Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Discipline of Celebration

I’m reading this book.  A friend handed it to me with the encouragement to read a certain chapter.  The whole book was good though and he wanted it back.  This piqued my curiosity and after reading the said chapter I started at the beginning.  If it hadn’t been for his recommendation, I would have completely passed this book by based on the title.  Spiritual disciplines are quite important though, and a topic, I feel, is not often enough addressed.  I appreciated this author’s lead up to actually teaching the disciplines.  He spoke about our ability to change, what was required in changing, our role versus God’s role.  A good foundation.

Anyways, the chapter that has impressed me the most thus far is “A Dee Dah Day” on the discipline of celebration.  Such thoughts gave birth to the title of this blog, my life as a journey of joy, a journey in the discipline and art of celebration.  

John begins by telling a story of bathing his children before bed.  A particular daughter, once evicted from the tub, began running around in circles, dancing, and chanting “dee dah day”.  He became impatient with her as she messed up his plans of quickly drying her off and getting closer to “in bed”.  He told her to hurry.  So she ran faster and chanted more quickly.  He then was more specific in the kind of hurry he was after.  She stopped and stared at him and asked the ever present child’s question, “Why?”  Much to his credit he stopped and thought about that rather than just firing back a Dad, in control, thoughtless, un-eternal answer.  He realized he did not have a good answer.  She was celebrating the moment, the day the Lord had made.  He got up and joined her.  

I thought of when I have seen parents do just the opposite.  Rather than embracing the sanctification that comes of raising little people, from increased patience to seriously thinking through and answering the unmitigated barrage of questions, they succumb to the felt need of always being in charge, responsible, and right.  Always having an answer, any answer … as impotent as “because I said so”.  Seriously answering their haphazard questions, especially all the “why’s”, creates opportunity for change in you.  Why indeed?  Is it a good reason?  A holy, righteous, loving reason?  If not, have the joy, respect, humility, courage, and tenderness to the Lord to change.  What better example for the littles?  I wrote these thoughts in my journal, praying that I would have a similar or better perspective when I stand looking at my own flesh and blood.

Back to the topic of joy.  The following is excerpts and thoughts from John Ortoberg’s book.  

G. K. Chesterton referred to the do-it-again-ness of children, their joy in monotony, and pointed out that as adults we are not strong enough to experience joy in monotony.  But God does.  Every morning, he says to the sun, “Do it again!”  And to the moon, and the seasons, and to the rhythm of life.  We should take joy in goodness and in perfection, in beauty repeated.  Joy is God’s basic character with sorrow as a temporary response to a fallen world.  God has a fierce, unwearying joy that we should mirror.  Lewis Smedes insisted that missing out joy is missing out on the reason for our existence.  Joy is biblically non optional.  Joylessness is a sin.

Gratitude is closely linked to joy.  Practice gratitude.  

Joy also directly affects our ability to be strong.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.  Failure to attain a deeply satisfying life makes sinful cations seem good, and we are more vulnerable to temptation.  It is easier to be strong if we are basically happy with our lives.  To abstain from bodily joys and pleasures because they are “unspiritual” weakens us in our efforts to do right.  We should arrange our lives so sin doesn’t look good to us.
{I’m not sure I totally agree with this section.  I get the concept.  If we are disgruntled with life and not finding our joy in the Lord, we are more likely to believe the lie that sin will provide pleasure and fill that emptiness.  However, I’m not sure that we should be striving after happinesses as a way to avoid sin.  Sanctification is a work the Lord does in our life through his grace, not our mental tricks.}

Joy is a learned skill and we are each responsible for our own joy.  We learn joy through the discipline of celebration.  This is not hedonism which provides diminishing returns (to be happy we need even more of what we previously had), but exercising our ability to see and feel goodness in the simplest gifts of God.  Joy capacity increases as we are able to delight today in what was untouchable yesterday.  THIS is the day the Lord has made, the day Christ’s death has redeemed!

True joy comes to those devoted to something greater than personal happiness.  Authentic joy is compatible with pain and exists in spite of something.  Karl Barth described joy as a “defiant nevertheless” set at full stop against bitterness and resentment.

Bonhoeffer (imprisioned for a year and half by the Nazis and then hung) states that God cannot endure that unfestive, mirthless attitude of ours in which we eat our bread in sorry, with pretentious, busy haste, ore even with shame.  Through our daily meals He is calling us to rejoice, to keep holiday in the midst of our working day.

John suggests several ways to practice celebration.  Unplugging for a week to help your joy.  It’s proven that TV makes people more unhappy.  People know it, yet they continue.  Social media is in the same category, linked to depression and anxiety.   Go do something.

View life from a biblical perspective, not positive thinking, but rather eschatological thinking.  Our union with God is compared to a wedding.  You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace!  The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you.  There will be shouts of the joy and the trees of the field will clap their hands!  He will dwell with us as our God; we will be his peoples, and God himself will be with us; he will wipe every tear from our eyes.  Death will be not more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.  {Read that again.  And again.  How can we not rejoice?}  He spoke these things to us that our joy might be complete.  Perfect.  Lacking in nothing.  Nothing.

Three cheers for the snow!  Even though, which the new herd of goats, that means hauling hot water down from from the house, chipping ice out of troughs, bucking hay, paying for hay, and learning how to dress smart.  The horses have also been thankful for the goats requiring warm water.  It's been a beautiful week.  

I am camera-less for the time being, so we'll be recycling some of my favorite pictures that, hopefully, you haven't seen before.  :)  And I'm taking donations.

As you complete your week, please think of what this concept of joy means and should mean for you.  Practice the art of celebration.  

For me, this is preparation for celebration {stolen from pinterest} 

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