I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Pat Butler’s reflection “Microbursts.”
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice.—Philippians 4:4
Until I sat with my sister on a couch for five minutes, I thought of celebration as a rowdy birthday party, an extravagant wedding, or a solemn liturgy. Weddings, holidays, a newborn, or a new job—all are causes for celebration, but occasional.
As a monk in the world, I needed to rejoice more frequently—always, Scripture says. How could I inject celebration into my daily life as a discipline? What did the spiritual discipline of celebration look like?
Enter my sister. The married driver-activist in this sisterhood, bound for life to me—her single contemplative sister monk. (Our compatibility is reason to celebrate in itself.)
During one of our rare visits when I lived overseas, I accompanied her on a day full of errands. She was in manic-Mom-in-an-SUV mode, monk sister in tow. We whirred through the errands, on our way to one last chore: grocery shopping. And we had a deadline: the 3 p.m. school bus, when her two kids would return from school.
We whirled with the best of them, shopping, hauling, and carting groceries home, arriving minutes before 3. We piled bags in the living room, hallway, and kitchen. After quick trips to the bathroom, we collapsed on the couch, panting. The kids would be home momentarily, when we’d switch gears to dinner preps, emails (for me), and perhaps a load of laundry.
We didn’t have a second to waste. I sat up, knowing my sister’s see-the-hill-take-the-hill approach to chores. “The groceries. . . ”
“Let them wait,” my sister interrupted, not moving. “We need to breathe.”
Her uncharacteristic pause startled me. Normally, I was the one proposing a break, but I flopped back down.
“Agreed,” I nodded. “A good job well done”—quoting our mother and grandmother. We laughed and gratitude seeped into my bones. Although we only had minutes before the school bus screeched to a halt outside the door, it was enough. A holy pause. Then the kids burst in.
We bolted from the couch. Before they could discard coats, hats, and mittens, we stowed, wrapped, and froze food, stuffing empty bags in the cupboard. My sister poured the milk and slid a plate of cookies onto the kitchen table as two little hungry ones bounded up the stairs. While they jibber-jabbered, she put the coffee pot on and checked homework assignments and permission slips.
We yakked till the kids scattered and the coffee was ready. While my sister poured, I threw in some laundry. We sat five more minutes, savoring the dark roast, the kids chatter, a still point in the day. Then it was time to start dinner.
Without those two holy pauses, the domestic grind might have pushed us into spiritual exhaustion. Instead, we felt re-humanized and ready for the final leg of the day. We didn’t accomplish everything, but is the glass half empty or half full?
I brought the phrase forward and still use it. It snaps me out of the performance trap. Maybe I don’t get all my work done, but when I finish a respectable chunk, I pause. Time to celebrate, rejoice, and give thanks. The glass is half full.
If we can’t celebrate the small tasks accomplished, how will we celebrate the greater ones? Will we rejoice over a newborn or view it as an inconvenience? Will we celebrate the offer of a new job, an exciting move forward in our career, or fear the risk of inadequacy?
The significant celebrations of a wedding, a birth, or retirement may go askew. If we tamp down our human desire to rejoice, we may soothe it with too much work, drink, food, entertainment, or consumerism. I suddenly saw the value of the spiritual discipline of celebration—of rejoicing always.
Celebration doesn’t require elaborate planning and expense. In minutes, seconds, or the time it takes to inhale deeply, we can take a holy pause and simply celebrate a good job well done. Enjoy the sunshine. Listen to the mockingbird. I began to practice the microburst of celebration—a quick praise, thanks, or fresh cup of coffee. The work wouldn’t disappear. But I might if I don’t break a manic rhythm.
As I practice the discipline, I find something to celebrate every day, usually before breakfast. I can celebrate a good night’s sleep, a warm slice of my sister’s treacle bread, and every spectacular cloud formation that attracts my gaze. I acknowledge the good, bow to the sacred, reframe the common to the holy.
Otherwise, life reduces to the dull and perfunctory. I collapse into the inhumanity of performance, workaholism, drivenness. I become a spiritual slob. Microbursts of celebration change me from a grump to a monk.
In the intimacy of family, where I first learned to celebrate, I remember the Trinity—another community. I invoke the strength and joy of the Threeness as I practice microbursts of celebration, awakening wonder in my soul.
Pat Butler is an author, poet, and Artist@Large with Inspiro Arts Alliance. Serving artists internationally through social media, writing, training, and mentoring, Pat has worked in twenty-four countries, lived in three, and now walks with cranes in South Florida. Current project: Collision, A Journey into Healing (Redemption Press).