Friday, December 21, 2007

Joy to the World...

Everyone remembers Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In that well-worn but marvelous story, a bitter, miserly, lonely man finally takes inventory of his life (after being encouraged by a series of holiday-obsessed phantoms). Once he sees that focusing only on his interests has left him fearful, angry, and isolated, he decides to become kinder, generous, and mindful of the needs of others. As he lets people into his heart and as he shares the warmth that is generated by the innate, divine spark within him, the quality of his life instantly improves and he finds himself experiencing dramatic joy. This holiday season, let’s reconnect with that powerful lesson and remember that as we see the divine Light in others, It will actually burn more brightly within us; and that is sure to bring us joy!
Happy Holidays,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Choosing Our Good

Reflection by Rev. Durrell Watkins

“See your world as a sort of well-stocked kitchen where every possible ingredient that has ever been…exists in an abundant, never-ending quantity; and see yourself as the chef, soliciting forth from the shelves of your kitchen whatever…you desire, and you are mixing it all together for the creation of your cake, which currently pleases you.” – Abraham-Hicks

My junior high band director was a bit of a screamer. He would screw up his face and yell at people to work harder or to perform better or to stop misbehaving. If the yelling seemed to upset a student, he would then offer some comfort. He would say, “Yelling is just yelling. It only lasts for a second and then its over. Don’t let it shake you up so much.” He was teaching us that we have some control over how we feel, and as we exercise that control, we actually influence what we experience.

The same animated teacher would offer private coaching before musical contests. When a student would make a mistake, sometimes a flurry of other mistakes would follow. Our band director would say, “If you make a mistake, put it out of your mind and keep going. If you focus on the mistake, you’ll make another one. Focus on what you want to do well rather than on the previous mistake.” He was teaching us that our focus determines, at least to some extent, what we will accomplish. Focusing on error attracts more error. It’s better to focus on the desired result than on the past failure. What we focus on tends to show up more.

I didn’t realize that taking an elective music credit in junior high school was actually introducing me to the Law of Attraction; but the lessons that were offered to me in the 7th and 8th grades remain with me still, and in fact seem clearer to me now. We are in charge of where we place our focus. And what we focus on is bound to show up in some way at some time.

This Christmas, let’s give ourselves the gift of positive focus. Let’s think about things that bring hope, joy, and fulfillment. Thoughts that bring regret, sadness, or discontent can be replaced with more positive, hopeful thoughts. The thoughts will produce corresponding feelings, and how we feel is how we’ll experience life. There are all kinds of ingredients in our mental cupboards, but we are the chefs and we choose which ingredients to use. Let’s choose the ones that will make our life a glorious feast. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"One" God

“We believe in one God…maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” – Nicene Creed

Of course, the fact that a council had to declare, “We believe in ONE God…” suggests that not everyone held such a belief. There was an ancient philosophy that stated a belief in a “higher” or “good” Deity, the God of Heaven and spirit and goodness, and also a belief in a “lower” deity who was petty, jealous, easily angered. It was the jealous, war-like God who was believed to have created the physical world. This view, at least in Christianity, did not become the dominant one. But it must have posed some kind of threat to what would become the “orthodox” view, so we have the statement, “We believe in ONE God…maker of heaven AND earth, of ALL that is, SEEN AND unseen.” Rather than higher and lower, good and bad, worthy and worthless, there is just all that is, and all that is has come from the one Source of all that is…or at least that is the theology that prevailed.

But really, we still believe that “our” God (that is, our perception of what is ultimately real) is the best or true or only real God. We still insist that our view of holiness is right and others are wrong. We are still trying to write and enforce creeds to say only one view has merit, and, naturally enough, it is the view that WE hold.

Still, I wonder how much we honestly believe something that we must protect in a creed. If we were truly confident of our “rightness” (or right-ousness), would we need to silent other views? Wouldn’t dialogue and sharing be a better way to allow the most sound and life-giving spiritual views and practices to come to light? I, for one, believe in one Source of all that is, expressing in, through, and as all that is. I, as often as not, refer to the One as “God.” But what difference would it make if someone else called the “One” evolution? Or the gods? Or Allah? Or Cosmic Consciousness? Or the Ground of Being? Or the Inward Light? Or what if someone doubted there was a “One” at all?

My belief is my own, and yours need not mirror mine for mine to serve me. I don’t know what “we” believe, but “I” believe that there is room for a variety of beliefs. I’ll share mine; you share yours, and let’s enjoy the exchange. In that way, we can be “one” regardless of what we believe about the “One.”

(c) Durrell Watkins 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Some people are troubled by Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) because it is a holiday and holidays can be stressful. Some people are troubled by Thanksgiving because, for them, it represents a kind of colonization where settlers came to this land and possessed it at the expense of the native inhabitants. But even if Thanksgiving presents some challenges for us, the idea of setting aside some time to be intentionally thankful for whatever is good or hopeful in our lives remains a good practice. I hope whatever else Thanksgiving Day is for you, it can be a time when you pause to acknowledge your blessings and to be renewed by the joy you find in being grateful.

Melody Beattie has wisely said, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

God as Universal Experience

Devotional by Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” – Thomas Jefferson

I get so weary of arguments about God. We humans are very clever beings, and so we ponder the meaning of life and we explore the depths of being. Good for us! These exploits have made science, philosophy, religion, and poetry the wonderful fields of exploration they are. But as amazing as our questions are, and as many clues as we find that point to possible answers, we must remember that the quest is more important than the destination. The quest may be the destination!

“God” is as good a name as any for ultimate reality, and we may have very warm feelings for the All-in-all (or the Whole that is more than the sum of Its parts). We may personalize the mystery of life and we may encounter it powerfully in such spirit-filled individuals as the Jesus of our inherited sacred literature. But what we believe about the experience or “ground of being” that we call “God” has more to do with us than with It. We can be certain of our experience, but surely we realize that our experience (and our interpretation of it which may change over time) does not negate someone else’s experience. Our truth may not be “the” truth, not the only truth anyway.

I can have my experience of Transcendence and wonder. I can use the language of religion to discuss my experiences and even to help me understand them. But my journey is my own. I may try to empower others to have their own, but I cannot say “this is God and nothing else can be.” Such idolatrous certainty has been with us for ages and what good has it accomplished? Our questions are sacred. Our yearnings are holy. Our searching is divine. The preconceived answers will no longer suffice.

What if God is a verb rather than a noun? What if God is a universal experience? What if God couldn’t care less what we call It, or even if we call It anything at all? What if the adventure of life were full of discovery, lacking preconceived answers to pre-packaged questions? What if ultimately there is nothing to fear, only experiences to have, feelings to feel, thoughts to ponder, and life to live? What if that is what we mean at the deepest level when we say “God” and what if that proves to be enough?

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I'm excited today about my installation as the next "Canon Pastor" (senior minister in common parlance) of Sunshine Cathedral. I've been at SC for 16 months already as the Canon Precentor (aka Liturgist or Director of Worship), and was elected months ago to this new position. So today's "installation" is a formality really, a celebration, and also a new beginning.

The funny thing is, I have very little to do today. I have worked hard in the planning of the service, and some people (like my partner Robert) have worked even harder doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff. But today, I process down an aisle, sit in a chair, kneel at an altar, say "I do" when asked if I will try to be a good pastor, and at the end, give a benediction. As far as what is expected of me, it should be one of the easiest worship services of my career. So why I am nervous?

I'm not new to pastoring. This isn't the first larger church I've served. I'm no longer new to this community why does this all feel new and exciting?

Since this is only the day after All Souls Day, I ask my grandmothers to add their blessing to today's events. I'm not sure either of them would have understood what SC is really all about, and only one of them ever really tried to be supportive of me after I "came out." But, each in her way, they both loved me and I'm sure they would both want me to be happy and successful in all my endeavors. And so, Grandma and Mama D, if you are aware of my big day today, please smile on me and wish me well.

Well, this entry is a bit more scattered than most, but this one is more for me than for potential readers. I go to face the day, and the years that will follow. I go forward now with joyful hope and eager anticipation. May Sunshine Cathedral be richly blessed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why Do People Still Believe in Zeus?

Someone called me last week wondering how we can beleive that God is Good and that God's will is good when there is so much in life that seems NOT good.

It's a fair question, but a frustrating one for me. The question assumes an Olympian god like Zeus sitting high on a mountain top in the clouds, looking down upon us mere mortals to favor some and punish or ignore others. It is exactly how I imagined God when I was 4 or even 12, but by 15 or so I was questioning that image and exploring others and now as I approach 41 the god who looks very human and who behaves mischievously, capriciously, unpredictably and sometimes terribly is not "my" god and I always feel unprepared to answer questions about "that" image and understanding of God so long removed from my experience.

Wanting to be gentle and respectful with that person's view of God, I simply said, "God is Good and wants only Good for us. When things aren't good, that is in the realm of experience, not in the realm of divine design. Yes, our experience can be quite unsettling, chaotic, even horrifying, but I don't believe that God caused the mess, desired the mess, or enjoyed the mess. God is cheering us on hoping we'll use our gifts and skills to make things better."

I realize using such words as "hoping" and "cheering" sort of encourages the anthropomorphic image that I find so useless, but usually one would have better luck insulting someone's mother than insulting someone's god! So, I accept the limitation.

The truth is, or let me say "my truth" is that God is not a person. Jesus is quoted as saying God is "spirit." What is spirit? It's energy, power, presence, intelligence, wisdom, love...its hard to pin down, like the wind, and its essential to life, like breath. In fact, in some languages, spirit and breath and wind are all the same word!

For me God is process. God is energy. God is omnipresent Isness. God is the source of all Good, the ground of all being, the process of all becoming. God is all and is more than the sum of its parts. God is beauty and love and our highest aspirations. God is the search for God. God is our best idea of God and then much more.

God is a word that we use to describe or at least relate to ultimate reality, and "THIS" god is not on a throne tossing thunder bolts and making commandments. This God is living life as Life itself, and therefore wants (or perhaps I should say "needs") for life to be harmonious, joyous, expressive, and free. God needs this because we need it, and we are part of how God knows God's self and how God experiences life. So, when people make choices that result in bad economies or building communities where weather patterns can be harsh or that lead to war or crime or disease...that isn't God's will any more than it is ours. It is simply cause and effect, and our hope is that we can raise our consciousness to the point that enough of us make better choices that will then make the world a better place. And in the meantime, we can individually make choices that will empower us to get through the rough times and experience hope and joy inspite of difficult circumstances.

My current understanding of God (which will probably, as it always has, continue to evolve) isn't something that can be proven with a papal decree or an isolated bible verse, and if that is what someone needs, then I will find myself quite disadvantaged when trying to help them. Of course, a quip from a book never proves anything to fact, if we have to resort to thinking that suggests a Zeus-like god wrote something in a book and we better buy it hook, line and sinker or suffer a new thunderbolt to the forehead, then we aren't really looking for proof...we're looking for easy answers that keep us from taking responsibility for our lives and for our planet. For people who want that, I may not seem very helpful. But to those who want encouragement to ask questions and seek truth wherever it may be found, I continue to offer my ministerial services.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Social Stratification in Heaven?

Question: Will there be social stratification in heaven? (from the Internet)

Answer: There are many visions of heaven in scripture and sacred tradition. These visions are the human imagination’s way of expressing hope that our lives have meaning beyond the brief span of years we experience from birth to death.

Heaven symbolizes our hope that we are more than this physical experience. Beyond affirming that Life is all-inclusive and eternal, I really can’t say how the “after-life” will look. I hesitate to guess how (or if) a heavenly society would be stratified.

However, the best heaven I can imagine would be a world where we would enjoy power with one another rather than power over one another. In “my” heaven, no one would be excluded and everyone would have an equal share in the joy, abundance, and vitality of life. So, my best guess is that in the highest and best of all possible heavenly realities, there would be no social stratification as we experience in “this” world.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Making Room for Silence in Balanced Spirituality

Christianity, I’m afraid, has done away with the Silence, which has stunted our spiritual growth. We either want religion to be a school, where we constantly think and learn, or we want it to be a show, where we are entertained. Nothing is wrong with either camp, per se, but without the Silence they are incomplete. Without the Silence, “God” (or spirit or the universe or one’s higher power…pick your own name) doesn’t have a chance to speak to us. We can speak to God and we can speak about God, but the conversation is still one sided until we have a time to listen.

Catholics have the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (meditation) and the rosary (mantra), and the Eastern Orthodox have their “Jesus Prayer” (mantra), and Anglicans sometimes borrow from one or both of these other contemplative traditions. Quakers sit in the Silence and contemplate the “Inward Light.” Some churches (such as Grace Cathedral in San Francisco) now offer a labyrinth (walking meditation), and Christian monks and nuns sometimes practice Centering Prayer (sitting in Silence, perhaps focusing on a single word or image); so Christianity has within its traditions the means of going within and listening to the Voice of Wisdom. But popular Christianity continues to opt for “Christian Rock,” emotionally charged services, cognitive preaching, and other practices that fill the Silence and distract one from connecting to intuition, compassion, or inner guidance. Again, there is nothing wrong with cathartic experiences or joyful exuberance, but why must the Silence be totally sacrificed for these other practices?

At Sunshine Cathedral, we offer a quiet midweek service on Wednesday evenings that includes a time of silent prayer and guided meditation. The staff meets daily for intercessory prayer and that daily prayer includes 30-40 seconds of Silence, and we have recently added a 45 minute “zazen” style meditation service two mornings each week at the Cathedral. We also publish Spirit & Truth, a monthly booklet of devotions for people to read and contemplate during their personal times of quiet reflection.

Of course, at Sunshine Cathedral, we also have Sunday services with organ music, an orchestra, a 40 member choir, preaching, liturgy and ritual, and all the fun stuff, and we have Light University that offers bible and theology classes, but we are also trying to make room for Silent reflection and contemplation. We are trying to not only talk to and about God, but also provide space for listening.

A balanced spirituality will both “make a joyful noise” and will also “be still and know that I am God.”

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Prayer As Communion With Pure Being

"How long, O God, must I call for help, but you do not listen? [God replies]...’though the answer linger, wait for it; it will surely come...’" Habakkuk 1.2; 2.3

We’ve all had the experience of wishing for something only to have the wish not come true. As long as we think of God as Something (or Someone) “out there” (or “up there”), we will feel separated from God and will doubt that God is truly present in our time of need. As long as we treat God as a judge before whom we must beg for mercy or as a cosmic Kris Kringle who occasionally distributes goodies to those who have been “good,” our prayers will often disappoint.

But if God is the “ground of being,” ultimate reality, the mystery of life, then our prayers aren’t meant to persuade God to do what God otherwise would not do; our prayers are meant to remind us of our place in God. Prayer, then, doesn’t change God, it changes us, and as we change we become channels of hope that can improve the situations in our lives.

Once we see God as that omni-Presence in which we “live and move and have [our] being,” and we see prayer as the process of reminding ourselves of our unity with Pure Being, then we find that more and more we simply trust life to unfold as it should, and more often than not we aren’t disappointed. Good things happen frequently, the bad things can’t keep us down, and in all things we are learning and growing.

Let’s not give up on the process of prayer…the process really can change us and we tend to project what we are becoming. If prayer improves us, it will surely improve our experience of life.

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Simple Mystery of Meditation

“It comes to many as astonishing news that something as simple as attention to breathing has a central part to play in meditation and prayer. It is like a mystery novelist’s idea of hiding the diamonds in the goldfish bowl: too obvious to notice…” – James Forest

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath…no work should be done on the sabbath…” (Exodus 20.8-10). Of course, we know that a tired body appreciates some down time, but in our busy culture we forget that the mind also needs to keep times of Sabbath.

Have you ever noticed that when a moment of silence is called for, invariably someone will cough, or yawn, or clear their throat, or otherwise inject some kind of noise into the silence (no matter how brief it is)? Contrast the crowds at a concert with the trickles of humans in a library! We are more comfortable with noise than silence, and entering the Silence is very difficult for some of us.

But rest is necessary for good health, and meditation is a way to rest and refresh the mind. A few minutes of meditation to turn off the discursive thinking is all that is needed. That doesn’t mean we stop the thoughts; it just means we don’t engage them. Without pursuing or judging them, we simply notice them and return to stillness.

We can’t get it wrong because there is nothing to do…just sit and breathe and be. Notice what comes up, let it pass, and breathe. Count the breaths (in -1, out-1, in-2, out-2) all the way to 10 and start over at 1. If a thought or an image disrupts the count, just notice it, let it go, and start again at 1. Failure isn’t possible because there is no goal! Isn’t that wonderful?! Just sit. Just breathe. Just be. Do it for 10 minutes or an hour, twice a week or daily. You can’t get it wrong, and yet, over time, you will become more and more aware of your true, divine nature.

Starting October 9th, sitting meditation (“Zazen”) will be offered every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 8:15 AM at Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale in the Graham/Fasana Chapel.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wednesday Prayer

I am calm and serene. I am poised and confident. I know that I am one with all Life and that in the Field of All Possibilities every good thing I could imagine or desire already exists and is available to me. Therefore, I claim my Good and allow it to be made perfectly manifest in my experience. As one who is blessed, I bless others and I wish everyone I know or meet true happiness, perfect contentment, good health and peace of mind. I am a conduit of loving energy and blessings flow into my life and into the lives of those around me. I release this word of Power to the Law and I relax with the assurance that all is well. And so it is!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Prayer

In this quiet moment I pause to realize and remember my oneness with all life. I am part of the infinite web of existence. I am an expression of eternal energies. In this sacred moment of stillness, I breathe; I relax, and I know I am an individuation of the Great Whole, a particular point in the Universal Reality. And so it is that I now affirm hope and joy for my life and for all life. I expect and allow health, happiness, harmony, and abundance to be made perfectly manifest in my experience. As I realize my potential, I help others realize theirs' and as I am blessed, I bless my world. I give thanks now for all that I am and for the possibilities that exist for me. I give thanks for the power of prayer as I release my word to the perfection of divine right action. All is well. Amen.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Blended Spirituality

Until I found Anglicanism when I was about 21, I identified with Catholicism. But I fell so entirely in love with Anglicanism and identified so entirely with it, that for that last 20 years, I have had a difficult time not saying, "I'm Episcopalian" or "I'm Anglican" (and, the truth is I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church). Now, my progression has gone from High Church Episcopal to High Church independent Anglicanism to Low Church independent Anglicanism, but an Anglican I remain.

However, about 22 years ago I was introduced to Buddhism, and it also deeply influenced my spiritual path. My initial exposure was to Nichiren Buddhism and about a decade later I would discover Zen Buddhism, but Buddhism would come to shape my understanding of divinity, and of Jesus, and Buddhist meditation would become a lasting part of my spiritual practice.

I went through a Charismatic phase when I was 19. The mystical element of glossalalia, the strong faith in the power of prayer to heal, and the joyous worship celebrations were appealing, but much of the obsession with evil and the belief that Christianity (and a fairly narrow understanding of it) was the only legitimate faith experience made it impossible for me to sustain that path.

I also went through a Wiccan phase (a couple of times actually), and while I still respect its connectedness to the Earth, its sex-positive spirituality, and its gender-balanced view of divinity, it hasn't had the same last lasting impact on me that other traditions have.

I considered Reconstructionist Judaism (seriously) during a difficult moment, but before I could pursue it too far, opportunities arose that kept me on my (mostly) Christian path.

The other big player in my personal religious drama is New Thought, specifically Religious Science (aka The Science of Mind). The first sermon I ever preached was in a New Thought church (Unity). I became a certified Reiki Master, and I earned a Certificate from the College of Divine Metaphysics (in addition to my "real" degrees from more prestigious schools). I've also taken Science of Mind classes, A Course in Miracles, and I am a member of the International New Thought Alliance. But within the New Thought movement (and Divine Science, Religious Science, and Unity all speak to me in some way or the other), Religious Science best reflects my understandings, my hopes, and the way that I pray.

I'm ordained in an ecumenical tradition (Metropolitan Community Churches) and in the Old Catholic tradition (which can include Anglicanism, and for me does). So what am I? A Christian Metaphysician? A New Thought Christian? A Religious Scientist? A Buddhist-Christian? A Universalist? A Panentheist? A Religious Humanist? A de facto Unitarian Universalist (and I have enjoyed attending a few UU churches as well)? An Inter-religious minister? Perhaps a New Thought Zen Anglican?!

The truth is, any of these terms would be accurate for me, and none of them can pin down the complexity of a life-long spiritual journey. I am Anglican. I am also a Buddhist-Christian. I am also a New Thought practitioner.

In our label loving culture, it would be nice if I could think of a simple one or two word term to give myself and live with it for the rest of time...but my spiritual path has never been that limited. So, I'm just a spiritual seeker and life-long learner. But if I need a label, I might go with Buddhist-Christian, or Anglican, or Religious Scientist, or Anglican Unitarian...oh hell, it just can't be done. I'm religiously polyamorous, always have been and apparently always will be.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prayer at Day's End

In the name of all benevolent helpers of humanity, and in the name of all that is good and holy, I pray for an Abiding Peace to bless our world. I pray for my loved ones to be safe and well. I pray for health, happiness, and abundance to be made always manifest in my life. I pray for those who have asked for my prayers that each and all may receive the blessings they need most. I call forth the good I have named; may all who are receptive to such good be now richly blessed. I now imagine my life, my loved ones, and my world being bathed in divine light and within this light there is all good and only good and so I know that all is well. And so it is!


"...[Jesus] a desolate place by himself..." Matthew 14.13

Meditation has been the most profound and significant spiritual discipline I have ever experienced. I've tried various forms: Chanting meditation, bowing meditation, walking meditation, visualization, repeating a mantra over and over, and of course "sitting" meditation. Sitting meditation is the most rewarding and also the most difficult for me. All the other forms give me something to do...the chanting or the visualizing or the mindful walking can keep me focused in the present moment and limit the discursive thinking of my mind, but to simply sit and to takes effort to do nothing.
Have you ever tried it? Have you ever just sat on the floor or in a chair and quieted your mind and followed (without forcing) your breath? It's amazing.
The 46th Psalm says, "Be still and know that I am God." That simple phrase says so much: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be. That's the process of learns to be still; one learns to be completely in the moment. One learns to simply be.
Jesus withdrew to be alone, and we too can develop that discipline. Try every day or two getting away for a few minutes just to be. Sit quietly. Follow the breaths, in and out, in and out. When thoughts arise, just let them pass and return to the breath. Just sit. Just be. Be quiet. Be still. Be present. At other times you can recite prayers or read passages or do affirmations or think about something profound; but in the moment of meditation, just be. No pondering, no questioning, no imagining, no self-talk; just sit and breathe.
Withdraw to a quiet place, and be still. It’s that simple. And, as you will discover through your own practice, it is life-changing.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thanks for the Memories...

Alice Ghostly (Bewitched, Designing Women, Grease), Brett Somers (Match Game), Charles Nelson Reilly (Match Game, Bic Banana, Lidsville, Broadway, Florida Regional Theatre), Yvonne DeCarlo (Follies, Munsters, Film), John Inman (Are You Being Served)...It's been a difficult year for aging larger than life entertainment figures. Thanks for the prayer for each of you is that you be fondly remembered and that if consciousness survives this life-experience you each enjoy the next experience of existence. I bless you all.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy Mabon

Is it already time for the Autumnal Equinox again? The Autumnal (or "Fall") Equinox (called in some spiritual traditions "Mabon") is when day and night are equally divided. Earth-based spiritualities use the Second Harvest, religious Mysteries, and symbols of Equality and Balance to represent this sacred moment of seasonal change.
Those who incorporate the changing seasons and cycles of Nature into their worship will pause sometime this weekend to contemplate the darker, cooler time of the year. They will give thanks for the waning Summer sunlight and express gladness to know that it will faithfully return. They will not only acknowledge the fading light, but they will also embrace the sacred dark that Fall and Winter will bring.
Druids would make offerings of wine or cider or fertilizer to the trees in honor of "The Green Man" (the spirit of the forests). Traditions that lift up the Feminine qualities of the Divine will celebrate the myth of the aging goddess and her divine consort as he prepares for death and rebirth.
Most of us may have had no plans to celebrate Mabon in any sort of way. But in our moments of quiet meditation today or tomorrow or Sunday, let's reflect on the Autumnal Equinox. Let's focus on equality (we still need it!). Let's focus on balance (an image for healing). Let's focus on abundance. Let's focus on the rhythms of life in which we “live and move and have our being”!
Our mythologies may not include an aging goddess and our rituals may not include offering libations to trees (or, maybe they do...different strokes, eh?), but we all live in a world that is supported by the rhythms and seasons of life. Let's use this change of seasons to remember that we are spiritual beings living in a spiritual universe that is governed by spiritual laws. As we intentionally participate in the divine flow of life, our experience of life is more balanced and therefore more blessed. Happy Mabon!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Provocative Question & Answer About the Crucifixion

A question asked by email and my response:

[You have suggested that reverence for the cross glorified violence, but] I have never seen the cross as a glorification of violence. Rather I see it as a symbol of a man who was so committed to his life, his mission, and his gospel of God's love for all, that he was willing to give it his all. Secondarily, you've stated that you see no divine plan in the brutality of the crucifixion. As to the brutality, I can agree; but what do you say to the crucifixion itself? Were not the prophets correct and didn't Christ's death reconcile the old...way of relating to God with the necessity of a sacrifice? Didn't his life, death, and resurrection all culminate to a new way of humanity coming to know their God? Let me know your thoughts...
My response:

You ask questions that can be batted around for hours in graduate school seminars, so I feel that a 800 word response (while long for an email) doesn't really do justice to the question. But, I'll try...

Jesus' willingness to submit to the Roman authorities rather than fight, run, or raise a militant group to resist was noble and courageous on his part. The problem isn't with his response to the situation, but with how we romanticize his martyrdom. We sing about him dying "in my place" or "for my sins" as if God required it, as if God could think of no way to be in relationship with humanity other than to require the torture and brutal murder of a good person.

Of course, the person who first articulated and detailed the "justification" (or "satisfaction") atonement theory was a bishop in the middle ages, Anselm. Anselm in the 11th century was not only the highest ranking bishop in his country, but he was noble by birth and second in social power only to the king. From his position of privilege, anyone who defied the king (or any "godly" authority) or who was in any way disloyal deserved to be banished, imprisoned forever, or killed. Even if the king wanted to be lenient, he couldn't allow himself to be because it would diminish (in such hierarchical thinking) his authority and power.

In that kind of social system, God was imagined to be an absolute monarch ("king") wielding unchecked power over "His" subjects; therefore, Anselm naturally enough assumed that King God would respond to "His" subjects the way any king would.

In that context, Anselm interpreted the crucifixion as God's way of exacting the punishment that had to
be given out while still showing mercy to the subjects. The crimes (or sins) were punished, but Jesus took the punishment so that others wouldn't have this way, people were shown mercy while God's
sense of justice (the king must be feared and obeyed) was also satisfied.

For the first millennium of Christianity, that had NOT been the understanding of the crucifixion, but since Anselm, much of Christianity has not only accepted his view but have then read that view into scripture.

Our world view isn't that of an 11th century aristocrat believing God to be an absolute monarch like the ancient kings of France and England. Also, Anselm assumed Augustine's position that humanity was
cursed with "original sin," as a result of the Fall. Anselm (and Augustine) believed Adam and Eve were literal, factual, historical people whose mistake literally cursed all of humanity for all time (another view that doesn't paint God in a very flattering light). Everyone was somehow guilty just for existing.

Since Darwin, fewer people accept that we were created perfect and "fell" from that state of grace...rather, the Darwinian view is that we started rather humbly and have been evolving to higher and higher states ever since. We didn't fall from perfection, we just haven't reached it yet.

So, as we don't live in an absolute monarchy, we are less likely to see God as an absolute monarch; and as we now have scientific theories that suggest we are evolving from lower to higher states of being (rather than falling from perfection and needing to be restored), the whole Anselm view of atonement doesn't really fit with how we experience and understand our world.

So, no, I don't believe that Jesus' execution was required by God (nor do I believe the Hebrew scriptures prognosticated such an event...prophecy isn't future telling, its truth isn't saying what will happen to future generations, its challenging its own generation to make changes...the prophets weren't oracles, they
were a challenge to their own people in their own day).

People have always tried to understand ultimate reality ("God")...even without Jesus' martyrdom, people would have continued to try to figure out the mysteries of life. And God, I as I understand God, never needed Jesus' sacrifice or anything else in order to love and embrace God's own creation.

Now, once the evil practice of state execution was used against Jesus for his seditious activity, and those who loved him continued to experience him in powerful ways that they called "Resurrection," that is where God comes in....God is in the victory over the evil of the cross, but I have no need to believe that God ever required such horrific violence. If I were to call that good, what could I ever call reprehensible? If God could find no other way to love me than to torture and brutalize someone else, I'm afraid I wouldn't have much
use for such a God anyway. I would never truly feel "safe" with that god.

The violence of the cross happened, and the affirmation of our faith is that the terrible day that it happened did not end Jesus' story or ours; but to celebrate the violence rather than the victory over it is a mistake in my view, a tragic mistake that Christianity has made for too long and that has contributed to far too much suffering in our world.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Hoping for a Less Violent Christianity

“Through violence, you may 'solve' one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.” – The Dalai Lama

I am continually disturbed by the violence I find in theology. Not all theologies are violent, of course, but some are; and the violent theologies contribute to the experience of violence in the world.

If our theology states that punishment for not holding the “right” beliefs is an eternity of violent suffering, and if glorifying an act of violence against Jesus is somehow the way of being “saved” from the torment of such after-life violence, then as Christians is it possible for us to be true advocates of peace?

Presbyterian Womanist-Theologian Delores Williams has written, “There is nothing of God in the blood of the cross.” I agree. For almost the first 400 years of Christianity, the cross was not a significant universal symbol.. And even after the cross became a popular Christian symbol, the crucifix (a cross that includes the image of a wounded body) did not become a popular image until the Middle Ages.

The theologies we have that glorify suffering, torment, and violence have developed over time in patriarchal (often violent) cultures. We can certainly rethink them and choose less violent imagery for our faith development.

My Christology doesn’t glorify Jesus’ death, but it does celebrate his life. I prefer the “living Jesus,” that is, the Jesus we find in the gospels (not only those that made it into our canon but also those that didn’t) who teaches and heals and includes the marginalized and touches the untouchables and resists oppression.
This living Jesus models a God-filled life and this is the Jesus that I try to follow. This Jesus could have died peacefully in his sleep at a ripe, old age and still be worthy of my adoration. I do not believe that the brutality of crucifixion was in anyway part of a divine plan.

Jesus’ execution happened, and we can celebrate that Golgotha wasn’t the end of his story. We don’t have to deny the crucifixion, but neither must we glorify it; more than a dozen generations of the earliest Christians didn’t! In fact, as Christians, couldn’t we use the story of the enlightened Sage that we follow not to celebrate the unjust way in which he was killed but as motivation to resist such violent injustice from now on? Can’t we love and follow Jesus without loving and perpetuating violence?

A less violent Christianity may require changing some of our liturgies, abandoning some of our hymns, reinterpreting some of our sacred texts, and moving our crosses to less prominent places (if not on our altars, at least in our minds), but in a world that is so wounded by perpetual violence, it may prove to be worth the work.

If violent imagery dominates our worship, it is bound to dominate how we live. Once our theologies become less violent, I’m guessing our world will look less violent, too. That is, at least, my hope and my prayer.

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Jesus

I continue to think of Jesus as an enlightened Sage, fully and only human (or divine in the sense that we are all one with our divine Source and myths about Jesus' divinity show us our own) but a wise and worthy teacher.

In Buddhist traditions, Sidhartha is the Buddha prototype, the example of Buddhahood who teaches the spiritual practice that can lead anyone to his or her own discovery of the Buddha-Nature within. Buddhahood is a universal Reality and "the Buddha" was not the only one but the primary example of how enlightenment is universally possible.

This view informs my Christology...for my Jesus is the Christ prototype, the example of Christhood who shows the way that can lead anyone to his or her own discovery of the Christ-Nature within. "Christ" is a universal Reality and Jesus "the Christ" (or Anointed One or Messiah or Lord) was not the only one but the primary example of how enlightenment is universally possible. What is a Christ-ian if not a Christ in the making, a member of a larger group trying collectively to be Christ in the world (or "the body of Christ")?

Christianity in the West became centered in Rome, and later a protest/Protestant movement developed against that centralized power structure (but much of the theology was retained). But initially, the Jesus movements were Jewish movements, and within a 100 years of Jesus' life, Christianities were being paganized/hellenized/gentilized and many centers of various schools of thought popped up (in Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, what is today Turkey, perhaps India, etc.). By the early 4th century those schools lost their voice in the centralization process facilitated by Constantine and have been forgotten or branded heretical since.

I think its important to remember that faithful, thoughtful people were committed to the Christ of their understanding for hundreds of years before "orthodoxy" was established. Some of their views have been recovered and some of them thought of Jesus as an enlightened Sage. My Christian faith and experience is the Resurrection of those ideas that later "orthodoxy" tried to wipe out and destroy.

As Christianity moved into Southeast Asia, it was sometimes influenced by Eastern thought, and Buddhist-Christian and Taoist-Christian hybrid theology developed and remains alive in some places. In those experiences of Christianity, Jesus the Enlightened Sage also survives.

I'm not suggesting this is the only way to understand Jesus or that one must share my view to be a good Christian or to be acceptable to God (one could no more be unacceptable to Ultimate Reality than one could be unacceptable to the Ocean or to Air or to the Ground). I'm only sharing my experience, the reality of my faith, and realizing that my faith-experience is not only shared by people like me now, but it has been shared by people like me for a couple of millennia. Christianity is more diverse and complex than it may seem on the surface sometimes.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Prayer for Peace in Iraq

Spirit of Wisdom, Goodwill, and infinite Compassion, please fill the hearts of our lawmakers and leaders with a desire for peace and justice. May the suffering in Iraq come to an end. May we be forgiven for the suffering we have caused and allowed. May we contribute, finally, to the healing of the human family and to peace in our world. Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Imperial Angst

Seven years of mendacity and mediocrity. That's what we have suffered under the Bush regime. I speak not from an institutional platform but from my personal web log. I speak only for myself as a concerned and disappointed citizen. Our inarticulate, unreflective, theocratic, autocratic, and (for his first term) unelected president has proven to be perhaps the worst leader in US history, certainly the worst president in my lifetime.

George W. Bush has done more to threaten civil liberties than any outside foe could. He has done more to redistribute wealth from the middle and lower classes to the most privileged in society than any president ever. He has proven himself an enemy of the environment and he has played the part of bumbling buffoon to our embarrassment in the community of nations. The economy continues to turn against those who work the hardest for the least reward. And yet, as reprehensible a record as he leaves us, perhaps the most grievous sin of his administration is the occupation of Iraq.

Saddam Hussein has been toppled and executed and his country starved by sanctions and torn apart by war. No one on the planet suggests Hussein was anything other than a monstrous thug, but he was a monstrous thug who apparently lacked the weapons of mass destruction he was accused of harboring and he was a monstrous thug who did not attack our country.

Hussein has been executed and his people have been killed by American weapons. Americans, too, have been needlessly killed. The so called "War on terror" has been a murderous assault launched with arrogance and defended with lies, and though we are told all of this is meant to make us safer, one wonders how playing the senseless bully will possibly endear us to the world or protect us from our enemies. In fact, I bet we have more enemies today than we did 7 years ago.

I'm tired of hearing about people losing their homes.
I'm tired of outrageous gas prices.
I'm tired of an immoral and seemingly endless war.
I'm tired of Christian Fundamentalists telling us that preemptive violence is the only way we can be safe from Islamic Fundamentalists.
I'm tired of the poor getting poorer.
I'm tired of the planet being strangled to death.
I'm tired of the insanity.

We could have voted George the Terrible out of office in 2004...we did not.
We could have impeached him for his unethical and dishonest war...we did not.
Somehow, we were too hopeless or too lazy or too self-loathing to demand a competent leader with wisdom and intelligence; and we allowed a self-righteous, war mongering, intellectually deficient puppet of the Religious and Political Extreme Right to exhaust our resources, our hope, and our souls.

Will we finally demand better? Will we finally vote for peace and prosperity and liberty and justice for all? Or will we choose (or allow the powerful elite to choose for us) another priest in the cult of mediocrity to lead our country backward and downward to incurable despair? I don't know who will be the next president, but I pray that it will finally be a person who will value peace and fairness and inclusion. If not, our country will collapse under the weight of its own angst and the American Empire will deservedly be in its last days; and we will have little say in which nation takes our place as the new global bully. God help us...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I've Lost 13 Pounds...15 More to Go!

It's been almost 2 months, about 7 weeks, and in that time I have lost 13 pounds. For the first time in a long time i am now less than 200#
I still have 15 lbs to go, but this plan is working, so I'm sticking with it. I share what is working for me not to suggest that anyone else follow my plan (only a medical professional can prescribe treatment) but to show that we can each find a plan that is right for us. Mine includes eating fewer calories and much less fat, being more active, taking some nutritional supplements, and being faithful to spiritual disciplines which I believe help. This is how I have made it about half way to my weight loss goal in just under two months. All my pants are baggy on me now, and my belt is three notches higher than before, so the inches are coming off too. Try your own plan in consultation with whatever expert you trust, but don't give up. There is something that can work for you. Wish me well as I continue my fitness journey...I'm pulling for you as well.


My plan...

Slim Fast or Lean Pocket breakfast pastry (filled with sausage/egg/cheese), sometimes coffee
a Multi-vitamin, 400 mcg of Chromium Picolinate, 300 mg of Green Tea, 2g of Vit C. (I asked my doc about this, she gives it her approval since I take my booty-flu meds at night, she says its OK to take the supplements in the AM...shouldn't interfere with the meds)

Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine, or Healthy Choice frozen entree
One soda (the real thing, can't stand diet)

Low fat pudding

WW, LC, or HC frozen entree or a portion controlled "sensible" meal, water or iced tea

Popcorn or fruit

water, juice, tea throughout the day

Three days a week, an hour in the gym -
Mondays - Chest and triceps followed by 20 minutes cardio
Wednesdays - Biceps and back followed by 20 minutes cardio
Fridays - Shoulders and legs followed by 20 minutes cardio (and a trip to the chiropractor)

Two days a week (Tue & Thur), walking for 45-60 minutes

Affirmations in the AM, at noon, and at bedtime
Meditation 2-3 times per week, 10-30 minutes each time

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Guarding Thoughts

“Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.” Proverbs 4.23 (CEV)

The Buddha said, “What we think, we become.” I was at a conference last month where that truth was publicly demonstrated. The workshop presenter (a professional musician) asked for a volunteer who honestly believed he or she had no singing ability.

One courageous soul came forward, and after having her sing a line of a familiar and easy song, it was clear that singing was not her gift. She seemed to have no sense of pitch. The presenter then asked her to simply hold this thought in mind, “I am the greatest singer in the world.” She felt silly at first, since she had just demonstrated that she was perhaps the worst singer in the room! But she courageously went through with the experiment, and to her own amazement, she sang the song perfectly! By holding the thought, “I am the greatest singer in the world,” and not letting any opposing thought enter in, she instantly became a good singer.

People who lose weight successfully tell us the key to their success was changing their thoughts about food. Relationships have been healed simply by the parties involved being willing to think differently about one another.

As children we heard the wonderful story of a little engine that is asked to pull a long train over a steep mountain. The engine appears to be too small for the task, but manages to successfully pull the train by saying over and over during the attempt, “I think I can, I think I can…” The lesson we were meant to learn is that if we think we can, we probably can. Conversely, if we think we can’t, we right again.

Whatever we are facing, the thoughts we choose to think and the feelings those thoughts produce will guide us toward success, or away from it. So, we must “carefully guard [our] thoughts…” After all, what we think, we become.

Prayer: I will choose thoughts this week that support my lofty goals and good desires. I will continuously think, ‘I can,’ and therefore, I will accomplish what I set out to do. I am now guarding my thoughts, and knowing that I become what I continually think about, I choose thoughts of success, abundance, hope, healing, and joy. I think I can, and so it is that I know I can. Amen.

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2007

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Statement on the Death of D. James Kennedy

September 5th, 2007

A Statement from The Reverend Durrell Watkins, Canon Precentor & Canon Pastor-elect of Sunshine Cathedral MCC

I would like to offer sincere condolences to the friends, family, and admirers of Dr. D. James Kennedy who made his transition this morning from this life experience to the next.

Dr. Kennedy was well known as the founding pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL and as a leader in the right wing of Protestant Christianity and conservative politics in the United States. He may be most remembered for his evangelical zeal, his combining religious devotion with nationalistic pride, and his opposition to abortion and gay rights.

That Dr. Kennedy was a strong leader cannot be questioned, and yet we must also recognize that his vitriolic rhetoric against same-gender loving people caused a lot of needless suffering in our society. While we wish comfort for those who mourn, we also wish for a day when religion doesn’t promote division, hatred, and prejudice.

We are sorry for the illness Dr. Kennedy has suffered these last several months. And we are very sorry for his loved ones who will miss him. But we are also sorry for the homophobic and intolerant message for which Dr. Kennedy was so well known. We hope for a new day when worshiping communities can grow and thrive with a message of what they are for, rather than what and who they are against.

Sunshine Cathedral, a Metropolitan Community Church affiliated with The Center for Progressive Christianity, affirms that the soul of D. James Kennedy will dwell in eternal light and love, where there is no division, exclusion, or prejudice. And from that place of eternal and all-inclusive love, we trust that James Kennedy will now be praying that all of our divisions on Earth may cease and our hatreds and suspicions will be healed.

Contact: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MA, MDiv

Friday, August 31, 2007


Ted Haggard? Larry Craig? When do we decide its enough? When will the self-loathing, closeted 'mos realize that bashing the gay community won't make them straight? If we could stop demonizing same-gender loving people then maybe all people would be free to live honest and fulfilling lives without marginalizing the gay community and without people in power feeling like they must live a total lie to keep their positions of influence. Equal rights for all people would have prevented the Haggard and Craig travesties. If they could have explored their sexuality in honest and healthy ways, they wouldn't have felt the need to condemn gay people, and then they wouldn't have suffered the embarassment of being exposed as hypocrites. Maybe, please God, we'll finally learn the live and let live lesson and stop using gays as social scape goats. Then, ministers and senators who discover themselves to be gay can come out and live honestly and with pride as the same-gender loving people they are, or at least they won't have to cheapen their own feelings by condemning others who share them. Let's finally be a country where liberty and justice for all is a reality. Homo-hatred is as ugly as any form of bigotry, and apparently, as debilitating.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Problem With Resenting Others When They Prosper

Whenever you hear that someone else has been successful, rejoice. Always practice rejoicing for others--whether your friend or your enemy. If you cannot practice rejoicing, no matter how long you live, you will not be happy.” - Lama Zopa Rinpoche

The 10th Commandment says, “Do not desire your neighbor’s [possessions]…” It is one of the wisest commandments in my view. The first commandment smacks of insecurity. It portrays a god who is afraid that “His” devotees will jump ship and start admiring other gods. In the panentheistic view that I hold, there is one infinite
Source (called in our culture “God”) and this “ground of being” is in all life and all life is in It. There is no Other to fear.

The second and third commandments are related to the first, demanding a certain reverence for God as God was understood in the community that produced the Decalogue. The fourth commandment also is meant to honor the deity but it lends itself to an interpretation of much needed self-care. It may be more relevant than the three that precede it.

The fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments are common sense rules that can be summed up in the Golden Rule (treat others the way you would like to be treated).

But the tenth commandment gives us an important insight that we may need to learn and relearn throughout our lives; and learning it can make us much happier.

You see, we have often believed there was not really enough good to go around. We become resentful or jealous or angry or bitter when someone does what we thought we wanted to do, or when they get what we thought we wanted to have. We forget that we live in an abundant universe, and there is no shortage of possibilities. We don’t need to resent our friends (or even our enemies) when they appear to be blessed. Our good will not be delayed by someone else’s; but our good can be delayed by our resentment of others.

Do not covet your neighbor’s abundance, because there is still plenty of Universal Good to supply your needs. When someone recovers from illness or financial difficulty or when someone is promoted or complimented, rejoice! Seeing our neighbors’ blessings is a message to us that blessings still exist and still are available. Our neighbor’s good fortune is a witness that ours may be at hand. But
resenting their opportunities will only close off our hearts from receiving our own.

St. Paul said, “Rejoice…always!” Not just when we win, but every time Good is made manifest in anyone’s life. As we celebrate Good whenever it shows up for anyone, we are actually inviting it into our own experience, and it will respond to our invitation.

Coveting builds a consciousness of lack, which then produces more lack. Instead, be glad whenever, wherever, and for whomever Good is made manifest; such rejoicing builds a consciousness of abundance, which will then bring abundance into our experience.

I wish you many blessings!


1. Have no other gods (than the “LORD” or “YHWH”, sometimes called
2. Do not have images of other gods.
3. Do not use the divine name (“YHWH”) in vain.
4. Honor the Sabbath day.
5. Honor your parents.
6. Don’t murder.
7. Don’t commit adultery.
8. Don’t steal.
9. Don’t lie against someone in court (“You shall not bear false
witness against your neighbor”)
10. You shall not covet…

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fat As I Ain't

Several months ago, with equal parts sarcastic wit and self-pity, I wrote about my slightly premature middle-age spread. I joked about it and affirmed self-worth in spite of the lbs, but there was undeniable frustration as I hit an all time high of 212#.

Of course, I never just embraced the flab with gladness. My Lenten discipline was daily exercise. Slim-fast is a much more common breakfast for me than bacon and eggs. And there have been plenty of "ideal weight" affirmations, but I remained pretty stuck.

Then about a month ago, I attend a New Thought conference. Now, New Thought is not new to me...I have studied New Thought in one form or another for 2 decades, and for most of that time have employed it to some degree in my life. But being at a conference where I was immersed in this positive philosophy and where I was surrounded by hundreds of others who are studying and applying New Thought principles in their own lives seems to have had a consciousness raising effect on me. And, I attended the conference with someone, so since he had a similar experience, we have been able to encourage one another since, reminding each other of the powerful experience we had.

Now, four weeks later, I find myself 10 pounds lighter. Each day I'm having Slim-fast for breakfast, a Weight Watchers entree for lunch, a regular dinner with reasonable portions (or a Lean Cuisine entree) for dinner, one soda, and midafternoon some popcorn or low fat pudding for a snack. I take Chromium Picolinate as a supplement (along with a multi-vitamin). At night I've been doing some light exercise at home...pushups, jumping jacks, stretches...15 minutes worth 4 or 5 nights per week. Now, none of this is new...I've done some or all of these things dozens of times before. But this time, the weight is coming off!

The only thing I've done differently is change my thinking and feeling. Somehow, I have accepted that I can and will lose the weight. I have decided that I want to be more fit and more trim and more flexible and its happening. It's no longer a wish or a regret, it is a decision, and once I become clear about it, my subconscious mind dutifully said, "Okey Dokie."

This week, I've been so encouraged by the success, I've increased my exercise. I now intend to go to the gym three days a week and do brisk walking on the other days, and I have workout partners to help me stay motivated.

I've been 10-30 pounds over weight for a decade, and the last couple of years have been the worst. But now, I'm only 18 pounds overweight and I have confidence that the healthy trend of sensible weight loss will continue. I've lost inches from my middle and I have more energy these days. I seem to have made up my mind finally, and (as I know works), what my mind conceives and my heart believes, I will achieve.

Whenever change is needed, the answer is a change of mind (a change in consciousness). Affirmations, reading positive literature, surrounding ourselves with like-minded positive people eventually takes root in the subconcious and when that happens, the change will occur.

Losing a few pounds and a few inches may seem like a small demonstration, but its the very demonstration I have been wanting and this success reminds me that I can do more. The journey continues, not only to my ideal weight but to my ideal life. It's already mine in the field of infinite possibilities, and as I connect with the ideal with my thoughts and feelings, the ideal is made manifest. It's the way it works.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My Experience With the Science of Mind

When I was reminded recently that the definition of psychology is "the science of mind and behavior," I had an aha moment (a psychological breakthrough!).

I've been studying Ernest Holmes' "Science of Mind" for 20 years, as well as other writers who tapped into mind science as a way of achieving happiness and accomplishing goals. Joseph Murphy, Claude Bristol, Norman Vincent Peale, Nona Brooks, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, Fenwicke Holmes, Louise Hay, "Abraham" (as shared by Ester Hicks), Thich Nhat Hanh, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and to a lesser extent Mary Baker Eddy, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and A Course in Miracles have all helped me understand that thoughts are things (and things are thoughts), and as one develops a consciousness that expects and allows a certain kind of "good" that good shows up pretty consistently and often dramatically. I've learned that I really am a channel for unlimited possibilities and the thoughts that I habitually think and the feelings that I routinely nurture determine how and when my "channel" opens.

And now, remembering that psychology is really just the science of mental processes, or thinking and feeling, or "mind" has given me that much more confidence in my chosen spiritual path. Psychology has become a respected behavioral science and psychologists have become trusted mentors and healers. But the study of mind (or "soul") predates Freud and Skinner and Jung and Maslow and Frankl. Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, Gibran, Rumi, Emerson and others all studyied the power of Mind and helped others tap into that power to use for their betterment. We are channels for unlimited possibilities and we can learn how to keep the channels that we are open and flowing freely with miraculous Good.

In the area of career, I've had ups and downs, but I always end up in a good place that leads to a better place. I am currently the happiest I've ever been with my work. In the area of health, I have been very fortunate and have been able to consistently experience overall good health. For years, I struggled with my love life, but my last two partners have been wonderful men and I am still very close to the last one (and to his partner) and my current partner and I have been together happily for several years. Money has been a real area of growth and learning for me, but I have learned to trust the unlimited Abundance of life, and for the last couple of years have found myself pretty comfortable.

In some of these areas I still have work to do, and I sometimes forget my lessons and have to relearn them (more quickly each time), but I have experienced such healing and growth that I now am confident that I know how to do the work and that things will keep getting better and better. Harmonious relationships, good health, satisfying career, academic success, global travel, creative endeavors, and ever increasing happiness have been the result of my work with metaphysics/spiritual psychology. I am learning the truth that "it works if we work it" (to borrow a Johnnie Colemon line).

So, I will keep studying mind, thoughts and attitudes, and learning how to tap into the incredible powers that are all around me and flowing through me and expressing as me. And as I demonstrate my Good, I will continue to offer as best I can the hope to others that they can change their experiences by changing the way they think. It does work if we work it, and I am enjoying the rewards of my work.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Our church has a wonderful practice whereby the homilist invites people forward to the altar while the congregation sings an uplifting song. At the altar, the people are anointed with oil (a symbol of divine grace or the limitless spirit of life) and the homilist then says a prayer for every person to receive the blessings of hope, happiness, health, prosperity, etc. The prayer time concludes with the homilist saying a series of affirmations. The congregation repeats each affirmation and then there is a joyous "exchange of peace" where people greet one another.

I was the homilist today and below are the affirmations that I led the congregation in saying after my prayer for those who came forward for anointing:

I take my place at God’s Table.
I receive God’s gift of healing.
I receive God’s gift of hope.
I receive God’s gift of abundance.
I receive God’s gift of joy.
What I want for myself, I want for all people.
And the gifts I receive, I gladly share.
In Jesus’ name.

I believe in affirmations...they are the seeds we plant in the fertile ground of consciousness and properly nurtured they are bound to produce good results. Of course, every thought and verbalized statement is an affirmation, but when we intentionally affirm our good, we are establishing new patterns of positive thinking that will lead to the good attitudes that create a better life. I encourage everyone to use affirmations to create the life they deserve and desire.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A response to recent remarks made against the Ft Lauderdale Gay Community

August 22nd, 2007

A response to recent remarks made against the Fort Lauderdale Gay Community (,0,1222411.story?page=1)

Homophobia is not Love
by the Reverend Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.

We read in the Christian bible “Slaves obey your masters…” and “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” I do not believe that either of these biblical passages justifies the evils of slavery or misogyny, and I do not believe that finding these sentences in the bible “proves” that God condoned slavery or that God privileges men over women. In my theology, any text that dehumanizes people cannot stand alone as if it were a message from on High to be uncritically embraced. Similarly, when the bible is quoted to promote prejudice against gay and lesbian people, I must object.

The mayor of Fort Lauderdale continues his anti-gay verbal assaults. But what concerns me even more is that religious leaders are suggesting that the mayor is somehow speaking for God! It’s an age-old trick for a group to say that their enemies are also God’s enemies, but I hope in the 21st century none of us will fall for that anymore.

Those who dare to suggest that God shares their homophobic prejudices claim they are motivated by love. The targets of their inflammatory speech, however, probably disagree. You see, you can’t judge me to be a sinner and then claim to love me. You can’t use language that dehumanizes me and claim it is for my good. As the saying goes, “Please don’t spit on my boots and call it rain.” There may be a lot in this world I don’t know, but the difference between being loved and being condemned is easy enough to figure out.

Those who are spewing the homophobic rhetoric lately may believe they are right, and they are certainly entitled to their opinions, but they can’t believe that what they are doing is kind or loving. You see, according to the very bible they use to justify their anti-gay rhetoric, “Love is patient and kind…[and] never rude…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Let’s be clear - the venom being spewed at the gay community in Fort Lauderdale is not about love, righteousness, or even public safety. The recent attacks are just what they appear to be: unkind, prejudicial, divisive remarks meant to justify homophobia; and homophobia is not love.


[Rev. Durrell Watkins is the Canon Precentor and Canon Pastor-elect of Sunshine Cathedral MCC in Fort Lauderdale. He is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City and is in the doctoral program at the Episcopal Divinity School.]

Rev. Canon Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
Sunshine Cathedral

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Simple Prayer

The Energy of Life expresses as me. I am one with the infinite Source of Being. I am a particular point of awareness within the Eternal All. Knowing my Truth and my sacred value, I now declare with confidence and with joyful expectation that my Good is at hand. I expect, express, and experience perfect health, opulent prosperity, true happiness, harmonious relationships, and fantastic success right here, right now. It's All Good. It's all God. It's all mine now. What I want for myself I want for all, and what I want already exists in the field of all possibilities and it is mine to have and enjoy. I receive my good gladly and I share my good joyously. As I live the abundant life, I am a testimony to all people that dreams can come true and that life is meant to be happy and worthwhile. I know my truth and I choose to express it with gladness and gratitude; and so it is!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Choosing Thoughts That Generate Higher Vibrations

Devotional by Durrell Watkins

“By paying attention to the way you feel, and then choosing thoughts that feel the very best, you are managing your own vibration, which means you are controlling your own point of attraction -- which means you are creating your own reality.” – Abraham-Hicks

It makes so much sense, doesn’t it? Why do we need an “enlightened” soul or collection of souls to point out the obvious?

If I remember the story correctly, when asked if she was happy, Katharine Hepburn answered, “I open a box of chocolate turtles and then I’m happy. Once I notice they’re all gone, I’m sad. Then I get a new box, and I’m happy again.” It really does work that way. When I think of a funny story, I laugh. When I think of someone in pain, I become sad. When I think of some wonderful possibility, I feel hopeful. The thought that I hold produces a feeling. If I sustain happy thoughts that continually produce happy feelings, I can consider myself for that period of time a happy person. If I habitually think thoughts of fear or defeat or regret, I will find myself in a state of on-going depression.

When I’m happy, I believe in myself and I notice opportunities and I respond enthusiastically to them. When I’m not happy, I may fail to notice opportunities or I may hesitate to make the effort that would lead to success and achievement. The thought generates the feeling that leads to the action that produces a result.

And so the Buddha taught, “The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit, and habit hardens in character...As the shadow follows the body, so as we think, we become.” No wonder Jesus said half a millennium later, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14.27). Fear thoughts lead to negative emotions which can keep us from making the most of life.

When we train ourselves to use positive affirmations we aren’t dabbling in something that’s odd or bizarre. We are just correcting negative thoughts by replacing them with words and thoughts of optimism and joyful expectation. Eventually, our thought habits are more hopeful and will lead to more consistently helpful actions which of course shape our experience of life. Choosing positive speech is helping us think more constructively, which is helping us feel better, which is allowing us to make wiser choices that will result in our Good.

If we ever find ourselves feeling “down,” we can elevate that feeling by choosing thoughts that feel better, and then our energy picks up and we find ourselves back on the path to accomplishment (which of course feels good and will lead to even higher vibrations, etc.). Our thoughts produce the feelings that contribute to how we experience life. We can call this practical process “New Thought,” or “Magic,” or Word of Faith,” or “Positive Thinking,” or anything else. I just call it common sense. Good thoughts produce good feelings which make life more enjoyable.

The good news is, we can control our thoughts. So, this week, let’s be careful to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid, and we may discover that we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12.2)!

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2007

"It only takes 16 seconds of focused thought to begin a manifestation." - Lynn Grabhorn

Sunday, August 19, 2007


In the 13th chapter of Luke's gospel, Jesus heals a woman who had been unable to stand tall for 18 years. That was our gospel reading this morning in church, and it inspired our opening prayer that I wrote. It is as follows:

Eternal Principle of Life,
You are the Source and Substance of all that is, seen and unseen. You are perfect, whole, and complete, and you are the divine Reality that expresses in, through, and as our lives. You are the reason for indomitable hope, and you are the truth of our being.

So how is it that we could ever allow ourselves to be weighed down and bent over with fear, shame, or regret? But sometimes, we need to be reminded of our wholeness.
Lord have mercy.

We need to be encouraged to believe, to accept, and to celebrate that we are indeed a perfect idea within the mind of God.
Christ have mercy.

We forget the Truth of our wholeness and believe the lie that we are somehow separated from you and from our Good.
Lord have mercy.

Infinite One with which we are one, let us embrace our healing today, however it may be needed, so that we may live in the assurance that our Good is even now at hand; we affirm this truth in the name and in the power of the living and life-giving Christ within. Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Divine Healing

God is all that is. I believe that. The divine Energy of life is what expresses as all that is, seen and unseen and it is this Life Principle that is both omnipresent and everlasting. So, when we affirm "God is all and all is well," we are actually making a statement of fundamental truth. God is all that is, and God is whole, perfect and complete.

God is the name I am using, but It doesn't care what we call It. The Tao te Ching says, "The Tao that can be named is not the Tao," and in the Hebrew Bible, Moses is told to refer to the Divine as the One that is and will be ("I Am that I am," or, "I Am what I will be"). Naming the Unnamable is for our benefit. The Principle of Life is, regardless of what we call It, and it is whole and perfect. If the Source and Substance of life is whole and perfect, and if it is everywhere and at all times present, and if it is expressing as all that is, then the truth of all that is must be perfect wholeness.

When I speak of truth I'm not referring to facts. Dis-ease, fear, pain...these may be facts, but they are not the truth. That is, they are present as appearances or as experiences, but those facts can and ultimately must change. Like a dream that seems very real in the moment it is being experienced but disappears immediately upon waking and often can't even be remembered, "facts" are not real, not in an ultimate sense. Truth is real, and Truth is perfect, whole and complete. So, even when facts suggest lack or limitation or dis-ease, we can know the Truth which is that God is perfect Wholeness and God is all that is, so God must be the Truth of my being. God can't be sick, so sickness isn't my truth. Even if it is a fact of the moment, it isn't the truth of me because I am an expression of the One and the One is whole and perfect. As I know, really know my Truth, the undesirable facts of my life begin to change and my experiences start to reflect my Truth.

And so, for whoever may need it tonight, I remind you of your Truth. The Truth is the Principle of Life is not diseased, it knows no pain or lack or fear, and that Principle is expressing in, through, and as you. Your Truth is perfect wholeness. Know the Truth, and remembering your Truth will make you free. Divine Healing is possible, indeed, it is guaranteed. At some point in our evolution, either on this plane or another, we must remember and express our Truth, and the Truth is that God is all and all is well.

Friday, August 17, 2007

One with God

I'm one person in one species on one planet in one galaxy in a universe that is constantly expanding, within which there are billions of stars and planets and galaxies and perhaps countless life forms. As an individual, I may seem pretty insignificant. And yet I am self-aware, and I am able to ponder my existence and that leaves me feeling pretty important. How can I be both significant and insignicant at the same time?

If we are separate beings, disconnected from one another by space and time, then we are in the grand scheme of things remarkably small. If, however, we are part of a living Whole, connected to all that has ever been, is, and ever will be, then we share in what is ultimately Real. That's what makes sense to me. I am part of an eternal Web of existence, an active, living, intelligent nothing that is expressing as everything. The Principle of Life individuates as the flower, the puppy, the star, the cloud, and as me. All That Is expresses as all that is. That's what we mean by "God is One" and "I am one with God" and "There is no spot where God is not" and "all that God is, I am."

As a single, separate ego-self, we seem small and alone and this leads to fear and fear leads to behavior that doesn't bring joy or fulfillment. But as an expression of the Infinite Source, we are divine and this leads to confidence and gratitude and a life of abundance.

When Jesus said, "The Father (Mother) and I are one," he was expressing the truth of life. We are one with our Source, and when we know that and live from the power of that truth, we live as divine beings expressing the perfection of Ultimate Reality.

How dare we affirm health, happiness, success, prosperity, peace, harmony, or achievement? How dare we do otherwise, for as individuations of the Perfect and Eternal Whole, it is our right to live fully and wonderfully and joyously. Today, let's claim our good knowing that we are one with All Good and we best glorify God by allowing God to express beautifully through and as us.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Question About The Power of Decision

Question: "I have decided things...over and over again in my life that, try as I might, do not come to fruition. I have concluded that...[something] on a much stronger sub-conscious saying, 'Oh, no, it's not that simple. You AIN'T gonna get that!' What do you think I should be doing to circumvent this dynamic?" - Keith from the Internet

Answer: Conviction seems to be the key. A strong desire, a heart-felt wish may be enough sometimes to push us in the right direction, but not always. A decision involves feeling. My favorite example of how the subconscious works is the unathletic kid terrified in the outfield that a ball will come his way. Sure enough, the ball is heading right for him. He extends his mit and says over and over to himself, "don't miss it; don't miss it!" He wants to catch it. He tries to catch it. He even tells himself to not miss it. Hasn't he decided to catch the ball? His subconscious doesn't think so...Even though he extends his arm, wants to catch it, and instructs himself to not miss it...what else is present in the picture? Fear. He's afraid that he will miss it, and that fear is stronger than his hope. What happens? He misses the ball, or catches it only to immediately drop it. His "feeling" was that he would probably embarrass himself or let his team down or fail...and the feeling is what instructed his subconscious which obeyed the instruction perfectly.

Why do diets fail? Why can some people never learn to parallel park? Why are some people completely baffled by math of any complexity? Why can't someone remember phone numbers or ever get ahead financially? Aren't they trying hard? Of course! Don't they want to improve their performance? Of course! But deep down (and sometimes not even all that deep) they are afraid that they can't, and that fear...the what programs the subconscious mind which then directs the performance.

When we can "feel" successful...when we can "feel" that we are on the right track or that we can accomplish our goal or that we are already on our way to victory...the feeling almost always steers us in the desired direction. So, when we "decide" on a thing, what is the feeling that accompanies it? If we feel certain, confident, even enthused about's probably just a matter of time! But if we feel afraid, doubtful, anxious...then failure is as likely as success, and if the fear is strong, failure is even more likely.

We're told over and over by the consciousness experts...Thought + Feeling = Demonstration. The idea or wish or hope or initial attempt is really a "thought," and thought alone won't do the trick. But when we have a clear picture/idea/plan/goal and that picture is accompanied by the feeling of success, that's when the mountains start to move.

When I have wanted something very badly, but was afraid that might be out of my reach, I have usually either not achieved my goal, or I was able to achieve, could hardly believe it, and then lost it. But when I have wanted something, and knew that it was mine to have/do/be, and felt as if it were already real for me, it has almost always been made manifest in my experience. Desire is the beginning, but feeling must be added to lead to demonstration.

When the mind has two competing thoughts/feelings (I want this/I'm afraid I can't do/have it), it tends to go in the direction of the negative thought/emotion. That's why we use self-talk, inspirational literature, motivational stories, prayer, meditation, visualization, etc. to reduce the negative thoughts and emotions. The kid who "knew" he would catch (or hit) the ball, more often than not, did. The kid who "hoped" he would catch the ball while being afraid that he really wouldn't, usually didn't (the same story is told about playing darts, golf, performing in a piano recital, taking a test in school...what is being performed doesn't matter...the principle is the same). It's the same throughout our lives.

Of course, no one gets everything they want every time they want it...there is no genie in a bottle in life that grants our every wish on demand. But, what we have a consciousness for we usually wind up experiencing. People who have a prosperity consciousness seem to have money growing on trees in their back yards. People with a health consciousness are rarely sick and their kids and pets are rarely sick and when they pray for sick people they often get better. People with a success consciousness usually win at every game and business venture they attempt. People with a consciousness for relationships make friends every day and date with ease (or if they are partnered, live joyously with their significant other).

There is probably something in your life that you do just know that you have that gift or skill, and 9 times out of 10 when you attempt it, it works out brilliantly. What is it? Art? Finding great deals on cars you want to buy? Creating things (arts/crafts/websites, whatever)? You expect to succeed at it, you FEEL perfectly capable and your experience validates the feeling/expectation. Now, if you could get that same feeling of joyful expectation in another area of life, you'd probably have the same kind of success in that area! The clear idea + the strong feeling = results.

Basically, I think you're right. On a subconscious level, we tell ourselves "that isn't going to work," and then it doesn't. So we consciously tell ourselves that it will work, even that it IS working until the subconscious feeling believes it and then demonstrates it. If that doesn't work, then we use our prayer and meditation to activate the imagination...imagining ourselves experiencing the success we desire and even feeling the joy of having it work out. It's all make believe at that point, just a game of pretend...but the subconcious doesn't care. Once you "feel" it, the subconscious mind believes it, and once it believes it, it goes to work to make it happen. So, use the affirmations to reprogram your thinking, but also use the imagination to summon the "feeling"...because once the thought couples with the feeling, demonstration is on the way.

--Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.

Mind and Matter Are the Same

"Resistance does not mean walls and fences, nonresistance does not mean open space. If you can understand in this way, mind and matter are fundamentally the same." -Tsu-hsin

Isn't it amazing that an 11th century Zen master knew what we in the West are finally discoverng a thousand years later? Mind and matter are part of the same process. They aren't dualistic opposites, they are part of the same Reality.

How can prayer change things? Well, first, prayer changes the one praying because prayer takes place in Mind, so the mind of the one praying is expanded or relieved by the very act of prayer. But then, once one's mind has been changed, then that person's experience can change.

Even when we pray for others, it still works. We know now that consciousness is non-local and that form and experience are the manifestations of energy and information (sounds a lot like thoughts and ideas, huh?). Prayer is the process of changing one's mind, and a change of mind changes experience. Matter is the individuation and crystalization of the activity of Mind. The mystics have always known this. The "hard" scientists are catching up. So, with renewed enthusiasm and confidence, let us pray for whatever we need or desire, and let's pray for others, too. Our prayers will work, because mind and matter are fundamentally the same.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Power of Decision

"When you make a decision, it will be carried out and light will shine on your ways." - Job 22.28, Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Glenn Cunningham was badly burned as a child. His legs were so injured and scarred from a schoolhouse fire that doctors said he would never walk again. In fact, they recommended amputation! Luckily, his mother refused the surgery and since he was only 8 years old, he hadn't learned yet to not trust his own spirit and imagination. So, he simply disagreed with the doctors' grim prognosis and decided that he would walk again.

Glenn's mother reported that his efforts caused him tremendous pain, but he didn't give up. He would pull himself up by holding onto something and mentally will himself to take a step. It was painful, but he managed, and then he would take another step. After a while, his damaged legs regained their walking power and Glenn was free of the wheelchair that doctors thought would be his only means of mobility for the rest of his life.

Having learned (against all odds) to walk again, Glenn decided that he would become a runner (why stop with one miracle?). And, in the 1930s he competed in the Olympics and was honored as a world class athlete.

It took effort and time and it was at first difficult, but Glenn was able to do what experts said could not be done. He decided that it was possible to walk again and once he made up his mind that something was possible, it turned out to be true.

Once we decide that something is possible, or that we deserve success, or that we are smart enough or good enough or strong enough to accomplish something, we have actually initiated the process that can lead to miracles. The decision may be followed by hard work, pain, or a long wait, but the decision is actually the first step that can lead to fulfillment of a dream.

What amazing goal or wish do we dare conjure today? Once we have it in mind, we then can decide that it is possible for us, and at that moment we are already on our way to turning the possibility into an actuality. When we truly decide that something is possible, we have unleashed the magic and wonderful results are surely on the way!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Triple O

“[Human-beings] rarely…manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.” – Robert Heinlein

“For in God we live and move and have our being…” – Acts 17.28

God is not an American.
God is not white.
God is not male (regardless of how many people refer to God as “Father”).
God is not Christian.
God is not human.
God is, at least, not only these things.

The Energy of life certainly expresses as Americans, and as Europeans, Canadians, Africans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. The Substance of existence manifests as people of all races (and as animals, plants, minerals, gases, etc). The All-in-all is obviously present in men and in women. Ultimate Reality, the Mystery of life is truly omnipresent which means It exists in and as all that is, seen and unseen. How did we ever convince ourselves that God preferred our group over all others? How did we ever delude ourselves into believing that our religion, our book, our prejudices, our values, our preferences were shared, initiated, condoned and commanded by God??!! How did we become so arrogant (or is it naïve) as to assume that we somehow held the patent on God?

God is the name we use for what can’t be named; it isn’t limited to any one clan, tribe, country, sexual orientation, gender, or religion. God is what is…Eternal Isness expressing in, through and as everything. God is Every Thing and No Thing. God is all that is and is more than the sum of Its parts. God is within all life and all life is within God. Creative Intelligence, Perfect Love, Wisdom, Web of Existence, and Infinite Potentiality…these point toward what is ultimately Real. Quantum physics, process philosophy, transpersonal psychology, metaphysics, religion, poetry…these are just a few of the disciplines that have explored this Reality that is known by many names while being limited by none of them. We can continue to call It “God,” and we can enjoy our journey deeper and deeper into this divine Mystery, but let us never assume that it is ours alone or that it has privileged us over our neighbors (or even our enemies). Whatever else God is, God must surely be all-inclusive.

As a child, I was taught something that I now believe to be true: God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Omnipresent means that “there is no spot where God is not.” God isn’t limited to any one religion or culture. Omniscient means that God is all-knowing, all Intelligence (not just what is known or believed by one group). And Omnipotent means that God is all power and is therefore in no way limited by the prejudices, beliefs, superstitions, or rituals of a certain group. God is big enough to include all life, to express in and as all life, and to love all life. Let’s finally have a God bigger than ourselves and our preconceived ideas…Let’s allow God to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. We’ve always said it; let’s finally believe it.

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Work, Pray, Think, and Believe

"Four things for success: work and pray, think and believe." - Norman Vincent Peale

Norman Vincent Peale, a graduate of the School of Theology at Boston University, was a political conservative, but his religious views were progressive. He blended psychology with religion and taught that a positive understanding and application of Christianity could yield tangible results, such as improved health or success in business. He lived and demonstrated what he taught and many people have been influenced by his work.

Peale's simple, common sense still appeals to those who read his work and people are still applying his simple wisdom and finding that it still works. His four part formula for success is a good example: work, pray, think, and believe.

If we work toward our goals, we'll be more likely to achieve them, and even if we fail we won't have the added regret of knowing we didn't at least try.

Prayer relieves anxiety, keeps us from feeling helpless, renews our hope and connects us with a higher Power which can help us achieve our goals. Prayer can change the one praying enough that he or she can then become the answer to her or his own prayers.

Thoughts are the foundation for everything. Every invention, discovery, and creative work of genius began as a simple idea. Every person who overcame adversity to achieve success told himself or herself at some point that victory was possible. Thoughts can give us the extra advantage we need or sabotage us from the beginning. Emerson said we are what we think about all day, and experience shows this to be true.

Believe...if we work for our goals, thinking they are possible and praying for wisdom, guidance, strength or patience to achieve them, then we can certainly believe that accomplishment is at hand. If we will work for a thing, think about it in positive ways, pray for it, and beleive in it, then it will most often, in some fashion come to pass. Work, pray, think and believe remains the formula for success.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A New Nausiating Low in Christian Homophobia

According to a news release on a "mega-church" in Arlington, TX has done the unimaginable. A 46 year old Navy veteran of "Desert Storm" died recently and was refused a funeral at the "High Point Church" of Arlington. Surely this was a low point in the life of High Point Church!

The deceased man who had risked his life for his country in war-time developed a heart condition 6 years ago. While waiting for a heart transplant, complications set in and he died. His brother was a member of High Point Church and so a funeral was initially arranged. However, when the family gave the church photos of the man to memorialize his life, the church was offended that the photo array included pictures of him hugging and kissing his same-gender life-partner.

Rather than deciding that the funeral was for the man's loved ones and not a tool to promote the anti-gay doctrine of that particular church, and rather than even telling the family that in order to have the funeral at their church where same-gender love is apparently not valued nor even allowed they would need to remove the photos where the deceased man was showing affection to his male loved one, the High Point Church instead just cancelled the funeral.

Realizing how monstrous it is to deny someone a funeral service, the church apparently tried to soften the blow of their dehumanizing homophobia by offering to pay for the service to be held elsewhere. The undersandably offended family declined the offer and held their memorial service at a non-discriminating funeral home.

In a country where we are each free to be as ignorant, prejudiced, biggoted, and out-spokenly hateful as we choose, and where religion is free to dehumanize any citizen for any reason (providing it can offer an isolated ancient proof-text to support the action), it still seems beyond indecent to deny the family of even someone you may regard as unworthy, inhuman, or totally sinful a ritual chance to say goodbye. The day a church refuses to offer a comforting ministry to a bereaved family because of who and how the deceased person loved is a sad day in the history of religion and in a nation that claims to be civilized.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Crashing the Christian Party

I was at a wonderful conference last week in Arizona where I attended an academic presentation on interdisciplinary approaches to religion. One scholar (a psychologist) presented a paper on the neuro-plasticity of the brain and how the thoughts we choose shape our experiences. A second presenter was a bible scholar who argues for a symbolic/allegorical approach to biblical interpretation (instead of the more widely accepted historical-critical method in which I was trained). A third scholar was a theologian who presented a paper on the Gospel of Thomas showing that early Christian communities were more diverse in opinion and experience than the institutional church would have us believe (the Thomas gospel did not make it into the Christian canon, but some of us believe it should have).

It was that third scholar who said of the defenders of orthodoxy, those who say that only people who accept certain doctrines or dogmas can be Christian, that she tells them, "I am the resurrection of the people you tried to kill." That is, she represents the faith experiences of those who did not get their views in the canon of scripture or in the creeds but who represented healthy and vibrant faith communities faithful to their understanding of Jesus.

I thought of that brilliant scholar and her wise retort when someone accused me today of holding (and sharing) views that were simply not Christian. I understand my Christianity to be both positive and progressive, but I was informed that my spirituality wasn't progressive Christianity, it was not Christian at all. I thought that was rude, but more than that, wrong.

My retort was neither as succinct nor as clever as "I am the resurrection of the people you tried to kill," but the spirit of that retort was very present with me when I replied, "Christianity may be broader, richer, and more diverse than you are willing to believe. People who who share my beliefs were written out of the canons, denounced by councils, and silenced in the creeds. But that only means they lost the political battles, not that their views didn't have merit. They were Christian, they just weren't the Christians who wound up with the power. The ones who wound up with the power and privilege are the ones who have always felt they had the right and authority to pontificate what and who was (and wasn't) Christian. Their experience is real for them, but their experience is not the only possible experience. Whether you believe it or not, Christianity really does have room for people like me, and at least on the margins, it always has."

I am a Christian with a "low" Christology. I am a Christian with a panentheistic understanding of God. I am a Christian who follows rather than worships Jesus. I am a Christian who does not feel that the world was lost and required a savior to bring it back into relationship with God. I understand where those beliefs originated, but I don't believe they were the views of Jesus, they are not the view of every Christian in any time period, and they are not views that I need to uncritically accept in order to be a faithful member of the community that finds Jesus to be a particularly important symbol of faith.

I am a Christian with a high regard for the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Agnostic, the Taoist, and the Wiccan (and others). I am a Christian who does not believe that anyone is damned (least of all for the religious opinions that they do or do not hold). I am a Christian who loves the Judeo-Christian scriptures (and non-canonical bits that didn't make it in), the Christian sacraments, my particular Christian community, and the Galilean God-filled prophet who my tradition considers to have been anointed with God's spirit and grace (Christ means "anointed").

It would be OK if I weren't a Christian (there have been times when I didn't feel much attachment to that label), but today I glady affirm my place as a Christian Metaphysician and I invite anyone else whose critical mind and adventurous spirit leads them to Jesus but not necessarily to the "traditional" teachings about him to claim their place as a "progressive" or "questioning" or "New Thought" or "liberal" or "non-traditional" Christian.

Before the institutional church and the Roman empire merged in the 4th century, there were actually a number of Christian centers, and they each had different tones and outlooks. Some of them would later be called heretics, but in the beginning, they were just followers of Jesus as they understood him and his message. They didn't win the political battles that came later, but their faith was real and was part of what kept the Christian spirit alive before the Christian church evolved into a powerful institution. Some of us may not look like what the institution says is "orthodox," but that's OK. We may just be the resurrection of the people they tried to kill, and that's pretty cool too. Afer all, what is a Christian if not a person living in resurrection power? :-)