Our society is very good at noticing what we don't have. The advertising industry makes it their business to make us think we're deprived if we don't buy what they're selling. The economic crunch means some of us have less than we used to, as individuals and institutions, and we notice that. The media in general tries to raise anxiety, not foster contentment, let alone celebration.
Lately, I've been attempting instead to cultivate celebration as a spiritual practice. I have to confess, it doesn't come naturally. It's easy for me to notice what isn't happening! But it makes life much more enjoyable when I can focus on what I have rather than what I don't have. I have more energy and motivation to pursue the things that are important to me when I am celebrating than when I'm bemoaning. For example, recently I had to drive two hours to a preaching engagement. It poured rain the whole trip. While I was whining to myself, I suddenly realized: I have a car around me! I'm not out in the rain. My experience of the rest of the drive was quite different.
I'm celebrating, among other things: the wonderful clergy and churches I have the privilege of working with in my coaching and consulting. The freedom I have to set my own schedule. The mentors such as Edwin Friedman and Larry Matthews who have made such a difference in my life and work. Karl, my husband of 31 years, and the fact that he's my biggest fan.
What are the resources in your church, financial and otherwise, that you might celebrate? Here are a few suggestions, things I've observed in my own congregation and in others:
A beautiful building (or any building). Rev. Peter Im, my colleague from my own church, First Baptist Church of Portland, Oregon, has been in Cambodia ministering this week. The churches he works with there often don't have glass in their windows.
The strengths of our heritage, spiritual and institutional. Most churches were born out of a vision for ministry in some way or other.
Money. Money comes into our churches through the gifts of faithful individuals, past and present.
The presence of more than one generation. Almost all churches have at least two generations, often four or five, present in their life together. Not many institutions in our society have so much age diversity within them.
There's a long biblical tradition of celebration of the harvest, beginning in Genesis. What's the harvest you see in your church? Can you notice even the smallest signs of hope and possibility, and rejoice?
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