My grandfather Virgil Billings was a minister for the Community of Christ 50 years ago. Growing up I heard many stories about his ministry and interactions with others. One that always stuck to me was his time spent in southern Indiana.
He traveled to the area for a sermon series which included visiting members homes. One family in particular farmed watermelons. The husband was not a church goer but supported his wife attending. During the visit my grandfather spent a lot of time with the man talking about his farming and various other interests.
My grandfather told him, "In Texas they only grow the watermelon seeds on one side of the watermelon." The man looked in astonishment at my grandfather and eventually asked how. My grandfather with a sheepish grin replied, "They grow them on the inside." The two laughed at the joke. My grandfather invited him to come to church the next night and left to visit another family.
To my grandfather's surprise the man came the next evening. The man was focused intently on what was being preached and as my grandfather finished his sermon the man shouted for his attention, "Minister, Minister do you know how to get water inside watermelons?" My grandfather saw the proud look on the man's face and said, "No". The man shouted, "You grow them in the spring."
The farmer's entire reason for attendance was to tell the joke to my grandfather. Something transpired in their conversations, a relationship was sparked, and humor brought it all together. Sometimes we get so caught up in our traditional ways of sharing God that we miss at the basis of every relationship is mutual respect and enjoyment for each other. Humor in this situation was what made all the difference.
Let's look closer at how humor ties us together and can open us up for further relationship. And does God have a sense of humor?
The Power of Humor
We can find humor in just about every aspect of life if we look. Obviously not every situation calls for it but many are eased when we allow humor to be present. Laughter not only puts us in a good mood but has tons of health benefits. This article "Stress Relief from Laughter" from the Mayo Clinic indicates laughter soothes tension, stimulates organs, improves immune system, relieves pain, and relaxes your stress response system. Overall it allows us to relax our defense mechanisms and be open and present to the world around us.
Another research study suggests that those who laugh together have stronger bonds. The study "How Laughter Brings Us Together" discusses how laughter is a social glue that connects others and helps share worldviews. Our quality of life improves when we are able to laugh because we ultimately are connecting with people.
If you are looking for more information about how humor increases positive relationships and leadership check out this tedx video by Paul Osincup. Trust me its entertaining, funny, and yet informative.
If you need a short clip to laugh about the funniness of relationships check out this 2 minute bit by Comedian Steve Rizzo.
Humor of God
Does God have a sense of humor?
If God created us as him/her self than ultimately humor is one of the characteristics of God. Rarely do we talk about the funny things life presents in church or from the pulpit. If laughter truly has these amazing health benefits listed above and helps us connect with each other shouldn't it be something we are more intentional about.
A spiritual life is about being filled with joy and what more joy can you get than laughter. Kids in particular have a keen sense of humor, contagious laughter, and the ability to find the funny in mundane things. Kids mask that quality God has created in them. Maybe we should look closer at our children and try to catch a glimpse of their humor.
Acquainting God with a sense of humor makes the divine more humane and approachable. It takes away the notion of a God far away and puts the spirit lovingly beside us laughing together. I like to envision Jesus with a sense of humor. He was able to relate to a number of people, bring them joy, and redefine the spiritual laws of the time. This type of person had to have charisma and bring humor into his work with others.
So I encourage you to use humor not only in your daily life but as you are reading the bible, praying, and doing the spiritual practices that fit your needs. I think you will begin to find the funniness all around us and ultimately the humor of God. You can also check out one of our past posts by Steve Hensley titled "The Similarities Between Comedy and Church."
If you want to learn more about the Community of Christ please contact us as we would love to talk with you.
This week pick out a joke online someplace to use with people you interact with.
One morning my family was eating breakfast when my oldest son, who was 4 years old at the time, started a race to see who could finish their milk first. We all began chugging our milks. Of course I went slower to make the race close however ended up finishing first. I thought my son might show disappointment for not winning but instead I heard, "And the winner is Mistress Daddy." This was a reference to page 45 of the Richard Scary book "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" where Mistress Mouse wins the race. He showed excitement, joy, and happiness for the events that transpired. His focus was on the joy he was experiencing in the moment. I realized sharing in people's joy is a major part of being welcoming. When we genuinely get excited for other peoples joy, connections are made creating opportunities for deeper relationships to prosper.
So how do we embrace our own and others joy? Let's look deeper at the wholeness aspect of sharing joy, how we can contribute to others feeling the emotion, and what specific things stop us from sharing and experiencing joy in our lives.
Making Joy Complete
Minimalist Joshua Becker wrote an article "Joy is Experienced to be Shared." In his article he states, "The practice of sharing new things with others improves their lives. It allows them to discover the same joy. But it also enhances ours as well. It makes our joy complete. It bring new fullness to our lives."
What does it mean that our joy is more complete when we share it with others? I think it means we can experience joy but the emotion is magnified when we are able to show and give it to others. It seems that sharing the joyful things in our lives gives others permission to share openly with us about their joy and also unhappiness.
5 Simple Ways We Can Share Joy With Others
1. Share recommendations - Give suggestions of books, movies, coffee flavors, new restaurants, etc. specifically with others you think would enjoy it.
2. Invite people to participate with you - Ask others to be a part of things that bring you joy. This might be bowling, having a movie night, participating in a book club, hiking, or singing karaoke.
3. Use social media - Social media can be an effective way to communicate to others the good news happening in our life. This is not to boast but humbly sharing activities and events that bring you joy. More specifically social media should be used to directly communicate to others. Many scroll feeds cause people to be envious and ultimately depressed. Read this Psychology Today article about how Facebook causes users to be sad. Social media used in the right way helps communicate and invite others to participate in joy.
4. Tell Jokes - Laughing and smiling are healthy things for us. Telling and sharing in jokes with others keeps people light hearted.
5. Invite Others to Share in Ministry - Ministry is about bringing support and comfort to other people. It's an activity of peace bringing. So asking others to help in ministry is a powerful way to experience joy from the service you give.
I want to share this short video called Joy Story to provide another way of illustrating how joy is about giving and sharing.
What Stops Us From Sharing Joy
Usually there are certain things holding us back from sharing joy with others. Let's look closer at some of these.
Judgement From Others
Many times we hold back from sharing in fear of what other people think. This makes an assumption that other people will not like it. Not only do we miss out on the opportunity to share but others miss out on the potential of something which could positively impact their life.
Sometimes our own self-images stop us from sharing. Self-image is made up of three components. 1. The way we think of ourselves 2. How we interpret others perceptions of ourself 3. Who we would like to be. We might contain our joy because thats not who we are or doesn't fit our image. Also sharing joy may not be our ideal self or fit with others perceptions of who we are. Joy is an emotion we experience that brings happiness to the world. If we are able to let joy to be expressed without the context of who we are in the world than we free the emotion. If you want more information on self-image go to this article about self-image by Adam Sicinski.
Fear of Depressing Others
I think its awesome that we empathetically think about others. However we make the assumption the other person doesn't want or need to hear about my joy because of what's happening in their lives. This is a case by case basis but I think we should often side on sharing when appropriate. Sharing openly can cause others to become joyful! Being apart of someone else's joy is fun and exhilarating. It also provides an opportunity for them to reveal exactly whats happening in their lives. In other words we get to become a listening support.
Out past experience plays a lot into what we share with others. If people have been cynical to our joy than we usually refrain from sharing. There are some people in which joy brings discomfort. It may be an emotion that hasn't been allowed to be shown or past trauma which has buffered its full effect. We need to be aware of this when interacting with others. However we should not allow past experiences to prevent us from sharing our life with others.
Forget the Invitation
The most often is that we forget to invite others to be apart of what we are doing. We think its too late, or their already busy. People are more isolated than ever before. Don't believe me look at this article from The Conversation. That's right people are longing for more interaction in their lives. They are longing for people that get them, that they can connect with. Many times it all starts with an invitation to do something joyful. So go out there and invite!
Questions for Discussion
When is a time you experienced joy?
What is something you get joy out of that you can share with somebody else?
What barriers do you have that prevent you from experiencing joy or sharing it with others?
This week I hope you find yourself inviting others to be joyful with you.
Next week we will be focusing on how books can help us become more diverse and inclusive. To do this we have a special guest blogger by the name of William Ottens who is a librarian by trade and works at Lawrence Public Library. He is the creator of the blog Librarian Problems which uses GIF's to address problems librarians face in a creative and funny way. So I hope all of you are as excited as I am to have William help us discuss this topic.
Playing the guitar is one thing that brings me joy. Despite my limited ability (because I have no rhythm) I feel my heart jump. I remember coming home from college for the summer after having just learned how to play guitar chords. I was excited to be able to play an instrument and I wanted to share it with others. This propelled me in offering to play the song "Seek Ye First" to my home congregation. That day I felt this incredible spirit moving with me because I just wanted to give what I had. So there I was up in front strumming my guitar and leading them through the song (something I would never have done before). I was about six words into the song, when I realized I had never played with other people singing before. I also distinctly recall remembering the small fact that I have no rhythm. It was apparent to me that people were lost in the song because my strumming was too fast and irregular. Despite this tremendous downturn I pushed on and finished the song. The amazing thing was any other time in my life I would have turned red, sat down and been ashamed of myself and my abilities. However in this instant I was joyful and satisfied. I knew my entire purpose was to share my joy with God and others, which I did. It didn't matter if I wasn't the best, its what I had to give in that time and space.
I think there is an incredible power within us if we share the things that bring us Joy. Joy is an attitude of the heart that empowers us to be genuinely happy and/or content with ourselves. When we share joy, we share our hearts with others. It makes us lighthearted, playful, and whole. So with the virtue of Joy being the focus this Advent week let's look closer at how joy impacts us, and the connection it has with our spirituality.
Get in Your Heart Space
Amanda Gore is the author of "Joy an Inside Job". The book explores how Joy impacts our lives in astounding ways. She believes the most important space on earth is in our heart. Please watch her entertaining TEDx presentation which talks about these three steps in creating more Joy in our World.
1. Stop Judging - Become Present
2. Drop to our Hearts - Place Intention
3. Scatter Joy with Zoots
Joy and Spirituality
Society is made up of people who are spiritually seeking the presence of God and/or a deeper connection with others and themselves. Joy is one of the many things we find along our search. Joy is a selfless emotion that connects with God and others. Rev. Christopher Benek authors an article about the difference between Joy and Happiness. He writes it's not about trying to be happy for ourselves but having Joy in our lives. In so doing this is a commitment to others. In other words the focus of having Joy is community. Joy is about the well being of others and when our focus is on others we open ourselves to experiencing Joy.
The word "Joy" can be found throughout the Bible. This is personified through singing, shouting, and rejoicing. However for some of us, we might be saying how do I find Joy if I am spiritually lost or dead? First I want to acknowledge you are not alone. Second I want to encourage you by saying Joy is possible even in our suffering.
I think the advice given above is where we start by find your heart space, joining a welcoming community, and asking yourself what do I have to give. We all have Joy inside of us that is waiting to be freed. Deepak Chopra shares his "8 Secrets to Free Your Spirit and Find Joy" which are realistic ways for us to begin experiencing Joy. Joy is freeing because it moves us away from our own self conscious thoughts that sometimes drown our spirits. In Joy we find the beauty of others and the connectedness of life.
This advent when we remember the coming of Christ let us remember the Joy he brings. Even now, he continues to want to bring that Joy to you. So allow his enduring Joy to reside in your heart because the message will free you. It is in Joy where we live for others by singing, shouting, and rejoicing until the morning comes.
Joy Through Laughing
I believe laughing is one of the best ways we can find joy in our lives. It instantly connects us with others and leaves us feeling light and happy. This Coca-Cola commercial is of a man laughing on a subway. As you watch it, I dare you to not laugh or smile. Just as with laughter, joy can be contagious.
Please find your heart space this week doing something you love. Allow Joy to fill it and if you are willing share it with someone else. Next week we look closer at our journey toward the Christmas Star.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting. They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation. They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response. They support sacramental ministries by preparing people for baptism and/or confirmation, presiding at sacramental services, and performing most sacraments. They promote community by inviting individuals, households, and families to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship. They promote justice and peacemaking by inviting people to experience all aspects of Christ’s peace through active discipleship. They create ministry partnerships with mission center officers, apostles, elders, and evangelists.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.