Celebrate! Practising the discipline of joy Photo: © abasler/stock.Adobe.com
BY CAPTAIN JENNIFER REID
e have just celebrated Easter, the climax of the Christian year. It’s my favourite season, as we rejoice in the reality that Jesus is alive. It’s easy to mark holidays and special occasions, but I am learning to find joy in everyday life as a spiritual discipline—whether it’s an answer to prayer, a good school report card from my children or simply seeing the bottom of the laundry hamper! Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, encourages her readers to count their gifts each day, a journey of gratitude that describes the spiritual discipline of celebration. “I found myself on a transformative journey that affected every aspect of my life,” she writes. This is a journey I want to be on, and I invite you as well. The discipline of celebration invites us to enter God’s presence by remembering his faithfulness and goodness. On this “gratitude journey,” we can celebrate not just the big occasions but the small, everyday gifts and graces. Through the practice of this discipline, we are better equipped when circumstances cause us pain and it becomes more difficult to find joy. After reading Voskamp’s book, a colleague of mine, Captain Heather Samuel, corps officer at Cambridge Citadel in Ontario, began posting on Facebook three things for which she was grateful each day. “Celebration of God through thanksgiving, grace and joy, has changed my life,” she says. “I have learned that there is always something to celebrate
Celebrate not just the big occasions but the small, everyday gifts and graces in life, even on those days when it seems like nothing goes right. Giving thanks every day has changed my focus from me to God.” My own journey has taken me through deep grief, after losing both of my parents to cancer, and overwhelming fear in a time of sickness. While I didn’t keep a journal or a written list of “gifts,” I was very aware of God’s grace and presence in my life. Although I wasn’t in a celebratory mood, I could still feel the joy of God’s strength through being in relationship with his Son, Jesus. In the study guide for Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “Celebration is a grace because it comes unmerited from the hand of God. It is also a discipline because there is work to be done.” He reminds his readers that we must “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15). The discipline of celebration reminds me of the old hymn, Count Your Blessings. Johnson Oatman Jr.’s words encourage us to celebrate and experience joy. The last
line of each verse, in particular, speaks to my heart: “And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” “And you will keep singing as the days go by.” “Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.” Life can often be unpredictable. We may find ourselves experiencing financial stress, sickness, grief, a flat tire or forgotten appointment. But intentionally recognizing and celebrating even the smallest blessings will deepen and strengthen our relationship with God and help make our challenges easier to bear. And, in the process, we will become people of thankfulness. As you practise this discipline, may you experience the joy of being in a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ in a new and exciting way. “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!” (Philippians 4:4 The Message). Captain Jennifer Reid is the divisional secretary for spiritual life development and the divisional adult ministries secretary in the Newfoundland and Labrador Division.
Grace Notes Ann Voskamp offers suggestions for how to begin a journey of gratitude and celebration. Pray. Start with a simple request, making it the refrain of your day: “God, open the eyes of my heart.” This journey must be Spirit-led, every day. Receive. Open your hand to the simple, daily gifts, writing down all the unique and ordinary things you notice, from the grand and obvious to the humble and hidden. Praise. Praise God for the unexpected and the unlikely, for the daily and the difficult and for the graces in disguise. The more you count, the more gifts you will see. Do not disdain the small. As the moments add up, we will come to believe that the whole earth is full of his glory! “Beyond that, there is no method or formula,” Voskamp writes. “There is simply a willingness … to take note of the daily love God unfurls.” Salvationist April 2016 17