Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Devotional Classics

I'm reading a book called Devotional Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster & James Bryan Smith. I'm not familiar with Smith, but Foster is the one who wrote Celebration of Discipline, a great book about the purpose of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, silence, service, etc. Anyway, Devotional Classics is a compilation of excerpts by a variety of Christian writers. They range from such ancient writers as Augustine to such recent writers as Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard. Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, Francis of Assisi, Thomas a Kempis, Martin Luther...the list goes on and on. Well, it goes to 52. Then it stops.

I'm really enjoying this book. It has introduced me to several writers with whom I was not previously familiar. At the end of each excerpt, Foster and Smith post a passage of Scripture, some good questions meant for journalling or small group discussions, suggested exercises related to the writing, and a little blurb about their own personal thoughts about the writing. Even though each excerpt is only a few pages long, I feel that this book has substance and is more than a froofy, feel-good devotional that makes your happiness in Christ seem very much like the happiness you feel when you see a cute puppy. After all, a good writer can relay substance with few words. And these guys have, for the most part, really stood the test of time. Augustine's writings are 1600 years old, and still make up a basic component of most seminarians' libraries.

The reading for tomorrow is by Thomas Merton, which reminds me...did you hear that someone recently found something like 3,000 original pages of Merton's work? If I remember the article correctly, there was a completed but unpublished book in there, plus various drafts and correspondence. It has been valued at $1 million, I think, although the finder (formerly Merton's editor, I believe) kindly donated the material to The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Kind of exciting for any Merton fan. No one expects a new book nearly 40 years after the author's death. I just looked at the website for the Thomas Merton Center, www.merton.org, and found a funny photograph of Merton wearing his Trappist garb and a baseball cap. Well, I thought it was funny, anyway.

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