Celebration of Discipline by: Richard

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)

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