Last week, my husband Sean received some excellent news. You may not know this, Sean is a gifted and passionate amateur photographer. A few months ago, he entered a photography contest with the Natural History Museum of Utah. A panel of esteemed photographers reviewed over 1000 entries for a new exhibit, “Utah Wilderness 50,” and picked the top 50 photos. Sean’s photograph was selected for the exhibit! This is the first photography contest that Sean has won and I am so proud.
Sean received the news while I was away on a trip for work. In response, I decided that I would plan a surprise celebration for him when I returned. The minute I got home from the airport, I hopped in the car to gather the necessary supplies: champagne, fancy chocolate, and cheese.
At the grocery store, I carefully examined the cheeses and chocolates, picking out flavors that would complement the champagne. I sensed God with me, smiling at my attention to detail, peering into the grocery cooler with me. The next stop was the wine store. I slowly walked down the aisle of champagnes, reading the descriptions. Which champagne would Sean like most? What would make him feel celebrated and loved? God was there too. It was an unexpected moment of joy and peace- communing with God through celebration.
The Discipline of Celebration
When we pause to celebrate we connect with our Father who loves to celebrate. We see this all throughout the Bible. Perhaps most memorable is when David, in response to the return of the Ark, dances half-naked before God. His wife is embarrassed but he responds, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:22) Jesus himself celebrates, performing his first miracle at a wedding (John 2:1-11) and participating in Jewish festivals and feasts.
But celebration isn’t only reserved for when we’re happy or in desirable situations. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun describes it this way:
Celebrating God does not depend on perfect circumstances or happy feelings. Even in prison Paul and Silas found something to sing about (Acts 16). …The world is filled with reasons to be downcast. But deeper than sorrow thrums the unbroken pulse of God’s joy, a joy that will yet have its eternal day. To set our hearts on this joy reminds us that we can choose how we respond to any particular moment. We can search for God in all circumstances, or not.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, p. 27
The question for us is, do we desire to search for God in all circumstances?
Do we look for God when we celebrate? What would be different the next time you attend a wedding or buy gifts for a birthday if you simply prayed God, I’m inviting you to celebrate with me?
Here are a few ways that you can partake in the discipline of celebration this week:
Learn about the church calendar
The church calendar, practiced commonly by Catholics and mainline Protestant churches, is a way for us to inhabit God’s story throughout the year. I find that it gives a structure to my worship, guiding me to focus on certain aspects of my faith during certain times of the year. During Advent, I explore the mystery of the incarnation. During Lent, I prepare for Jesus’ sacrifice. But did you know that Easter is supposed to last for 50 days? Our feasting is supposed to surpass the 40 days of fasting during Lent! I didn’t know this either until I started practicing the church calendar.
Invite God into your experiences
As I stated before, simply pray God I’m inviting you to celebrate with me before you head to a wedding, while you are purchasing gifts, or during a party.
Or, each day this week, ask God to help you see things that are worth celebrating. Choose something that acts as a trigger to help you pray this week. Perhaps every time you walk through a door or every time you take a bathroom break at work, pray Help me to see what is worth celebrating.
Plan small ways to celebrate this week or in the future
Is there something or someone you want to celebrate? Maybe you hit a milestone at work? Or your son/daughter did something amazing? Or maybe you need to celebrate “just because” (Just because I got through the week without punching my boss. Just because I made it through breakfast with my 2 y.o. without pulling my hair out).
Whatever it may be, think of how you want to celebrate. Are there supplies you need? Do you need to ask someone to help you? For example, maybe your idea of celebrating is a long shower. Ask your spouse or a good friend to handle the kids for an extra 15 minutes. Or maybe you want to treat a loved one to a day at the park or a special meal? Make space and do something to celebrate!
At this point, you might be wondering how the surprise turned out. In short, Sean loved it. I found joy and intimacy with God simply by seeing my husband’s surprised face and look of gratitude. Oh, and the champagne was an added bonus!
Share how you have connected with God through celebrating. Or, what ways do you want to incorporate celebration in your life?
This post is part of a blog series: Discipline of the Week