"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.
(https://www.leadershiptransformations.org/)

Blog Posts

God’s Calling: His Work, My Work

The most frustrating thing in the Christian life is trying to determine our calling. I’ve often wondered, pleaded, and sought God in agonizing prayer for the kind of assurance that what I am doing is within His will and calling. I cannot be alone in this. How many of us have taken Spiritual Gift tests? How many of us seek the counsel of others in this with so-so results? How many of you have prayed as I have prayed? And how many of us eventually throw our hands in the air and shout “I just don’t know!”? Sometimes I feel as if I am in a very dark room with arms outstretched feeling my way for the door which leads out, sometimes I find it and other times, I am left searching.

Recently, I was looking at the story of Moses and his call by God through the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-10). It’s a well-known story, but for the first I saw it in the context of calling. I noticed several things. Moses is minding his own business. He was in the fields doing his work as a shepherd. We don’t know what he was thinking, we don’t know his desires or goals. For all intense and purposes, he was simply doing his job, perhaps content and satisfied with his life as it was.

What we do know from previous verses is that Moses was highly educated, he was raised in the finer things, and he was a murderer. He had flaws, but a lot of potential.

Suddenly God shows up as fire. Hard to ignore in the middle of nowhere, Moses is compelled to go and see what was going on. And in that place, he encounters God. Someone he knew about as he identified as a Hebrew, and additionally, he had been quietly nurtured since his birth by his nursemaid, who was also his God-fearing, biological mother.  But we have little to go on from the previous chapters about the kind of relationship between Moses and God.

From this passage, we see that God calls Moses at the burning bush. God wants Moses to be the leader of the Israelites and take them out of captivity into the Promise Land.

Admittedly, I am puzzled by this story. My formational practices suggest when seeking God’s counsel, I need to employ these exercises: intentionality, looking for God in the present, and a willingness to change.

As a person who is constantly seeking God’s calling for her, I look at this and wonder: Moses doesn’t appear to be intentional in seeking God, he doesn’t even seem to be looking for God, and he doesn’t look like he is planning a change in his life. Yet, God comes to him, and calls him.

So what can we learn from this passage?

I must acknowledge that Moses was chosen, set apart for God, from his very beginning. His mother hid him and put him in a place where he would be taken in by Pharaoh’s sister. God protected him and gave Moses every benefit available to a person in that era, in order to prepare him for his future calling.

God’s hand was on Moses life.

Just like his hand is on ours. When we look over our lives from our present vantage point, I think we can see where God has been in our decisions and choices, whether we recognized it at the time or not. He has somehow got us into places and opportunities we can’t really say how it happened. He was working behind the scenes, much as He was working in Moses’ life.

It looks to me as if Moses had no expectations of God. He was simply going through his life, being a husband, father, and shepherd. I have to confess to sometimes wanting to put God in a box. In some ways trying to manipulate him to do the things I think “should” happen, because I have acted in such a way. But, really, I don’t think God works that way.

God’s ways are not my ways.

He is a mystery, and will remain so, perhaps even after I meet Him in heaven. There is always a balancing act of wisdom as we seek God and try to discern what is my realm of responsibility and what I must leave for God to do. My actions do not and will not dictate what He does on my behalf. He will do as He sees fit.

I do believe that we have a responsibility to some action, but sometimes we simply must wait. I was once accused of being lazy as I tried to wait on God. It hurt, because I had done all I felt I could do with no results. Waiting was indeed my last resort. Eventually, God did bring something to my attention that came out of nowhere. Certainly not my timing, nor the timing of the person who called me lazy.

God has His own timing.

Moses had to wait 40 years in the land of Midian before God approached him at the burning bush. That’s a long time to wait for your calling. But sometimes, that is exactly what we need to do.

While I do not plan on giving up the practices of intentionality, looking for God’s presence, and maintaining a willingness to change for God’s work, I must balance what I do and who God is. Doing these things is for my benefit, to help me in my journey of this Christian life. Hopefully in this, God will be pleased with my work, but, again I realize His calling for me is not influenced by what I do.

The following prayer by Thomas Merton is so helpful for me, as I wonder what God wants me to do. This prayer speaks of humility and ultimate trust. I pray you will find hope in it as you seek God in what He has called you to.

 

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

nor do I really know myself,

and the fact that I think I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you

does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though

I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

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.