Sunday, October 26, 2014

revisiting Celebration of Discipline

The Making of an Ordinary Saint: My Journey from Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines (By Nathan Foster, Baker Books, 2014) is the story of a man who gained a new perspective on life, though some time honored practices. Nathan Foster is just another guy, except for the fact that his father, Richard Foster, wrote a book several years ago wrote a book called Celebration of Discipline which is widely regarded as one of THE must-go to resources when one is wondering how to grow spiritually.
But interest in spiritual disciplines is fading, and this book may just be the catalyst that will revive the interest.  I hope so. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on fasting. Why? Because over the years I have tried to practice that discipline more than some of the others. We have common ground as it were, I understood what he was talking about.  Some of the others were interesting, some not so much so, and a couple of chapters intrigued me: I want to practice them in my own life.
Foster has a compelling way of personalizing the disciplines. He tells his story of how he applied the disciplines to his life – a life, by the way, that has not always been marked with saintliness. He is upfront about his reluctance to embrace the disciplines, but when the time was right, he listened to his father’s assurance that the result of the disciplines is joy, and decided to give it a try.
When I think “spiritual disciplines” my tendency is to think monastic orders, living in a cave like the early desert fathers, or at least leading a pretty austere life style. Foster shows us that even with a job, a wife, and children, that it can be done. And that yes, the end result can be joy.
When someone uses their own past in the context of a book like this, one of two things usually happens, either they pretty it up so much that the reader gags over the saccharin sweetness, and none of it seems believable, or they focus so much on the shock factor that the message gets lost. Foster has struck a nice balance. He is a human being, and as he weaves his story into how he learned about the joy that comes from the disciplines, he neither minimizes not glorifies those parts of his life that have made him the person that he is.  
I suppose that there are groups that would claim the disciplines as their own, and will be upset with Foster’s treatment. Others will be amazed to find that such a thing even exists. Still others will after getting over their reluctance to deal with anything dealing with discipline, will wish they had started the journey sooner.
An engaging and candid treatment of a subject that most are afraid to address.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

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