The Holy Power of a Party

black-84715_640What God concerns Himself with our joy? What Deity weaves regular celebration into the lives of His people?

A wise, kind Father God who knows that in a world of trouble, we need reminders to access joy. That rejoicing in the midst of trial is a tool that transforms surviving into thriving.

A God who knows His children need hard stops lined with laughter to remember that light isn’t overcome by the dark. Maybe that’s why so many celebrations involve lighting candles or setting off fireworks.

Working with families in crisis means every day I encounter a new sad story, another emotional rock wall to scale, or an opportunity for disappointment. Still, I’ve learned the value of starting each family meeting with a mini-celebration.What’s working? What is everyone doing right? Who did one thing worth celebrating?

When I first introduce this practice, families think I’m crazy. You know, “using psychological mumbo-jumbo.” I’m no Pollyanna. I didn’t come by this practice of celebrating naturally. It’s a byproduct of studying God’s Word through relentless hard times and watching how the big names in our faith survived. They celebrated to survive.

Families beaten down by trouble initially resist my little time of rejoicing but I can be stubborn. I persist. I refuse to discuss the moment’s challenges until someone finds something to celebrate. The third or fourth time we meet, they’re still rolling their eyes but by now they know the drill and someone has something prepared. Before long, a change happens. They look forward to the celebration. They burst out with it before I can ask. Sometimes, an entire meeting becomes a celebration of what’s going right.

Some families are barely hanging on inside huge, complicated, messy circumstances. Still, we search for something they’re doing right. And we always find it, even if it’s small. We build from there. I’ve seen sometimes a foundation can be laid on one small act of kindness, one right choice, one glimmer of humanity in a pile of dung.

When we conclude working together, we enjoy a larger celebration – sometimes there’s pizza. Once, I offered a parent who had worked long and hard a certificate of completion. It was a spur of the moment decision but I wanted to acknowledge the effort this parent had invested in taking giant steps toward family health. I printed a certificate I found online and carefully inscribed the parent’s name, a congratulations of completion, the date, a line about the parent’s efforts, and my signature in black sharpie.

candle-386607_640As I presented it, in a darkened living room in a noisy apartment building, I felt silly at first but it was received with awe, with tears, with a straightened spine, and the words, “This is the first certificate of achievement I’ve ever received for anything in my life.” Other family members offered to have it framed. It would become a treasure. We rejoiced together, everyone who had worked with the family, over all they’d achieved. We celebrated them and the room seemed lighter.

I’m not much for parties. You know the type. Introvert. Poor decorating skills. Soft on hospitality. But, God’s been showing me the value of celebration. My mom threw a party once for a friend who had grown up in a hardscrabble country and finally achieved a goal she’d worked toward here in the U.S. When my friend arrived and saw the table laid out with treats and decorations, she was moved to laughter. She told us no one had ever thrown her a party – ever. In all her life, she’d never been celebrated. I’ve never forgotten that party.

Of course, the world has tried to hijack parties, to twist and turn them into forces for evil, opportunities for temptation, avenues for excess but God wove feasts and celebrations into the fabric of life for the Israelites and even after Jesus rose, His apostles preached that we should rejoice with those who rejoice! In the darkest places, it serves us well to remember our God will one day host an endless feast, a joyful celebration that no evil forces will ever spoil.

Yes, of course, Christians have the tough job of speaking hard truths to other Christians and to the world. Believe me, I spend my days having hard conversations with the families in my care. But we’re only following a portion of God’s Word if we don’t also celebrate people, look hard for their strengths, catch them doing something right, using words to acknowledge it. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” I Corinthians 12:26 Don’t neglect the second part of the verse.

Fear of invoking envy or overlooking someone often stops us from celebrating. Foolishness. How do we learn to defeat envy if we don’t have opportunity for it? When do we learn self-control if it’s never someone else’s turn? This isn’t about giving everyone a participation award. It’s about obeying God’s overriding wisdom that there’s value in stopping everything else for an occasional feast.

In the three years leading up to the cross, Jesus attended weddings, celebrations, and feasts. Yes, time was short. Yes, He was about hard work. Yes, He had serious business to complete. Yes, He did nothing without the Father, so clearly, sometimes the Father said – now is the time we feast.

Tomorrow, find a reason to stop and celebrate in some small way and see if you don’t find out that God was right after all. There’s power in a party – especially when He’s present.


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3 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Amen. Power in a party. Thank you for the reminder. I try to have a praise party every morning; just God and me. My attitude changes and I am ready for the day.

  2. Bruce Cunningham says:

    Thanks Lori. Hope you celebrated your Birthday on the 10th. Today is my 55th. Think I’ll celebrate!

  3. I know God loves celebrations – praises sung around His thrown, feasts with His children for eternity. He is a joyous God who loves it when we celebrate with Him.