I love books I have to read with a pencil in my hand. Well, that’s not 100% true: some books I have to read with a pencil in my hand because they are so poorly written or poorly edited that I have to make corrections as I go. I don’t love that. I love books that are so rich, so refreshing, so exciting that I have to highlight parts, make notes and write ‘Yes!!’ in the margins as I go.
Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster, is one of those books – the marked-up-in-a-good-way books.
We started studying it last year in my church Connect Group (small group/home group/life group equivalent), and after the first week – when we tried to cover two of the twelve disciplines in 40 minutes – I was hooked. I rushed out and bought my own copy and have been reading it ever since.
I deliberately took my time (or tried to), rather than rushing through, but there is still so much goodness in there that I’m thinking of picking it back up and starting again almost immediately.
In a way, it shouldn’t be so exciting. The twelve disciplines he covers he calls the classical disciplines – classic both because they are ancient and “because they are central to experiential Christianity.”
“Superficiality,” he begins, causing me to reach for my pencil, “is the curse of our age. … The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths.”
If that doesn’t resonate with you, click away now; there’s nothing for you here. If, however, that makes your heart and soul yearn for that deeper experience of God, of life itself, click here and buy the book – I don’t mind whether you come back here or not, I’m just going to rave about it a bit longer.
After the foreword, introduction and opening chapter (all of which are worth reading), the book is divided into three parts:
The Inward Disciplines
The Outward Disciplines
The Corporate Disciplines
That list looks a bit daunting at first, doesn’t it? But as you begin to read, what comes through most strongly is not a sense of dutiful worthiness but one of joy: deep, refreshing, life-giving joy. The author’s celebration of discipline is not just a hopeful title but a very clear reality.
His journey began when, as a young pastor, he found a number of very needy people beginning to attend his church. “Oh, how they hungered for spiritual substance,” he writes, “and oh, how willing they were to do almost anything to find it.” The only problem was, he didn’t know where to point them. He didn’t possess the substance they sought, but he saw that their hunch was correct – the answer to all their needs must be found in Christ, but how?
He began to desire the kind of depth they sought, too.
“And desiring led to seeking and seeking led to finding. And what I found settled me, deepened me, thickened me.”
The experience just of reading this book has begun to do the same for me, even as I’ve so slowly begun to even think about putting any of the disciplines into practice. It’s been like refreshing, cool water poured into my soul just to be given the tools, even before I begin to use them.
Each chapter is very practical – the one on fasting, for instance, even advises what you should eat the day before an extended fast – and the edition I’ve got has study questions at the end of each chapter, to help you think through what you’ve read. Some chapters were more challenging than others, and I suspect they’ll be different for each person, depending on where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
I could go on and on, but I won’t.
The book is wonderful I urge you to buy it, read it, and put it into practice. Feel free to challenge me on this in the weeks and months to come – if you don’t see growth in my life, it’s because I’ve let this slip, and I don’t want to. This year I’m seeking more depth in my life. This book has given me the tools to find it – but only if I use them.
My Rating: 6/5 (Yes, it’s worth far more than five little stars!)