After two years of studying The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I FINALLY FINISHED this morning. I can honestly say, it was worth the time and effort.
This book details twelve spiritual disciplines that put believers in a place to receive grace from God - I love the way Foster describes the disciplines not as something legalistic that we should do out of some sort of guilt but that these habits bring us closer into fellowship with our Creator. And the final discipline he mentions is CELEBRATION - the perfect thing to study this time of the year... and this time in my life.
So often this semester I have caught myself (or others have caught me) being incredibly negative, pessimistic, and generally apathetic and sad. This is NOT who I am!! I am that annoyingly positive person who always looks on the bright side. But somehow in the midst of regrets and dashed hopes, I gave up and resorted to living in my own little world, ignoring people around me and being incredibly self-centered... Why?!
Then there was the most encouraging, challenging, right-on-time moment of "church discipline" in my life. What courage it took for a sister to bring to light the areas of my life that need attention. She read to me Romans 12...all of it. and Philippians 4:2-9. Go read it. Now. For real. Go.
Needless to say, my "gentleness" had not been evident to all - especially considering the definition of gentleness being "Christlike consideration for others," nor had I followed Paul's advice to "think of yourself with sober judgment" and "LET LOVE BE GENUINE." Moreover, I had allowed myself to be overcome with evil - even the seemingly insignificant evil of apathy and insincerity that I overlook all too often in my life.
So all this puts me in the perfect place to read chapter 13 in The Celebration of Discipline this morning. Foster writes about celebration bringing JOY to our lives and that joy being the produce of our OBEDIENCE to God, not only in the major questions of life but also in "the ordinary fabric of our daily lives." He writes, "[The decision to set the mind on the higher things of life] is the result of a consciously chosen way of thinking and living. When we choose this way, the healing and redemption of Christ will break into the inner recesses of our lives and relationships, and the inevitable result will be joy."
My focus has been turned so inward lately that I haven't been able to focus my heart on "the higher things of life." God has blessed me in so many ways - I can't begin to list them all here (this post is long enough already). Suffice it to say that I have no reason to be so self-centered that I fail to see the hurt and the need around me. Praise God for this awakening! This life is NOT about me! And what a freeing statement that is!!
Focusing up, focusing out... I feel some celebration coming on.
"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name... The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love... He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him... Praise the Lord, O my soul." - Psalm 103