Life is a mixed portfolio, says my husband. He means that, as in any portfolio, one has different folders or categories. Some folders contain rich goodness. Others contain pain or heartache or failure. The trick, in this analogy, is to not lose sight of the folders with blessing and goodness in them while acknowledging and living into the fullness of grief over the folders that are sad.
As I look back over 2012, I need to remember this idea of life being a mixed portfolio. Another way to verbalize it is I have had to learn in new ways what the Discipline of Celebration means. This discipline is based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he writes: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil 4:8).
This makes celebration a discipline because when things are false, ignoble, wrong, soiled, ugly and disgusting, we are to intentionally raise our minds and hearts to that which is good and true. It takes intentionality to do this. As Peter Kusmic said, “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future; faith is the courage to dance to it in the present.” Being a musician, I find that asking myself regularly “where did I dance today?” can be a helpful metaphor in trying to do the traditional Prayer of Examen each night. This prayer, of which there are many variations, is basically a form of review and confession at the end of each day.
Peter Kusmic’s idea also reminds me of the hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing:”
My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the sweet though far off hymn
That hails a new creation:
Refrain: No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Rock, I’m clinging,
Since love is lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing? (Refrain)
What though my joys and comforts die?
I know my soul still liveth;
What though the darkness gather round!
Songs in the night He giveth: (Refrain)
I have learned more this past year about singing above earth’s lamentations, about songs in the night, about not forgetting those folders which contain rich goodness and beauty that dwell alongside the ones that contain hard and sad realities. In short, I have learned a deeper understanding of the discipline of celebration. It has not been easy and I still have a long way to go as we begin 2013. But I pray that God will continue to help me “base my happiness on my hope that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 12: 12-14) and not on the ups and downs of life as it unfolds in this New Year.
What folders would your “life portfolio” contain?
How do you practice the discipline of celebration?
Valerie Hess is an author, instructor in the Spring Arbor University’s Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership (MSFL) program, retreat speaker, musician, mother and pastor’s wife. She does a weekly blog for the MSFL program and has written numerous articles, mostly on the themes of spiritual formation through the spiritual disciplines and church music. She has written three books: Habits of a Child’s Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines (co-authored with Dr. Marti Watson Garlett), Spiritual Disciplines Devotional: A Year of Readings and The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation" (co-authored with Lane M. Arnold). Her husband is an Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, CO. She has two daughters.