Laughing Was Holy

I once told a story during a sermon about a little boy sitting in a sanctuary pew on a Sunday morning. He kept turning around in his seat and smiling at the people behind him. Eventually the boy’s mother leaned over and made him face the front, saying “Stop smiling, you’re in church!”

There’s a reason the term “frozen chosen” is sometimes applied to people of faith: many churches have a reputation for being Serious People who do Serious Liturgy Things in a Very Serious Way. A joke during the sermon is met with silence; a silly unexpected comment from a child is met with disdain.

Some of this reaction is founded in a desire for reverence, for keeping a sense of the holy. But I think humor is holy, too. God created the parts of the brain that produce it, and the endorphins that result from it. We were not put on this planet only for drudgery and sadness. There’s too much around us that creates pleasure.

In the Gospels, Jesus is accused of enjoying himself a little too much with the “wrong kind of people.” I wonder if he at least smiled while telling parables and seeing the look on people’s faces when a Samaritan turns out to be the hero. His act of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was a satire on the usual triumphant entries of royal and military figures. Imagine some of the jokes the likes of fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes may have told around the table or campfire in his presence.

I’m pretty sure Jesus laughed. We in the church are allowed to laugh, too.

Humor helps remind us to not take ourselves so seriously. It shows us the side of God’s creation that is playful and creative. It helps us differentiate between what needs our real attention and what can be gripped less tightly. If people of faith are unable to laugh, unable to make that differentiation, unable to be playful, then we’re neglecting a divine gift that helps us see creation, the church’ mission, and ourselves more holistically. 

You can have fun in church. Maybe even start small this Sunday. Give something a small chuckle and see what happens.

My Month of Writing, Derailed

The month of September has been a big writing month for me. Or at least it was supposed to be. I had the plan to work on a new manuscript a little every day this month. I was making decent progress, too.

But then disaster struck.

One day (the 13th, it so happened), I plugged in my USB drive…and it went dead. No computer I tried would recognize it, let alone read the files on it. None of the tactics in my very limited bag of computer tricks made a difference.

So then I made it a point to take the drive to a computer repair store at the first opportunity. They couldn’t do anything with it, either.

Now, you need to understand what was on this drive. It contained not only the draft on which I’d made some pretty impressive progress, but the draft of the ebook I was set to release in just a few weeks, and all the raw files of all my published books. This was a significant and devastating loss.

Imagine a musician losing all their song recordings, or a painter’s entire collection going up in smoke. This is the absolute worst thing to happen to a creative.

Somewhat strangely, the news of the drive being unrecoverable had the opposite effect that one might expect. Rather than wallowing–which I definitely considered doing–I set to work.

My most immediate concern was to pull everything back together for the ebook, which took a few dedicated, focused hours. Since it’s largely made up of stuff I’ve already written and I do at least have ongoing access to those, I compiled and edited it all back together. There was something that wouldn’t let me stop until this was done, and so my work went into the night until I could finally rest. So yeah, I’m releasing a damn ebook in a few weeks as planned.

A few days later, I had the idea to go back through old emails to find copies of my published book files, so I also now have those back in some form.

But the new manuscript–the one to which I wanted to devote 30 days of writing–has had a reset. There’s no getting around that one.

But I’ve started again because, similar to my reaction to redo the ebook, I don’t like the alternative of giving up.

And from now on, I’ll be keeping backups of everything.

30 Days of Writing

get your own here

I’ve been kicking around a new book idea for the past 2 years or so.

As with most such ideas, it began as something very basic and abstract. More of a morsel than a full meal. But something that with enough thought could be more.

This particular idea needed not only fleshing out, but time. I wasn’t ready to write this when I first conceived of it. Only with benefit of distance and perspective could this actually be something that I would want to write, let alone have somebody else read.

At some point, I reached that distance and perspective. It was a gradual process, but one day I realized that I’d finally made it, and I could truly begin to conceive how I might approach putting this idea to paper.

Then my biggest problem became that of all writers: loving the idea more than actually writing it out. I had all kinds of thoughts about how great this would be once I started typing…but I never started typing.

So that brings us to September 1st, where I decided there would be no more putting it off, no more loving the thought of a new book more than actually having a new book.

I’ve committed to writing every day this month to begin to finally bring this idea into paper and digital form. It’s been going very well so far, as I’ve managed to write thousands of words and several completed chapter drafts. I have the bare minimum of what most publishers ask for when accepting submissions, but I want to see how far I can get before doing that, just to have less work to do later in the process.

As this is posted, I’m almost halfway finished with this little attempt at commitment. I’m chronicling every day on my Instagram page. Follow along there if you like.

And if you haven’t done so, you could check out all the books that I’ve already written. I’d especially love it right now if you checked out the one I just released, No Perfect Time: Brief Essays on Life and Faith.

As for me, I should probably get back to writing.