Friday, November 27, 2009

Come On and Celebrate

A newcomer moved into a small town and he asked a local, “What kind of town is this?”

The local asked, “What kind of town did you come from?”

The newbie said, “Oh! The place I moved from was the friendliest place you’d ever want to live.” The local said, “Well, that’s exactly the kind of town you moved into.” The local understood that people are usually bent toward looking for good or bad. Our outlooks carry over no matter where we live.

One of the gifts from God’s Spirit to Christians is joy. To those who choose to trust God and wear his name, the Galatians’ writer penned a hearty list of blessings: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (5:22). And then the writer said, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (vs.25).

What does “keep in step with the Spirit” mean? Could it mean that since we agreed to a life with God that our daily outlook on life should reflect the nine Spirit-blessings? What kind of daily celebrations could we enjoy and pass along if we each embraced our full quota of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

I have relied heavily upon Richard Foster’s book “Celebration of Discipline” to guide me through writing this series of columns on the spiritual disciplines. He says about celebration, “The decision to set the mind on the higher things of life is an act of the will,” then he says, “that is why celebration is a Discipline.”

Celebrations fuel life. Too many folk take themselves too seriously. Some folk need to hear the admonition to, “Lighten up.” Surely, we can always find severe problems to focus on in our own lives or somewhere in the world, but on the joyous flip side is all the blessings and the command to “be thankful always.” If every day we find something to be grateful for, folk will not see a little dark cloud hovering over us and then want to flee, hoping to not get caught in our storm.

Consider these suggestions for practicing celebration. Watch for moments of spontaneous joy. God sends song notes into our lives every day, if we’ll only listen. Dave and I attended the PowWow at Lone Star Elementary on Tuesday of this week. Do those teachers and little ones know how to celebrate!

All students sat along the walls outside their classrooms as the kindergarten classes paraded in their Indian vests to turkey and Thanksgiving songs heard through the PA system. My eyes caught hundreds of smiles, saw swinging arms, clapping hands. My heart sashayed back and forth in merriment.

Another time of celebration is corporate worship. I admit to being a bit down this past week because of my mother’s poor health. After a special thanksgiving worship time with my home church, I felt better and I also vowed to awaken each morning and give thanks for a specific way my mother has blessed my life.

Expressions of joy can energize our lives: singing, dancing, laughter, music are few ways we celebrate. We can also celebrate the creative genius of others in their art, music, true stories, fiction and fantasy. Family milestones bring sweet celebrations. Each culture, state and city seems to have their own festivals with fun and hilarity. There’s the Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Spring, CO. Or if you like something more low key, celebrate the Oatmeal Festival in Bertram, Texas in September each year.

This celebratory season is book ended by Thanksgiving Day and New Years Day. Choose to celebrate. Choose to embrace your family. Choose joy for this season and for the next 365 days.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dear Readers,

My list server went down and most of my contact list was lost. They recovered some of it, but in recent months due to the losses, my list fell from 3,000 to about 400. If you know of someone who would enjoy getting this weekly newsletter, could you please forward it? Thank you.

I’m behind in mailing out the columns and since we’re finishing the series on spiritual disciplines, I’ll mail three over the next week to catch up. Happy Thanksgiving to all. Loook at the following two bits of news, then read “Confession ~ Good for the Soul.”


My books are now in many stores:

LifeWay Christian Stores, Mardel Christian Stores, Parable and Family Christian Stores. If you are in the market for one of these, I’d appreciate your shopping in a local store for them. Thank you:

• A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts ~ Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday

• The Stained Glass Pickup.


Cathy’s Christmas one-hour radio Interview: re-airing November 27, 8:00 a.m. Central time.

To listen click this link and and click "listen now" on the left-hand side.

Confession – Good for the Soul

Author Darryl Tippens tells the following stories about confession. He and his wife Anne were invited to a local synagogue for Yom Kippur. This is the holy Day of Atonement when Jewish worshipers seek God’s forgiveness. During the service the rabbi invited the congregants to also consider their sins against any in the community and afterwards to go and apologize to that person.

As you read the rest of these stories, keep in mind these two scriptures about confession of sin: a prayer to God, “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you” (Psalm 41:4), an entreaty, “Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

In addition to seeking God’s forgiveness on Yom Kippur, the rabbi did something Tippens was not expecting. He asked each person to turn to their neighbor and confess their wrongs, asking for forgiveness. As a Gentile visitor, Tippens thought he’d get a pass. He didn’t think he had offended anyone on their church rolls. Then his wife Anne turned to him with shimmering eyes and asked, “Will you forgive me for all the times I’ve hurt you?”

Inwardly, he knew he should have first asked her forgiveness. “Feebly,” he answered, “Yes, I forgive you. Will you forgive me, too?” Tippens said that in his decades of church services, no minister or worship leader had ever asked him to confess his wrongs “in front of God and everybody.” He found a deeper awareness of confession and had his own Day of Atonement in the synagogue.

Tippens’ story is in his book, “Pilgrim Heart – the Way of Jesus in Everyday Life.” In presentations, he sometimes tells about his experience on Yom Kippur. After one such telling, an audience member related a similar experience. “William” and his family had been invited to an Eastern Orthodox Church and the day they attended was the day the church practiced the rite of “Mutual Forgiveness.” William, his wife, and two year old daughter watched as the priest, the leader, bowed before the congregation, his face to the floor and named his sins aloud and asked for God’s and the congregation’s forgiveness.

Then the congregation of about 150 arranged themselves into a large double circle, half the group was on the outside facing in, and the other group stood inside facing outward. This allowed congregants to rotate and confess their sins and seek forgiveness from fellow worshipers. The double circle revolved and each person got on their knees and confessed asking forgiveness of the next person and the next. Occasionally, a confessor grasped the feet of the person he had wronged and sought forgiveness. William and his wife participated as their two year old daughter walked quietly beside them and watched.

William said it was humbling, exhausting, exhilarating, and cleansing. Near the very end when the congregants had gone full circle. Their two-year-old daughter, who had been very quiet, knelt down on the floor in front of her mother’s feet. Taking hold of her ankles, she placed her little face near the floor. For this young couple, it was the crowning moment of the day, to know that in the future as they confessed and sought each other’s forgiveness, that God would open a door for this tiny daughter to embrace confession and forgiveness.

Many weekly church liturgies incorporate a time when the congregation asks aloud seeking God’s forgiveness, but not all Protestant churches include such a time. More could be written about confession, but more powerful than reading about it is the doing of it. Dependant upon personal misdeeds, it may be appropriate today to seek a store clerk’s forgiveness, a car mechanic’s, the postman’s, your husband’s your wife’s or your child’s. When we confess and seek forgiveness, we foster Christian charity among our community of contacts.

Before you confess to others, the psalmist’s prayer to a loving Father is a blessed place to begin, “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.”