Spirituality: Laughter can reduce stress and improve health

Spirituality: Laughter can reduce stress and improve health

November 23, 2010

This month, I went to the Laity Lodge in the Texas hill country to speak to
mental health chaplains
about methods to relieve stress in their lives.

One of the talks I gave was about the numerous studies on the benefits of
laughter to reduce stress.
For instance, there are physical benefits of laughter that include boosting
the immune system,
circulation and improving cardiovascular health.

To get these benefits, it is sometimes necessary to force the laughter. I
started our retreat by asking six
chaplains to give their best Santa Claus laugh. We made a contest of it, and
a few of their laughs made
you feel you were in Santa's workshop.

So, with the pump of frivolity fully primed, I shared with them some of the
stories I've shared with you in
previous columns.

I told them how humor helped me in the midst of a difficult deployment to
the Middle East. The humor
came at my expense when I dropped my Air Force officer's cap into a toilet.

Since it carried my name and a Christian cross, I was obliged to retrieve
the soiled cap. The funniest part
came, however, when I went to requisition a new hat from our senior chaplain

As I stood explaining my predicament, the master sergeant bent over,
slapping both his knees.

"Give me one good reason," he said, "that I should get you a new hat after
you made such a dumb

Well, I explained, "There are a few bad officers who carry a hat full of
crap, but it takes a really good
officer to admit it."

With that remark, the sergeant fell prostrate, hysterically beating the
floor with his fist.

"I give up, chaplain," he declared. "You got your new hat."

When I wrote that column, I got a hand-written letter from a reader who
asked me not to share that kind
of bathroom humor. I'm sorry I offended her, but I have to say in my own
defense I'm sure Jesus would
have laughed hysterically over that one.

Finally, I reminded my chaplain audience of the emotional benefits of
laughter by telling them it
reduces stress, anger and anxiety. It improves mood, optimism and emotional
intelligence. But the
best thing about laughter is it can get you off your backside and unstuck.

The point is well-made in the humorous poem that I read to myself whenever I
need a little encouragement to stop feeling sorry for myself and move

The poem is a parody of the famous poem, "Footprints in the Sand" by Mary
Stevenson (Zangare) that describes the promise of God to "never leave

The parody is called, "Buttprints in the Sand," author

"One night I had a wondrous dream,

One set of footprints there was seen,

The footprints of my precious Lord,

But mine were not along the shore.

But then some strange prints appeared

And I asked the Lord, 'What have we here?'

Those prints are large and round and neat,

'But Lord, they are too big for feet.'

'My child,' he said in somber tones,

'For miles I carried you along.

I challenged you to walk in faith,

But you refused and made me wait.'

'You disobeyed, you would not grow,

The walk of faith, you would not know,

So I got tired, I got fed up,

And there I dropped you on your butt.'

'Because in life, there comes a time,

When one must fight, and one must climb,

When one must rise and take a stand,

Or leave their buttprints in the sand.'"
- Norris Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National
Guard chaplain. Write
norris@thechaplain.net or visit thechaplain.net. You can also follow him on
Twitter - user name is
"chaplain" - or on Facebook at facebook.com/norrisburkes


Father Alexander Schmemann Final words

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann Final words

Father Alexander Schmemann celebrated the divine liturgy for the last time
on Thanksgiving Day. This was particularly appropriate since Father
Alexander had devoted his whole life to teaching, writing and preaching
about the Eucharist; for the word Eucharist in Greek means thanksgiving. At
the conclusion of the liturgy, Father Alexander took from his pocket a short
written sermon, in the form of a prayer, which he proceeded to read. This
was a strange occurrence since Father never wrote his liturgical homilies,
but delivered them extemporaneously. These were his words, which proved to
be the last ever spoken by him from the ambo in Church.

Thank You, O Lord!

Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.

Thank You, O Lord, for having accepted this Eucharist, which we offered to
the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts
with the joy, peace and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and given us the
foretaste of Your Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having united us to one another in serving You and
Your Holy Church.

Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties,
tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in
sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestowed upon us, for they are
purifying us from selfishness and reminding us of the "one thing needed;"
Your eternal Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to
Worship You.

Thank You, O Lord, for this school, where the name of God is proclaimed.

Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially,
children who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and
holy noise.

Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is
sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.

Lord, it is good to be here! Amen.

The Orthodox Church, Vol. 20, No. 2, February 1984, p. 1:1


Seven Marks of a Spiritual Man - by A.W. Tozer

rec'd from FB friend this morning
True spirituality manifests itself in certain dominant desires. These are ever-present, deep-settled wants sufficiently powerful to motivate and control the life. For convenience let me number them, though I make no effort to decide the order of their importance.
1. First is the desire to be holy rather than happy. The yearning after happiness found so widely among Christians professing a superior degree of sanctity is sufficient proof that such sanctity is not indeed present. The truly spiritual man knows that God will give abundance of joy after we have become able to receive it without injury to our souls, but he does not demand it at once. John Wesley said of the members of one of the earliest Methodist societies that he doubted that they had been made perfect in love because they came to church to enjoy religion instead of to learn how they could become holy.
2. A man may be considered spiritual when he wants to see the honor of God advanced through his life even if it means that he himself must suffer temporary dishonor or loss. Such a man prays Hallowed be Thy name, and silently adds, at any cost to me, Lord. He lives for God’s honor by a kind of spiritual reflex. Every choice involving the glory of God is for him already made before it presents itself. He does not need to debate the matter with his own heart; there is nothing to debate. The glory of God is necessary to him; he gasps for it as a suffocating man gasps for air.
3. The spiritual man wants to carry his cross. Many Christians accept adversity or tribulation with a sigh and call it their cross, forgetting that such things come alike to saint and sinner. The cross is that extra adversity that comes to us as a result of our obedience to Christ. This cross is not forced upon us; we voluntarily take it up with full knowledge of the consequences. We choose to obey Christ and by so doing choose to carry the cross. Carrying a cross means to be attached to the Person of Christ, committed to the Lordship of Christ and obedient to the commandments of Christ. The man who is so attached, so committed, so obedient is a spiritual man.
4. Again, a Christian is spiritual when he sees everything from God’s viewpoint. The ability to weigh all things in the divine scale and place the same value upon them as God does is the mark of a Spirit-filled life. God looks at and through at the same time. His gaze does not rest on the surface but penetrates to the true meaning of things. The carnal Christian looks at an object or a situation, but because he does not see through it he is elated or cast down by what he sees. The spiritual man is able to look through things as God looks and think of them as God thinks. He insists on seeing all things as God sees them even if it humbles him and exposes his ignorance to the point of real pain.
5. Another desire of the spiritual man is to die right rather than to live wrong. A sure mark of the mature man of God is his nonchalance about living. The earth-loving, body-conscious Christian looks upon death with numb terror in his heart; but as he goes on to live in the Spirit he becomes increasingly indifferent to the number of his years here below, and at the same time increasingly careful of the kind of life he lives while he is here. He will not purchase a few extra days of life at the cost of compromise or failure. He wants most of all to be right, and he is happy to let God decide how long he shall live. He knows that he can afford to die now that he is in Christ, but he knows that he cannot afford to do wrong, and this knowledge becomes a gyroscope to stabilize his thinking and his acting.
6. The desire to see others advance at his expense is another mark of the spiritual man. He wants to see other Christians above him and is happy when they are promoted and he is overlooked. There is no envy in his heart; when his brethren are honored he is pleased because such is the will of God and that will is his earthly heaven. If God is pleased, he is pleased for that reason, and if it pleases God to exalt another above him he is content to have it so.
7. The spiritual man habitually makes eternity-judgments instead of time-judgments. By faith he rises above the tug of earth and the flow of time and learns to think and feel as one who has already left the world and gone to join the innumerable company of angels and the general assembly and Church of the First-born which are written in heaven. Such a man would rather be useful than famous and would rather serve than be served. And all this must be by the operation of the Holy Spirit within him. No man can become spiritual by himself. Only the free Spirit can make a man spiritual.
A.W. Tozer. The Incredible Christian – Chapter 34: Marks of the Spiritual Man



The Gossip

The Gossip
 by Anonymous
A woman repeated a bit of gossip about a neighbor. Within a few days the whole community knew the story. The person it concerned was deeply hurt and offended. Later the woman responsible for spreading the rumor learned that it was completely untrue. She was very sorry and went to a wise old sage to find out what she could do to repair the damage.
"Go to the marketplace," he said, "and purchase a chicken, and have it killed. Then on your way home, pluck its feathers and drop them one by one along the road."
Although surprised by this advice, the woman did what she was told.
The next day the wise man said, "Now go and collect all those feathers you dropped yesterday and bring them back to me."
The woman followed the same road, but to her dismay, the wind had blown the feathers all away. After searching for hours, she returned with only three in her hand.
"You see," said the old sage, "it's easy to drop them, but it's impossible to get them back. So it is with gossip. It doesn't take much to spread a rumor, but once you do, you can never completely undo the wrong."