A reflection from Central Alum and Midrash & a Meal Co-Organizer Lee Jost on this week’s upcoming discussion of Dr. Olson’s Laughter in a Time of Turmoil: Humor as a Spiritual Practice
Winter in central Iowa is cold, and on this fateful day I was scampering down a shoveled path to my car headed to a meeting. I put my key in the door and had just started to turn the key when an explosion of cold shattered my concentration. I instantly knew I had been hit by a snowball and before I could duck, another volley hit me square in the chest. I ducked and quickly began to assess my surroundings. I raised my head and through the windows of my car saw my Senior Pastor, Don Jonker, standing there laughing. Don and I laughed about the ambush for days. It became the stuff of legend in meetings.
That was one of my favorite moments in ministry. Don was at times stoic, at times my boss yet he could also be a friend. Laughter would continue to play an important part our ministry together. We would become co-laborers in Christ over the next few years. Laughter continues to be a part of my ministry. I find many of my interactions are punctuated with laughter. Laughter has opened doors to heartfelt conversations in the hospital. Laughter has invited conversation with people who are not receptive to the faith. Laughter has even allowed a group of misfit adults to come together as a house group and form bonds of friendship. Laughter is “powerful medicine.”
Years ago, my mother-in-law called our pastor one evening. When Phil picked up the phone Becky asked if he would preach last Sunday’s sermon to her again over the phone. Curious, Phil asked why. She flatly told him “I am having trouble going to sleep and it worked before.” To which Phil replied, “Becky, if everyone who fell asleep during one of my sermons were laid end to end, they would be much more comfortable.” (True story!) They laughed about that story even today. Laughter is a spiritual gift!
I’m from Overland Park and in my last year of the Masters of Divinity Foundations program. I have appreciated that Central is concerned with us as whole people and is purposeful in equipping us as ethical, caring, conscientious and knowledgeable pastors. The courses have been academically rigorous, but also have required us to put our hearts and actions under a microscope. Being in classes with people from such diverse denominations, theological viewpoints, cultures and life experiences has also deepened and enriched the experience. Central has been a place of learning, training and stretching, and I couldn’t be more grateful for my time here.