Sunday, September 01, 2013

Revisiting a Classic (Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline")

It was in college over twenty years ago where I first encountered Richard Foster. I read his book Celebration of Discipline cover to cover, and it was one of my main "go-to" books on the spiritual life for several years. I would return to it whenever I needed to remember the importance of certain daily disciplines or when I felt like I had ceased to remember the purpose of the classical spiritual disciplines.

Over the years, I would go back to Celebration -- and to other books by Foster, especially on prayer and on different devotional traditions/streams -- at different seasons in my life. I would sometimes pull on Foster when I was teaching a class or leading a group. But it had been a long time since I'd picked up Celebration of Discipline and opened it to read it straight through, instead of giving myself a quick, refreshing dip.

This week I started a full re-read because it turns out to be one of the books I will be teaching from this fall. Ironically, I couldn't find my well-worn and much marked up copy from years ago -- I think I must have taken it off the shelf to reference it a while back, and somehow it didn't make its way back to the proper place. So I had to borrow a copy from the library, which I worried would put me at a disadvantage because all my markings would be missing. What I've discovered instead is that:

a) I think I can hear it fresher without reading it alongside the notes made by my younger self and
b) Certain lines or passages are so emblazoned in my memory and heart that I almost see the underlines that aren't there.

Here are a few of my permanent mental underlines from the first chapter, entitled "The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation."

"God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns."

"Joy is the keynote of all the Disciplines. The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear."

"Beginners are welcome."

"Inwardly you long to launch out into the deep."

"The life that is pleasing to God is not a series of religious duties. We have only one thing to do, namely, to experience a life of relationship and intimacy with God..."

"Willpower will never succeed in dealing with the deeply ingrained habits of sin."

"When we despair of gaining inner transformation through human powers of will and determination, we are open to a wonderful new realization: inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received...The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside."

"We do not need to be hung on the horns of the dilemma of either human works or idleness. God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us."

" would be proper to speak of 'the path of disciplined grace.' It is 'grace' because it is free; it is 'disciplined' because there is something for us to do."

"We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur. This is the path of disciplined grace."

"When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God's work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight."

"Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people."

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