Why so Serious? 3 Ways to Invest Laughter in Your Marriage

My wife I and love to laugh (even as I type that, I almost see it as an understatement). It’s one of our two essential elements of a healthy marriage.

  1. Jesus. Gives us a foundation and structure to build with.
  2. Laughter. Gives us a healthy connection and a filter to process life.

Anne and I laugh with each other. And if we’re being really honest, we often laugh at each other. I’m not talking about mocking or ridiculing. But we laugh at the random “moments” that we find stinking hilarious.

For example, my clumsiness. Of all of the things I trip over or run into, nobody hits their elbow more than me on doorways and doorknobs. When that happens it’s followed by Anne saying, “Why can’t you just walk through a door like a normal person?” Don’t let her fool you, Anne has her “moments” like we all do.

Our investment in this part of our marriage began back in 1995 when we started dating. I really can’t remember every date over the span of 3 years, but I do remember us laughing together. This simple aspect of our marriage is, perhaps, one of the most overlooked and/or underestimated facet of marriage.

I truly believe that couples that stop laughing with each other (or having fun together) lose an essential component that paves the way for health in other areas of their marriage.  When I meet with couples, I often ask about how much “fun” they have. It’s not that I’m ignoring the troubles they’re having. I’m not immune to the frustration they’ve experienced. But this fundamental element, if ignored, makes traversing through the issues at hand 10-times more difficult.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, when the broken bleeding man was found by the Samaritan, he helped his wounds by “pouring on oil and wine.” Wine was necessary as it was the antiseptic. But don’t overlook the oil. It was the soothing agent to help with the pain. It proceeded the wine and paved the way for the antiseptic to be received.

If I can get a couple to enjoy each other more, two things happen, First, they are more apt to work together. You tend to want to work with people you like. Second, a lightened heart has more room for hope. And the more hope you contain, the more drive you have.

Mental health writer and activist Therese Borchard writes about how humor is a powerful healing agent. Some of health benefits packed in laughter include:

  • Decreases pain.
  • Boosts immunity.
  • Reduces stress.
  • Helps the heart.
  • Burns calories.

I’ve had a few “not-so-laughy” people combat me on this issue. As a pastor, I think laughter is not just fundamental to a healthy marriage but essential to a healthy church. I’ve been told “life is serious” and “the gospel is not a joking matter.” Well, I don’t joke “about” the gospel and I am serious about life. How do you know I’m serious about life? I love my wife and my congregation enough to make sure that we embrace the fullness of Christ and that includes deeper depths of joy.

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11

It’s only important if you see it as important.
You’ve got to want this!! Fun rarely happens by accident and, if it isn’t on your radar, it will rarely make your calendar.  Just like changing your dieting habits, you can’t expect a turnaround in one week if you’ve been living a certain way for 20 years. Get a good perspective that as much as bad habits are hard to break, developing good habits can be harder still.

Turn the frown upside down. 
As much as I dislike the cliché, there’s a deeper truth to it. Nobody can make you smile. Nobody can make you have fun. There must be a motive in your heart to want to see the “smile” in your marriage turned right-side up. A heart intended to experience joy has a greater capacity to…

  • See joyful opportunities.
  • Be more positive.
  • Overlook offenses.
  • Lighten atmospheres.

Laughter in cold blood. 
I recognize that the metaphor sounds intense, but there’s a greater truth to be understood. The term, “in cold blood” doesn’t mean “in the heat of passion,” but “in a calculated, deliberate manner.” I guess you could have fun by accident, but what if you and your spouse were approached laughter and fun in a calculated, deliberate way?

  • Get consistent date nights.
  • If you find something funny, send it/tell it to your spouse.
  • Find what brings a smile to your spouse and do “that.”
    • Note: I find, when I bring a smile to my spouse, it brings a smile to my face and heart.
  • Find new things for the both of you to experience some fun.

Laughter is an investment in your marital health. It is the soothing oil that can help pave the way for deeper issues to be exposed and dealt with. The more you pour in and the more time you give it, will pay off tremendous health dividends in your marriage. I know you’ve got “stuff” your marriage needs to work on. But I submit to you: Regain the ability to laugh.  Learn (or relearn) how to “like” each other again by doing something fun. And as your heart get’s “lighter,” pride, anger, and fear grows weaker. And the more I learn to facilitate joy, the more I understand the words of Nehemiah,

“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

A Prayerful Marriage: 6 Things that are Okay to Pray Over Your Marriage

I’ll give props to Cori, my neighbor down the street. On my weekly Wednesday prayer walk, I ask my Facebook friends to post their needs so I can specifically pray over them. Her request froze me in my tracks. It was so simple, and yet, specific. Cori’s child was heading off with other 5th graders to a weekend camp. She asked for prayers for the 5th graders to have “insane amounts of fun.”

I literally stopped my walk for a moment and thought to myself, “why don’t we pray for that more often for our marriages?” The next thought, “what other prayers do we disregard?”

I had heard a quote sometime ago (and for the life of me, I cannot remember who said it):

Prayer is the easiest thing we never do.

I think a lot of that mindset seems to have to do with the understanding of the necessity of a prayer life. If you understand how important communication is to your marriage, you can begin to grasp the need for a consistent prayer life. Prayer is simple and powerful. It is transformative both for you and your marriage. Yet, in my experiences working with marriages, I find couples don’t know how to pray. Most marriage prayers center around someone wanting God to change what they don’t like in their mate. Very few spouses pray about other things.

So today, I thought I’d give you a simplistic list of things that is okay to pray for in your marriage:

1 – “Help us to have insane amounts of fun.”
Cori hit the nail on the head. We need to see more fun in our marriage. Fun is more spiritual than you realize. God isn’t against pleasure; He is absolutely for it (the Garden of Eden is proof enough about that). When I talk about fun, I’m talking about striving to find those leisurely thing that feed the fun in marriage.  I’ve known couples to rotate on who choses the date nights so the “fun” doesn’t always favor one person over the other. I’ve known others to consistently plan evenings around those things that both enjoy doing.

2 – “Give me an overwhelming sense of gratitude.”
When we start praying to have a more grateful heart, the Lord will open up our eyes to help us to see the blessings around us. It seems everything about our culture wants to seed dissatisfaction with what we have so that we can strive for something new. And I’m afraid that puts a false filter of disappointment over our lives. Step back and begin to see, not what your spouse lacks, but what he/she is gifted in. When you do, speak up and say something about it. Remember, silent gratitude is not gratitude at all.

3 – “Help us to laugh more.”
This is related to #1 but a bit different. Why? most people relegate “fun” to a moment. I believe “laughing” is a lifestyle. Anne and I don’t have much in common.

We love Jesus.
We are stubborn.
And we love to laugh.

Having that “merry heart” that Proverbs talks about becomes the catalyst for your attitude. It helps you to see things in perspective. You understand what is worth fighting about and you see what is worth laughing with your spouse about. Learn how to not take some things so serious and learn to laugh with (not at) your spouse.

4 – “Bless our marriage with a deep and lasting sex life.”
Of all of the needs that a human has, there is only one need that your spouse has been granted permission to be the ONLY one to meet. Sex was God’s idea. Sexual desire is God-given. Your sex organs were given to you, by God, to receive pleasure and give pleasure to your spouse. So suffice to say: If God gifted our marriage with sexuality, why don’t we make it a priority to pray for it? If both are praying for it, perhaps the Lord will bless our marriage with more desire, greater creativity, and a deeper sense of pleasure. Don’t let the world make what God has given into something dirty. Take what God has given and ask that it be blessed.

5 – “Help me to love when I don’t feel it.”
I don’t always act lovable; neither does Anne. But that’s where we take things and make them so overly emotional that the presence of feelings dictates our actions. Love is a state of our soul. And we act upon love because we know what love does (1 Corinthians 13). Actions don’t follow feelings. If that was the case, nothing would get done. Feelings follow actions. Be the spouse that prays for the humility to act in love without having to “feel” love.

6 – “Keep me humble.”

I’ve heard some dumb things about prayer. One of them being, “don’t pray for patience because God will give you something to be patient with.” This may seem harsh, but I find it stupid to think, first, that we think God doesn’t know we need it, and second, that asking Him for help is a bad thing.  I think we should request something deeper than patience. Humility is the place where we can see the complete Fruit of the Spirit grow in and through us. Humility is what lowers our pride and places within us a teachable/growing heart. Humility gives us the type of voice that needs to be heard while granting us ears to listen.

Do you have other “simple” prayers to add? Are these prayers anywhere on your radar? I hope so. Because as your prayers grow, so does your marriage. Make your next step today to set a daily reminder to pray blessings upon your spouse. Write some of these prayers down and get a few of your own. Follow that up with asking the Holy Spirit to work some change in you. As you pray, I believe God responds to your faith and He’ll do the work that you and I can never do on our own.

I love you all. I’m praying for you at this moment. Now go pray for your spouse.

Oh yeah…thanks Cori for the inspiration.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Our Kfirst Values: We keep it fun

I started a series a few weeks back about the values of our church community. Here at Kfirst, our mission is our passion:  We make it simple for people to find and follow Jesus. And our values guide us towards that goal.

Check out last weeks by clicking on the value statement:

Week 1 – Everyone is Significant.

Week 2 – We are Contributors

Week 3 – God Works in Community.

This week…We keep it fun.

We keep it fun

Many people struggle with the idea of “church” and “fun” being in the same sentence. If that’s you, it’s most likely because the word “fun” is defined as: a carefree activity with no purpose or meaning. It’s an activity strictly meant to amuse. (the scene from Gladiator comes to mind, “Are you no not entertained?”) 

Honestly, if that is your definition, then I would agree with you; Church shouldn’t be fun. The idea of being something just to amuse is so spectator and consumer driven instead of something participatory and engaging.

But…when I look up the word “fun,” the first word to come up is the word “enjoyable.” With that definition in mind, that I would wholeheartedly say, Church should abso-stinkin-lutely be fun. It doesn’t mean we discount and/or disregard God and his greatness. We don’t treat the presence of God flippantly.  But when encountering Jesus for the first time, I experienced joy like I’ve never known. As I worship, there is a passion that I find in Him. When I engage with the Holy Spirit, there is a joy that floods my soul. It gives me a glimpse of what Jesus was talking about in John 15 when he said, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

I can legitimately say, church should be fun.  Fun isn’t about something set up to be “attraction” like a circus (Enter “Field of Dreams” line, “if you build it, they will come”). But we should do our best to cultivate an atmosphere in the facility AND an attitude in our hearts that says, “I’m ready to enjoy the presence of God.” We should have full joy being in the presence of God together with our church community. We should walk in full joy when we interact and engage in our communities.  Even when we go through the hardest of times, Jesus told us we can be of “good cheer” because he is able to overcome. Think about this, in the Old Testament, when David was broken internally because of the disaster in his life, what did he pray for in Psalms 51? He wanted the JOY of his salvation back.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have Jesus. And because of that fact…

The Church should be the most joyful people on the planet.

Too many people think church is anything but fun. We’re into changing that. We want Kfirst to be a place where you can encounter Jesus and receive life change that only He can bring. We desire to see you enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit, that the passion you carry will show the world around you the greatness and goodness of our Savior.

Those who give everything to follow Christ, find everything. And laughter and joy (fun/enjoyment) are part of the ways that God blesses His people.

I love what Reggie Joyner says,

You can measure the temperature of a church by how much its people laugh.

We keep it fun.  But, to us, fun isn’t about entertainment for spectators. It’s about enjoying the presence of God as we participate together in worshiping Jesus and serving the world around us.

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations,  “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:2-3)

 

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages part 6: Lack of Laughter

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A month ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last four weeks check out our first FIVE Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

Habit #4: Criticism Floods

Habit #5: Inconsistent Sex

Here we go…#6 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #6: Lack of Laughter

laugh·ter/laftər
noun: the action or sound of laughing
Synonyms: chuckling, chortling, guffawing, cackling, sniggering

I feel I can’t blog on this topic enough.  There are too many people who take themselves WAY TOO seriously.  A great quote from Agnes Repplier says,

We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh.

Such truth about a sorely forgotten VITAL aspect of marriage.  We do not realize how necessary laughter is in marriage. Anne and I always talk (and blog) about our two essential ingredients to marriage: Jesus and laughter.

Psalm 126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

I remember it was almost four years ago, I was in the salon waiting for Anne to finish getting her hair cut.  We were playful arguing back and forth about something silly.  We were not just laughing, we were egging on each other causing a bit of a scene which drew in the rest of the people in the salon.  We found out later (from Lisa…Anne’s stylist) that after we left, the people in the salon (workers and customers) were talking about us.  They assumed we had just gotten married because we were playful as well as willing to laugh so much together.  Lisa blew them away when she told them married we had been married 10+ years.  Why were they shocked at that? Because, for some reason, couples with any vintage, are NOT supposed to laugh that much.

Why do we see laughter as an option in marriage? Why do we not strive for more of it?  We wait for it to happen like a desperate person holding their lotto ticket listening to the numbers being read on the TV.  We yearn to laugh with our spouse again.  We hope it’ll happen. Maybe today we’ll hit the jackpot and enjoy a time of fun together.

Laughter isn’t something that happens randomly like a lightning strike.  Laughter is fostered and cultivated. It has to be seen as an essential piece of the marriage puzzle. Take it from professionals.  Comedian Bob Hope said laughter is an “instant vacation.” Jay Leno says, “You can’t stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh.” And Bill Cosby says, “If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it.” These men made a living on the understanding that laughing brings an astronomic affect to people.  Crowds would gather around them to get “medicated” with humor (Prov. 17:22).

When it comes to laughter, it produces a number of benefits: 

  • Reduces stress and tension.
  • Stimulates your immune system.
  • An increase of natural painkillers in your blood.
  • Reduces blood pressure.
  • Raises your spirits.
  • Laughter relieves tension and brings closeness.
  • Having a sense of humor refreshes your relationship.

As you can see, laughter is not to be taken lightly. Laughter is to be indulged in.  It’s the dessert of life that should be enjoyed every day…as much as possible!!! You need this.  Your spouse needs this. I want to help you increase the laughter and in your marriage.  I challenge you to…

  • Look for the “funny” in your day. Be aware of the humorous moments around you.
  • Laugh when you don’t feel like laughing.
  • Make it a habit to share funny moments with your spouse. Don’t wait to tell them later.  Bring them into the moment.
  • Become of student of your spouse. Study what makes them laugh.
  • Reflect on funny times in your past together.

When it comes to laughing, psychologists and scientists agree. Their studies reveal that individuals who have a strong sense of humor are less likely to experience burnout and depression and they are more likely to enjoy life in general — including their marriage. Do you want a marriage that is set up for success? Do you want to bring health and vitality to your marriage? Do you want a marriage that is HIGHLY EFFECTIVE?

Create a culture of laughter.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages: Part 3 No Fun

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Two weeks ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last two weeks check out our first TWO Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Here we go…#3 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

fun/fən/
nounenjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.
synonyms: enjoyment, entertainment, amusement, pleasure
adjectiveamusing, entertaining, or enjoyable.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing

For a while, whenever I read Ecclesiastes 3, my eyes went to the negative parts of the scripture.  (Maybe that reveals something about my psyche…that would explain a lot). Focus get’s drawn toward words like die, kill, break, weep, and mourn.  We can get so caught up in theses inevitable unfortunates.  Marriage is no different.  We too can get drawn into “inevitable unfortunates” and dwell on them as if to forfeit the other side of the coin. It’s time to get out of our marital pessimism.  It’s time to return to what we relished in our dating/courting.
Fun…times of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.  It’s more than a noun (something to do). It should describe who you are (adjective).
Defective marriages struggle with a deficiency of fun.  We treat our marriage like a business transaction instead of a growing relationship that THRIVES on fun. Couples forget that fun isn’t optional for a growing marriage. It’s a vital time filled with, according to our writer a time of building up, laughing, dancing, and embracing (which is my favorite one).
A couple of years ago, we had an odd winter here in Michigan.  We hit temperatures in the 70’s to the 80’s.  In the Michiganders minds, this was the best winter.  It’s as if we skipped the season of winter.  The problem: it messed with our agriculture and was a tremendous burden for our farmers.  Our harvest wasn’t the same which affected our economy.  Skipping a season may feel okay in the moment, but it’s detrimental on so many deeper levels.
It may not seem like a huge deal, but I want you to know something:
“FUN” is a marital season that is not optional. Skipping the season of fun in your marriage is detrimental on so many deep levels.
Come together with your spouse and plan out some fun.  I’m not talking about what YOU think is fun.  Look into your spouses heart and position them for a great time.  What do you two like to do together?  What can you both do that will facilitate laughter, emotional intimacy, and stress-release?  What can you two try that may be new? Have you talked with other couples to see what they do (get some ideas from others)?
Know this: marriage wasn’t designed to be in a constant season of stale monotony.  It’s to reflect who God is.  God is life.  God is celebration.  God is a God of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. God is fun.
If our marriage is to reciprocate who He is, then our marriage, therefore, needs to have “fun.” Don’t just let it naturally happen. Be purposeful with your fun.  Be strategic in your busyness.  Be a fun spouse. I leave you with a great scripture out of the Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 12:7 (MSG) Celebrate everything that you and your families have accomplished under the blessing of God, your God.
Get off your butt and go have a time of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure with your husband/wive…
Go have fun!
Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Marriage Devo: “Bring marriage back to life” #marriage

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June is our journey through some scripture selections on the topic of Marriage.  I want to invite you to join me. It’s as simple as looking at the blog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is Proverbs 17:22:

Proverbs 17:22

22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

The Myth of Compatibility

Dave and Anne diagonal

Men and women are different.  (Now that I’ve completely blown you away with that ground-breaking truth, I’ll continue.)

What I’ve discovered, and continue to discover in my own marriage, is how different we continue to be.  It seemed like during the whole courtship/dating process, we were so much more “compatible”.  The word “compatible” means, “Able to exist or occur together without conflict.” That describes our relationship before marriage.  We fooled each other. I was convinced she liked Stryper, my hairstyle, my teal suit, and sports.  She was convinced I liked shopping at the mall and Cindy Morgan music.

For two years of dating almost a year of engagement, life with Anne was “compatible.” We had never fought or had a disagreement in almost…until the dreaded day of days.  It was the day we registered for our wedding shower.  Target gives you a scanner to walk around and scan/pick the items you want on your registry. I should have seen it coming.  But how could I?  We were “compatible.” The event blew up in the kitchen aisle.  I wanted a specific toaster. I didn’t get the memo that I was with her for support and not as the advisory committee. She had in her mind what she wanted HER kitchen and how she wanted HER kitchen to look. I was hacked. I grabbed the scanner gun and made my stance in the snack aisle.  I scanned  a bag pretzels and a bottle of Coke. Then all hades broke loose.

(This is the reason I go to prayer every time I see a young couple walking around Target with their scanner.)

Compatibility is a myth that is causing so many people to want to call quits on their marriage.  It has suckered so many people into affairs because their new-found love is more compatible than their current spouse.  It’s not that you work better with that new person, it’s that you exist together without conflict.  The more you believe it the more you get addicted to the “feeling” of compatibility. So, what about all those happy couples that meet online? Aren’t they proof that “compatibility tests’ work? They might be proof that compatibility attracts, but that’s all. Unfortunately, compatibility is a fantasy that blinds us with rose-colored glasses.  If you don’t understand it, it can set you up for disaster.  A clip from Jerry Maguire came to mind.

We think our spouse will complete us. Compatibility is that ideal that we run after to make it happen.  In our minds, it means I have some strengths and she has some strengths and we work them together to make each other complete.  But there in lies the problem.  Genesis says, “the two become one.” The “I” and “her/him” mentality still sees the two of you as two individuals working together.  Marriage then becomes a 50/50 proposition; I give and my spouse gives and we’re all good. When that mentality is fostered, it’s easy to spot compatibility problems because you’re still thinking like TWO.  You need to be thinking like ONE.  “We have these strengths in our marriage.”  It comes a 100/100 proposition were you both are bringing everything that you are and all that you will be. Together, the two operate and think as one.

Here’s a few things I’d like to say on the subject of “compatibility”:

First, find your “completion” in Christ Jesus. You cannot find your completion in your spouse. Jesus is the only hope for two sinners to make it in marriage. Marriage is the coming together, through covenant, of two broken individuals. With Christ, you make a “cord that is not easily broken.”

Second, learn HEALTHY conflict resolution (notice I used the word “healthy”).  Don’t count on compatibility to get you through 60+ years of marriage. You’re going to disagree on stuff.  You’re human.  Your spouse is human.  At some point, the honeymoon glasses come off and you see things in ways you didn’t see  them while you were dating. Healthy conflict is good within a marriage.

I do want to say: There are some hills that are not worth dying on. Some people like to fight and live in the mindset of criticism. I don’t run from conflict. But I don’t go looking for it either.  I have learned over the past 15 years of marriage and 16 years of ministry, that some “hills” are not worth the battle.  Some battles will result in nothing but casualties with no ground won and no health attained. When healthy conflict approached in a balanced, productive way, the marriage is built up.  When it’s done selfishly, there isn’t one loser.  There are two people who lose.

Third, learn to laugh. Life is too serious not to learn to laugh at situations.  One time, I walked out of the shower and my wife started laughing. What happened was she had thought of something funny a split second before I opened up the shower curtain. So I will say, be careful WHEN you laugh (I took that moment pretty hard).  Couples that laugh together stay together.  Why don’t you laugh anymore?  Find out how to bring the laughter back and go after it.

Fourth, you have more control over your marriage than you think. A great marriage isn’t something that just happens, like the weather. It is something you create, day by day. Revelation 2:5 doesn’t deal with marriage but gives great advise.  It says, “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Again, the context is a very strong challenge to a church to get back to the basics of their first love. But there’s some truth we can cling to in our marriages. Consider how far you’ve gotten from the way you used to pursue your spouse.  Repent and do the things you did when you first started seeing them.

That’s all I have for this week.

Thanks for letting me ramble…