Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cultivating Celebration: Present Orientation

The resources I've examined regarding celebration as a spiritual discipline unanimously agree that the holy habit of celebration requires full attention to the present moment.

Worry inhabits the future;
regret and resentment inhabit the past;
celebration inhabits the now.

This challenges me.  It is more comfortable, safer somehow, to ruminate on either past or future.  To abandon myself to this moment feels risky, out of control, vulnerable to whatever danger lurks around the next bend.  Worry, at least, grants the illusion of preparedness and security.  Celebration might mean catching the first snowflakes on my tongue instead of getting to the store in time to stock up on food staples in advance of the calamity of 24 to 36 hours housebound by an ice storm.  Delight in the now, then, requires trust for the not yet.

The other risk in celebration is the certainty of its passing.  Sometimes it's easier to walk in the known discomfort of anxiety or grief now than to risk a joy that will never last in this world.  To this fear, Adele Calhoun writes,
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 (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, p.27).
The Christian, then, of all people, has the reason and resources to risk joy now in the confidence that God's joy abides always and will someday be our full experience, as well.

As I said, this is not my strength.  What practical steps can I take to move towards celebration and inhabiting the present moment?

Richard Foster's suggestions in Celebration of Discipline include singing and dancing, exercising imagination, and laughter.  It's hard to worry or repine when playing a Bach prelude or reading the Narnian stories or being silly with my dog or family.  Furthermore, he suggests cultivating an appreciation for the simple goodness of God's created order:
God has established a created order full of excellent and good things, and it follows naturally that as we give our attention to those things we will be happy.  That is God's appointed way to joy.  If we think we will have joy only by praying and singing psalms, we will be disillusioned.  But if we fill our lives with simple good things and constantly thank God for them, we will be joyful, that is, full of joy.  And what about our problems?  When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, we will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our problems (p.195, emphasis mine).
The apostle Paul said it this way:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8, NLT, emphasis mine; see also 1 Timothy 4:4-5 and  Ecclesiastes 8:15, perhaps?).
Once again, I learn I am what I think about.  If my mind dwells on God's excellent and praiseworthy character and gifts and my heart and voice respond with gratitude, I may be beginning to learn to celebrate.

In the comments: no doubt some of you Crumbles are better at this than I.  If you are so led, I welcome your suggestions of actions that ground you in the present and in joy.


In the next post of the series, we will learn from the Wits' End resident expert on living in the joy of the moment.  How's that for a teaser? [Smile.]

5 comments:

  1. This is such a beautifully put-together post. I picked you up via the holy experience blog (from the list of "walk with Him" participants). I wanted to share that blogging has helped to ground me in joy. To be more specific, I challenged myself to blog about each of my closest friends. Often--when I am not blogging--I am thinking about one of these friends and the blessing (s)he is in my life, and I find it hard to be even a little bit sad! I find it easier, though, to be grounded in joy than to be grounded in the present!

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  2. @Brandee Shafer Thank you for visiting and for your gracious words. A Holy Experience is one of my favorite online places, too.

    What a lovely idea to honor your friends through your blog! Thinking about friends and my wonderful nephews does have a way of moving me toward joy. Good suggestion!

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  3. I know it’s Sunday morning – a long time since “Walking With Him Wednesday”. But it took a long time to get through the “Multitude Monday” posts – and still didn’t get past 140 or so.

    And this – this is stunning, “Delight in the now, then, requires trust for the not yet.”
    Inspiring really.

    And your question – for me it’s pausing, breathing in deep a thought of God, nodding the head – asking for his peace in this moment – and exhaling – and receiving.”

    These words were a blessing today. Thank you.

    God be with you and yours

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  4. @Craig Thank you for coming back to read again and for your encouragement.

    Good point-- yes, breathing deeply can be helpful as a physical expression of openness and surrender to God.

    The Lord be with you also.

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Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.