The Christian Disciplines: Solitude

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Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself (Teresa of Ávila).

By “solitude”, Foster means also to include “silence” and as usual warns against excess and vanity:

“The person who views the Disciplines as laws will always turn silence into an absurdity: ‘I’ll not speak for the next forty days!'”

Finding peace in the desert places is key to hearing the voice of God, but this does not mean to literally move to the desert. For most of us, that is not our calling. [Read more...]

Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project: Ash Wednesday, Year A

Joel 2:1-2,12-172 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10Matthew 6:1-6,16-21Psalm 103; 2 Nephi 4: 15-35

The Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Like Advent, Lent signals new life on the horizon. Shorn of all the secular trappings of Easter, the beginning of Lent is thus, along with First Advent, perhaps holier than the holiday it precedes. It is a day worth paying attention to, but in doing so, we admit our Anglo-Catholic tendencies. We Protestants (and Mormonism, whatever its doctrinal divergences, is culturally Protestant) have had an uneasy relationship with Lent, the 40 days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Henry VIII, for example, allowed the eating of dairy products, hitherto forbidden during Lent, in his new English church. The Puritans abolished Lent altogether before it was reinstated by Charles II in 1664. By Victorian times, it had almost disappeared from English custom as one Yorkshireman ruefully noted in 1865: [Read more...]

The Christian Disciplines: Study

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The average adult Sunday School class is far too superficial and devotional to help us study the Bible (Richard Foster).

Funny how last month’s discipline was fasting, something I’m usually pretty good at, and yet I had a real shocker. I started the year with a 40 hour fast but have been pretty rubbish ever since. Foster warned about letting the disciplines become vainglories. I think I fell into the trap.

And so to the discipline of study, something else I’m pretty good at. It’s kind of what I do, as a teacher and a scholar, and it’s one of the Mormon “Big Two” along with prayer. Good Mormons read the scriptures . . . a lot.
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The Christian Disciplines: Fasting

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Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it (John Wesley).

At the risk of breaking Jesus’ injunction to keep schtum about one’s fasting habits, I am pretty good at fasting. I generally fast twice a week, meaning 2×24 hours without food, and began this year with a two-day fasting (non-)binge. I do this for health reasons, because I simply cannot do moderation — I cannot eat moderately, it is either all or nothing. For five days a week it is all, for two it is nothing. This way I am able to keep my weight down. It works.

So when Foster talks about epic multi-week fasts I think I could do it. I am a faster. Hooray! [Read more...]

The Christian Disciplines: Prayer

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“Prayer — secret, fervent, believing prayer — lies at the root of all personal godliness” (William Carey).

Happy Advent! This is my favourite time in the Christian year. We enter a new time in the calendar, one mercifully shorn (unlike Christmas and Easter) of commercial excess. Just remember that Advent is not yet Christmas, so hold off on the New Testament for now and concentrate more on the promise of the renewal of the covenant made in the Old. If you are in Salt Lake, you could have joined with the MCSJ at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. I am sure they will plan some Christmas activities.

I have had reasonable success with last month’s discipline (meditation). I have certainly meditated more than I usually do, so I’ll take that as a win. I must admit to being worried about this month’s focus, mainly because when it comes to prayer, my faith is weak. I am with the disciples, who had prayed all their lives but still said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Foster’s chapter on prayer is a challenge because he seems to accept the power of intercessory prayer . . . and I don’t. [Read more...]

The Christian Disciplines: Meditation

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True contemplation is not a psychological trick but a theological grace (Thomas Merton).

I’ll admit to a disappointment. Foster states that Christian meditation “involves no hidden mysteries, no secret mantras, no mental gymnastics, no esoteric flights into the cosmic consciousness.” Alas. It is as I said before — discipline as vainglory is a major temptation for me. Personally, I would love to fly into the cosmic consciousness, but such is not the purpose of Christian meditation.
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The Christian Disciplines: An Introduction

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I go through life as a transient on his way to eternity, made in the image of God but with that image debased, needing to be taught how to meditate, to worship, to think (Donald Coggan).

In reading the scriptures suggested by Richard Foster, I was most struck by Romans 8:18: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” As one raised Mormon, I have tended to avoid Romans, so beloved as it is by the evangelicals who are most critical of Mormon works-based soteriology (as they see it). And yet, it is Mormon scripture that reminds us that “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19). So, I’m with St. Paul: I know what is right but I’m terrible at doing it and in my natural state, I cannot help that. [Read more...]

The Christian Disciplines

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Just a quick note to invite BCC-ers to join me for a year following Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Mormons are disciplined people already but Foster’s excellent book offers a way, perhaps, to expand and enrich our practice of Christian discipline. [Read more...]

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