Sat 1 Aug 2015
It has been a rich, full week here at this old house. We made a four-day loop down to Prescott, Arizona to say good-bye to a dear elderly friend who is dying of cancer. While we did a bit of sight-seeing on the way down and back, Prescott itself was quite sobering. Not only did we spend some time with dear Bill but we visited the two memorials to the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew who died tragically in the Yarnell fire on June 30, 2013. Being acquainted with a number of dear people who work wild-land fire in Alaska, it was sobering to look at the graves of those 20 to 40 year old men who lost their lives fighting a major wild fire due to, what appears to be, human error. We ached for the families they left behind and the lives these men didn’t get to live out. Lord, teach us to number our days.
We came home to several fun social occasions and today, received the gift of a box of Western Slope (Colorado) peaches. That meant that the first thing on my day’s agenda became making a peach pie and freezing extra peach pie filling. The trick of blanching the peaches in boiling water for a minute and then plunging them into ice cold water makes peeling them a cinch. Both of us also ate one; there is nothing like a perfectly ripe peach from the Western Slope. What a gift from God!
Fresh peaches and cancer, gorgeous scenery and Indian reservations, fun times with friends in various settings and those grieving the death of fathers, sons, and brothers. All of it is part of this circle of life. At times, it can be hard to hold all the various events and emotions in proper tension. Can one enjoy a fresh peach while grieving? Can one take in the rocks and plateaus while recognizing the hardship and tragedy of an Indian reservation? How do we reconcile the good with the evil that often happen nearly simultaneously in our lives?
For me, this is where the Discipline of Celebration comes in. It took me a long time to understand how celebration could be a discipline. Richard Foster first identified it for modern times in his ground-breaking book, “Celebration of Discipline.” The discipline is based on Philippians 4: 8: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
That means when things are false, dishonorable, unjust, sullied, difficult, wretched, tawdry and worthy of condemnation, we are to think about their opposites, that is, the things of God. This in no way condones denial! Just the opposite. When there is death, we are to acknowledge it and grieve it but we are also invited to remember the Resurrection we are promised in Christ. When life is hard, not going the way we had hoped or desired, we are to remember that God bats last, that God is never at a loss among the wreckage of human sin, that God’s Plan B has already begun in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.
Easy to do? Not at all. That is why celebration is a discipline. Joy, which is not based on circumstances but rather rooted deep in our souls like an anchor holding firm while the ship above is riding out a raging storm, takes practice and intentional training to become the automatic response to life. We train in joy, not in a Pollyannish kind of “whistling in the dark/happy-clappy” but rather in a hope that stands at the stone-sealed tomb at one minute to dawn. We may be living in Good Friday at the moment but we trust that Easter morning is coming.
As I ate my peach, leaning over the sink so that the juice wouldn’t drip on the floor, I thought about our friend in Prescott and the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew and remembered that all I have is today, right now, this next bite. Thanks be to God.