The Bible and the Black Lagoon

October 23, 2010

“Heaven and Mirth” stories sprang from the imagination of Mike Thaler, already a top children’s book author with hits like the Black Lagoon series (The Teacher from the Black Lagoon, The Principal …, The Librarian …, The School Bus Driver …, and more). After he gave up a “fast-food relationship with God” to join in Jesus Christ’s “glorious feast,” he began to wonder why children squirmed while hearing Bible stories instead of enjoying them. So he set out to write “humorous retellings of Bible stories that are vivid and alive for kids.” What fun stories! The titles hint at their creativity and humor – Moses: Take Two Tablets and Call Me in the Morning, David and Bubblebath Sheba, David: God’s Rock Star, The Prodigal Son: Oh, Brother! Thaler (“America’s Riddle King”) romps respectfully through the stories with funny word play and surprising connections while Dennis Adler adds hilarious illustrations. I enjoy these books so much I have more than a full set. You might enjoy them, too, and on a good day you might even share them with a kid.
I’m sure that it’s okay for Bible stories to be fun, and not just for kids. In fact, if we would loosen up a bit, we might discover that some of the stories are laugh-out-loud funny, even without Mike Thaler’s special touch. Sometimes kids can teach us. Elton Trueblood reports that his young son’s unexpected laughter at a Bible story, a genuinely funny one, prompted him to write his book The Humor of Christ. Maybe we can learn to be in fun, like children, even when we read the Bible.


Golden Rule Laughing

October 19, 2010

“Laugh with others as you would have them laugh with you.” Sure, it’s not exactly what Jesus said, but actually it is what he said. Living for a few years now with this phrase stuck in my head convinces me that active love (how you treat others) includes laughter.

How we laugh matters. Not whether we giggle, guffaw, snort, cackle, whinny, shake, cry, moisten ourselves, belly laugh, or lose our dentures. What matters is the jokes we tell and laugh at, the teasing and banter, the off-the-cuff and off-the-wall remarks.

I’m convinced that walking with Jesus is a whole body experience, one that includes everything we do and say, that leaves nothing out. So the humor we use needs to be shaped by what it means to follow Jesus. You should know, too, that I’m convinced Jesus had a fabulous sense of humor.

“As you would have them laugh with you.” Not laugh at, even if you do a pratfall to get a laugh. You probably won’t need your imagination here. Just think of ways others’ humor has hurt you; many people have still bitter memories. Then don’t use humor like that. No humor that ridicules, trashes, or excludes. No jokes that needle folks for their peculiarities, weaknesses, mistakes, or successes. No back-stabbing humor to get at problems you won’t address directly. No mean humor that prompts the lame, cover-up question, “What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?”

How we laugh matters. It should be fun for everyone. Laugh with others as you would have them laugh with you.


Nebraska National Forest

October 14, 2010

The sign pointed toward the “Nebraska National Forest.” My brother Mauri and I saw the sign, but as we sped along the interstate, the scenery made us wonder where they put the tree. Fred and Suzi Dow, national forest specialists, answered my curiosity (and smart-alecky skepticism):

“Yes, Virginia, there is a forest in Nebraska. … the largest hand-planted forest in the United States.” Apparently visionary botanists have been planting trees in Nebraska’s sandhills for over a century now, taking their cues from Indian legends about a pine forest there.

Two campgrounds offer recreation near the experimental forest – horseshoes, volleyball, gawking at non-native Ginkgo trees, etc. Those annoyed by trees can find a national forest campground in the wide-open spaces of the prairie overlooking the Dismal River. You can’t see it from the interstate. I have a friend who would love it. When he lived near us in western Oregon he complained that you couldn’t see anything – there were too many mountains, hills, and trees.


The Pair Tree

October 12, 2010

A bit east of Mitchell beside Oregon’s Highway 26 is a tree the locals like to brag on. Folks there say that high school grads and other young folks tie old pairs of shoes together and toss them high to hang in the tree. I suspect they may have help from the young-at-heart and other admirers.

The sign on the tree’s trunk reads:




By now the Pair Tree has a great crop.

One friend told me she has seen a similar tree in Nebraska. Maybe there are others and you’ve seen one, too.


Sharing Humor at Work

October 10, 2010

In the office, with people rushing to and from class, someone asked a question.

“I don’t know,” Todd said (names changed to protect the innocent), “Ask Barry. He’ll know.” He did, of course.

Todd continued: “See, anything you want to know, Barry knows.”

Frank: “In fact, Barry knows things you don’t want to know. No really, you don’t want to know!”

Laughter. Smiles, even Barry. And everyone was off to office and class.

Occasionally my friend Paul and I happen to meet in the office hall, trade a couple of bad puns, and suddenly fall into the roles of Jot and Tittle, the Bible Answer Persons, full of word play and misinformation. This mostly amuses the two of us, while others may be bewildered, even worried. But it affirms our friendship and sends us back to work with a grin.

Sometimes I’ll ask one of the terrific students who work in our office, “Do you have everything under control today?” or a question equally odd or preposterous. It’s usually good for a puzzled look, a smile, or, best of all, a funny comeback.

Sharing humor at work helps us get along, get work done, and get good ideas, among other values. We can use and enjoy it by observing simple guidelines. Humor at work should be:

1. Quick. We all have work to do.
2. Kind. Use only positive humor that encourages and shows appreciation.
3. Playful. Invite folks to share fun together. We all love to hear, “You wanna play?”
4. Creative. Part of humor’s fun is in the new and unexpected.
5. Team building. Think of humor not as a contest but a collaboration. Give others straight lines; laugh generously at humor attempts.

Some days you may just have to amuse yourself, but shared laughter is fun and very worth the effort.


Next Page »

Living in Fun

"Walking Cheerfully" is place to think out loud about how to use and enjoy humor in positive, life-giving ways. We’ll explore how following Christ in all of life can shape, not scuttle, laughter and creative play. What might it mean to laugh with others as you would have them laugh with you?

Probably the other most common posts will be "Finds in Fun." I first learned the phrase “being in fun” from Tom Mullen’s Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences. He points to the playfulness of children, who are readier to laugh and to see the silly than most adults. Living each day “in fun” often makes us laugh as we slog through a nearly endless supply of things odd, silly, klutzy, and preposterous. The stories here are mostly from my own ordinary, “in fun” days.

Fun Nooks and Crannies

There’s “Humor in the Bible,” and these posts explore where it is, how to find it, and what to do with it. It’s one way of thinking about how to read the Bible well.

Since a lot of us spend big chunks of time at work, the “Humor at Work” posts will suggest ways to stay sane and happy, to get along with cow-orkers, and to use humor to do good work.

I’m a book-pusher at heart, and some of my best friends push books, too. I even know some folks who read. So “Fun Books” posts will tell about books that are funny and help us think about humor.

Sometimes I’ll brag on some of the friends I’ve been given or share some photos I’ve enjoyed taking. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe not, but they’ve brought joy in my journey.

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