bookstore.) They can also go online to a clean joke Web site. You may need to help young ones find theirs. Return to the kitchen table in twenty minutes and allow everyone to present their jokes. Vote on whose joke is the funniest. You may want to videotape your family comedy hour for future viewing and laughter.
Excerpted from a positive plan for creating more fun, less whining by KAROL LADD Copyright © 2007 by Karol Ladd. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.