Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wisdom Chaser – Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet

Book: Wisdom Chaser – Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet
Author: Nathan Foster
Edition: Paperback
Read: August 2010
183 pages
Rated: 4 out of 5

I got this book semi-by mistake. I liked the blurb, but was not going to order it. But I forgot to cancel out. So last weekend, it arrived. Sometimes it is the unexpected which brings joy. That is this book.

The prodigal son asks his father, Richard Foster of Celebration of Discipline fame, to climb one of Colorado's 14'ers. Two out of shape men climb mountains and start the process of bounding, reconciling with knowledge and respect for each other. That is the story, a story which shows some downfalls on both men—this is not a tell all story—but concentrates on the process of coming together so they could be a part.

There are 21 chapters-pretty short. Each usually opens with a story in the mountains. Then it explores the meaning behind the story. Such as how he and his father got caught on a ski life and came to a better understanding of how the church is affected by our culture. This leads into thoughts about the church and how in its efforts to influence its culture, it gets subverted.


  • Foster notes that his Dad was more like a mysterious icon to him than a human.(14). Interesting term. Not a real person, but more of a statue in the corner of Foster's life. You need a relationship to bring a person to life. The problem with TV.
  • In preparing to go backpacking for the first time, the Fosters read a book. Richard then boasts about what his son knows. Nathan's observation is that a little book knowledge is a common criteria for leadership in our culture. (16)
  • Foster noticed that as he was struggling with climbing his mountain, the first one, he was really enjoying himself. His body felt real, rather than drugged. The challenge, then overcoming it allowed him to have a sense of accomplishment.
  • As they summit'd, they noticed the “top of the world” feeling you get from reaching the top. This was an expected, wonderful feeling. But what surprised him was the small beauty of the flowers a t the top.  It is the beauty which we are too rushed to see—it catches us by surprise.  Annie Dillard expresses the same sentiments. (18)
  • As he got to summit various other mountains, rather than getting more focused on topping the mountains, he became more aware that he has abilities that he did not realize. Could he now go to college? Stay sober? Get to know his Dad? His dreams were starting to be allowed. The question was, it never hurts to ask.
  • Understanding limits, particularly your own, and living within them get you farther than trying to overcome those limits. Pacing yourself up the mountain gets you to the top. Racing up it, is fast, but will get you to the same place at the same time, with more pain. Just don't stop. True on mountains, true in life. (34) I now saw that few things were beyond my reach as long as I took my time. (36)
  • One of the things my brother has shared with us is a pizza place in Idaho Springs CO called Beau Jo's. Foster talked about Beau Jo's, almost poetically. For those who have experienced, it is worth reading. (37)
  • Foster notes with his Dad, it was not the accomplishment or experience which defined him. So when he was over his head, it was not a matter of default. So he could enjoy himself in being humbled. (55)
  • Being able to be unconscious of yourself leads to being able to be comfortable in your surroundings. Being able to divert attention is a way to be humble. Foster says that his father did this and being able to see this is a real gift. (69)  The gifts of a father to a son is more than money—in fact that is the least. The gift of knowing how to live is priceless.
  • Shame is rooted in self-centeredness. Love is rooted in others. (74)
  • Humility is a good thing. But few of us know how to live a humble life. We think it is the lack of self-acknowledgment. Foster points out the When we make a good choice, this should be celebrated, so as to encourage future decisions and to spur each other on toward love and good works (Heb 10:24). How can I spur you on if you won't acknowledge that you played any role in the situation? I potentially discount God's process in me when I fail to accept an appropriate compliment. (77)
  • In conversation with his father, his father said that many churches are situated in such a way to keep people from knowing God, (86)  This is a compact thought. How do we keep people from God? Has our modern church become more like the Catholic church before the Reformation? Built to protect rather than to draw in? What would an inviting church structure—not building—look like?  On the next page, Richard Foster goes on and says that What people so desperately need today is space, stillness and attentiveness. (87) Our service is about people not God-my thought, not Foster.  This stillness and space is very much a Quaker mode, the Foster's tradition.
  • On page 88 he makes several good observations. When we care, we are more included to give something a good going over and to want to change it. Those who are into power are those which cannot be criticized. Ultimately, it is being captivated by Jesus which causes use to see
  • Foster indicates a confusion on his father. When his father discusses his retirement plans and seeks advise from his son, Nathan wonders if his father is making fun of him. What is important to me is that Foster's father is seeking advice from his children. (121)
  • A mentor to Foster is Dr. Chris Wilgers. When asked how come his clients recover so well in therapy, he reply's that Wilgers sees/prays for the potential in his clients rather than for their weaknesses.  Fosters comment is that it is funny how we fall or rise on the assumption of others. This is important in how we work with those who we are in relationship with. (127)
  • Foster weaves in and out of the mountains into his personal life. A comment he makes is about the glory of being alone in the mountain, dipping your face in some cold mountain water. But the comment which I resonated with was how much richer life, and life in the mountains is, when you share it with others. The trees are greener and the mountains higher. These are things I agree with. When I am in the mountains—or any other place or time which I feel joy with, one of the first things which I do is try to find someone to share it with. Someone who will understand what I am feeling. Wandering the mountains in solitude is a wonderful feeling. But the complement of it is to be there with someone. (148)
  • Choices sometimes is not an enable, it will freeze you. Choices provide you with options. But it also provides you with a path to failure. Foster thinks that is more the problem with his generation. It is not laziness, but a fear of failure. (149)
  • The need to be needed. (151)
  • What are the outdoors for? Fosters discovery was that it was not about conquest, but about being with people and having fun.  I might add also about discovery—both self and what is out there. It is about release from our every day into something which was made by someone greater and realizing it. (169)
  • Towards the end of the book, Foster talks about going away to a job as a college professor. He says that he mostly hikes alone, but never without a thought of his father.  First, this speaks to how he has grown over the nine years of hiking. He now has an understanding of his father through his hikes and time with him. Maybe that is one of the biggest advantages of hiking—you are forced to spend time with a person. There is no escape. Consequently, you delve deeper into the person. (170)
  • Foster discover's what is father's greatness is—it is the capacity to love. (171) 
This book gives you an appreciation as a father and as a son. The son part is that we probably never really learn to love your father until after you have grown up. You see how hard it is to be good in all ways to your own children. It is this appreciation which bears the understanding how much your father has loved you as you try to love your own.  This leads to the conclusions own father's greatest attribute is his capacity to love.

The book as a story, the mountain scenes are the most compelling. But they are just vehicles to drive home his points. Most of his points do talk about how he messed up his life and how through having a goal and a loving father he was able to work through some pretty tough periods of his life.

Good Quotes:
  • Fear leeches can come in handy,of course spite has motivated me many times. Encouragement, however is a far greater motivator. (24)
  • I have learned well how to orchestrate my days by racing from task to task. I get up and do all I can as quickly as possible, only to start again the following day. I remain too busy to really invest in anyone else. Where did I get the idea that slow equals bad?  (33)
  • With Christ's clear call to be last, you would think Christians might be different. Yet when we erect statues and name buildings after ourselves, it is evident that we're not immune from the collective sin of pride. (64)
  • The disciplined person does what needs to be done when it needs to be done. (92)-quoted Richard Foster
  • Secrets hold power. Concealed, they breed like mold. (108)
  • When failure is part of your identity, you don't worry about letting others down. You know you will, and that's that.  (121)
  • Being written into the page of some else's …. story was redemptive.  (151)


No comments: