Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Your Laughing Place

Dear Friends,

As a young boy, my favorite movie was Disney’s SONG OF THE SOUTH. The first movie to mix live actors with animated characters, it was a warm, sentimental story of a young (white) boy living with his mother on his grandmother’s plantation after his parents separated and his father deserted the family. Devastated by the loss of his father, the boy runs away from home but meets Uncle Remus, a former slave, who befriends the young boy and they bond in a father/son relationship. Uncle Remus tells the boy stories about the adventures of Br'er Rabbit and those stories are the animated parts of the film. Popular in the early 50's, this film was considered to be so controversial it is the only Disney film never released for home distribution. 

Set in the days of reconstruction after the Civil War, and with the black characters speaking in the dialect from that time, the film was found to be offensive by the NAACP because, “..scenes like blacks singing traditional black songs were offensive as a stereotype.” And just as many whites were offended by SONG OF THE SOUTH because a white boy had been befriended by a black man who was a very warm and endearing character. The outraged whites loudly objected to the movie because they were afraid it would create goodwill in the furthering of interracial relations. Of course as a kid, I knew nothing about all this shouting going on over my favorite movie. All I knew is that I identified with the boy in the movie and wanted an “Uncle Remus” to be my friend.

All of the stories told by Uncle Remus had strong moral lessons but one in particular that stands out was Br'er Rabbit’s, “The Laughing Place.” That’s the place where you can always go to be happy and I’m thinking that maybe even us non-animated, real-life human characters also need a laughing place.

Christians are not often characterized as a happy group of people. The sad truth is that too many of us are known not for our joy and happiness but for our bitterness and negativity. Like those in the Old Testament, we figuratively rend our garments and smear ashes on our head in response to even the petty problems in our life. We anxiously elevate the most minor trauma into major drama. We wring our hands over the fallen world. On Christian web-sites, there are daily prophetic voices telling us the time is now to enter into sustained fasts for our nation and the world. 

A well-known author recently told a conference of evangelicals that we Christians are not supposed to be happy! He said that the reality of the world is grim and any joy we have means that we have not fully understood the gruesomeness of our environment and we are fooling ourselves with the shallow emotion that we call happiness. Whew! Just hearing that makes me want to find my laughing place! 

Your laughing place will never become your place of permanent residency while on this planet. Only in Heaven will there be no more tears or sorrow. And so we do grieve over the world’s atrocities and our own tribulations can also cause great sorrow. But our sorrow cannot be a place of permanent residency either. Sometimes we just need to hit the reset button and restore the joy of life. We need to go to our laughing place.

Br'er Bear complains “But I’m not laughing.” Br'er Rabbit responds, “I never said this was your laughing place. This is my laughing place.” Your place will be different than mine. My laughing place is walking along Carpinteria Beach hand in hand with my loved one. She and I scour the beach looking for heart-shaped rocks and life is never better for us than those times. Your laughing place is the place that always makes you happy. It may be going on a walk or working in your garden. It may be going out to eat at a nice restaurant with good friends. It may be playing a board game or a rousing game of bunco. It may be hunting for thrift store treasures with a friend. It may be sitting outside and engaging in a stimulating conversation or lighthearted banter with a buddy. It may be playing with your grandchild or your cat or walking your dog. 

Think for a moment about the things you do and the places you go that always bring happiness and restore the joy in your soul. The Bible says that we are to “Rejoice Always..” 1 Thess 5:16-18 and in order to do that, some of us may need to spend a little more time in our laughing places...  Amen?

Watch a great clip from SONG OF THE SOUTH here.

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