Thank You for a Lovely Party!

by | Jun 20, 2011

My Father often told me that his last words were going to be “Thank You for a lovely Party”. At the time I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but then a lot of what my Dad said to me when I was younger never made sense and only later I understood. Now that I am a Father it is fun to torment my children with similar dark proverbs of wisdom and hope that it won’t take them half a lifetime to get what I am saying! However, I am beginning to get a glimpse of the wisdom of my Father’s words. You can hardly pick a better way to live. He wrote in his final letter to me “Looking back I seem to have spent the majority of my life thoroughly enjoying myself!” Oh, I can hear the Pharisaic mutterings warning about the dangers of hedonism etc. However, I am convinced many of us fail to get the most out of our lives because we choose a fundamentally joyless way of viewing life.As I recall my father’s life it was a full life with its fair share of successes and failures, of the good and the bad, and of pleasure and pain. It was a normal life but the key is that as he looked back what he saw and remembered was that he had enjoyed himself, and he was thankful. The irony is I am not sure that he ever got to say those words in this life because he was not a believer and so he would have been in the embarrassing position of a man about to leave a party, shaking hands with the other guests but not knowing who to thank. However I have decided that I can do no better than to emulate him. I am determined not only to thoroughly enjoy myself but to live grateful.
There are some who would take issue with this idea and tell me that this idea is unbiblical however I find it in Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always ; again I will say , rejoice ! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men . The Lord is near . 6   Be anxious for nothing , but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God . 7 And the peace of God , which surpasses all comprehension , will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus . 8 Finally , brethren , whatever is true , whatever is honorable , whatever is right , whatever is pure , whatever is lovely , whatever is of good repute , if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise , dwell on these things . 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things , and the God of peace will be with you.

Our walk with God is meant to be joyful, joy is always appropriate when we know who God is and who we are in God. The word always literally translated is “at all times”, Paul’s exhortation here is that at all times we are to fill our selves with the joy that comes from God. Just like a computer has an operating system so do we, it can be the ugly, the painful, the dark things or it can be joy. This week one of the things which pushed my thinking in this direction was Neil Pasricha’s inspiring talk at TED, “The three A’s of Awesomeness” In it he tells the story of how he began his blog at a difficult time in his life celebrating the small joys of his life, and how the blog grew to become a massive hit. Pasricha three A’s were Attitude, Awareness, and Authenticity. He may not realize it but all those things are found in the ancient wisdom of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The word rejoice could be translated “delight”, a life of delight is a transforming way to live. Much like an artist, a photographer, or a writer constantly looking for beauty or truth hidden in the clutter of the mundane we can become the artists of our own day crafting moments of delight as we scan for whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute and praise-worthy. When we adopt this way of viewing life we do not deny the normal stresses, pains and sorrows of our lives however, we do not dwell (or live) there, instead by turning these things into prayer mixed with gratitude we are forced to see life through a grid which enables us to see life from a hopeful, faith filled perspective and the peace of God finds access to our hearts. When we live without gratitude, without delight we leave ourselves vulnerable to attack in our hearts and our minds, or our emotions and our thinking. However by consciously choosing a life of delight and gratitude we position ourselves to receive the peace of God.

Joy that leaves you breathless, may just be outside the window!

So where can we find this food of our souls? Pasricha has it right, we find it in the everyday moments that we allow to slip by without celebration. I was thinking of this last week-end when I was returning from inspecting the damage done to our caravan by the recent floods . A week of torrential rain here in East London produced flooding not seen since 1971, unfortunately our holiday spot a family caravan and permanent tent installation found itself about a foot under water. Driving back in the late afternoon my children and I were listening to Michael Buble´and singing along where we remembered the words, the late afternoon sun was throwing long flickering shadows across the road when all of a sudden Daniel shouted out “Jess, stick your head out of the window, you can’t breathe!” Instantly I was transported back to childhood and the fun of having your head out the window as the world rushes by, gasping for breath as tears are torn from your eyes. The delight of the children was infectious and I found the worries of insurance, dry cleaning and repairs needed swept away on the wind rushing past their laughing faces. Life suddenly just felt simple and good. The amazing thing I see in Paul’s letter is that a life lived like this is a life which attracts the presence of God, for he concludes by saying not that the Peace of God will be with you, but that the God of Peace will be with you. Joy and delight are not just signs of the presence of God, but they actually attract the presence of God in our lives.

So often I have found that christians live lives that seem to be focused on the opposite of the exhortation above. Instead of a life of celebration, thanksgiving and pursuit of the lovely things in life we seem to have become a people focused on what is broken, shameful, sinful, distasteful, fearful and wrong in life. It is a joyless way to live. I am thinking of starting a new blog called “Whatever” in which we can celebrate together “whatever is true , whatever is honorable , whatever is right , whatever is pure , whatever is lovely , whatever is of good repute etc” . You ca listen to my message “Whatever” here http://hp-dev.ity.co.za/2011/06/12-june-2011-nigel-desmond-whatever/ God is good, life is good and the party has just begun.

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