Celebration of Discipline: Meditation

If you do not own a copy of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline you need to. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998).  I’ve not read anything so practical and accessible which aims to help the believer rightly pursue relationship with Jesus Christ.  In my estimation there’s the Bible (obviously), then C.S. Lewis (most especially Mere Christianity), and then Celebration of Discipline.  I read it for the first time just three years ago, but it quickly became my number one “must read” behind Lewis.  Not that I agree with every single word, but there is profound truth on every page.  So if you don’t own it, here is the link to secure your own copy.

The first discipline that Foster writes about is meditation, and since I haven’t read the book in over a year, I had been thinking this chapter was about five or six pages.  Well, it’s sixteen pages!  So I can hardly begin to summarize all that Foster covers in sixteen pages, but I will share some highlights.

In the first paragraph, Foster quotes Carl Jung who quipped, “Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.”  This is poignant to me because I am prone to hurry.  Very prone.  In fact, today I hurried from one thing to the next, and felt quite impatient and frustrated over how long it took my boys to make it to the car in the carpool line.  I realize that to pursue meditation I need to slow it down, and that I need to be intentional about quiet times reserved for contemplation.  I realize too, with a hint of sorrow, that this means getting up early.

As for the methodology, Foster says that Christian mediation is wholly unlike Eastern meditation which aims to empty the mind.  Instead the goal is to hear God’s voice and obey it.  One simple way of doing this is to meditate on Scripture.  Choose a verse or brief passage and spend time meditating on it this week.  The goal is to internalize and personalize the passage.

As for me, given it’s Thanksgiving week, I intend to meditate on Psalm 9: 1-2  for the next six days, and I’d love for you to join me.

Also, I was planning to post a different discipline each day for the next eleven days, but that “Hurry is the Devil” quote gave me pause.  So I will keep reading (but more slowly) and I hope you will too.  Look for Celebration of Discipline: Prayer, late this week.

Celebrating as a Discipline

If celebration is a discipline (and Richard Foster says it is), it’s the discipline that comes most naturally to me.  I’ve helped plan two wonderful parties in the last few weeks, two honoring celebrations.  The first was easy.  It was for my son, Will, who was turning ten.  Although the night consisted almost of exclusively of playing games and eating (two things boys universally love), we also had intervals in the course of the night where these young boys could talk about Will, about how they met him and some of their favorite memories with Will.  Ten is pretty young to do something like that, but it worked surprisingly well.  These boys were happy to talk about what they liked about their buddy, Will, and it felt like he was celebrated for the unique person God made him to be.

Last Saturday I played a role in a much bigger party, a much grander celebration.  It was a surprise party for my wonderful mom who turned seventy yesterday!  This party was not easy to pull off, because we wanted to surprise her and with roughly eighty guests that was challenging.  Someone was going to slip, I was certain.  My boys would accidently say something.  But they didn’t.  No one did.  She was clueless until just minutes before.

And was it ever fun!  It was fun to surprise her, for her to see friends and family she hadn’t seen in years, but it was much more than just a fun surprise.  It was an intentional time of celebrating life — the life of my mother who has been special to so many.  We had a time of singing, a time of sharing, dinner and cake.  The whole night had the sweetest spirit to it–the food wasn’t fancy, the place wasn’t swanky, and the decorations were simple.  The aim was a sincere and joyful acknowledgment of a true blessing, Judy Huber, and it seemed everyone had a wonderful time.  Conversation was easy, meaningful stories were shared and there was an abundance of laughter.

Even though we may not think about it very much, it is important to do things like this.   Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline explains why. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998).  Foster opens his chapter on celebration with this statement: “Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ.” p.190.  He also quotes Harvey Cox, who said that modern people strive so hard toward productivity and “rational calculation” that we have “all but forgotten the joy of ecstatic celebration.”  It’s such an apt observation.  Throwing parties does not result from rational calculations.  In fact, for those who might not see the spiritual value in honoring others, especially parents, it would probably seem overwrought or over-sentimentalized.  But a follower of Christ will recognize it as obedience.  Furthermore, as Foster explains “Celebration brings joy into life, and joy makes us strong.  Scripture tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. (Neh. 8:10)” p.191.

Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice.” (Phil 4:4).  It is not a mere recommendation, but a command.  And Jesus knew nothing of stuffy, boring parties — no as Foster points out, “Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton.  Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.” (p.196).

So what keeps you from celebrating like you should?  May I recommend, at the very least, reading or re-reading this chapter in Foster’s book?  And may I invite you to prayerfully consider reading through all of Celebration of Discipline with me?  I did this via my blog a few years ago, but this is a book that deserves an annual read, and I’m excited to jump back into it.  I know new insights and spiritual truths await me in this important book, and I’d be so honored if you’d commit to reading it with me.

I’ll start with Meditation next Monday.

Jackson 5 Friday: The Spooky Blues and the Divinely Creative

Did you have a Happy Halloween?  As you may guess from the photograph above, I did not.  Someone wise once said that a mother can only be as happy as her unhappiest child.  Well, look at these two.  How could I possibly be happy?

Initially, Sammy was elated to be going out with a big group of friends.  He joyfully made his way to the first door, the cutest little Fire Chief that has graced the planet.  But at that first door he attempted to reach for a second piece of candy.   Big mistake!  The elderly woman snapped at him, saying in a how-dare-you tone, “I already gave you one!”  Well, sensitive Sam whimpered away, and never recovered.  He was embarrassed, crushed, and beastly the rest of the way.  I did find out that the $2.99 Fire Chief hat I purchased for him is the real McCoy.  It is completely indestructible.  How do I know this?  Because he spiked it in his fury at least twenty-five times.  He also growled and made angry faces at Passer-Outers much friendlier than the first.  Not the night I had intended.

Nate’s Halloween happiness was also short-lived and perhaps feigned all along.  This child is an enigma  — a bundle of paradox.  He is not shy, but desperately needs his space.  He is happy in groups, until he abruptly reaches his limit and retreats.  Trick or treating did not enable him to disengage and recharge.  The result was he channeled every ounce of frustration at me.  He was livid at me, and I’m pretty sure I did nothing to him.  I’m finding, after eight years of Nate, that this is pattern.  He needs an out.  If unwanted socialization is forced upon him, the wrath of Nate will come for someone — more often than not it’s big brother who bears the brunt.  I think he may have gotten this from me.  I am an extrovert.  I love being with friends, except sometimes I just reach a limit and I need time alone or more often with just my Jackson 5.  Once Nate was home, sifting through candy with Monday Night Football in the background he was back to his delightful self — funny, happy, talkative and even forgiving of whatever grave offense I had so recently committed.

It’s amazing how different we all are.  Surely, nurture has some effect, but our marked differences, even within families, point more to nature.  God made us unique and in His image.  He knew Sammy would be ultra-sensitive and a natural entertainer since the beginning of time.  He knew Nate would be hilarious and engaging most of the time, and a retreater part of the time.  He knew Will would be tremendously driven and kind, but prone to impatience with a strong desire to control…to control…well, everything.

These boys of mine are as different as different could be.  That’s the way God made them.  He’s Divinely and Infinitely Creative, and we see that in creation all around us.  If you take a look outside today, you’ll see a glimpse of God’s glory.  If you look at people, your little people, your co-workers, whomever, you’ll see a person made in the image of the Lord God Almighty, and you’ll clearly see that we all have different gifts.  As Paul says in Romans 12:

4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b]do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

So I’ll leave you with two questions: (1) When is the last time you thanked God for the uniqueness of each person? and (2) What are your gifts and how are you using them for His glory?