Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Discipline of Simplicity and The Discipline of Solitude

Simplicity -- this is the discipline that goes against our American way of thinking. It is to be content with what you have and know that you can go without. You don't need to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, most of what this society says you "need" you don't. It's funny that the more we are "blessed" with material things, we think we are so poor because we don't have what others have. We think that if our children don't get everything their hearts desire at Christmastime that we have somehow failed them. So we make sure they have an xbox, AND a PS3, AND a wii, AND a computer, AND Nintendo DS, AND all the latest games, mp3 players, cell phones, fashions, as well as persue these things for ourselves. We spend way too much on cars and clothes and housing, etc. No one is saying that you must live in extreme poverty to be godly, but is living in excess godly? Jesus didn't have a place to lay his head. Again, I'm not saying we need to be extreme and homeless to achieve Christlike-ness. But we have lost our generosity. We have to have so much stuff that we don't have anything to give to others. Now that sounds totally irrational doesn't it? But it's true. We can't or don't give to others because it means we'll have to give up something for ourselves or our kids. What are we teaching them? Live moderately, not in excess. Learn to be generous. Be content with what you have. Don't seek to have things just to have things. Don't think you need something when it is simply a want. Simplicity.

Solitude -- This one is also called silence. It doesn't always mean you have to be alone, but you do have to get alone with your thoughts and learn how not to always have something to say. This one is difficult for me, I must admit. After all, my nickname in high school was "peanut gallery". If you know me, you know I ALWAYS have something to say. One of the things that is difficult for most people I know is not to explain their actions or defend themselves with words. Sometimes we shouldn't speak. If we have followed God's direction and you get "attacked", why do we feel the need to offer our own defense. God will be our defender. We can't handle the silence or the awkward silences between people, but how can God lead us in words if we use idle talk to fill up the time and space. Learn to be quiet and alone with God in your thoughts and He well help you bridle your tongue.

What say you?

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Discipline of Fasting

Oh, this is the hardest one so far. I have been being led to do a fast, but I admit I've been resistive. It still seems hard after reading about it, but at least now I have direction. Foster suggests starting slow. Doing 24-hour fasts (two meals). He says that most find lunch to lunch the "easiest". Do it once a week for several weeks. As you go along, God will reveal things in your life that need work. I don't completely feel ready, and I do feel like I will fail, but I really do desire to meet God on a whole new level. To seek Him more and to know Him more. The purpose of fasting is to center our thoughts and prayers firmly on Jesus Christ. But fasting will also bring about another "benefit". It will reveal what controls you. That is a sobering thought! I mean, do I really want to know? Yikes! I do want to know, and I do want to be better.

After you accomplish 24 hour fasts, and do well and feel called to "step it up" as it were, try 36 hour fast (missing 3 meals). During the 24 or 36 fasts, you can do a restrictive fast, where you abstain from food, but drink fresh fruit juice, or a normal fast, which is abstaining from food and ONLY drinking water (healthy amounts). Foster describes an absolute fast that is abstaining from all food and drink, but one should ONLY do this if he/she absolutely knows God is asking that of him/her but NEVER for more than 3 days. An absolute fast only occurred in the Bible rarely and it was clear that God supernaturally intervened.

If you feel led to go beyond a 36 hour fast, I would suggest reading Celebration of Discipline first and understand what you will be doing. Don't just jump into it. And ONLY do it to center your life on Christ. It is not a use for penance or because you think you will gain favor from God. It has to be for the right reason and the right reason is that it is God-initiated, God-ordained to center forever on God.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Discipline of Prayer

Ok, so I'm reading this book "The Celebration of Discipline" and it's really teaching me alot. I've read on the discipline of prayer. Foster first starts talking about these giants in the faith who pray 3 hours a day and i'm thinking "ok, i'm totatlly going to fail at this" but then he makes me feel a little better by saying don't attempt that... you've gotta work up to it. He has this great illustration to look at your prayer life. He talks about your TV set and you know it's working when you see the picture. He says it's the same with prayer. You know it's working when you see results. And just like if the TV isn't working, it isn't because there aren't TV signals around, it's something blocking the signals. Are you really connecting with God in prayer? Are you praying God's thoughts and His desires, or your own selfish desires. Do you pray believing it will change the future, or do you think the future is set in stone and prayer has no effect upon it? He makes some excellent points and at the same time makes it liberating. To know God so well you know and pray His thoughts. Now there's power!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Discipline of Study

Ok, so like i said before i'm reading about and learning the spiritual disciplines. who knew studying was a discipline??? so Foster explains that there are four steps in studying as a discipline. Repetition, contemplation, comprehension, and reflection. I learned long ago about the repetition. read one book of the bible completely through in one day in one sitting. do that about 10 times before you really get something profound out of it. contemplate on it. meditate on it (which by the way is another discipline). Then, and only then ask what is it saying. Comprehend it. After you know what it says, then ask yourself how you should now be in light of this scripture. Wow! it's clear to me why it's called discipline. oh God, teach me to be disciplined. Foster also recommends to periodically schedule for yourself a study retreat where you get away for a weekend to devote it completely to study without interruption. prepare yourself for 10-12 hour day of studying a book of the bible. on a regular basis, read smaller books of the bible that you can read through easily in one sitting everyday for a month. the same book. sounds completely life-changing. anyone read for some life change???

What's it all mean?

Do you think anything happens by pure coincidence? I don't. I think there are only divine appointments. I think that my attending seminary was purposed to happen at just this time in history. Why? I don't know, I just know that God has a plan and that His timing is perfect. Funny how taking these classes have had the profound effect that they have had. I am more changed in these couple of months than I have been in the last two years. God has surely brought me face to face with challenging thoughts of which I've had to change my way of thinking. He isn't finished with me yet. I am currently in a class on spiritual formation and part of the study is to study the disciplines involved in a Christian's life. I thought I really prayed, but reading about prayer I realize I haven't even scratched the surface. I thought I really meditated, but reading about meditation I realize I haven't even scratched the surface. Let alone ever practiced some of these disciplines. I'm ashamed to say I've never fasted. The thought of it somewhat scares me too. And then there is solitude. I've been alone, but not for a purpose or even ON purpose. I have so much to learn. I'm hoping that blogging helps me see the things in my life that I need to change or have to work on. I guess I want to use this as a sort of journal. I'm not seeking to be eloquent in it nor even make sense sometimes. I just process things better as I ponder and type. Any suggestions, encouragement, or insights are completely welcome!