In tough times

In tough times, the first thing to go is your sense of humor. To face evil, oppression and injustice every day tends to make one exhausted and cynical. The stories of climate crisis and disaster, financial malpractice and casual glorified violence wear the most faithful proclaimer of Jesus’ grace down. As I look around the community, folks appear worn out and definitely sans good humor. One of my friends smiled at me this week and declared, ‘Don’t let the turkeys get you down!’ She spoke it in a hush, so as not to draw attention from the committee meeting in progress. Her comment reminded me of a T-shirt my mother had when I was growing up that said the same thing. There is something heartening about remembering a Sandra Boynton cartoon of turkeys sitting on an elephant. It is enough to make me laugh, remembering my Mom wearing such a silly cartoon and cleaning the house on a Saturday morning and singing along to Linda Ronstadt. Humor is healing! The expression ‘laughter is the best medicine’ offers wisdom for the ages. No matter what age you are, laughter fights stress, anxiety, fear and pain. Norman Cousins, an author, professor, and journalist, believed that the biochemistry of emotion through laughter was the key to combating illness. He used laughter (as well as a megadose of Vitamin C) to fight his heart disease and manage his arthritic condition. Hunter Campbell, M.D., the American physician whose life inspired the 1998 movie “Patch Adams” opened a free hospital in a six-bedroom home, to pilot a health care facility through which thousands of patients received humor-infused care over twelve years. That experiment evolved into the Gesundheit Institute which currently offers volunteer programs like humanitarian clowning trips to hospitals, orphanages, refugee camps and prisons. I could talk about the biological impact of humor here, but better for you to google studies online, or better, google some jokes to make you laugh. Have you noticed humor in the scriptures? Job (a rather serious book) describes an ostrich in Job 39:13-18. Verse 17-18 say, ‘because God has made it forget wisdom, and given it no share in understanding, when it spreads its plumes aloft, it laughs…’ And then there is the prophet Jonah. Jonah runs from God, is rescued from drowning by spending three days in the belly of a fish. And then Jonah complaining about God’s rescue of Nineveh from destruction, throws a tantrum about a vine dying that was offering him shade. In Jonah 4:9 he complains about the vine saying, ‘I am angry enough to die.’ Seriously Jonah, over dramatic much? And did you ever read Proverbs 27:14? I wish I had this scripture when I was a young person with parents that took joy in waking me with a loud voice! “Whoever blesses a neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” If you are not a morning person…there’s a little biblical support for you! Ha! Does the Bible have humor? Sure it does. Genesis 18 tells the story of Sarah overhearing the news that she will bear a child. Verse 12-13 say, ‘So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure? The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’” Can you imagine the senior Sarah receiving word she’d bear a child? There is humor in the bible and even laughter. I believe that God has a sense of humor and planted that same joy of life and laughing into humanity. How else would we be able to laugh? ‘Don’t let the turkeys get you down!’ There are mean-spirited yellers who show up when and where you least expect them. The news is filled with sadness and despair. Even so, God offers joy and laughter as medicine for your soul. Don’t give your life away or let your sense of humor rust in the rain! Take time for laughter! Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann


What does it mean to be a Christian?

What does it mean to be a Christian? Christianity is a lifelong commitment of striving to follow the life practices and values of Jesus. It is not about wearing a cross in your jewelry or speaking a certain prayer. It is not about looking a certain way or even that you attend church all the time. It is about how you make choices for yourself and for others. Being a Christian requires learning about Jesus and the lessons he taught, and then doing likewise. All the stuff we do in church is about remembering who Jesus is and was, and offering spiritual ‘tools’ to help you be a Jesus follower. Those of us who follow Jesus and claim the traditions of the United Methodist denomination aren’t any more or less Christian than anyone of any other denomination. Denominations of the Christian faith are all Christian but each one places the emphasis in different places. United Methodist Christians focus on grace in both personal holiness and community action. The spiritual and faith tools that our church teaches are prayer, singing, fellowship, study, fasting, giving financially, giving time, witness, liturgy, love of neighbor…and so many more. As we come closer to the end of the year, we will be talking again about stewardship and asking for your commitment for 2018 through your time, talents and treasures. I know it seems like it is early, but the staff and some leadership of the church are already thinking about our ministry plans and work for next year. Please start praying about how God is calling you to step up in faith next year. Study after study shows that giving and charity makes us healthier, and happier people. Charity feeds our heart and is a spiritual tool for us to connect with Jesus. In a world that is struggling with civility and compassion, one way to make a difference is to teach our children about charity. Start when they are young and show them how to give. If you believe in donating blood, take your children or grandchildren with you. If you or someone in your family loves animals, make time to volunteer at the humane society or other animal organization. When you come to church, let a child place your offering envelope or monetary gift in the offering plate. Talking about stewardship at the church isn’t just about money, it is about living Jesus teaching to care for neighbor and do justice in the world. The United Methodist Church of Vista is striving to do more courageous and bold ministry. We see the world outside our walls and want to make it better. I believe 2018 is at our doorstep, there are many hurting and hungry people looking for hope. Let us be a Community of Christ that steps up in caring for one another and giving to those in need.
Grace and peace be with you, Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw