Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Last year I received an envelope in the mail that caused my heart to stir as I recognized the return address. Tearing open the letter with rapid speed, I read the longed-for words and broke out into a happy dance. My arms flew above my head as I felt joy surging up from my toes, through my belly, and expanding my heart. With my face toward heaven and my mouth opened wide, I began to laugh. It was truly a celebration day. In addition, it just so happened I was scheduled to spend the rest of my working day with a group I genuinely liked. My faith and confidence in God’s goodness was at an all-time high. Everything, including my work, felt like a gift from God, and it was worth celebrating.
Most of us won’t experience a day like the one I describe above on a daily basis, but we can pay attention to the hidden rumblings of joy in our inner lives, see the joys set before us, and share them with our communities.
The discipline of celebration thrives and takes root through two important truths:
We Choose to Celebrate Deuteronomy 30:15, 19 tell us, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction … Now choose life … ” God encourages us to choose life, to choose celebration. When we choose to see and to have positive pleasures in this life we are celebrating God’s goodness.
We Celebrate Best with Others In celebrating together, we let go of managing ourselves, acting spiritual, or despairing in loneliness. Instead, our hearts become filled with gratitude because of God’s remarkable greatness and goodness to us.
On that day last year, I shared with my work group the good thing God had done. Their responses sounded to me like hills singing and trees clapping their hands (Is. 55:12). In celebrating together, imparted to my heart was a strength to do what God called me to do because, in that moment, his goodness was so real to me.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What five events in the last year have caused you to celebrate? List each one and spend a few minutes remembering the feeling of joy God gave you. How did choosing joy help you know more of God’s goodness? Who are the people you want to celebrate with? Why?
PRAYER: Joyful God, you came to earth as the joy-giver. I see your face in the exuberant and unbridled joy of children. Forgive me when I have not chosen joy when given the chance to celebrate. Help me to turn my whole heart away from sadness and melancholy. Open the eyes of my heart to see the joy you’ve set before me. Amen.
Pam Lau is the author of Soul Strength and numerous articles for Fullfill magazine and Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. She teaches communications at George Fox University. Her forthcoming book, A Friend in Me: Building Trust with the Next Generation of Women, is due June 1. Pam lives near Portland, Oregon with her husband and three daughters. See more at www.pamelalau.com.
What if spiritual discipline is easier than we think it is? In his book Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster offers this list of spiritual disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
That list can look like a mountain to climb and a setup for failure. We start to ask questions like: What spiritual disciplines should I practice in my work life? Does prayer make a difference in my work life? Does a Christian layperson really need to read the Bible everyday? We wonder how to fit spiritual disciplines into our lives with so many deadlines and meetings and expectations and budgets. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to discover the Holy Spirit at work, even here, even without working so hard to bring the Spirit with us everywhere? We hope this series on Spiritual Disciplines gives you freedom and a little more space to breathe.