What Is Spiritual Formation and How Do I Practice It?

My desire from the beginning of the year has been to explore the disciplines. I introduced the plan of a series with a post on the What and Why of Spiritual Disciplines. Then my sister, Kandy Chimento followed up with a post on the ‘How’ using the Bonsia tree as an illustration.

About that time, my family received a surprise announcement that we had two months to move out of our home. And the disciplines were set on the back burner. I continued reading, all the while these things have been simmering in my mind. Now that life returns to “normal”, I am ready to jump into writing.

I shared my plans with Patty Scott and she offered to write an introductory post to get us going again. So here we go…

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 Spiritual Formation

by Patty H Scott 

spiritual formations
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I came back to my walk with Jesus in my early 20s after having wandered away during some very painful and trying experiences in adolescence. I hadn’t planned to return to Christianity, but Jesus, relentless in His love for me, made an unexpected way. Then I found myself in a small group with a bunch of relative strangers after a friend had invited me to her church. The leader of this small group was immersed in Spiritual Formation as he attended Talbot School of Theology. He invited me to attend lectures at Biola (the University that houses Talbot). And that is where my foundation in Spiritual Formation began. 

At that time, I had some distorted ideas about God. My faith had started in childhood. And had been strengthened through the influence of some families around me in my elementary and high school years. I had voluntarily read through the Bible five times. So I was well aware of the stories and many of the principles of our faith. While I had some meaningful personal experiences with God, much of my approach to my relationship with Him felt distant. I viewed God as being a lot like other authority figures in my life who were perfectionistic, demanding, and critical. Even though my head knew God was loving, I held doubts and hidden beliefs about His love and true forgiveness of me.  

though my head knew God was loving, I held doubts… #spiritualformation #thedisciplines Click To Tweet

Finding a Mentor

It was at this time in my walk with Jesus that I met Dallas Willard. Much like another famous Christian philosopher, C. S. Lewis, Dallas had a way of bringing Jesus into every situation. And reflecting the depth of his own walk with such thoughtfulness and intelligence. He was the man who introduced me to the Spiritual Disciplines. He also introduced me to my mentor who became like a mother in the faith to me.  

Dallas taught that Spiritual Formation is the process of being formed in our spirit. This is the purpose of God. He made each of us unique. And He never intends to delete or override the special qualities He so carefully wove into each one of our personalities. He does, however, want to form us to be increasingly like Christ.

Just as a concrete worker sets out a mold before he pours the liquid into it, God has a mold for us to be conformed into – and that mold is Christlikeness. While we will maintain our own individuality, we also will become more and more like Jesus. As we practice the disciplines, we deepen our trust-follow relationship with God.  

What are Spiritual Disciplines?

The Spiritual Disciplines are instrumental in this process. We often think of a few basic and common practices as we go about practicing our faith. It is usual to talk about quiet time, reading the Word, prayer, and fellowship. Those are all wonderful things we can do to deepen our faith and help us grow. What I want us to really look at here is how we sometimes misuse those practices. Then I want us to see how we can best apply Spiritual Disciplines to help achieve God’s aims…

  • to make us more like Jesus,
  • and to draw us into greater intimacy with the Triune God.  

Being a “Good Christian”

As I said, my view of God when I returned to the faith was tainted with my misperceptions of His character. When I sat in quiet time, for example, I felt this pressing need to 

being a good christan; spiritual formation
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  • use the “best” books,
  • do the most I could,
  • and show up daily for a specific period of time.

The time I set apart to be with God looked more like someone doing homework for a course than someone spending quality time with a good friend. I checked off the boxes, made sure I did things “right,”. And yet, I missed some of the benefits of sitting with God in His Word and prayer. I was doing it all to earn something from Him. I figured I was not worthy of His love. Therefore, I was going to work and work (serving in church, doing all the requirements of the faith) and show Him He hadn’t made a mistake in offering me His love.  

What the Disciplines Do For Us Spiritually

Dallas said something that turned my life around.

“Faith isn’t opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” #spiritualdisciplines #spiritualformation Click To Tweet

Here I was trying to build my spiritual resume when God already accepted and loved me fully. I knew that in my head. It took a while for it to settle in the places that really mattered.

Over time my practice of the disciplines took a different approach. One teacher at Biola said,

“It’s not so much the form that matters as the function.”

He went on to say that some of us aren’t morning people. If we are forcing ourselves to have quiet time in the morning because we believe that is what “good Christians” do, but we are half awake and unable to focus, we have put the form (making sure quiet time is in the morning), ahead of the function (the purpose of quiet time is to draw us near to God and let Him reach into our lives and hearts to help us grow).  

There are Varied Spiritual Disciplines

Over the years I have learned how many varied Spiritual Disciplines exist. For example, when I have been on Facebook and Instagram too much and those social media sites are starting to have a pull on me, I can fast from them for a while and my self-control is restored, as well as my sense of what matters most. Fasting is a great discipline to teach us how to be sweet when we aren’t getting our way. It also teaches us to say no to our urges and wait patiently.  

Dallas often “prescribed” various disciplines as each one might suit a specific area of growth for an individual in a given season. If you are feeling prideful and constantly having to make your point, you can practice the discipline of NOT having the last word. While you may not find that particular practice in the Bible, it is a helpful thing to undertake with the Holy Spirit.

As we seek Him to show us areas where He wants us to grow, He will provide the means towards that growth. In any Spiritual Discipline, we do the thing we can do (abstaining from Facebook, for example) so that God can do in us what we couldn’t do before (cultivate self-control).  

AS we seek Him, He provides the means toward that growth. #spiritualformation #spiritualdisciplines Click To Tweet

Is Your Heart in the Right Place?

The most important aspect of Spiritual Formation through the use of the Disciplines is that our heart is in the right place. As we look at the Pharisees, we see that Jesus acknowledged…

  • their prayer life,
  • their careful tithing, 
  • and their adherence to all sorts of religious practices.

Yet, their hearts were far from God.

We need to approach all Spiritual Formation knowing that we are already fully loved as is, wanted by God, and included in His eternal life. There is nothing to be earned. We are invited into eternal abundance and internal growth as we engage in practices such as…

  • scripture memory,
  • solitude,
  • silence,
  • prayer,
  • meditation upon God’s Word and character,
  • worship with music,
  • or any other number of exercises.

I hope you can pick one or two practices and enter them with the sole purpose of drawing near to the God who formed you, loves you, and longs to help you grow to be more and more like Jesus.  

Patty H Scott

It’s Your Turn…

legacy link-ups

It’s legacy Link-up time. What spiritual discipline are you working on? Share a post about your own spiritual formation or a book review of the book that is helping you grow.

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What are Spiritual Disciplines and Why do I need them?

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Here we stand at the beginning of a new year. Many of us are examining our lives to see where we need improvement. I felt God calling me this year to find the old paths and draw up closer to Him. The next thing He said was, “Go back to the spiritual disciplines and see where you have fallen back.

Spiritual Disciplines, ick!

Years ago, I read on a book required in my college philosophy class, Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. In my shallow Christianity, I thought the guy was off of his rocker. I didn’t see the need for the things written in this book.

Today, looking back, I wish I had taken it more seriously. Maybe I would have put my feet on solid ground much earlier in my life. About ten years ago, I decided to present the disciplines to my women’s group at church. This time I used Barbara Hughes’ Disciplines of a Godly Woman because I had a true desire to be known as a godly woman. Whether or not the women grasped the importance of the disciplines, I’m not certain; but it was certainly a big growth year for myself.

Spiritual Disciplines, Yes!

Would you come along with me on this journey? I plan revisiting both of the books mentioned above and another devotional type book, Disciplines of the Inner Life by Bob Benson. I’ll write at the first of each month and have guest writers share their thoughts as well. Sign up for the newsletter to receive the monthly calendar with a verse for each day that I will share about on Instagram.

What are Spiritual Disciplines?

Richard Foster says, “The Spiritual Disciplines are God’s means of grace by which we are enabled to bring our little, individualized power pack we call a human body and place it before God as a “living sacrifice”, as the wise apostle Paul put it. (Romans 12:1)

Celebration of Discipline, special anniversary Edition

It’s about a relationship with God. Because He loves us, we desire to draw close to Him and live according to His plan. The disciplines are the tools we use to draw near to Him. The lack of spiritual disciplines leaves us weak and with very little growth to our souls. As parents, wouldn’t we be sad if our child never learned to walk or speak in complete sentences? Yes, we would. And God wants us to have spiritual growth just the same.

We cannot be truly transformed into His image without the spiritual disciplines. Timothy 4:7-8 tells us to “train ourselves to be godly”. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to run the race to win by removing the things that hinder us. These things take discipline.

We cannot be truly transformed into His image without the Spiritual Disciplines. #ancientpath #spiritualdisciplines Click To Tweet

Let’s start exercising those muscles!

I know I could use a little exercise in the disciplines. It’s always easier to do this with a friend. So join me as we look at the spiritual disciplines and find out where we need improvement.

Closing Prayer from John Wesley

O God, fill my soul with so entire a love of Thee that I may love nothing but for Thy sake and in subordination to Thy love. Give me grace to study Thy knowledge daily that the more I know Thee, the more I more love Thee. Create in me a zealous obedience to all Thy commands, a cheerful patience under all the chastisements, and a thankful resignation to all Thy disposals. Let it be the one business of my life to glorify Thee by every word of my tongue, by every work of my hand, by professing Thy truth, and by engaging all men, so far as in me lies, to glorify and love Thee.

John Wesley, Garden of Prayer

Mandy Farmer





old paths

Choose Old Paths at New Crossroads

Which Path Leads to Success in 2020?

This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16, NLT
Ask for the old, godly way and walk in it. #ancientpaths Click To Tweet

One Word or One Verse?

Old Paths New Crossroads
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For years now, I have followed the popular idea of choosing one word for the year. It has done me well, amazingly, for many years. But I have noticed a shift in my search for that one word. That is, to select a verse that will lead me through my year.

Last year, I chose to take small steps. I selected a verse from Zechariah 4:10 that reminded me that small steps are not to be despised. It made it easier for me to breathe in and out. I was able to slow down and remove the pressure of life.

At the Crossroads to a New Decade

So now we stand at the crossroads of a new year, a new decade. What does God have for us? I have a strong sense that this year could lead to something big. (that’s relative, of course, due to my health. But who knows?)

In all truthfulness, I have a great desire to draw closer to God; to refresh the commitments I have already made and strengthen them. I have decided to dig out my old studies on the spiritual disciplines and see where I might have veered away from the old paths.

He knows the path; Elisabeth Elliott
God sees the ONE needful thing and He alone knows the path that will take me there – Elisabeth Elliot #disciplines #ancientpaths Click To Tweet

Areas in which to Consider Old Paths

As I mentioned, I’ll be studying and writing on the spiritual disciplines this year but also want to carry this forward into other areas of my life. A few things, I have been considering to make as goals.

  • Bible Reading Plan – Chronological reading of the Old Testament Possibly returning to the New King James Version. (Aat times I miss this because I was raised on it and most of my memory work has been done in KJV.
  • Devotional Reading – Disciplines of The Inner Life by Bob Benson will take me all year. I acquired it years ago when it went out of print, but I noticed it’s back!
  • Reading – Read biographies, classic works, or books already on my shelves. Starting with Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline 30th Anniversary and Barbara Hughes Disciplines of a Godly Woman. What They Meant for Evil by Rebecca Deng is a biography I am reviewing that will become available later this year. I also just acquired the audiobook for The Pilgrim’s Progress. These will keep me busy for a while.
  • Movies – Watch some movies based on real-life that I haven’t seen
  • Travel – I plan to visit my parents in Texas this year which I haven’t been able to do for several years. We seldom leave our own town, but if and when we travel, maybe I can get my hubby to get off the beaten path and take some of the old roads. It would be a way to slow life down.

My Old Paths Make the Difference

These are the thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind. I pray that through these things I can become closer to the God I Love. I truly desire to, as Robert Frost said, take the road less traveled.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost #ancientpaths #oneword365 Click To Tweet

You will find be writing several places this year beyond this blog. Maybe you will search me out.

  1. My Own Instagram [@Mandy_holds_u_up]. I’ll be providing Scriptures of the day each month for all subscribers. In January the theme is #ancientpaths How about joining me and writing a mini gram of your own? Subscribe below for your January Calendar.
  2. Gracefully Truthful is a place to connect, it’s a place to be real, it’s a place to share fearsask questions, and unashamedly seek out the Father who crafted our hearts to love boldly and bravely as we discover together what it means to truly walk in the fullness of grace and truth. My first submission will appear this month in the Theme Treasure. Come study along with us.
  3. Nazarene Connections [Women’s Ministries] I have written here before but they have recently released this new app for your phone. I’ve written a 7-devo series called God’s Preposterous Promise – God With Us. I’m not certain when these will release, but I will certainly let you know.
Mandy Farmer

Keeping the Old Paths

Oh, yes, by the way, you will still get some Spice of Life and recipes from Michele. And, of course, we will both add other Bits of Fun along the way as well.

We have enjoyed reading your additions to our new Legacy Link-ups. This will continue to open ever 2nd & 4th Tuesday featuring guest writers. If you want to be featured this year, click here.

Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter on the blue stripe at the bottom of your screen to receive your free scripture of the day calendar.

Elisabeth Elliot

Self-Discipline: A Matter of Grit and Grace

Welcome to the first of four LEgacy Link-ups for the summer of 2019! We are so excited! With Mother’s Day coming up, We would like this link-up to be All About Women who have or are Leaving a Legacy for us to follow. I started us out writing about Susie Spurgeon and Susanna Wesley. Now read what guest writer, Michele Morin from Living Our Days wants to share with us. Then write and share your own legacy story at the bottom.

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Self-Discipline: A Matter of Grit and Grace

With an empty house, a clean kitchen, laundry on the line (and even a sleeping dog!), it was a perfect afternoon to study or write. Deadlines were looming; however . . . the sun was shining, bath towels flapped and danced on the clothesline outside, and suddenly, while there was plenty that needed doing, the will to do it was lacking.

“Maybe I’ll call a friend,” I mused. “Or this would be a great day to wash windows!”

An Example to Live by

When I’m pondering the possibility of veering off course in some small way, I remember the faithful example of Elisabeth Elliot, who readily admitted that she was also subject to all the usual distractions and reluctance when it was time to sit down and write. She spoke of “taking herself by the scruff of the neck” and sitting herself down before the task at hand.

SHaping of a Christian Family
TSOACH, Updated in 2005

Raised by attentive parents who set high standards for her behavior, Elisabeth inherited a “habit of order” (TSOACH, 73) and a love for uncluttered efficiency that I have had to live my way into as an adult. Then, in the Ecuadorian jungles, Elisabeth witnessed the patient diligence of tribal people whose very lives depended upon their hard work through mud, thorns, snakes, steep climbing, and deep forests. Measuring her own small inconveniences against the lot of women who regularly carried hundred-pound packs on their backs, she was startled into an awareness of her tendency to complain about small inconveniences.

A Cracked Pot

Elisabeth had no illusions about her own status as a sinner, “a cracked pot” whose supreme privilege it was to reveal in her own life “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) By grace, however, she was able to speak truth with grit, even on topics that are usually off limits. For example, with wry humor, she noted that no one is actually qualified to address self-discipline around eating habits because if you don’t struggle with your weight, you don’t know how hard it is, and if you do struggle, you’ve got no room to talk!

"..if you don’t struggle with your weight, you don’t know how hard it is, and if you do struggle, you’ve got no room to talk!" #Elisabeth Elliot #LegacyLinkUp Click To Tweet

Naturally slender, Elisabeth found to her surprise that as she aged, she could pick up a few extra pounds when she traveled. To avoid gaining weight unawares, she weighed herself daily, reasoning that (1) it’s better to keep weight off than to shed pounds once they have been gained; (2) it’s easier to lose five pounds immediately than fifteen pounds later.

Who Left a Legacy for Elisabeth?

A Lamp For My Feet

Mentored by the writing of Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth endeavored to apply the counsel that shaped Amy’s perspective in doing things that were not to her liking:  “See in it a chance to die.” (ALFMF, 30) The small offerings, tiny deaths to self that we make every day are a way of cooperating with God, and this is a theme that ran through Elisabeth’s writing and speaking ministries—because it also runs through Scripture. She described it as the “interworking of the will of God and the will of man.” (ALFMF, 21) Responding in self-discipline is an opportunity to participate in God’s work here on earth as surely as those who filled the water pots in Cana or distributed the loaves and fish on a grassy Galilean hillside.

So, I’ll do the next thing today, trusting God to put words on the page and grateful for the example of a mentor from afar. Elisabeth Elliot blended grit and grace so consistently that it is impossible to tell—and pointless to wonder—where one ends and the other begins.

-Michele Morin

Works Cited

{affiliate links}

A Lamp for My Feet, 1985 (ALFMF)

The Shaping of a Christian Home, 1992 (TSOACH)
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summer of legacy

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