Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A "Dee Dah Day": Part 1

[I am beginning to journal the study questions from Chapter 4 ("A 'Dee Dah Day': The Practice of Celebration") of John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted. For previous posts and some "look ahead" at the book, check out the index at the linked at the bottom.]

After the introductory first three chapters, John Ortberg begins to go through some spiritual disciplines he thinks are important.

The first one: the practice of being joyful and celebratory . . .

Small Group Discussion Questions
  1. The author tells this story:
    Sometime ago I was giving a bath to our three children. I had a custom of bathing them together, more to save time than anything else. I knew that eventually I would have to stop the group bathing, but for the time being it seemed efficient.

    Johnny was still in the tub, Laura was out and safely in her pajamas, and I was trying to get Mallory dried off. Mallory was out of the water, but was doing what has come to be known in our family as the Dee Dah Day dance. This consists of her running around and around in circles, singing over and over again, "Dee dah day, dee dah day." It is a relatively simple dance expressing great joy. When she is too happy to hold it in any longer, when words are inadequate to give voice to her euphoria, she has to dance to release her joy. So she does the Dee Dah Day.

    On this particular occasion, I was irritated. "Mallory, hurry!" I prodded. So she did-she began running in circles faster and faster and chanting "dee dah day" more rapidly. "No, Mallory, that's not what I mean! Stop with the dee dah day stuff, and get over here so I can dry you off. Hurry!"

    Then she asked a profound question: "Why?"

    I had no answer. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, no meetings to attend, no sermons to write. I was just so used to hurrying, so preoccupied with my own little agenda, so trapped in this rut of moving from one task to another, that here was life, here was joy, here was an invitation to the dance right in front of me - and I was missing it.

    So I got up, and Mallory and I did the Dee Dah Day dance together. She said I was pretty good at it, too, for a man my age. -- John Ortberg
    • If you were having a Dee Dah Day, how would people know it?
    • What would be the outward signs that give you away?
    • Tell about your last "Dee Dah Day" moment. What brought you joy and caused you to really celebrate life?

  2. What are some of the ways we tend to squelch the spirit and enthusiasm of those around us who seem to have more than their fair share of "Dee Dah Day" moments?

  3. Dee Dah People:
    • Who is one person in your life who models the "Dee Dah Day" spirit?
    • What have you learned about joy by watching this person?
    • (Remember, this person can be any age.)

  4. Read:
    Nehemiah 8:9 Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest {and} scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved." 12 All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
  5. A joyful God:
    • What is one place in God's creation that gives you a profound sense that God is a joyful God and the happiest of all beings in the universe?
    • When you are in this place, how is his joy passed on to you?
    • How does living in the joy of the Lord bring strength to you?

  6. Describe a time when life circumstances brought you unexpected joy. What are some practical things we can do to seek joy on a more regular basis?

  7. Joy is strength. Its absence will create weakness. Or, in the words of Dallas Willard,
    failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good. Here lies the strength of temptation. . . . Normally, our success in over, coming temptation will be easier if we are basically happy in our lives. To cut off the joys and pleasures associated with our bodily lives and social existence as "unspiritual," then, can actually have the effect of weakening us in our efforts to do what is right.
    Here is a key task for spiritual vitality: We must arrange life so that sin no longer looks good to us. One gets the sense that when Mother Teresa drove in congested traffic, she didn't have a hard time keeping herself from making rude gestures or calling other drivers bad names. Why? Such actions no longer looked appealing to her. She found a better way to live. The joy of the Lord brought strength. -- John Ortberg
  8. Willard is making two points. First, when we are joy-filled, we are less likely to be drawn into temptation. Second, when we are joy-deprived, we are more likely to fall into temptation. How have you experienced these two principles in your life?

  9. Some people have a contagious joy that makes them "joy-carriers."
    • What characteristics mark the lives of these people?
    • What are some practical steps you can take to develop these characteristics in your life?

  10. Read this story about the bride and the lesson:
    It takes a certain kind of heroism to continue to celebrate what deserves to be celebrated even when all the details go disastrously wrong. A favorite story of mine expressing this kind of spirit is told by Robert Fulghum, about a wedding that was produced on an epic scale by an unhinged character known only as the Mother of the Bride (MOTB). The logistics-from an eighteen-piece brass-and-wind ensemble to gift registries spreading across most of the continental United States to twenty-four bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower-petal-throwers, and ringbearers - were of a scale usually seen only during the military invasion of a sizable country. But the plans were all working-until the climactic moment of the processional:
    Ah, the bride. She had been dressed for hours if not days. No adrenaline was left in her body. Left alone with her father in the reception hall of the church while the march of the maidens went on and on, she had walked along the tables laden with gourmet goodies and absentmindedly sampled first the little pink and yellow and green mints. Then she picked through the silver bowls of mixed nuts and ate the pecans. Followed by a cheeseball or two, some black olives, a handful of glazed almonds, a little sausage with a frilly toothpick stuck in it, a couple of shrimps blanketed in bacon, and a cracker piled with liver pate. To wash this down - a glass of pink champagne. Her father gave it to her. To calm her nerves.

    What you noticed as the bride stood in the doorway was not her dress, but her face. White. For what was coming down the aisle was a living grenade with the pin pulled out.

    The bride threw up.

    Just as she walked by her mother.

    And by "threw up," I don't mean a polite little ladylike urp into her handkerchief. She puked. There's just no nice word for it. I mean, she hosed the front of the chancel - hitting two bridesmaids, the groom, a ringbearer, and me. . . .

    Only two people were seen smiling. One was the mother of the groom. And the other was the father of the bride.
    Fulghum explains how they pulled themselves together for a much quieter, gentler ceremony in the reception hall. And how "everybody cried, as people are supposed to do at weddings, mostly because the groom held the bride in his arms through the whole ceremony. And no groom ever kissed a bride more tenderly than he."

    But the best part of the story is that, ten years later, everybody was invited back for another party to celebrate this disaster. They watched the whole thing on three TV sets-the MOTB had had three video cameras going at once during the wedding. And this party was thrown by the Mother of the Bride herself.

    How could all these people rejoice when everything had gone wrong? Because, in spite of all the mess, the bride still got the groom. At the end of the day, that was all that mattered. The bride got the groom. It was a Dee Dah Day. -- John Ortberg
    • What are some of the unchangeable and eternal joy-gifts God has given you that no one can ever take away?
    • How can these be a regular source of joy . . . even when times are tough?

Next in series: "A 'Dee Dah Day'" Pt. 2
Index to Series

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly