Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Laughter is Good Medicine

I love hanging out with my wife. She always knows how to tickle my funny bone with her corny jokes, like this one:

“What’s the difference between a guitar and a fish? You can’t tuna fish!” LOL.

Laughter is good medicine. No, seriously!

Have you ever wondered if God has a sense of humor? Since we’re all made in God’s image, I believe it’s safe to say that he does, and a great one at that. Humor is part of our divinely created nature. Even infants are able to smile and laugh when barely a few months old.

Check out some of the funny and bizarre looking creatures God made for his and our enjoyment. Ever seen a Proboscis monkey, Mantis shrimp, hooded seal, Komondor dog, Angora rabbit, Emperor Tamarin, Pink Fairy Armadillo, Axolotl (or ajolote), Aye-aye, Tarsier, Frill-necked lizard, or one of my personal favorites—the Blobfish? 

Or what about the more familiar hippopotamus, sloth, or ostrich? They are absolutely hilarious animals. God apparently had tons of fun designing and creating each of them.

I can just hear it now—God hollering, “Hey guys, you’re not gonna believe this one!” Just then the angels in heaven all spontaneously erupt in laughter.

Proverbs 15:13 (ESV) says, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” Then Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) asserts, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up
the bones.”

Of all the people in the world, Christians ought to exhibit the most joy and laughter. After all, we have so much to be thankful for. However, I could swear that some believers were weaned on lemons, or at least dill pickles! They are veritable sourpusses who can be a real bummer to be around. It’s almost as if they’re afraid that if they dare to smile—never mind crack a joke—their face might just shatter in pieces. That’s sad. Whatever happened to the abundant life?

According to www.helpguide.org, there are several noteworthy benefits to developing a healthy sense of humor and learning to laugh more often. Humor is infectious and the sound of roaring laughter often contagious. Shared laughter draws people closer together and increases their collective and individual sense of well-being.

Humor and laughter hold the power to bolster your immune system, boost your energy, reduce pain, and buffer you from the negative effects of stress? Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D. says “Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” A good laugh works wonders toward bringing your mind and body back into balance. Humor eases internal and interpersonal tension, lightens your burdens, fosters hope, and builds bonds between people, all the while keeping us grounded.

Laughter can relax the whole body. It boosts the immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. Thus it strengthens one’s resistance to disease. Furthermore, laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good chemical” which can alleviate pain. It even protects the heart by improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow.

Besides the many physical health benefits, laughter also has a number of mental health benefits. It adds joy and zest to life, lessens anxiety and fear, relieves emotional stress, improves mood, and increases resilience. Humor enables you to remain positive and maintain an optimistic outlook when confronted with tough situations, disappointment, and loss. It fuels your courage and sense of hope.

The social benefits of laughter include strengthening relationships through humor and playful communication, attracting others to us to forge positive bonds, enhancing teamwork, soothing conflict, and promoting group closeness. These qualities supply a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.

We need to actively seek opportunities to laugh. Some avenues to do this include watching funny (and clean) movies or TV shows, reading the funny pages, spending time with good-humored and fun-loving people, sharing good jokes or humorous stories, hosting game nights with friends, letting your hair down and acting silly, and making time for various fun activities with others.

So stop taking yourself so seriously. Learn to joke and laugh more. Purchase tickets to see a Christian comedian perform like Chonda Pierce, Mark Lowry, or Tim Hawkins. It will be time and money well spent.

Isn’t it time to tickle your funny bone?

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Divine Dissatisfaction" points us back to God

I seem to find myself in a constant state of restlessness. It often feels nearly impossible to quiet my mind and still my spirit. 

Okay—I confess—it’s likely that I have way too much going on in my life all at once. Can you relate? I bet you can!

The Bible speaks volumes about our common experience of restlessness and dis-ease as human beings. 

Eve’s restlessness in the Garden of Eden was the byproduct of Satan’s diabolical scheme to sow seeds of doubt in her mind about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:1-7).

Abram and Sarai’s (later renamed Abraham and Sarah) impatience during their long wait for a promised son resulted in them taking things into their own hands. They foolishly decided to use their Egyptian servant Hagar as a surrogate mother to provide a child (Gen. 16, 21)—with grievous results.

Jacob’s dissatisfaction and power-hungry-pursuit in being the second-born led to his manipulative and deceptive behaviors in stealing both his older twin Esau’s birthright and first-born blessing (Gen. 25:29-34; Gen. 27).

Israel’s murmuring in the wilderness while impatiently waiting for Moses to descend from Mt. Sinai from his sacred summit with God resulted in their persuasion of Aaron to create for them the Golden Calf (Gen. 32), invoking God’s displeasure.

Samson’s impulsiveness led him to pursue idolatrous Philistine women as wives and lovers, resulting in his demise at the hands of Delilah (Judges 14-16), when he revealed to her the secret of his superhuman strength.

David’s boredom and lust caused him to become an adulterer when he allowed his passion to consume his attraction to Bathsheba, causing him to plot her husband Uriah’s murder (2 Sam. 11). David’s punishment was the tragic death of his baby boy (2 Sam. 12).

Solomon’s edginess, despite his unparalleled wisdom and wealth, resulted in him turning from the Lord through his ill-advised marriages with many non-Israelite, idolatrous women (1 Kings 11). His haunting, self-reflective words penned in his old age are eye-opening in Ecclesiastes as he recognized “all is vanity and a chasing after the wind.”

As finite beings, each one of us, remains in a state of incompleteness, of incessant searching. In fact, we are most vulnerable when we achieve some great desire and recognize its ultimate futility. 

We all struggle with “Divine Dissatisfaction,” a condition no carnal or temporal happiness can cure. The things we feverishly pursue are usually inadequate substitutions of the spiritual things which we actually desire beneath the surface. But as this-worldly material “things” they never fully satisfy our longings within our souls.

You see, human desire, the quest for something that will satisfy us, points beyond finite objects and imperfect persons. It points through these objects and persons towards their real goal in God himself. Education, qualifications, prestigious careers, relationships, money and stuff—none of these can ever fulfill that for which we ultimately search.

This is the paradox of hedonism—a view which holds that pursuit of pleasure is the ultimate good. But worldly pleasure is unable to satisfy the soul. This is the “Divine dissatisfaction” which points us back to God. 

To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said (in John 4:13-14), “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

Only God himself can satiate our spiritual hunger and quench our spiritual thirst.

St. Augustine prayed: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” 

We have been created by God and experience a deep sense of longing for Him which only he can satisfy. The Psalmist expressed this concept vividly: “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you” (Psalm 42:1).

We enter into the life of faith and discover God through belief in that which is beyond us. We can't build any worthwhile kind of life unless we have God at the core—as the very foundation of our existence.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Introducing Amy L. Sullivan

Hey, everyone!

Allow me to introduce you to my author friend, Amy L. Sullivan. I'm very honored to be her guest on her blog this week. Amy is all about getting up and serving others.

Her new book, When More is Not Enough, celebrates the idea of more: more prayers cried out, more time spent together, more use of our talents, more interest in strangers, more forgiveness of hurt, more of what Jesus taught us each day of his life.

Filled with Biblical reasoning, real-life anecdotes, practical resources, and start-this-very-second kinds of activities, When More is Not Enough is for families who are ready to move beyond seeing generosity as a series of tasks and instead, turn it into a way of life.
Click here for Amazon link!

*All proceeds Amy receives from the sale of this book will benefit Transformation Village, a housing development for women and children and families in crisis in Western North Carolina.

Here's the touching trailer to her wonderful book!

Hope you'll check out my guest post as well as the rest of her website! The Positive Results of Christian Service: A Guest Post by Ryan Fraser