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Winter 2004 | Volume 26, Number 5 | Alumni
Meberg Prescribes Laughter as God’s Best Medicine for Overcoming Pain

Ken Meberg ’60 was walking hand in hand through campus with his girlfriend, Marilyn Ricker ’61, when Professor of History Roy Swanstrom asked in mock horror: “Are you two getting married?” When they said, “Yes,” Swanstrom shook his head sadly: “You will have very strange children.”

That was just one drop in the constant stream of playfully self-effacing stories told in January at Seattle Pacific University’s Church Leaders Forum by speaker Marilyn Ricker Meberg. “Roy knew we were just a couple of bubbles off plumb, if you know what I mean,” she added, to the further convulsion of the sold-out lunch crowd.

“I strike people as unapproachable,” she says. “I have an English-teacher prune face. People are so shocked when they find me funny that I experience great pleasure in the whiplash it gives them.”

A well-known author of books such as Choosing the Amusing and The Zippered Heart, as well as a popular speaker at Women of Faith conferences, Meberg presents laughter as God’s prescription for overcoming the darkest days. “I’m not talking about sarcasm or caustic jokes,” cautions the humorist with a master’s degree in psychology. “That’s just anger mas- querading as laughter. I’m talking about God’s joy spilling out into the world.” When asked what she says to those who think Christians should be serious, she speaks slowly and carefully, as though talking to a gunman: “Get away from me. We have nothing in common.”

Not immune to dark days herself, Meberg was faced in 1981 with the imminent death of her husband of 30 years. When they were able to laugh out loud together even as Ken lay in his hospital bed, Marilyn knew she would learn to survive, partly through a liberal dose of laughter. “The support system for my endurance,” she says, “is a subliminal joy put there by God. There’s a saying, ‘Laughter is the hand of God on the shoulder of a troubled world.’”

Instead of denying the facts of pain, she encourages Women of Faith audiences around the country to be rooted in long-term faith and joy, not in short-term circumstances. “Genuine humor comes out of an unencumbered heart that appreciates joy,” she says, “and wants to share it.”

To underline where she finds her deep well of gladness, Meberg reads from a paraphrase of Zephaniah 3:18: “Is that a joyful chorus I hear? No, it is the Lord of hosts, singing over you with great joy.”

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