Sunday, June 28, 2009

Zipped: Containing Complaining

Here is my sermon from this morning. Listen here.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. -Philippians 2:14-15

Your words reveal the condition of your heart.

You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” -Matthew 12:34-37

From a negative heart overflows negative words which generally become negative actions resulting in a miserable life.

It is better to live alone in the desert than with a crabby, complaining wife.
-Proverbs 21:19

If you are constantly complaining, ask yourself, “What is in my heart?”

Same Event, Different Perspectives

The Same Old Manna: Numbers 11:1-6

Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. Then the Lord’s anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the Lord, the fire stopped. After that, the area was known as Taberah (which means “the place of burning”), because fire from the Lord had burned among them there. Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”

The Expensive Perfume: Matthew 26:8-10

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me?

The Overwhelmed Host: Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?

Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The Worshiping Prisoners: Acts 16:25-34

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

Positive Promises

1. I will not be influenced by negative people.

Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” -1 Corinthians 15:33

2. I will speak words of life.

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. -Proverbs 18:21

3. I will be thankful for what I have.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:18
Questions for individual and small group reflection
  1. What bothers you most when other people complain?
  2. Why it is so easy to complain?
  3. What do your words reveal about your heart?
  4. What influences can negative people have on us?
  5. What are some things that you are thankful for?
  6. What positive promise do you need to make and keep?

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Here is my column for tomorrow:

My grandfather taught me many things about life. One of them was gardening. He loved working in the dirt. You wouldn’t find too many hostas, lilies, and roses in his garden. This Norwegian immigrant was as practical and frugal as they came. His motto was something like: “If you can’t eat it; it doesn’t count.”

His garden was nothing short of amazing. He would sit down each winter and plan the garden. His Burpee Garden Catalog was full of markings, wrinkles, and torn pages. Tomatoes and pepper plants would get a head start in his makeshift greenhouse. He would be busy pruning the apple and pear trees. For the established plants, he always fed the soil. He carefully prepared the soil for the seeds and plants that would be planted. Weeds didn’t stand a chance under his watchful eye.

The first signs of edibility were usually in the asparagus patch. The little green tips would poke through the ground. We picked them, steamed them for a 5 or 6 minutes, sprinkled a little salt and butter, and enjoyed the fresh taste. Radishes and green onions were next. Strawberries and raspberries were the first fruits. They didn’t usually make it back into the house. As a little boy, my favorite was the potatoes. He let me take the shovel to the rich, black Iowa dirt. He pulled up the plant and I dug out the potatoes. Sometimes there would be four of five. Sometimes there would be more. We took the potatoes and boiled them with cabbage and sausage. He always had more corn, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers than he know what to do with. Then came the apples. We made apple sauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling. I still have their apple corer / peeler / slicer ordered from the L.L. Bean catalog dozens of years ago.

Jesus talked a lot about gardening, farming, vineyards, and such. He did this because many of the people could relate to these stories. Maybe if Jesus were alive today he would talk about football and scrapbooking. But I think he told these stories for another reason: they are such a wonderful metaphor for life.

The man prepares the soil, plants the seed, pulls the weeds, waters when necessary, and harvests the crop. God gives us life, He gives of power for daily living, and He demonstrates for us how to give, live, serve, forgive, and love.

Jesus tells us that our lives are like a branch and he is the vine. Apart from Him we can do nothing. (See John 15) Jesus says that we are like a seed planted in the ground. When we are planted in fertile soil of God’s Word, we will flourish and produce a great harvest in life. (Matthew 13) My challenge for you is this: connect to God through his Word. Read a chapter a day. Spend time with Him. And, expect great things to happen!

In Christ,


Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I ran early this morning to escape the heat. It didn't work. Laura and I took off at 5:45. By 5:50 my gray t-shirt was soaked. The dew point was 77 degrees which is about as high as it gets. The air was super-saturated with water. It was getting hot and the sun was already beating down. The trail around the lake was crowded. All of us runners form some kind of strange solidarity on days like this. We all kind of gave each other a laughing glance at the absurdity of the conditions.

Meanwhile, a pastor and a dentist, made their trek around the lake. We talked about marathons and life. We stopped for water at each of the 3 fountains along the 7.5 mile journey.

After the run I was thinking that I am thankful that most days aren't like this. I was also grateful to be able to beat the elements and not let the elements beat me. Finally, even though it was a tough run, it was a great way to start the day!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Favorite Quotes

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. -John Wesley

To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself. -Soren Kierkegaard

The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare. -Juma Ikangaa

The greatest advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science and literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government. -Milton Friedman

Humor is not the opposite of seriousness; humor is the opposite of despair. -Conrad HyersYou sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it's really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas. -Stanley Kubrick

The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals. -Hal Higdon

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

You can listen to this morning's sermon here.
Thanks to Benjamin and David. One of my biggest joys is being your dad!

Benjamin, Craig, and David
Father's Day, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Here is tomorrow's column:

Earlier this week I was talking with a young family who started coming to The Water’s Edge about a year ago. They shared with me about all the changes in their life. They feel more closely connected to each other. They have met new friends. They are being more intentional in their relationship with God. They feel better equipped as parents. They reported there life isn’t perfect yet, but it is much different and much better.

One of the questions I asked them was how they started coming. They replied that a friend invited them. They politely declined. They said they thought church was for good people and they weren’t quite there yet. A few months later another friend invited them. After a little resistance on her part and a lot a resistance on his part, they decided to come.

I’ll stop the conversation there. Think about that. Lives have been changed because of two invitations. One invitation was declined, but it planted an important seed. The second invitation was accepted. The family came and report one year later that they are so grateful for the invitations.

As I look back on my life it was an invitation from an ordinary person that started my journey with Jesus. She simply invited me to a small group she was in with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I experienced community and grace. She graduated from college and I lost track of her. That was seventeen or eighteen years ago. Sometimes I wonder if she knows what I am doing today. Of all the people I am thankful for in life, she is near the top of the list.

These are illustrations of how ordinary people doing a simple task can make a huge difference through an extraordinary God. A simple invitation can make a world of difference.

Jesus was always walking around making invitations. “Come and listen.” “Come and follow me.” “Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy leaden and I will give you rest.” “Go and make disciples.”

I want to encourage you and challenge you. Think about who you can invite to worship. Or maybe think about somebody you can invite to your small group. Sometimes you will get a big “no.” Know that you are planting a seed in their life. Sometimes you will get a “yes”. Do your best to bring them or meet them at worship. Introduce them to a few other people. I would love to meet your guest as well. I’m going to do my best to invite a few people by the end of the summer. I hope that you will join me.

I hope for all of us that we can partner with God and with each others in doing God’s work in the world. I also pray that we, as pretty ordinary people, can be part of somebody else’s testimony about an extraordinary God.

In Christ,


Friday, June 19, 2009

Set-Up and Tear-Down

Here is an article from this week's bulletin about the set-up and tear down crew. I thought it would be interesting to share this with you. Thanks for all you do guys!

Most of us come to worship on Sunday mornings between 10:25 and 10:35. Some come a little earlier. A few come a lot earlier. Most of us leave within 10 or 15 minutes of whenever Craig decides he is done talking for the morning. The same people who came a lot earlier also stay a lot later.

Each week a group of 6 to 10 people come around 9:00 and don’t leave until 12:30. They set up the chairs, the stage, the kid’s area, the tables, the sound and media, and do other things as well. After the worship experience, they take down and load up what they previously unloaded and set up.

Some of the volunteers on this team commit to serving one weekend a month. Others volunteers serve on this team almost every week. All are appreciated. If you are a volunteer on this team: THANK YOU! You make worship possible for us on Sunday mornings. If you see a person with the black set-up and tear-down team shirt, thank them for their hard work. If you would like to volunteer in this area once a month, please register on the registration cards that are distributed during the connection’s time. This is a great way for fathers and sons to serve together. It is also a great way to get to know others, to serve God, and get in a good workout!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

YDHWIT to Control the Future

Here are the notes and study guide from Sunday's sermon.

Objective: To stop trying to control our future and experience the peace that comes from trusting God.

1. Achieving greatness always requires that we leave

The life of faith is a life of leaving. God is always trying to get us to leave where we are to take us to where He wants us to be.

If God has an incredible future for His honor and for His glory, why don’t people leave where they are?

A. We live by faith and not by sight.

For we live by believing and not by seeing. -2 Corinthians 5:7

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. –Hebrews 11:8

B. People have a fear of failure.

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” -Genesis 3:1

C. People don’t trust God with their future.

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. –Matthew 6:25-34

2. When God says leave, He always gives, gives you a promise.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. -Genesis 12:1-4

We don’t leave for two reasons.

A. We are not aware of the promises of God
B. We have forgot the promises of God

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28
Questions and Reflections for individual and group study

What do the people around you seem to worry about the most concerning
their future?

How have you seen others try to control their future?

Describe a time when things felt out of control and God met your needs.

How does God meeting your needs in the past affect your view of the

Describe issue(s) you are facing where Jesus is saying, “Don’t be afraid.
Just trust me.”


Ask God to take control of any area where you are worried about the future. Ask Him to replace your worry with His peace.


1. What is one fear that you can ask the Lord to help you face this week?
2. With what concrete action can you show your faith in the Lord this week?

Friday, June 12, 2009

YDHWIT To Handle Everything

Here are the notes for this Sunday's sermon: You Don't Have What It Takes To Handle Everything.

Objective: To admit we can’t do it all alone and to experience freedom by giving our burdens to God.

Do, do you really think that God’s intention for us is to be consistently overwhelmed, over burdened, and stressed out? Something is wrong. What culture calls normal living today, God must call insane, unbiblical, dangerous, and wrong.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus was unquestionably busy, but He wasn’t hurried, and there is a huge difference. We can be busy and productive without being hurried, because busy-ness happens, but hurriedness is a sickness of the soul. God did not design you to handle it all.

1. Some burdens are meant to be shared

Many of us are good at giving help. It is a challenge for many of us to ask for and receive physical and / or emotional help.

“This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. -Exodus 18:17

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
-Galatians 6:2

2. Some things need to be stopped

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
-Luke 10:41

Fill in the blank. If I had more time I would _____________________. Now you have an assignment. Whatever is in your blank is what I want you to be doing more of. Starting today.

Be still (raphaw), and know that I am God! –Psalm 46:10

Raphaw – raw-faw’ – To slacken, to allow to sink, to let drop. Best translation: Drop it.

Action Step: Create a To-Don’t List. It’s just like a to-do list, but it only contains items of things you won’t do.

3. Everything needs to be surrendered

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.
-Psalm 62:1-2

Give (shalak) your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.
-Psalm 55:22

Shalak – Cast, hurl, throw.
Questions for individual and group study
What radical change do you need to make to grow closer to God and to live in closer community with others?

Describe a time when you needed help but didn’t ask for it or didn’t
accept it.

Why is it difficult for us to accept help from others?

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you.” -1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

Why is it sometimes difficult for us to ask for or accept help from God?

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

What burdens are you carrying that are heavy and exhausting?

In what practical ways can you give these burdens to God?

“God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.” -Matthew 5:3 (NLT)


Lord I admit my need for you in every area of my life. Please help me to give my burdens completely to you and experience the freedom of leaving them in your hands. Amen.
Credit: Craig Groeschel

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Here is my column for Sunday morning:

This past week I was at our denominational meeting for clergy. Hundreds of us gathered from all parts of Nebraska. We met for three and a half days. I did a wedding on Friday night and Saturday, so I only met with my colleagues for two and a half of those days.

On Wednesday afternoon we had the Memorial Worship Service for the clergy who died during the previous year. I think there were six or seven. Most of them were retired. One was active. The worship leader read the names of the deceased pastors, rang a little bell, and then there was a moment of silence. Later we watched a video that had pictures of the deceased pastors. The families of these men and women sat in a special section in the front and center of the room. I didn’t personally know any of the pastors or their families, but I know certain things about them and about their families simply because I share the same vocation in life. I felt a sense of loss as I sat through the hour long service.

As I was sitting at a table during the Memorial Service with a few friends, I realized something: one day it would be my name that is read, one day my picture would be on the screen, and one day my family: Amber, Benjamin, and David would be sitting on those chairs. The preacher continued to talk, but I wasn’t really listening. I’m sure that has happened to you before! I wasn’t thinking about death. I was thinking about life.

I want to fast forward about two hours. While my colleagues were meeting in the big room, I took my Bible, got up from my seat, and left. I was asked to speak to the hundred or so high school students who were at the same conference, so I wandered around the Cornhusker Hotel until I found the correct room. A few minutes later I began speaking.

They were all at the Memorial Service as well. I told them about my little epiphany. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it went like this:

Here’s the deal. We are all here for a limited time. I don’t think it is death we fear. I think what we are really afraid of is not living. I think what we are really afraid of is having our families sit in those chairs and have to look at those pictures and mourn the life that never was. We are all either dying or we are living. You have an incredible opportunity in front of you to live. I don’t know you, but I know something about you: you don’t want to go through the motions of life and just survive. You want a life that matters you, to others, and to God. You want to thrive. So do it and don’t look back.

I hope they found those words helpful and I hope you do too.

In Christ,


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Beginnings

I ran this morning. It has been at least a week. I think I probably have run about six or seven times in three months. I don't know if the injury is gone, it feels pretty good, but I do know that I am out of shape.

Six miles. Very slow. Very difficult. Beautiful morning out though.

It's kind of like beginning (or rebeginning) life's journey with God. God accepts us where we are and loves us so much that God doesn't want to leave us where we are.

Today was tough. They were my first steps. But there will be better days to come. I fully believe I'll finish well in the Philadelphia Marathon in late November.

God has a better life for you. The future can be much better than today. With God's help, goals can be reached and dreams can be realized.

So whatever it is, start today, one step at a time.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Congratulations Angee!

A friend and occasional running partner, Angee Henry, won the 800 meter run at the 2009 Music City Distance Carnival this past weekend. Her time of 2:04 qualifies her for the national meet in a few weeks in Eugene, Oregon. Congratulations Angee! Here is the video for your viewing pleasure:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

You Can't Please Everyone

People pleasers. You have heard of them before. Maybe you are even one of them. Most people pleasers are wonderful people who genuinely want what is best for others. The problem is that no matter how hard we try to please others; sometimes our best isn’t going to be good enough. I talked about what it means to live for God by choosing to find our validation and acceptance in Him rather than people.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

People Pleasing

Here are the notes for this Sunday's sermon and some study questions:

Objective: To live for God by choosing to find our validation and acceptance in Him rather than people.

Becoming obsessed with what people think about you is the fastest way to forget what God thinks about you.

I am not who you say I am. I am not even who I say I am. I am who God says I am: adopted, accepted, and forgiven. –Rick Warren

No matter how hard you try, you can never, ever please everyone. Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. –Galatians 1:10
Four Characteristics of People Pleasers
  1. People pleasers tend to take most criticism personally.
  2. People pleasers have an extraordinary fear of rejection.
  3. People pleasers find it hard to express their true feelings.
  4. People pleasers have a hard time saying no.

People pleasing is a form of idolatry.

Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. –John 12:42-43

Fearing people is a dangerous trap (mowquesh), but trusting the Lord means safety. -Proverbs 29:25

Mowqesh – The Hebrew word that means a noose or a trap.

Three traps of people pleasing

  1. I will compromise for you trap
  2. I will over commit for you trap
  3. I will let you limit my success trap

The fear of God is the best antidote for the fear of what people think.

Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. -Psalm 34:9

Fearing God: Other ways to translate the word are to revere, worship, respect, and honor.

A helpful way to think about fearing God is growing close to God and living for Him. God is BIG to you and is FIRST in your life.

The only antidote for the fear of what people think is for God to be bigger in your life. Seek Him. Surrender to Him. Know Him. Let Him become bigger and be set free from the opinions of people. It’s the only way you are ever going to please God.

Questions for Small Group Study or Personal Reflection

1. Name the people in your life you often feel pressured to please.

Our purpose is to please God, not people. He is the one
who examines the motives of our hearts. -1 Thessalonians 2:4

2. What motives do you have for trying to please people?

3. What do you fear would happen if you failed to please them?

He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. -Matthew 6:33

4. What needs you are expecting others to meet that can only be met by God?

5. What choices or changes do you need to make in order to have those needs met only by God?

Pray: God, help us to believe you will give us all we need from day to day. Help us choose to live only for you.

Credit: Craig Greoschel

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Bible and Humor

Humor is found throughout the Bible in various forms. God wants people to experience delight (Ps 37:4), communicate effectively (Mt 18:15-17), and live abundantly (John 10:10). The following sections discuss how humor, as described above, is used in the Bible. God laughs, laughter exists in heaven, Jesus used humor, and humor is a vehicle used to help humanity grow closer to God and one another. The Bible is the truth (2 Tim. 3:16). Humor cannot exist without truth (Parrot 5) and is a reflection of the truth that makes the truth more accessible (Flynn 66-9).
Before any study of humor can be carried out, humorous discourse must be broken down into three groupings: universal humor, culture-based humor, and linguistic-based humor (Schmitz 89). Universal humor is the most basic form of humor and is not dependent on culture or language. An example of universal humor is: “Last week I went fishing and all I got was a sunburn, poison ivy, and mosquito bites” (Schmitz 96). No understanding of the original culture or language is required to appreciate this type of humor.
Culture-based humor is not universal because the listener must have an understanding of the culture to comprehend the humor. An example of cultural-based humor is: “This year for Father’s Day I got a special gift in the mail: the bill for Mother’s Day” (Fechtner 104). To understand this type of humor the listener must have an understanding of American culture. This joke would be lost in the cultures where these days are not celebrated, in cultures where credit is not extended, or in the cultures where Father’s Day does not directly follow Mother’s Day.
Linguistic-based humor is also not universal because the listener must have an understanding of the original language to comprehend to humor. An example of linguistic-based humor is: “How does a dog stop a VCR? He presses the paws button” (Schmitz 101). The non-English speaking listener would most likely have a difficult time understanding this humor. In no other language does the word for a dog’s foot sound similar to the button of a VCR that stops the tape. To further complicate things, in the future people will not know what a VCR is. A second example: “Americans won’t allow the importation of Canadian beef, and now some Canadians have a beef with Americans who import Canadian drugs” (Danbom 668). The word “beef” used in the above sentence is slang, something that is very difficult to translate for a non-English speaking person.
A short study of the above-mentioned groupings gives the modern-day Western reader a clue that extracting humor from the Bible based on the original contexts and languages can prove to be a difficult task. Humor can get lost in translation (Hall 3-4 and Bell 384). Communication between cultures, languages, and different time periods has a probability for misunderstanding (Norrick 389-90). The biblical interpreter will likely miss much of the humor in the Bible because of the linguistic and cultural differences—even if the interpreter is a student of biblical languages and biblical culture. It is also likely that the biblical interpreter will find something humorous in the Bible that was not meant to be humorous in its original context. Another caveat exists in that much of the Bible is from an oral tradition. The Bible is a written document. It is one thing to read Garrison Keillor’s humor in a book; it is a totally different experience to hear him on the radio. The following section of the dissertation seeks to examine humor in the Bible as faithfully as possible given the limitations of cultural and linguistic humor and given the difference between oral and written communication.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spontaneous Humor

Seventy-two percent of laughter deriving from spontaneous conversational humor (Martin 12). Spontaneous conversational humor, unlike jokes, is highly dependent on context. Spontaneous conversational humor can be broken down into eleven categories:
  1. Irony – Irony is literary device, in which there is an incongruity or discordance between what one says or does and what one means or what is generally understood. For example, in a confusing situation the speaker says: “That is as clear as mud.”
  2. Satire – Satire is a form of aggressive humor that pokes fun at social institutions and public policy.
  3. Sarcasm – Sarcasm is a form of aggressive humor that aims at individuals as opposed to institutions. For example, a person sits at her desk and she notices that one of her co-workers is talking loudly on his phone. When the co-worker hangs up, she says, "I think you should talk a little bit louder next time—the entire office didn't hear it."
  4. Overstatement and Understatement – Overstatement and understatement are forms of speech in which a greater expression or lesser expression is used than what would be expected. For example, a person has just finished the hardest workout of his entire life, he is a moment away fainting from exhaustion, and a friend comes by and sees him sweaty, huffing and puffing, and says, "Tired?" and he answers, "Just a little."
  5. Self-deprecation – Self-deprecating humor is humor which depends on the observation of something negative about the person delivering the observation. Many speakers use self-deprecating humor to avoid seeming arrogant and to help the audience identify with them. For example, many modern day comics build much of their acts around their own perceived unattractiveness, weight, age, and lack of appeal to the opposite sex.
  6. Teasing – Teasing is a humorous remark directed at the listener. Unlike sarcasm, the intention is not to seriously offend or insult.
  7. Replies to rhetorical questions – Rhetorical questions are not meant to be answered. Answering a rhetorical question creates incongruity and a reversal of expectations. For example, one person says, “How high is the moon?” Expecting no response and a clear expectation that the person understands what has been communicated, the other person replies, “It varies between 356,000 and 407,000 kilometers in distance from the surface of the earth, its average distance being 384,400 kilometers.”
  8. Clever replies to serious statements – These are clever and nonsensical replies to a question that was meant to be serious. For example, a talk show hosts asks an actress if her current boyfriend is a serious boyfriend. She replies that he is always joking around and not serious at all.
  9. Double entendres – A double entendre is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is intended to be understood in either of two ways. In most cases, the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so and often sexual or inappropriate. Although most double entendres are sexual in nature, an example of a non-sexual double entendre is “Why was the garbage man sad? He was down in the dumps.”
  10. Transformation of frozen expressions – Changing well-known sayings and clich├ęs into unique sayings. An example is when a bald man is reminiscing about life: “Hair today and gone tomorrow.”
  11. Puns – Using a word that brings up a humorous second meaning. This humor is usually based on a homophone, a word that sounds the same but has a different meaning. An example of a pun is “Immanuel doesn't pun; he Kant.” Here “Kant” is a play on the word "can't", in the name of philosopher Immanuel Kant.
(Long and Graesser 35-60 and Martin 13)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lost Generation

This is very insightful and clever. Well worth the one minute and forty-four seconds.