Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cultivating Celebration: The Extraordinary Ordinary

If I remember my Temple Grandin reading right, animals have no difficulty staying focused on the present moment.  That is their innate design, though, and no moral virtue.  (They don't have to get to choose like we do.) Even so, not all animals seem to enjoy the present moment.

We've had three dogs in our home over the last 11 years, and our current buddy, Ebony, is the only one who consistently, habitually seems to exhibit joy.  Countless times every day he perks up his ears and wags not just his tail but his whole body in enthusiasm.  No great variety of activity or stimulation is required to provoke his happy dance.  Most of our days conform to a pretty consistent routine, in fact.  However, in Ebony's world there are no ordinary days.  He likes his routine, revels in it, and never seems to grow tired of it.  He is my paragon of celebrating the present moment.

His day starts when ours does:
"Oh, goody! The alarm!  Now Allen-Honey and Sweetie will snuggle with me on the couch while they drink their wake-up juice!  My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Walkies!  My favorite!"


"Oh, goody! Peanut butter and allergy medicine!  My favorite!"

"Oh, goody!  My morning nap!  My favorite!"
"Oh, goody! Lunch in my treat ball! My favorite!"
"Oh, goody! Another nap and the blankie! My favorite!"


"Oh, goody! Time to patrol the yard for signs of the nefarious Dr. Miao and her evil henchcats!  My favorite!"

"Blech! Pollen decontamination wipedown!  Not my favorite! NOT MY FAVORITE!!!"
(OK, so that's an exception.)

"Oh, goody!  Allen-Honey's home! My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Supper! My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! More snuggles! My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Bedtime and my Kong! My favorite!"

(Adapted from http://icanhascheezburger.com/2010/11/04/funny-pictures-cat-dog-diary/)


See what I mean? Nothing spectacular or exceptional marks our daily liturgy, but Ebony has a loving family, a safe home, adequate daily food, and more napping spots than he knows what to do with.  In these daily delights he finds joy.

How much more should I, a Christian, celebrate God's daily grace in the ordinary?  Is there any ordinary day, really, for a Spirit-indwelt child of the Most High God?  Or am I just too dull, too calloused, to recognize the extraordinary embedded in the mundane?  Is that why I need hardships that disrupt the routine? To wake me up to the glory I would otherwise miss?

The ordinary, messy, beautiful physicality of daily life has been three times hallowed: by creation, Incarnation, and redemption.  Surely this is cause to seek and find ways to celebrate God's involvement in this day.

In chapter 4 of his classic book OrthodoxyG. K. Chesterton even suggests that quotidian delight reflects the very character of God.
      All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption: a false assumption.  It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork.  People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance.  This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact.  For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire.  A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. . . .  The sun rises every morning.  I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction.  Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising.  His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.  The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they especially enjoy.  A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.  Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.  They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up does it again until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.  The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.
O Father, I am so far from this joy.  Make me, us, strong enough to exult in monotony.  Work Your delight out in us today; catch our attention with the daily beauties we miss because we are all too grown up.  May we lift our hearts toward you each day with a smile that says, "Do it again, Lord. Encore!"  In the name of the Christ who welcomed little children, in His name we ask this.  Amen.




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