I have started reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, a book which I always saw on my parents' bookshelf, but never picked up. Then when I saw it at a local second hand bookshop I thought it might be a good choice from which to learn. Here is what I am learning so far.
Change happens from the inside out. I know from experience that willing change is only partially effective. In our unguarded moments, what and who we really are becomes obvious. And Jesus says that our right living has to go beyond that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20)--and the way in which we go beyond their righteousness is by gaining internal righteousness, not just an outward control. Right living must be an "internal work of God upon the heart." In Ephesians (which I am reading at breakfast) it says that we need to "be made new in the attitude of your minds" (4:23).
Our--My--ingrained habits are not God-pleasing. "What You're after is truth from the inside out," says David in Psalm 51 (The Message), "Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life." God works in our hearts to change us, and as well as being changed, we can stop judging others as well. Reading the first chapter really inspired me. "Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people," Foster says, and I think, I could be that changed person. God, change me. "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."
And the Spiritual Disciplines are a way for us to get ready for change. They are a way of "sowing to the Spirit" (Galatians 6:8), a way to prepare the ground for the growth that God will bring. We do not produce our own right living, we only tend what God is doing there. "The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us." And so, Foster says, we are called to a "path of disciplined grace". It is called grace because it is a free gift of God and disciplined because it is a conscious action to follow this path.
"I want to drink God.... I'm thirsty for God-alive" (Psalm 42:2, The Message). I have now read the first, introductory chapter, and now I am on to the chapter on meditation. It has been odd to read about meditation while on the train or bus--I think this may become more difficult to continue. I was visiting St Martin in the Fields church yesterday and I read a bit there in the quiet sanctuary. I hope I can learn to practice the Spiritual Disciplines. Lord, change me.