LOL… really!

Cupid's foot, as used by Monty Python's Flying...

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A friend of mine, recently posted a FB question about laughing. So, I thought about how often I laugh, what I laugh at, and asked the same of my FB friends. I got these answers;

Judith said, “English TV comedy; my cat Thomas in what he doesn’t say … and Kate, my housemate, who has the funniest dry one-liners in the whole world… always said at the most serious and trying of times. Really breaks me up.”

Suzan said, “Laughed at something my husband said. My kids and my husband are guaranteed to crack me up, they are the most clever, funny people I know.”

Anne said, “Working with adults with Learning Difficulties never fails to make me laugh.”

Norm said, “Books by Bill Bryson make me actually laugh out loud as I read.”

Pam said, “At supper tonight…my girls are guaranteed to make me laugh…and pull out my hair sometimes but that is a different story :)”

As for me, I always laugh at Monty Python, most British Comedy, ‘Airplane’ movies, and AFV – America’s Funniest Video’s. My Optometrist plays AFV in his office waiting room with no sound, and believe it or not, they are even funnier that way. And, like my friend Jeanette, I laugh when I read greeting cards in stores (and I cry too, sometimes) I laugh at my kids, I laugh at my dog, and even with all that I wish I laughed more often. What about you?

Here’s Monty Python’s skit, “The funniest joke in the world.” Be careful… don’t die laughing!

Remember Reader’s Digest, “Laughter is the best medicine”… well, do you think it is? Why do we sometimes not ‘feel’ like laughing? Why are certain types of humour more effective for some people than for others… like slapstick, or dry humour like my English Grandfather’s type of joking around? Why do we laugh at potty/bathroom humour sometimes, even though we know we shouldn’t. Why is it funny when other people hurt themselves… on AFV and (even worse), on movies like ‘Jackass’? And why do we laugh when our kids do or say things that are ‘naughty’…  is it a defense mechanism? So many questions around laughter. Oh, maybe I just need to lighten up, stop taking myself and others so seriously, and laugh out loud more often.  Maybe I’m just out of practise!

Here’s some funny stuff my kids are busting a gut watching on Youtube lately… and if you don’t find this funny, I hope you laugh out loud at something today!

Hey Rob, “Lang may yer lum reek!”

It’s not often that I have the opportunity to share my space here at Buddy Breathing. But I should be more intentional about that. Because there are so many people out there who are smart, talented and interesting.

Case in point, I’ve known Rob Rife and his wife Rae for many years. Rob used to lead worship at our church, and we’d joke about being some of the few members of the congregation that actually ‘got’ the tin whistle and the bagpipes… our mutual heritage being British, while the majority of our congregation were Germanic in origin. We’d joke in a decidedly British way, share our love of UK sitcoms and Monty Python, and once Rae and I wrote a short skit in which we played the part of two middle aged British women who referred to one another as ‘Hen’.

And Rob and Rae’s two boys bear the same names as our boys… their “Graeme and Calum” to our “Graeme and Malcolm.” No we didn’t plan that! And while they don’t have a daughter as we do, they named their bunny… yes, indeed… they named her “Clare,” completing their family unit with an unusual reflection of our own daughter “Claire!” Did you do that on purpose, Rob? Well, did you?

Anyway, Rob often made me cry during Worship service… something about the sound of those two instruments I mentioned, and the decidedly Celtic flair of the music he led, that echoed within me deeply. So you can imagine how utterly sad we became when Rob and Rae told us they were moving away.

Yet our lives continue to intersect, sometimes at peculiar times… like the time we happened upon one another while on vacation at the Oregon Coast… me seeing Rae in a parking lot while we were driving past leading to us having a gut wrenching funny lunch at a local restaurant. Good times always!

So, I am honoured, and I am smiling, as I introduce you to my friend Rob Rife. Some of you may already know him, and some will meet him now for the first time. He’s talented, deep, and funny as all heck. And he has agreed to share some of his writing here at Buddy Breathing. I’ll be posting several of his works over the next while.

Thank you Rob. Thank you so much.

And for those who are wondering… “Lang may yer lum reek!” means “Long may your chimney smoke!” (it’s a Brit. thing!)

Silence of the Fall

by Rob Rife

It is surprising just how many toxins build up in our spirits when we neglect regular periods for silence, solitude and spiritual refreshment. What an affront to our self-referentialism to discover that the world has gotten along famously without our invaluable contributions! Nevertheless, it remains an immensely challenging undertaking to willingly disengage for a few days in order to re-engage the deeper things – God and those archetypal realities of our meager existence.

My house stands in need of significant repair, my wife deserves my attention, my sons need a father and my employer needs me to make the trains run on time.To retreat from our responsibilities requires our brazen intention to be vulnerable before God with no guarantee of visible returns on the investment of time.

Be that as it may, I took three days last week in Ocean Shores to enjoy silence, contemplation, reading, writing and sleep; not necessarily in that order! It’s enlightening how a good, long drive is always like Drano to a clogged soul or foggy mind. I guess that’s why there are so many good road trip stories. Few things are so fast acting in ironing smooth the unsightly spiritual wrinkles that beset us.

And, for me, there is absolutely no better time to do so than the fall. Everything feels different in the fall. There is a hesitancy about the passing hours that seems somehow not so…insistent. The world is not so in-your-face cheery and the sunlight’s less gaudy rays lie slanted on blushing trees, caressing the sadder sky in reassuring gestures that although winter is crouched and ready, she too, must pass like autumn before her.

Pursuing silence in the fall has always offered far more treasures for mystics like me. I am reminded of a line from a Chris de Burgh song, “there’s nothing quite like an out of season holiday town in the rain.” Amen to that. Take away the touristy stores full of shiny, campy bobbles attractive only to our covetous need for yet more worthless shit and we’re given permission to exhale.

Our need for silence mirrors Jesus’ similar need. It’s instructive to see the unabashed willingness of Jesus to turn his back on the madding crowd and escape to the hills under cover of night to meet his Father. He understood his own personal rhythms well and could thus obtain maximum benefit from such times of solitude. From there he changed the world. It is just that self-awareness for which I yearn. In such times an unseen door opens that invites us to see what God sees – and what God sees is remarkable…

Robert grew up in Calgary, Alberta but is presently the Minister of Worship and Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Yakima, Washington. He is a master’s student, self-proclaimed book nerd, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes-go figure), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet and liturgist. He defines himself as “small-‘c’-catholic-post-evangelical-small-‘r’-reformed-Celtic-contemplative-with-issues.” Robert’s debut CD is entitled “be that as it may”, an eclectic collection of Celtic flavoured folk-rock. He went grey at 30, hates spiders his right ear is bigger than his left. Greatest achievement to date: a 22-year marriage to wife, Rae and 2 boys, Calum and Graeme.

Mid-week Random Ramble010

Chapman as King Arthur in Holy Grail

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Gosh, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ramble these last few days. Seems most conversations have been purposeful and needed, and I’m growing a little weary from the weight of those. So, here’s my opportunity to just open up the top of my skull (remember Monty Python?) and let whatever is in there come dancing out!

1. Don’t you love Monty Python? Watching the ‘Quest’ with my kids is hilarious… listening to them repeat dialogue back is even funnier!

“We’re knights of the Round Table, we dance whene’er we’re able. We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impec-cable, We dine well here in Camelot, we eat ham and jam and Spam a lot……”

2. Planning the AfterGrad/DryGrad celebration for our eldest son’s grad class. The intent is to provide these young people with a safe and fun alternate to drinking and carousing and hurting themselves. Considering our son attends a Christian School, you’d think there might not be a problem in this regard. Yet, we still have our challenges. AfterGrad is going to be SO MUCH FUN! The planning is a busy, busy undertaking, but so worth it!

Yes, I am living with an almost graduated young man who used to be, only yesterday, riding a tricycle, dropping cheerios off the side of his highchair for the dog, pushing his pop pop lawnmower around the living room, and taking long mid-day naps. How did this happen… this rushing past of years and memories and now we’re at a place where we are looking at letting him go… where, I’m not certain, and neither is he yet. But the time will come when he will wave goodbye from the dorm door, or from the car window, or as he disappears through the security check-in at the airport, and he’ll be transported into the beginnings of his own independent future. I’m going to miss him so much.

3. Thanksgiving Weekend is upon us. My daughter asked me yesterday what the roots of Thanksgiving were. I explained as best I could, but thought maybe a refresher might be in order, both for me and my daughter, but maybe we all need reminding sometimes? Here’s what Wikipedia offers up;

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean. Frobisher’s Thanksgiving was not for harvest but homecoming. He had safely returned from a search for the Northwest Passage, avoiding the later fate of Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey.[2] French settlers who came to New France with explorer Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s also took to celebrating their successful harvests. They even shared their food with the indigenous people of the area as well as setting up what became known as the “Order of Good Cheer.”[3] As many more settlers arrived in Canada, more celebrations of good harvest became common. New immigrants into the country, such as the Irish, Scottish, Germans would also add their own harvest traditions to the harvest celebrations. Most of the American aspects of Thanksgiving (such as the turkey) were incorporated when United Empire Loyalists began to flee from the United States during the American Revolution and settled in Canada.[3]

Don’t know about you, but my Thanksgiving is also about giving thanks. We take the time to acknowledge that all we have, our health, our finances, our things, our food and shelter… all that we have is from God. It’s not Thanksgiving without verbalizing our thanks to one another. We certainly savour, and are thankful for, Turkey and the fixings, and we decorate our home with beautiful offerings of Fall including coloured leaves, Indian corn, pumpkins and squash (horn of plenty type things) and we’ve even added a few little touches of our own. My daughter reminded me of one yesterday. She wants to do it again this year… so that sounds like a tradition has begun.

Last year I provided a hand turned wooden bowl filled with pencils and little pieces of paper, and placed it on our table the week before Thanksgiving. During the course of the week, everyone was given the opportunity to write down what they were thankful for on the papers. As many or as few as they liked. Then, during our Thanksgiving dinner, we took turns reading out loud what everyone had written down. It was funny, poignant at times, and good for our souls.

I’ll have to prepare the bowl today.

4. If you are a dog owner you probably know that chocolate is not good for dogs. Our old pal Buddy spent one lousy night on the laundry room floor, with me beside him, after scarfing down several boxes of Belgian Chocolates… a fundraiser at our kids school run amuck in our home!

Anyhoo, turns out chocolate is not the only food enemy of dogs… just found out that Turkey can have dire effects on our best loved friends. According to my dog trainer and supported by this article, offering large quantities of turkey to your dog, or treating him to the turkey skin this Thanksgiving, might just result in a visit to the vet and a big bill! Thanks for that tip, Liz Corgan, Emmy will be sticking with kibble!

5. And finally, I’m reminded of my personal Thanksgiving tradition. Every October I print off copies of a short story I wrote several years ago. Then I hand deliver them to people I know, neighbours, acquaintances, whomever comes to mind. It’s my way to sharing my heart of thanks with others. This then is my Thanksgiving gift to you.

October Valentine

She walked briskly along the path, unsure of what had brought her there this morning after so many months.  Yet, she had known when she left the house this morning, and had left a note on the counter saying where she was.  The sun was shining brightly, illuminating the fall leaves on the trees and enveloping her in colour.  The dog walked ahead of her, pulling on the leash.

She hummed as she walked, and then began singing.  Once in awhile someone would pass by, and she stopped singing until they were just out of earshot.  She sang and felt the sun on her face, the fresh air in her lungs, and an overall feeling of well-being.  And she thought to herself, “You are here God”.

Taking in the details of the trees around her, she began to admire the contrasting colours of the leaves more closely.  And as she turned back to retrace her steps to the car, she stopped to pick a red leaf off a shrub.  Then she reached down to pick up a yellow leaf from the ground, then another and another.  There were so many pretty leaves to choose from, and before long she had a leaf bouquet in her gloved hand.

It was then that she noticed the shape of the leaf;  a heart shape.  And, at that very moment, God chose to speak into her heart;

“I love you.  I love you.  I am here and I love you.”

She stood still, looking at all the leaves.  The heart-shaped leaves were everywhere, some still hanging from the trees above her, while others created a beautiful carpet under her feet.  She smiled.  It was simple and profound and personal, and she wanted to share it with her friends.

She collected more leaves and continued to walk, admiring the trees full of hearts and considering the depth of God’s love for her.  She realized now that the trees were poplars… fast growing weedy trees that, by some, were considered to be ‘garbage trees’.  Not highly valued, poplar trees were often planted first and then cut down when they were no longer needed.  And God chose those trees to display his love to her.  Not the mighty oak or the stately maple, but the humble, overlooked and often disposable poplar.

Armed with her leaves and God’s message of love, she drove home.

(Photographic illustration borrowed with thanks from here)