January 2, 2017
For the past decade or more, each year, I have faithfully participated in two special services at my home church, Unity Church of the Hills in Austin. The first, a Burning Bowl ceremony, takes place on New Year’s Eve and the second, a White Stone service, takes place on the first Sunday of the new year. This year, both of those events happened within the same 24-hour period. Having both of these unique annual events fall within the same 24-hour period is not an every year occurrence. So, it was a special experience to celebrate them both on the same weekend.
Taken together, the two services represent both a sacred opportunity to release the past and to set a new intention for the future. The common purpose they both share is to establish the conditions of mind necessary to facilitate personal transformation. In Romans 12:2, Paul advises that we not be “conformed to this world,” but rather that we be “transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.” According to Paul, achieving this renewal of mind is essential for the clear discernment of God’s Divine Will in our lives, so that we may be transformed.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
A Year of Transformation
As a member of Unity Church of the Hills (UCOH) in Austin for the past 15 years, I have attended many Burning Bowl and White Stone services. I have saved my white stones from the services I have attended over time. Each year when I place the most recent white stone with the others, I review the one word intentions I have set for myself over time. Words like simplify, creativity and expansion, among others are written on the faces of past white stones. One of those stones is still blank, because in the meditation that year, I received no clear word to define my intention. I came to view that blank white tile as a symbol of renunciation, a sign that it was necessary for me to release everything to the point of emptiness, if necessary. I am still working on that one. Of course, in a certain sense I am still working on all of them.
In 2017, the UCOH community will experience a literal transformation with the pending retirement of our beloved Sr. Minister, Rev. Steve Bolen. The official search for the new minister has already commenced. Rev. Steve’s retirement will symbolically bring the second era in UCOH’s history to a close, while our new minister will embody the promise and potential of a brand new era of spiritual growth and transformation for the UCOH community. Simultaneous to the ministerial transformation that the UCOH community will collectively undergo this year, each member in our community will also be experiencing transformation on a personal level. A year from now, many things will look different in the vital life of our spiritual community, as well as the individual lives of those our ministry touches.
All Transformation Begins In The Mind
Many times, if not most, a desire to change something in our external experience motivates the desire for transformation in our lives. We may become dissatisfied with a job, relationship or living situation. Or, we might desire to manifest some new creative expression as a means of changing external conditions. However, as much as we may desire an external change in our world, we will never achieve it, unless we first have a transformative experience of mind. In other words, we will not have a new experience of the world, until we first change our mind about the world.
A Course In Miracles states that the only true miracle is a changed mind. Since miracles are naturally occurring, not seeing miracles is evidence of an error in perception, not the absence of miracles. The only way for us to see and experience miracles is to change our mind about the nature and principles of miracles. Quite simply, we release the blocks or limitations on our human perception and replace them with an expansive and transformative spiritual vision. This is a simultaneous renunciation of everything that impedes our transformation and an affirmative declaration of intent for that which we desire to create or manifest in our lives. Effectively, we say no to that which no longer serves, so that we can say yes to the creation of what we most deeply desire.
How Much Transformation Do You Really Want?
At one time or another, we have likely all heard the spiritual adage that we cannot out give God. We live in a universe of infinitely creative abundance. Yet, many times we live like spiritual paupers, asking too little of life. We settle for scraps from the banquet table of divine blessings that God perpetually lays out before us. All that is good and acceptable and perfect according to God’s Will for our lives is eternally available. Our blessings increase beyond measure the more open we are to discerning God’s Will in and for our lives. We are the only limitation between the blessings that are available to us and those we actually receive.
It is the same with transformation. God’s Will for our lives is that we, each one of us, realize our fullest spiritual potential. So, from God’s point of view, there is always more transformation that can be achieved or experienced. However, both the accelerator and the brake on our personal transformation are, and always have been, under our own executive management. We express spiritual maturity when we assert our own personal will in the service of God’s Will. Why? Because God desires the fullest expression of our creative and spiritual potential, not for God, but rather for us. Since you can’t out give God, the only variable is how much transformation do you really want?
What’s On Your White Stone?
This year, my white stone has two words written on it: Spiritual Creativity. This reflects my desire to use my creative gifts this year in the service of spiritual transformation, for myself and for such others that my creative expression may reach. I have some clear goals in mind as to what that might look like in the coming year with my music, writing, speaking and teaching. Yet, I am also aware that my personal goals are likely much smaller than what God may have in mind.
So, I remain open to release whatever it takes as often as it takes in order to achieve the greatest possible transformation in my life in 2017. I am open to go beyond my comfort zone into new creative and spiritual territory, to further hone my creative gifts beyond perceived limitations and to allow for the expansion of my territory according to God’s Will, rather than my own. What’s on your white stone?