Chairman’s Perspective: Celebrating a Community of Love, Acceptance and Healing
‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’ Ecclesiastes 3:1
A warm and hearty winter greeting to our OHI community. This wonderful verse reminds us that the end of the year is a time for reflection. A time to consider our challenges as well as our accomplishments. As we read further into the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, we learn in verse 3:4 that reflection should be balanced by celebration: ‘a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.’ While reflection works best as a solitary activity, celebration is an activity best shared with your community.
You may recall that in our Spring newsletter, I mentioned that the OHI Community is the one place I’ve experienced where people truly work to love their neighbors as themselves. In the Summer newsletter, I touched on the idea that community is so important to human beings because it satisfies needs such as acceptance, feeling supported and understood, as well as how we develop relationships and friendships. Then in the Fall newsletter, I wrote about the powerful need to belong, and how our community at OHI works in fulfilling that need.
It is the celebration of community at OHI, and how we observe it together, that is the theme of my thoughts for this season.
Celebration is an Age-Old Tradition of Community
There is a spiritual discipline of celebration that dates back thousands of years and crosses all cultures. People come together in community to honor and rejoice in their beliefs. Celebration is about strengthening and developing our own personal relationship with God, the universe, or your higher self. Celebration allows us to release the past, have faith in the future, and live in the present. When we get caught up in our day-to-day routines, it is a path back to spiritual growth, and guides us to remember and return to our faith. In its most basic form, celebration is an expression of joy that enables us to look forward to tomorrow with courage and hope.
In the Christian tradition we celebrate the key moments in the life of Jesus, his birth and the resurrection. Each holiday serves as a reminder of the teachings of Jesus; how we should love and forgive one another. I’ll never forget the feeling I would get as a boy attending candle-light Christmas Eve services. Surrounded by hundreds of tiny flames flickering in the dark, and the resonance of happy voices singing Joy to the World, I felt an enormous sensation of elation. I can still recall the feeling of chills running up my spine and down my arms as I reveled in my faith along with my entire church community. Even the simple ceremonies of communion or baptism heighten our faith when we celebrate as a spiritual community. When we gather as a community and worship together, we sustain our affinity.
‘The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.’ Psalm 118:24
Celebration is About Gratitude and Healing
When our lives are in alignment and everything seems to be going well, it’s natural for us to celebrate. We are grateful about that which we’ve accomplished or appreciate that something good has happened. A celebration can be as simple as a high five between two friends who just watched their favorite team win, or it could be two large families joining in a formal wedding party.
There is a healing quality to celebrations. They are occasions that allow us to take a break from work and obligations. Celebrating makes us happy and helps us forget our fears, anxiety, and other discomforts. We are able to relax, release stress, and have fun. Singing, dancing, cheering, laughing, and hugging are all activities that trigger the release of endorphins and serotonin, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well being and can even temporarily relieve pain, while serotonin is a neurotransmitter that will elevate your mood. And, because these activities can decrease stress hormones, they in turn help to boost the immune system.
Daily Celebration is a Big Part of Our Program at OHI
Throughout each week here at OHI, we find many opportunities to celebrate. A good example is our You Validation class, where we celebrate each other’s intrinsic human value. Every accomplishment, no matter what, is worthy of celebration. Someone will say, “I saw you smile this morning and it warmed my heart.” Another says, “You were tired, yet you still showed up for class, and I was encouraged and inspired by your strength to carry on.” These are verbal high fives that honor our moments of achievement. And, they all add up to keep us motivated. This reminds me of something Tom Peters, the co-author of the book In Search of Excellence, once said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” At OHI, we want to see more people thriving and healing, and we do that by coming together as a community and celebrating.
Another example of how we celebrate together is during Friday Morning Testimonials. It is so heartwarming to see our guests get up in front of everyone and share their personal revelations, and often their personal miracles, that they experienced over the course of the week. Then there are our Prayer Circles where we celebrate fellowship. And, our Word of the Day which enables to set our intentions. Plus, lots of hugs – which have more benefits than I can list – but as a celebration they allow us to relax, be in the moment, and feel amazing! Our most lively celebration is our Friday Night Live, where we perform and proclaim having made it through the week with hilarious singing, dancing and skits – it’s a glorious time of raucous revelry, laughter, and fun.
‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ 1 Corinthians 10:31
Celebrate OHI by Sharing the Love
As we approach the holiday season and in the spirit of celebrating and sharing, please consider contributing to the OHI Scholarship Fund to help those in need experience the benefits of the OHI program. As many of you know, over the course of our 42 years, OHI has provided scholarships to many individuals who needed the same benefits you experienced – but could not afford to otherwise attend. In most years, we have been able to fulfill all requests for assistance through the generosity of our community. The results have been heartwarming, to say the least. Join with us in celebrating our healing mission with a tax-deductible year-end gift. Your contribution will help to make our community stronger, healthier, and more vibrant. Thank you so much for your help.
Yours in prayer,
Robert P. Nees, Jr.,
Senior Pastor and Chairman
Optimum Health Institute of
San Diego and Austin