As I’ve prayed and thought more about simplicity over the last few days I haven’t had any big revelations. I know there is yet a lot to chew on, and certainly there is a part of me that yearns to be simplified, organized and disciplined, but there is also a part of me that fights back. Something about aiming for simplicity just doesn’t ring true for me; it doesn’t sound joyful, and I’m not convinced that it should be the goal. I’m not saying that simplicity doesn’t have its place. It does. But the balance isn’t struck by setting out to lead simple lives. The balance comes in embracing the lavish love of Jesus and in realizing that all we have comes from Him. Material possessions are held loosely by a humble person. A humble person doesn’t derive worth from things. So isn’t humility the goal? Isn’t knowing who you are in Christ the goal? Isn’t recognizing the source of true fulfillment the antidote to “the mammon spirit”? Maybe it’s semantics, but I like humble more than simple. Simple is just not something I feel called to be. Simple sounds boring. Humble is different. Humble never diminishes the intrinsic worth; it just points to the source. A leader can (and should) be humble and great at the same time. For me simple is not about pointing to someone else–yet this is the call of a Christian. Foster claims that simplicity is freedom. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.79. But I’m uncomfortable with that statement. Simplicity has its place. My need for simplicity is great. But I cannot equate it with freedom. The paradoxes of this life are many. Freedom is found in submission. True identity is best found in death to self. And undoubtedly less is often more, but I cannot agree with the absolute “simplicity is freedom.”
We know that our God often uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), so does that mean that we should remain foolish? Can we just trust that in our stumbling stupor we will somehow shame the wise? Of course not! Paul is clear: “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:17 (NLT). All of the spiritual disciplines, including study, help us to “place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.” Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p. 7. One result of transformation is understanding what the Lord wants us to do.
First a bit of housekeeping. I thought Richard Foster should know that I was blogging about his book so I emailed him. An assistant of his got back with me yesterday and requested that I properly and fully cite his work, and encourage my readers to buy the book, which of course I am happy to do. So once again here is the link for ordering Celebration of Discipline. Also you may want to check out Renovare, which is the ministry founded by Richard Foster.
I went away for the weekend, without my family, and I stayed in a delightful bedroom which looked out onto the Chesapeake Bay, pictured above. This photograph was not taken from my bedroom, but was right below it on the lawn. I slept with the window open, the gentle breeze lulling me into a slumber so deep it bordered on comatose. But in the middle of the night, the door to my bedroom flew open. I was startled awake and my heart raced, but then I saw Jesus sitting peacefully in a little wooden chair beside my bed. He wasn’t at all concerned about the open door. He was just staring at me.
I’m so excited that a number of people (even a few with whom I am not related!) have decided to join me in reading Celebration of Discipline. I also have a few friends who are currently reading this book in small groups (merely by coincidence, if you believe in such things), and I hope they will check in and maybe share some thoughts too. I have never read anything that so systematically addresses spiritual disciplines, and even though we are only on the second discipline, I’m already reassessing some things.
Before we jump into the book, let me lay out my plan. For the next six weeks I plan to blog twice each week. I’ll be using Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, as a jumping off point and hope to add Scripture and other sources to the ideas that Foster shares in each chapter. So today, we’ll look at meditation, and then on Thursday, we’ll jump into prayer. With a Monday/Thursday pace it will take us six weeks to go through the book. The great thing is that these are such discrete topics that I think anyone can truly jump in anywhere. And although I’ve only just begun reading, can I just say that I absolutely love this book. It is timeless. It is brilliant. The writing is simple and anointed. I’m so excited about studying the disciplines, implementing the disciplines and about the transformation I expect God to work in my own life.
I’ve used this quote before but it is so apt now, as I make a stab at something new. My vision for the task of reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is to spur one another on to apply the biblical principles and practical truth of this book in everyday life (here is the link to order the book). Of course, this will work best if participation is not limited to my sister and me, and I am just going to trust that some of my regular, non-commenting readers will join us.