Every craft, activity, and hobby has essential tools that go along with it. The better and more helpful the tools, more often than not the better the experience in that activity. When it comes to spiritual formation - becoming like Christ - there are three tools that are critical for me. I hope that in presenting these tools it will spur you to think about what your essential tools for growth are and what those tools say about you and your life in Christ.
The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible - I received this Bible as a Christmas gift and have loved it as a resource for daily reading and reflection. Instead of in-depth background notes, this Bible links themes and truths with spiritual practices in an index called the "With-God Life." It is in the NRSV translation, which is a different translation than I usually read but that introduces a freshness to some well-worn texts that I love.
The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle - This wonderful work (done by the lady with the fantastic name) is a newer approach to the ancient tradition of prayer books. Constructed of Psalms, Gospel readings, and traditional prayers this book is great if you are working on creating a rhythm of prayer at different points during your day. They include readings for morning, afternoon and evening and I love to use this book when I am pressed for time and want to spend time engaging shorter chunks of Scripture. It is also great for finding and memorizing verses from the Psalms. The hours are also available in a variety of electronic formats as well as the 3 volume or 1 volume print version.
A journal - There is nothing holy about a journal. Jesus will love you whether you journal or not (I think...) so I'm not listing this as essential for everyone. However, in my role at Parkview I'm involved in the creation of content - class curriculum, messages, small group studies - so a journal helps me to clear out my brain of any emotional or spiritual clutter that might be hanging around before I get to working on content. I like journals like Moleskine that have lines, because my handwriting is excessively poor. I hang on to each journal after it is full, and occasionally go back and read over entries to see what God has done in my life. For me, the upside of the journal is the ability to remember - events, feelings, God-actions, and prayers answered - and live in the future with the knowledge that comes from the past.
For me to engage with God and prepare for the day to come, I need to access these resources at the beginning of the day and allow them to bring me into a place where God and I can reflect on the reality of what's coming. Engaging these resources, I feel I'm prepared for whatever comes that day.
What about you? What are your "tools of the trade" for formation?