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1/13/08

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J Foster (review)



Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth


A quick review I wrote of this May 1, 2000:

I read a portion of this book yearly. As I grow older, I discover how my understanding of how to approach God changes. My capacity to be quiet and listen, and to consider His presence strengthens with each year. Foster discusses the ways through the centuries, and from Christ's own example, how to meditate, how to pray, how to study, how to be in solitude, and so on. Never does Foster compromise biblical Christianity with tradition, or with a new age view of contemplative discipline. Have your Bible open, and be ready to be challenged to rethink experiential faith in ways as old as the New Testament.

Keep "Celebration" handy too... it isn't a one-sitting kind of book. It isn't so thick or difficult to understand, but to integrate these disciplines will require slow and careful reading of this book.

Amazon.com
When Richard Foster began writing Celebration of Discipline more than 20 years ago, an older writer gave him a bit of advice: "Be sure that every chapter forces the reader into the next chapter." Foster took the advice to heart; as a result, his book presents one of the most compelling and readable visions of Christian spirituality published in the past few decades. After beginning with a simple observation--"Superficiality is the curse of our age.... The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people"--Foster's book moves to explain the disciplines people must cultivate in order to achieve spiritual depth. In succinct, urgent, and sometimes humorous chapters, Foster defines a broad range of classic spiritual disciplines in terms that are lucid without being too limiting and offers advice that's practical without being overly prescriptive. For instance, after describing meditation as a combination of "intense intimacy and awful reverence," he settles into such down-to-earth topics as how to choose a place and a posture in which to meditate.

Perhaps most interesting and useful is Foster's chapter on the controversial Christian discipline of submission. According to Foster, submission does not demand self-hatred or loss of identity. Instead, it simply means growing secure in the conviction that "our happiness is not dependent on getting what we want" but on the fulfillment that naturally flows from love of one's neighbors. Such wise and encouraging suggestions have helped many readers to discard the idea that discipline is an onerous duty and to move toward a liberating and simpler idea of discipline--whose defining character, as Foster never forgets, is joy. --Michael Joseph Gross
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