Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Between Heaven and Mirth

I have a love/hate relationship with Father James Martin, well, it's probably more love than hate actually. I love him because he is ruthlessly honest, truthful, funny, and has a great writing style. I devoured all of his books in one or two sittings. Then why do I hate him you ask? For all of the same reasons! Just to be honest Father James is my idol, my mentor, my muse, I want to be just like Father Martin (I'm kidding of course).

Father Martin's latest book is called Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life (Harper One, 2011). You need to go out now and get a copy of this book today. Read it once, twice, even three times. Read it in your adult class at Church. Give a copy to your pastor. Buy a copy to your grumpy neighbor. They'll thank you for it later.

Between Heaven and Mirth explores the importance of humor and joy in healthy spiritual development. I agree with Father Martin's thesis that a healthy spiritual life needs humor. Humor is everywhere, in the Bible, in community life, in ones own family. The problem is, and Martin mentions this several times throughout his book, is that we take ourselves too seriously and when we do this we loose sight of Jesus and the Kingdom.

Martin draws on a host of examples from both the Old and New Testament's, from the writings and lives of the saints, and from his own personal anecdotes. He also draws some examples from Jewish, Buddhist, and Islamic religious traditions, although these examples were not as abundant as the examples from the Christian tradition. The pages turned so fast that I forgot where I was in the book. Page after page Martin shares with readers the mental, physical, and spiritual necessity of humor. In one particular passage Father Martin highlights the importance of humor for bishops and priests. He asks (and I'm paraphrasing here): "why not require our leaders to have a sense of humor, after all isn't that an important quality to have in leadership?" How true. Having a sense of humor and joy means that we are in tune with God. This does not mean that we are crack jokes all day, i.e humor for humor's sake, but that we see ourselves from God's vantage point. After all, just look around you, there is humor in everyday life, we just need, as Jesus says the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

I could go on and on but I won't. Father Martin has written a thoughtful, inspirational, and funny book about living a life of joy. If you want more joy in your life and lightness than start today! Also, while you're at it, buy a copy of Between Heaven and Mirth, read a chapter a day and you'll see how your life begins to change.