Celebrations are my family’s signature activity. We memorialize, signify, and edify any event, accomplishment, or even slightly new behavior with gatherings, meals, noisemakers and gifts. We try never to miss an opportunity to celebrate life.
This year we wanted to take our family celebration to a new level. We were facing some big transitions with my husband’s retirement just months ahead, one family moving farther away, teen-agers becoming college students, and for the first time ever, all members of the entire family were out of Pull-ups. This, in itself, called for a holiday!
We decided our “graduation” present should be a two-week vacation on the beach at the Outer Banks. It would be there that we could converge and celebrate the memories of blessings God had bestowed upon us over the long haul. We had made it this far, through desert and glacier, without war or famine. It would be in a beach house big enough for almost two dozen where we could honor one another; brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, and grandparents in the best way of all - by spending time with each other without the disrupting distractions of the world. The seashore would unite our hearts and souls.
Waking up to golden sunrises melting across the ocean like candles on a cake made each day a gift. It seemed God, Himself, was excited about the joy we would find. With nothing else on our agenda than to eat, swim, play, visit, and eat again, we absorbed ourselves in our collective interests and idiosyncrasies. Outfitted in flip-flops, bathing suits, shorts and tees, we were finely dressed for the culmination of years lived. Sitting around the huge dinner table was a rollicking group of folks of all ages with one common bond – family and the One who had covered it. With (very) loud voices, singing, laughing, and even dancing, we embraced each other and celebrated the reason why we were together. God had ordained it.
It was in the mornings, shortly after those glistening sun-streams, that I learned a new thing about worship. Having slept soundly in the aftermath of laughter, bantering, Scrabble and Star Wars, I fairly leaped to the beach as the sun poured gold over the cresting waves. To match the generous beauty of heaving ocean and frothy surf with eloquent gratitude was the motivation behind my early strolls. And, in the din of the sea’s breath, I hoped my worship with God along the beach would keep our celebration perfect, not only for the time we were together, but for the future. Would my prayers be heard by the Giver of all celebration?
I heard nothing from the Almighty – only the ocean rolling from depths to the shores I strolled. I walked and thought, prayed and wondered, hummed and listened. Nothing. Looking out beyond the rising horizon, up at the forever blue sky, noting hovering pelicans skimming in unison over playful waves, I finally entertained my eyes on the interminable line of houses on the other side of the beach. How easily my conscience got pulled to the three-four-even five storied houses painted in rainbow colors, and perched proudly upon numbered sand dunes, their luminous windows as tall as buildings reflecting the glazed sky. It was hard not to let my thoughts wander to the celebrations being held in those “glass castles”.
The only sound from God I heard was, “Uh, hello?” which, obviously was not His voice, but did show some smarts on my part. I had risen early to be with my Lord and there I was drooling over manmade sea castles.
Turning my eyes back to the ocean, I literally halted in my tracks from the shock that hit my soul. Oh! The indescribable grandeur before me! The sky was a silken canopy hemmed with a silver thread as the ocean fathoms pushed satiny strokes of gilded blue toward me until, mesmerized, I felt the shock of swirling ruffled water playing at my ankles. It was like seeing eternity, itself, and almost touching it.
Suddenly I realized the privilege before me – worship. The mere solitary act of tearing away from the present to opening all desires to God was to be immersed in Him in such a way there were no words, only breath and wonder. Here is where God is worshipped.
Celebrations have as many phrases, songs, and costumes as their countless celebrities, events, and traditions demand. Celebration is what God has given to us to give sound and action to our worship. It is what reminds us of our past, what we do in the present, and decorates hope for the future. Celebration is the catalyst to speechless, prostrating, numbing worship to the One Who brought it all to pass. In worship, as our souls fill with God’s glory, do we know His smile and have an inkling of His everlasting love.
By the end of our vacation and fourteen days of celebrating, we were a sun crusted and somewhat frazzled family. Perhaps there is such a thing as too much celebrating! With sand stuck in crevices, hair matted down, and coolers bulging with left-overs, we hugged our fond good byes, even though we were all returning to our neighborhoods close by. I knew, sadly enough, that once back in the real world, life would do its pulling and seasons would claim their transitions.
Suddenly, our soon to be ten-year old grandson grabbed me, eyes shining, “Mommom! Let’s all have a family Birthday party at your house. Next week!”
Thus it was planned and we celebrated, once again. God loves His parties, and how we love to celebrate in unison with Him! And, when we worship, we worship Him in Spirit, where the agenda and venue are His alone.
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in Him!” (Philippians 4:4, The Message)