i see it in the way mum smiles as though Jesus himself has told her she’s beautiful, the way she dances when she cannot walk, mum who has brain cancer.

i feel it in the leaves touching my face, my son tossing armfuls of autumn into the sky.

i hear it in my mother-in-law’s voice singing worship songs while she cleans house, this woman with breast cancer.

and i read it in the life of sara, a girl whom i met after she died, a girl whose heart is scrawled online, a girl who chose joy while confined to disease and bed.

and this choosing joy is the greatest prayer, and this, a message that bestselling author and Jesuit priest James Martin proclaims in Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life and he talks of laughter being a liturgy we all should learn, of joy being a sacred rite, a passageway to Jesus, and of Christians being afraid to smile.

“human laughter is a gift from God,” he says, “a spontaneous expression of delight at the world” and it’s innate in children, and when did we stop exclaiming over the wonder of the day? when did earth’s colors start going unnoticed, and the fresh of air get taken for granted? when did rising from bed each morning become anything less than a miracle?

people facing grave illness become like children: because life becomes incredible. each hour is a gift, a rebirth, and i believe this about laughter: it expresses faith more loudly than any prayer. faith that, in spite of pain and sadness and cancer and death, God is still good. faith that, while i surrender myself to mirth, i will in fact forget my worries for just a moment, and this, why laughter is so healing.

martin says laughter leads to poverty of spirit, a humility which in turn, is the gateway to joy, “because it enables you to recognize your ultimate reliance on God, which leads to freedom.”

it’s this freedom i see in the face of my son as he tosses up leaves like hundreds of birds into the sky. it’s this freedom that moves my mother’s feet to dance when she cannot walk, and this freedom that makes my mother in law sing.

the freedom to throw back one’s head, and laugh.

*giving away a free copy of “Between Heaven and Mirth” today… just leave me a comment telling me how you feel about laughter 🙂

grateful, now, with ann:

616. MIL’s cancer being resigned to breast, and removed successfully this week in a lumpectomy;
617. my son beginning to learn the alphabet, the gateway to a world of story;
618. a weekend spent at home, doing home-things, loving on each other;
619. kasher sitting and aiden hugging him endlessly;
620. finding love in my husband’s eyes;
621. finding rest on a sunday afternoon.

(*also linking with laura, jen and michelle)