"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

Reflecting God’s Glory

-Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

I attended a much needed Silent retreat recently.  It was only one day, but the benefits of it lingered for much longer.  As I write I am still wrapped in the hope given to me while on retreat.  I know that the idea of a silent retreat can be overwhelming for those new to the practice, but those of us who have experienced it, often come into it with an almost greedy expectation of encountering God.  This past weekend did not disappoint.

For the last couple of months, I have been re-reading for the third time, Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard.  I think three was truly the charm.  Dissecting the book with the input of other seeking women helped to infuse the gems from the book into my spirit.  However, I’m not naïve enough to think that this will be my final reading.  There is more to glean.

In chapter 12, Dr. Willard gives a list of scriptures to further examine the characteristics of “children of light”.  He suggests taking these scriptures on retreat and meditating on them.  I took the challenge.

My focus here was on 2 Corinthians 3:12-4.  (If you are not familiar with this passage, you may want to read it now, because I will be referring to it.)  While reading this passage, I asked myself: what is Paul saying here about the qualities that a Christ follower would possess?

I came to verse 18, and rested for a bit:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate (or reflect) the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

What is His glory that we reflect?  How do I do that?

Continuing with the reading of this section, I began to become discouraged, for Paul does indeed speak of the characteristics of people who call themselves Christian.  When they are hard pressed, they are not perplexed, crushed, or in despair.  When persecuted, they do not feel abandoned, struck down, or destroyed.  They do not lose heart.

Confronted with this list, I knew that I was far from being this person.  I often lose heart easily.  My focus is often on the seen, and not on the unseen.   I must not be reflecting His glory.  Was I still veiled?

AS desperate as this sounds, this kind of thing is not really a bad place to be.  Self-examination is hard, but the results are important.  They lead us on a path of confession, and eventually, this helps to open our hearts and minds to hear what the Spirit is speaking to us.

Doesn’t that bring God glory…the recognition of our inadequacies and our need for Him?

What I heard was that God has not given up on me.  Just as a father stays with his toddler urging her on towards walking, comforting her when she falls.  Or as a mother releases more and more control over her teenager, in order that he will make good choices in his freedom, encouraging him in his failures of choice.  So is God with me helping me in my struggles to become more like Him.

Does this not bring glory to God… the desire to become like Him and the realization that I cannot do it without the power He has promised?

While I often feel perplexed, crushed, in despair, abandoned, struck down, and destroyed when confronted with persecution or circumstances that leave me hard-pressed, perhaps the glory is in each encounter with difficulties leads me more and more towards God.  The inward leaning to God becomes an outward reflection of the trust I long for and seek.

This silent retreat was an opportunity to acknowledge my desire to be His follower, to confess my shortcomings, and to renew my relationship with Him.

May I encourage you to take a silent retreat?  There are often local monasteries and convents which readily host people who desire to partake in these retreats.  You can simply enjoy nature by walking or sitting.  Or you can take a passage, much as I did and meditate on it, asking God for wisdom and revelation.  The benefits outweigh the anticipated inconvenience.

“Silence not only increases our poise and credibility, but it also enables us to be better observers and more effective, other-centered listeners. In addition, this discipline makes us less inclined to use words to control people or manipulate them into approving and affirming us.”– Ken Boa, author and speaker

Living for Today

-Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director

I had an epiphany last week.  I do not live in the today.

Quite a revelation to someone who desires to live daily in the presence of God.  Someone who strives to be present to people, and the situations that come up in each new day.

But in reality, I find that I often live in the future.  Always looking ahead to the “someday.”  Trying to patiently make it through the current day’s issues by planning for something the next day that gives me something to look forward to.

When I was a young girl, I was rather sickly, and often went to the doctor’s office for “shots.”.  My mother, helping me to get over the fear, would dangle a treat in front of me.  “After the doctor, we will stop and get…”  Ice cream, a toy, shopping excursion.  This tactic is beneficial in curtailing the dread of something painful by looking forward to something pleasant.  It is a practice I continue to this day.   I taught this to my children, and it is very effective.

Not a bad plan, but is it for the best?

For the last month or so, I have been using the God Soaked Life by Chris Webb as a devotional.  At the end of each chapter he includes a list of verses that we can use as a daily mediation.  How I came to this epiphany was from Hebrews 4:1-7, and with it the questions from the book: “Do you find it easy or difficult to live in today, in the present moment?  What helps you, and what prevents you?” (p. 125)

This brought me to the point of acknowledging my difficulty with the present.

Thus, I began a path of wondering, what does the Bible teach on Today?  Much of our Christian life is looking towards the future, i.e. living with God in heaven for all eternity.  It’s how we get through the rigors of living on this planet: the hope of heaven, living with God always.  And yet, we are constantly being reminded of living in the present.

James warns about not making plans, because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

Matthew says don’t worry about tomorrow, because today has enough trouble of its own.

Hebrews talks about encouraging each other to live in “today”, because sin is so prevalent in our “today,” we need to be alert.  And earlier in this book, the author says, don’t harden your hearts, but listen to God “today.”

It seems that living in the present is encouraged as being able to live fully in the life that God has given us.  Life in the present is His gift to us.

Since this discovery, I wondered how can I learn to live for today?  There must be practices that would inadvertently help me in this quest.  What would remind me that today is the day God has given me?

One of the first things I’ve begun doing in the morning, as I’m waking and deciding if I want to get out of bed, is saying the following verse:

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 ESV)

Somehow this re-sets my mind.  My day becomes an intentional acknowledgement of God’s gift.  I am refocused on the present day, and not looking ahead to some vague future.

I’ve also decided to add a practice to the end of my day called the Examen.  The Examen is quite simple and requires a purposeful questioning at the end of each day.  There are actually only two questions, and they help us examine our day and bring to light what in our day created emotional reactions.  The questions may be something like this: What in my day brought me great joy?  What in my day took away my joy?  You may use variations of these questions, but the essence of the questions are:  what in our day gave us consolation, and what part of the day brought on desolation.

The uses of the Examen are many, but for my purposes it helps me look at my day, to review it, and allows me to acknowledge my day as being “Today.”

These two practices are really effortless but help to “re-boot” my mind towards present living instead of future living.  My hope is that in doing these practices over time, I will find myself living in the present, and in turn, will dissuade my escapism and my unrealistic imaginings of an undisturbed future.

I wonder how you would answer the questions that Chris Webb posed?  Do you find yourself living mainly in the past or future rather than in the gift of the present?

If you are like me and dwell somewhere other than in the present, may you find a way for yourself to help in living for “Today.”