"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

Smell Like Eternity

Recently, I needed a series of bloodwork done. I arrived at the laboratory, hungry, but ready. The lab technician called my name and I followed her into the lab. She directed me to where I could sit, and as she was getting everything prepared, she made small talk, as only one who deals with people every day, can do:

“What perfume are you wearing?”

“Oh!” I responded a little surprised that the perfume had held its scent, “Eternity.”

“Eternity?”

“Yes, by Calvin Klein.”

“It smells really nice.”

“Thank you.”

Suddenly, I was struck by the irony. I kind of chuckled to myself. I’m wearing a perfume called Eternity. I’d never thought of the implications of it before. Perfumes generally “turn” on me, becoming more of a skunk smell than what it was meant to be. This one doesn’t, which is why I have chosen to wear it.

As I sat there, my thoughts went deeper. Isn’t that exactly how I want to present myself: As someone who embodies the Kingdom of God here on earth? I realized how much I like having people identify me with eternity. Not necessarily the perfume, but the idea that others would notice something about my life that is reflective of my relationship with God.

I am reminded of the verse from: 2 Corinthians 2:15 (Living Bible)

As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us.

While it seems like an odd concept, those who believe, smell like Eternity.

But what does it look like to be a person who lives smelling like Eternity, or in other words, exemplifies a “sweet, wholesome fragrance” in their life?”

The idea of fragrance or aroma can actually be found throughout the Bible.

In the Old Testament, burnt offerings were given to make atonement for the sins of the person who was making the offering. In doing this, the person was recognizing their sin, and consequently, acknowledging their need for forgiveness. The action of bringing an offering revealed the person’s belief in God’s faithfulness, because once the offering was made, the sin was forgiven.

The process of burning the offering gave off an aroma. We can see in the Old Testament that God took pleasure in these offerings. His reaction to the offerings is often described as a “pleasant aroma”, an “aroma pleasing to the Lord”, “a sweet smell” or a “soothing aroma.”[1]

In the New Testament, there is no longer a need for burnt offerings. When Christ was crucified and three days later was raised from the dead, the need for these kinds of sacrifices was no longer necessary. His was the final sacrifice. Therefore, Christ offered forgiveness through what he did. His sacrifice put together with our belief in Him, creates in us a fragrance that is pleasing to God, a “fragrance” of forgiveness and grace.

Because of what Christ did for us, we become a people who are expected to give forgiveness and grace as lavishly as Christ has given them to us. We walk on this earth as the forgiven people we are, not necessarily stuck in grief over our sinfulness, but in confidence and joy that God sees past our sinfulness and looks at us as the people we are meant to be. As a result, our smell or countenance is pleasant, not only to God, but to those around us. Imagine the difference in our interactions with people, if we present ourselves as “pleasant”, “soothing”, and “sweet”.

This kind of attitude or posture makes us appealing. It is in sharp contrast to what is offered in the world. Certainly, our presentation of the Kingdom of God would have more positive effect with this approach in our lives. Others are attracted by this and will want to join us in this life in the Kingdom, that is here and now, and yet to come.

And that’s how I want to live. To have the smell of Eternity whirling around me, reflecting my belief in God’s faithfulness, to be seen as sweet, soothing, and pleasant, and to offer to others the forgiveness and grace I have been given.

My hope is, if I can live like this, people will ask, even when I am not wearing Eternity by Calvin Klein, “What is that fragrance you are wearing?”

“It is Eternity.”

[1]  Genesis 8:21, Exodus 29:18, Exodus 29:25, Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 4:31, Leviticus 8:21, Numbers 15:3

Advent Made Simple

Every year at the beginning of Advent, I am perplexed. How do I practice Advent? Is there something I can do to make Advent more meaningful? What Is the significance of Advent and how can I put it into an intentional practice?

I grew up in a Liturgical church where Advent was an important time during the Church year. However, I have spent a good deal of time the last 30 years within Evangelical circles, and Advent was not particularly celebrated. Recently I’ve noticed a shift in thinking, and Advent is making a comeback. Devotionals are popping up all over the place. People are putting up pictures on Facebook of Advent wreaths.   Like many, I have a desire to make the Advent season authentic and significant in my life, but how?

Maybe you feel the same way. Perhaps together we can look at Advent and discover it’s meaning.

When I was young, my family moved from Michigan to Hershey, Pennsylvania. We had never heard of the town of Hershey, we just knew about the chocolate bar. What a wonderful surprise the town turned out to be! True to its name, chocolate was everywhere. The light posts were fashioned to look like Hershey Kisses. And on certain days, the smell of chocolate permeated the town. Absolute agony for those of us sitting in our classrooms just before lunch.

Because of leaving so many relatives behind and living in a tourist town, we had a lot of visitors. I remember my mom going into a flurry of preparations as she made the house ready for our guests. She cleaned, cooked, and did any kind of sprucing up that she perceived the house needed for our guests to be comfortable while they visited. On our part, my sisters and I would wait with barely concealed excited expectation for our guests to arrive. Often the moment of arrival was more joyful than we anticipated.

As I look back on those days, I see a correlation with the idea of Advent. The dictionary describes advent as “coming or arrival”. With this idea in mind, Advent becomes a time of preparation, waiting, and hope for the coming of Christ.

In Biblical times, people of faith were expecting the arrival of the Messiah. They waited in eager anticipation for him to come and restore the kingdom back to the glories and prestige of the reigns of David and Solomon. In some ways, these people prepared for this to happen as they studied and knew what signs to look for with this coming King.

In Christianity, we do much the same. We prepare and anticipate for the anniversary of the coming of Christ at Christmas. But we also live in anticipation for the return of Christ as he said he would.

But, again, how do I give meaning to this busy season of Advent? Is there a spiritual focus that I can concentrate on in this season? So difficult in this time of intense activity.

I think the Liturgical churches have something to offer in this regard. They take each of the four Sundays in Advent and highlight in the worship service a different aspect of the season. That is why the Advent wreath can be so helpful. It stands as an explanation and a reminder of the meanings behind each Sunday.

 

The first Sunday is often called the Sunday of hope. Just as my sisters and I could hardly wait for our relatives to arrive at our house, so can we, in Advent, live in a state of anticipation. The Old Testament Prophets and people looked forward with expectation towards the coming Messiah, much like how we look forward to Christmas. This week of Advent can be a time of reflection, focusing on the texts where the coming of Messiah was foretold, and Jesus’ own words about returning.

Review these verses: (Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 53: 3-7, John 14:3, Revelations 22:12) What are you anticipating during this Advent season? Where do you find hope in these passages? How could you establish this hope in your life?

The second Sunday of Advent is a time of preparation. John the Baptist is often used in the text because his message to people was to prepare themselves for the coming of Christ. We can use this time as a preparation. My mom would prepare for our guests in a variety of ways with cleaning, shopping and cooking. In much the same way, we do this as part of the Christmas season. But is there more than just the cookies, gifts, and frenzy we associate with the Christmas season? What would it look like for you to prepare your heart and soul for the coming of Christ?

Meditate on these verses as you consider the above question. (Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1, Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:1-3)

Joy is the theme for the third Sunday. There is a great deal of joy associated when expectation is realized. When our guests drove up the hill and parked in the driveway, we became giddy at seeing family after so long. I think of being a mother, and finally seeing the little person you had growing inside of you. There was joy in Mary, simply being a mother, but with Mary there was the additional joy of meeting this promised child. I anticipate there will be great joy when Christ returns. We will be participants in the promises given to us, just as Mary was. Below is a link to a choir singing called Guadete , which means Joy:

https://www.google.com/search?q=Guadete&oq=Guadete&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.2839j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Consider these questions: What brings you joy? Can you identify periods in your life that have brought you great joy? Why did they bring you joy? How can you find joy in this hectic season?

The final Sunday in Advent has love as it’s theme. This is meant to be a celebration of Mary being told she was chosen to be the mother of Christ. Love is throughout the Christmas story. We can look at the love of God for sending his son to this earth. The love of Joseph in protecting Mary and raising Jesus as his own. The love of Mary for being willing to accept the disgrace of being an unwed mother. We can also contemplate the love of Jesus who came to redeem the world. Each of these involves sacrifice, all within the realm of love.

Contemplate the song Mary sung after the visitation of the angel: Luke 1:46-55

Advent can be more than the frenzy of activity before Christmas that often leaves us hollow and disappointed the day after. We can celebrate the season with authenticity, if we take a few minutes each day focusing on the meaning of Advent and what significance the aspects of hope (expectation and anticipation), preparation, joy and love have for us in accord with the coming of Christ at Christmas, and with his future return. May God bless you richly with new awareness this season!