Friday, January 12, 2007

Enjoy the Gift of Laughter

When my friend, Mona, came back from a trip to Europe, she eagerly gave me exciting details about it. She described gondola trips, ferrying on a lake in Switzerland and many other things she had seen, but none was hilarious to me as what she described as “a pope in a glass case” in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Mona described the embalmed body of a long-gone pope who had been on display in a glass box. He was well preserved, bronzed, and dressed in his papal gear, looking so real as though he could just step out of his box and go about his pontifical duties.

At the time Mona called to tell me about her trip, I was dealing with a heavy strain of thought, but by the end of our hour-long telephone conversation, we were both rollicking with laughter.

What is it that makes us love to hear and see the funny side of life, even to hear an enjoyable joke over and over again? Our souls are burdened with stresses and yearn to feel free, and on the physical level, one of the greatest releases for the soul is gained through comedy and laughter. However, many people lack a sense of humour and hold inhibitions to good, gut-wrenching laughter; they really do not know how to laugh.

Gone are the days when we had people like Red Skelton with his characterization of Clem Kadiddlehopper and Jackie Gleason’s “how sweet it is...” to entertain us with wholesome comedy and laughter. Both Skelton and Gleason have had a wonderful sense of humour and served us well as top-ranking comedians in our time.

The Bible says: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). And pretty much the same, “A merry heart taketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13). Laughter is truly “the best medicine” to chase gloominess away.
Yet, on many occasions, we have to create our merriness of heart. Learning to create moments of laughter can help us put aside our troubles, even for a short season. It could free us from self-pity which is one of the most devastating prisons we could create for ourselves.

Over our many years of marriage, my husband, Errol and I have packaged several good stories that never fail to bring us merriment and laughter. Very often, either of us would have only to say a few words of introduction to some long-past event and out would come a concert of jokes and laughter. Just a word or two is all it takes to act as a lead.

Some in the medical profession claim that laughing is equivalent to physical exercise to some extent and does our cardiac system good. And on the emotional level, many of us have proved that laughter also eases depression, releases frustrations and restores a sense of merriment.

Did you ever watch small children at play? They take many of their games and play-acting very seriously. Watch their faces and you will see a reflection of you and me as they mimic life in their games. They treat their fantasies as real. Many times we do pretty much the same, taking many issues too seriously and creating burdens for ourselves, unnecessarily.

Many issues in life are absurd and many are the absurd things we do. But many are the pits of depression we could be lifted from if we learn to laugh, even at ourselves. Learn to laugh at life’s absurdities: the things we took for real that weren’t real, the castles we built in the air that crashed, the castles we built in the sand that the sea took away.

Can you now look back and see the sound facts from fleeting fiction?

I have seen two major points in developing merriness of heart through laughter: (1) recognize the absurd things you do or have done in the past as part of the over-all human condition you belong to, and laugh at them, (2) re-live amusing incidents of long ago and laugh all over again; it will help you break through some barriers.

I still do not understand what is so funny about “a pope in a glass case.” Maybe it was the way Mona told it, but I know that story will be the subject for much laughter between us for many months to come. The laughter stirred by that story made my day and I hope it will stir some laughter in you too.

Check out my workbook, "Breaking Through the Barriers" at The listed cost is $5.00 less till the end of February.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Nurture Your Vision

We have been considering writing our visions and plans for the future, without which we are like feathers in the storms of life. However, as we make plans, we yet have to be flexible as to the way they will come to pass. Here, going back to God regularly for direction is necessary.

Years ago, I was in the boutique business, and was sure it would succeed, and when that venture failed, I felt like all the lights in my theatre went out. I felt beaten and downtrodden and, for many years I was afraid even to dream or ask God for anything. However, by hindsight, I can now see the causes for my failure.

What happens when our goals and plans grow cool or when we see shattered dreams and plans all around us? Our feelings become shattered too, but God can take our brokenness, heal our inner feelings and set us straight. He can reveal to us how the situation can be fixed or lead us to another dream which might even be better for us than what we had envisioned.

Truly, sometimes God is kind in not giving us what we ask for.

We need to understand that even with the best of intentions, not all goals and plans materialize in the way we would like them to. Some do not materialize at all, but there are four things we can do: (1) face our failure as it is, (2) examine it for what we can learn from it, (3) seize the spoils we can take from it, and (4) press on.

What happens when the vision is slow to materialize? Let not anyone intimidate you when your goals and plans for the future are slow in coming, saying: "Where is your God...?" If that vision is truly yours, and God is in it, it will come. Speaking through Habbakuk, God says: "For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it will tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry " (Habbakuk 2:3). The key here is waiting patiently.

We need to be sensitive to the way God works. Our timing is not God’s timing. And sometimes God uses our dreams and goals to test our faith, and if those dreams and visions are truly ours,at the end of our testing, the vision will surely show a rose fully unfolded, it will reveal itself.

Another thing of importance: sometimes, the dream and plans we profess to be ours are not really ours but somebody else’s that we are acting out for some reason. These are the dreams and plans that mostly fail. Therefore, when our plans are slow in materializing or giving us many challenges, we need to re-visit them, asking ourselves questions like these: "Are these plans realistic? Are they really mine and not something borrowed?"

And for success, we sometimes have to break up our goals and plans into parts and see what part we can begin right away. We need to ask ourselves: "What can I do today towards my overall plan?"

Nurture your vision by seeking God’s direction about it daily and by speaking positive words to it. Hold right attitudes about it. Then patiently watch as your vision unfolds.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Write Yourself A Vision For This New Year

For a long time, I have wanted to write myself a vision and at last, I have just completed one. And I found that though it is simple to think of, yet writing a vision takes considerable time and focus to do the job right. However, it is a rewarding experience.

A positive vision in our hearts of things to come is a type of prophecy: a purposeful projection of thought, born out of a desire. And it is heartening to know that the Lord is not against us having desires—positive ones, for the Scriptures say: "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart."

However, when we sense a positive desire in our hearts, it is God revealing His desire for us, but sadly, one of our human traits is that we corrupt those desires, making them into something else, often selfish and despicable.

The Scriptures also say: "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." This indicates that having a vision, or purposeful projection of thought, is part of God’s law for His children. And in telling of something He proposed to do, God said: "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables that he may run that readeth it..." This helps us understand that our purposeful projection of thought must be clear.

Do you have a vision for a higher education, a business project, or a particular vocation? It is God’s desire being birthed in you, to bring you to a higher plateau in life.

A vision plan is a helpful tool for developing focus and direction, and need not be elaborate; it may be a simple lay-out of a few well-planned lines, declaring what you would like to see manifest in your life.

For this new year, write yourself a vision plan and make it a commitment to God and yourself for a new cycle on your life-journey. This involves spending considerable time as you explore what you feel in your heart and crystallize those aspirations in written form.

And when you sit quietly and write out your goals and plans, something special happens.

Write your vision plan when in your best mood—not when you are tired or downcast. Your plan must present a picture of how you will like your life to be, as clearly as you can. And each part of your plan must be a complement to all other parts. Go through the following categories and state your preferences as concisely as you can.

Add some dates to your plan by which you expect it to be made manifest. And review your plan often to determine the progress of your visions. Most of all, be realistic in your plans.

What career will you like to pursue in the new year? What types of recreation will you like to spend time in? What hobbies do you want to pursue? What relationships will you like to build? What specific dreams and goals will you like to pursue? What are your aspirations for the spiritual life? In what location do you choose for residence? In your life, what can you do better? How can you improve it?

These are just a few ideas and you might even add other positive ones of your own, according to how you feel in your heart, and present them to God with a prayer like this: "This, Lord, or whatever is highest for your glory and the benefit of my soul."

Be assertive about the effects you want in your life, yet not rebellious. Note that there is a fine line here about being assertive and not rebellious. Know what you want out of life. Examine it. Ask yourself: "Is this morally right? Is it legally right? Is it socially right? If you can say "yes" to these questions, consider it to be a desire from God and follow them through. Place your written vision plan in a place where you can easily see it and pray about it often.

Submit this simple blueprint of your desires to the Spirit of God, the Master Architect and ask Him to perfect it and direct your paths. And if your plan is a long-term one, be patient as time goes by, trusting that God that He will bring it to pass, all in His divine timing.

And last, but not least, consider making a commitment in your plan to spend more time with God this year and being more diligent in serving Him as time goes by.

Suggested Readings: Psalm 1:1-4; Psalm 37:4; Proverbs 29:18; Jeremiah 29:11;
Habbakuk 2:2-3; Mark 11:24; Philippians 4:19.

Reflection: God is willing that I should prosper.

Prayer: "Dear God, I bless the vision you have placed in my heart. Help me to witness its fulfillment. Amen."