In his now classic book on the spiritual life, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster dives deep into an ancient set of practices that followers of Jesus have used for thousands of years as a way to live a centered, whole, healthy life. It seems that some ancient truth might be good for us in these moments when so much seems “up in the air.”
There is much talk about finding new “rhythms and routines” in this time of social distancing and quarantine. But it’s not just the simple fact of having a routine – it matters a lot what types of routines and rhythms we’re developing. Because here’s the truth–whatever you do day after day after day forms you into a particular person. Are you pointed in the right direction?
So this week we’re going to explore the Spiritual Disciplines as Foster lays them out. He puts them in three categories:
- Inward Disciplines
- Outward Disciplines
- Corporate Disciplines
When we hear the word “discipline” most of us don’t have a great response. We think of punishment from our parents, or eating healthy when we don’t want to. But Foster rejects this notion, and we should too. He says we shouldn’t “think of the Spiritual Disciplines as some dull drudgery aimed at exterminating laughter from the face of the earth. Joy is the keynote of all the disciplines. The purpose of the disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.” WOW! Who doesn’t want that?!
A really helpful synonym can be ‘spiritual practices’ too.
He points out, by the way, that the primary requirement in practicing the disciplines is simply “a longing after God.” You need not be following Jesus, or practicing any particular religion, to find great depth and beauty and value in these. The invitation is to all.
To kick things off, let’s get practical. Take a few moments to grab a sheet of scratch paper, your journal or just the notes section on your phone and jot down your current daily routine. Take a critical look at it and ask yourself which things are bringing you life and filling you up and which things are sucking the life out of you or causing anxiety, fear and worry. Put a plus sign next to the ones that fill you up. Put a minus sign by those which drain you.
Now take a moment and say a short prayer asking God to help you understand and shape the rhythms and routines of your life around life-giving, joyful disciplines that we will explore in the coming days. Remember – it’s not about earning God’s love or striving harder to get better. Instead, it is, as Foster points out, a gracious gift of God.
“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is to provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain. This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines – they are a way of sowing to the Spirit…by themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God’s means of grace.”
Lord, cultivate joy in us during this season through a re-awakening of healthy rhythms and rituals.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Joel & Jeff
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