Growing more and more in Christlikeness, this is Spiritual Formation. And Spiritual Formation requires a plan. A plan developed from vision, intention, and method.
Vision is our mental image of a transformed life. Intention is our purpose-filled decision to live this transformed life. Method is the effort we put forth in our pursuit of the transformed life we envision.
Our method is the Spiritual Disciplines!
Although no comprehensive list of these disciplines is available, we do know what they look like. And they look like spending time with God – engaging with Scripture, prayer, soul searching, fasting, solitude, and more.
Each discipline is extremely important in the ongoing work of spiritual formation and well worth the time and effort required to engage in them. To get the most out of our time spent in the Spiritual Disciplines, allow me to share my Top 12 Tools.
My Top 12 Tools for Engaging in the Spiritual Disciplines
1. Journaling Bible
This is a Bible with plenty of space for writing. Some have wide margins. Others are filled with blank pages. I love using journaling Bibles to engage with Scripture. Sometimes I illustrate my interactions in the margin (with stickers, stamps, and lettering). Other times, I simply write – lists, questions, connections, reflections. Journaling Bibles are a powerful way to spend time with God and His Word.
2. Verse Mapping
Dig deeper into Scripture by mapping verses. (This technique reminds me quite a bit of diagramming sentences in Language Arts class. However, Verse Mapping is NOT rules-bound and is much less stressful!) To map a verse, simply write it out being sure to leave plenty of white space around it. Then go to work – define words, locate synonyms, make connections, ask questions, etc.
3. The Book of Psalms
Praying Scripture not only makes it easy to begin in prayer, it makes it easy to continue in prayer. The process is practical because it expands or contracts to accommodate the amount of time you have available. It also keeps you from praying empty, repetitive phrases. And praying Scripture means your prayers include inspired words (John 6:63). While the entirety of Scripture can be prayed, I love praying the Psalms. The songbook of Israel, the Psalms were inspired by God for the purpose of being sung back to Him. In other words, God gave us the Psalms so that we would give the Psalms back to Him!
4. Praying in Color
According to Sybil MacBeth in her book, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God, “Praying in Color is an active, meditative, playful prayer practice. It is both process and product. The process involves a re-entry into the childlike world of coloring and improvising. The product is a colorful design or drawing that is a visual reminder of the time spent in prayer.” If you’ve never heard of Praying in Color, check out Sybil’s website or read a brief step-by-step here. I particularly like to use this tool when praying the names of God, praises, and thanksgiving.
5. Squish-it Journal
Another favorite tool for engaging in the Spiritual Disciplines is Squish-it Journals. To create one, find beautiful, meaningful things that help turn your attention toward God and “squish” them into a journal. Then find a quiet place, open your journal, and spend time with Him. Learn more in this blog post.
6. 31 Questions for the New Year by Donald S. Whitney
A wonderful list of thought-provoking questions for searching your soul, any time of the year! (Click HERE to access a copy of the questions.)
7. A “Thanks” Journal
No matter how one sees it – having “an attitude of gratitude,” harnessing the power of “eucharisteo,” or seeking to focus on “gifts from God,” – there is nothing like recording or counting gifts. There are times when I simply list the things that I am thankful for. Occasionally, I photograph my gifts, and they become the subject of a photo collection. And from time to time, I record them on an app on my phone. Consciously counting God’s gifts leads to a more grateful countenance and draws us to Him.
8. Spiritual Markers
Exercising Spiritual memory is a must. Gathering your Spiritual Markers is a wonderful way to exercise that memory and fuel spiritual formation.
9. A Blank Journal
Journals are essential tools for engaging in the Spiritual Disciplines. They can be used to record your interactions with the Bible text, your prayers, and your thanks. A journal is an invaluable tool for self-reflection, fasting, and times of solitude. Whether you write paragraphs of well organized thoughts; create lists, charts, or diagrams; or fill your journal with sketches and drawings, I highly recommend a journal.
10. Soul Friends
We are prone to thinking that spiritual formation is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. And it is. However, we must remember that our transformation does not entirely come by the Holy Spirit. It also happens in our lives through other means including those around us. Therefore, we need to be in community. We especially need relationships with those who will pray for us, encourage us, and hold us accountable on our journey to Christlikeness.
11. Online Bible Study Tools
Music ministers to my soul. It leads me to worship. Create playlists that stir a sense of awe and wonder of God in you. Choose songs that help you respond to Him with your entire being. Be thoughtful as you make your lists. Choose soft instrumentals for times of journaling. Select upbeat tunes for exercising or cleaning. And consider a few topic-focused playlists such as The Cross, Grace, or The Character of God.
There you have it. My Top 12 Tools for Engaging in the Spiritual Disciplines. Do you have a treasured tool that isn’t on this list? Please share it with us, as we gather our tools and prepare our journey.