"Formation…from which our outer existence flows, is an inescapable human problem. Spiritual formation, without regard to any specifically religious context or tradition, is the process by which the human spirit or will is given a definite “form” or character. It is a process that happens to everyone. The most despicable as well as the most admirable of persons have had a spiritual formation. Terrorists as well as saints are the outcome of spiritual formation. Their spirits or hearts have been formed." (Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ )

Spiritual Beings – we are all being shaped and formed by what we engage with – intentionally or unintentionally. What we behold we reflect. This simple principle is at the heart of the Spiritual Formation Movement. Christian Spiritual Formation is the process by which one intentionally organizes one’s life to be present with God in order to be shaped and formed into the image of Jesus.

Throughout the generations of the faithful, many have forged a path of proven practices that we are blessed to inherit. “The Disciplines” are activities that in and of themselves are practices of self-control. “The Disciplines” when engaged with the purpose of pursuing the presence of God in order to be formed by him into the image of Jesus Christ.

Harvest House is thrilled to finally be offering Spiritual Formation Direction either individually or as a group. In person or over video chat, the process can fit your hectic life. If you have interest in either individual or group, please contact theressa@harvesthousecounseling.com


I'd love to hear from you. Contact me at theressa@harvesthousecounseling.com

Resources

Recommended Books

Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to Live Like the Master
by Gary Moon

Celebration of the Disciplines: The Path to Spiritual Growth
by Richard Foster

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God
by Dallas Willard

The Great Omission: Rediscovering Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship
by Dallas Willard

Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
by Dallas Willard

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence
by Ruth Haley Barton

Life with God
by Richard Foster

Renew Your Life: Discovering the Wellspring of God's Energy
by Kai Mark Nilsen

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
by Dallas Willard

The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives
by Dallas Willard

Spiritual Disciplines Companion: Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul
by Jan Johnson

Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit
by Henri Nouwen

A Year with God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines
by Julia L. Roller and Richard Foster

Organizational Links

Renovaré
(https://www.renovare.org)

Transforming Center
(https://www.transformingcenter.org/)

Leadership Transformations Inc.
(http://www.leadershiptransformations.org/)

Blog Posts

Grace Experienced

-by Rebecca Preston

Grace:  One of my favorite words.  Grace has such a vast array of meanings to people.  To some grace is involved in the gift of salvation.  To others, it is a way of being, how one moves or interacts with others.  Grace is often viewed as the prayer offered before a meal.   As I meditated on the word ‘grace’, I was drawn to the experiential.  What would the experience of grace look like in my life?  Thus I began a month long practice of noticing grace in my everyday world.

The month passed with a greater awareness of the presence of Grace in my life.

One day I was driving home down one of the back roads of Pennsylvania that I love to take.  Suddenly I took in a whiff of freshly mowed grass.  Immediately, I slowed down and looked for the source of the scent.  The hayfields were still intact and there were no homes in the vicinity.  Not finding what it was that I sought, my attention went forward to the road I was driving on.  I was surrounded by woods, a drive I’ve taken hundreds of times before.  But this time I was looking with fresh eyes.  The woods were beautiful.  Welcoming.  Stunning.  A sense of tranquility, peace, and newness came over me.  I needed to remember to breath.  At that moment, I had an encounter with the One who created beauty.  It was a moment of grace.

Once during the month a discussion with friends turned to a particular Spiritual Practice.  As a Spiritual Director, Spiritual Practices are close to my heart.  I gave my spiel on the purposes of this practice, and some ideas on how to incorporate this into our lives.  One person began to object to some of the things I was saying.  Later, I realized it was a simple moment of misunderstanding, but at the time the conversation was becoming tense.   I sensed an invisible hand on my shoulder and a feeling of “stop talking” come over me.  There is a time to talk, and a time to keep silent.  This realization was not from me, but an action of grace.

My husband wanted to take a Saturday and just do something other than yard work.  I wanted to start working on a water feature in our yard.  Something we both wanted to do, but now that he works from home he really needed some time away from the house.  We decide to visit a nearby historical site that we had always wanted to see, but never took the time.  My husband had a chance to relax and learn about William Penn.   I learned about flax.  Really, I didn’t know how linen came from flax.  This was a gift of grace to me.

There are other examples throughout the month that caused me to recognize the presence of Grace.  Simple moments like:

Using my over-abundant cucumbers to make pickles gave me great joy and a sense of accomplishment.

Walking with a friend and finding that we were like-minded on a controversial subject.

Unaware of the severity of the approaching storm, I was not hit by lightning while cutting the grass.

These are not huge events, but they were moments of grace I wouldn’t necessarily have recognized if I had not been intentional in looking for grace in my daily life.

This practice of identifying grace in the course of a day brought me to a practical understanding of how involved God is in my life.  His presence is everywhere and all I have to do is open my eyes and see.  Even in the tough things of life, He is there.

Psalm 139: 7-12 (NIV) took on a personal meaning for me:

 

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

 

If you would like to try this practice, all you need is a notebook.  Plan to review your day and see where Grace has made Itself known to you.  Sometimes you will recognize Grace immediately.  Other times, you may need to look back and realize, and say yes, that really was Grace.  But do write it down, it is such a delight to go over your notes and see where Grace has appeared.

Enjoy the journey with Grace.

Maybe it is About Me

by Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

 

About a decade ago, my husband and I started at a new church. As was our custom, we asked for a meeting with the pastor.  The pastor came to our house and we had a delightful conversation about this new church, a church like we had never attended before.  During the exchange, the pastor said to us something that was at the heart of this church’s mission.  He said, “After all, it is not about us.”  We nodded in agreement.

But as time has gone on, I’ve begun to chaff a little at this statement.  It doesn’t sit as well as it once did.

Recently, I took a trip across the country.  I just may have gotten to the place where I don’t pay much attention to the safety demonstrations that occurs on every airplane flight.  These days when I am seated, I quickly notice my proximity to the exits, look to see who I have to climb over to get to safety in the event of a disaster, and then settled in with ear phones and a book to read.

(Yeah.  Totally selfish.)

This particular plane had monitors in the ceiling and all the regular announcements transmitted over these monitors.  I happened to look up as the oxygen mask portion of the announcement was on:

“In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.”

I was suddenly struck with the message that I cannot be really useful to anybody until after I put the mask on myself first.

Huh!

It occurred to me that this seems to ring true in my relationship with God.

I might not be useful to anybody until I make God my top priority.

I think we all know this, yet with this safety message I realized that my faith walk is anemic without the recognition that my love for God is the key to everything.  Jesus told us the number one commandment was new, and yet was still the same old commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might/mind.” (Matt. 22:37)

Cultivating this relationship is the most important thing I can do.  Without it, I am like a person without the oxygen mask, I cannot expect to be much use to them, let alone in my ability to love them.

I am beginning to see a strong correlation between my love for God and the fruit of the Spirit.  It is almost like a graph chart.  As my love for God grows stronger:

My love for others grows.

My courage increases; I am not afraid.

My fruit is real and not “stapled”[i] on my “branches”.

My grace towards others is measurable and sure.

My service is more effective.

My strength to do his will is inexhaustible.

My trust in the Good Shepherd is unshakable.

 

The phrase from Gal 2:20 rings true:  “…it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me…”

But the question becomes, how do I improve my relationship with God without taking on pharisaic tendencies?

I think the answer is somewhat individualistic.  What works for me doesn’t always work for someone else.  However, there are principles we can use.  How they are achieved, it seems to me, is personal.

We need to spend time with God as we would with any friend or family member.  Time is precious to most of us.  To spend time with someone is to show how valuable they are to us.  This can be while going for a walk, sitting in prayer, or simply practicing silence with God.  My time spent with God has changed over the years.  For me it has become a simple intention to remember that God is with me and to look for those signs in my world that show his presence.  And silence.  I need the silence with God.

We need to know the person of God, who he is, what his character is like.  Several years ago I was involved in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).  Generally, they spend a year in one book of the Bible.  The year that had the most influence on me, was the year we did an overview of Israel and the Minor Prophets.  After years of being in church, I found out about God.  He wasn’t the ogre that is often transmitted to us concerning the Old Testament God.  Rather I saw him as loving, wooing his people to right living, and being heartbroken because his people would not listen and needed discipline.  The God of the Old Testament was the same God that Jesus loved and called Father.  I would not have known these things about God, if I hadn’t purposefully studied to learn more fully about him.

We need to make memories with God.  There have been bad times and good times in my life.  God has been there through them all.  I have memories of wonderful worship experiences.  I remember when God sent comfort in one way or another.  I cherish those moments when he has answered deep longing prayers.  My memories of his faithfulness carry me through the tough times.

We need to respond to his love for us.  It all starts with God.  He loves us first.  Any love that I have for others is a result of the love he has placed in me through his Spirit.  I want to recognize that I cannot love on my own and acknowledge that God is the source of love.  It’s a very humbling practice, yet a worthwhile practice.

It is through these relationship builders that my love for God can and will grow.

Just as the oxygen mask helps me to remain focused and alert, so the love of God leads to authentic and lasting usefulness for the Kingdom of Heaven.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16

[i] Thank you Jan Johnson for this phrase.

Rebecca Preston, MA

©  RMP 2016