A Greater Celebration

On Saturday, Joel celebrated his first birthday at home in four years. I just had to throw a party. The invitees were a random assortment of people Joel works with, friends from our church, family, and friends from “of old.” The venue was our cozy yard, with a fire pit in the center of a circle of lawn chairs and other yard furniture. The food–Venezuelan, of course, along with a variety of Joel’s favorite snacks and desserts.

Several things gave me pause and caused me to turn my face up in worship during this celebration. First, as guests arrived, it slowly dawned on me that out of the nearly 20 people milling around our backyard, I had only known 4 of them before Joel went to prison! And even as little as a year ago, I could only have claimed 6 of them as friends. Clearly the greater portion of our guests were new friends. But they don’t feel like new friends. They feel comfortable. They feel genuine. They feel like love. They feel like community–God’s community.

What draws us together? What makes us kindred spirits? Only Jesus.There is certainly nothing winsome about Joel and I and our family without the wonderful grace of God. What is powerful…what creates connection, is the Spirit of Christ.

And that was another thing that really spoke encouragement to my heart. All evening around the circle and in little clusters people chatted about God’s work in their life, their dreams of His direction in their ministry, their aspirations for God’s good within the city of Milwaukee, the challenge of following Him and being salt and light in our neighborhoods.

The fellowship was sweet. The food was terrific. The weather was perfect(Apparently that does happen every once in a while in Wisconsin). The glow of the fire was warm. And the foreshadowing of a greater party, of a bigger celebration, of an eternal fellowship was undeniable.

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