Cover Image: Learning Humility

Learning Humility

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Learning Humility is a welcome reintroduction to Foster’s gentle leadership in spiritual formation. It is somewhat an autobiographical account being excerpts from Foster's journal. However, if you're looking for a book on how to be humble (from the title) this is not that kind of book. It is a book of musing, personal and beautiful. Foster journals through a whole year, reflecting on this highest Christian virtue, using the Lakota calendar, virtues, and history as a backdrop for doing so. Foster poses more questions than he answers and gives an appreciation for the wonder found in our faith and an example of grappling with questions throughout the ages. Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy to review.

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If anyone can make a book about humility interesting, Richard Foster can. Those familiar with his discourses on spiritual disciplines, prayer, spiritual formation, and classical Christian writings will find his latest offering similar but with an unexpected twist.
One may argue that devoting an entire book to humility is a step down from his previous spiritual works- even humbling you might say. But the topic and title are timely and telling, as we now see little humility in the public arena, both in secular and religious thought and behavior.
He considers what humility is, why we should be humble, shows us how to be humble, but devotes few words telling us to be humble. Rather, humility tends to happen when our hearts and minds are not focused on proving it.
Richard explains he decided to explore the topic of humility as he was considering New Year’s resolutions which he doesn’t do. He considered journalling about them, but he doesn’t do that either. Instead, he decided to study what the Bible and classical and modern Christian writers have said about humility and ponder what it means as he went about his daily life at the rural Colorado home he shares with his wife.
He decided to follow the calendar year, recording observations and musings. However, because it is “rooted in the natural world” he decided to use a Native American calendar, specifically the Lakota Moon calendar.
This is the part that might surprise you. Richard’s grandmother was Native American, of the Ojibwa (Chippewa) tribe and he has embraced this heritage, as I heard him mention the only time I ever listened to him speak in person. He had chosen to wear his hair long, pulled back into a ponytail to identify with his ancestry.
So, each chapter is named for one of the thirteen Lakota moons (13 months of 28 days). He also incorporates the twelve Lakota virtues- humility, perseverance, respect, honor, love, sacrifice, truth, compassion, bravery, fortitude, generosity, and wisdom giving thought to how they each complement humility.
Those who have read Foster’s other books, especially Celebration of Discipline, will find this one more personal, self-revealing, and introspective, yet still firmly grounded in scripture. If this is a first for you, I think you will want to read others by him that instruct and inspire us in the spiritual practices of prayer, meditation, service, and study.
Thank you NetGalley and InterVarsity Press for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.”

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A unique year long devotional read. We get to follow Foster's own deep dive into the biblical virtue of humility. He frames his thoughts using the Lakota calendar and draws from sources as diverse as Native American writers and early church fathers. I didn't take a year to read this, but did read it over many months which gave me time to interact with Foster's thoughts. This is a book I think I will pick up again and again, maybe not to read straight through but when I need a dose of spiritual wisdom and one i may well give as gifts.

Review based on an eARC received through NetGalley.

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The world we live in - tries to dismisss humility and selflessness. Through Foster and this book, we see the heart of God and our need for humility. Foster spent an entire year studying the practice of humility, and we get to experience the fruit of his long project of seeking God through humbly coming before Him.

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Different from other classics from Richard Foster, such as Celebration of Disciplines and Prayer, Learning Humility is a personal journal laying bare his reflections on humility using the Lakota calendar. I appreciate how vulnerable he approaches the subject from his own life, hikes, people he meet, readings, history and culture of the Lakota people. Above all, it gives readers permission to be on the same journey as he discovers and wrestle with this first virtue.

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I read this book as an ARC over the holidays. God has my heart in a time of learning the seasons of lament. I will purchase this book. I feel like with each reread I will glean more. I think that this will be a good book for people at all stages of their walk with God. Humility, true humility, seems hard to grasp. Foster brings this beautiful book to us for such a time as this.

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This book can best be described as "fireside chats with your grandfather." Richard has such a way of pulling you in and engaging you with story, and with deep theology, that you can't help but be captivated.

While this is a book on humility, I could not put it down. The structure and the way that Richard goes about discussing this virtue is incomparable. He talks through the Lakota calendar, and uses those as guiding headings throughout the discourse of the book. He talks about the Dakota uprising and does not shy away from the grim realities of what occurred.

I think the ultimate display of humility for me came in the fact that this isn't a 'how-to' book. It's his genuine thoughts, discourse and journal entries on what embracing humility looks like.

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In his newest book, Richard Foster chronicles a year of his life focusing on humility. The book shares his personal journal reflections, giving the reader a unique glimpse into Richard Fosters life, while at the same time offering beautiful insights on the topic of humility. We learn that Richard Foster likes to tend fires, take walks in the snow, and read from a wide range of literature.

The book weaves in a journey with the Lakota calendar, and stories and lessons from the Lakota culture are included throughout the book. Reading this book provides a fascinating blend of gleanings about humility from both Christian history and also the Lakota people.

Thank you, Richard Foster, for the gift you give your readers, allowing us to glean from your careful studies and reflections.

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In many ways, this felt like a nod to fellow prairie-person, Kathleen Norris. It's written as one who's walked in faith for many years, loosing the arrogance of youth. I'd prefer reading this book in short clips, as a final, bedtime read, or perhaps first thing in the morning, coffee and reflection for the day. It's follows a calendar, and isn't narrative in form. A good book from a trusted author.

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The topic of humility has been on my radar screen for many years as I have delved more deeply into the Jewish tradition of Mussar. Humility is an important component of that tradition and this added new dimensions to my thinking about their virtue and its place in Mussar and my life.

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Three important things people need to know about this book:

1. Richard J. Foster, the author of "Celebration of Discipline," wrote it. He's much older now, and wrote a bit differently (as explained in the book), but he's still the same writer and thinker he was then. You want this book.

2. Though his own ancestors were Anishinaabe, he's chosen to use Lakota history in this book for what it has to teach us about collective humility. I believe this was a good decision and a very humble, Quakerish way of making some important points. Other books discussed at length in the book include Quaker, other Protestant, and Catholic books and, of course, the Bible. It's a solid Christian book despite many pre-Christian references. Nature walks, trips into town, and visits with friends also illuminate Foster's reflections on humility as a virtue.

3. This is not a big, densely packed, formal book, as Foster's earlier books were. After age eighty some people stop writing altogether; Foster writes short, loosely linked, blog-like notes that a less successful author might be ordered to use as notes for a more polished book. The reward of a writer's life well lived is that Foster's fans will be satisfied by this personal journal. Foster still offers strong meat for mature Christian readers even if he now handles it in smaller chunks.

This is an excellent book, and worth the struggle I had to open the electronic copy. I recommend that everyone buy the printed edition.

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While not my favorite Richard Foster book, this one is definitely worth reading to peek into pages of Richard Foster's journal of a year spent studying and practicing the virtue of humility.

He begins with the “supreme touchstone” of Jesus, the ultimate example of humility. From there he ventures into classic Christian texts on humility. He also uses twelve virtues from the Lakota calendar to frame his year-long adventure into humility.

Early on, Foster discovers this:

“As I talk with people about the topic of humility and read about it and seek to practice it, I find a common misconception. It is this notion that if I am truly humble, I won’t know that I am humble. That is, self-knowledge of humility actually proves that we lack it.”

In other words, the myth is “if I think I’m humble, I’m not.” By believing it, Foster says we prevent ourselves from trying to become more humble.

But how can we overcome this roadblock to humility?

Foster says one simple way is this: pay attention to humility’s opposite—pride. Observe pride in ourselves and in others, not to judge it, but to sharpen our view of seeing how different pride looks compared to humility.

“Pride is always a distortion of who we are truly created to be. Humility is so very appealing when we see it in another person. Conversely, when we watch someone consumed with pride it feels unnatural, deformed, twisted.

“Humility is beautiful, whereas pride is ugly.”

Ultimately, Foster concludes, to find humility, don’t try to attain it directly. Follow the principle of indirection.

Participate with God in grace-filled work, developing “deep in our soul a right relationship with others and with God.”

Foster says he learned that humility made him more human, more genuinely accessible to other people.

This is a lesson of humility—and humanity—worth pursuing for all of us.

My thanks to NetGalley + InterVarsity Press for the review copy of this book.

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Be forewarned, this is not a typical Foster book, I have long loved his insights into spiritual depth, and was eager to,dig into his thoughts on humility, That excitement was even stronger when I read that it had been a key topic for him for an entire year! What I didn't anticipate was that this is *not* a book taking us through what he had learned. Rather, this is a set of excerpts from his journal through that year... with all the randomness, stream of consciousness rambling, and snippets of things he wants to consider more deeply. That's okay, I guess, if you want a peek behind Foster's mental curtain to see how his mind works, but I can't say that it's a book about learning humility. I'm a huge Foster fan, but this feels more like his publisher pushed h8m to publish something new, and quickly, and this is something he had easily at hand to turn in without thought, analysis, or even writing in the usual sense.

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You might have noticed that I titled this blog post “overview” instead of “review.” That’s because this book is rich with insight and I am unwilling to rush through it. I can’t actually give you a review of a book that I haven’t read, so I’ll give you my preliminary thoughts based on both the book and a one hour seminar that Richard Foster gave about the book.

I picked this up and started in about a month ago. I was initially a bit confused by the format of the book. What you are reading are journal entries where the author is processing his thoughts. It’s not quite as straightforward as an author arranging his thoughts for an audience of readers. There is, however, a beauty to joining Foster in the curiosity of his exploration of humility.

In the very beginning of the book he refers to a classic work of spiritual literature and it’s thoughts on humility. I ended up setting this book down to dig that book out and re-familiarize myself with that work. Then I went on to engage with Richard’s pondering on the connections. Again, this is why I’m not giving you a review. I’m still only partway along the journey of exploration. Could you read the book straight through? Of course. But I found myself very resistant to the idea.

I think that is because the book is an exploration. You aren’t meant to take away a three point sermon on why humility is important or general knowledge on how to practice it. You are meant to learn, to live, humility.

I’m enjoying the journey. I’m curious as to where it will take me. A couple of year’s ago Jess Ray’s song “Humble Heart” became the theme of my year. One of the lines in the song is “Oh, how I have so much to learn.” I’m sure that will be true for the whole of my life, but I’m thankful for a guide on the journey.

I received this book for review. All opinions are my own.

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Humility is a tricky topic to write about. It could give the impression that the author is probably lacking in the virtue of humility if they claim to be some kind of expert in it. But Richard Foster, the founder of Renovaré and author of several well received, considered Christian classics, doesn’t make that mistake.

The title alone suggests Foster openly professes a degree of ignorance about the virtue of humility as he seeks to learn more about it over the course of a year, and put it into practice. His insightful, candid account is enhanced by descriptions of the Lakota Indians’ calendrical observances, with the addition of helpful anecdotes and illuminating quotes.

Because the book is based on intermittent journal jottings, each entry is relatively short and can be a bit choppy to read. Though it might be off putting for some, I think it works well here because such a method reflects the fits and starts of life itself as it unfolds, and the learning process Foster is engaging with as well.

Foster willingly admits his attempts to learn about humility and its practical application might be flawed yet he discovers numerous ways in which they are beneficial to his soul. The key takeaway from this brave attempt to walk in deeper humility is that it’s enhanced by the journey itself and what it reveals about ourselves, our lives, and our discipleship in Christ. 4.5*

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Learning Humility is a close ramble along side the author as he muses about what it means to be humble. His walk includes studying books written about the Lakota Indian way of life, what Julian of Norwich and other mystics believed about this almost-forgotten virtue and his personal thoughts and conclusions. This is a book to be considered slowly and thoughtfully with many seemingly unconnected insights combining into a harmonious and constructive whole. It is not a stroll through points A, B, C, etc.

I received a complimentary review copy.

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This was a fascinating first hand example of the slow process of learning new habits to become more like Christ. Foster (from Celebration of Discipline fame) sets out to study the virtue of humility with the intention of seeking to become more humble. He gives himself a year for this learning and this book reflects snippets of the journal he kept through the yearlong process.

He reads widely, naturally digs into Scripture and also studies the Lakota tribe who have their own 'manual' on various virtues including humility.

This process works for me and I enjoyed reading Foster's reflections and learnings. However, I recognise that this isn't perhaps for everyone and they may find it a little disjointed and meandering.

I think this book would work well if read within a group so that discussion could ensue about Foster's explorations. Alternatively, a workbook/study guide would work well to help the reader dig deeper themselves into the process of learning humility. I think some of the books transformative impact for the reader could be missed by simply reading through it page by page. We, the reader, kinda need to follow Foster's process and almost journal our own reflections on what we are in fact learning when reading Foster's exploration.

I feel I need to read it again and perhaps take the latter option for myself: a journal and study/meditate on the Biblical passages and other key texts that Foster cites.

I feel fortunate having received an early ebook copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

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This was an interesting book, where Foster (known for his book Celebration of Discipline) works through a season of lent and studying the virtue of humility. I appreciated his ties to the Lakota nation and the Black Hills.

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I appreciate the author's candor in framing his journey in finding/appreciating humility, but it felt too scattered. He mentions the Lakota calendar but instead of focusing on just humility, he also brings up other virtues while also starting his chapters with biblical scripture (and specifically mentioning the Lenten season, again without any context why this particular period was taken up). He also mentions a book called Cloud of Unknowing penned by an anonymous author that I had to look up beforehand because the author doesn't share much context for the reader.

This book is too meandering and unfocused.

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