I Can Take Jesus Everywhere I Go Without Compartmentalizing Him

Our first year in China, my husband and I read the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster with our team. If moving across the world in our second year of marriage and attempting to be English teachers was not hard enough, we dove into a book with our teammates that constantly challenged us to develop consistency in the spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration.

At times, I wanted to throw that book across the room and yell at it. “That’s too hard!” “Leave me alone!” Then, I arrived at the last chapter: Celebration. And the author made the point I needed to hear all along:

“Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the     Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every discipline should be characterized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving…Without joyous celebration to infuse the other Disciplines, we will sooner or later abandon them. Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong.” p. 191

Like a breath of fresh air, this statement revived my weary soul. I had to read 191 pages to finally get to that. The previous 190 pages were full of great stuff, but my perspective was all wrong. Without joy, all that other stuff is just meaningless motion. “Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong.” Yes! I need energy and strength! The author goes on in that fabulous chapter to say:

“What is the Christian’s secret to a happy life?…Joy comes through obedience to Christ, and joy results from obedience to Christ. Without obedience, joy is hollow and artificial. To elicit genuine celebration, obedience must work itself into the ordinary fabric of our daily lives.” p. 192

Ah ha! Obeying by walking the walk day in and day out, even through the tough times, brings joy. Ordinary life can be a celebration! It doesn’t have to be a dull, painstaking to-do list of faking spiritual disciplines! I’m free at last! There is hope for a spiritual discipline delinquent like me! I eagerly went on to read the following:

“God’s normal means of bringing his joy is by redeeming and sanctifying the ordinary junctures of human life…When the power that is in Jesus reaches into our work and play and redeems  them, there will be joy where once there was mourning. To overlook this is to miss the meaning  of Incarnation….Often we try to pump up people with joy when in reality nothing has happened in their lives. God has not broken into the routine experiences of their daily existence. Celebration comes when the common ventures of life are redeemed.” p. 193

Yay! Life can be fun again! I can take Jesus everywhere I go without compartmentalizing Him into my “mandatory quiet time” and we can do life together. While I’m walking down the street feeling guilty that I haven’t gotten to my “mandatory quiet time” yet today, I can talk to him and praise him and have an ordinary moment of extraordinary fellowship with my savior right here on the sidewalk! Now I’m ready to celebrate!

Sitting here today, still in the same country we arrived in many years ago, I’m glad to be reminded that life is full of opportunities to celebrate. I’m most excited today about thinking of ways to make every day a celebration, to look for the places where Jesus has woven his redemption into the fabric of my daily life. Not in the “throw confetti, eat cake and cheer” sense of the word, but in the sense of living life in such a way that every day I find the opportunity waiting for me to celebrate Jesus’ gift of another day here on this earth and another chance to enjoy the ones I love.

This view of celebration as a lifestyle instead of something that only happens on big, special days, transforms the monotony of my day. A simple meal of spaghetti becomes a chance to sit still with my growing-up-too-fast-and-always-moving children and savor each other’s company. Celebrating the joy that we have a roof over our heads and live in a place where yummy tomato goodness can come right out of a can! Celebrating our average neighborhood where so many people can live in one square mile of urban congestion and be at peace with one another. Celebrating our simple, but profound calling to live each day to the fullest in obedience to the God who has given us His everything. He is our joy. He is our strength. Let us live in celebration of that truth.

Saying, “Let’s all find reasons to celebrate life every single day and live each moment to the fullest because we have air in our lungs today, and today is a gift! Let’s embrace each passing moment and find the good, the joy that’s waiting there for us!” sounds good. But, sometimes we’re in a season or situation that’s just plain hard. I don’t know where you are or what you’re dealing with, but if you’re in a particularly bleak spot right now, I hope and pray that somehow, some way you can find a little glimmer of hope and a reminder of God’s perpetual goodness and cling to it with all your might.

And, just so you know…as I sit a month later re-reading this, I need this reminder to celebrate God’s goodness right now in my own life. My baby just got over a stomach bug that lasted two weeks, so I’ve been celebrating every empty diaper the last two days! That celebration ceased as soon as my oldest son got the bug and redecorated the living room with his dinner. *sigh and deep breath* Even in this hard and dreadful moment, I will find strength in Jesus. Once the kids are in bed, I crank up my favorite praise album (the one that’s recorded live and has lots of people shouting and praising in the background). Hearing their shouts and praise helps me turn my face to look at HIM instead of my YUCKY situation and simmer in the fact that He will never leave me or forsake me.

Whether you find yourself in good times or in bad, what does celebrating the ordinary look like for you today? How have you experienced celebration as a discipline?

Photo Credit : Unsplash

6 Comments

  1. MaDonna November 10, 2014

    Thanks M’Lynn for your honesty – that discipline isn’t fun – BUT what a great insight that where there is joy, true joy, there is obedience and walking in those disciplines. I was just reading this morning about JOY, this just really blends well and brings a nice ending to my day. Thanks for sharing!

    1. M'Lynn November 11, 2014

      MaDonna, I love it when God brings things full circle for me like He did for you with JOY today. It’s His special way of saying, “I’ve got this. I really do.”

  2. Jennifer November 10, 2014

    M’Lynn,  I think you are so right when you focus on the fact that Jesus simply cannot be put into the boxes which all too often we try to put him in. He is too big for all of them. I keep on discovering that every time I think I finally understand, or finally have something which is “working well”, something happens to blow it all apart and show me again, that my box simply is not big enough. I am slowly learning that rather than opening more and more boxes showing me small amounts of God, but rarely more than that, great through they are, I should simply look for more and more of God in all of love. Keeping my eyes open to see where he is, to discover him in the ordinary, rather than focusing on trying to see him in particular ways, which seem safe to me, or which relate to the current “box” I am working my way through.

    1. M'Lynn November 11, 2014

      Jennifer, you have described my life-long journey with that whole box thing! 🙂 Here’s to keeping our eyes open!

  3. Casey November 11, 2014

    This is such a wonderful post!!! Thank you for sharing. The word “obedience” keeps ringing in my heart. What does that look like out here among the rice paddies? I am finding it falls in between the twinge that says “go over there and wash those clothes” and “but I don’t even have a washing machine, and the fridge isn’t working. I can’t stand this anymore!” As he is training me to listen to Him, I find He nudges me ever so briefly before my fleshly side kicks into gear. Acting on the “nudge,” I am learning, brings such peaceful and strengthening joy. What a great topic to share about, M’Lynn!

    1. M'Lynn November 11, 2014

      Casey, I love it! “Acting on the Nudge.” There’s so much to be said about the way He works through his still, small voice. I’m excited when I hear of simple (yet profound) ways He’s nudging others. It encourages me to listen and respond, rather than to ignore that “nudge” and write it off as last night’s pizza.

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