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The Neglected Spiritual Practice

Why do we so often forget the importance and power of celebration?

I was a typical new mom, meticulously recording milestones, photographing every possible facial expression and pose, and religiously recording it all in a scrapbook for my bouncing baby boy. That, of course, was baby number one.

Now I glance with guilt at my poor, neglected baby number three. Okay, she's not actually neglected, but in the scrapbook arena all that exists so far is a literal scrap of paper on which I've hurriedly scrawled her weight and length from her first four doctors appointments. Yup, that's it. I've let life's busyness and demands completely shove aside any time for baby-booking.

I share this example because I think it reflects what many of us do in our spiritual lives. We zoom through each day without taking any time to celebrate—to take notice, to give thanks, and to rejoice in what God has done. We know we should, but it just always seems so . . . well, so less-important than all the other to-dos. In the family of spiritual disciplines, celebration is the ignored and overlooked younger sister, often hidden behind the looming shadow of the truly "essential" disciplines like prayer and Bible study.

Laughing, smiling, enjoying time with friends—these can seem so trivial and even unspiritual. But in fact, living a celebratory life significantly reflects the joy and contentment we have in Christ. In terms of being a spiritual discipline, celebration is more than just having a party or feeling upbeat all the time. I see it as a companion discipline to worship. In my book The Busy Mom's Guide to Spiritual Survival, I define celebration this way: "In worship, we focus on and declare eternal, unchanging truths about who God is. . . . Though closely tied to worship, the discipline of celebration is when we focus on and delight in what God does."

Sometimes celebration comes naturally for us—we rejoice with hugs and high fives or even tearful prayers when a baby is born, a child graduates, or a friend finds healing from illness. But at other times celebration requires attention and effort: when we are disheartened or hurting or tired, we can still choose to take notice and give thanks to God for his blessings. In this sense, celebration is the undercurrent of abundant joy that flows through a believer's life, even during terribly dark times. "Celebration," sums up Richard Foster, "is at the heart of the way of Christ."

Do you neglect the spiritual practice of celebration? If so, why? What impact can a lack of celebration have on a person's spiritual life? What is God prompting you to celebrate today? Share your gratitude and joy with us.

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From Issue:
Today's Christian Woman, 2011, September
Posted September 27, 2011

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