Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wanted: Discipline

Over the last few years, I've settled into two very reluctant realizations: One, that I had turned into a frumpy, graying pudgepot; and Two, that it was possible for me not to be that way. The first was factually hard to see otherwise; whatever mental image I had in my mind of what I thought I looked like (thinner and more vigorous, certainly) wouldn't survive a reality-check in the mirror. The second realization was a tougher one, as it meant that I actually could do something about it if I really wanted to.

So for the past few months, I've taken on a fairly serious program of diet and exercise. Sure enough, the benefits are gradually coming around and I feel much better in just about every way. This has been the product of some amount of discipline and a lot of positive motivation.

So now I'm thinking that I'd like to apply the principle of discipline to the pudgepot that my spiritual life has become. While I'm not opposed to church per se, I think I need more discipline than what regular attendance would provide. Prayer and Bible study are obvious choices, but I'd also like to hear what's worked for you. I imagine that across this community, which I know includes some people who practice spiritual disciplines outside of a more traditional churched community, I should be able to find some inspiring examples of how you grow yourselves spiritually in a disciplined fashion.

Thanks, all. Looking forward to hearing what you're up to.


At 1:42 PM, Blogger ChemE said...

I teach 5th/6th grade Sunday school. Several college profeesors have told me that "you don't understand something until you can teach it to someone else". In my church, sunday school also attracts some of the more humble, loving people. For those burned out on the church, this would be a very good thing. I say with reluctant honesty I don't know if I'd be aat church every week if it wasn't for the kids and fellow teachers.

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Erik said...

This is one of my favorite topics Zeke...right up there with my family and scotch.

I found myself in what I now refer to as the cul-de-sac of grace. I knew God would love me and accept me no matter how bad I screwed it up. I also knew that if I were going to get better, it would have to be the result of supernatural power.

So I enjoyed being loved by God and I waited for him to miraculously change me.

I changed some, but that's not the point.

There are some areas of my life that are particularly stubborn, and this "waiting" course of action doesn't seem to apply.

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard both helped me tremendously at this point.

The main idea I have time to convey now is this...

...all good things in life are derivative.

Making change the focus of our efforts to be disciplined will not produce change. It will rather produce a narcissistic, self-righteousness that makes you twice the son of hell you were when you set out on your course of discipline.

This would be analogous to attempting to stop war by killing all the bad guys. You just feed the system.

So what to do...stop trying and wait for God to send an angel to hide your cigarettes and scotch, lock your fridge, block the porn on your computer and strike your wiener with sores so you stop touching it? (If none of that stuff hits home, insert your personal dysfunctions here.)

This is a road that leads to the previously mentioned cul-de-sac.

There is a third way. The way of the disciplines (prayer, celebration, fasting, meditation, study -- see the Foster book for a more exhaustive list).

But the focus of these efforts can't be change. The focus must be free, loving, communion with the Father. When the disciplines are used as a tool to make us aware of the ever-present, ever-loving God in whom we exist and have our being, then we find ourselves experiencing the outcome of our Older Brother's direction...

"I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me and you will bear a bunch of fruit."

This has been my experience. When I get some more time later, I'd love to give you some specifics.

Hmmff. Very exciting time.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Mrs Zeke said...

Babe I happen to have both books that Erik was kind enough to send me.
Now if my eyes would just work better I would be able to read more. But I would love for you to pick up either one :)

If anyone is reading this and wondering how Zeke would not know I had these books and we live in the same house then you have no idea how busy our house can get :P

Love you

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To echo erik,

Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" is excellent.

I recommend reading one chapter a week, and practicing that point throughout the week. Otherwise, it can be very overwhelming.

But, as erik said, if it's done religiously (the way I always approached it), the tendency will be to turn oneself into a reactionary jackhole (for Jesus...)

More and more, I've found myself desiring just to be closer to God. The disciplines in that book, combined with proper focus and desire are a good start, I think.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

Thanks, everybody, for the suggestions. Much appreciated.


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