It is a delight to be the spouse of a hard working, joy-filled, dedicated man.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline

I was excited to hear Steve say last week that he enjoyed the first chapter of Celebration of Discipline and did not think Richard Foster a crack pot, or something to that effect. Our Tuesday night Gathering is reading the book per Phil's and my suggestion, and I always like it when someone enjoys a book we have suggested.

I have had Foster among my most read books for quite sometime. Last June Phil and I read through the whole book while spending a week at the ocean. Everyone at Friday night Gathering has read through or read portions of it since and we keep coming back to it occasionally as a group as individuals keep mulling over the words and concepts.

Saturday I was thinking of the whole "put it in the dirt thing" as we finally planted pumpkin seeds. Steve said that this was his favorite part of the first chapter not for sentimental farming reasons but because of the picture it paints and we all agreed that it is good stuff. In the first chapter Foster explains:
The apostle Paul says, "he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Gal. 6:8)Paul's analogy is instructive. A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of the grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain. This is the way with the Spiritual Disciplines - they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines are God's way of getting us into the
ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God's means of grace. The inner righteousness we seek is not something that is poured on our heads. God has ordained the Disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we place ourselves where he can bless us.
Nothing but time to think about this whole concept that Foster explains as we slowly and methodically went about planting approximately 450 pumpkin/squash seeds by hand and marked each one. I may have made the wrong decision about the way we organized each variety, interspersing them amongst each other instead of dedicating a row to each variety. But we planted them in wide beds of well tilled and fertilized soil, two seeds per spot, one-half inch deep. Fairly standard, practices I have used continually over my thirty some odd years of growing things, based on practices others have also employed to get good results. I know that even if I am unhappy in the Fall with the placement of the varieties I will still have a decent crop of pumpkins, provided that I continue to do the things I know I can to ensure that outcome.

For sure I have planted and will cultivate my pumpkins so that I have a harvest of pumpkins;
yet I do not "make" the pumpkins. But just as sure as there will be a pumpkin harvest in the fall, baring any disasters, there would not be a pumpkin patch if I had done nothing and just hoped wished or prayed that God would make some pumpkins for me out in the front of my pasture so I would have pumpkins to please and feed family and friends. If I had just wished for a pumpkin patch, there may have been a few pumpkin plants come up where some of last year's pumpkins were allowed to rot and thereby leave their seeds for a volunteer plant, but in the Fall I would not have a pumpkin patch to go out to and harvest a good number of true to type pumpkins.

Sometimes I think our lives look the way they do because we expect pumpkin patches when we have done nothing to get there. We expect God to just work his thing over time and wah-lah there we have a lovely Christ-like person when we have done little more than wish it true as we sit numbly in our seats on Sunday, or Saturday or…and call it Christianity.
I have let some volunteer squash plants continue to grow in my garden, they are never where I really would care for a squash plant to grow and the "squash" they produce are often very silly looking and not very appetizing when we try to eat them. Their randomness results because squash flowers will pollinate each other no matter the variety and they are pollinated by our hard working friend the bee who really gets around in his efforts to gather lots of pollen for his favorite gal.

My volunteer tomatoes are the same, rather random, mostly looking like a cherry tomato but not very true to form on these either. Maybe if I only planted one variety, a non-hybrid variety, of tomato or squash, then my volunteers would all be very uniform, of course my neighbor would also have to plant that same variety. That's still quite a bit of placing certain things in order along with a lot of hoping which is really more like idle wishing, but even so, if I expected to get something substantial out of said volunteer, I would still need to do some tending of it during the growing season. We may as well wish for a garden to fall from the sky for our lazy stomachs.
Have I run this analogy into the "ground"? Well, I did say 450 seeds, didn't I?

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