"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

Rest Without Guilt

-Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

 

My husband works from home, but his offices are in San Diego, California.  San Diego happens to be one of his most favorite places in the world.  He goes there several times a year and this last time, he invited me to come along to have a mini-vacation.  His company gives him a choice of several places to stay, one of which is a resort close to the beach.  Since the beach is one of my most favorite places, there really was no argument from me.

However, I had only just started a new job.  I didn’t feel I needed a rest after working there for such a short time, but when I approached my supervisor she urged me to go.

We arrived and the place we stayed was certainly lovely and conducive to resting, but I felt… restless.  There were things I could do for my job at a distance, several writing projects to work on, and some reading to do.  And I did those things.  Yet while I went through the motions, I struggled to relax enough to rest.

Then one of the days as I sat on the beach and watched the waves crash into the surf, my mind and body came into sync.  Finally, I realized this was a gift of rest that I had not asked for, but was given.  I wondered why such a resistance to rest?  Did I not deserve it?  Was there some guilt at staying at such a nice place?  What was going on?

From Scripture, we can see God’s approval of rest, his encouragement to take time off.  Even one of his commandments entreats us to be like him and take a day to do nothing.

Like Father, like Son.  In Mark 6, the disciples have come off of a strenuous work schedule and Jesus says,

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

It ended up that they couldn’t, because the people began to follow them, which led to the feeding of the multitudes.  However, it is intriguing to me to see how Jesus felt it was so important to take the time to rest and refresh themselves.  He models this frequently in the gospels as he heads up to the mountains to rest and pray in communion with his Father.

If you troll the internet, you will find many articles on the benefits of rest.  In one such article, they claimed that resting helps with decision making, wards off depression, boosts memory, aids in avoiding strokes, and helps to keep you slim. *

The God who made us and knows us intimately did not give us arbitrary advice.  Rest is as important as any of the Spiritual Disciplines we can practice.

According to Dallas Willard “one of the most important spiritual activities is getting adequate sleep.”

The following prayer by Richard Foster in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, spoke to me in my difficulty in truly resting, and shows me that I am not alone.

“Blessed Savior, I am not good at resting in the hollow of your hand. Nothing in my experience has taught me this resting. I have been taught how to take charge. I have been taught how to be in control. But how to rest? No, I have no models, no paradigms for resting. This is not exactly right.

Jesus, when you walked among the Jerusalem crowds and in the Judean hills, you pioneered this way of living. You were always alert and alive. You lived utterly responsive to the will of the Father. Manifold demands were placed upon you, and still you walked in unhurried peace and power.

Help me to walk in your steps. Teach me to see only what you see, to say only what you say, to do only what you do. Help me, Lord, to work resting and to pray resting.

I ask this in your good and strong name. Amen.”**

So I began to relax.  Whether I deserved this rest was not mine to determine, it was a gift from God, and I graciously received it.  When I came home with all the pressures of everyday life back on me, I walked a little slower and felt less hurried.  Certainly, the after effects of a time of rest.

Do you take the time to rest in the busyness of your life?  How can you take the opportunity to rest and be comfortable with it?   God encourages it for us.  Only good can come from a time of resting.

 

*Here is the link to the article: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/stress-awareness-day-relaxation-benefits_n_1424820.html

**Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, HarperCollins, p103)

Reflecting God’s Glory

-Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

I attended a much needed Silent retreat recently.  It was only one day, but the benefits of it lingered for much longer.  As I write I am still wrapped in the hope given to me while on retreat.  I know that the idea of a silent retreat can be overwhelming for those new to the practice, but those of us who have experienced it, often come into it with an almost greedy expectation of encountering God.  This past weekend did not disappoint.

For the last couple of months, I have been re-reading for the third time, Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard.  I think three was truly the charm.  Dissecting the book with the input of other seeking women helped to infuse the gems from the book into my spirit.  However, I’m not naïve enough to think that this will be my final reading.  There is more to glean.

In chapter 12, Dr. Willard gives a list of scriptures to further examine the characteristics of “children of light”.  He suggests taking these scriptures on retreat and meditating on them.  I took the challenge.

My focus here was on 2 Corinthians 3:12-4.  (If you are not familiar with this passage, you may want to read it now, because I will be referring to it.)  While reading this passage, I asked myself: what is Paul saying here about the qualities that a Christ follower would possess?

I came to verse 18, and rested for a bit:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate (or reflect) the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

What is His glory that we reflect?  How do I do that?

Continuing with the reading of this section, I began to become discouraged, for Paul does indeed speak of the characteristics of people who call themselves Christian.  When they are hard pressed, they are not perplexed, crushed, or in despair.  When persecuted, they do not feel abandoned, struck down, or destroyed.  They do not lose heart.

Confronted with this list, I knew that I was far from being this person.  I often lose heart easily.  My focus is often on the seen, and not on the unseen.   I must not be reflecting His glory.  Was I still veiled?

AS desperate as this sounds, this kind of thing is not really a bad place to be.  Self-examination is hard, but the results are important.  They lead us on a path of confession, and eventually, this helps to open our hearts and minds to hear what the Spirit is speaking to us.

Doesn’t that bring God glory…the recognition of our inadequacies and our need for Him?

What I heard was that God has not given up on me.  Just as a father stays with his toddler urging her on towards walking, comforting her when she falls.  Or as a mother releases more and more control over her teenager, in order that he will make good choices in his freedom, encouraging him in his failures of choice.  So is God with me helping me in my struggles to become more like Him.

Does this not bring glory to God… the desire to become like Him and the realization that I cannot do it without the power He has promised?

While I often feel perplexed, crushed, in despair, abandoned, struck down, and destroyed when confronted with persecution or circumstances that leave me hard-pressed, perhaps the glory is in each encounter with difficulties leads me more and more towards God.  The inward leaning to God becomes an outward reflection of the trust I long for and seek.

This silent retreat was an opportunity to acknowledge my desire to be His follower, to confess my shortcomings, and to renew my relationship with Him.

May I encourage you to take a silent retreat?  There are often local monasteries and convents which readily host people who desire to partake in these retreats.  You can simply enjoy nature by walking or sitting.  Or you can take a passage, much as I did and meditate on it, asking God for wisdom and revelation.  The benefits outweigh the anticipated inconvenience.

“Silence not only increases our poise and credibility, but it also enables us to be better observers and more effective, other-centered listeners. In addition, this discipline makes us less inclined to use words to control people or manipulate them into approving and affirming us.”– Ken Boa, author and speaker