Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
A careful and heartfelt exploration of the spiritual life, it covers the disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. We cannot expect to recognize our experiences of God, much less understand them, without effort and sacrifice on our parts. God certainly acts in our lives and we, from time to time, see it happening, but we don't know what to do with it. Foster suggests that to deepen our relationships with our brothers and sisters and with God we must be intentional in our practice, both sacred and quotidian. This is the discipline of the title.
I have said for years that I don't fast well--my body doesn't accept the lack of food and I feel ill and miserable. I thought this was a legitimate thesis. And I suppose it can be in some cases. The natural result of fasting, however, is feeling ill, hungry, and kind of empty. The whole point is the discipline of it--getting through the misery of the early stages (and sometimes the middle ones as well) can lead to significant insights into what we hunger and whose we are. Having the discipline to continue in the face of difficulty is what sets the mature apart from the immature. An acquaintance of mine simply doesn't get this in even the simplest of terms. His attitude is that if something is hard or painful, it must therefore be bad and not worth doing. So he doesn't.
Many of you may remember Dumbledore's words to Harry: "The time is coming when we will all have to choose between what is right and what is easy." The Christian life to which we are called is not easy and is not something we can take for granted. To truly change the world and to be transformed ourselves, we must take intentional action. We must discipline ourselves like soldiers or professional artists to do what needs to be done. And there is joy beyond our expectations in that discipline.