“They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14).
In no particular order–other than this is the order that occurred to me after going to bed last night (and getting up to write it down!)—here is what I do. Don’t miss the addendum at the end on what I’m not doing right! Might as well tell the rest of the story. Smile, please.
One. I laugh a lot. I love Genesis 21:6, “God has made laughter for me.” Laughter is a vote of confidence in the Lord, that He is in control and has it all in His hands. This means some of what you’ll hear around this house is pure silliness. And I’m good with that. Many years ago, as six-year-old Abby and I played at the swing in her front yard, she said, “We’re being silly, aren’t we, Grandpa?” I said, “Yes, we are. Why do we like to be so silly?” She said, “It’s a family tradition.”
Two. I take a full regimen of vitamins. In the mid-1990s, when I’d gone a decade without seeing a doctor, I went with my wife for her appointment and ended up becoming a patient too. One day the doctor gave me a list of vitamins and minerals (including the baby aspirin and a fiber capsule) she wanted me to start taking. As I left, she said, “Mr. McKeever, I think we have just prevented a heart attack in you.” Well, apparently so. I have almost never missed a day, although the list of what I take has varied a little over the years as successive doctors have tweaked it.
Three. I have an annual checkup, complete with bloodwork.
This is Super Bowl week ni our part of Planet Earth. In January 29, 2018’s USA Today, reporter Josh Peter wrote about “infamous Super Bowl” questions which sports reporters have been known to toss to athletes.
During Super Bowl week back in 1994, a reporter asked Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas what got him psyched up for big games. “I read the newspaper and look at all the stupid questions you all ask,” he answered.
So, Reporter Josh Peter gave us some of his “most infamous” (translation: dumb, dumb, dumb!) questions from Super Bowl weeks in years past….
–“Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?” The reporter was asking Quarterback Jim Plunkett to clarify the situation of his parents. Correct answer: Plunkett’s mother is blind and alive, his father blind but no longer living.
We read that and wonder what kind of crassness would prompt a normal human to ask such an unthinking question.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Mary Todd Lincoln was gifted in the dark art of sarcasm. Her sister Elizabeth said of her, “She was also impulsive and made no attempt to conceal her feelings; indeed, it would have been an impossibility had she desired to do so, for her face was an index to every passing emotion. Without desiring to wound, she occasionally indulged in sarcastic, witty remarks, that cut like a Damascus blade, but there was no malice behind them.” Lincoln’s biographer notes, “A young woman who could wound by words without intending to was presumably even more dangerous when angry or aroused.” (Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln by Douglas L. Wilson).
Woe to the person bound in marriage to one gifted in sarcasm. Lincoln bore many a scar from the blade his wife wielded.
Pity the church member who sits under the teachings of a sarcastic pastor week after week. Such a pastor’s ministry will bear bitter fruit.
My favorite art store often brings in master teachers for classes on various kinds of art. In two weeks, they have an amazing water color artist doing a conference lasting several days and costing nearly $500. On the website the artist lists materials registrants should bring with them. It will not surprise one to learn the materials are specific, numerous, and somewhat expensive. But the last item in “things to bring with you” was this:
A good sense of humor.
That’s a dead giveaway that the artist will be fun and the class enjoyable.
But it started me thinking….
What if churches added that little note as a scroll across the bottom of their websites. “Bring a good sense of humor.”
Doing so would send a message about that church, wouldn’t it?
Did you hear about the senior couple who got married and spent their honeymoon getting out of the car?
It’s funny only if it doesn’t apply to you.
Since it appears we’re now doing a brief series on the subject of seniors remarrying, we thought there should be a place to record things that made us laugh, the silliness that has kept the fun in our relationship.
Oh, one more thing before we go on. Keep in mind that lovers often laugh at things no one else would, that they have secret, little inside jokes based on something said early in the relationship, and so not everyone will find what follows as humorous as we did. And that’s perfectly fine. We’re not going into the stand-up comic business.
Bertha and I had not been seeing each other more than one week, but already knew the Lord was in this. In one of our nightly (8 pm) phone calls, she said, “What would be a deal-breaker for you in this?” One would think this would bring a serious response from me. But my mind doesn’t work that way.
“I speak as a fool” (2 Corinthians 11:23).
Now, the solid born-again, God-called messenger of the Lord has no wish to sound particularly smart. True, he does not want to come across as ignorant, but he is not insecure, has nothing to prove, and is not there to impress. He is a messenger, delivering the word of God, then getting out of the way.*
However, a less than solid preacher just might want to impress his hearers. An insecure, insincere preacher–one working for the paycheck and seeking the prestige some people bestow on a pastor–might want to bolster his image by dressing up his presentation in some way, and could use some assistance. That’s where we come in. We can help.
Herewith then is our list of tricks which a poor preacher might want to employ.
Tongue in cheek, of course.
“And without parables (great stories!) Jesus did not teach” (Mark 4:34).
I once sat through a long session of a convention of realtors just to hear a motivational speaker. The story with which he opened quickly became a mainstay in my arsenal of great illustrations and sermon-helpers.
Time well spent.
I’ve read entire books and come away with one paragraph that became a staple in my preaching thereafter. It was time well used and money well spent.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling “Eat, Pray, Love” (which I do not recommend, by the way), attended a party 20 years ago and heard something from a fellow whose name she has long forgotten. “Sometimes I think this man came into my life for the sole purpose of telling me this story, which has delighted and inspired me ever since.”
A friend challenged me to write an article under this title. She saw where I posted a number of possible subjects to get the creative writing juices going for preachers, and the one titled “write about the most fun you ever had in the ministry” intrigued her.
I told her I’d give it a try.
With the call of God on one’s life, a place to serve, great friends alongside you, and laughter in your heart, it hardly gets any better than this!
Now, fun comes in many shapes and sizes and varieties in the ministry. Mostly, for me, the “fun” was of two types: a) everyone enjoying one another and b) great things happening in the church.
This article is of the first type; the next article gives the second type of fun.
(The first of this two-part piece was posted on June 30, 2015. Access it by scrolling backward on our website.)
There are no comedians in Scripture and no jokes. But there is a great deal of humor.
Elton Trueblood’s classic “The Humor of Christ” nowhere mentions the Lord as telling jokes or trying to be funny.
In times of grief–the subject before us today–it’s humor that eases the pain and lifts the spirits. Not funny business, although there are notable exceptions.
I’m all for fun and laughter. But mostly, we save that for another time.
At moments of grief, something a little gentler and sweeter is in order: Something humorous.
Tom Brokaw’s new book “A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope” tells of his battle with cancer in recent years. Multiple Myeloma is serious stuff, and it required his putting his life on hold to deal with it, and the involvement of Mayo Clinic as well as Sloan-Kettering.
Brokaw was speaking to an audience in Portsmouth, New Hampshire recently, and it was being telecast. I happened upon it in the middle. Throughout his presentation, the audience was often laughing. Since I’ve been working on a paper dealing with “grief and humor,” I paid attention.
“There is….a time to weep and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
The doctors at Houston’s M. D. Anderson Medical Center confirmed to Ted that the lung cancer had indeed metasticized to his brain. “Perhaps six months, more or less,” said the doctor when Ted asked how long he had. The worst news imaginable.
However, that night the doctor called his room.
“I’ve been studying the brain scans,” he said. “And I believe yours is Primary Lung Cancer which has moved to the brain.” He went on to say that Primary Brain Cancer is not treatable, but a metasticized Primary Lung Cancer behaves differently in the brain and is often treatable.
There was hope, after all.
When he got off the phone, Ted explained this to his family. He was quiet a minute, then said, “Well, you know it’s your basic bad situation when you’re praying for lung cancer!”
And they laughed.
Can you weep and laugh at the same time?