"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

What Encouragement Can Do?

-Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

Yesterday, I read a blog from a woman who is a teacher to teenagers.  Her purpose in the blog was to help others to see how vital their role can be in helping people (teens in particular) to address the uncertainty within their lives.  I came away from the article thinking: What a gift this woman is to those teens!  She recognizes the areas of uncertainty in their lives, and then speaks to those places with words of encouragement.

This blog started me on a path of wondering: What would the world look like if we intentionally practiced encouraging one another?

It seems to me, at least in my life experience, that it is rare to find those who are willing to build others up.

I am from stoic German stock.  My upbringing did not include a great deal of encouragement, and therefore, I did not learn how to encourage others.  It has only come from experience and a sense of letting go of myself that I’ve learned that to encourage others does not take anything away from me.  Rather the ability to encourage others is a gift of incredible worth.  Encouragement is not a natural part of me, but I’ve noticed that when I do give unwarranted (albeit clumsy) encouragement, I am amazed at the change that comes over the other person, almost immediately.  I can predict the reaction.  These people often respond in a surprised way, and then begin to soften and move to a confidence that wasn’t previously visible.

When I think of encouragement, I’m reminded of the story of Paul and Barnabas:

“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.  He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” Acts 15:36-41 NIV

If you remember, John Mark had gone with Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey.  But somewhere along the way, John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem.  (Acts 13:13) Nothing is said about his reasons for leaving, but it wasn’t that far along in the journey when he went home.  Amongst scholar’s there is quite a bit of speculation, but no one really knows.

So fast forward to the time when Paul and Barnabas are planning their next missionary journey.  Barnabas wants to take John Mark again, but Paul says, “Nope.”  They split, and the rest is history.  Barnabas goes into obscurity, and Paul is used by God to evangelize the western world.

But it really isn’t the end of the story.  We know about John Mark from sporadic New Testament accounts.  His life is an illustration of reconciliation and restoration.  For instance, at the end of Paul’s life, he views John Mark as one of his faithful companions. (2 Timothy 4:11)

What happened?

Barnabas is often credited with the gift of encouragement.  Sometime after Paul’s conversion, Barnabas sought out Paul (who had tried to work with the disciples in Jerusalem but was rejected) for help with the congregation at Antioch. (Acts 11:25) Barnabas recognized in Paul his ability for leadership, evangelism, and a real zeal for the Lord.  He gave Paul an opportunity, and Paul blossomed into the evangelist he was and as the writer of a great deal of the New Testament.

The same thing happens with John Mark.  Barnabas gives him a chance.  He comes alongside of John Mark, and it allows John Mark to flourish.  Later in John Mark’s life, he worked in Rome with Peter for a time.  Their relationship became so close and beneficial that Peter actually calls him, son. (1 Peter 5:13) Many feel that while the Gospel of Mark was written by John Mark, he wrote it from Peter’s viewpoint on the time Jesus spent on the earth.  In the end, John Mark’s ministry became far reaching and beneficial to the kingdom of God.

What would John Mark’s life have been like if Barnabas had not followed his discernment in encouraging John Mark?  Obviously, we don’t know, but isn’t John Mark’s life an incredible example of what someone can do who was encouraged?

I don’t know about you, but this story inspires me.  What would happen if I became more intentional about encouraging others?  Even if it isn’t necessarily my gift.  Even if it doesn’t come natural to me.  What an unbelievable offering to give to the Kingdom of God.

For me, it becomes a prayer to be made aware of and seek out opportunities for encouraging.

Who might you encounter today who needs encouragement?  What would it look like for you to be intentional in becoming an encouragement to someone?

Hope in the New Year

– 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’