Tag Archives: laughter

“A Little Child Shall Lead Them”

Christmas 2012 IMG_2625

 

The Lord Jesus and Charles Dickens were both right: the way to be saved is to become a child.

That’s not easy. We spend most of our lives trying to be all grown up. Sadly, we generally succeed.

All too often, our imaginations start to shrivel about the time we learn to count. Now, learning to count is not a bad thing—if you also learn to count the right things. Children naturally assume that grown-ups know all about what’s worth counting; nothing could be farther from the truth.

Grown-ups can generally be counted on to count all the wrong things at all the wrong times. If a modern kid knew a sugar plum from a teddy bear and actually recognized a sugar plum or a few dancing in his head (as the sweet old poem says), he wouldn’t waste time counting the plums; he’d giggle and laugh and enjoy the dance, all the while filling up with the joy of being a child, as thrilled as Tiny Tim at the sight of that amazing long-ago Christmas feast.

Grown-ups follow their own patron saint Ebenezer, sitting in the cold counting house shuffling shekels. At first, they think about what those coins will buy, which at least requires a smidgeon of imagination.

But before long, old Scrooge’s imagination is completely frozen out. Life becomes all about counting coins and getting more to count and never leaving the counting house lest some remain uncounted.

Early on in Dickens’ wonderful story, the one thing Tiny Tim didn’t have to worry about at all was having a father too frightened and dull to know that Christmastime is time to leave the counting house. Ol’ Scrooge may have frightened good Bob Cratchit, but Cratchit never saw the day when he was as frightened as Scrooge, scared to death that when the time came to staple his résumé and spreadsheet on his tombstone, he might have counted too few coins, spent too little time in the counting house.

Oddly enough, when Scrooge is scared silly by the Christmas spirits, he gets over being scared to death by life. He turns back into a child. He takes up laughing again. He remembers how to live with expectation and delight. And he breaks the counting house chains by giving away a serious stack of coins that he no longer takes too seriously.

G. K. Chesterton, the wise, rotund, jolly, master weaver of words (wise enough not to trust “cold, hard, thin people”) said a century or so ago, “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” Children’s imaginations naturally take wing for the same reason. Loving the giver, they’ll delight in even the smallest gift, saying thank you with their smiles, never for a moment worrying that they haven’t earned it or paid for it.

It’s Christmas! God’s given us the best Gift! He uses a little Child to lead us to become children again, to accept His Gift, and to respond with delight and laughter.

 

 

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And . . . Merry Christmas to you and yours!

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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Chasing Happiness Is the Recipe for Unhappiness

 

happiness

Are you happy?

If that question catches you off guard and you’ve really not thought of asking it in a long time, chances are good that you really are. Happy, that is.

The best way to be unhappy is to spend a lot of time asking yourself often, with deep feeling, and poignancy, “Am I happy?”

Another sure-fire path to unhappiness is to spend a lot of time around: 1) navel-gazers always asking themselves if they are happy, and, 2) folks who feel guilty when they are happy (as in “content”) too long.

Chase happiness as a goal and you’ll always chase it away. It won’t and can’t be produced that way because by its very nature, real happiness is the sweet fruit of living a life not centered on self.

Happy people are so unfocused on themselves that they are almost always surprised when a bothersome busybody like me asks, “Hey, are you happy?” Their reaction? “Well, I’ve not thought about it much . . .” That’s a key, you see. “But, yeah, now that you mention it, I really am.”

I’ve tried to think of some common qualities the happiest people I know seem to share.

The happiest people I know come from families who are good at being happy. If you don’t, don’t despair. Somebody has to choose to get the happiness trend started. Might as well be you. If you don’t know how to, get help. It’s available. By the way, happy people know that making excuses for being unhappy means planning to stay unhappy, so they are brutally honest with themselves and utterly refuse the sick “pleasure” of playing the victim.

The happiest people I know understand something about balance. They work and play equally well, in ways that build up and don’t tear down.

The happiest people I know like their work but love their lives and know that work is just part of their lives, not the whole show. I’ve known over-achievers I’d say seem happy but their “Type A-ness” is more a challenge to their happiness than conducive to it. And it can be challenging indeed to the happiness of those near them.

The happiest people I know take pleasure in recognizing small things as great blessings. Sunrises, sunsets, naps, flowers, grandkids, puppies, good books, good food, sweet songs, hugs.

The happiest people I know realize that “bigger and more” only rarely add up to “better.”

The happiest people I know laugh often and know that life is far too serious business to always take seriously or to always be business.

The happiest people I know invest time in friends they not only can trust but whom they can trust themselves to. Real friends around whom they are always lifted up, not convenient counterfeit friends who bring needless pain and shame.

The happiest people I know are deeply content and not ashamed of it. It’s a balance thing. Not stagnant at all, neither are they “driven.” They enjoy their own company, but also have deep friendships. They have goals but keep their eyes open to the joys along the road. They know instinctively that it is on the journey, and not in reaching the goal, that life happens.

The happiest people I know not only love life, they love the God who gives them life. They know he loves them and that when he looks at them, which is always, he looks at them with eyes filled with a Father’s joy.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“The Older I Get, the Wiser My Father Becomes”

Shelburne Portrait-small

I’ve long ago discovered the truth of the old adage: The older I get, the wiser my father becomes.

January 15, 2015 would have been my father’s 102nd birthday. January 9 was the fifteenth anniversary of his death.

I’m immensely blessed to be able to say I have few, if any, regrets about what was said or left unsaid between us. Dad well knew how much I loved and respected him.

But there are a few things I’d really like to tell him again. Once again, I’d like to say, thank you, Dad, for always giving exactly the wisdom and the love that I needed even when I was too young, inexperienced, and immature to know how very young, inexperienced, and immature I really was. If I could, I’d say once again . . .

Thank you, Dad, for all the precious gifts you’ve given.

Thank you for faithfully loving my mother.

Thank you for faithfully loving God’s people, Christ’s church.

Thank you for loving God himself with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Thank you for the fact that your love of the Father colored beautifully every other love of your life.

Thank you, my earthly father, for your love which made it so easy to believe in the love of the Heavenly Father.

Yes, and I’m seeing, oh, so clearly, Dad, how that heavenly love means fulfilling very practical earthly obligations and duties.

I learned long ago whose name goes on that blank on so many medical and college and loan forms where it says simply, “Responsible Party.” Being “responsible” is not easy, which largely explains why so many fathers today fail to be. You shouldered the load. Thank you.

You knew what it’s like to be the one charged with picking up the pieces when the car breaks, the dog bites, the bill’s due, or the wheels come off in so many ways.

You knew all about paying to fix crooked teeth, saying a few words over the grave of a family pet, loving all your children but giving extra love at a particular moment to the child who particularly needs it most.

You knew when loving well meant “picking up the pieces” and when loving wisely meant expecting me to learn to clean up my own mess.

You were the strongest man I have ever known in all the ways that count, strong enough to be truly gentle.

You were the kindest man I have ever known, merciful even when those around you were being unfair and unmerciful.

You were big enough, wise enough, Christ-like enough to know when to laugh and when to cry (unashamed of laughter or of tears), when to direct and when to discipline, when to speak and when to listen, when to wait and see, and when to wrap up a child in a father’s embrace.

I’d give a lot for your embrace right now, Dad. Just a hug from the man whose gracious life and whose unfailing love has given life to me, and to mine, and opened my heart to love.

So, Dad, I just wanted to say once more, thank you. And may the Father of us all give wings to this “thank you” and whisper in your ear once more my thanks for the gifts and the love you have given me, your son.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Laughter Is God’s Gift Tucked Into Warm Hearts

laughter 01

Laughter. It is both healing salve for our souls and the most potent weapon against “pious piffery.”

Laughter’s very existence ranks as one of the highest tributes to the Creator’s skill and a delightful glimpse into the character of the Divine.

What kind of God do we have? One who delights in creating flightless birds like ostriches even as he makes squirrels that can fly. We have a God who sends his Son to poke fun at the pious who point out specks of sawdust in folks’ eyes while looking around 2 X 4s in their own. He laughs at those who scrupulously wash the outside of their dishes but leave last week’s dinner sprouting mold inside.

What an amazing blessing when at the very moments we begin to take ourselves too seriously—always proof that we’re not taking God seriously enough—our Creator sends some good-hearted soul into a dour committee meeting or to a cheerless table. God sneaks in some joy, tucking it into a warm human heart and springing it on us by surprise.

Wonder of wonders, just one good chuckle, the precursor of a tsunami of laughter, suddenly washes across our souls,  and what moments before was a corpse-like meeting or lifeless meal desperately in need of burial, suddenly lives.

Eyes were glazing over. Backs were bending under a weight of pomposity. Grace was in danger of literally being ruled out. Then out of a healthy heart, a laugh erupts and the previously flat-lined EKG of the meeting peaks up into a mountain range of life and mirth. Against all odds and often even against propriety—since laughter was on no one’s agenda (except perhaps God’s)—breath returns, scales drop from eyes, and something like vision, and maybe even hope, bursts onto the scene, defying all of the best bureaucratic and sanctimonious attempts to keep real life and joy locked outside.

It is no accident that tyrants, bureaucrats, and Pharisees are utterly terrified of joy. Its shining spire, laughter, is the visible tip of an iceberg that, ironically, melts good hearts even as it plunges sanctimonious souls (sanctimony is a very heavy thing) down to a watery grave.

When I slip into taking life too seriously and even the dog ducks when she sees me coming, I like to spend time with 1) kids, and 2) authors who are truly good at thinking and at laughing all at the same time.

Author G. K. Chesterton had a world-class laugh and a universe-class pen. No one has ever turned a phrase like the rotund “apostle of common sense.” I just read a piece by Ron Ratliff recalling an incident when Chesterton was having trouble getting into a horse-drawn cab. The cabbie suggested that he try turning sideways. Chesterton responded, “I no longer have a sideways.” I’m told that he distrusted cold, hard, thin people. Me, too.

When life is getting hard and cold and pitched sideways, God’s gift of laughter, straight from His heart of joy, lifts it right-side up.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

       And if you’d like to get the jump on some Christmas music, hey, it’s available there! 

 

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Caution: Laughter May Cause a Rise in Blood Pressure

doormat

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year is, no kidding, a doormat, one with a label proclaiming, “This perfectly fine if not certainly adequate DOORMAT is Made in the USA.”

This fine doormat was bundled with some other gifts, one of which was a prodigious chunk of fine blue cheese. A love of blue cheese is certainly an acquired taste, one that I certainly acquired years ago. I love the stuff. The fact that good blue cheese smells, some say, like dirty socks, which are attached to feet, which are attached to shoes, which are wiped on doormats, ties the whole gift together nicely.

The doormat is not only a most certainly adequate doormat, it is wonderfully inscribed for this specific locale, “THE SHELBURNE CENTER For Exceptional Grandchildren.”

Hard to get better than that, but, surprise! One of the finest things about this fine doormat is its warning label. It has one, of course. These days in the Nanny State everything anyone produces is lawsuit fodder, priced to deal with future lawsuits, price-inflated from past lawsuits, and covered in lawyer droppings. It might be a garden hose (“Don’t stick this thing down your throat and crank up the faucet!”) or a cup of coffee (“Surprise! This stuff is hot!”), but it will feature lawyer litter.

This doormat did, too. I’m bettin’ that the “Chairman of the Board” of the business wrote this “warning” himself. He’s the guy whose motto is, “If it isn’t funny, it isn’t fun.” And the doormat warnings are fun, for sure.

“Do not use mat as a projectile. Sudden acceleration to dangerous speeds may cause injury.”

“When using mat, follow directions: Put your right foot in, put your right foot out; put your right foot in and shake it all about.”

“This mat is not designed to sustain gross weight exceeding 12,000 pounds.”

“If mat begins to smoke, immediately seek shelter and cover head.”

“Caution: If coffee spills on mat, assume that it is very hot.”

“Small food particles trapped in fibers may attract vermin.”

“When not in use, mat should be kept out of reach of children diagnosed with CFED (Compulsive Fiber Eating Disorder).”

And my favorite: “Do not glue mat to porous surfaces such as pregnant women, pets, and heavy machinery.”

Well, there you have it. Or, rather, there I have it. A perfectly fine doormat and instructions on how to use it in a relatively safe manner.

I hope the doormat-sellers sell a bunch of them. If it’s a small business, it’ll need help to survive government’s war on small business. But anybody with that kind of sense of humor deserves to have his stuff bought and his business get bigger.

Besides, I figure that the Lord who talks about camels going through the eyes of needles, and pokes fun at folks with 2 X 4’s in their eyes pointing out the dust-specks in the eyes of their compadres—that Lord seems to enjoy some good humor.

Caution: Laughter, while generally safe and even conducive to good spiritual and physical health, may cause an unsafe rise in blood pressure. Take the risk.

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com
Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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