A Virtual Celebration

A "home port" for the adventure of blogging our way through Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline - both as a first-time read through, and then as practicing the disciplines in my own undisciplined life.

Monday, September 05, 2005

An introduction to Celebration of Discipline

Everyone things of changing humanity and no one thinks of changing himself.
(Leo Tolstoy, quoted by Richard Foster from Frank S. Mead's Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, p. 400)
If you've made it here, welcome to the great adventure!

First, I want to give thanks to Messy Christian, and others who began blogging through Richard Foster's spiritual classic, Celebration of Discipline. When I read about it, I got a twinge of guilt - because I had a virtually untouched copy of Celebration that had collected dust on my shelves for, well, years. (It's interesting to note that my copy is a 20th anniversary edition, even though the 25th anniversary edition has been out since 2003.)

At the time, I didn't think I was ready - spiritually or emotionally - to make a commitment to the study. (After all, I was having trouble with the discipline of even every-other-day blogging!) But with the start of a new school year, and a series of endings and beginnings in my own life, this just seems to be something that has been on my heart for a while. So if you're still with me, welcome!

If you're like me, you may have some trouble understanding what discipline means, in this context. For some, it brings up the idea of some sort of pseudo-monastic deprivation - something one has endure in order to get "enlightened" or "spiritual." Especially for folks new to spirituality and folks who do not necessarily want to accept all of Christianity at first, this may seem like just more works-righteousness - "if I do this, and do that, and do the other thing, then I'll feel better, or look better, or get the (fill in the blank) that I need."

What drew me to this text is that it echoes a great deal of the spirituality at the core of the 12-step programs - the 11th step of which says that [we] sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. And here, on pages 44-45 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, is where the intersection between the 12-step community and the Christian community occurs. Bill W. writes:
If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism [or anything else!], many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried. We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn't there. Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly.

Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?

Well, that's exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.

Foster quotes Henri Arnold, "We...want to make it quite clear that we cannot free and purify out heart by exerting our own 'will.' " He then points out that this experience is common to all the great Christian devotional masters - St. Augustine, St. Francis, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, you name 'em.

Both the 12-step practices and the Christian faith tradition tell me that I can't "think my way into right action" - I have to act my way into right thinking. The disciplines, then, are a way of acting which leads to thinking more about God and desiring to draw closer. The beauty of Foster's work is that he has distilled immense amounts of Christian experience across the centuries to provide us with 12 practices which have been common to people of faith for generations.

One of the things that seems to appear only in the table of contents is an actual list of the actual Disciplines as Foster describes them. 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.

For the first week, I'd like to suggest that the foreword, introduction, and chapter 1 (The Spiritual Disciplines) will be our longest reading. But I think reading the introduction will be critical - because in reading it, I realized how much brokenness that Richard Foster brought to the process of creating Celebration of Discipline. He didn't write this book because we needed it - he wrote it because he needed it.

Later in the week, I'll post some suggestions and some pitfalls to avoid in reading and using this text and this study.

For now, if you have a blog, and post on the CoD topic, send me the link, and I'll create a weekly summary of posts from participants. I'll be creating a link-list with the folks who have acknowledged that they're "in" with us, as well.

Happy reading - and thanks for joining me on this journey! Soli Deo gloria! (to God alone be the glory!)


  • At September 05, 2005 1:18 PM, Anonymous Messy Christian said…

    Congratulations on embarking on this journey! Do I sound like an ad? ;)

    But seriously, I had a great time doing this study. I wasn't always on time, but I stuck through it and gleaned some good things from the book. Hope you have the same experience and top it too! :)

  • At September 05, 2005 3:15 PM, Blogger daisymarie said…

    i'm here. i'll be studying. you can also find me at Corner Chair.

  • At September 06, 2005 6:12 AM, Blogger Wes D said…

    My homework can be viewed at http://justfaint.blogspot.com/

    This isn't my first time through the book, but I'm guessing I've changed enough that it will be virtually my first time.

    Can anyone point me to a source explaining Doxology? I have a feeling there is more to the concept than I'll get from a definition.

    The word Numinous stuck out. For extra credit, consider C.S. Lewis "The Problem of Pain", Chapter 1. After understanding my reaction to the Numinous, I'll have to admit I was a little afraid to open the spiritual can of worms. Even if you don't have this problem, I'll bet you encounter those who do.

    You'll find a previous post of mine discussing anthropomorphism: chopping God down to our size so he's not so scary. If only I didn't render him entirely unsatisfying in the process. In fact, the idea of hanging with a Ruthless Lover can be a little intimdating on occasion.

  • At September 06, 2005 11:37 AM, Blogger Sue said…

    I'm still waiting for the book to arrive -- should be here in a day or so.

    I'm looking forward to getting into the study!

  • At September 06, 2005 5:00 PM, Blogger wilsonian said…

    I'm leaving in the morning to do this week's reading at the cottage (I know... we all make sacrifices :).

    I'm in.

  • At September 07, 2005 9:01 PM, Blogger Sue said…

    Hi Steve,

    I just posted on my blog a piece about the Virtual Celebration...


  • At September 08, 2005 8:21 AM, Blogger Poor Mad Peter said…

    I'm in. And I promise: kicking and screaming! My misgivings about Richard FOster's approach can be viewed at http://anothercountry.blogspot.com

    NB: My misgivings are NOT about the need for spiritual disciplines! :)

  • At September 08, 2005 8:22 AM, Blogger Poor Mad Peter said…

    Ooops! I meant--NO kicking and screaming! {blush} Call it "up at 4:30 Am because it's ragweed season and I couldn't find the Claritin in the dark...

  • At September 09, 2005 8:15 AM, Blogger Faraja said…

    I'd like to join too, I read through some of the posts from Messy Christian and her group of bloggers...it peaked my interest in the book. I'll get a copy tomorrow.

  • At September 10, 2005 11:52 AM, Anonymous Paula said…

    May God bless the journey you all take through this book. It was my second time studying it and I'm glad I did it with a group. I learned and unlearned. I Praise Him for helping me to keep an open mind but not so open my brains fell out.

  • At September 12, 2005 12:39 PM, Blogger TK said…

    Hey Steve, My first post on CoD is
    Thanks for putting this together.



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