Over the past 6 months, I have begun the practice of beginning almost every meeting I am in by asking the question, "What is worth celebrating?" In other words, what is going on in your life that reflects the reality that God is at work? I have wondered at times if this is simply an attempt to reassure myself that stuff is indeed happening or simply a way to pump people up and make them feel good.
Yet as I listen to story after story from others, I believe this is a critical question. When I read through the Psalms, they are filled with moments of celebrating the goodness and blessings of God in the midst of difficulties. Even when things are tough, moments of thanksgiving break through. When I consider that Paul, while in prison and unable to do the things that he desired to do and that God had wired him for, could write that he had learned to "be content in any and every situation", I see that we can choose our attitude.
Whether or not you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist, the danger we always face is to focus on what ISN'T going well. To see where God is not working. To focus on our problems. To be consumed by suffering or worry. According to an ancient saint, Ignatius of Loyola, the greatest sin, the one that leads to all other sins, is ingratitude. That is, we sin because we are not sufficiently aware of God’s goodness.
So I am trying to grow this aspect of my life. I get to decide, like Paul, what my attitude is in any situation. The best way I know to do this so it is not simply positive self-speak, is to reflect back on the goodness of my God. How do we do that? I believe it is in two ways.
1) Focus on what God is doing.
Where is God working? What has he done? How have you seen or experienced him in a new way? What blessings are in your life? What has he done in the people nearest to you? Or what has he done in the past? How has he proved himself before?
2) Focus on the character of God himself.
When it is difficult to think of anything going good in your own life, you can always go back to the truth of the goodness of God. What is there to appreciate about him? What does Scripture say about his attributes? How has he convicted you (which shows he is working in you)? What is he like, according to the Bible?
Taking the time to arm myself with an attitude based on someone who does not change, is utterly trustworthy, loves me deeply and is working in my life, changes my perspective. It gives me hope that life has meaning, that I have value, and that God is truly working out his plan in and through me. May you take time to regularly consider and answer the question, "What is worth celebrating?" May God give you an abundance of answers to that question.
I was sitting and having a conversation recently with a friend and was asked for ideas on how to make Christmas Day more about Jesus and less about gifts and many of the other trappings that come with this season. The focus of the question was about how to make Christmas Day more than simply a mad rush to open gifts and enjoy a lot of good food. While I believe there are many things we can do on Christmas Day to slow down and bring Christ into the day, I wonder if we were thinking too narrowly. It might be that there are limitations to what we can do (especially with young kids) on Christmas Day and there is nothing wrong with family, gifts, food and celebration on Christmas Day anyway.
Instead, I began to wonder if a better question might be how to bring Christ more into the entire Christmas season. I wonder if we need to expand our focus. Perhaps our opportunities to bring Christ into the holidays have the potential to be more impactful and useful if we consider it throughout the entire holiday season. My experience over the years has been that there are many, many activities, parties, concerts, programs, etc. that fill our calendars and energy between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So many of these are great! Yet I wonder if we miss opportunities to see or experience Jesus in our mad rush. The life of a Christ-follower is one of serving and putting others ahead of us for his glory. How great is our opportunity to do this at a time of year when we celebrate how much our Savior sacrificed for us.
Let me be clear - this is not intended to make anyone feel guilty, but simply that we might consider Christ throughout the season. So a couple of thoughts to help you out:
Some ideas I have done or heard:
Whatever you do, my prayer is that you have a blessed and marvelous Christmas this year!
Weldon Lemke has been leading Hope Chapel since 2009 with a passion to see people come to know God and grow to maturity in Him.