11. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster


I think this is my fourth read of this classic. I read it two years ago and went through the DVD series with two women. One of the women was in a very dry time of her life, and this was so helpful for her.


I am reading it for the Renovaré Institute so I took a lot of notes and got so much more out of this time around because of that. I had to put this picture of the original 1978 cover. I own a copy with this kind of cover (although mine is in much better shape than this one). I don't know why I read it first. I know that I had talked about it with my friend, Dave, before I was married. So, I think I read it for the first time during the 80's. I also read the Freedom of Simplicity, but I cannot remember when I read that one. I really like that one. 

Some memorable quotes:


Joy is the keynote of all the Disciplines. The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear. When one’s inner spirit is set free from all that holds it down, that can hardly, be described as dull drudgery. Singing, dancing, even shouting characterize the Disciplines of the spiritual life. (p.2)
(I have danced with Richard Foster, by the way. He came and directed our Concert of Prayer back in the early 90s, and he had us all dancing. It was great!) 

Meditation was certainly not foreign to the authors of Scriptures . . . These were people who were close to the heart of God. God spoke to them not because they had special abilities, but because they were willing to listen. (p. 14)

Often meditation will yield insights that are deeply practical, almost mundane. (p. 17)

Quote my Morton Kelly: Christian meditation that does not make a difference in the quality of one’s outer life is short-circuited. (p. 17)

We must come to see, therefore, how central the whole of our day is in preparing us for specific times of meditation. If we are constantly being swept off our feet with frantic activity, we will be unable to be attentive at the moment of inward silence. A mind that is harassed and fragmented by external affairs is hardly prepared for meditation. The church Fathers often spoke of Otium Sanctum: “holy leisure.” It refers to a sense of balance in life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves. With our tendency to define people in terms of what they produce, we would do well to cultivate “holy leisure.” And if we expect to succeed in the contemplative arts, we must pursue, “holy leisure” with a determination that is ruthless to our datebooks. (p. 20-21)

To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our live.  (p. 30)

Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them. Pal wrote, “’All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). Our human cravings and desires are like a river that tends to overflow its banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channel. “I pommel my body and subdue it,” said Paul (1 Cor. 9:27). Likewise, David wrote, “I afflicted myself with fasting” (Ps. 35:13). That is no asceticism: it is discipline and discipline brings freedom. In the fourth century, Asterius said that fasting insured that the stomach would not make the body boil like a kettle to the hindering of the soul. (p. 49)

The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person. It aims at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits. Nowhere is this purpose more clearly seen than in the Discipline of study. (p. 54)

Study produces joy. Like any novice we will find it hard work in the beginning. But the greater our proficiency the greater our joy. Alexander Pope said, “There is no study that is not capable of delighting us after a little application of it.” Study is well worth our most serious effort. (p. 66)

Inwardly modern man is fractured and fragmented. He is trapped in a maze of completing attachments. One moment he makes decision on the basis of sound reason and the next moment out of fear of what others will think of him. He has no unity or focus around which life is oriented. . . Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We must clearly understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. “We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.” (Arthur Gish) (p. 70)

The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteous of his kingdom first—then everything necessary will come in its proper order.

Obviously these matters are not restricted to possession but include such things as our reputation or our employment. Simplicity means the freedom to trust God for these (and all) things. (p. 77)

God give us the courage, wisdom and strength always to hold as the number-one priority of our lives to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” understanding all that this implies. To do so is to live in simplicity. (p. 78-83)

Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. (p. 84)

We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Solitude is not first a place but a state of mind and heart. (p. 84)

There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. (p. 84)

In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer titled one of his chapters “The Day Together” and perceptively titled the following chapter “The Day Alone.” Both are essential for spiritual success. He wrote:

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. . .. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. . .. Each by itself has profound pitfall and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.

Therefore we must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meaningfully. We must seek the fellowship and accountability of others if we want to be alone safely We must cultivate both if we are to live in obedience. (p. 84)

The purpose of silence and solitude is to be able to see and hear. (p.86)

Thomas à Kempis wrote, “It is easier to be silent altogether than to speak with moderation.” (p.87)


One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let our justification rest entirely with God. We don’t need to straighten others out. There is a story of a medieval monk who was being unjustly accused of certain offenses. One day he looked out his window and watched a dog biting and tearing on a rug that had been hung out to dry. As he watched, the Lord spoke to him saying, “That is what I am doing to your reputation. But if you will trust Me you will not need to worry about the opinion of others.” Perhaps more than anything else, silence brings us to believe that God can justify and set things straight. (p. 88)

What freedom is corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way.  (p. 106)

As the cross is the sign of submission, so the towel is the sign of service. (p. 110)

We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings. Energy is expended but it is not the frantic energy of the flesh. Thomas Kelly writes, “I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.”

Since it is living out of a new Center of Reference the divine nod of approval is completely sufficient.

True service is free of the need to calculate results. (p. 112)

Self-righteous service fractures community. True service, on the other hand, builds community. (p. 113)

Service that is duty-motivated breathes death. Service that flows out of our inward person is life, and joy, and peace. (p. 122)

The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works. – Augustine of Hippo (p. 125)

To worship is to experience reality, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christin the midst of the gathered community. It is a breaking into the Shekinah (The glory or radiance of God dwelling in the midst of His people. It denotes the immediate Presence of God as opposed to a God who is abstract or aloof.) of God, or better yet, being invaded by the Shekinah of God. (p. 138)

Worship is human response to divine initiative. (p. 138)

If the Lord is to be Lord, worship must have priority in our lives. The first commandment of Jesus is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30). The divine priority is worship first, service second. Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving and adoration. Service flows out of worship. Service as a substitute for worship is idolatry. Activity may become the enemy of adoration. . . For the Old Testament priesthood, ministry to Him was to precede all other work. And that is no less true of the universal priesthood of the New Testament. One grave temptation we all face is to run around answering calls to service without ministering to the Lord himself. (p. 140)

In our day heaven and earth are on tiptoe waiting for the emerging of a Spirit-led, Spirit-intoxicated, Spirit-empowered people. (p. 151)

God does guide the individual richly and profoundly, but He also guides groups of people and can instruct the individual through the group experience. (p. 151)

We would be well advised to encourage groups of people who are willing to fast, pray, and worship together until they have discerned the mind of the Lord and have heard His call. (p. 152)

Celebration is central to the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every discipline should be characterized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving. (p. 164)

In the spiritual life only one thing will produce genuine joy, and that is obedience.  “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk. 11:28). (p. 165)

We have seen how meditation heightens our spiritual sensitivity, which in turn leads us to prayer. Very soon we discover that prayer involves fasting as an accompanying means. Informed by these three Disciplines we can effectively move into study which gives us discernment about ourselves and the world in which we live.

Through simplicity e live with others in integrity. Solitude allows us to genuinely present to people when we are with them. Through submission we live with others without manipulation, and through service we are a blessing to them.

Confession frees us from ourselves and releases us to worship. Worship opens the door to guidance. All Disciplines freely exercised bring froth the doxology of celebration.


The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life beckon us to the Himalayas of the Spirit. Now we stand at timberline awed by the snowy peaks before us. We step out in confidence with our Guide who has blazed the trail and conquered the highest summit.  (p. 171) 
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