unbelievable victory, transformation, transform and renew your mind, think on these things, whatever is pure, whatever is right, just, honourable, honorable, commendable, perfect peace, good, acceptable, perfect, anything worthy of praise, trust, trustworthy, be anxious for nothing, giving thanks, prayer and supplication, the meditations of my heart, power, love, compassion, self-control

Unbelievable victory comes when you transform and renew your mind

I’m just finishing reading, with my book club, Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. It challenged me to renew my mind and transform my way of being!

Dr. Joe’s book is a deep dive into neuroscience, quantum relationships, the Divine, and how to truly draw change to yourself by becoming aligned with what you are asking for.

We are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds – and this is exactly the exercises that Dr. Joe takes you through!

Break the habits of your usual way of feeling, of thinking and of acting in the world, in order to experience a new way of showing up – be transformed by the renewing of your midn!

I believe miracles change and transform us. But so many times I fall into the trap of waiting for a miracle to happen for me, without doing my part! The hard school of knocks teaches that blessings flow more freely to me when I focus my energy, attention and effort on the outcome.

If you want to walk on water – you will have to get out of the boat!

Sometimes, the effort required is spiritual focus, but most times there is a physical or material aspect of expressing our faith as more than just prayer.

Because I believe, all things are possible for me.
Because I believe, all things are possible for me.

This applies to our transformation journey and the renewing of our minds as it does to other miracles we await!

Awareness: the first step of transformation & renewal

The first step in renewing your mind is awareness: what needs to change?

Dr. Joe offers some very practical examples of where to start. Start with the emotions that keep you stuck and on repeat. Particularly those feelings you cannot control. These are feelings triggered by situations and circumstances, perhaps by relationships and interactions.

Focus on the feelings that remind you how human you are and how much you still need to transform.

Personally, I don’t believe any emotions are “bad” or should even be labelled as “negative”. Nonetheless, some feelings are not helpful helpful when they control us and take over our reactions. These feelings can run amok and ruin the show.

When this is the case, we need to break the habits and be transformed and renew our minds!

Why do we need awareness?

Let me give you a quick example:

Sit down and take a few deep breaths. Remember a moment that you were truly happy and joyful. In your mind, rebuild the memory with as many details as you can.

Notice how you begin to feel in your body and emotionally as you focus your thoughts and mind on this memory.

Now, remember something that made you mad or sad or upset you. Build with as many details as you can remember the entire scene – who was there, where and when was it, and what happened as it unfolded. Notice how you now feel in your body.

Notice how your emotions have changed, as you’ve changed the focus of your thoughts.

Our thoughts influence our emotions and our emotions influence our thoughts!

Becoming aware of feelings & emotions

I vigilantly nurture my heart because I know that from it flows the spring of life.
I vigilantly nurture my heart, because I know that from it flows the spring of life.

The emotions that typically control our habitual responses are:

  • anger
  • fear
  • anxiety
  • bitterness or resentment
  • shame
  • guilt
  • unworthiness
  • judgment

I don’t know about you, but for most of these I was taught I “shouldn’t” feel this way. To a large extent, then, I would ignore and push down these feelings, rather than acknowledging them.

I would say a prayer, and ask God to take the feeling away… as if I were powerless. God needed to take it away – that’s what salvation was, right? There was nothing I could do about it!

As I’ve matured and grown, I’ve realised that this was very irresponsible of me.

While there is a surrendering and handing over to the Divine: there is also an essential part of ownership and responsibility. We play an important role in the transformation & renewing of our mind.

Awareness is accepting that we are feeling this emotion and that it is interfering with in our spiritual transformation. It separates us from ourselves, from others and from God.

Name it:

I feel… and when I feel this way I start thinking about…

Awareness of my patterns of thought

The second step of breaking the habits and pattern is to notice how our feelings drive our thoughts (and also noticing how our thoughts drive our feelings).

Consider what pattern or loop of emotion/thought you regularly get stuck in. Notice how the emotion feels in your body as well as the typical thoughts that go along with it.

Perhaps you are feeling victimised and that you don’t have control. Your thoughts might be

  • Why do things like this always happen to me?
  • What did I do to deserve being treated this way?
  • How come I always get the short end of the stick?
  • When am I going to catch a break?

Or perhaps you feel fearful and anxious. Your thoughts might be catastrophizing and awfulizing, making up the stories of everything in the future that could go wrong.

You might feel guilt or shame, in which case you keep replaying a loop in your mind of what you did wrong in the past.

I calm and quieten my soul.
I calm and quieten my soul.

Take a little time to sit in silence and ask Spirit to speak to you about what is the emotion and thought pattern that you need to break.

Awareness: the feelings-thoughts-feelings loop

There is a reason that we stay stuck in this loop of thoughts and emotions – it’s what we are used to. What we know. And no matter how “bad” it is for us, we may be afraid of what is on the other side of change!

This is a comfortable and safe place – no matter how uncomfortable it is or how much we want to transform!

Ego keeps us in the same loops. Spirit moves us in a spiral of growth – small steps forward in growth and change.

We are each called to be more – to be transformed and renewed.

Desiring change and transformation

We cannot change the past and we have no control over the future. The only moment in which you can transform and renew your mind is this moment.

Now.

The present.

I am ever mindful of the present moment. This is the moment of my power and is the only moment in which my heart may find wisdom.
I am every mindful of the present moment. This is the moment of my power and is the ony moment in which my heart may find wisdom.

You can make a daily habit of transformation and renewal, but there will be a practice and discipline required of you.

Being in this moment.

Each and every day.

Wanting to change isn’t enough

Desiring change is not enough. Praying and asking God to change you is not enough – unless you are willing to let go of the way you were.

There’s a reason that after each healing Jesus would say “Go, and sin no more“.

Break the habit of who you used to be and start to live from this new place of having been transformed by the renewing of your mind, feeling a new way, and doing things differently. It’s not just the external – the actions. It’s the inner work: feelings and thoughts.

Willingness to change: surrender to the Divine

Part of the willingness to change is surrender. There is a part that you do… and there is a part where you have to simply have faith that the transformation is happening no matter that you cannot see it.

I surrender to the Divine.
I surrender ot the Divine.

In 2018 I started a practice of silence. Of just sitting and focusing on my breath – being present – for 20-30 minutes each day.

In 2020, in the midst of the chaos, a friend pointed out to me that I was unflappable… and I realised that I had a peace that I could not explain or understand!

I was content to trust and surrender what was out of my control to the Divine.

I couldn’t tell you WHEN that happened. I simply adopted the daily practice and trusted the process. The peace in my heart appeared when I needed it the most.

Transforming the Heart

Once you have become aware of what you are leaving behind, allow your heart to sit with what you want and desire to feel.

  • Perhaps you want the peace that passeth all understanding.
  • Maybe you desire to be filled with Divine Love.
  • Or you might just want to trust and surrender.

When you get your new heart and are driven by a new emotion – what would you like that to be?

For example, one of the emotions that I was working on was fear. And I wanted to transform that into trust and courage. Another emotion that I have worked on is shame, and I wanted to transform that into love and acceptance.

What do I desire?

Allow yourself to sit in the silence and listen to your heart.

Renew a right spirit within me.
Renew a right spirit within me.

When you are connected to Source in the silence, what does the Creator want for you?

Discovering my Divine Purpose

An even bigger question that you might be willing to sit with is “What is my Divine Purpose?”. Where does your heart feel lead when it is completely connected with Spirit?

The Divine works in me. Divine Will leads me. I work for Divine pleasure.
The Divine works in me. Divine Will leads me. I work for Divine pleasure.

The answer might take some time (days, weeks or even months) to clarify.

Choosing peace & joy:

No matter what you decide, ultimately, you want to quieten your emotions and the ego mind, so that you can sit in silence with Spirit.

It is here that you will be open to receiving what the Creator has for you. The final outcome of whatever transformation and renewing of your mind will be a deep inner peace and a contentment that supersedes any situation of what is happening to you.

Transforming my mind:

Once you have decided on the new emotion you want to feel, notice what kind of thoughts you have when you feel this way. Imagine, for example, that you were feeling fear and you choose that now you want to feel courage.

Consider the last time you felt courageous, and notice what you were thinking about. Where did your thoughts center when you felt courageous?

What do I choose to focus on?

Divine peace is with me. I practice focusing on what is true, just, honourable, & lovely.
Divine peace is with me. I practice focusing on what is true, just, honourable and lovely.

We are reminded time and time again in the Bible “think on these things”. As you will have noticed, there’s a reason why we focus our thoughts on these things: by focusing our thoughts, we can focus our emotions.

But, it’s not an ostensible thinking on these things – from a place of self-righteousness or judgement.

The ony person who you are transforming by the renewing of your mind is yourself!

So, keep the thoughts and focus real!

When you think on “what is true” – consider the reality of what you are facing and notice your perspective and the stories you have told yourself in the past about the situation. Ask yourself “is this true?” and if it is not, then consider other perspectives of what might be true.

For example, perhaps someone looks at you funny. Your first thought might be: “they don’t like me”. Is this true? Perhaps they were looking away from something else and merely happened to glance in your direction and didn’t actually even see you (like when someone is looking off into the distance).

Keep it real.

Affirmations of faith:

I love using affirmations, spoken out loud. But they need to resonate with me on a deep level. When I say them, I notice how I respond to them: am I doubting them? How could I reword them in a such a way that they are true for me at this time?

Renew the spirit of your mind. Put on the new self! Speak the truth!
Renew the spirit of your mind. Put on the new self! Speak the truth!

So, many times, instead of saying “I am ….” I will say “I am learning to be …”. This is true and I can affirm it without question! Eventually, I will reach a point where I an truthfully say “I am…” and it will no longer raise within me resistance.

I am also much more carefully now what I choose to read and where I choose to invest my time. GIGO = garbage in, garbage out.

I choose - each day - what I consume and digest; what I allow in. I then choose how I express myself in this world.
I choose – each day – what I consume and digest; what I allow in. I then choose how I express myself in this world.

Finally, I look closely at my gifts and strengths – these were given to me with purpose! I affirm these gifts and strengths, and focus on using them and allowing them to help me on my way. It’s not that I ignore my weaknesses – but each of us has been given gifts to help us on this journey.

I fan the flames of Divine gifts. My spirit is not one of fear, but of power and love and sound mind.
I fan the flames of Divine gifts. My spirit is not one of fear, but of power and love and sound mind.

Imagining and envisioning a new way:

Finally, I invite you to begin to envision and imagine yourself reacting to situations in a new way. We are creatures of habit.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

Each day, take a moment to envision and see yourself walking in faith and responding from a place of a transformed and renewed mind. Believe that as you practice this, practicing responding in new ways each day, that you will be transformed and renewed.

My faith makes me well.
My faith makes me well.

It is an act of faith to work on this transformation each and every day without seeing the end result immediately.

Renewing my mind:

As you learn to refocus your mind, your emotions will also change to match these thoughts.

I set my mind on Spirit, where there is life and peace.
I set my mind on Spirit, where there is life and peace.

Rewriting neural pathways

Neuroscience teaches us that we can teach an old dog new tricks – our brains are constantly learning new pathways. They become shortcuts (the path of least resistance) when we use them repeatedly.

The more often you choose to go down a particular thought path, the easier it becomes to repeat this, especially in situations of stress or when you “aren’t thinking”.

The time for learning a new habit – rewriting your thoughts – is daily. When you are in the midst of chaos and a situation that would normally set you off, you will have a brief moment in which you become aware that you have a choice: and the choice that you make at that moment will also have a huge impact on how your brains and your emotions learn!

Will you choose to do things as you have always done them?

Or will you choose the new path – the transformation because you have renewed your mind?

Conclusions:

We are promised that we will be given new hearts and that Divine law will be written in our minds.

I hold this to be true.

Divine Law is gently and compassionately placed in my heart. It is written in my mind.
Divine Law is gently and compassionately place in my heart. It is written in my mind.

But I am also aware that I have to be open to the transformation happening – I have a role to play in ensuring that I don’t fall back into my old habitual ways of thinking and feeling.

My heart will remain soft, vulnerable and tender inasmuch as I am willing to keep it vulnerable and tender. How will I choose to respond when life throws me a curveball?

Will I remain open and teachable?

I have received a new heart. My heart of stone was removed, and I welcomed a heart of flesh - soft, vulnerable, and tender.
I have received a new heart. My heart of stone was removed, and I welcomed a heart of flesh – soft, vulnerabe and tender.

How will I know that I have truly been transformed by the renewing of my mind?

Am I choosing each day to focus on being open to the Divine – in remaining in awe and wonder of Creation?

Do I choose silence each day or do I keep myself so busy that I don’t listen and see? God is never going to talk to me about transforming and renewing someone else’s mind or changing their behaviour: the small, still voice will always be gently chastening me about what needs to change and align in my life!

Is my delight in this relationship with Spirit?

My delight is in the reverence of the Divine.
My delight is in the reverence of the Divine.

I will love God with all my heart, mind and soul

Can I say that I am filled with Divine Love?

This is the ultimate test… the holy grail of where I aspire to be and grow into.

Are my thoughts and emotions completely aligned with this love?

I am Divine Love. It is through love that I know the Divine. I choose to love others.
I am Divine Love. It is through love that I know the Divine. I choose to love others.

And I will love my neighbour as myself:

Love one another.
Love one another.
compassion, love, mercy, kindness, empathy, understanding , sensitive, charity, heart, generous, balanced, emotions, alignment, aligned, coherence, coherent, gratitude, coach, life coach, transformation, change, heart-centered

Compassion: loved by the Divine

I’ve spent a lot of time, these last three weeks, in silence – being still with my thoughts. I also spent a lot of time binging on Netflix in between. I was trying to work through a particular pattern in my life that I was sick of repeating!

But, I also had to recognise that I couldn’t spend 8 hours a day just in inner work. I would reach a point where I was tired of thinking and contemplating, and wanted to be mindless and entertained. It felt like too much to try to work it all out.

Read More »
field of mustard, mustard seed, humble, humility, noble cedar, cedar trees, evergreen, faith, growth, branch, uprooted, chopped down, defeated

“A noble cedar or a humble mustard seed?”

A few months ago I threw some avocado seeds into my compost bin, and now I’ve discovered I have a beautiful avocado seedling growing in my compost.  I’ve very happy about that – but all I did was throw it away! I was expecting to make compost, but now I am very pleased that I need to ask Alexis to locate a great place to plant an avocado tree.  And we all know how big an avocado tree can get.  So, I’m not sure where that avocado tree will get planted, but I am pretty sure that it will produce some great avocados!Read More »

Sermon: Palm Sunday

How many times, on a Palm Sunday, have you sat in a Church pew and listened to the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the donkey’s colt or on the donkey or on the donkey with the colt walking next to her – to not say straddling the 2 donkeys?

Every year, since I started attending Balboa Union Church, we have started the Palm Sunday service singing “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” as the children of our church proudly, and chaotically, walk down the aisle waving palm branches.  Every Palm Sunday, our Call to Worship and responses and prayers have been based on Psalm 118, and, more often than not, we have sung “This is the Day”!

Every year, we torture you with the task of trying to bend a palm frond like origami to create the perfect cross that you could actually hang up in your home until Easter, instead of throwing it in the back seat and then trash when you clean out your car next week.  And you’re possibly secretly relieved, that at least in this church we fold the palm frond into a cross, which you can stick in your purse or your Bible, rather than leaving you uncomfortably holding a palm frond, or worse yet the palm branch, in your hand for the entire service, unsure what you are supposed to do with it and yet reluctant to put it down.

And when we got to the gospel reading this morning, we read, once again, the description, this year by the disciple Matthew, of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, knowing full well that next week’s reading will be his death and resurrection…  But, every Palm Sunday, we read the same story, some years from Luke, others from Mark or John, and then every third year, like this year, from Matthew.  Because, as you may have noticed, every gospel contains the story of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem…

WHY SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON THE TRADITION OF A PALM SUNDAY?

Tradition. Is it an essential part of the Christian faith? Why do we attend a church based on Christian traditions such as Liturgy, The Church Calendar, Corporate Written Prayers, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday followed by a potluck and the Easter Egg Hunt for the kids, Christmas Eve service and the plethora of other traditions that have become an essential part of the Christian faith?  The traditions of our faith, such as the church calendar and the revised common lectionary which we share, should cause us to contemplate, reflect, and journey deeper into our faith day by day and year by year.

Now, some might object that “tradition” is merely dead orthodoxy: a Spirit-quenching fire extinguisher.  Some go as far as to say that tradition is simply shorthand for “having the form of religion but denying the power thereof.” Historian Jaroslav Pelikan quipped that “tradition is the living faith of the dead while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” This evangelical suspicion of tradition and a yearning to live “simply by the Bible” go back as far as the Reformation.

When scriptural passages become overly familiar, matters of rote, memorised prayers instead of living words, religion is paralysed and loses it capacity for transformation.”  [Matthew Fox, Foreword, Prayers of the Cosmos, HarperCollins 1990].

Yet, on the other hand, there is a mystic wonder of being connected and unified with millions of Christians around the world who are celebrating the same feast as us at the same time, praying the same or very similar prayers, reading the same Bible readings, and practicing the same practices. Tradition is a way to unite people to the past and future.  It not only enriches our corporate worship experience, but also deeply enhances our spiritual life and connectedness, if we let it.

The same way our daily habits do in our personal life: The good ones that build you up.  And the not so good habits, that tear you down.

Like tradition, the term “habit” refers to a settled or regular tendency or practice. A habit is something you do daily without thinking much about it.

More than 40 percent of the actions you perform each day aren’t actual decisions, but habits.  When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making.

It can be used in a negative way in reference to bad habits, such as “he has the bad habit of never following through”; in more Biblical terms, the habit of being “unfaithful.” But the term “habit” can also be used in a positive way, in reference to good exercise habits or good eating habits. Habits can be extremely useful and it would be impossible to run our lives without them. They automate many of the routine activities in our lives and free up our minds so that we are capable of concentrating on higher level activities.

The automatization of your actions free up energy that can be used focus to other tasks. If we had to consciously think about basic functions like walking or chewing our food or talking, we would have no mental ability available to perform other functions. “Walking by automatic processes allows us to be able to think about where we are going! This can work to your advantage!

You probably have a habit of waking at a certain time, brushing your teeth a certain way, and driving to work by the same route every day. Habits become such a part of your routine that they become who you are.

Do you want to be a different person? Just start a new habit!

For bad habits, you need to interrupt it and “install” a new one.  If you want to unlearn a bad habit, you need to make the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar, familiar.  You need to develop a new “normal”.  If you want to stop using processed sugar, you might decide to replace it with honey or stevia or an artificial sweetener.  Or you might simply choose no sugar or sweetener at all in your morning cup of coffee.  The first week, it tastes terrible: you may feel like gagging or spitting it out; the second week it becomes passable and within 3 months it becomes “normal”.  You’ve made the unfamiliar, familiar.

If you have a life goal, it isn’t the goal itself that will help you reach your dreams, it is the habits that you form and follow while you are trying to get there.  It’s the habits of how you manage your money that will lead you to financial freedom, not how much money you earn.  Obviously, the more money you earn, the more money you will have to save and invest.  But if your habits are simply to spend everything you earn, the more you earn, the more you will spend.  It’s not until you change your money management habits that you will start to see a change in your financial situation, even if you are still earning the same amount of money.

So, what are your habits with respect to God and practicing God’s presence in your life? What are your habits for contemplating, reflecting and journeying deeper into your faith day by day and year by year?

Matthew 1:23 tells us:

“…and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

God has promised you His constant presence (Hebrews 13:5), but are you conscious of His presence every day? Do you practice his presence regularly?  A friend of mine suggested to me years ago that every morning when I arrived at the office, I should pause, and allow God to walk before me!  It was a game changer for me!

Psalm 118, which we read earlier in the service reminds us:

118 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
29 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

How many times have you read or heard those words of Psalm 118, and let them fall on deaf ears? How many times have you sung “This is the Day” without letting the words reach your heart? How many times have they just been part of the tradition of Palm Sunday, rather than living words that draw you in to contemplate and reflect?  When have you allowed those words to take you into the presence of God, journeying deeper into your faith?

I want to invite you to make, actively go out and make this week different! They say the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.  So today, I’m asking you to leave this service and respond differently.  I want you to choose to practice God’s presence, at least 5 times a day (yes, like the Muslims do – 5 times a day!):  when you wake up, at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner and just before you go to bed.  There are some of you who might say, well, I don’t know how to practice God’s presence or I don’t know how to meditate.

Let me ask you this:

  • Do you know how to worry?

“When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that’s called worrying – or maybe you could call it meditating on the wrong thing! When you think about a word (like love or peace) or a phrase (like “I am loved”) or a verse, over and over in your mind, that’s called meditation. So, if you know how to worry, you know how to meditate! (Taken from a quote by Rick Warren)

All I’m asking you to do is switch your attention from mulling over a particular problem that you have, and instead focus on this one little line from Psalm 118:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

You could choose any verse, but I want you to choose this one:  It’s easy, I’m sure you know it, and it reminds you to be thankful and joyful.  And until Easter Sunday, I want you to practice the new habit of the presence of God in your life:  5 times a day, with this short line from a special traditional reading on Palm Sunday:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

And repeat this short verse 3 times, 5 times a day.  That’s 15 times a day total.  Let’s practice saying this 3 times, so you can see exactly how many seconds this is going to take.

This is the day which the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day which the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day which the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

And maybe this will be the year, that the traditional readings lead you to contemplate, reflect, and journey deeper into your faith day by day.