Saturday, June 04, 2005

An Apprehensive Celebration

I have to admit an excitement about blogging through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I think the community aspect is most appealing. Imagine… a book study with a handful of believers from Canada, The States, England, Malaysia, China, Korea and Australia all, so to speak, on the same page! Nonetheless, my excitement is not without a bit of apprehension, too.

Why do I take a skeptical posture towards a book on spiritual disciplines? Why do I circle the wagons around my otherwise tender heart towards God and cast a skeptical and ready stare towards the writer as if I need to be preparing for a fight or flight encounter? I’d really don’t know but I’d like to.

Given my apprehension, I needed quite a bit of time in the Acknowledgements and Introduction before diving into Chapter One and I am happy I took the time get a bit more familiar with Mr. Foster.

First, his conviction that books are best written in community is reassuring. I also liked the definition that he gave to the phrase “in community” as he described how, in the days in his first congregation, Dallas Willard would teach whilst “they were together in each other’s homes-laughing together, weeping together, learning together, praying together”. Such affection for the brethren (brothers and sisters) is encouraging.

Secondly, learning that his journey towards the subject did not begin with the disciplines but with a knowledge that he was sorely lacking in knowing God causes me to embrace him as a brother and welcome his dialogue. Now I don’t mean knowing God in the cerebral, purely academic way but in a whole heart, soul shaking, deep way. I think Richard Foster’s honesty here – about the spiritual bankruptcy that set him on this journey -is a mark of humility that resonates with me.

Finally, there seems to be realness to Richard Foster and his experience. He seems to possess a yearning for God and a heart that holds the disciplines as a means to spiritual growth – and deepening fellowship with Him- rather than an end in themselves. And, I am convinced that this is of utmost importance for it is desperation and recognition of need- not discipline or the disciplines- that drives me to God. It is my knowing that I come up short - that I am lacking - that provokes me to yearn for His presence, His pleasure, and His way.

Later, Richard Foster will present an image of a path of disciplined grace that runs along a narrow ridge between the two treacherous chasms of moralism and antinomianism. This will prove to be a meaningful analogy; nonetheless, I am convinced that it is important to know that it is my yearning to leave my state of spiritual lacking to find life in Him and fellowship with Him and His community that motivates my steps. Such yearning - and the expectation that God will satisfy that yearning as I wait for Him - is the hope that holds me to the path when it is sometimes easy to walk and, at other times, difficult to walk, too.

I look forward to more Celebration of Discipline in the coming weeks. Reading your posts today was a real encouragement. Thank you.

For now, here is a parting verse:

4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?

6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

7 No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and made us waste away because of our sins.

8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64, NIV)


Anonymous Messy Christian said...

I too like teachers who admit that they're flesh and blood. :) You realy approach this chapter in a unique perspective. Wherelse I approached spiritual diciplines like an overeager bouncing puppy (and thus doing some damage to myself as a result) you are more cautious. Looking forward to your future posts, especially on meditation (because it's such a controversial word for some Christians!). ;)

Blogger Baggas said...

I also found reading the introductory pages which fleshed out Foster and where he was coming from a very useful way to get into the book. I agree it makes him seem more real and immediately I'm more attentive to what he has to say than if I had've just started with Chapter 1.

I like what you had to say about the community and international nature of this group - it's such an amazing new thing we are doing here. Incredibly exciting :)


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