Friday, July 29, 2005

A night off - and a new project

It's Thursday night, and I just couldn't face more packing tape - or little mite-sized spiders everywhere - so after the AA meeting, I went to the Medici (a popular Univ. of Chicago hangout) for a burger with sauteed onions and fellowship. I rationalized this by (a) knowing that I was taking half of Friday off, and (b) because I couldn't stand it any more. It helped my frame of mind, a lot. Didn't do much for the cumulative percentage of possessions packed ratio (say that three times fast!), but as a mental health activity it was great. And the burger was pretty good, too...

But the new project is one I'm actually stealing from my Malaysian friend Messy Christian, via an Austrailian connection on Baggas' Blog. I have to thank them both for inspiring me to action...

At least a hundred years ago, I picked up a copy of Richard Foster's spiritual classic, A Celebration of Discipline. My friend Collin Freeman recommended it, and I was all hot to run right through it - and then, like so many good spiritual ideas I've had suggested to me, I just ran out of gas with it.

I'm ready to make another run at it, I think. But, being a wee bit wiser these days, I'm not gonna do it alone.

A month or more ago, I read that Messy Christian and Paul B. were part of a group blogging their way through Celebration - just about the time a group from my home church in Kansas went to a Renovare' conference in Denver. And I thought, "Gee, blogging our way through this would be a great way to (a) go through this book, slowly savoring it and sharing the experience with others, and (b) to actually develop some spiritual disciplines (as opposed to letting them rust, as I have been doing for a while, now).

Then surprise, surprise...I came across my copy of the book as I was beginning the packing process, and I thought, "You really need to do this." And then my friend Cherri from Kansas wrote today and said, "What about the Celebration of Discipline study you talked about?..."

OK, so I get the hint...

For those of you not familiar with the book, discipline in this sense is not "you better behave or I'll rap your knuckles with a ruler," nor is it intended as a "gotta make the donuts" kind of works righteousness. The Disciplines as Foster describes them are practices which help us grow spiritually. His list of 12 disciplines are broken into three groups:

Inner disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, study;
Outer disciplines: simplicity, solitude, submission, service; and
Corporate disciplines: confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

And the good news for y'all is, I'm lousy at almost all of them. This is not a study that I'm undertaking to show you how good I am, or what a spiritual Goliath I have become - but an invitation from a guy whose spiritual muscles have gotten pretty darn flabby to journey together towards a life lived in the disciplines. No superstar pray-ers, meditators, or other spiritual rocket-scientists need apply. In short, this is not an adventure for people who already have mastered these spiritual disciplines; it's for the folks at the other end of the spectrum. So if you're saying, "I could never get to be good at those kinds of things," I have just two words for you:

Welcome aboard.

So here it is:

I'm suggesting starting the reading on Labor Day (Monday, September 5th). That gives everyone a month to find a copy of the book (as you can tell from the Amazon.com link above, there are used copies available from $5 and up). It will also give those of you who aren't bloggers a chance to create your own blog (Blogger is really kind of idiot-proof in that regard). For this project, blogging can be just as simple as an online place to journal and reflect - and it can be as anonymous as you want it to be. (As I am, for the most part...)

We'll read one chapter a week, and you'll be encouraged to post on your own blog (a) what strikes you about the topic at hand and (b) how you succeed (or struggle, or fail outright) in the practice of that particular discipline. Honesty - especially about the areas where you struggle - will really be the best policy. I'm betting you'll be surprised how much company you'll find....

My job will be to provide a place to comment for those who really, really, really can't bring themselves to set up a blog, and also to provide links to folks who are part of the circle who have posted on the topic in the last week (which I'll probably do either late Friday nights or on Saturdays).

The one thing I want to be fairly firm about - if you are one of those people who think Richard Foster is tied to Eastern mysticism because he encourages meditation, or those who think that the Renovare' movement is one step removed from Harry Potter worship, just move on by, please. There are millions of other blogs to read and comment upon; pick one of them, and leave us alone.

I can't find anything evil or New Age about any of the 12 disciplines - in fact, they seem to be at the heart of a renaissance in Christianity, where they are being practiced. And I have remarkably little patience with folks that do have problems with it. (Probably something I'm gonna get to work on, over the next 13 weeks...) But for now, trust me - it's like strawberries, or ragweed, or science fiction - if it bothers you, stay the heck away from it (and us!).

So - if you're interested, post a comment below and join us!

19 comments:

Dale said...

Steve:
If I find a copy of the book, I am in.

Todd said...

Steve,
i am in, we've been reading this together in our small group, so i think i might be able to find a few others to include, even just as commenters...

i'll be using personal blog to post thoughts...

Poor Mad Peter said...

My wife had a copy of it when we were first married, and it's still around. She had very good things to say about it, but while i understood where the author was coming from, I was raised to distrust the word "discipline" because of how I experienced in my family of origin. So, I've let the book sit there. And sit there.

This fall, I will be doing something, a life change, but I am not clear on what that is, yet, only that it is necessary and I am ready. Reading the book along with your group may be that activity, or it may be something else. God will clarify when the time comes.

Dave said...

Wow Steve, that's very temting, except for the fasting part.
I'm actually doing spiritual reading now (including the Bible no less) and that sounds like it could be a cool endeavor.
I'll check out the book and see how long the chapters are and how small the writing is :)
Hope the move goes well.

Sue said...

I'll try to find the book in the next few weeks. Sounds like an exercise that I need to engage. Count me in!

Anonymous said...

Ok Steve ~ I am in. It is yet to be seen if I create my own blog or dog and pony with you :)
Blessings!
Cherri

TK said...

I'll give it a go.

I am working through the book now with a group of folks as part of a summer small group. Maybe some additional takers there?

Thanks.

dudehead said...

I may chime in as well. Thank you for the invitation.

Winky

BruceD said...

I hope you find what you're looking for...

Steve F. said...

I'm not sure I'm lookin' for anything specific, besides the opportunity to focus on a spiritual life (rather than on the "gotta make the donuts" drone I've been living for a while) and find some fellowship and some new experience can't be all bad.

It's a lesson we learn in the 12-step programs - even uncomfortable learnings are more pleasant when they are shared.

Thanks for commenting.

Wes D said...

I'm interested. I'm not new to the book but I am poor in spirit.

Lead on...We'll be right behind you!

Spencer said...

I'm sceptical as I am not 'a christian' and have no real desire to become one ... but I'll read anything that's thought provoking and so I will get a copy and play 'devils' advocate with you :)

S.S.

Spencer said...

oh...for those in the UK... you can get the book delivered for £5.99 here ...

http://www.play.com/play247.asp?pa=search&searchtype=allproducts&searchstring=Celebration+Of+Discipline&page=search

Anonymous said...

why I got here this morning, anyway the blog thing is new to me but really am alone in my area so... i'll try to figure out the blog thing and get back to you.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Steve, you know I've never been an "early adopter." You think this "blog" thing will really catch on eventually? : )

Anyway, I've started reading the book about three times and never finished, so yes, I'd like to try getting through it for once without overthinking it!

Nate>KC

ScottB said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but I'm game - count me in!

Spencer said...

Book turned up yesterday.

Need a copy of the bible now !

S.S.

Collin said...

Steve:

Thanks for giving me credit (or was it blame?) for recommending Foster's book to you. I have not gone through it since that time, but like all good things, it is worth re-doing. So count me in, as well.

wilsonian said...

I totally suck at completing excercises like this... guess it make me a model candidate?

I'll find a book and give it a go :)