"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

– Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

Christmas is over.  The New Year is looming.

There is a natural tendency for reflection as one year ends and the new year emerges.

It seems like we always look back on the past year with a jaundiced eye.  This has an almost universal feel, perhaps, a normal part of human existence. We relive the disappointments, not-so-great experiences, and we have a nasty taste in our mouth as we review the year.  We are so glad it’s over!  But we have hope for the coming year.  Hope for good and blessing.  Hope that we don’t experience any suffering in the coming year.

As I reflect on the meaning of this time of reflection and the longer I live as a guest on this planet, I‘ve come to realize that every new year will have its good times, and consequently, its bad times.  There is a basis to this.  After all, Jesus himself promised us in John 16:33, “In this world, you will have trouble.”

When he says this, I don’t think he means to depress us.  Rather, he is giving us a bit of reality, and, at the same time, a sense of hope, for he goes on to say: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

After all, hope keeps us going.  Hope promises something better.  Hope is what we need.

But as I read the sweet posts about hope for the coming year, my skepticism comes out.  I guess, I’m coming to the realization the only hope we can really depend on is our hope in heaven.  Earlier in John 14, Jesus describes heaven and promises to bring us there with him.  Heaven is the place where there is no looking back in regret or memories of pain.  In heaven, we won’t consider the future with the chance of better times.

Instead as Revelations 21:4 says: ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’  Heaven is the best of times. Heaven truly is our greatest hope.

Not that reflection is a waste of time while we are present on the earth.  There are things we can learn as we look back on the old year and look forward to the new one.  Perhaps it is an opportunity to look at the good times as a practice of gratitude.  When we remember these ‘good’ times we are able to see God’s goodness and, in turn, thank him for the many blessings we have from him.

As a converse, we can look at the “bad” times.   Maybe we can see how God has been with us during the hard places of the year.  We recognize how he has sustained us and given us strength to endure.  Looking back helps us to remember that this isn’t our home.  It speaks of our longing for the place where Eden is restored, and life is as God meant it to be for us.

Let me end with this poem by John O’Donohue, which started my musings on the idea of hope in the New Year.  May it bless you as you reflect on the past year, and look forward to the hope of heaven.

AT THE END OF THE YEAR

As this year draws to its end,

We give thanks for the gifts it brought

And how they become inlaid within

Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

 

Days when beloved faces shone brighter

With light from beyond themselves;

And from the granite of some secret sorrow

A stream of buried tears loosened.

 

We bless this year for all we learned,

For all we loved and lost

And for the quiet way it brought us

Nearer to our invisible destination.

 

-John O’Donohue

Excerpt from ‘At the End of the Year’

 

– Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

Christmas – it used to be my favorite season.

Having worked in retail many years throughout my life, I developed a jaundiced eye regarding Christmas. The mystery of Christmas was reduced by the everyday handling of all things red and green.  The trinkets identifying the miracle of the season came in cheap plastic from China.  The message of love intentioned for the season was clouded by the rudeness of the shoppers, whose lists of things to accomplish became the emphasis rather than the true reason for the season.

For a long time, Christmas was not all it could be for me and for those around me.

I found that I needed to re-look at Christmas.  I hope that my journey to Christmas might be of help to you, if you, too, are feeling the need to re-look at your celebration of Christmas.

After experiencing the worst that Christmas can offer, I asked myself some questions:

  • What would Christmas look like if Jesus was living my life right now?
  • How do I regain the message of the miracle of Christmas?
  • How can I recapture the message of love and giving without becoming a mind-numbed zombie?
  • How can I replace the madness for the simplicity of gathering with family and friends?

I believed I needed to start with Advent.  Advent is a bit like Lent, in that it is a period of time associated with anticipation.  In the Celtic traditions, Advent actually starts earlier than we start in the United States.  It is a 40-day period, again, much like Lent.  The emphasis is on waiting.  There is an expectation of arrival. During this time, we are preparing for the birth of Christ, similar to how the Jewish people of the Old Testament waited for the coming of the Messiah.  Advent reminds us that we, too, are waiting, but not only for the birth of Jesus.  In our time period, we are looking forward to Jesus’ return – His second coming.

More questions popped up:  What is there about Advent that I would like to incorporate in my life?  How could I nurture the feelings of anticipation or expectation that go along with this season?  Possibilities:

  • An Advent devotional
  • Telling the stories of the Bible with the help of Jesse Tree with my family
  • An Advent wreath
  • An Advent calendar
  • Memorizing some of the verses of the Bible which tell of Jesus coming

These were all options that ran through my mind.  What I chose in the end was making the time of Advent special.  My husband and I decided to incorporate some of the things we have always talked about, but never did.  So one year we went to a local college concert of Handel’s Messiah.  It was truly wonderful.  It brought back memories of my mother playing her Messiah records right after Thanksgiving.  For me, it was not only a time of fond reminiscence, but it helped to place the season in terms of Christ’s mission on the earth.

Another time, we visited a local garden where they have an amazing Christmas display.  It was full of lights, fountains, and music.  With every turn, we caught our breath at the beauty before us.  The tour brought back wonder and surprise as we slowly made our way through the paths of the gardens.  It reminded me of the mystery of God, full of beauty and awe.

This year I will be using an Advent devotional from one of my favorite websites with the hope that the devotionals will also bring to heart some of those feelings of anticipation and expectation I so desire at Christmas.

My next decisions were on Christmas preparations from gift buying to decorating to the baking.

Simplicity seemed to be the answer to the questions I was asking.

Simpler baking.

Reduced decorations.

I looked at gift giving in a new way.

Gift giving has always been a pleasure for me, but I realized as my kids left and started their own families that I was no longer the CPG (chief present giver).  My children and grandchildren’s gifts became more appropriate for this stage of our lives.  I’ve also re-found that one of my greatest joys comes from giving to my loved ones items I have handcrafted.  I’m quite skilled at sewing, knitting, and all sorts of crafting.  In the past, I often gave presents I made, but I fell out of step with that some time ago.  Now there is a renewal of great satisfaction in making things for people I care for.  And I’ve found that there is a bit of anticipation in seeing the reaction to the gifts I made for them…good or bad…it makes a memory.

Rather than let the season drag me along in the raging river of what I thought was expected of me, I now approach the season with more thought and purpose.  The funny thing is, I’m happier.  My husband is happier.  And no one seems to care that I make less cookies, or I don’t put lights and boughs on my stairway or that the gifts are not extravagant.

Christmas is a special time of year.  It doesn’t have to be a time of craziness driven by consumerist expectations, rather it can be just another path on our journey of Spiritual formation.  We can be as intentional about this season as we are about anything in our Spiritual life.  And along the way, we can discover all the joy, hope, and love of the Christmas season with our focus on developing our relationship with God and His son.

After all, isn’t that the reason for the season?

What do you long for as you approach Christmas?  What could you do to make your Christmas celebration more enjoyable, and at the same time, worshipful?

Merry Christmas!