Do you have days when you feel down in the dumps? Discouraged for no reason or devastated by bad news? Joyless? Perhaps you feel stale in your walk with Christ. Staleness which gets turned into false guilt and condemnation because you know “you should…”
You are not alone. I’ve felt this way, too. It’s a common plague of our human frailty.
One day in heaven we will not experience this. Instead, we will have JOY 24-7. But not here.
We live with this longing yet are bound by the limitations of this life, for now.
However, there is something we can do now to recapture JOY. And it’s a practice the faithful have been doing since before Christ.
Repeatedly, the children of Israel became discouraged — endless wanderings, the same old manna food day after day, dry dessert void of beauty, cranky children, relatives and friends, constant fear of attack, a loss of hope.
What did Moses do? Joshua? Other leaders?
They gave their people a fresh perspective.
By telling them to Remember.
Moses wrote a song full of remembrances of what God had done for His people (Deuteronomy 32). When the children of Israel became afraid under Joshua’s leadership he reminded them, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1:9).
When we take time to remember God’s faithfulness in the past our hearts will be filled up with the ability to trust Him for the future. And this practice will not only build up our faith, but it will also restore our joy.
Let’s put on our calendars now a Summer Celebration Day.
THE PURPOSE: To set aside one whole day to recount God’s faithfulness with thanksgiving. This simple act can lead to a day of praise and worship and a closeness with others as we share His goodness together.
HOW TO DO THIS:
There are unlimited ways to do this. You can plan a day just for your family or plan a day as an extended family reunion or set aside this day as a special celebration with close friends.
You may want to plan a private “celebration retreat” for yourself. Go away to a monastery, a day in the countryside, a park, or to a deserted beach. Being out in nature helps us to disengage from the cares of the world and focus on Him. Leave your phone in your car. Take a new journal, and your Bible and write down all the ways you have seen God’s faithfulness in the past.
A few years ago, we hosted a retreat for five couples, all adults to whom we are related. During our getaway each of us took time to share where, looking back, we now see how God was faithful to us in our first 20 years of life, our second 20 years, our third 20 years. (Adjust these years to the ages of your group). We learned amazing things about one another which we did not know. Everyone has a story to tell. And our faith was built up as we got to experience God’s faithfulness through one another’s story.
The good news is that you can do this with family members who may be in a different place spiritually. It’s all in how you word it. Individuals can recall things they are thankful for from earlier times in their lives. Most everyone, regardless of their faith journey, appreciates the value of memories and thanksgivings. This celebration can be used as a bridge to improve relationships and to further conversations.
You can also plan this celebration with friends. Friends from church, a multigenerational group or a small group outing. You will all be enriched if you include singles as well as married folks, older folks, and young folks. Meet for a day or an afternoon at a park. Have adults write out some personal examples of God’s faithfulness to them and bring them on note cards to share. You can have an adult sharing time while children do crafts.
First, determine what type of celebration is best for you for this year. Send out an invitation with a description of your celebration day. You may want to get some responses from folks before the general invite, so you know you have a core group who can come. Don’t expect 100% participation. Go with the majority.
Keep the goal in mind: “A celebration of God’s Faithfulness.” or “Thanksgiving in July!”
This is not a day to discuss hot topics, politics, religion, or the latest crisis. Instead, it’s a day purely for thanksgiving and for enjoying one another. We desperately need to laugh. You will be amazed at the subtle healing that may occur in relationships and the new friendships formed simply from sharing a joyful day together.
Here are some specific program ideas:
Pick, choose and adapt the following ideas into what will best fit your situation. Leave out the ones that don’t apply. Be creative. You may come up with other ideas! (Comment below, we’d love to hear!)
>> If you have musical folks coming, ask them to write a song and preform it for this day. Print out the words.
>> If you have kids who like to act, give them a scene to perform. This can be done ahead or on the spot. Give each participant 15 minutes to run around the house and create a costume. (Or take possible costumes if you are meeting in a park.) You can use a scene from the Bible or a scene from history. Reenact the founding fathers trying to agree on what should go into our constitution.
Read the story of Noah and have children act out what it was like herding all those animals into the ark. Some can be animals, others Noah and his family trying to deal with the chaos even an honest conversation between Noah and God. This is a time for ridiculous imagination.
>> If you have a budding poet, ask them to write a poem for the event to share with everyone. This will need to be done ahead.
>> If you have some dancers, have them create a dance or a lip sync performance…(Note: they will need to bring any music.)
>> If you have artists or those who like crafts, set a table of supplies and ask folks to create something that expresses thanksgiving from something in their past or present and have a time in which they can share their creation.
>> If you have some foodies, appoint a couple of people to bring ingredients for a guacamole or chili, dessert, etc. cook- off competition. Assign judges and have silly prizes.
When eating, throw out this question to everyone: What spices or foods are you most thankful for? Why?
>> If you have people who like party favors and decorations, assign them the task of decorating and bringing party favors for everyone.
>> If you have a photographer (or tech person), ask them to make a collage or video of the day to share with all.
Remember the goal is to have fun.
Hint: The more folks you involve in planning this day, the more they will have invested and the richer it will be. Delegate. Don’t do it all yourself.
Hint: Grandparents will have a better response asking kids to do things than their parents. Same for asking family friends’ kids who may be coming. Kids like planning together. This also builds their relationships.
Don’t feel overwhelmed. Pick and choose what fits your people.
Ask 2 friends to pray for your day. Give them the names of those coming. Pray for safety, laughter, relationships, weather, etc. We need the body of Christ holding us up in prayer. This is something we can do for each other.
IF YOU WANT TO GO DEEPER:
Recently as I was thinking about this idea, I found myself in Psalm 105. The first 5 verses encouraged me.
Verse 5 says,
Remember the wonders He has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.”
How easy it is to forget — rather than to remember — what He has done. Or to focus on all the crises around me. It’s easy to lose perspective on life and on what God is doing. Setting aside a specific day of thanksgiving will give us PERSPECTIVE. You might want to begin your day with a reading of Psalm 105 or choose some other verses from the Psalms.
I’d love to hear about what you do — and see photos! Email them to me here.
For lots of other ideas for events and family gatherings, check out my book Cousin Camp.