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HUMOR AND HEALING

A joyful heart is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22

Lit: causes good healing.

                      MY TESTIMONY

My ancestry is 3/4 English. As you know, if you've ever watched much British comedy, the English have a high sense of humor. Though I've always had a good sense of humor, it was hidden inside me; I didn't tell anyone about all the things I thought were funny; and I rarely laughed out loud. There was a reason for this.

After seeing action in the South Pacific during WWII, my father was finally diagnosed mentally ill when I was 3 years old. My mother was told by the doctors that she ought to divorce him and start a new life for herself, or she'd better find a way to support him, herself and her three little girls. She was only 25 years old.

She turned to her father for advice and he told her that she would have to take control and that if she ever lost control, she'd be doomed. Well, she had a controlling nature anyway, so....you can imagine what often resulted.

One of the results was that we were never allowed to cry. It was so emotionally hard for her, she was afraid that if she ever started to cry, she wouldn't be able to stop. So she didn't cry. And she didn't allow us to cry either. When we were spanked for being naughty, a hand would clamp over our mouths so we wouldn't cry.

This sounds very harsh in this day and age of free expression. But it was done in love. For the most part, the atmosphere in our home was very pleasant, friendly, welcoming. Very, very few fights or arguments. People liked to come to our home; mothers sent their children there to stay. We laughed but mostly our humor was displayed by smiles. There were no jokes or pranks.

Then I married Gary Vawter! Mr. Punster himself. His home life growing up was almost the opposite of mine. Jokes and pranks were used to relieve ominous mood swings and unpredictable behavior.

But we rocked along pretty well. Had some miscommunication regarding humor but nothing serious. After 3 years of marriage, we discovered the person of the Holy Spirit. So we were doing OK.

But then a very horrible and traumatic thing happened to me in 1977. It was incredibly devastating and took a long time to get over. I was about healed when along came the 80's.

For me, the 80's were horrible and I'm glad that decade is over.

  • The decade began in 1981 with a child who had two life-threatening illnesses and the accompanying hospitalizations, medications, etc.

  • I held five different jobs, each one working in a different capacity, with different situations and with a wide spectrum of people - from homosexuals to snobbish yuppies who thought they knew everything.

  • We had three teenagers. That's enough right there.

  • Financial problems.

  • In-law problems.

  • Persecution from legalistic relatives who didn't understand the church we'd become members of or our religious views.

  • A child so bewildered and confused by undiagnosed physical problems, he ran away from home, was found in St. Louis, and three months later checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. Tests revealed a severe life-threatening illness that had affected his emotional stability.

  • A child leave home for school and three months later he informed us that instead of going to school, he'd eloped and had an instant family of four children to care for. He was 20 years old.

  • My health fell apart and I had a seemingly never-ending array of 17 different physical problems that were treated separately or ignored by doctors. I was in constant pain for 7 years. It wasn't until Nov. 1994 that the root problem was diagnosed.

  • A number of my health problems were those that aren't usually experienced until you become a senior citizen. And I turned 40 in the mid-80's. So at a much earlier age than most people, I had to deal with the reality of getting older.

  • I had to have 2 biopsies.

  • I had 3 surgeries.

  • We were church leaders of a small cell group that met in homes. Unfortunately, our group was divided as to purpose. Gary demanded that the people attend regularly or drop out. We ended up with a whole new group of people. The women in the second group caused so many problems that when God sovereignly dealt with them, they left the church and we got another set of small group members. This third group met every week for four years in our home. During those years we had, within the group:

          a suicide

          a bankruptcy

          a birth

          a death

          a divorce

          two of our single guys fighting over one of our single women

          a person with an habitual illegal perversion

          a single woman overtly working to destroy our marriage

          a couple struggling to keep a bad marriage together

          a person with medical problems who collapsed one night during the meeting from over‑medication

So we had some really tough things to deal with in ministry.

On top of all of this, God chose the 80's as His timing for me to get in touch with my feelings and sensate abilities! On the Briggs/Meyers test, I was a very strong T. I was so strong, I'd regularly make a mental outline of how I was going to think about something - and I'd follow the outline!

In the 80's I learned that I had feelings about things I'd never allowed myself to have. I got in touch with anger and discovered things in my past that I should have been angry about but hadn't. I began to stand up for myself.

Poor Gary wasn't used to having to consider my feelings. We had to create a whole new way of relating to one another. So much so, that for two years, I lived with the uncertainty of whether he was going to stick around or not.

The decade ended with us helping our 18-year old with his will so he could go be a part of the Desert Storm War.

So you can see, the 80's weren't the best decade for us. But we not only survived, we've lived to victory. And one of the tools God used to pull me through was humor. Here’s what I did.

I read a scientific article about the proven benefits of so much laughter a day. I combined that with Proverbs 17:22 and began to work on changing myself.

I found a little sign that I put on my refrigerator. I looked at it every day and it ministered to me greatly. It said, "If you don't laugh at life, life will laugh at you.

I learned to express the laughter that was inside of me and I worked on laughing out loud more.

I purposely chose TV shows and movies that were funny.

I became an avid reader of the Sunday comics.

I took advantage of everything that could make me laugh.

I read the Bible with a view toward the funny. In the process, I discovered that God is just really a funny, funny God. A friend had once told me that people who didn't think God had a sense of humor ought to just go visit the zoo.

Imagine with me the making of the animals, the Father and Jesus working in the clay.

"Oh, I think I'll put a big nose on this one." 

"Hey! Look at what I did! I really stretched this one's nose out!"

"Well, what do you think about this extra long neck?"

God and Jesus end up making animals that look alike except that the one Jesus makes has shorter legs so they call his animal a reindeer and God's animal a caribou.

Then they made people and the fun really began.

I've learned that when life is hard, when it is just really coming down on us, God is there to fight for us. We all know that, but I began to see that, if we're open, He often comes with a sense of humor. And we'll probably end up laughing.

When I was dealing with the issue of aging, I took a number of classes on the process. One of the things they teach is to bring out the child in yourself.

What has worked for me will work for you, not because I have experienced it or because the "experts" say so, but because this is a biblical principle. God's humor is all through the Bible. 

                       BIBLICAL EXAMPLES

Jesus told a group of fishermen who were fishing with nets that He'd turn them into fishers of men. Can you imagine their first reaction? Picture looking over the side of a boat at a fishing net you've just brought up from the sea and in it are all sizes and colors of people squirming around.

How about the time the disciples had fished all night. Then Jesus came along and told them to fish on the other side of the boat. Yeah, right. Like they hadn't fished on both sides of the boat or hadn't turned the boat around during the night!

There's the time that Jesus accused people of straining at a Nat and swallowing a camel. Can you picture someone doing that and not knowing they'd done it?

Read the Gospels as if you were writing a musical. There are at least two stories you could use for comic relief. One is the story of a hated but powerful businessman who is so short he can't see over the crowd to see Jesus coming into town. But he wants to see Jesus so badly, he throws away his dignity and his concern over what people will think, and climbs up in a tree with his bare legs showing!

How about the time Jesus came to Capernaum and people were coming to see him and in walked two blind men? In a movie, this would be the comic relief. How did those two blind men find Him? There is no record that they had a guide. So how many houses did they bang into before they found the right one?

Jesus loved to laugh and have a good time. I believe He was laughing when He said, "If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" Luke 11:13

I believe that the idea of anyone thinking anything differently was so ludicrous to Him, He laughed about it.

In fact, Jesus loved parties. It didn't matter if the party was in His honor or not. He liked them. He had a good time at the party Zacheaus gave for Him. He was thrilled when Matthew threw a party to celebrate his job change from tax collector to disciple.

Jesus gave us the example of creating a good time of clean fun as a tool to relieve stress and pain. Just think about the beginning of His ministry. Jesus had had a tough season. He left home and all that was familiar. He spent 40 days in the desert with no food or water, wrestling with the devil. Then He got a bunch of know-nothing Galileans. He changed their job and in the process, that changed His job and He suddenly had to deal with these little puppy-dog people following Him around everywhere asking inane questions. It wasn’t easy.

So what did He do? Well, what were His options?

          1. He could go into the desert and pray and fast like John the Baptist would do. John and Andrew would understand that choice.

          2. He could go do something; take on a project of some kind. Peter would like that. Action!

          3. He could settle everyone down under a fig tree and call for a period of meditation and contemplation. That was a typical Jewish thing to do and Nathanael especially would like that.

          4. He could go visit another country, get a change of pace and scenery. At least leave Galilee.

What did Jesus do? Well, He had a fifth option. Mind you, He was not well-known yet but he did have an invitation. Remember, as far as anyone in Nazareth knew, he was just a regular guy who went to the synagogue, worked in a workshop, and hung out. His faith made Him like people and people liked him back. So, He'd been given an invitation to a wedding. It meant a long walk of 90 miles from where He was but He did it.

Why? He didn't go because He knew they'd run out of wine. That was an incidental favor for His mother and friends.

He didn't go to show off what He could do. The people getting married didn't know what He could do.

He didn't go to preach.

What was left? I think He wanted to have fun, to sample the food, act silly dancing around with other men while holding the bridegroom seated in a chair up over their heads. He knew He needed to laugh.

Jesus knew how to laugh; He liked to laugh; and He created occasions for laughter.

Just think about how Jesus came to earth. Previously, God came to earth with the flaming swords of Eden, He flooded the globe, He rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. But now He came as a baby!? A baby that had to be         

     carried

     fed

     changed

     rocked

     bathed

     burped

And His parents! Mary was a peasant girl with a crush on a guy named Joe! Joe was a carpenter; he wore a nail belt; had rough hands and sawdust in his hair. He had no job security as his work depended solely on the whims of the community. More than likely, his shop was on street level and the family lived in a basement type cave under the shop. And this is where God decided to grow up and have dinner every night?

How about the apostle Paul? He was a Christian killer who turned into a Christian leader. Then he was a preacher who became a prisoner. He became an old man. The churches he worked so hard to establish would all die. He was sick. And yet, within 200 years, the humor and purpose of God caused Paul's thoughts to influence the teaching of every school. His words are read in thousands of languages. They impact every major creed and are read by every major figure in the world. All this from an old man with bad eyes who was in prison for an odd faith. That’s the humor of the Lord.

Think of some of those Old Testament stories

"How do you plan to kill that giant David?" "Well, you see, I've got this rock...."

"What'cha goin' ta do about them Philistines, Samson?" "Oh, I thought I’d just take this jawbone of an ass...." "What makes you think you can do anything with that?" "'Cause I've got long hair."

“Hey Zeke? What do you think we ought to do about that eyesore on the edge of town?” "Oh, you mean that valley full of dry bones? Don't worry about them; I'll just prophesy over them and they'll grow flesh and skin again. Then I'll just tell the four winds to breathe on ‘em and they'll come to life again. So just put your bulldozers away folks. Those bones will just get up and walk out of that valley on their own accord and you won't have to look at them anymore."

Joseph's brothers are another example. They got jealous of their little brother so they sold him into slavery. That's not funny. Later, Joseph is the one who literally saves their lives by providing food and shelter for them. That's not funny; that's nice. Years and years go by living under Joseph's protection. But then father Jacob dies and they get so scared, they get silly. Oh no! Joseph is finally going to let us have it. What'll we do? Let's try whining - it always worked with Mom. "Joseph, Daddy said to be nice to us." Gen. 50:16-17

How about when Jacob finished working for his wives. Laban asked him what kind of salary he wanted. Jacob said don't give me anything; I'll just take every speckled and spotted sheep and goats and every black lamb. What kind of a salary is that? Kinda weird if you ask me. But Laban said OK. Then God entered with His humor and caused all the sheep and goats to be born speckled and spotted. So Laban said, OK, only the speckled are yours. Then all the flock birthed speckled sheep. So Laban said, Only the striped are yours. And only striped sheep would be born. And this went back and forth 10 times! The really funny thing is that Laban never did catch on to what was happening!

The scriptures are just full of some really good comedy writing. Funny stories about how God, in His own humorous way, brought healing and hope to hopeless, painful situations. Look at your own situation and let God bring healing to you through humor.

 

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