Monday, May 26, 2008

Laughing Again

My older sister is retiring from her life-long career of special education teaching this week. She has spent her entire professional career caring for children who are the most profoundly disabled, mentally, emotionally and physically. Not many have her gift of compassion.

She and her husband invited us out to their lake house this past Sunday afternoon for a retirement party. Like all families, we tend to pick the conversation up where we last left it off. In our family’s case, that means that we start laughing within seconds of seeing each other. We laugh a lot in our family, with each other, at each other, because of each other. We’ve done our share of crying, too. But, we love to laugh.

After my near-death experience last summer followed by the trauma at church followed by my resignation, laughter was hard to come by. After I resigned, I went back to the office one day and one of the staff commented, “It’s good to hear you laughing again.” I didn’t realize that I had not been laughing so I certainly didn’t realize that I had started again. To him, it was a sign of a return to sanity and normalcy and wholeness for me.

Laughter is truly one of God’s greatest gifts. If gratitude is the only antidote to pride, fear, greed, idolatry, lust, etc., laughter is a close second (watch for the gratitude blog coming soon). It’s hard to be truly grateful and not break a smile. If you smile, it’s not uncommon for a chuckle to be far behind.

What made my sister’s retirement party particularly meaningful was that, for the very first time in almost a year, I actually heard myself laughing. My brother-in-law had been bitten by a dog while riding his bicycle. The dog was a neighbor’s and, it turns out, had never had any of its shots. The mutt is now quarantined while Phil nurses a nasty, puss-running puncture wound on the back of his right calf. All of us had advice for how he could have avoided the dog bite. We all wondered aloud whether he already had rabies and just didn’t know it. We were merciless – and we were all laughing so hard our sides hurt.

I heard myself laughing – for the first time in a year. Sunday was a good day – the one the Lord had made – for me to hear myself laughing again. If I am laughing, joy must not be far behind.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


If you’re a child of the 70’s or earlier, perhaps you remember those days when small children could ride their bicycles all day long without parental supervision. You’d disappear in the morning knowing you were only expected to be back home by dark.

On one of those long ago days, Kristi Coleman was riding her bike in a gully that doubled as a neighborhood bicycle ramp when she spotted a beautiful rock in the dirt. It was no ordinary rock. Crystals studded the surface like diamonds on an expensive piece of jewelry. Kristi picked it up and started home with her newfound treasure. Somewhere along the way, trying to balance the rock and handle bars at the same time, she dropped the rock and, to her horror, it split in two when it fell.

Broken-hearted, she reached down to pick up what was left of her prize only to make the most fascinating discovery. Hidden inside the rock was what turned out to be the fossilized dentures of some long extinct animal. She kept the fossil all these years. It’s a priceless life story and a beautiful parable.

Looking at the two-piece fossil, I couldn’t help but think of other things that have broken in two only to reveal a deeper beauty. Dreams break, only to give birth to bigger and better ones. Relationships break, only to make way for healthier, deeper love. Sometimes our most cherished ideas are broken, revealing greater truth to which we’d otherwise been forever been blind.

Jesus often said something like, “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you.” It was his custom to take old ideas about God, fossilized in generations of religious tradition, break them open and show people the real and beautiful truth hidden inside.

If your dreams, or your ideas or some treasured relationship have just been broken in two take a closer look. It may be that something had to break in order for you find the better thing that’s been hidden all along.