I pray that God will open your minds to see his truth and that your hearts will be flooded with light. Then you will know the hope that he has chosen us to have. You will know that the blessings God has promised his holy people are rich and glorious. – Ephesians 1:18 (NLT, ERV)
This week in my Wednesday men’s group we enjoyed a productive conversation around the idea of celebration as a spiritual discipline. In other words, being deliberate about cultivating a posture of gratitude and making a habit of celebration.
Typically, our default setting is that of waiting for something amazing to happen, and then (maybe) remembering to be grateful. Scripture teaches something entirely different – it teaches that gratitude comes first, and that celebration actually facilitates, or triggers, our recognition of beauty, and victory, and grace, and blessing.
So I asked the guys what they are grateful for. The responses had nothing to do with possessions (like, “My car,” or “My bank account,” or “My new iPhone…”), but everything to do with “My children,” “My family,” “This church,” “My country,” “Knowing that God loves me….”
That level of joy, it turns out, always comes as a result of giving, and generosity, and caring for others, and service, and community – joy that comes in response to giving, not receiving.
“I’m grateful for so much,” I said when it was my turn, “especially Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. And today I’m very much grateful that I live here in North Carolina.”
Earlier in the day, I had hiked into Wake Forest to meet a friend at my favorite downtown coffee shop. When I left the house it was around 50-degrees. When I walked home it was almost 60. I really cherish any opportunity I have not to rush into the next thing. To me, walking a mile to a conversation is really part of the conversation. So is the time it takes to make my way home.
The sky was so full with color and texture, and the trees turning a little more toward the yellows, browns, and reds. So I grabbed a few photos as I walked, capturing the sense of peace and of deep gratitude. Living isn’t about the next thing, it’s about the moment we are experiencing. The discipline – the intention – of celebration requires taking pause enough to actually notice.
So maybe, at the heart of this spiritual practice, we must be prepared to pause every so often, to take a deep refreshing breath of attention, and then simply respond to God’s goodness with a smile, or a prayer, or a fist-pump, or maybe even a small dance of joy.
Because this is the truth: we have so much to celebrate!