"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

Navigating Change, Again

-Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

 

I am in the midst of change. Again.

One of the most consistent things in my life has been change. Moving here, moving there. New churches. New jobs. New people in my life. Constant change.

Here’s the latest story: My husband and I decided to sell our house. It’s a big house with several acres. We find that all we do is take care of the house and yard. Don’t get me wrong, we like doing those things, but it might be enjoyable to have the time to do other things away from the house. And our house is expensive. As we get closer to the retirement years, it seems a waste of money to keep pouring into this house. Plus, I recently took a new job that is an hour away. Not a terrible drive and my hours are flexible, but it would be nice to be closer.

However, since we put the house on the market four weeks ago….nothing. Only two couples have come to look at it.

A friend recently said to me, “Are you sure God wants you to move?”

Ummm. I think he does. Generally, I sense God wants us to live more simply, to be better with our finances, and not waste time. All of this is part of our decision to move.

Whenever I’m in this change space a familiar cycle begins: First, in a flurry of activity, we get the house ready to sell. I am hopeful and confident of God’s blessing on this step. But then there is the waiting (no showings), and we will not move until we sell this house. I pray for God to bring just the right person. I believe God will move in his time. However, soon enough I go on to the next step, I’m despairing, which leads to begging and bargaining.

As another friend of mine used to say, “We are so weak.”

It’s true. No matter how far I get in this spiritual journey, I’m laid low on the trust issue during difficult times.

For me, it always comes down to trust. Do I trust God to care for me? Do I trust He will lead me? Do I trust that all will come out for the good?

Trust is the basis of the Christian faith.

And trust is always a matter of, according to Dallas Willard in Life Without Lack, death to self.

In this book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quoted with saying:

Self-denial means knowing only Christ, no longer knowing oneself. It means no longer seeing oneself, only him who is going ahead, no longer seeing the way which is too difficult for us. Self-denial says only: he is going ahead; hold fast to him.

Bonhoeffer has never been one to mince words, and he certainly is not in-sync with the popular belief of self-knowledge, self-actualization, and anything opposite of self-denial. But his words ring true to me.

My response to change is always, let’s get on with it! Why the waiting? But, as Bonhoeffer writes, God is going ahead of me. His timing is not my timing. His way for me may not be exactly how I picture what is in my future.

For me, it becomes a matter of managing my feelings through trust, of wanting His will before my own will.

I’m not sure I’ve ever mastered this, but lately I’ve tried several things to keep me focused on God’s good will.

Memorizing scripture.

There is nothing that soothes my soul as much as scripture. I’ve tried to use these scriptures whenever I am battered by insecurity. There are certain verses that have helped me in those difficult times when Satan is mercilessly poking me.

Currently I am meditating on Galatians 2:20 as I embrace the idea of self-denial:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Listening and watching for God.

I was driving to work recently, and while I was stopped for a red light I noticed for the first time that the City Mission to my right had a painted wall on one of their buildings. It was a verse from Deuteronomy 8:7:

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land-a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills.

Seeing this lightened my heart and gave me hope. I don’t know what God has in store for our next place of residence, maybe it will have water nearby or maybe not, but this spoke right to me.   I wouldn’t have noticed it, if I wasn’t looking for God’s presence in my midst.

Bring others into the mess.

It is very clear from the New Testament that the fellowship of other Christians is extremely important to the state of a Christian’s journey of faith.   The author of Hebrews particularly speaks to this in his letter. Look at Hebrews 3:13:

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Finding others who truly care for me and I can trust has been essential in getting through some of those days of impatience and uncertainty. I hope I have done the same for others when it was their turn to experience difficulties.

All of this leads me to a place of acceptance that God knows what He is doing. His ways are not my ways. I can’t hurry God. But I can adjust my attitude, with the help of God’s Spirit, towards the circumstances of my life. I know soon enough this too shall pass.

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)