Monday, January 02, 2006

Laughing


He was funny. He had the giggles all afternoon and while we listened he told a string of jokes. He’d start a joke and giggle a little, tell a little more and chuckle, tell a little more and start to laugh. We were all smiling and laughing long before he got to the point where he could gasp out a punch line.

I was on a journey, inspired by other journeys, and I had found a treasure that afternoon. Encircled by hippies and locals, Red Skelton sat on the side of the hot spring pool, dangling his feet in the warm water and cracking jokes. His wife kept bringing him drinks from the rv.

The guy could tell a joke. I can’t help but have a big grin on my face as I sit here typing, remembering the funniest man I ever met.

I was hiking and hitch hiking. The Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Trail, highway 101, highway 99, I-5... from Canada to Mexico, Yosemite to Crater Lake... I was a-roamin’. It was late in the summer of 1974 (or was it ‘75?) and I had a copy of Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan, Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar, and Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons in my backpack, atop the box of Bisquick and under a pair of Levi’s. I was on a Kerouac-inspired adventure discovering who I was and being as non-conformist as possible. You see, I’m from the near side of the baby boom bell curve and I missed out on most of the real hippie stuff and I was trying to catch up. It was a good time to be eighteen.

There was fifteen or so fellow travelers watching the live and in color version of the man from the golden age of television, and we laughed so hard for so long that afternoon our cheeks hurt, our sides ached.

Red had this great big grin that told you that life is good, that laughter is good, that being human was about breathing joy. He was an icon of Americana, as much a part of American culture as Norman Rockwell and Mark Twain. I felt like I had found a big piece of America, a laughing national treasure. I laughed until I hurt.

There is something about laughter that makes us feel wonderful. There is something about that giddy joy we feel that tells us that the world is wonderful and that life is good, and perhaps there is a God despite the sorrows we often feel. Because anything that makes us feel that good feels like some sort of a gift, some sort of magic that the universe has given us. I believe that to be entirely accurate. Because the universe is held together by a being of love who has a wonderful sense of humor.

The Bible has a lot of humor in it. One of my favorite parts is when Jonah is sulking and the Lord starts poking fun at him:

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."

But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"

"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" --Jonah 4

Here is this cantankerous guy sulking before God. “I’m so ticked off! I knew You would do this, that You would go ahead and forgive these turkeys. I just wanna die!!!”

What does God do? He starts poking fun at him! He creates shade, and then brings up a hot wind, removes the shade, and practically starts poking him in the ribs... “Oh, poor little Jonah... doesn’t have his shade any more... What about all those poor confused people who don’t know nuthin’ and all their widdle animals?! Think about the baby animals!!!”

I get the impression that when Sarah laughs (overhearing she will have a child in her old age) and the Lord hears her, there is a sense of playfulness in His reply. She denies laughing (now rightfully fearful of the Lord) and He chides: “Yes you did!” They named the child Isaac, it means “laughter.”

Later, when the Lord talks about the evil of Sodom and Gomorra and Abraham begins to barter, there is a sense of tolerance and playfulness as the Lord “deals” with His servant. The Lord knows exactly what will happen, and the depth of the sin of those cities. But He spends a few moments playing with Abraham, almost as if He is at some sort of auction, letting Abraham get his way, to a point.

And that makes a lot of sense. I know the Lord is playful. I know that sometimes when I feel close to Him I feel joyful, happy, I want to laugh, I want to dance. I often feel that way when I worship.

The events of this past summer were difficult. But there was a point that while I felt dark forces astir the Lord was with me and a dangerous situation turned comical.

Even in the Book of Job, a very serious sort of tale, there are hints that joy and laughter are a part of what is good and right about living. Job’s children gathered frequently to enjoy each other’s company. Even the Lord speaks of laughter, about joy, in the book of Job, how the living things He created enjoy what they are.

Some may think that being a follower of Christ means being very serious all of the time. I admit many Christians never seem to smile. I think they are missing out on something. I think that they are missing a playfulness and enjoyment of life that the Lord wants us all to have.

My friend Tom Sawyer (yes that was really his name, he used to joke about it and sometimes introduce himself as Huck Finn) had a joy of living that was contagious. He passed away this past year, a spry retired missionary who was quick witted, kind, and full of laughter. That is the way the Lord wants us to live. Serious when needful, and dancing our lives toward Him with joy in our hearts.

My concordance indicates that the word “joy” appears 168 times in the Bible. “Joyful”, "joyfully”, "joyfulness”, and “joyous” 35 times. It would seem that joy is a part of what it is to be human.

As I grow in the Lord I find that joy growing as well. There is a part of me that feels younger than I have in a very long time. I believe that is a part of who and what God is, the emotions we call happiness and joy. I believe that many of the things that make us special: creativity, love, forgiveness, kindness, tenderness, and joy, are there because we are created in His image and as we draw closer to Him, we reflect those qualities all the more. They make us feel good because they are good.

I have sometimes felt those things to be distant. They are closer now because He is closer, or more accurately, I am closer to Him.

This summer I found myself laughing harder and more frequently than ever before. It is a very good thing.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

CS, great post but sorry that you lost a good friend,
did you really get to met Red Skelton ? He was a very funny man :)
thanks , hope you and family have a great new year
janice

curious servant said...

Wow! I just did an update on my posts' word count. I am less than 300 words shy of 50,000 words! I had no idea this blog would go this far! Thank you, all of you, for your kind encouraging words these past few months. Happy new year!

FTS said...

Nice insight. Indeed, God does have a sense of humor.

I remember leading a study on teh book of Revelation. I found so many -- people whose scriptural knowledge I respected -- were afraid to read it. they would start, but when they got to the opening of the scrolls and what is to come, they would get scared and close it. That, or they had difficulty with the metaphorical descriptions.

Revelation is a book not of despair; it's about hope for those who believe. If there's any doubt, all we have to do is read the last chapter.

We win! :)

curious servant said...

Side note about Red:

He was very patriotic. Check out the link to the side there that says "pledge of allegiance".

I like what he says about prayer.

Anonymous said...

That was Awesome,
he was a class act !!! :)
janice

bjk said...

2006.....keep writing people are definitely intrigued by your journey by your insight...and this one on Joy.....WOW what an awesome way to see Him.....and after all you've been through....what a testimony!!
Can't wait for what's next....All the best in 06 to you and yours....

Jan said...

There is nothing like a belly laugh and you reminded me that I have this to look forward to.

Thanks

Pia said...

laughter is good. i have never had a hearty laugh for so long now. i think i'm going to write something about laughter. thanks for sharing.

God bless!

Rachel said...

Very good post! I think laughter is very important too. My Dad always said that he didn't think the Good Lord intended for us to be all gloomy and never smile and laugh. He said, "I think he would want us to be joyful and enjoy life." My Dad did enjoy life too. He passed away 6 years ago yesterday.

Kitty Cheng said...

CS, wow nearly 50,000 words. Have you thought about publishing what you've posted in a book to bless many?

Hey let's continue to rejoice in the Lord always :)

BHGA said...

There is nothing better than the sound of laughter....many times our blogs reflect sad and difficult times that we write about, but there is soooo much exhilaration and joy that God gives us every day as we grow in His love. I myself, giggle....
Bless you CS

Prayer Warrior said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. Great Post!

The Bible said in Nehemiah 8:10 "The joy of the Lord is your strength!" Keep rejoicing, for the Lord is good. Laughter is a good medician too!

Have a blessed year!

David said...

Well I hope you experience the good old rib tickling laughter this year.

Seeker said...

God bless you with much joy in serving Him. Thanks for a day-brightener!

see-through faith said...

laughter is a gift :)
and it's a wonderful one

Bad Alice said...

Thank you for your prayers. I could definitely use some joy and a hearty laugh.

Dem Soldier said...

Happy New Year to U and yours.

As STF said, laughter is a gift, and those make us laugh are true to this gift....

JeffGeorgia said...

Laughter is one of the best free medicines around. I think that is why when I am down I go to blockbuster, tell my wife a story that makes me laugh in the past, or watch children, it brings joy and happy feelings back. CS, thank you for writing this blog. Blessings to you during 2006. Karen and I are here for you anytime.

Live, Love, Laugh said...

Great Post! I too find myself laughing more, and realizing things I used to allow to stress me aren't that important anymore. It amazes me how time changes our perspectives!

Elizabeth said...

Wow...how interesting! Meeting Red Skelton in person. My Grampie was funnier than Red was...and reading this brings back lots of great memories! My grandma often said that had anyone found my Grandpa, they would have made famous and all of us would be rich! ha! We had a rich wonderful life with Him around...one brother is a lot like him too...and I sure miss living where I can see him often! Life needs more of such people. You know it is not that they have had such great lives either...but they learned to laugh in spite of all life dealt them...and make others around them laugh as well!

Blessings on you and thanks for all you share here! Been enjoying it since I found your blog!

bornfool said...

If you get bored, I wrote a post about one of my favorite stories in the Bible that I think is another illustration of God's sense of humor. It's in my August archives and entitled: An Unlikely Rescue.
Also, the post right above that one is about Jonah called: Second Chances. I love the book of Jonah.

wanda said...

A lovely tribute to a lovely man. Did you know that Red suffered a great loss in his life? He lost his young son to leukemia.
It always amazed me that he retained his ability to laugh and to make others laugh, even though he must have been in terrible pain on the inside. His character Freddy the Freeloader was always a favorite of mine. I suspect he was much like Red himself. Laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside. He was in every sense of the word a great actor and a wonderful man.

Paula said...

Thanks for reminding me of the laughter. I appreciated your comment and quote by Twain on my site. It really put things into perspective. I am doing better today, but still feel like I've been hit by a train. Thanks again for you support.

Blessings,

John said...

CS,
Thanks for this post. It has always been a "thing" with me that when things get unbearable or desperate and I feel like I'm sinking fast, the Lord reminds me to just give up. That's when i begin to laugh at the situation, because I can do nothing-not one thing about it-except laugh at it. That's when god comes through, and I see the answer for it.
This is so good, and I have laughed in the face of another situation I'm dealing with. I owe you my laughter, my friend.

John said...

I just had to come back and correct a spelling error in the last comment. I never spell God with a little "g," but I did here. Sorry, Lord and CS.

Bethany said...

What a great post. I think it's important to have a sense of humor...and to see the funny side of things. Sometimes it seems like we can either laugh or cry in a situation. I think laughing is the better option! (I guess not always the better option but mostly...if that makes sense!)

I do try to stay positive though and think of the many ways I have been blessed when things aren't going my way. I'm having a difficult time at work this year (I teach) and we're having tons of car issues...but God has been so good to me in so many other ways. I really try to spend my time thinking of those things instead of the disappointing or tragic situations...

I helps me to be more joyful! Which ends up making me feel better all around!

Just Rannin' Around said...

I love to laugh. Laughter is an amazing spirit lifter. Some times you have a choice....laugh or cry, what a difference how one small decision can effect your outlook of a situation. Laughing lightens any load, quiets fears and spreads joy to others. Not to mention it is an excellent ab workout! What else has as many positive outcomes and is absolutely free!! Try it some more!!

G~ said...

I'll be back to read this, CS...right now I have a headache & can't concentrate. The scan of it looks SO interesting, tho, so I can't wait!

Blessings!

Coco said...

Laughter is good for the soul!

It's just like the commercial-
you smile/laugh and everyone else will join in too : )

Blessings.

Bethany said...

PS...my husband has linked to this post on his blog! www.razorkiss.net/wp/

...just thought you'd like to know! :D

music.angel said...

i too love to laugh. great post and very true. I can't help but think in those moments where i find myself cracking up with a good friend or my family that God is laughing right along with us...enjoying our joy.

Rulan said...

A merry heart does good like a medicine. I need more laughter in my life. Thank you for sharing. God bless.

Bad Alice said...

Thanks for the lightbulb jokes. I put some in the comments of my blog as well.

wanda said...

CS, I just dropped by to let you know I had moved your comment on my political blog over to my personal one. I hope you don't mind.
Sometimes I get a bit carried away in my political rantings and I just thought your comment would be more comfortable over with the gentle folks at Bama Belle.

Max said...

I find that for me there are moments of joy, like sunlight falling through a forest canopy, but I'm looking for the way out into open fields of joy. Open fields. Joy. I suppose that place is where there is much more of the Lord and very much less of me. Like you said, I'll be closer to Him...

So I Go said...

thanks for a great post, once again. laughter is a very good thing indeed.. i needed that reminder.

Pink said...

hey, that was a great story! and wat a timely reminder for those of us taking exams soon - we get so caught up in our throes of anguish & stress, we forgt to just chill and realise that God will always provide for us.

didnt know Isaac means laughter, that's really interesting...

belated happy new yr btw!

Anne said...

Laughter, I do it every single day!

Julana said...

Thank you for sharing this memory. I remember Euell Gibbons, Castenada, and Watermelon Sugar, although I never read them.
I'm glad you got to meet Red Skelton as a real person. A gift.

TSB said...

What abeautiful insight. If God didn't have a sense of humor, how could he have instilled laughter in our responses? I prefer to think of him as full of joy and laughter, makes me feel closer to him.

Fred said...

Now I know where I get my sense of humor from. Great post, CS.

Hope said...

You have a wonderful gift for writing CS. I smiled throughout this post many times. It feels good to smile. My husband has these wrinkles that I called his sunshine rainbows above his eyebrows and he has these beautiful laugh lines around his eyes. I bet you are going to have those too.