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Is Your Love Tank Full? (2009)

Good Humor

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.

— Art Linkletter

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

— Victor Borge

Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.

— Arnold H. Glasow

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More book excerpts and reviews

book excerpt

Christians Should Laugh More

By Dennis Swanberg
Author of Is Your Love Tank Full?

CBN.comI love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh. But I’ve discovered in my travels across the country that an inordinate number of church folks are afflicted with sour-puss-itis—the disheartening disease that manifests itself in furrowed frowns and stiff arms folded across chests. It’s almost as if those folks think, “If I’m not suffering, I’m not doing this Christian thing right. I’d better not ever look like I’m having fun.”

Well, I couldn’t disagree more.

A big part of my ministry is making people laugh. When I deliver messages to groups across the country, I intentionally add humor to my presentations, and one of my favorite kinds of humor is impersonations. I’ve found that one of the best cures for sour-puss-itis is to break out in the voices of some of our all-time favorite characters like Barney Fife, Jimmy Stewart, or Billy Graham. When I’m speaking, these characters are likely to show up anywhere that has been infected by the deadly sour-puss-itis.

The other night I had a vision featuring one of my favorite characters. Did you know that eating Mexican food after 9:00 p.m. can cause you to have visions you know not of? Well, it can. And on this particular night, I sat straight up in bed at 3:00 a.m. with a salsa-inspired vision of Jonah. Now you may not know this, but Jonah is a distant ancestor of Forrest Gump. And in my vision Jonah stood and said, “This is my testimony: I was running from God, and I got in my Bubba Gump shrimp boat and sailed away as fast as I could. But a big storm came up, and I fell overboard. I surely would have drowned were it not for the giant fish that swallowed me up. I stayed in that stinky belly for three days and three nights, and then that giant fish spit me out on shore, sort of bit me on the buttocks. God told me to preach to the Ninevites, so that’s what I finally did. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Stupid is as stupid does.”

Some of the best humor comes from taking an on-the-spot situation and finding the laughter in it. Now you need to know that I got my preacher training from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In that seminary, I learned how to preach! I knew when to be loud and forceful, and I knew when to talk soft and low. I even knew how to cry when the occasion required, like during a building campaign. Once, as a young, overly confident preacher—right out of seminary—I was preaching for a little country church. And I was feeling pretty good about myself.

I’d developed the habit of making my grand entrance right behind the choir. Being the last one out made quite an impressive entry. Well, on this particular Sunday I had to visit the “little room” before services started. This little country church had only one little room—it was “coed” before that word was popular. Not only was it little, it was right next to the choir room, and it didn’t have any insulation. No insulation meant the choir knew I was in the little room, and I knew the choir was in the choir room. As I was completing my little-room tasks, I heard the choir leaving. Could they not wait on me? Didn’t they know how important it was that I bring up the rear of their procession?

So I hurried as fast as I could and hooked up with them just in time—just as the last ones were entering the sanctuary. I made my grand entrance—all calm, cool, and collected—and marched right up on the platform. But when I turned to face the audience, I noticed several people poking each other in the ribs, pointing at me, and giggling behind their hands. Within seconds the whole group had broken into full laughter. Well, I didn’t know what to think.

I checked my zipper—but it was up and in the locked position. I finally looked down and saw that a six-foot piece of toilet paper had stuck to my shoe in my haste to catch up with the thoughtless choir. Well, what do you do in a situation like that? You turn it into laughter. I just took hold of that toilet paper and wrapped it around my leg. The little old ladies in the back were just dying laughing. I almost titled that message, “Don’t squeeze the Charmin.” What a great service we had that morning!

People laughed when they didn’t expect to laugh. They started their day in laughter and continued it in joy. While there surely are times when you need to be serious, don’t fall into the trap of taking yourself too seriously. In fact, the Bible reminds us in Proverbs 17:22 that “a cheerful heart is good medicine.” That toilet paper wrapped around my foot probably did more good than the Geritol those ladies took that morning!

Healthy relationships include laughter. Every relationship, whether it is with your spouse or your children, can be filled with joy. Laughter puts a spark in your relationships and keeps your everyday routines from creating boring ruts in your life. Because you invest humor in your relationships does not mean they lack emotional depth. In fact, the opposite is true. Humor adds new and intense emotions to your relationship. Sometimes an aversion to laughter may be a cover-up for some deep-seated fear. Being able to laugh at yourself and at situations that aren’t supposed to be funny are signs of emotional security and emotional good health.

I guess that makes ol’ Swan one of the most secure and healthy guys around. Because I love to laugh, I love to make Lauree and Chad and Dusty laugh. Laughter is one of the fuels that keeps my relationships going. Our homes don’t have to be tombs of drudgery and gloom. Instead, they should overflow with laughter and joy. If you want your children to come home for holidays and reunions, make it a place worth coming home to. Make it a happy place to live and then a happy place to visit. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to accomplish this task. Just create a climate and circumstance where laughter becomes a part of your daily life.

You’ve heard the saying, “Life is what you make it.” That means we have a choice. We can choose to have a life full of frustration and fear, but we can just as easily choose one of joy and contentment.

Show your family that it’s OK—no, it’s better than OK—it’s essential to laugh. Fill up your family’s love tank with a generous supply of laughter.

Fill up on the Word—

1 Corinthians 13
Pride and anger are enemies of humor, and Paul addresses both of these menaces in the Love Chapter. “Love is . . . not proud . . . it is not easily angered.” One of the basic ingredients of a healthy sense of humor is the ability to laugh at yourself. When we’re puffed up with pride, we don’t laugh at ourselves; rather we get angry and huffy when things go wrong. If you want people to feel comfortable around you, to enjoy being with you, then learn to laugh at yourself and find humor in life’s little mishaps. Laughter oils the squeeky parts of life and keeps your engine hummin’.

Check Your Gauge

1. How do you react when you make a silly mistake—like tripping over the carpet or saying something really stupid. Do you get defensive and huffy, or do you laugh?

2. When was the last time your family had a good laugh together? What did you laugh about? How did it affect the atmosphere in your home?

3. What’s the difference in laughing at your own mistakes and making fun of someone else’s? Why is one OK and the other not?

4. How does laughter benefit you?

Ready, Set, Go!

Make a conscious effort this week to bring laughter and joy into your home. Set a goal to bring a smile to the lips of everyone in your home at least once a day.

From IS YOUR LOVE TANK FULL? by Dr. Dennis Swanberg. Copyright © 2009 by Dennis Swanberg. Reprinted by permission of Howard, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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