We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune…
God was so wonderful to us; we are one happy people.
Psalm 126: 2-3 (the Message version)
I kept my cell phone (an iphone 6, very old) until March 2023, when it shut down—the same phone for 9 years. I was so attached to it, and then it no longer worked. That meant I lost my daily schedule, appointments, and more. I had no idea when I was to be in a meeting and where it was to be.
I felt vulnerable for the moment. So I went to my carrier’s service center and was informed that Apple does not support the iphone 6 anymore, it’s too old to support. I had no choice but to get a new phone.
Then I had an “aha!” moment: what if I had never had a calendar or a to-do list? What if I never had a plan to begin with, no place to go, no purpose or direction in life? Would I be happy? Joyful? Productive? Free?
For most of my life, I relied on calendars for school as well as work. All my calendars provided me not only order and structure, but also gave me a sense of accomplishment as I checked off completed events. More importantly, I felt at ease when I knew what to do ahead of time.
I can become disoriented when life takes an unexpected turn. I do not like losing control of my plans and daily routine. I know I am not necessarily in charge all the time, and that aside from my calendar, there is more going on in my life and in the world than I am aware of. After all, I am to overcome my challenges and obstacles and not avoid them, but my calendar?!?! That’s a tough one. From the old cell phone, I learned an important lesson: a good calendar is reassuring.
I am so grateful that we as people of God have calendars, directions, and purposes that shape our lives. We have the Word of God that gives us purpose and direction, and our church also gives us its calendar, a cycle of life which has seasons, as well as weekly and daily to-do lists, revolving around the sabbath. This sets purpose and order to our lives in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. With seasons, we are also reminded that we are to bring joy wherever we go; remembering important dates and showing up are critical to success and general well-being.
So I ended up getting a new phone. With my calendar restored, and joyful anticipation of meeting friends, my phone directed me to summer picnics in July and August, gatherings of the faithful in our District that took place in Bloomington and Sunman. I caught up with friends, both old and new, about life cycle events, new births, travels with children and grandchildren, caring for aging parents and, yes, hospice care and funerals.
The Bloomington event brought in friends and colleagues from far and near. I even met a young exchange student from the Czech Republic, displaying his culinary skill with home-baked cake, which was devoured quickly! The Sunman event was in the nature of a revival service, with a live band leading the crowd in Gospel music, followed by Holy Communion—a full outdoor event for about 120 area Methodists of all ages, with games from volleyball to cornhole. The food of course was excellent at both events.
The District picnic in Sunman
Happiness is never about lone individuals. It is something we share: be it the birth of a child, a wedding celebration of a loved one, or a simple gathering of friends over a potluck dish. Joy in the moment with others shapes our lives as happy people, eventually leading to an important attitude in life. A sage said in Ecclesiastes 3:12, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to rejoice and do good while they live.” According to Pew Research, 32% of actively religious Americans say they are in very good health and happy, compared with 25% of the unaffiliated.*
For me and many others, all this summer conversation revealed joy in communal Methodist life: in addition to our sense of mission, we are grateful to have helpers and guidance through our most difficult times. We know exactly what to do when a friend is going through surgery, and we know exactly what to do and what not to do when a friend is going through a loss of a loved one. This goes beyond hospital visits and funerals and travel reports and children’s welfare: we celebrate that we have a living faith community and tradition to guide us through these and other stages of life.
For these reasons, I love summer picnics—large and small gatherings of Christians, chatting over food, music, and sharing stories of life. We talked and talked. We laughed and we sang, and we reminded each other that we couldn’t believe our good fortune…God is so wonderful to us, we are one happy people. Life can’t get better than that. This summer’s picnic season is winding down, but let us frequently gather when and where we can to share our lives, in the light of Jesus Christ.
In Suk Peebles