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Be Transformed

August 17, 2020

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12: 2

We all yearn to be transformed in some way or another.  Little girls sometimes dream of a Cinderella-like transformation into a princess wearing a beautiful ball gown and dancing with Prince Charming in an elegant ballroom.  Boys dream of becoming sports stars.  We hire people to transform our wardrobes, bodies, closets, garages, basements, cars, and various other aspects of our lives.  We are always seeking personal transformation.  We want to be better at golf, tennis, or whatever we do.  We want to be prettier.  Handsomer.  Smoother.  Stronger.  Thinner.  Blonder.  Smarter.  Happier.  Richer.  Funnier.  More popular.   More muscular.  More witty.  More charming.  More confident.  More powerful.

This week’s Scripture lessons[1] show us how to live transformed lives that bring us closer to God.

Be Transformed by the Beauty of God’s Word and His Creation

God’s Word contains beautiful poetry that sings to our weary souls.  Isaiah tells us to “Listen to me.” (Isaiah 51:1, 4).  Listen to his symmetrical doublets of beauty, strength, and comfort: rock/quarry; Abraham/Sarah; blessed/made many; comfort/compassion; Eden/garden; joy/gladness; thanksgiving/singing; listen/hear; people/nation; righteousness/salvation.  Be transformed by the beautiful symmetry of Isaiah’s poetry.

Isaiah beckons us to remember Abraham, the rock and father of our faith.  As we remember the faith of our fathers, we can look forward with confidence to the blessings to come: “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.  Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing” (Isaiah 51:3).

Look around you at the beauty in God’s creation.  Walk on the beach and feel the sand between your toes.  Walk beneath a forest canopy on soft pine needles, through a garden of trees and flowers, or in the quiet majesty of an early desert morning.  When we surround ourselves with beauty and take it in, it becomes a part of our souls.  Allow the beauty of God’s creation and the Scriptures to seep deep into your soul to transform you as you sense his presence.

Along with 17 other pilgrims, I just emerged from a “virtual retreat” via zoom with Fr. Luke from St. Andrews Abbey in Valyermo, California.  Fr. Luke has also been teaching seminarians at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California for many years. As we studied some of the ancient writings and images created by early Christians, Fr. Luke encouraged us to keep our own record of the images that help move us along on our spiritual journeys to God.  He suggested that we have the perfect vehicle for it: our phones that seem to be appended to our bodies.  I already journal about how I see God working in my everyday life, and I plan to start taking pictures of images that strike the “God” chord in me.  Keep a visual record of God in your life. Be transformed by the beauty, words, and images around you.

Be Transformed Through Gratitude and Prayer

David invites us to be transformed through an attitude of gratitude.  Be thankful for God’s “unfailing love and . . . faithfulness.”  (Psalm 138: 2).  Be thankful for answered prayer: “When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me” (v. 3).  Be grateful that as powerful as God is, “he looks kindly on the lowly” (v. 6).  Be thankful that he looks kindly on you and on me.  Be thankful that when you “walk in the midst of trouble,” he saves you (v. 7).  Be thankful that his love “endures forever” (v. 8).   Being grateful for what God has given you is transformative.  Willie Nelson recounts:   “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”  Be transformed by gratitude.  Be transformed by connecting with God through prayer.

Be Transformed by the Power and Strength of the Holy Spirit

Paul urges us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Only the Holy Spirit can redirect, realign, reactivate, and rearrange us so that we can use our gifts and talents in a way that honors God: “Therefore, I urge you . . . in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God . . . Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 2).  The Holy Spirit can renew you.  Be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus confirmed what Peter told him—that he was the Messiah: “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’  Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven’” (Matthew 16: 16-17).  To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, Jesus was either a nutcase when he confirmed to his disciples that he was God, or he was a liar, or he was telling the truth.  Based on everything we know about Jesus, the best bet is that he was telling the truth.  If you believe this truth and the key tenants of faith, God will transform your life as he reveals himself to you in his creation, the people he puts in your path, and through Scripture, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Be transformed.

Prayer: Father, we thank and praise you for your Word and other uplifting and inspirational words that you put into our lives, along with beauty in many other forms: the beauty of music and art; the natural beauty of the forests, lakes, rivers, and oceans, canyons, hills and mountains, deserts and valleys; the beauty of the trees, plants, and flowers in our gardens and in our neighborhoods.  We thank and praise you for the love of family and friends you have blessed us with. We thank and praise you for the many gifts you have blessed us with, including the gift of being able to see you in all of creation and to hear you with the ear of the heart.  Open our eyes to your presence in our everyday lives. Open our ears to your still small voice.  Transform us to become closer to your likeness each day. In your name we pray.  Amen.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost are Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 11:33-12:8; Matthew 16:13-20.  Another version of this blog was published on this website in August, 2017.

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