Testing – okay, is this one working?
Celebration of Discipline by: Richard Foster
I’m reading this book along with the other members of our TSP group. We plan on continuing to meet together this term and to go over this book. It has been around 20 years since I last read this book. So far, it is as good as I remembered it to be!
Chapter 1: Door to Liberation
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” (italics mine)
[ This is so applicable to our situation here and now in seminary. We can learn so much and experience so much, but without the work of discipleship – of the disciplines – the deepness of life and the formulation of meaning of all the learning and experience can be for nothing. ]
“In fact, the Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our normal daily activities. If hey are to have any transforming effect, the effect must be found in the ordinary junctures of human life.” (1)
“The Disciplines are ‘classical’ because they are central to experiential Christianity” (1)
“Joy is the keynote of the Disciplines. The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.” (2)
“The primary requirement is a longing for God.” (2)
“As Thomas Merton said, ‘We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners all our life.'” (2)
“Psalm 42:7 reads ‘Deep calls to deep.'”
[ I know this can sound, or even be, exclusionary, but their is a recognition that is present between those who find themselves in the ‘deep.’ There is always the danger of pride and haughtiness, yet deep does call to deep. It can be seen in another, just like one who has gone through horrific times in life can discern the same path of experience in another who has gone through horrific experiences. ]
“One word of caution, however, must be given at the outset; to know the mechanics does not mean that we are practicing the Discipline. the Spiritual Disciplines are an inward and spiritual reality and the inner attitude of the heart is far more crucial than he mechanics for coming into the reality of the spiritual life.” (3)
“The moment we feel we can succeed and attain victory over our sin by the strength of our will alone is the moment we are worshiping the will.” (4)
“Heinri Arnold concludes, ‘As long as we think we can save ourselves by our own will power, we will only make the evil in us stronger than ever.'” (4)
“By dint of will people can make a good showing for a time, but sooner or later there will come the unguarded moment when the ‘careless word’ will slip out to reveal the true condition of the heart.” (5)
“It is not that we intend to be that way. We have no intention of exploding with anger or of parading a sticky arrogance, but when we are with people, what we are comes out… Willpower has no defense against the careless word, the unguarded moment.” (5)
“The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.” (5)
“Once we clearly understand that God’s grace is unearned and unearnable, and if we expect to grow, we must take up a consciously chosen course of action involving both individual and group life. That is the purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines.” (7)
“We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only puts us in the place where the change can occur. This is the way of disciplined grace.” (7)
“We did no more than receive a gift, yet we know the changes are real. We know they are real because we find that the spirit of compassion we once found so hard is now easy… No longer is there the tiring need to hide our inner selves from others.” (7)
“The Spiritual Disciplines are intended for our good. They are meant to bring the abundance of God into our lives. It is possible, however, to turn them into another set of soul-killing laws. Law-bound Disciplines breathe death… When the Disciplines degenerate into law, they are used to manipulate and control people… Once we have made a law, we have an ‘externalism’ by which we can judge who is measuring up and who is not… 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.” (8-9)
[ This is very good! I have experienced so often the legalization of our life with God. This can be found in all forms throughout the whole Church, but some traditions are more adept at it than others. Legalistic righteousness is found alive and well within the “conservative” Church. “Conservative” is a bad word to use because of the baggage it brings, but I just don’t have a better descriptive word at this point. Then, of course, we judge one another in order to prove our own self-righteousness. We judge in order to make ourselves feel better. Read Romans chapter 2! ]
“In these matters we need the words of the apostle Paul embedded in our minds: ‘We deal not in the letter but in the Spirit. the letter of the Law leads to the death of the soul; the Spirit of God alone can give life to the soul.’ (2 Cor. 3:6, Phillips)” (9)
Chapter 2: The Discipline of Meditation
“In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied. Psychiatrist C. G. Jung once remarked, ‘Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.'” (13)
“They call us to the adventure, to be pioneers in this frontier of the Spirit.” (13)
“It is a sad commentary on the spiritual state of modern Christianity that meditation is a word so foreign to its ears.” (14)
[ I think this has been changing since this book was first published (the ’70’s). Of course, for me, it could be that I moved from Pentecostalism and into Anglicanism, which has an ancient history, along with all the Churches within the Catholic tradition, of meditation. ]
“Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it. The two ideas are radically different.” (15)
“Detachment is the final goal of Eastern religion… In its popular form, TM is meditation for the materialists.” (15)
“Christian meditation goes far beyond the notion of detachment… The detachment from the confusion all around us is in order to have a richer attachment to God and to other human beings. Christian mediation leads us to the inner wholeness necessary to give ourselves to God freely, and to he spiritual perception necessary to attack social evils.” (15)
“If you believe that we live in a universe created by the infinite-personal God who delights in our communion with Him, you will see meditation as a communication between the Lover and the one beloved.” (18)
“The history of religion is the story of an almost desperate scramble to have a king, a mediator, a priest, a go-between. In this way we do not need to go to God ourselves. Such an approach saves us from the need to change, for to be in the presence of God is to change. It is very convenient this way because it gives us the advantage of religious respectability without demanding moral transformation. We do not need to observe the American scene very closely to realize that it is captivated by the religion of the mediator.” (19)
“This is why meditation is so threatening to us. It boldly calls us to enter into the living presence of God for ourselves.” (19)
[ It is an experiential action. It is coming to know God. ]
“We must come to see, therefore, how central the whole of our day is in preparing us for specific times of meditation. If we are constantly being swept off our feet with frantic activity, we will be unable to be attentive at the moment of inward silence.” (20)
[ How many people have I known who cannot go a moment with silence. They always have to have a radio playing or television droning in the background. How many people never let themselves sit still for more then a few moments. With some of my friends, and even one relationship, I know it is because they cannot let themselves dwell in themselves – they are afraid to focus on the inner self. ]
“…we would do well to cultivate ‘holy leisure.’ And if we expect to succeed in the contemplative arts, we must pursue ‘holy leisure’ with a determination that is ruthless to our datebooks.” (21)
Here is a news item from the latest “Focus-on-the-Family” e-mail news updates:
“Report: Gay Men Seeking HIV
One out of four newly HIV-infected men actively sought out the
disease, according to a new article in Rolling Stone magazine. John
Paulk, the manager of Focus on the Family’s homosexuality and
gender department, said that is actually old news within the gay
“Young men, especially in cities like San Francisco, have considered
themselves ‘pre-AIDS,’ ” Paulk said. “In other words, they’re not HIV
positive, but they know that they will eventually get AIDS and often
seek it out.”
He said the attitude shows the hopeless desperation of young gay
men. They feel that unless they have AIDS they’re not a full part of
the homosexual community.
“What that says to us is that homosexuality is not just a normal
variant of sexuality,” Paulk said. “That, inherently, within
homosexuality are negative consequences — psychologically,
emotionally — and you see the negative health risks.”
Paulk said homosexuality leads people to think their life is worth so
little, that purposefully catching a deadly disease would actually
improve their outlook.”
Yes, regrettably, it is old news. People have been tracking this phenomenon for a number of years now, especially in San Francisco. As might be expected, there are whole websites devoted to the giving and receiving of this “gift” from one gay man to another. I have heard it explained that some gay men feel “left out” because they are not HIV infected. Those who are infected supposedly get all the attention, so they want to feel part of “it.” I agree that it is unbelievable and very sad. The fatalistic attitude is killing people, which may be obvious with fatalistic attitudes, but it is still astounding nonetheless.
This has a lot to say about the hedonistic focus of those who yell the loudest in the homosexual community. In the same way that advocates of wearing condoms in the early ’80’s where labeled “sexual Nazis” by many gay men who didn’t want to believe the fact of HIV/AIDS and didnÂ’t want to stop having unrestricted sex in any way, so are those who strongly advocate for sexual sanity today, for an end to the sexual obsession of gay men, for the idea of living for something other then hedonistic pleasure. All one has to do is look at most gay publications, parties, the pervasiveness of porn, etc., to understand that we as a subculture are obsessed with sex and hedonism. It needs to stop, because there is something so much better and life-giving, but when the very element of society that helps Â“calm the savage beastÂ” within us, the Church, rejects gay people and perpetuates the notion that gays are hopeless and evil, why should the Â“Way of ChristÂ” have any appeal any longer? People, who make up the Church, may have rejected and condemned homosexuals, by God has not.
It is an uphill battle to convince the homosexual community that despite want anti-gay, prohibitionist Christians say, God does love gay people and desires a full life for us, in the same way God desires a full life for heterosexual people. Their brand of Christianity is distorted, and even though no of knows fully what the complete Way of God comprises (I Corn. 13:9-12), we can fully understand that we are to love God with all of ourselves, and love our neighbor as ourselves. That is the element they forget to employ.
I agree that there is definitely something wrong, not just spiritually but psychologically/emotionally, with anyone who intentionally becomes infected with a deadly virus that despite medical advances will still kill most of them. It has to do with feelings of immortality that most young people posses; it has to do with a life devoid of anything other then what feels good – a nice hold over from the 60’s and 70’s; it comes from not understanding who we are and what we are capable of in God; it comes from a subculture that encourages sexual-obsession; it comes from a subculture that has been so devastated and reviled by the Church and “love-the-sinner” Christians that they have rejected the Church, Christians, and most horribly of all Â– God; it comes from a sense of hopelessness and fatalism. As the article said, “…they’re not HIV positive, but they know that they will eventually get AIDS and often seek it out.” Men, apart from God, do what men do – whether straight or gay – young men would have sex with as many people as they could if there were not social strictures to lessen the impact of the libido. Within the male gay subculture, because it is made up of only men and because of the rejection they experience from those who could advocate for sexual-sanity, the strictures are far less effective.
The problem with the Focus-on-the-Family report, however, is that they lump all homosexuals into this same category. This is something the prohibitionist Christians love to do – demonize a whole group of people. They have done it to so many, gay people being only the latest rendition of the ploy. The fact is, most gay people do not seek out the HIV virus. Most I know, even though they are not Christians and therefore do not abide my the same moral codes that we strive to live by, go to great lengths to avoid the virus. Most gay people I know live relatively conservative lives – they are faithfully partnered or looking to be, they are not sex-obsessed, they are not drug abusers, they are not pedophiles, they are people who live like most single or married straight folks, despite what the politicized, anti-gay, prohibitionist Christians what everyone to believe.
So, when Paulk says, “…homosexuality leads people to think their life is worth so little, that purposefully catching a deadly disease would actually improve their outlook,” that’s what Focus-on-the-Family and other anti-gay Christian organizations what society to believe so that their whole “ex-gay” theology, pseudo-psychology, and political demands will be accept by the common American – thus the outlawing of homosexuality and any positive portrayal of gay people. The reason that many gay people still believe that their lives are worth so little is because people like Paulk and their like-minded organizations demand that homosexuals be hopeless and immoral and that society and the Church do everything it can to perpetuate that attitude among gay people. Their view is that homosexuality is evil, thus “practicing” homosexuals are also, and they want everyone to believe that, despite the “love-the-sinner” rhetoric. They want homosexuals to believe they themselves are evil and incapable of living a good life, a moral life, and a fulfilled life. They want gay people to believe that God rejects them outright, and therefore they have no ability to live a life worthy of anything. They want gay people to believe it so that they will allow ex-gay ministries to bring “healing” to their lives in God – except that their base understanding of the whole gay issue begins with a misinterpretation of scripture. They want gay people to live miserable lives because it enables them to perpetuate their anti-gay theology and ideology. A non-Christian gay subculture gives them something to hate Â– it gives them a scapegoat for the worldÂ’s ills. If prohibitionist Christians and their organizations did portrayed the gay-subculture as it really is, a mirror of straight culture with some excesses in different areas of life, they would not have a money-raising machine, they would not have a reason to exist, they would not demonize to scapegoat.
There are nihilistic, fatalistic, emotionally screwed-up gay males who are out there trying to be infected with HIV because of a whole number of reasons, none of which is acceptable. We need God’s saving grace to live life to the full, as it was meant to be lived. We need to advocate strongly for a rejection of hedonism within all walks of life – because it pulls us away from true life, from true freedom, and from true satisfaction. What we don’t need is people trying to demonize whole groups, and then doing everything they can to perpetuate the very reasons so many in that group find themselves screwed-up. Yes, as Paulk and Focus-on-the-Family says, it is sad. The problem is the conclusions they draw.
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