Indoor-fins: The Science of Laughter

fish-bowl-small-sizeThe health benefits of laughter were known centuries before recent studies discovered the connection between laughter and endorphins (indoor-fins).

Somewhere around 900 BC, King Solomon assembled his collection of wise and pithy principles for life. Proverbs 17:22 is a good example: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

An article in Forbes does more than just confirm the words of Solomon, it lists six benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser.
  • Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
  • Laughter fosters brain connectivity.
  • Laughter is central to relationships.
  • Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants.
  • Laughter protects your heart.

If you’ve been sick, down-in-the-dumps, needled by pain or coping with stress, laugh a little and let your brain release the endorphins that will kick-start your immune system, enhance your mood, soothe your pain, and tame your stress.

I hope the words of John McLeod will nudge you in the right direction and put a smile on your face:

Can I give you a handful of laughter

A smidgen of giggles to boot,

A cupful of tease and a comical sneeze

Followed by a hilarious hoot.

Attitude’s Cradle of Forgiveness

ForgivenessWinston Churchill was right when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  For better or worse, your attitude has life-changing potential.

Some people have never looked at life through rose-colored glasses; instead, they seem to be prone to a negative bias. On the other hand, there are some who find the silver-lining in every cloud.  The difference between the two is Churchill’s little thing.

This is even true with the way people read the Bible.  Some people are more apt to see a negative theme when a verse is every bit as ripe with a positive principle.

A case in point is the New Testament principle of sowing and reaping. Stated in a few words it says that you will reap what you sow. Far too many people try to put just a negative emphasis on this passage when it is positively pregnant with potential.

Newton’s cradle is a good demonstration of the principle of sowing and reaping.  Newton posited that “action and reaction are equal and opposite.”  When one ball is released (action), a ball from the opposite side swings out in equal distance (reaction).

Jesus used this principle in a discussion of forgiveness:  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

How much different would your world be if you retrained your attitude to focus instead of the negative?

I encourage you to begin this week by sowing the positive seeds of kindness and giving the gift of forgiveness to those who have wounded you.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

What is it that lies within you?  It’s your attitude and the potential to love others as Christ loves you.  I encourage you to give some thought to Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good (The Message).

Beat-up and Worn-down?

stressedAre there times in your life when you can’t seem to shake the petty frustrations of the day, and you plop in your chair feeling beat-up, worn-down, and thoroughly annoyed?

I never want these moments to become marathons, so I try to get a grip on my gripes by redirecting my attention. I do this by thinking less about my perceived misery and more on the character and promises of God.

A passage of Scripture that picks me up when I’m feeling down is Psalm 136. It’s a reflection on God’s mercy or the “steadfast love of God.”

The first three verses of this Psalm begin will a call to give thanks to God and each of its twenty-six verses reminds us that God’s mercy endures forever.

This Psalm is a diary of some of the defining moments in history when God intervened in an awesome display of His power:

  • The power of God is seen in His creative acts (136:5-9).
  • The power of God is seen in His faithful deliverance of His people (136:10-15).

The last four verses of this Psalm can strengthen your resolve when you realize that you are never beyond the reach of God, and He will remember you (136:23), rescue you (136:24), and He will restore you through His steadfast love endures forever (136:26).

Gratitude

gratitude-noteOn March 8, 1713, Matthew Henry experienced an unfortunate incident that offered proof that he was a preacher who could not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

Henry had preached a sermon in a London church that focused on the joyful sound, and based on the words of Psalm 89:16: They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness.

Shortly after he left the church, Henry was robbed by a couple of thieves. As Henry reflected on this incident in a prayer, he said:

Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.

Henry’s prayer is an expression of gratitude.  He chose to focus less on what he had lost and the danger he had faced and more on what he still had, what he had never been, and that he remained safe and secure in Christ.

Instead of allowing bitterness to take root in his life, Henry chose to cultivate a spirit of forgiveness and nurture an attitude of gratitude. Can the same be said of you?  Which of these three is indicative of your attitude today–bitterness, forgiveness, or gratitude?

To help you stay focused on this discussion I’ll end with the words of Zig Ziglar:  Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

Stop and Refocus

refocusIf you started today worrying about what might go wrong, I encourage you to stop and refocus your mind on these five words:.

Slow: Take a deep breath and slow down. When you walk in step with God, you will learn that His love is not measured by a teaspoon—it’s measured by the bucket loads.

Time: Take a minute or two to consider God’s goodness.

  • Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Oppose: Don’t yield to catastrophic thoughts that are characterized by words like must, never, and always. These three words are usually false. Discipline your mind so you think about the hope and joy you can have in Jesus.

  • Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Promise: Claim the promises the are rightly yours. You are not some pauper, you are a child of the King.

  • The key that gives you access to God is not your strength—it’s God’s grace.

I’ll close with some words that can open the door of your mind to some life-changing  thoughts:

Deuteronomy 31:6:   Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

iCan

canWe live in a fast-paced age marked by technological advances that have changed the way we live. Thanks to Samsung, people think of the Galaxy more in terms of a cell phone than they do the planets and stars.

As a child, I can remember being taught that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Today, however, many people think they can’t live without an apple, as in iPad, iPod, and iPhone.

While it’s true, that in some cases, technology has made life much easier, it has also made it more complex and less simple. With this in mind, let me share the simple truth of my iCan approach to life.

The basis of my iCan methodology is found in Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I believe I can:

  • Find the strength I need in times of trouble—Psalm 37:39: the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble.
  • Find the confidence I need to face the challenges of life—2 Timothy:1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
  • Find the light to lead me out of the darkness—Psalm 27:1: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
  • Find the strength to persevere—James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
  • Find the grace I need for today—2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness

I encourage you to take an iCan approach to your life, and remember that, God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Mixed-up and Maxed-out

frazPeople come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them are disillusioned and distracted; others are inquisitive and interesting.  G.K. Chesterton was a wordsmith with a keen wit, and he said: There is no such thing as an uninteresting subject. The only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.

Some people are interested in everything life has to offer, but their interest span is about the length of a common housefly. Because they’re easily distracted by the saccharine promises of a Splenda world, they never find the time to consider the splendor of the Lord.

As a king, David could have asked for anything, but as a child he asked his Father for one: I have asked the Lord for one thing— this is what I desire! I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, so I can gaze at the splendor of the Lord and contemplate in his temple. ~Psalm 27:4

When your focus is mixed-up and your emotions are maxed-out, pause to consider the splendor of the Lord.  When you emulate David, you cultivate your thoughts, prune the weeds of your mind, and fine-tune the melody of your heart.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.  We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. ~Galatians 5:22-26

A Life of Kindness and Compassion

sharing-ice-cream-kids_fSome people are incredibly kind and compassionate in the way they consistently treat others; however, due to the surface similarity of the two, the depth of difference between kindness and compassion can be overlooked.

While kindness is a spirit of benevolence that reflects our concern for others and the friendly and generous ways we treat people, compassion, is the spirit of mercy that motivated the Good Samaritan. He was moved to lay aside hatred and to cross social barriers to help the badly-beaten man who had been left for dead.

You can be kind without being compassionate, but, I don’t think you can be seen as compassionate without also being kind.  In Ephesians, Paul instructs the believer to practice both: You must put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk—indeed all malice.  Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you (4:31-32).

Acts of kindness and compassion, should be more than a theoretical discussion over a cup of coffee; these fruits of the Spirit are worthy of more than just lip service.

How can you begin to live a life of kindness and compassion?  I suggest you place a bookmark at Philippians 2:3-4, and use it as a reference point.  Read it frequently and follow its principles faithfully.  To get started ask yourself some questions from this verse:

  • What is it that motivates me?
  • Am I known more for selfish ambition or humility?
  • If I treated myself the way I treat others, would I be pleased with my actions?
  • Am I too self-consumed to show concern for the plight of others?

I share the words that follow, as a prayer for today and as a conclusion to this discussion:

Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds,

To reach out to others and meet their needs;

Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin,

With mercy and love that flows from within. ~Fitzhugh

Limiter or Lifter?

friendsWhat kind of a friend are you? Do you limit the growth and achievement of your friends or do lift them up when they are down and nudge them forward when they need a little encouragement? Do you stir the pot of life with positive strokes?

In Hebrews 10, we are admonished to stir one another up to love and to good works and to encourage those who are struggling with the daily grind of life.

This may have been what Albert Schweitzer had in mind when he said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

Who is the friend that has lifted you up and been a source of encouragement to you? When was the last time you expressed your appreciation to them? Is today the day you can lift them up and help rekindle their inner spirit?

 

 

 

Yogi not Yoga

yogiMy love for the game of baseball started at an early age.  It’s a game I played with my dad, my brothers, and my friends.  Summer nights were spent at the ball diamonds where I was either playing or shouting words of encouragement to my buddies who were.

One of baseball’s most loved players is Yogi Berra.  During his 19 years as a catcher for the Yankees, he played in 14 World Series.

While Yogi is remembered for the way he played the game, he might be better known for his Yogisms:

  • This is like déjà vu all over again.
  • A nickle ain’t worth a dime anymore.
  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.
  • You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.

Yogi also said, I never said most of the things I said.  Like Yogi, some people will remember us more for what we said than for what we accomplished in life.

Words are dynamic, and they have the power to hinder and to humiliate, and they are also endued with a robustness to help and to heal.

Solomon reminds us that, Pleasant words are like a honeycomb: they drip sweet food for life and bring health to the body (Proverbs 16:24).

Everyone needs to hear a pleasant word at some time, and there will be someone, somewhere, who will begin today as an indigent pessimist due to the overwhelming trial they are facing.  When you meet them, will you simply smile, turn your back and walk away or will you engage them with words of encouragement?

mogher tMother Teresa has said: Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

If words are an echo, may our’s resonate with a melody that is loving, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and life-giving