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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in simplicity (2)

Tuesday
Jul102012

The freedom that comes from spiritual discipline

One of the great blessings of traveling is that it changes my regular patterns of work. While I have been busy on this trip to Malaysia - meetings, speaking engagements, luncheons and dinners - I have also not had the constant barrage of telephone calls, office appointments and the regular expectations of daily life. This has allowed me an opportunity for silence, prayer and reflection. I feel that I have sorely needed this inner space for some time now. I do live a busy life between my various roles.

In my devotional time I like to read the scriptures, pray, have a time of silent centering prayer, and also read something challenging, encouraging, or instructive, from a Christian author. Here's what I read yesterday. It was very helpful on the relationship between freedom and spiritual discipline:

When we begin to ask what the conditions of inner renewal are, we receive essentially the same answers from nearly all of those whom we have most reason to respect. One major answer is the emphasis upon discipline. In the conduct of one's own life it is soon obvious, as many have learned the hard way, that empty freedom is a snare and a delusion. In following what comes naturally or easily, life simply ends in confusion, and in consequent disaster. Without the discipline of time, we spoil the next day the night before, and without the disciple of prayer, we are likely o end by having practically no experience of the divine-human encounter. However compassionate we may be with others, we dare not be soft or indulgent with ourselves. Excellence comes at a price, and one of the major prices is that of inner control.

We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom, to the effect that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of the binding. The one who would like to be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and by abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously and to live abstemiously denies him the freedom to go over the bar at the desired height, or to run with the desired speed and endurance. With one concerted voice the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life with the dictum: Discipline is the price of freedom.

- From The New Man of Our Time by Elton Trueblood.

What spiritual disciplines do you practice? Has your experience been that as you become more disciplined your capacity for freedom grows alongside the disciplines?

Wednesday
Jul062011

Be a servant, and be free.

In recent months I have become quite fond of tumblr - of course it is the people that one follows that make tumblr so worthwhile. One of the people whose posts most resonate with my own theology and spirituality is invisibleforeigner. I find such depth, encouragement and challenges in the posts from this person.

Today invisibleforeigner posted the following deeply challenging quote:

Be both a servant, and free: a servant in that you are subject to God, but free in that you are not enslaved to anything – either to empty praise or to any of the passions. Release your soul from the bonds of sin; abide in liberty, for Christ has liberated you; acquire the freedom of the New World during this temporal life of yours. Do not be enslaved to love of money or to the praise resulting from pleasing people.

Do not lay down a law for yourself, otherwise you may become enslaved to these laws of yours. Be a free person, one who is in a position to do what he likes. Do not become like those who have their own law, and are unable to turn aside from it, either out of fear in their own minds, or because of the wish to please others; in this way they have enslaved themselves to the coercion of their law, with their necks yoked to their own law, seeing that they have decreed for themselves their own special law – just when Christ had released them from the yoke of the Law!

Do not make hard and fast decisions over anything in the future, for you are a created being and your will is subject to changes. Decide in whatever matters you have to reach a decision, but without fixing in your mind that you will not be moved to other things. For it is not by small changes in what you eat that your faithfulness is altered: your service to the Lord of all is performed in the mind, in your inner person; that is where the ministry to Christ takes place.

— St. John the Solitary, Letter to Hesychias

This is a very challenging way to live - to live as a servant and to live as a free person. Our world encourages us to live as free Lords, Lords of our own destiny and making, not as free servants.

Over the last four years I have struggled to choose the path of service - perhaps it is because I am so addicted to being a 'Lord'. I qualified early in a unique and interesting discipline. I was afforded great opportunity and favor within the Church. This was not good for me. My ego sought the recognition and affirmation that others gave. I soon realised that I was becoming less and less Christ-like as I lived the life of a Lord, instead of the life of service, living like Jesus. So, I took up a post that called for service. I decided to give my energy, training and ability to serve the ideas of others. I dedicated myself to helping other people to become the best that they could be. It has often been a challenging journey.

My wife and I were wise enough to make some small commitments that have helped us. We have turned away opportunities for greater earning capacity - simply stated we did not want to be owned by money. We want to be free to respond to God's call to ministry, wherever and whenever it may come.

It is not always easy. But, we are striving to be free servants - choosing to serve. Sometimes we get it right. Often we don't.