If celebration is a discipline (and Richard Foster says it is), it’s the discipline that comes most naturally to me. I’ve helped plan two wonderful parties in the last few weeks, two honoring celebrations. The first was easy. It was for my son, Will, who was turning ten. Although the night consisted almost of exclusively of playing games and eating (two things boys universally love), we also had intervals in the course of the night where these young boys could talk about Will, about how they met him and some of their favorite memories with Will. Ten is pretty young to do something like that, but it worked surprisingly well. These boys were happy to talk about what they liked about their buddy, Will, and it felt like he was celebrated for the unique person God made him to be.
Last Saturday I played a role in a much bigger party, a much grander celebration. It was a surprise party for my wonderful mom who turned seventy yesterday! This party was not easy to pull off, because we wanted to surprise her and with roughly eighty guests that was challenging. Someone was going to slip, I was certain. My boys would accidently say something. But they didn’t. No one did. She was clueless until just minutes before.
And was it ever fun! It was fun to surprise her, for her to see friends and family she hadn’t seen in years, but it was much more than just a fun surprise. It was an intentional time of celebrating life — the life of my mother who has been special to so many. We had a time of singing, a time of sharing, dinner and cake. The whole night had the sweetest spirit to it–the food wasn’t fancy, the place wasn’t swanky, and the decorations were simple. The aim was a sincere and joyful acknowledgment of a true blessing, Judy Huber, and it seemed everyone had a wonderful time. Conversation was easy, meaningful stories were shared and there was an abundance of laughter.
Even though we may not think about it very much, it is important to do things like this. Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline explains why. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). Foster opens his chapter on celebration with this statement: “Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ.” p.190. He also quotes Harvey Cox, who said that modern people strive so hard toward productivity and “rational calculation” that we have “all but forgotten the joy of ecstatic celebration.” It’s such an apt observation. Throwing parties does not result from rational calculations. In fact, for those who might not see the spiritual value in honoring others, especially parents, it would probably seem overwrought or over-sentimentalized. But a follower of Christ will recognize it as obedience. Furthermore, as Foster explains “Celebration brings joy into life, and joy makes us strong. Scripture tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. (Neh. 8:10)” p.191.
Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” (Phil 4:4). It is not a mere recommendation, but a command. And Jesus knew nothing of stuffy, boring parties — no as Foster points out, “Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.” (p.196).
So what keeps you from celebrating like you should? May I recommend, at the very least, reading or re-reading this chapter in Foster’s book? And may I invite you to prayerfully consider reading through all of Celebration of Discipline with me? I did this via my blog a few years ago, but this is a book that deserves an annual read, and I’m excited to jump back into it. I know new insights and spiritual truths await me in this important book, and I’d be so honored if you’d commit to reading it with me.
I’ll start with Meditation next Monday.