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Posts tagged ‘delight’

Celebration as a Spiritual Discipline

Albert Einstein said, “You can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Isn’t that the essence of celebration?


If we are attentive, in upbeat places of the heart, we can see the miracle of what God is up to in the moment at hand. We can see the miracle in the mundane, in the messiness, there in the mix of the ups and downs that each day brings. Yet, isn’t it true that when we think of miracles, we expect an accompaniment of fireworks and trumpets?


The reality is there are a thousand simple, quiet miracles each day, which we easily miss if we aren’t watching for them: small noticing of big miracles, big noticings of small miracles.  The way my body moves. Dew on the grass. The hilarious, encouraging phone call. The jaunty serenade of laughter. Magenta sunsets.


Celebration is a way of enjoying the everyday miracles alongside the over-the-top ones. It’s another way of thinking about the status of the proverbial glass: Is it half full or half empty? If that glass is half full, then that’s cause for celebration. Conversely, we often think that if it’s half empty, that’s legitimate cause to be rather Eeyore-ish.


However, in living among the spiritual disciplines, we learn a spiritual discipline requires, hmm, discipline. In his classic book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster states that the disciplines of the spiritual life invite us to move from the surface of life to its interior depths. Movement involves change, doesn’t it?


In one sense, celebration doesn’t seem like it really needs to be a discipline. Celebration appears as if it would always be easy, that is, until it’s not.


On difficult days it’s hard to find anything that seems celebration-worthy. A disaster occurs. Sometimes these things are huge like getting fired or the terminally bad news the doctor declares. It’s the investment that goes belly up and the relationship that falls flat on its face.



At other times, the hardness isn’t one giant avalanche. It’s a continually smattering of snowballs hard as ice that pelt time after time all through the day ‘til you’re battered and bruised. It’s the car battery going dead then the water heater flooding the basement then pounding your thumb instead of the nail. It’s the check that doesn’t come. The neighbor who knocks over our trashcan and leaves the scene of the mess. It’s the daily waiting for what should have been that still isn’t quite yet.


It’s on days when hardness seeks to harden our hearts that entering into celebration as a spiritual discipline can form us into fluid and flexible and festive people. With the spade of spiritual disciplines, we dig diligently and determinedly deep, to practice what we don’t feel like practicing. We savor the mystery and wonder of God even among the misfortunes that pummel our days.


Celebration happens in two ways. The easy way as we rejoice and delight because of what’s happening: a raise, a sunrise, a flower still blooming after the first snow. The disciplined way of celebration occurs as we rejoice and delight in spite of what’s happening. It’s finding the sparkle in the darkness: a simple pleasure among a plethora of pains.


Whichever way we come at it, celebration moves our hearts from the things on the surface to the deeper heart of Jesus.


How’s your celebration quota? What miracle, small or large, will you celebrate today?



Lane M. Arnold

© 2013. All rights reserved.

Editing Process



Like runners headed for the finish line, my coauthor and I enter the final sprint of editing our book: The Life of the Body: Physical Well Being and Spiritual Formation. Six months from now, the words being typed on my computer will show up on a shelf in your local bookstore. The marketing and sales folks over at InterVarsity Press are moving up from behind the scenes now, getting ready to launch and celebrate the results of this adventure in words.

The reality of editing this book is about refining my jumble of words into something that actually says what I meant to say.  In the course of writing, writing, writing, I’ve read, read, read my own words, and those of my co-author. I’ve edited my words. I’ve rearranged paragraphs. Together my coauthor and I revised and revisited our document over and over and over again before we ever sent it on to the publishing house.

Yet even that’s not enough to move my written words from intention to publication. The manuscript itself, like a new baby at a family reunion, makes the rounds to be known and understood: author, co-author, editor, author, coauthor, copyeditor, proofreader, author, coauthor. Into the mix, possible endorsers and a few select friends and family greet the new book, catching a first glimpse of what is within the covers of this future publication. Affirmation and congratulations are coupled with suggestions and questions for additional corrections. Typos are pointed out, subject-verb agreements begin to line up, and sentence structures in need of some serious realignment are straightened up. Editing invites me to reexamine what in the world I was trying to say in the first place.

Editing a book, however, is about far more than rearranging words on a page. Editing a book edits me. I pace myself, here in the middle of the romp of writing to hone my voice so I can offer it forth. Do my words speak my life? Does my life speak my words? Are there places I stumble and need strengthening? Are old injuries of heart or body preventing me from running fully present and fully forward? Do these words align with God’s heart?

It’s easy to pontificate about the wonders of this body that God has created. It’s fun to experiment, dialogue, and research about how food, the earth’s care, and exercise matter to my growth as Christ’s follower. It’s a delight to invite readers to join in the conversation at the junction of body and heart living.

The hard part of editing a book, however, is to also allow God to edit my life. I write a book. God writes then edits my life’s story. Sometimes, I’d like to delete some of His chapters and verses or some I’ve written when I could have let Him be the Author. Sometimes, I wax eloquently when Jesus is inviting me to stillness and quiet. Sometimes, I push forward when, instead, I need to linger, waiting on the Spirit’s signals for when to sprint ahead. In the end, I hope the words of my life say what God wants me to be.

Always, the Author and Giver of life is giving me another opportunity to become like the greatest Gift and Story, Jesus. Always, that’s going to require more editing on His part and more willingness on mine to be refined and redesigned.

Where are you noticing you are being edited today? What story is God up to in and for you in the editing?


© Lane Arnold

June 19, 2012


Being You

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.                               St. Catherine of Siena

I am contemplative. I pray to discern. I linger longer at the heart of Love to hear His call, His longing for me. A life of listening prayerfulness is about listening to God more than listening to myself. I listen to hear His heart for my heart. I listen to hear His heart for another. I listen for family’s hearts and for friends’ hearts and for my spiritual directees’ hearts. I am contemplative.

But sometimes I want to stay only contemplative and that is, on occasion, a choice made of fear. I want to be sure. I want to be clear. I don’t want to be stretched or rearranged into the unknown. A comfort zone is comfortable, isn’t it? But, God doesn’t really call me to be comfortable. He calls me to step into love’s action.

Contemplation in action is requesting more of me.

Thinking on the seemingly disparate differences between contemplation and action led me again to St. Catherine of Siena. She wasn’t a familiar name until I visited Siena in 2004, while my daughter, an art major, was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Being a good mother, I flew over to check in on her. Oh, and by the way, while I’m here…let’s see a bit of Italy.

One gold-lit afternoon as we meandered medieval lanes in Siena, we came across references to St. Catherine. Born in the 1300s to a merchant family who were somewhat prosperous, she chose a spiritual commitment to Christ over a social commitment to marriage and affluence, having experienced some holy encounters with Christ. Upon entering an order of laywomen, she spent three years in solitary contemplation. Such silence of prayer set a foundation of strength and stability at a heart level with God. Yet, God called her forth from her life of contemplation into a life of action. For St. Catherine, the blend of contemplation and action were not opposed to one another, but were rather complements that took her singleness of heart to a service of others. She encouraged, mediated, taught, comforted and served others through her contemplation gathered from her prayerful heart, her presence offered by her serving heart, and her gift of writing, both letters and a book, grown from an obedient heart.

I watch St. Catherine and find myself challenged: will I sit only in contemplation and never act? Or will I move forward into a life that blends the power of silence and the power of service?

I’m at a change point. It’s time to step into or step up to action. My novel has languished on the shelf, literally, while I’ve gone about my life of being a spiritual director. My prose and poetry have shriveled in a dried out corner while my energy has focused on a nonfiction book on the physical body and our life with Christ and the Body of other Christ-followers, due out in January of 2013.

It’s time now to believe, to act, to move past thinking about to being within, to doing the work, to creating the wonder with another part of my writer’s heart.

The pivot points are here:

  1. Discernment: I am a writer. I have a story worth telling. This is God’s gifting to me. I am to celebrate His Presence in me by writing words to others.
  2. Delight: Like Eric Liddell’s famous line in Chariots of Fire, I feel God’s pleasure when I run by writing in His giftings of my heart, both in nonfiction and fiction, in poetry and prose.
  3. Discipline: Thinking about writing won’t write the story, won’t create the poem. Investing in discipline will. I will arise before the day takes off and in the quiet of dawn, I will act as a writer does: I will write.

St. Catherine spurs me on with her prayers: I have naught to give save what Thou hast given me.

She reminds me that effort is involved: Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.

She challenges me: Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.

She encourages me: I treasure your knowing how to give the world a kick.

St. Catherine sets the bar high: Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

I’m moving forward, blending my contemplative heart and my writing art into an action that will set the world on fire…or at least start a small blaze glowing. Who knows what can happen from here?

What about you? How will you set the world on fire by being whom God meant you to be?







Arose She

just after
twinkling bouquets
The summer damask rose
in an
old cut glass
beside her bed.
He always
left one
waiting there.
She thought of
that other day,
fifty-two summers ago,
when her
knelt on one knee,
and asked
what he already
knew the answer to:
Will you?
I will.
Every morning,
The yes of
Whimsy and joy,
wafting among quotidian
Lovers lasting
Outside the
bay window,
roseate puffs
flushing the face
of craggy young Rockies.
Alpenglow blush:
Two beauties
dancing to dawn’s delight,
on the ice-fringed
alpine lake,
mountain roses.
Lane M. Arnold

© May 2012