398: It’s April Fools Day! (just kidding) But it’s tomorrow, and you know what?

his is sad. Or, actually, no it isn’t sad today! This story is about fun and creativity.
    But what I discovered in our Home Office yesterday is a little sad. Here’s what happened:
    We are now working closely with Stephanie Fenton, our new Spiritual Seasons columnist, and the two of us were looking ahead to future weeks of her column — when a small-but-growing observance popped up on the horizon called Holy Humor Sunday. This is the personal passion of Cal Samra and his Fellowship of Merry Christians. Cal’s the real deal — no kidding. Here’s the Web site for Cal’s merry fellowship. Cal even offers newsletters full of “clean” jokes that you can tell in any congregation.
    This time of year is like Christmas for Cal — because on Sunday April 19 (the Sunday after Easter for Catholics and Protestants) — it’s Holy Humor Sunday. Cal’s Web site explains all about the theological and historical traditions of “lightening up” on the Sunday after Easter. You’ll also find a list of some churches that have gotten into this in heavy-duty ways — from California to Georgia and from a wide range of denominations.

THIS WEEK, Stephanie has done her part for all of us! If you visit her Spiritual Seasons column for this week, you’ll find one of the best online links she’s uncovered in recent weeks — a link to the Top 100 April Fool’s Hoaxes of all times, including the Derbyshire Fairy! (photo at left).
    What was sad about all of this? Well, Stephanie’s column inspired me to share some recommendations on humor today. Then, I began digging through the shelves of recent review copies of books from religious publishers and new videos from producers of spiritually themed films.
    You know what? We represent a pretty grim message most of the time!
    I can find lots of inspiring new books and films — but not many that will make you chuckle with spiritual themes.
    That’s the sad part. Cal Samra argues passionately that smiles and spirituality go hand in hand, because Jesus certainly told the 1st Century equivalent of jokes and, of course, Buddhist koans amount to jokes and the “Trickster” is a hugely important figure in Native American spiritual traditions. On and on throughout our religious traditions there is — humor. But do we share much humor today?
    Oh, right! Another thing to feel guilty about! Now, we should be funnier than we are!


ORDER MARTIN JENKINS and CHRIS RIDDELL’S “DON QUIXOTE”: For 400 years this has been one of the world’s funniest books. If you’re asking why we think it’s spiritual, well, you just haven’t fully enjoyed “Don Quixote”!
    Writer Martin Jenkins and illustrator Chris Riddell want to change anyone’s lingering impression that this is a stodgy “classic.” The three main illustrations with our review today are from their new book to show you just how fun it is. You can’t help but smile. And, if you’re among the millions of Americans who still “read aloud” at home, perhaps to children, then this should be the next book in your family adventures in reading. (Not familiar with the story? Think “Man of La Mancha.” Think “tilting at windmills.”)
    I can’t say enough good things about this effort from Candlewick Press. I’m a lifelong writer myself and a fan of global literature and this creative duo — Jenkins and Riddell — have just served up a fresh retelling of Miguel de Cervantes’ great classic. What’s not to love about this?

    NOTE: The book officially is released in 2 weeks, but Amazon allows you to order it now — while you’re smiling about it — so you’ll get it the moment it’s available.

OR, TURN TO ANOTHER GEM THAT’S MADE THOUSANDS SMILE: I first recommended this book more than a decade ago, when I was writing about religion for Knight-Ridder newspapers. It’s still a terrific choice for spring reading — and makes interfaith connections as well.
    The author is Rabbi Bob Alper, the standup comedian who now tours nationally with Muslim comics on a cross-cultural “double bill.” This particular Alper book now comes from a Catholic publishing house! Visit Bob’s Web site to learn more about his work.
    But, you can’t go wrong with this little book from Ligouri Press. It’s called “Life Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This.” Alper shares a series of his warm and often funny stories. It’s a bit like sitting in the front row at one of his comedy shows — except you don’t have to get dressed up and drive to a theater. You can read it in your jammies and slippers with a hot cup of tea.

FLY WITH THE CARDINAL! Actually, The Cardinal’s main mission is fighting crime — and being an all-around good man of faith. He’s the longtime creative passion of Christian comic artist Kurt Kolka, who whose work we’ve recommended a number of times over the past year. The Cardinal is not a funny comic strip in the classic sense. But, as a lifelong fan of comics myself, there’s something about a comic strip that makes people grin, even if it’s a classic adventure theme. And, let’s get serious for a moment? The Cardinal is an adult who runs around fighting crime in scarlet tights. OK? Sound like something worth a click? CHECK OUT: www.thecardinal.org

We take this stuff seriously! Or, we take it humorously? But sincerely? In any case, we’ve already made a major effort to link humor and spirituality through “Spiritual Wanderer,” a book and an online landing page devoted to the work of new writer Rodney Curtis.
    We not only published his book, but we’ve seen him in action reading to people — who laugh over and over again at some of his stories. Readers have described him as a cross between Dave Barry and Anne Lamott. Some of his stories lean toward Anne — others lean toward Dave.
    If you want to chuckle right now, go visit Rodney’s landing page and read samples.

FINALLY, SHARE YOUR SUGGESTIONS … The mission of ReadTheSpirit is “Spiritual Connection” and we’re always eager to hear from you. After considering our suggestions here — what can you suggest? Send us your best tips on books and movies that inspire and amuse. Or maybe, send us a “clean” joke to get ready for Holy Humor Sunday. We appreciate your suggestions!

PLEASE, Tell Us What You Think.
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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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