Last week’s story ended with our family eating copious amounts of ice cream as we celebrated having saved enough money to pay for our travel back to Brazil. Celebrating important events has always been a part of my life. Here’s why:
The Calendar in the Bathroom
If you have ever had the pleasure of using the washroom facilities in a well appointed Dutch home, you would have seen hanging on the wall directly in front of you a verjaardagskalender — a listing of the birthdays and anniversaries of all family members and close friends. The calendar I studied while sitting there as a boy was made of a sturdy paper that would resist a lifetime of use. It was also very simple— just the name of the month at the top of two columns of dates and names to the right. With dozens of relatives on both my Dad’s and Mom’s side of the family, every month had eight or ten relatives’ names.
All these events were celebrated. No cards, but always a get-together with those who lived nearby where we sang birthday songs, drank lemonade and ate cake. And uncles gave the children shiny dimes to spend on ice cream sandwiches. Birthdays were not just family affairs. For school age children, the tradition was for the birthday boy or girl to bring a paper bag full of wrapped hard candies to hand out ceremoniously, one by one, to each of their classmates. Then the teacher would lead us in a happy birthday song.
The Notable Events Calendar
With this visible, daily childhood reminder still a vivid memory, it was only natural that I would set up a Celebrate-able Events Calendar on my computer. It lists a couple of dozen extended family birthdays and anniversaries, and a growing list of over one hundred and fifty other notable events. Like New Years Day, 1964, which celebrates Jo’s first attempt to roast a turkey for her in-laws as a young pastor’s wife and a mother of a one-year-old. And March 28, 2016, fifty-two years later when she had successful surgery for bowel cancer.
As I read through my handwritten diaries I keep adding more significant events: milestones in ministry, our arrival in Brazil, the first book of the Bible translated into Canela, the distribution of the partial Bible in Canela, my first published book. Oh, and I just checked, today, June 7, marks the day that I made the first visit to a Canela village forty-six years ago. We moved in a few weeks later, the start of our translation ministry! This calls for at least a cup of coffee and some reminiscing with Jo.
The Biblical Basis
The Old Testament is chock full of instructions from God to His people to celebrate, not just with a cup of coffee, but huge feasts commemorating what God had done for them. God designed us to focus hard on work, then stop, back off, and celebrate our accomplishments. Our bodies, minds and emotions need both activity and rest. Check out Genesis 1 where He Himself exemplified this pattern. As believers we stand on solid biblical ground when we note, record and celebrate what God has done for us or what He has done through us.
The Discipline of Celebration
Doing this on a regular basis does not happen by itself. It takes discipline. We need to think, plan and act. It will not be easy. The evil one will distract us so that we don’t notice that God did something for us. When we do recognize God’s blessings, he wants us to take them for granted. He will bring other things into our lives so we will forget about what God did for us.
Fortunately, God Himself wants us to see and remember what He has done for us. “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” Eph. 5:20 (NIV). Many people keep a Gratitude list. Jo and I have kept one for years. Just reading through a few of the hundreds of items encourages us. That’s a good place to start this discipline of celebration.
My goal is to list at least one significant thing for every date on the calendar, something that is worthy of remembering, thanking God for, and celebrating, with ice cream of course!
How do you keep track of God’s blessings? And, by the way, how do you celebrate them?