Since this past week was my ‘birthday week,’ I thought it would be a good time to put into practice the spiritual discipline of Celebration. When I think of the word ‘celebrate,’ my mind immediately wanders back to an old VHS about Disney World I used to watch as a kid; Mickey and his friends, as well as a bunch of kids dressed in colorful clothes, would all sing, “Celebrate good times, come on!” Believe it or not, I found the video:
The above video might make you smile, or it may even be a little obnoxious (for me, it’s a combination of both). But what might Celebration as a ‘spiritual discipline’ look like?
Adele Calhoun, in her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, writes the following about the discipline:
“Desire: to take joyful, passionate pleasure in God and the radically glorious nature of God’s people, Word, world and purposes
Definition: Celebration is a way of engaging in actions that orient the spirit toward worship, praise and thanksgiving. Delighting in all the attentions and never-changing presence of the Trinity fuels celebration
Practice Includes: Identifying and pursuing those things that bring the heart deep gladness and reveling in them before the Lord. This may include time spent with others, sharing meals, working, serving, worshiping, laughing, listening to music, dancing and so on.”
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I caught snippets of celebration this week, feeling completely blown away at how loved I felt by my friends and family. By each of their kind actions, I felt God’s love for me extended through them. I sensed the reality of Zephaniah 3:17, that
“He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Here’s some moments where celebration made me feel loved by others and, in turn, made me feel the love of the Lord:
- Enjoying some yummy dessert with dear gals on Sunday night, pondering some of the best parts of the year, as well as expectations for the future.
- Waking up to a suite full of balloons, thanks to my lovely and kind suitemates who blew up all THIRTY-SEVEN of them with their lungs (and not a machine!).
- Those same suitemates making me chocolate-covered strawberries and tea, as well as getting each of us fun clown wigs. It’s amazing how much joy came into our hearts simply by laughing about these fun wigs! When we tried talking about serious matters, it wouldn’t last long due to the hilarity on our heads.
- Getting absolutely surprised by an outpouring of joy and of love at a party planned by my friend, Petek. Complete with pizza, cake, candy, and a monkey piñata, it was a real bash. Swinging at that monkey gave me so many laughs that I could barely keep swinging!
- Receiving 20 different envelopes from back home filled with silly surprises from my besties, Gianna and Amy.
- Opening a birthday package from my family, filled with treats and love.
- Cherishing every card and letter and FaceTime chat from family and friends.
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Apart from my birthday, I delighted in a couple other moments during the week:
- The joy I spotted on a two-year-old’s face when she played with the leaves of a plant outside a coffee shop. I don’t know what made her so joyful about touching a plant (especially since it was pretty much dead considering winter chilliness), but she was laughing up a storm! I couldn’t help but smile, admiring how she was celebrating the simple joys around her.
- Spotting the sunrise reflection upon my bedroom wall. Even though I gazed at it for a few moments, snapped a photo, then fell back asleep – it was a moment of sweetness. It added the gift of celebration to my morning – the blessed awareness that the morning was not a drudgery but a gift to be celebrated.
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So, can the simple act of celebrating life be a spiritual practice
? Though it may not be the same as sitting alone in a room on a silent retreat or fasting from a certain food for Lent, I’d argue that the practice of Celebration is just as important. I firmly believe that as we humans celebrate the blessings God has given us – especially in the form of cherished friends and family – we participate in practicing the joy He has placed in our hearts, the joy that ought to lead us closer to His heart.
This past week as I celebrated the gift of life, I was repeatedly drawn back to thankfulness to the Lord for His faithfulness. I pray that as I continue living into this spiritual discipline, that all the joy may only and ever be glorifying to Him.
As Adele Calhoun concludes her chapter on Celebration:
“Celebrate the God who celebrates you.”
I pray that you, my friend, feel celebrated this week by God.
And maybe even put on a party hat.