From the Bookshelf: Celebration of Discipline

I’ve been looking forward to writing this one! Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is one of the finest books on spiritual growth in the Christian tradition that I know. It is a fantastic introduction into the concept, purpose, and means of intentional faith development.

I was first introduced to this book in seminary at the University of Dubuque, in a mandatory class on spiritual formation. Honestly, at that time in my life I likely would not have taken a class like that. I didn’t see the need (oh for the days of being young and knowing everything… well maybe I don’t want those back). Anyway, at the time, Dubuque wouldn’t let you graduate without it. You had to take a spiritual formation class, and you had to read this book, and with the instructor I was under you had to practice (or at least solidly try) each of the twelve disciplines found within its pages.

It was one of the best growth-in-faith experiences of my life. We would study and discuss one of the twelve disciplines and then leave two weeks to practice and try it out, coming back a second week to discuss our experiences. Not only did I grow spiritually, and benefit greatly from being made to study this book, but I have gone on to teach many of the lessons found in these pages in a variety of formats in my professional career.

A “spiritual discipline” in short is something you do “on purpose” to put yourself in a space, action, or attitude that will give you a better chance to recognize and experience the presence of God. To put it in more simple Wesleyan terms, you find the places where God is active and put yourself there. The UMC that I used to work for called this “intentional faith development” and that’s a really good phrase. Spiritual disciplines do not happen accidentally, automatically, or in the background. You choose to do these on purpose.

The spiritual disciplines discussed in this book are simple, explainable in a chapter, but they are decidedly not easy. They will, however, help you grow in the Lord.

Celebration of Discipline contains twelve different spiritual disciplines, all within the classic Christian tradition. I’ve never met a soul who does all twelve regularly, but that’s OK. You have the freedom to test and try them out and then hold on to the ones that are most effective for you. These are a workout for the soul… I even taught a class on these once or twice with a cheesy title called the “Soul Gym”. The concept is simple, if an athlete needs to train and practice their physical nature for peak performance, herein are some of the tried and tested ways to train your soul, and to seek the Lord.

I won’t go on forever, but I just can’t say enough great things about this work. It is well worth your time.

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