Welcome to the second stop on our Golden Hour Tour of beautiful words and sacred practices. This one may be a bit more lively than the last. I hope there are cards and banners and high fives and parties. I pray there are gifts and candles and music and laughter late into the night. We move on from Savor to Celebrate.
The older I get, here On the Other Side of Middle, the more aware and angry I become that the enemy of our souls has stolen celebration from the people of God. This world has robbed us of this gift. It tells us what is worthy of celebration… it shoves it down our throats and blinds our eyes with the flashing lights of how it should go. And I suppose if we desire to be a people set apart, sanctified and holy, then we must turn our backs on all the fun. Right? Oh, I hope not!
One of my nearest and dearest friends, a steadfast presence in my life for more than a decade, has a slight thing for the Green Bay Packers. And by slight, I mean full on love affair. She painted her laundry room green and gold. She listens to Packer’s Podcasts as she drifts off to sleep (yep, that’s a thing). She has a cheesehead hat and dreams of trips to Lambeau Field like I dream of trips to resorts and spas. And she and her husband do it! They go to the games and brave the cold and choose to spend vacation time and travel money on watching her team play. She loves being in that legendary stadium with thousands of other Packers’ fans cheering for her boys. I currently live in the literal home of Friday Night Lights… Let me assure you that the hype is very real. So what is it? From PeeWee to the Pros, from football to baseball, to basketball, to soccer, what is it? Why is it so much fun to go to a game and shout with friends and strangers alike, to jump right into the crazy? What does this speak to in our spirit? I’m making the case for CELEBRATION.
My roots run pretty redneck. Cheesy country music gets me every time and I don’t care who knows it. I tried to be cool for 5 minutes in high school and tuned the station to “alternative,” but quickly found my way back to George, Trisha, and Martina. So, when GARTH BROOKS made his way out here to West Texas this past Spring, I WAS HERE FOR THAT! Being in that arena with my husband, brother, sister-in-law, and thousands of other fans singing every word along with Garth was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Why? It was a CELEBRATION of memories and music, of family and “Friends in Low Places.”
I believe that great concerts, big sporting events, moving movies, beautiful ballets… they tap into something spiritual. It’s called worship. It’s called celebration. See, we were created to be a small part of something much bigger than ourselves… something good and exciting and worthy of all the yelling and singing and high fives in the world. We were created to do this in community with millions of other worshipers. When we are in a stadium or an arena or a concert hall and the celebration takes over and we are swept away in the joy and emotion, I think we put a tippy toe into what heaven will feel like.
We all know this can go too far. I will not belabor idolatry here. My friend does not worship the Packers. I do not worship Garth Brooks. But the very reason it can be a slippery slope for so many is that we were made to be worshipers and celebrators. When we let the world dictate what we will worship or celebrate, it gets funky fast. Does the celebration terminate on itself… end right there at the game or with the last song? Or worse maybe, do we turn our backs all together on these little tastes of heaven, deeming them too worldly to partake in, and give celebration up to the world? Or do we credit a big, fun, creative God with giving us the gift of sports, music, art, and community to share it with? All this fun was His idea after all!
In the classic devotional “Abiding in Christ” first published in 1895, Andrew Murray writes these incredibly convicting words:
“So there is nothing quite so attractive as JOY, no preaching so persuasive as the sight of hearts made GLAD. This makes gladness such a strong element in Christian character. There is no proof of the reality of God’s love and blessing He bestows, which people so quickly feel the strength of, as when the joy of God overcomes all the trials of life.”
Celebration, joy, gladness in our lives will win more souls for Jesus than preaching any day… certainly more than “holier than thou” or “holier than fun” living ever will. So is it? Is joy and gladness and celebration a strong element in your life, in your Christian character? Never underestimate its power.
Let me state the obvious: we cannot celebrate what we do not recognize. I’m afraid our fast-paced, drive-thru culture has rushed into our faith walks just like it has rushed into every other aspect of life. We order up a prayer request, a new gift to savor, and by the time we make it to the window we are hungry for something else. The Bible gives the command to “remember” over and over and over again. We cannot celebrate what we do not remember.
Has God been gracious to you, even in hard times? Has He answered just one prayer? Are you in a different place in your marriage, with a difficult child, in your finances than you were 5 years ago? Has He illuminated things in Scripture for you that have changed your life, your faith, given you hope where there was none before? Has He spoken quietly, “this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21) to you and now your feet are on a different path? Has He just let the Packers win or granted you some sweet Garth tickets? All of those things deserve recognition, remembering, and celebrating
In the Bible, the people of God not only remembered, they set up alters when God did a mighty work. They rolled bolder upon bolder into place. Their remembering took time and sweat and left sore muscles and a lasting, visible evidence of God’s presence in their lives. Their celebrating took weeks, and preparation and travel and pause. They knew, God knew, that they needed those alters and feasts so that they wouldn’t forget because they were human just like we are. They had kids and jobs and natural disasters to worry about too. They had a new set of desires every day just like us and they first needed to take a breath, say thank you, and celebrate. We all need reminders that God was faithful before and He will be faithful again.
I know the hubs would think I was crazy if I started building actual altars around the Ranchito every time God answered a prayer or came through for us… if his weekend “honey-do” list included rolling stones on top of one another. But I have my own alters. I have journal upon journal of prayers prayed for my children, my husband, my tribe, myself. I can go back and celebrate those victories over and over. When things are tough and I am doubting, I can re-read those prayers and marvel at how far God has brought us. Those are altars of remembering. My youngest child sort of came into this world in miracle fashion and his birth was an enormous victory for my faith. All our kids are special, but his birthday is an alter of remembering for me. God hears. This humble 7 acres that I sit and write these words from is an altar. There is a literal pipe fence around an altar to obedience, and staying when we wanted to quit, and trusting and praying and honoring childhoods and community and messy floors and real life friends. When my kids ask if I have ever seen a miracle I can open those journals and read them the stories of their God moving on their mother’s behalf, I’ll show them pictures of a crowd of warriors around a birth center bed and a 10lb. 11 oz “surprise,” I’ll walk them around the perimeter of the Ranchito and tell them of His goodness. Build alters. Remember. Celebrate.
And just like there is more to Savor when when learn to enjoy our “lot in life,” everyday gifts, we have more to celebrate when we learn to celebrate others well. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”. I think maybe we put the mourning on a spiritual pedestal while giving the rejoicing a bit of a cold shoulder. How well do you celebrate others? Rejoice with those who rejoice? Just like discontent can steal our ability to savor, envy can steal the joy of celebration.
The older I get, the more FOR the women in my life I become. I am FOR every single one of them running their race, doing their thing, finding their lane. I may have given this lip-service in my 30’s but I am all in at 40. I use to live under the cloud of a scarcity mentality. You know, like there wasn’t enough to go around… Not enough blessing, not enough gifting, not enough calling, not enough Jesus. Crazy, right? We serve an endless God and if we believe Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a good plan for each of us, then how can your plan, your blessing, something to celebrate in your life ever steal mine? It can’t. Your calling does not lessen mine. My race isn’t going to cause me to steal your prize in the end. If I know anything about our God, it is that His character is generous- it is the opposite of scarce or lacking. When we root ourselves down deeply in this truth, it frees us up to celebrate others well… which ultimately increases overall celebration in our lives, and brings us one step closer to looking like Christ on this earth.
The only way we can truly celebrate others well is by knowing them well… by being a real part in their real story, by letting them into your own, by honoring their vulnerability with your own courage to step out. Every baby shower is a lovely celebration, but when you have walked through infertility and loss for years with a sister, that’s a whole different party! The graduation of a friend’s child is exciting, but when you have sat on the floor with her for years praying and crying and believing for favor and maturity for that kid as they have struggled through school, that celebration is a victory! Marriages restored, business succeeding, callings clarified… All of those celebrations are increased when you have driven a spiritual stake deeply into them.
So have you? Are you?
Are you connected enough with a few souls, that their blessings, their celebrations feel like your own? ARE your own? Have you invited others into your own story, your own life deeply enough that they can celebrate with you when that prayer is finally answered… they can come over and help you roll some stones into place for the latest alter of remembering?
At this moment in history, when there are so many to mourn with, so much tragedy, so much loss, can we, the people of God wave a banner of celebration as well? Can we recognize God’s goodness, remember His works, and reclaim celebration in His name? I believe it would be a kick in the face to the thief who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
So, throw another baby shower, host another birthday party, keep someone’s kids so they can toast another anniversary. Spill out little tastes of heaven everywhere you go. Joy is powerful. Celebration is holy work.
P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe for a chance to win the “Savor the Season” Fall Bundle, full of beautiful gifts to usher in a moment of HYGGE for yourself and celebration for your people (even if it’s as simple as sharing a yummy cup of coffee over candlelight with close friends).