The memoir meets spiritual formation literature in Nathan Foster’s The Making of an Ordinary Saint; and in case the name “Foster” has a familiar ring to it, think “Richard Foster” of the seventies-era classic Celebration of Discipline. Nathan is Richard Foster’s son, and a handful he was, apparently. Now with addiction and bitterness in the rear-view mirror, Nathan is reporting on his alternative mid-life crisis: no red convertible for him! He took on a year of celebrating the spiritual disciplines (which ultimately became a four year project).
Most significant is Foster’s demonstration that the Christian life is not a check list, and the twelve disciplines he highlights should not be treated as such. Rather they are an interconnected web of righteousness in which:
“God initiates and we respond. When music sparks the love of God within us, we sing. When nature speaks to our hearts, we give thanks . . .[W]e acknowledge God and his beauty. Prayer, fasting, and meditation allow us to tune in. Submission, service, confession and simplicity create a humble posture. Study teaches us how to tap into the frequency of gratitude. Guidance shows us where to find God.”
“In a sense there is only one discipline: an active response to a loving God. “
Nathan has overcome significant obstacles, and goes out of his way to help his readers to see that a life infused with prayer, fasting, solitude and some of the more strenuous disciplines does not necessarily come easily, even if your father is a spiritual formation guru. Intentionality was the word that kept coming to mind as Nathan shared his experiences of “drafting [in a bike race as] a perfect metaphor for community.” He took the risk, and God met him more than half-way.
Of particular value in this book are:
1. The section of Further Reading, which provides resources specifically on each of the twelve disciplines Foster examines.
2. Richard Foster’s introductory words at the outset of each chapter, which provide background and understanding of the topics.
3. The portraits of “extraordinary” saints which come at the end of each chapter, profiling an historical figure who excelled in or had exceptional insight to the practice of that chapter’s discipline.
For anyone who would become something other than incidentally Christian, this book is a kick in the seat of the pants, a chat over a cup of coffee with someone who has made the effort, and an historical and theological argument in favor of the practice of the spiritual disciplines.
I received this book free from Baker Publishing Group. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.