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Thursday, June 12, 2014


You've done it. I've done it.

Somebody texts you or emails you, and you don't really care to respond, but you have to type something:


In case you've missed the past 10 years of abbreviated computer conversations, here's a reminder: lol stands for Laughing Out Loud.

Rarely are we actually Laughing Out Loud when we type it, though.

So this blogpost, after a couple of heavy weeks about Synod Assembly and generation gaps and going to church -- and after some tough stuff in the church with folks getting ill and dealing with difficult family situations -- I'm bringing back Laughing Out Loud.

For real. Just laugh. It feels freaking great.

One of my favorite things about Jake is that whenever Ben and I would laugh about something, starting at about 7 months old, he would also start just cracking up. He didn't even know what was funny. I don't even think he understood English at this point. But he wanted to join in, so he laughed.

He has what I call a low threshold for laughter.

I am trying to cultivate this as well. Sure, that wasn't that funny - but let's laugh anyway. Try it.

It feels freaking great.

I was reminded of this last week when I was reading some memories friends of mine had of a sportswriter/editor they'd worked with at the Florida Times-Union. I didn't know Jeff Fries, but a former sports editor of mine shared this blog post of memories about Jeff, and it struck me.

I especially enjoyed this story. I share it here:

 Matt Hayes:  It would be easy to talk about Jeff Fries, the professional. The writer who had more talent, more vision, more concept of telling stories, than anyone I’ve ever met.
     I prefer to remember Jeff Fries, the friend.
     The guy who playfully nicknamed me “two-buck,” because when you’re making $8 an hour as a part-time sportswriter working full-time hours and paying off student loans, well, you’ve got two bucks in your pocket when you’re eating lunch and the check arrives – and once again, somebody has to cover you.
     The guy who never took anything or anyone too seriously, and never showed anger.
     The guy who, after dealing with so much heartache, looked at me years ago as I apologized for not seeing him enough, and said, “forget about that; tell me about your family.”
      The guy who loved to laugh; who had this barely audible, guttural sound when he saw or heard something that turned him sideways. One such moment, a certain anecdote Jeff and I shared over and over, was at the expense of one of our colleagues, Garry Smits.
      One weekday night, after Garry had worked long into another night of taking prep calls and writing roundups and making sure the guys downstairs in prepress didn’t wrap type on different columns and screw it all up, he called his sister who was expecting.
      Jeff was GA writer that night, and had to stay late, and I was working with Garry on a typically busy spring weeknight. Garry made the call – to this day, I’ve never asked him who he was talking to – and started getting the specifics.
      “Oh, great! So the baby is fine? And how big? How much did he weigh? And no problems with the birth?”
      At that moment, there was a pause for what seemed like an hour, but was really only a matter of seconds, before loveable Smitter blurted out, “What … huh? It’s Garry!!”
      Apparently, whomever Garry was speaking with; whoever was giving intimate details of a wonderful family moment, suddenly realized they didn’t know Garry.
      Jeff and I laughed so hard my temples hurt. We replayed that once in forever moment over and over through the weeks and months that followed, laughing harder each and every time. Smitter, bless his heart, learned to laugh about it, too.
      When I heard of Jeff’s passing, the first thing I thought of was that perfectly imperfect laugh of his, and that moment with Garry that will forever tie the three of us together.
      The second thing I thought was I should have been a better friend. I told Jeff that very thing years ago when I saw him during a Florida-Georgia weekend, when some of his friends met at a local Jax Beach bar to throw back a few beers and tell old stories.
      At one point that night, when it was just he and I at the table, I told him, “Freezy, you haven’t changed at all.”
      He said, “You have; I don’t even know it’s you with these coke bottle glasses.”
      And then, I couldn’t resist.
      “It’s not me,” I said, “It’s Garry!”
       I'll miss that laugh.

The story comes from this website:

I hope you laughed like I did. 

My laughter led to memories like that one. I never did work on the sports desk as an editor, but I always had a great time with my colleagues in the newsroom. Sportswriters and editors are some of the best people I've ever met. Sure, I spent plenty of time coping with stereotyping and harassment as a young female covering professional sports - but mostly the newsroom was different. These men - and it was mostly men - treated me with respect. They rallied to my defense when an assistant hockey coach wanted to keep me out of the locker room for post-game interviews. They invited me to play basketball and tennis with them and they didn't take it easy on me.

Best of all, no one took themselves too seriously. Like Jeff in the story above, they were humble. Great storytellers, incredibly smart, owners of knowledge that expanded far beyond box scores - instead we spent a lot of time laughing at life and laughing at each other. The laughter covered over low pay and late Friday nights covering Florida high school football and taking scores from coaches from 4 in the afternoon until 10 at night. Answering angry emails and reading ridiculous online comments - it was all dispelled over a plate of hot wings and a cold beer after deadline.


Sometimes I think we don't laugh enough at church. As pastors maybe we take ourselves too seriously - as people in the church we take ourselves too seriously. Maybe I have something to learn from those giants of the copy desk. Laugh a little. At myself. At others. At the ridiculous situations I inevitably find myself in.

Most of the time, it's funny. And the gift of once being a sportswriter is that sometimes I figure out how to take those funny moments and put them into a story. Matt Hayes did a great job of tying it all up, and it made an impression. I bet there's a way to do that with the Gospel. Pastor Peter Geisendorfer-Lindgren of Maple Grove, Minn., has a great knack for this.


I was reminded earlier this week again of the power of actually Laughing Out Loud.

My younger brother is staying with us this week. He's five years younger and while in some ways we are very similar, in others we're incredibly different. I - and this is reinforced by my engineer husband - tend to think and plan things out pretty well in advance. My brain constantly runs through the potential scenarios, impacts, results, of any possible decision. I wonder deeply about relationships, about how to nurture others, about what this might all mean in the scope of larger life. I'm often lost in thought wondering about these big questions. 

Kevin is more go with the flow. He tends to take life as it comes. Doesn't overthink or overworry. Sometimes it drives me crazy because he seems so laid-back he's almost asleep. But I know him well enough to know that he cares deeply beneath the veneer of apathy or a studied focus on sports trivia.

Kevin is staying with us while he prepares to begin Teach for America in Chicago. It's a huge change for him; from living with my parents and working a few jobs, to being out on his own, in a brand-new city, in a totally different area than he's ever lived before. He'll be in charge of a classroom and responsible for helping students learn in a tough environment. I'm really excited for him but I'm nervous, too.

We were riding together back home in the car with Jake on Tuesday and I was thinking about everything ahead for Kevin. Wondering what his classroom would be like. Where he'd live. What this might mean for his future. How he felt about all of this; about leaving our parents ... I wondered about our relationship: how I'd always been in this awkward place between friend and parent to him. Was I being too overbearing? Not overbearing enough? Saying too much? Saying too little?

I thought all this and I imagined Kevin thinking it too.

Then he spoke up: "I was just thinking ... "

"I'm really glad I chose to buy those socks. That was a great deal."

Socks. That's what he was thinking about. 

Sometimes you just have to Laugh Out Loud, move on, love your family, love your friends, love the world God gave us and all the different ways we live in it.

Laugh Out Loud. Be like Jake and laugh even if it wasn't really that funny. Especially in church. Let's start ringing our sanctuaries and our altars with joyful laughter.

Laugh Out Loud. It feels freaking great. And it just might make you wonder how good life - and the people we love in this life - can really be.