Spiritual Formation with D.Willard – #1

I became a certified spiritual director back in 2009 at the University of San Diego.  Prior to the course, I was reading some of Dallas Willard’s work and was getting exposed more to the world of spiritual formation.  The course opened up a new world for me that included how I viewed God, myself, and transformation.

In Willard’s book (co-written with Don Simpson), “Revolution of Character”, the authors aim to give a brief overview of how spiritual change happens.  In some ways, the book is more of a devotional that one can read, pray, write, and meditate with.  It’s mostly based on Willard’s, “Renovation of the Heart”.

I personally need change and transformation in my life.  I’ve constantly been on the hunt, trying to find ways that I can be loving, gentle, patient, wise, others-focused, humble, peaceful, courageous.  I’m grateful for Dallas Willard’s works and the gift that spiritual formation has been in my life.

I’ll be offering some few thoughts on my readings and hope they inspire you to purchase the books and read for yourself so you can engage a “Revolution of Character”


Ch. 1 – A Revolution Has Begun

“Those who drink the water I give them will never again be thirsty.  The water I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Jesus of Nazareth, John 4:14

*We can drink this water and it will gush out of us.  Immediately the order is set:  drink first (personal experience) and then the outflow.  I forget this a lot. I want to care for others, be about my busy work, parent well, be a good husband, do do do!, and I neglect drinking water (both figuratively and spiritually).  I want to drink this water.   I need new life in me and gushing out of me.

*The fibers of our being are divine!  We are made good/good (see the story of Genesis).  What a juxtaposition to what many of us experience in life:  brokenness, befuddled, and bored.  Yet we are made for good.

*We experience this new life water in Jesus.  Other drinks leave us unsatisfied and wanting.

*This water flows out of our sense of being, not straining or demanding, or even sheer will.  There is flow with this type of new life water.  It comes from the center of who we are.

*This water is marked by love, joy, and hope.  As we lean into this way of being, the lesser parts of us “peace out”.  In a sense, it’s not about becoming less selfish, angry, or irritated.  It’s about becoming love, joy, hope.

*We learn these new habits and rhythms through prayer and other spiritual disciplines that draw us closer to Jesus.

*The reality is that this type of life sounds great, but seems out of reach, even for those who go to church or pray every day.  Why:  “…we don’t approach and receive the life Jesus offers us in the right way…we…need an understanding of the depth of our problem and how Christ works to redeem each element of our nature.” p. 11  

*In many ways, this type of transformation reminds of the 12-Step tradition.  It begins with us admitting that we were powerless and that our lives had become unmanageable. The next step is that we needed a Higher Power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity.  In many ways, this is such a relief.  I don’t have the power to overcome the deficit in my life.  So I need a life of surrender.

*Inner transformation happens slowly and intentionally as we cultivate the ways of Jesus in our life.  This is good news!  We can work on a “soul competency” that enables us to live in wholeness, power, and goodness.  We don’t have to be ruled or mastered by our broken habits, anger, or boredom.  We don’t have live defeated lives!

*The way we live and respond in this world is a result of who we have become in our center (the heart).  We are all shaped and formed.  No one escapes it.

*The heart can be influenced and transformed.  There is a method to the madness.  Change is possible!  It can be shaped to reflect the life of Jesus to be a loving presence, aware of God’s presence in our lives.

*This new heart will have the ability to impact and influence those in our spheres:  family, business, communities.  “The work of Christ always begins in our heart and moves outwards into our everyday experiences.” p.12

*”To get to that place of increased self-knowledge, honesty, humility before God, and a consistently Christlike attitude, we must step away in moments of reflection or even times of personal retreat to examine the inner workings of our human nature” p.13

*Jesus is the one true spiritual master that can guide our hearts and the movements of inner transformation in our lives.  He knows what needs to be changed and how to go about it.

*The revolution of character starts within as we partner with Jesus and His way of being in this world.

*To flourish in this life, we need to experience a heart transformation.  Much of it begins with a vision of who we long to be, a recognition that we are not that person, and that we need a higher Power (Jesus) to help us in this new way of living.

*Christian spiritual formation is about us becoming like Christ himself.  It’s driven by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  This is not a passive process, but it is a gift of grace that we receive.


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