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Last Sunday, we had a most interesting sermon.  It was all about laughter.  The basic idea was this – when we laugh, we connect to God.  Why? Because laughter is one of the gifts that he has given us.  When we forget how to laugh, we distance ourselves from God.

A smile.

A giggle.

A deep down belly laugh.

The shrieking, squeeling laughter of a child.

Don’t take yourself or your situation was so seriously that you lose this connection. Laughter is, as they say, good for the soul.

–SueBE

As often happens, Lori’s post spoke to me.  Our family has known a great deal of stress lately with my MIL’s hospitalization, emptying her house and moving her to St. Louis (in one week), cleaning out my father’s house another week, and my son not getting to go to the college of his choice.

In the midst of all this, I got one of those calls.  Alex needed a ride.  Oddly enough, my son’s name isn’t Alex, but Alex and his older brother are friends of my son. Their mom died this winter and dad got divorced this spring.  Good bye, Mom.  Good bye, Stepmom.  Dad found a new job but he’s working retail hours with retail pay. I found out what this means when I fed the boys mac-n-cheese.  It’s good but it isn’t pick-me-up-off-the-floor good.  Apparently they’ve been living on pizza rolls.

As my grandmother would say, that got my German up.  I’ve fed them three times in the past week and they’re on a weekend trip now with my husband and son. Alex is comfortable enough now to ask me for things himself, instead of going through my son, and even teases me about being short.

Amidst all of this, I made it to choir practice on Thursday.  It is our last practice for the summer because our director may be facing hand surgery.  She’s scared and stressed and it showed.  When she asked several of us to sing solos this summer, I knew how to make her smile.  I suggested songs from the Veggie Tales.

Our choir director had never heard the Vegie Tales so we sang various songs for her.  We learned that one soprano does a spot on Larry Boy imitation. She sang Oh Santa.  Another soprano sang The Hairbrush Song.  I launched into Terrors of the Sea (We’re Vikings). By the time we were done, everyone was in stitches.  Seriously, you’d have thought we’d been drinking if you didn’t know how silly we can be.  Even when feeding extra boys and facing surgery.

God gives us laughter and we’re silly not to use it.  Laugh and feel closer to the God who made me, at 5’8”, the short one in the house.  God really does have a sense of humor.

–SueBE

At the end of the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” Ethel Merman (playing her usual role, a loudmouthed nag) slips on a banana peel. The entire cast bursts into laughter. But the beauty of the scene is the state of those characters — they have been through unimaginable awfulness. They are bandaged, their limbs in casts, their marriages frayed, their careers at an end. And they laugh. Because what else is there left to do?

The scene is a metaphor my brother used recently in summing up what keeps him going. It was an extraordinarily bad week for his family, and his usual sunny disposition had cracked under the pressure. He had every right to throw in the towel, but he didn’t. He took a deep breath and pictured Ethel Merman slipping on a banana peel. In the midst of our greatest darkness, there is a ray of light. We just have to find it.

My personal perk-me-ups come from literature. I am terribly fond of this line from Joan Didion’s Democracy: “I’d be leery of those ice cubes if I were you, Frances. Ice cubes are not a national craft.” You have to know the context, of course, but it always makes me smile. As does the word “grape.” (Ellen Raskin fans will know why.) Sometimes I think God gave the author her entire oeuvre just so I could yell, “Grape Mrs. Carillon!” when necessary.

Oxymoronically, these “banana slip” moments don’t happen by accident. I truly believe the hand of God is in them, providing us with a glimpse of absurdity so as to leaven the loaf/load. It is when we fail to see these glimmers and allow ourselves to plunge into darkness that we have a real problem.

This is increasingly easy to do in a world that seems overrun by greed, lies, violence and terror. So I am suggesting this: Arm yourself in advance. Find your Ethel Merman moment and hold onto it. Then, when the chips are down, you have something to bring you back from the brink.

Of course, prayer does this marvelously well, too. But it’s nice to have options.

Because sometimes we all take ourselves just a little too seriously. Remember to laugh.  I’m sure God does (which will probably be my post for Saturday, sigh).

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