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.

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