Wednesday, March 21, 2012

As We Thinketh

One of my favorite prayers is the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:  “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love;  where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.  O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  

Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher who was born in 1181 or 1182 and was most known to be the beloved Patron Saint of Animals.  I admit that I am not very knowledgeable about Catholic Saints, but I do respect them because of what they mean to so many.  And because I love animals so much, St. Francis has become a favorite of mine.  I also hold the above prayer dear to my heart because it says so much and is a great prayer to try to live by.  If only more of us in the world could live by these words.

We’re seeing so much discord in the world right now, and there is so much attention on the negative.  Hate, bigotry, and discord appears to be so much of the focus of the media, especially in today’s day and times, and yet there are so many wonderful things occurring in our world, but we just don’t hear about them.  I Googled “good news websites” and came up with countless sites that report the good that people are doing across the world; stories of people who are going out of their way to help others out of love and compassion.   Just one site had stories such as “Teen Rescues Woman from Fire,” “Man Honored for Saving Hero Who Pulled Him from Fire,” “Man Plunges into Frozen Lake to Save Boy,” and on and on it goes of one feel-good story after another.  Why aren’t these the stories that are focused on in the news?  Is it because people are more interested in seeing the negative?  Is it any wonder then why there appears to be so much negativity happening in our lives, our country, and the world?  

Personally, I don’t watch the news and I try not to read the negative articles in the paper or on the computer.  Some will say that I’m not facing reality and ask how will I know what’s going on in the world?  For reality, I make my own reality.  As in the Prayer of Saint Francis, I choose to sow love, to pardon, to build my faith, to have hope, to let my light shine, and to feel joy.  I choose to try to console and to understand.  As for knowing what’s going on in the world?  I choose to focus on the good that so many are doing.  I choose to focus on the laughter of a child, the beauty of nature, the kindness of friends and strangers, and all the blessings that I can count every single day.  And if something big happens in the news?  Trust me, someone will let me know.  Besides, I can’t worry about something I have no control over (though that doesn’t mean I don’t care).

St. Francis also said, “No one is to be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm.  You have no enemy except yourselves.”  We reap what we sow.  Everything we say, do, and think will come back to us in some way, shape, or form.  If you want to see change in the world, we need to first change ourselves.  Michael Jackson sang, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways, And no message could have been any clearer, If you wanna make the world a better place, Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”  Or as Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  

Therefore, my friends, how do we want our lives to be?  How do we want our world to be?  Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  Thoughts and words have power.  Choose them wisely.  (If you’d like a free download of James Allens’ “As A Man Thinketh” book, please go to:  http://www.asamanthinketh.net/.)

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Laughter is God's Favorite Music

I call myself a ‘humortarian’ because I love to laugh, I enjoy making people laugh, and I love the sound of laughter.  Not too long ago, I got to wondering why I never saw any pictures of Jesus laughing.  I searched on the Internet and found a variety of pictures showing Him laughing.  I loved it!  Personally, I believe that Jesus had a great sense of humor; He loved to laugh and make others laugh, and I wouldn’t be surprised if He were a real practical joker.  He also loved children and I can just see Him running around chasing them while enjoying the sounds of their squeals of delight. 

There is even a Buddha who was called the “Laughing Buddha.”  He was based on an eccentric Chinese Monk who lived over 1,000 years ago and was also known as the ‘Loving or Friendly One.’  Laughter is so important to the Jews that they made it into a holiday called “Purim” or “Day of Laughter.” 

Laughter is very healing and has all kinds of wonderful health benefits including helping to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, and help reduce stress hormones, while also giving a person a wonderful sense of well-being.  Some of you may have heard the story of Norman Cousins, who was a writer, optimist, philanthropist, and promoted holistic healing.  He was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and given a death sentence, so rather than give up, and with his doctor’s approval, he prescribed himself with mega-doses of vitamin C and lots of laughter by watching funny TV shows and comedians.  Consequently, he was able to regain his health and went back to work.  (You can read his story in his book “Anatomy of an Illness.”)  Of course, there were also other variables including a very positive mental attitude and outlook.  Cousins stated, “"I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep."  Will it work for everyone?  I don’t know; but it can’t hurt. 

Laughter is contagious, and having a good belly laugh works the diaphragm, and gives the heart and lungs a good workout.  Laughter Yoga has become popular where people will get together and just laugh.  In Berlin, one such group got on a train for a get-together, and while on the train, one person pretended she was on a cell phone and started to laugh hysterically.  Next thing they knew just about everyone on the train was laughing right along with her.  Their intent was just to get people laughing, and their video has gotten several million hits thus far.

We can find humor in almost anything, anywhere, and at any time.  I never pass up a chance to make someone laugh if I can. For instance, one day at Walmart as I was checking out, I saw a group of people at the front of the store who were in line taking turns hugging an elder gentleman.  When I got to the front of the store, the last person was getting ready to hug the man, so I got in line and when she was done, I took my turn in giving the man a big, friendly hug.  The look on everyone’s faces was priceless, and fortunately, they all laughed. 

Even my church does not escape my sense of humor. But in many churches, for some reason, we feel we have to be so serious when it comes to God and religion.  French writer Voltaire said, “God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”  Spiritual teacher Osho says, “To me, to laugh wholeheartedly is the greatest celebration that can happen to a man -- to laugh wholeheartedly, to become the laughter.  The idea has gone very deep in the human mind that religious people have to be serious and sad, with long faces. Laughter is one of the most sacred phenomenon on the earth.  A good laugh is a tonic, it is very vital for one's well-being.” 

Some studies have said that children laugh approximately 300-400 times a day compared to an adult who laughs approximately 15 times a day.  Why do we lose that ability to laugh so much?  Maybe we just take life and ourselves way too seriously.

I really believe that God is in the laughter, and that when we laugh, He laughs right along with us.  Job 8:21 says, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting,” and Matthew 5:12 says, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad.”  So, go ahead.  ‘Play’ God’s music and laugh to your heart’s content.  What a great way to be a part of God’s orchestra!

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen February 2, 2012.)
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