A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Proverbs 17:22
His name was Charlie. He was my friend, and he was a lot of fun. Over the years I have met so many different people. They have been like a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns all coming together to form a beautiful display. Now sometimes the colors were muted and gray, but more often they were an explosion of color and life. As I look back over the years my mind goes to my friend Charlie.
I met Charlie when I became the pastor of Cobden First Baptist Church. Cobden is a small town in Southern Illinois and God allowed us to stay there for 14 years. It was amazing. And trust me, God had to use His spiritual shoehorn to pry us from the friends we made there. Our time at Cobden was the perfect storm in a good way. So many of us were raising our kids and for whatever reason we just liked to have fun. If church is supposed to be about community—we had a good one. None of us were perfect but when the bumps came, we loved our way right through them.
Charlie and I were pretty good buds from the get go. One of the first things he did for me was drive me around the community pointing out where different members lived and, more importantly, where people lived who didn’t know Jesus. You see, Charlie loved Jesus and Charlie loved people. Our families quickly became fast friends and that meant, among other things, food. Right after we arrived in town, Charlie and Cheryl, his wife, invited us over for supper and we had Dixie BBQ. This “mom and pop” place located a few miles from town became an instant favorite that night. Thank you guys for that.
Charlie loved practical jokes…a lot. There was the time that we had a deacons’ Christmas party at an old mansion located on the Ohio River. We had the place to ourselves and being Baptists, we were definitely teetotalers, so we told the owners to leave the bar closed. Period. Well, we were having a great time and then, without warning, our server comes up to our table, specifically to me, and sets a nice cold Budweiser right in front of me. I could have died. I wanted to die. I mean I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I tried to explain to the server that this was a mistake and she told me, “No sir, that man right over there ordered it for you.” Oh, yes it was Charlie and we laughed till it hurt.
Another time, and I do not know the occasion, he decided to out-do himself. I’m thinking it must have been pastor appreciation month or something. So, I get up to preach and I read the scripture for that morning and asked everyone to bow their heads as I prayed. I prayed a nice, pastorally prayer and when I said “Amen” at the end and opened my eyes, there were almost two hundred people, all holding a newspaper up over their faces like they were reading them. Instead of smiling faces I saw last week’s headlines. It was crazy and we laughed till it hurt.
One time, though, Charlie got into trouble. I think again it must have been a pastor appreciation deal and we were having a fellowship after church. Again, think food, think Baptist, and think fun. Well, just about that time Charlie came up behind me and pied me in the face with a large vanilla cream pie. Well, I thought it was hilarious and some people laughed—but not everyone—especially Charlie’s mama, Grandma Veda. She got mad because she thought it was disrespectful. I believe it took a while for Charlie to get out of the doghouse for that one, but we did manage to salvage some of the pie.
Well, that is just a short list of all the special memories I have because of Charlie. Without trying I can still see his smiling face in my mind’s eye. It was people like him that made those years at Cobden so memorable. And here’s the deal. I believe that church should be like a community. I think, dare I say it…that it should be fun. I know we have a hard time imagining Jesus smiling, much less laughing, but I believe He did. How could you be that full of joy and not let it leak or slosh out?
I know there is a time to be serious but there is also a time to laugh and we need to be sure and do both. A sour expression doesn’t mean you’re spiritual…it just means you might be a bit…sour. Proverbs (that’s the book of wisdom in Christian and Jewish Bibles) 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Now, that is worth remembering. In these crazy days—in fact, especially in these crazy days—of COVID-19, vaccines, elections and the like, let’s remember to just laugh. The mask might hide your smile, but it can’t stop your laugh. I’m glad we have a God with a good sense of humor—after all He made me and you. Smile. And I’m glad we have a God that can give us a reason to laugh because no matter what—He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne