Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Forward to the New Year

Spirit & Truth
Today is Thursday, December 31, 2009.

Looking Forward to the New Year

The seed of God is in us. Now the seed of a pear tree grows into a pear tree; and a hazel seed grows into a hazel tree. A seed of God grows into God.” - Meister Eckhart

The years, the months, the weeks, the days, the hours that have led up to this moment have served their purpose. I have been growing, moving forward, learning, and becoming more and more of what I am truly meant to be. I give thanks for the year now past and for all years that gave way to this one. And I look forward with joyful expectation to the blessings the New Year has in store.
I allow the presence of God in me to be more fully recognized, more completely trusted, more joyously expressed, and more powerfully demonstrated. God in me, as me is whole, perfect and full of joy and I expect health, hope, happiness, harmony, wisdom, success, and abundance to be made perfectly manifest in my daily experience throughout 2010. This is a moment of decision! I have decided that I am a person of sacred value and I am choosing to experience the best of life from this moment on. I now embrace a truly happy New Year. And so it is!



Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Sunshine Cathedral, Ft. Lauderdale

"Spirit & Truth" is a daily devotional magazine published by Sunshine Cathedral

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taking Christmas with Us

Spirit & Truth
On this day in 1984 India’s Indira Gandhi’s son, Rajiv Gandhi wins a landslide election victory.

Taking Christmas With Us
“When the song of angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone… when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins:… to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace… to make music in the heart.” [Howard Thurman]

Zoroastrian priests from Persia (Magi) arrive bearing gifts for a child. Practicing their astrological arts, they discern this is a special child worthy of veneration. Practicing their own traditions, they find the child, bless him with gifts, and return to their home. In another story, shepherds come from their fields to find the newborn baby lying in a feeding trough in a barn. They see his sacred value and hear angel choirs rejoicing that the divine is so evident in the innocence of a beautiful baby. And then they return to their fields. Renewed by the holiday, we now return to our daily routines where we can make a difference, person by person, action by action, word by word, day by day.

I’m taking the magic of Christmas with me into the New Year!

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Sunshine Cathedral, Ft. Lauderdale

Spirit & Truth is a daily devotional magazine published by the Sunshine Cathedral

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why Affirmations?

Affirmations, positive statements, declarations that things are or are becoming a certain way, are a powerful way to pray. If we can say something positive often enough, we start to believe that it is true, or at least that it could be true. Believing that something positive is likely makes us feel good. When we feel good, we are more likely to notice opportunities and to make the most of them, and as we see and seize opportunities, things in life obviously will improve.

Affirmations are not by themselves magical. Using them is part of a process that helps us feel better, and when we FEEL better things start to get better. Affirmative self-talk is part of the process of feeling better. Once we feel better, our vibrations are higher and the blessings that are a vibrational match for our energy start to show up. Affirmations are a way of raising and focusing our energy, and what we consistently focus on we will create, attract, or move toward.

Rather than begging a remote deity for favors which we actually fear will not be granted, let's acknowledge the divine presence of Life within us and use the power of our own word to direct our thoughts and feelings in positive directions. Affirmative prayer is powerful prayer because it lets us take responsibility for our own lives.

Let's affirm: I am a wonderful expression of divine Life. I am filled with peace and power, hope and happiness. I am loving and wise. My life is richly blessed. And so it is!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Xmas Eve Reflection

Spirit & Truth
Today is Thursday, December 24, 2009.

On this day 2004 a huge snowstorm hits Texas. It was the most snow Texas had seen in over 100 years.

Christmas Eve
A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; it makes no noise at all, but softly gives itself away.” [Eva Logue]

Last-minute shopping. One more party. Travel. Church. The late cards that won’t arrive until New Year’s! Cooking for tomorrow’s dinner. And the traffic! For all the talk of “peace on earth, goodwill toward all” this sure can be a hectic season. And let’s not forget those who miss the merriment as they work, or sit in a hospital or lonely room. For them, the season may not be hectic, but it might not exactly be joyful either. Whatever our circumstances, let’s pause to be thankful for our turkey dinner or our simple sandwich. Let’s smile at a friend, relative, or even a stranger. A moment of holy kindness or simple gratitude will suddenly make the magic of Christmas real again.

May divine Light shine through me and upon me. However simply or extravagantly I celebrate this holiday, I allow it to be a peaceful, loving, holy experience. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Sunshine Cathedral, Ft. Lauderdale

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Bible is NOT the Sole Basis for Christian Faith

Ridiculous Comment:
"...the Bible is a Christian's sole basis for belief and if it is flawed, so is the basis for your faith."

Snarky Response:
I would disagree that the bible is the Christian's sole basis for belief.

1. the Church is centuries older than the bible (sure most, but not all, of the texts are older than the Christian movement/s, but the collection of documents into one sacred book happened hundreds of years after Jesus).

2. anytime any single person/thing is the "sole basis" of one’s faith, isn't that person/thing an idol, and isn't idolatry frowned on in the 10 commandments?

3. Can i really not trust my thoughts and experiences until looking up a passage in an ancient book to validate them?

4. NO ONE really takes the bible in its entirety as literal, relevant truth for our lives...if we did, we'd sell our possessions and give all the money to the poor (Mark 10.21), men would not have these discussions with women (1 Timothy 2.12), we'd practice polygamy, we'd keep kosher and men would all be circumcised, we'd believe the entire world was created in a week and we'd go crazy trying to reconcile the very contradictory creation accounts of Gen 1 and 2.

Everyone knows that the bible is flawed as an accurate account of history, morals, and/or science...the difference is that some are willing to admit they know it, and others are not.

Rev. Durrell Watkins, MA, MDiv, DMin

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Truth About Santa

http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/0/xcRxH9jA6_Y

Watch this episode of Sharing the Light.
"The Truth About Santa"

Protect the Deity!

Nothing is more precious than what one considers divine, which is why we tend to be so protective of our "gods"; but if Something were truly divine, would It need "our" protection?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Sin?

What Sin?

I'm exhausted with the old, lame, feeble, "Hate the sin but love the sinner" malarkey! What does that even mean? Once you've judged me to be a sinner, you aren't open to getting to know me, understanding me, or allowing that my feelings may be genuine and my experiences may give me insights to my life that you could never have. You've judged and condemned me a sinner, so what part of me are you loving? What part of me are you bothering to get to know so that you can love me?

If what has boxed me into the "sinner" category is my same-gender love and attraction, then let me say clearly that I shall remain an unrepentant sinner. If my sin is the experience of human sexuality and my joyful expression of that with mutually consenting partners, then I'm not willing to be anything other than a sinner! If your religious view says that my love, attraction, and mutually beneficial relationships are wrong, then whatever might your religion call "Good"? And why would I be interested?

The divine Energy of Life couldn’t possible exclude or condemn me because the person I share my life with also has a Y chromosome!

Now, a far removed, human-looking deity who prefers one nation above all others, one religion above all others, and one gender over the other...that all too human deity (complete with human prejudices) may well also be a homophobe, but I would consider such a deity to be a false god, an idol to be tossed on the scrap heap of other deities who proved far too human and culturally limited to be of use beyond a limited amount of time.

Greed, hatred, violence, racism, misogyny, lack of concern for those who have been marginalized...these I am willing to call sins...these actions and attitudes aren't life giving, joy producing, or peace making. But covenantal fidelity, regardless of the genders involved in the relationship, could never be a sin in any spiritual system I would be wiling to emprace. Affection, attraction, relationship building, even consensual, adult love-making...any religion that sees these joyous expressions as sins rather than virtues (or at very least morally neutral activity) is heading toward its expiration date (though perhaps not fast enough).

If you want to love me, get to know me...and you can't do that by pre-judging me to be a sinner. Hey...you don't even have to love me; but please stop lying about it.


Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

International Human Rights Day

MCC's Presiding Elder & Moderator, Rev. Nancy Wilson, has issued a call to prayer, saying, "On this day dedicated to the pursuit of universal human rights, that I ask all MCCers and people of faith around the globe to join me in praying for:
An end to the wars in Iraq, Afhanistan and Pakistan, and for the safety of all in harm's way.
An increase in justice and the extension of human rights for all people,
especially LGBT people, those living with HIV/AIDS, those living in poverty, refugees, and all whose lives have been torn apart by wars. May just and right relationships bring the world to peace.
...[pray] today that:
Every leader around the globe who is charged with making decisions that promise to impact all of us, will do so with the pursuit of peace as their ultimate goal.
Every person and nation trapped in the cycles of violence and counter- violence, from Israel to Palestine to the Congo and Uganda, will find a new way, a more promising path for sharing life together.
Every human being will use each moment as the moment to speak up for and take risks for, and live and act for peace."

In answer to our Moderator's call to prayer, I offer the following prayer:
Abiding Peace,
You long to be expressed in every human heart, in every relationship, and in all the world. We call upon you today to be known and to be experienced and to be shared. May conflicts be peacefully resolved. May leaders value justice and equal opportunity for all people. May human dignity be affirmed in every nation for every person. May the human family finally live together in peace, health, happiness, compassion, and goodwill. This prayer is offered for the sake of peace, for the benefit of all people, and in your many Names. Amen
.

Conscious Creation

Conscious Creation: Directing Energy to Get the Life you Want (iUniverse, 2008) is a very good book by actor Dee Wallace (Kujo, E.T.). Wallace understands there is One Power and we can consciously choose to cooperate with It to achieve our goals.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Let's Move Beyond the Worship of Violence

When the original followers of Jesus responded to the violent execution of Jesus by insisting that somehow he didn't stay dead, that was brilliant! It filled people with hope, with courage, and with a sense that even the most horrible injustices can't have the last word. What a powerful movement the Jesus Movement started out to be!

Within a couple of centuries of Jesus' execution, the movement was becoming an institution, and by the 4th century CE, it was blended completely with the very state that had executed the Wayshower. Rather than using faith, imagination, ritual and story-telling to overcome violence, the institutional church had started to worship the very violence done to Jesus.

As Emerson said, what we are worshiping, we are becoming. As Christians have worshiped the violence of the cross rather than celebrating victory over the violence of the cross (symbolized by the resurrection narratives), racism, sexism, war, capitol punishment, homophobia, conquest, environmental destruction, and all manner of intolerance have been fueled in the name of the Prince of Peace.

Today, same-gender loving people are killed in Jamaica while churches and politicans refuse to speak out against the violence...as they venerate the violence done to Jesus as being somehow salvific. Today, same-gender loving people are dehumanized and threatened in Nigeria while much of the Church remains silent. Today, same-gender loving people in Uganda face possible legislation that will cost them life and liberty and will also hurt people who make any attempt to defend them. And again, Christians, violent followers of the killing cross, remain silent.

When we worship killing, its no surprise that we become killers and those who remain silent as killing happens. When the most horrific act of violence is our most celebrated act of "grace"...of course wars, torture, state executions, child abuse, and violent language against the "Other" fail to move us.

One day, I hope and pray, Christianity will be defined not by who we hate, who we deny rights and liberty, and how intolerant we are of difference, but rather by Jesus' Golden Rule...to treat others as we would wish to be treated.

Jesus spoke truth to power, and when abusive power killed him, he continued to live in the hearts of the people he had touched with his message of hope and love. They triumphed over violence by insisting that Life had and would always win out over violence. May those who still claim to follow Jesus return to that early message of Life and Hope and Compassion and Justice...a message so unlike what is so often now called "Christianity." May Christianity become (once again) the way beyond, not of, the cross.

- Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

View These Discussions on You Tube

Gay & Christian
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/0/jOesUDnJp7o

Affirmative Prayer
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/1/q9SvRqRX-1U

What Does Atonement Mean for Us?
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/2/o1jN3GGVS3I

Why Does God Allow Evil?
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/3/74p1k5cNTB4

Does Positive Thinking Really Work?
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/4/L5DjW2NhS9U

The Authority of Scripture
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/7/mC4lsnuSfds

Where Do We Go When We Die?
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/8/3MHEolRsbWQ

How Can I Be Good Enough?
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/9/qgzWdXmk71w

Affirming Gay Outreach
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/13/QINPS3Y4Qa8

Queer Bible Study
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/16/JqzAGelxe_8

Can Gays Pray?
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/20/GPjsdnrC1NE

The Integration of Sexuality & Spirituality
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/21/KTOsRSflKO4

What is Progressive Christianity?
www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/32/Kb-ctsKbvPw

Redeeming Jesus

Redeeming Jesus: A Progressive Christianity Mini-Conference

It is a joy and a pleasure to welcome you to the Redeeming Jesus Mini-Conference to be held at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

This Progressive Mini-Conference will bring together a diverse and ecumenical group of people to discuss a variety of ways to approach, experience, consider, and follow Jesus.

This isn't a homogenous or dogmatic conference, but an open and honest sharing of a variety of Christologies to show how Christ remains a relevant figure for 21st century progressive Christians and our friends. All presentations will demonstrate faithfulness to the liberating Good News that many different kinds of people have found in the Jesus story.

The conference will include dinner on Friday evening, continental breakfast on Saturday morning, and a box lunch on Saturday. There will be break out sessions for interactive discussion. There will be dinner and lunch speakers, a Key Note Address, multiple plenary sessions, time for networking, and a devotional time during Saturday breakfast. Conference registrants are invited to worship at Sunshine Cathedral on Sunday, January 24th as well.

Please visit www.sunshinecathedral.org to learn about the workshops and presenters that will make the Redeeming Jesus: A Progressive Christianity Mini-Conference a progressive, positive, and practical experience!

Also at www.sunshinecathedral.org you can learn about nearby lodging options if you need to spend a night or two in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, FL.

The Late (& GREAT) Charles Ludlam to be a Theatre Hall of Famer

Everyone who knows me knows my real religion is diva worship - Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Bea Arthur...among the living Bette Midler, Lynn Redgrave, Judi Dench, Jim Bailey, Charles Busch (gender is relative in my world) - Well, one of the chief deities in that pantheon is Charles Ludlam! And he's being inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I remember food

Weight Watchers muffin & coffee with skim milk for breakfast...something green and leafy for lunch...another workout tonight with the 20something bundle of energy before the Healthy Choice frozen dinner to end the day...is this really my life?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Simple Theology

If I were to boil down my religious convictions, I would simply say:

God is omnipresent.

Actually, I would say God is Omnipresence.
The Field of Possibilities, the Energy of Life, All That Is (which of course is more than the sum of Its parts), Universal Consciousness, Supreme Intelligence, the Love, Beauty, Generosity, Hope, Goodwill, Strength, Courage, and Compassion that expresses throughout the world...I tend to call these Qualities "God" and I believe that God is omnipresent...God is the Power and the Presence that is everywhere and at all times fully and completely available.

The second part of my simple theology is that because God is Omnipresence, we are always at one with the divine Presence...It surrounds us and flows through us. It expresses in, through, and as us. This understanding is what I call At-One-Ment.

I don't believe that we were ever estranged from a remote deity; nor do I believe that any sort of sacrifice (human or otherwise) was ever required to reconcile us to God. God being Omnipresent could never be separated from us. It is in God that we "live and move and have our being." Atonement, in my understanding, isn't an extraordinary act that reconciles us to God; it is the awareness that we were never and could never be separated from God. It is the realization of our At-One-Ment.

God is Good.
God is Omnipresent.
We are one with God.
This is my simple theology.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Biblolatry, Hatred, and Gay Marriage

Bible believers are free to vote their biblical values. Many who fund anti-gay marriage initiatives and who vote to keep same-gender loving persons as second class citizens often use the bible as their justification to do unto gays as they would never want anyone to do unto them.

I assume those who use the bible to justify their heterosexism have sold all their possessions and given all the proceeds to the poor (Mark 10.21).

I also assume all the women who voted against gay marriage because of their biblical faith never teach sunday school, sing in church choirs, pray in public, preach, or otherwise break silence in church (1 Corinthians 14.34).

I certainly hope NONE of the righteous voters are tatooed (Leviticus 19.28), and I would bet that every single one observes the Jewish Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday as is COMMANDED in the precious Ten Commandments (Exodus 20.8).

And, being the good biblical literalists they are, I'm sure they've worked out somehow which of the two contradictory creation narratives (Genesis 1.1 - 2.4 and Genesis 2.5 ff) they take at face value. I'm sure they believe slaves should obey their masters and men can have multiple wives and children can be beaten and that it is very difficult for the wealthy to "enter the kingdom of heaven)...bearing in mind that almost everyone in the US is wealthier than most everyone else on the planet.

As long as they are consistent with their biblical literalism and biblically excused fears and hatreds, I'm OK with it all...oh, wait...maybe hatred is hatred and no amount of proof-texting can make it less ugly than it is. OK, i'm back. Let's fix this mess and demand equality for everyone.

Redeeming Jesus (at Sunshine Cathedral in January)

Redeeming Jesus: A Progressive Christianity Mini-Conference

It is a joy and a pleasure to welcome you to the Redeeming Jesus Mini-Conference to be held at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

This Progressive Mini-Conference will bring together a diverse and ecumenical group of people to discuss a variety of ways to approach, experience, consider, and follow Jesus.

This isn't a homogenous or dogmatic conference, but an open and honest sharing of a variety of Christologies to show how Christ remains a relevant figure for 21st century progressive Christians and our friends. All presentations will demonstrate faithfulness to the liberating Good News that many different kinds of people have found in the Jesus story.

The conference will include dinner on Friday evening, continental breakfast on Saturday morning, and a box lunch on Saturday. There will be break out sessions for interactive discussion. There will be dinner and lunch speakers, a Key Note Address, multiple plenary sessions, time for networking, and a devotional time during Saturday breakfast. Conference registrants are invited to worship at Sunshine Cathedral on Sunday, January 24th as well.

Please visit www.sunshinecathedral.org to learn about the workshops and presenters that will make the Redeeming Jesus: A Progressive Christianity Mini-Conference a progressive, positive, and practical experience!

Also at www.sunshinecathedral.org you can learn about nearby lodging options if you need to spend a night or two in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Creating Our Own Destiny

"Destiny is...a destination, the way we are headed at any given time. Destiny does not make us; we make destiny...We are not puppets, pulled by heavenly strings, nor the play things of chance..." R. H. Grenville

I've seen people prosper when the economy was grim. I've seen people outlive their prognosis by years. I've seen lonely people find love and angry people find peace. I've seen people who had suffered abuse forgive their batterers and move on to live joyful lives.

You see, our past need not be our future. Circumstances can't define us, nor can they determine what will become of us. "Destiny does not make us; we make destiny." As Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon used to say, "I am the thinker who thinks the thought."

We get to choose our thoughts, and the thoughts we habitually think will create our attitudes and our attitudes will determine how we view and experience life. Neither parents nor schools nor doctors nor even churches can determine what we believe about ourselves or how we will experience our lives. We are the ones who will make those decisions. Destiny isn't our fate, it's just the direction we seem to be going at the moment. If we don't like it, we get to change direction. We aren't puppets; we are the creators of our own destiny.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Watch These Episodes of "Sharing the Light"

What Does Atonement Mean?
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u

Why Does God Allow Evil?
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/1/74p1k5cNTB4

Does Positive Thinking Really Work?
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#p/u/2/L5DjW2NhS9U

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Innate Dignity and Sacred Value are not up for debate

I have recently encountered an infuriating example of homophobia. When told that my existence is utterly distasteful, I chose to vehemently disagree. The response then was for the person who had decided that I was unloveable because I share my love with someone of the same-gender in a mutually agreeable, joyous, adult relationship to quote some bible verses at me and then try to end the discussion by saying, "We'll have to agree to disagree."

I found this an odd and particularly odious tactic. Someone insults me (and the person I love most) and tries to say that it is simply a matter of belief, and it is my responsibility now to be gracious and simply find the view (against me) to be as valid as any other. If I can't smile when being attacked, then clearly there must be something horribly wrong with me! (Of course, I shared these very thoughts directly...I'm all for the meek inheriting the earth, but sometimes, i find myself wanting to thump a few Philistines with the jawbone of an ass...metaphorically, of course. I'll pray about this apparent lack of serenity when under fire).

I will disagree with someone who says a verse here or there from an ancient text proves that I'm pond scum, but I will not agree that our disagreement is merely two opposing but equally valid views. The one thing I am completely unwilling to compromise on is my acceptance and celebration of my sacred value.

We can have a loving, gentle, good natured difference of opinion about oil, coal, taxes, US policy on Cuba, legalization of marijuana, the speed limit, if there is a god and what name that god might prefer to be called...but when it comes to ME, i really must insist that I'm a wonderful part of the glorious diversity of the world...just as i am. I'm afraid there aren't any proof-texts that will ever persuade me I'm not a good person. Here endeth the rant.

Just Own Your Hate; Don't Blame It on God

I guess people are entitled to their prejudices, but why blame them on God/Jesus/the bible/Religion? You don't like Queers (or some other group), fine...but why scrape up a sentence or two from an anonymously written, hand copied, no originals in existence today, many times translated ancient sacred text to "prove" your attitudes are justified? Own your feelings. Don't blame them on Jesus (or Ahura Mazda, or Bacchus, or Isis...). I hate mushrooms...I just do. I don't need a verse of scripture. I'm totally comfortable hating mushrooms on my own!

Could it be that people "know" that hate is ugly and unjustifiable, and pretending their hatred is a divine command gives them permission to have their hate without taking responsibility for its unfortunate consequences? They may think it gets them off the hook, but meanwhile, it certainly doesn't paint God in a very flattering light.

- dw (the Mushroomphobe)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Indigenous People's Day

On this Indigenous People's Day, I am remembering and honoring those native to this land before colonization and imperial expansion laid claim to it, and I'm remembering as "debates" wage about immigration, that Europeans "immigrated" to this land and soon out numbered those who were here before. Why would we fear the very thing our ancestors did? We really aren't entitled to everlasting domination.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The President's Peace Prize

I know that Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson received the Nobel Prize late in their presidencies. Charles Dawes and Al Gore are Vice-Presidents who won the award (and Gore after two terms as VP and a lot of work in environmentalism), and President James Carter was awarded the Prize decades after he left office, but I'm not bothered by President Barack Obama receiving the award so early in his presidency.

I don't doubt President Obama's commitment to peace and I think he has already done a lot to improve our image in the world. He is in a position to push a peace agenda, and this award may be as much for what he can do as for what he has done. This may be encouragement for him to remain true to his values...its not an uncommon strategy, in fact, its a pretty effective way of applying pressure: "Hey Mr. Peace Prize, now you have to do the right thing!"

I think the Nobel Committe was wise to acknowledge what he's done, what he stands for, and to insist that he strive to do all that he can. Plus, its a huge honor for our country, and a reminder that peace is possible and it ought to be one of our highest goals. I'm very pleased with today's announcement.

And anyway, its not as if the President applied for this honor. If a country, a committee, a person, or an organization wants to honor our president, shouldn't we all feel honored as well? We can now say that our country has had 4 presidents and 2 vice-presidents who have been so honored...that ain't too shabby!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So Tired of the Hate

Hatred of Roman Catholics.
Hatred of Gays & Lesbians.
Hatred of Muslims.
Hatred of Mormons.
Hatred of the President.
Hatred of people with opposing political views.
Hatred of people who value science.
Hatred of transgendered people.
Hatred of people who don't hate who we hate.
So much hatred...

Doesn't anyone ever just get tired of hating? I mean, it is exhausting. It's toxic. It's ugly.

We don't have to agree with everyone...PS, we couldn't if we wanted to!
But what ever happened to disagreement? Why can't people just have a different view anymore? I can disagree with your political opinion without deciding that you are a louse on Satan's scalp.

I can worship differently than you do without dismissing you as human garbage worthy only to be cast upon the trash heap of eternity.

I can love someone of a different gender than the person you love, and I can do so without campaigning against your love and the joy it brings to your life.

Remember that great lyric from a few decades ago: "There ain't no good guys; there ain't no bad guys. There's only you and me and we just disagree."

So simple. So profound. So true. So needed.

I may not hate who you hate. I may not hate what you hate. I may not be part of a group you favor. But maybe you can handle that without hating me. Or, if you have to hate me, maybe you can do so without trying to punish me. And if you can't manage that, maybe you can hate and punish me without trying to punish others simply because they may not hate me.

Really...aren't we tired of the hate yet? Can't we try something else. Maybe we could try on Jesus' suggestion that we love our neighbor...not just the neighbor who resembles us, but every neighbor. Let's give it a try. We can always go back to hating if the love thing doesn't work out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Still Learning to Turn the Other Cheek

"One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any [perons], however much we have suffered from [that person]." - Socrates

Socrates, Buddha, Jesus...they have very high ideals, and thousands of years later we are still trying to embrace and live into them...at least I hope we're trying.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eid Isn't Xmas, and "The Stamp" Isn't New

I keep getting these emails by people who are horrified about an Islamic Christmas stamp (as if)...the stamp in question is already 8 years old and has nothing to do with Christmas (its for Eid, at teh end of Ramadan). It was not ordered by Pres. Obama (as the uninformed claim) but by the USPS EIGHT years ago. Fear and hatred of the Other is bad enough, but circulating misinformation to promote one's prejudices really is unacceptable. I guess we're all entitled to our hatred, but let's at least know the facts we are using to justify the hatred...or, we could buy what Jesus was selling and try to forgive our enemies and love our neighbors. Now there's a thought...

http://www.snopes.com/politics/stamps/eidstamp.asp

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Am A Values Voter

I am a US citizen.
I am a faithful voter.
And, as it turns out, I have values.

I value equality.
I value civility.
I value religious pluralism.
I value "liberty and justice for ALL."
I value mutual affection (regardless of the genders expressing that affection).
I value civil liberties.
I value peace.
I value opportunity for all people.
I value diversity.
I value health, and I believe all people should have full access to health care.

Those who beat the drums of war, and those who confuse homophobia for family values, and those who point fingers and shout insults and make threats rather than engaging in respectful dialogue, and those who equate capitalism with democracy, and those who are willing to sacrifice civil liberties for a false sense of security clearly have values, and they are demonstrating what they value. But let's not be fooled into believing that those are the ONLY values to be had.

Liberal values are values none the less.
I, an unapologetic liberal, have values.
And I am a values voter.

Not everyone will share my values. But not everyone who uses the rhetoric of values speaks for all values, and certainly not for mine.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No Gambling on Sundays, Faggot!

"Church leaders called Friday for Jamaica's government to drop plans for horse racing on Sundays, saying the ills from gambling addiction and its harm to families will far outweigh financial benefits." - Forbes.com
(http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2009/09/18/business-cb-jamaica-gambling_6905531.html)

Are you freaking kidding me? They're getting worked up about Sunday gambling, but nary a word about the epidemic of gay murders and mob violence? I'm sure this is the karmic result of colonization, imperial conquest, and other evils where one culture tried to dominate others...but it is mind numbing regardless of the sociological explanations. Give me strength!

Victorian prudishness is alive and well. This is a perfect illustration of fundamentalist religion...to be outraged about what day on the calendar gambling takes place while being totally ambivalent (or even pleased) about the violence done to same-gender loving people in society. Jamaica may be the most homophobic country in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most dangerous countries for gay people on the planet. But in that country, an outcry can be heard from the "faithful" against horseracing on Sundays.

I know its complicated. I know many factors for many years have contributed to this sad reality. Slavery, financial exploitation, colonization, European racism, and imperialism disguised as "missiology" and other harsh realities can all share blame for the fundamentalist and violent attitudes that thrive in Jamaica.

We have contributed to a world where a day of the week is sacred, and love shared between two humans is not, where a column on a calendar has importance, and the human dignity of a person whose innate attractions are for people of the same-gender does not. Surely there is a cure for this madness. Surely fundamentalism will not always be with us.

Sigh.

- dw+

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Speak Out Against Homophobic Violence in Jamaica

Since 1997 Amnesty International has recorded the murders of more than 35 gay men in Jamaica. 32 incidents of mob violence have been recorded in just the last 18 months. And last week, another gay man was attacked and brutally murdered in that country.

John Terry, a British diplomat living in Jamaica was beaten and strangled. A note found near his body read, "This is what will happen to all gays."

You can email the Jamaican Prime Minister, The Hon. O. Bruce Golding (hpmgolding@opm.gov.jm) and tell him that as a person of faith you are calling for decisive action to change the culture of violence and intolerance in Jamaica. And join us in praying for an end to homophobic violence in Jamaica and around the world.

To view our statement on the recent killing, go to www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral



Yours in shared service,

Durrell+

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hate is Not the Answer

On this day in 2001 in the US, four airliners were hijacked and crashed. Two airliners hit the World Trade Center in NYC. One airliner hit the Pentagon and another crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. About 3,000 people were killed.

Hate Is Not the Answer
“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” [Buddha]

Remember when desegregation scared many people in the South? The fear of change caused some people to behave reprehensibly. Demonizing the “Other” allowed people to act in demonic ways themselves. The demonized “Other” has taken many forms in our history: Homosexuals, Communists, Middle Eastern Muslims, Japanese, Jews, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Irish, Latin Americans, Italians, Feminists, etc. Eventually, we come to our senses and see that “they” are really fellow human beings and our prejudices against “them” created needless conflict in the world and kept us from being our best selves. Today is a new day. Let’s let go of old hatreds and suspicions and truly embrace the Christ Way of justice, peace, and reconciliation.

Prayer Treatment:
Divine Love, in and as me, has no enemies. I see the sacred value of all people and I celebrate my unity with all the world. And so it is!

Today’s devotional prepared by Durrell Watkins

{from Spirit & Truth, the daily devotional magazine of the Sunshine Cathedral}

Thursday, September 10, 2009

9/11 Commemoration

September 11th - a day that serves to remind us how dangerous religious fanaticism can be. Fundamentalism and the intolerance it breeds, as well as the violence it tends to promote, is dangerous and potentially lethal whether it calls itself Muslim, Hindu, or Christian.

In 2001 I was living about 60 miles outside of Washington, DC. I was stunned as I watched on CNN a plane fly into the World Trade Center (NYC was only a four hour drive from my house at the time). While I was trying to make sense of what happened, another plane struck a tower. I remember saying, "We're under attack." Of course, the Pentagon was also attacked, and another plane landed in rural Pennsylvania.

Friends from Texas called me to make sure I wasn't "too" close to the planes that were raining down from the heavens. Less than a year later I began a second master's degree in New York City. People in the City still responded with sorrow and near disbelief when they spoke of the terrible day in 2001.

It's 8 years later.
Religion is still used to divide, wound, and intimidate.
Politics seem no more civil than they were almost a decade ago.
Racism along with political discord and religious fundamentalism all conspire to keep power and privilege in the hands of too few.
The oppressed and marginalized attack one another rather than banning together to demand equal opportunity and "liberty and justice for all."

September 11, 2001 was a sad in the US.
Of course, other countries live with days like 9/11 every day.
In this country, AIDS attacked entire communities while many pretended not to notice or worse, actually blamed the victims.
Matthew Shepard and James Byrd knew what it was like to be targeted, tormented, and killed for being different.
9/11 could have been a wake-up call that caused us to look with compassion on all who suffer. It could have been an opportunity to unite for the common good making sure no one gets left out.

As we continue to argue about providing health care for all people, and as we continue to protect homophobia/homohatred instead of standing up for equality for everyone, and as we voice our disagreements by spreading misinformation, insults, and personal attacks instead of engaging in healthy, respectful dialogue, one wonders if the healing that could have followed the 9/11 tragedy has been carelessly overlooked.

As we remember a sad day in American history, let's also remember that others have also had sad and painful days. And lets use our painful memories not to justify hatred or to promote fear, but to summon the compassion and goodwill that can bring healing to our whole world. That is the Phoenix that ought to rise from the ashes of 9/11. That is the Resurrection that can affirm life in the aftermath of death. That is the spiritual maturity that may just help heal the wounds inflicted by fundamentalism of every stripe.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
12:45 AM (EST), Sept. 11, 2009

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Christ Will Come...Today?"

An excerpt from “Christ Will Come…Today?”
A sermon from Transfiguration Sunday, 2008
by Rev. Durrell Watkins
Mark 9.1-8

Mark, writing in or near the year 70 CE, some 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, puts these words into the mouth of the Jesus of his imagination: “I say to you there are some standing HERE who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power.” Mark’s community has been waiting 40 years already and Mark is convinced the wait is almost over; and maybe it was, and maybe it is.

In verse 2 of our reading today we are told that after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. Already, there is a wealth of symbolism that we should not ignore.

In the bible, the high mountain is where a prophet goes to encounter the Divine. The Mountain top experience is a metaphor for being in the presence of God. Jesus enters into the divine presence – that kingdom which is always at hand.

When does Jesus do this? After six days, but six days after what? We may remember from the book of Exodus that Moses took a friend with him up a high mountain. Moses takes Joshua up the mountain of God where the Shekinah glory of God, in the form of a bright cloud, covers the mountain for SIX DAYS and on the seventh Moses hears the voice of God (Exodus 24.16).

Shekinah is a word used in ancient rabbinical literature to refer to the glory of God. Shekinah is the maternal nature of God…and after communing with the maternal presence of God for six days, Moses and Joshua are able to actually hear from their inner-most divinity.

In any case, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John…why those three? Charles Fillmore believed that each of the apostles represented a spiritual quality. He identified Peter with the development of Faith, James with Wisdom, and John with Love.

Perhaps Jesus is taking Faith, Wisdom, and Love, the trinity of his being up the high mountain, the presence of God, because it is faith, wisdom, and love that will guide his mission and those are in fact the qualities of God. To enter into the presence of God is to increase in the experience of faith, wisdom, and love.

Jesus goes up the mountain, and Mark says, “Jesus was transfigured…and his clothes became dazzling…” In Eastern mysticism, faces and bodies of the righteous are often depicted as beaming with divine illumination. Also, we remember the story of Moses on a high mountain with God, coming down and having been in the presence of God his face had become radiant or dazzling (Exodus 34.30).

Furthermore, 15 or 20 years before Mark’s gospel, St. Paul wrote, “All of us gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3.18).

Mark is continuing the tradition of depicting communion with God as being something that releases divine light in our lives…we shine with the very holiness of God in whose image we are made when we allow ourselves to believe in the God of our being, and to encounter the divine light and love that is always within us.

The story of Jesus’ transfiguration may actually be the story of our own! When we experience the glory of the Lord [the Life Principle] we are transformed into the SAME IMAGE from glory to glory…

The next thing we see in Mark’s story is that Moses and Elijah show up. We’ve already recalled some stories of Moses on the mountain of God, but Elijah also spent time on the mountain (1 Kings 19.11). And now, with Jesus on the mountain, they return, the symbols of the law and the prophets. Moses the Law-giver and Elijah the great prophet are symbols of scriptural teaching…those teachings that encourage faith, wisdom, and love.

What is the bottom line of scripture, the law and the prophets? “Do unto others whatever you would have them do to you. THIS IS THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS” (Matthew 7.12). Moses and Elijah are reminders of what the Law and the Prophets are really trying to teach, and those teachings are continued in the ministry of Jesus.

Living a life of kindness, generosity, and goodwill, this is what the bible teaches. It isn’t about who to blame, who to be against, who to hate, who to change, who to convert…it’s about treating the next person with the dignity and compassion you would like to receive. And the symbols of that simple but world changing message are present in Mark’s story to show what following Jesus really means.

Then, Peter wants to pitch three tents to mark the occasion. He didn’t know what to do, but he wanted to do something. Other than on the mountain of God, where was the Shekinah glory of God experienced? When people gathered to study the scriptures, or to pray, in the tabernacle, and in the Temple. In fact, a tabernacle is basically a tent!

So, building shelters, or tents, is actually a reasonable response to the glory of God. When we experience God, we want to give, we want to share, we want to create, we want to do something good! Peter’s response is appropriate.

Then, in the Mothering Presence of God, with wisdom, faith, and love attending, we hear the voice of God saying about Jesus, “this is my child. Listen to him.”

Listen to him…don’t make him into an idol, don’t create a lot of complicated doctrines about him, listen to him and do what he says…love your neighbor, work for justice, resist oppression, pray for one another, include those who have been excluded, cultivate wisdom, faith and love. And then “Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.”

Listen to Jesus; follow his example. And when we hear that message and embrace it, we see only the Christ of our being, the perfect Idea that we are in the mind and heart of God. We see our goodness, and we commit to sharing it with the world.

“I say to you there are some standing HERE who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God HAS COME in power.” Mark says, the return of Christ, for some here, is immanent…and then he shows them how.

The return of Christ happens when we go inward into the presence of God, that high mountain of our own soul, and we take with us the wisdom, love, and faith that God has poured into our hearts, and devote ourselves to that experience, following the Christ-way of love and hope and healing and compassion, and we are bound to experience the power of divine glory so powerfully that we wind up seeing only the Truth, the Christ within; and in that moment, Christ has returned in power and in glory. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1.27).

I stand here willing to say exactly what Mark said, “there are some here TODAY who will experience the coming of Christ in their own lives.”

Not something out there, but something right here, right now. And with that experience will come hope and healing and happiness. Today, we can enter into the divine presence, that high mountain of God, and discover there the Christ in US, the hope of glory.

This is the good news. Amen.

Durrell Watkins (c) 2008

Friday, September 04, 2009

Why Must We Vote on Equality?

It is deeply offensive that to "win" equality in a state or a country, a group has to persuade the majority to "allow" it. Democracy shouldn't be a "tyranny of the majority," but a guarantee of equal opportunity and protection.

--durrell watkins

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fat As I Ain't

OK...i'm not bragging (its still premature for that), but i am really excited. you see, i discovered tonight that i have lost an inch and a half in my hideously fat neck! from a 19 collar to a 17 1/2 collar...i haven't been able to wear a 1...7.5 in YEARS. The shirt is probably out of style and I couldn't care less! i'm wearing it proudly, buttoned to the top with a tie. i may one day be fit again afterall.

neck 17.5 (down form 19). waist 34 (down from 36). weight 201 (down from 218). its been the slowest, hardest weight loss ever (about 8 months...but i've been the most consistent/commited for the last 4)...but for the first time in years, i haven't given up after 6 or 8 disappointing weeks. so...2 more inches in waist to go. one more inch in neck to... Read More go. 13 more pounds to go. but actually beleive i might make it this time. thank you tod (who works out with me every week so that i don't throw in the towl and replace it with twinkies).

This is quite a different story than I posted on Oct. 17, 2006 where I was simply resigning myself to corpulence and trying to find the wherewithal to celebrate it. If Fat and Fabulous is the best I can do, I'll take it. But, honestly, Fit and Fabulous is better. I want it. And I'm really getting close (hopefully the obesity gods won't strike me with a terminal craving for Krispy Kreme and thus undermine all my hard won progress...but for now, it's looking good).
........................................

A blast from the past:
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Fat As I Am

Wasn't it Sophie Tucker who sang, "I don't want to get thin; you can laugh and you can grin but I'm doing very well the way I am"? Oh for such self confidence!

And didn't Mae West in mid-life and full figured just know that she was sex walking! Oh for such self assurance!

And wasn't it Bette Midler who made fun of herself by singing, "Fat as I am, who wants to see a diva fat as I am..."? How wonderful to laugh at one's foibles rather than taking them too seriously.

Well, here I am, weeks away from 40 and for the first time in life I've passed the 200# mark on the hateful, satanic scales of scorn. Every photographic image of myself, every mirror reflection, every bathroom scale, every pair of pants that fit me only two months ago that now serve only to cut me in half as I try to zip them up all remind me that I'm starting on the back 9 and I may need a cart to finish!

Oh, I swear that I will get to the gym or take a pilates class or sit on a cushion and meditate the lbs away. But mostly, I drink another soda (never diet) and prepare for the next Star Trek rerun on TV. After all, Captain Kirk is quite corpulent these days too. At least I have my hair, though the same mirror that shows my Santa belly and double chin also demonstrates that my luxurious hair is as a grey as a mule's. Can I please catch a break?! Though, at this point I couldn't even catch a frisbee (not that I would bother to try).

Maybe this is what middle age is like. I keep hearing that 60 is the new 40, so why does 40 look like the old 60?! It isn't fair.

Maybe I'll get to the gym. Maybe I'll will away the poundage and release the svelte inner homo that longs to re-emerge. Or, maybe I'll channel the spirit of Sophie and decide that I'm doing very well the way I am. I think that may be the answer. My new resolution is to have the attitude of Ruth Brown, who sings, "Now look at this nice bottom, ain't it easy on the eyes, guaranteed to support any weight or size!" Or in the words of a song from that fun musical, WHEN PIGS FLY, "Put on a few its not so bad, your man will learn to love it; I have all I ever had - in fact I have a lot more of it."

Yes, there are reasons to get back in the gym and work on being healthier. But I can be happy with who I am right now. At any size, at any age, I'm a damn good person. Now I feel fantastic! I think I'll celebrate with a pizza. Hey! Who are you to judge?! I'm doing very well the way I am!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cheers for the ELCA

Following the example of Metropolitan Community Churches (since 1968), the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ, and The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America takes the courageous step of validating the sacred value of its LBGT members. There will be name calling, threats of schism and financial bullying, and pleas to return to "traditional" values (that demonize and exclude the Other), but you can't unring a bell. "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice." The ELCA has taken courageous risks for justice and inclusion. I applaud our Lutheran friends.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leaders in Progressive, Inclusive Religion

I am grateful that The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Presbyterian Church in the USA have been discussing human sexuality for years now. I'm grateful that most recently the ELCA has adopted a progressive and inclusive statement on human sexuality. The UCC and the UUA progressed faster on issues of sexual justice and inclusion than some of the others, but they've all been willing to challenge assumptions and prejudices and to consider new ways of being "the Church." Additionally, Reform Judaism and the New Thought churches have proven themselves gay friendly. Meanwhile, Metropolitan Community Churches (founded in 1968) have ALWAYS affirmed the dignity of LBGT people, have always ordained LBGT people, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches was blessing same-unions long before anyone thought gay marriage would ever be legal anywhere! I'm proud of MCC's moral/social leadership. I'm glad and grateful to be part of the MCC movement.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Health Care a Personal Issue for Some of Us

My grandfather was a small business owner. He was a self-taught machinist without a high school education. He survived the depression (as an orphan) and went on to teach himself a trade, start his own business, build his own house (before the days of onerous permits), and raise a family.

My grandfather, though generous, was also fiscally conservative. He saved and was ready to retire with a significant nest egg (mostly invested in Certificates of Deposit). He retired at 62 with his savings and Social Security as his only income. My grandmother, a life-long home-maker, drew a significantly smaller Social Security pension.

At 65, my grandfather would have received Medicare. But you see, for some reason, he had never bothered to purchase health insurance. And since he didn't have it while he was working, he didn't think he'd need it in retirement, especially since Medicare was just three short years away.

Sadly, cancer did not wait on medicare. Medical bills depleted most of my grandparents' savings. In fact, my grandmother was still paying for my grandfather's illness years after his death. When she turned 65, my grandmother received Medicare benifits and eventually took out an AARP supplemental policy. But neither of her insurance plans at that time covered prescription medications. She spent the rest of her life spending most of her fixed income on her own medical care. The lack of insurance, or insurance that covered the real cost of health management left hard-working, saving, thrify people spending their retirement years far less comfortably than they had planned for, hoped, and deserved.

My other grandmother was a teacher. She did not have the added income of a spouse in her retirement years. She had social security and teacher retirement pensions and an insurance policy. That insurance policy proved invaluable as Alzheimers disease struck and left her needing a great deal of care. Where would she have been without it? And if she had chosen a different profession, she might not have had insurance. Then what?

My father had a union job and therefore had good benefits. Again, this was lucky for him as he was forced to retire slightly early because of health challenges that probably resulted from a lifetime of factory work. What if he had worked for a non-union company? What if he had not been lucky enough to have health insurance? How would he have paid for his oxygen, his medications, his quadruple bypass surgery, his year of chemotherapy?

I am in a profession that provides HMO coverage for me. I'm glad. Otherwise, the thousand dollars a month of HIV medications I take to remain healthy would be financially devastating to me. And without the medications...well, we know the story of AIDS.

You see, I know from personal experience and family history that health insurance is not a luxury...it is a necessity. Not every job provides it. Not every individual can afford it. And yet, at some point, almost every individual will need it. Physical health and financial survival may depend on it.

That's what the national health care debate means to me. I don't care if people think its socialist (it is no more socialist than Medicare, Social Security, VA benefits, civil service benefits, guaranteed student loans, etc.). I personally don't have a problem with socialism. In fact, I am a great admirer of the social democracies of Western Europe and Canada. I am aware of the Christian Socialist movement of the late nineteenth/early 20th century (championed at the time by such evangelicals as Francis Bellamy, the Baptist who wrote the US Pledge of Allegiance!). But regardless of what it is called, health care is a human right, a practical necessity, and human compassion should make it a priority for an advanced civilization (especially one that imagines itself to have the moral authority to call itself a world leader).

If you have insurance, think of how lucky that makes you. Think of how horrible it might be if you didn't. Think of all the people who don't. Our wealthy nation can provide this necessity for everyone who can't afford it otherwise. Shouldn't that settle the matter once and for all?

Theological Discussions

A Progressive View of "The Way, the Truth, & the Life"
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin & Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/3/k-nr9ejn7o8


Where Do We Go When We Die?
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin & Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/0/3MHEolRsbWQ


Is the Bible the Word of God?
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin & Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/28/RZEe0o2q4_E


Why Don't the Miracles of the Bible Happen Today?
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin & Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/25/OZROxedIJlc


Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin & Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/27/w_fGE05nzz8


What is Progressive Christianity?
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin & Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/24/Kb-ctsKbvPw


How Can I Be Good Enough?
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin & Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/1/qgzWdXmk71w


Why Healthy Religion Must Confront Heterosexism
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin; Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv; & Rev. BK Hipsher, MATS
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/19/J3nhm7sr6HY


A Progressive View of Salvation
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin; Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv; & Rev. Brent Hawkes, MDiv/DMin
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/14/UrH9V7XEwWs


Integregation of Sexuality & Spirituality
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin; Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv; & Rev. Elder Don Eastman
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/13/KTOsRSflKO4


Can Gays Pray?
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin; Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv; & Rev. Michael Diaz, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/12/GPjsdnrC1NE


Gay Images of God
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin; Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv; & Rev. Michael Diaz, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/10/SOTfmPtRQW0


Queer Bible Study
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin; Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv; & Rev. Mona West, MDiv/PhD
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/8/JqzAGelxe_8


Affirming Gay Outreach
Panel: Rev. Durrell Watkins, MDiv/DMin & Rev. Robert Griffin, MDiv
http://www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral#play/uploads/5/QINPS3Y4Qa8


There are more topics at www.youtube.com/sunshinecathedral.org

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Welfare is OK; Yours is No Good

Social Security.
Medicare.
Free public schools.
Low tuition community colleges.
College tuition grants.
Federal work-study programs at colleges/universities.
Federal student loans.
Military retirement pensions.
Public school lunch programs.
Civil service benefits.
Small business loans.

We aren't opposed to government programs. We are only opposed to government programs that we don't feel we need. We seem to think we're entitled to the ones we enjoy.

Save "my" government program; just don't let "them" get the one "they" might need. "Mine" is legitimate. "Theirs" is frivolous.

How did the "Land of Opportunity" become so lacking in public generosity? And is it possible to call us back to a compassionate, caring path?

Government IS Involved in Healthcare

Guess what? The US government is already involved in health care. The poorest families with children get medicaide. The elderly get medicare. The military has its own hospitals. Veterans get VA benefits. Why not provide care for the rest of Americans who are uninsured? The people who are so angrily opposing universal health care either have it themselves and don't care that others who need it can't afford it or otherwise can't get it, or they have allowed themselves to be frightened by untruths and vitriolic rhetoric. The government already insures many Americans...it's time to make sure EVERY American has access to quality health-care. It is not only the moral thing, but as a Christian minister I also believe it is what Jesus would endorse. Jesus spent a great deal of time in his ministry caring for those who were ill. Followers of Jesus should likewise be concerned for the well-being of all people. This isn't about partisan politics; this is about doing what is best for every person in this country. And as the government already provides coverage for many, let's go the rest of the way and make sure there is coverage for all.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pray Without Ceasing

Pray Without Ceasing
by Durrell Watkins

Can we really pray all the time? We pray continuously when we let our lives be prayer. When praying with our words, a useful formula is to acknowledge the Power of Life (God/Goddess/Higher Power/Spirit, etc.), realize that we are not separate from this Power (it is within us, around us, flowing through us, expressing as us), trust this power to lead us to our highest good (we express trust by affirming our progress), give thanks (an attitude of gratitude is a magnet for miracles), and finally release the prayer to the activity of divine right action ("let go and let God").

The affirmative prayer then might simply say, "Dear God, my heart is your home; your heart is my home. You are expressing in and as my life, and you are All Good; therefore, I confidently affirm the blessings of happiness, hope, and harmony and I am grateful that these blessings are even now being made manifest in my experience. I now relax and allow life to unfold in joyous, wonderful ways. Amen."

But did you know we can live that prayer as well as say it? And living it is praying it! We can at any moment quiet our minds, notice our breath, and feel an instant, inner calm (acknowledging the divine presence and our unity with It). Then as we perform any task (paying bills, watching television, answering an email, washing clothes, walking the dog, etc.), we can do so mindfully and joyfully, affirming with our attitude and action that in that moment all is well. Experiencing such a moment of well-being, we can be glad and grateful, and naturally enough, we will find ourselves more relaxed (letting go).

The spoken prayer is a model for how to live prayer. Whenever we are aware of Life, remember It is expressing as us, believe in our potential, feel thankful, and allow ourselves to "let go," we are praying. The more we practice "living prayer," the better we get at it, and we will find that we are actually praying continuously.

{Reprinted from Healing Rays: A Progressive, Positive, Practical Weekly Reflection, January 27th, 2009}

Friday, August 07, 2009

Children of God

Children of God
“[Jesus] did not claim unique Sonship of God but boldly declared that all [people] are God’s [Children].” - Albert C. Grier

Albert Grier was a Universalist minister who in the early 1900s founded the Church of Truth denomination. He was a pioneer in the New Thought movement. He taught that the Christ Consciousness is actually within every human being. Grier, along with other important thinkers of his time, saw Jesus as our great Example showing us what we are meant to be and how we can live with power in our world. He reminds us that we are all children of God; and as children of God, we have unfettered access to God’s wisdom, grace, and love. Today, let’s recognize and embrace these divine gifts in our lives.

I am a child of God, made in God’s image and filled with God’s spirit. I live in the joy of this truth, and so it is!

Today’s devotional prepared by Durrell Watkins
{taken from Spirit & Truth magazine}

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Remembering Hiroshima

Today is the 64th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima. From that attack, about 144,000 people were killed (about half from the initial blast, the others from wounds and illnesses that resulted from the blast). Over the next few decades, hundreds more would develop cancer or leukemia as a result of the radiation from the attack. Most casualties were civilians.

I am glad that no other war has ended in nuclear holocaust; and I do hope that nuclear weapons will never again be used.

I’m not writing to defend or condemn the actions of a war that took place decades before my birth. I know the Japanese Empire was given an ultimatum before the attack was launched and I know that Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor is what officially drew the U.S. into WW2. I’m not interested in rehashing the rationale for the use of such deadly force at Hiroshima; nor am I interested in trying to discern if in the end such action was ethical or necessary. What’s done is done.

What I do want to do today is honor the lives of innocent people lost in every war. I want to acknowledge the horror of Hiroshima, the brutality of war, and the sacredness of human life. And, I want to express an on-going wish for peace in the world and a constant desire for the day to come when conflicts can be settled by means other than violence.

For those who lost their lives at Hiroshima in 1945…Rest in peace.
For all who have lost their lives because of any war at any time…Rest in peace.
For those who risk their lives in service of their country…May you never be unnecessarily placed in harm’s way.
And for our world that longs for peace, justice, and stability…May an Abiding Peace bless us and keep us, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Full Moon

I love a full moon...lots of positive energy. Good for new beginnings. Make a wish. Better yet, make a commitment, and get started moving toward the goal! Happy Full Moon everyoone :-)

Re: Using the Bible to Protect Marriage Norms & to Vilify Same-gender Couples

Biblical marriage looks nothing like the contemporary, monogamous, western norm. Whether we look at the mythical Adam & Eve (from either of the two contrasting creation narratives in Gen.1-3) or the polygamous marriages of Jacob, Abraham, David, Solomon, and many others, or the apparent celibacy (and sexual hangups) of the Apostle Paul...we see very little that looks like the relationship norms of our day and culture. The bible has long been used as an excuse to demonize or marginalize others. Eventually, we always come to regret using the bible in such a way.

--Durrell Watkins, D.Min.

See Your Good

See Your Good

“Visualizing is the great secret to success." Genevieve Behrend

Genevieve Behrend was a personal student of Thomas Troward (who influenced Emmet Fox who influenced Norman Vincent Peale). She reminds us (as do Troward, Fox, and Peale) that using our imaginations constructively and intentionally is very beneficial. If we can see something in our imagination, we’ll feel as if it is ours or at least as if it can be ours. We’ll drift toward the goal. We’ll get ideas about how to accomplish the goal, and we’ll be attracted to people who can advise us along the way. If we can just let ourselves “see” our Good, we will be well on our way to achieving it.

I believe in my goals, and I dare to imagine success. I see my achievement. I feel it. In the realm of Spirit, it is already mine. In deep gratitude, I allow it to be.

Today's devotional prepared by Durrell Watkins
(from Spirit & Truth, Aug. 4, 2009)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Choosing Our Destiny

Healing Rays: A Progressive, Positive, Practical Weekly Reflection
by Durrell Watkins
August 3, 2009

"We build our future, thought by thought,
For good or ill, yet know it not.
Yet so the universe was wrought.
Thought is another name for fate;
Choose then thy destiny and wait,
For love brings love and hate brings hate." - Henry Van Dyke

My grandmother was an elementary school teacher. But she didn't become a teacher in the conventional way. She didn't go from high school to college and start teaching at 22. She got married at 17 and decided to go to college two years later. It was during WW2 and there was a teacher shortage. She entered a special program that allowed one to get a teaching certificate without a degree. She went to college for one year and then started teaching. Of course, after the war, the state raised the standards for teachers so that within a few years all teachers were required to have a Bachelor's degree again. However, those who had received the non-degree certificate where allowed to keep teaching (but they were paid less than degreed teachers).

My grandmother decided she wanted to complete the degree, so every summer for 10 years she went to school until finally she did complete her Bachelor of Science in Education degree. Her sister got her degree in the exact same way and went on to earn a Master of Education degree, and their brother earned a Bachelor's degree and two Masters' degrees after serving as a pilot in WW2. All three retired from the profession of teaching.

What's the point of this bit of family nostalgia? Just that these relatives demonstrated to me that achieving goals may not be quick or easy, but that doesn't mean they aren't possible. We may have to find creative ways to achieve our goals. We may have to wait years before our dreams are fully realized. But deciding on a goal, believing it is possible and remaining committed to it until it is realized however long it takes is the recipe for ultimate success. By choosing to be committed, optimistic, and determined and by not giving up too soon, we may find that we are able to do exactly what we had always wished was possible. As it turns out, most of what we wish for really is possible. Our job is to "choose then [our] destiny and wait..." Let's keep moving forward toward our goals!


Rev. Durrell Watkins, D.Min.
Sunshine Cathedral
www.sunshinecathedral.org

Sunday, July 26, 2009

When God Sees Me, God Sees Good

"Thou, God, seest me perfect." The Upanishads

It makes me sad to see people trying to earn God's favor. The Creative Power of Life expresses through us. It doesn't merely put up with us; It needs us. We are how the divine Presence knows Itself. We are how It expresses Itself. God doesn't look at us from far away and see sin and depravity. God looks at all of creation as we might look in a mirror; and God smiles approvingly at the beautiful reflection.

We make mistakes, of course. We don't always remember our divine potential. We don't always live in the power of Love that we are. But the truth of our being is that we are enough. Transcendent Life expressing in, through, and as us is always enough. We are good enough. And as we embrace this truth, we experience more hope, more joy, more freedom in our lives.

Let's pray this week, "Dear God, you see goodness when you see me. May I see that same goodness and live into it and trust its truth now and always. Thank you, God! Amen."

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is Gay a Choice?

Something as complex as human sexuality isn't a choice, but I never give much energy to the choice argument because if it WERE a choice, it would be a valid choice. If it can be chosen, one should be free to choose it without prejudice. That being said, of course it isn't chosen. It is ontological...part of the divine mystery of life.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Body Business

I am amazed at how religion and government seem to be invested in controlling bodies...from denying universal health care coverage, to trying to limit procreative freedom, to legislating intolerance re: marriage equality...Why do our social institutions fear body-selves so much? I suppose it boils down to some wanting power rather than empowerment, power over instead of power with.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Please Don't Use Funerals to Proselytize

After hearing a well intentioned eulogy telling a room full of strangers that all people are "sinners" who can only be saved by believing certain things about Jesus (without considering that some might be Jewish, agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.), I feel a renewed commitment to building a safe spiritual place that affirms the sacred value of all people & the unconditional, all-inclusive love that some of us call God.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

God Bless America

God Bless America
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral
Mark 6.1-14

I once had a homework assignment as a child. One of the questions was “Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?” Rather than do my reading, I thought I would ask my great-aunt Gladys for the answer. So I asked her, “Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?” She said, “At the bottom.”

Did you know…
Sunshine Cathedral shares several members with MCC-Toronto.
About 1/4 of our membership is Jamaican.
We have guests almost every week from nations throughout the world, and people all over the world watch our sermons and read our literature and ask us to pray with them.
Because of our international church family, and because the kindom of God is global, I strongly resist nationalism in the house of prayer…Scripture tells us the worship space is to be a house of prayer for ALL nations (Isaiah 56.7).

And yet this is a national holiday weekend in the U.S., and I do want to highlight the U.S.’s potential, its promise, its successes; and at the same time I must remember that much of what is good about the US is good because courageous people (e.g., Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., & Troy Perry) have always spoken out against what was not yet good so the country they loved might be even better.

As a citizen of this country I want my nation to prosper and flourish, but God forbid that I ever think that we are somehow God’s special chosen people…we must claim our sacred value, but never at the expense of anyone else’s.

Now, let’s be clear. I’m glad that separation of church and state means that government cannot privilege one religion over another or speak against anyone’s religion, and religion shouldn’t flaunt symbols of state as if to suggest that they have religious value. But to speak about one’s country, to honestly address its strengths and weaknesses, and to call the congregation to pray for it and other countries as well…that, I believe, is entirely appropriate. And each week at Communion, we do pray for the leaders of this and every country.

After all, to speak about the bible is to speak about nations and governments. Prophets standing up to kings, Jesus being tried and executed as a revolutionary...that’s our biblical story. We have books of the bible titled “Kings” and “Numbers” (as in census), and “Judges” and the first five books of our bible are called the books of the “Law.” If we take politics, government, economics, controversy, sex, and violence out of the bible, we’ll only be left with a handful of verses from Proverbs!

Moreover, I recognize that the Independence of a great nation offers hope and inspiration and I am in the hope and inspiration business. So, after much thought, prayer, and deliberation, I have chosen to honor the country of my birth not with empty praise, but with truth about the greatness it has known, and the goodness to which it must still aspire. And, as a person of faith, I also want to pray for my country, wishing it not only peace and prosperity, but also integrity, health, and the will to be as great as its promise.

Our ancestors rejected the colonialism of the British Empire, but they betrayed the indigenous people of this land. They rejected the aristocracy and class system of Europe and they declared all men are created equal…but they meant only men, and only free men, and only white free men. They preached equality while denying the vote to women and while allowing the enslavement of their fellow human-beings.

This country bravely defended its borders and territories against a threatening Japanese Empire in WW2; but out of fear of their enemy they denied liberty to loyal Japanese Americans as they put them in internment camps because of their heritage.

This country stood up to the evil of Hitler’s anti-Semitic, racist Third Reich, but has often ignored the problems of racism, sexism, and homophobia at home. The US made noble sacrifices in WW2, but has since rushed to other wars that did not have the same moral justification.

And in this country, we pledge allegiance to a republic that is one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; but as of this moment, GLBT people are not universally included in that “all”.

We each love this country, whether we are citizens or guests. But we love it from our experience of it; and we must never forget that some of us have enjoyed more privilege, more opportunities than others. So we can’t dismiss those who call for change as being malcontents, or unpatriotic. They may be the greatest of patriots, taking great risks to make sure that the American dream is not for a few, or even for just the majority, but truly for all people.

The Reverend William Sloane Coffin, a protestant minister known for his years as a chaplain at Yale University and later as the pastor of Riverside Church in New York, preached a sermon a few years ago where he said there are three kinds of patriots. The first kind is the patriot who is an uncritical lover of the country. They turn symbols of state into idols of veneration and they will not listen to the voices of those who have been left out of the American experiment. These uncritical patriots don’t help their country get better, because they are not willing to see where their country needs improvement.

The second kind of patriot, Coffin said, is the patriot who is a loveless critic. Coffin said that you must hate what is wrong with the country you love so that you can help heal it. But if you hate what’s wrong more than you love what’s right, you become bitter…you become a good hater, but not a good patriot.

The third kind of patriot, Coffin insisted, is the patriot who loves his or her country enough to hold it accountable, to address its flaws because this patriot knows how great the country can be and ought to be. It’s like Mark Twain said, “Patriotism means being loyal to your country all the time and to its government when it deserves it.”

Let’s be clear…patriotism is not nationalism. Nationalism is just another prejudice, like sexism or racism or classism…it says “we” are superior to “them.” Nationalism is the misguided belief that one’s nation is God’s chosen among all nations. But patriotism is a genuine love of country, and love always has room for more. Good patriots may love their country first, but not only. Spanish Cellist Pablos Casals once said, “To love one’s country is a wonderful thing, but why should love stop at the border?”

Our readings today are about healing. In the gospel lesson, Jesus raises his prophetic voice, but in his own community he isn’t heard. He isn’t taken seriously. He is dismissed as being pretentious, or crazy, or unqualified to speak to his neighbors. But those few who would listen experienced healing in their lives; and Jesus kept preaching beyond his community to people who would listen so that the healing could spread. Prophets always call a people to their high potential; they address weaknesses so that they may be replaced with health and strength. They use their courage to help heal the wounds of apathy and injustice. And as they do, individuals and societies are healed along the way.

And so, in the prophetic tradition, I recognize today this country’s great promise and potential; and I call us to work together to help it be all that it can be. But let us remember the US isn’t the only country in the world, it certainly isn’t the only country in the kindom of God; it isn’t even the only country in this church.

May we love this country so much that we won’t settle for it being less than it can be. May our love of country be so genuine, that our love doesn’t stop at the borders. May we love this country enough to challenge it when it is wrong, and to praise it when it is right, and to pray for it at all times.

My prayer today is for the health of America:

God bless America to reflect not its own glory, but the glory of God’s realm where neither race nor religion nor economic status nor gender identity nor sexual orientation nor geographic border is ever used to oppress or exclude any person.

God bless America not to privilege some but to promote liberty and justice for all.

God bless America to be generous with her friends and forgiving of her enemies.

God bless America not to forget the mistakes of her past, but to atone for them so that she can be a leader with genuine moral authority in the community of nations.

God bless America, not because she’s perfect but because she is good and can be better.

God bless America, not because she has lived fully into her promise, but because she still can.

God bless America, not exclusively, but to show all nations and all people that God’s blessing is ever available to them.

God bless America, not because she is weak, but so her strength will be used wisely.

God bless America to be a blessing to the whole world. Amen.


© Durrell Watkins 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Talk Isn't Always Cheap

President Obama is very eloquent. He often says what I want to hear. He comforts me. His erudition can even inspire me. But, of course, I want action. I want results. I want the economy healed, the environment repaired, women's right to choose protected, and same-gender loving people to be afforded all the rights, privileges, opportunities, and protections of other citizens. It's a tall order. It may be too tall for one person to fill, but still I hope.

Here is something that I find encouraging...the President actually talks about the issues I care about. Sometimes he is criticized for being "all talk," but even naming the issues and raising awareness about them and showing concern is a huge improvement over what we've seen from past presidents. In fact, he has already given more "lip service" to gay issues than any of his predecessors. He is at least willing to talk about us (and to us)! And talk may lead to action; silence will not.

Those who try to disguise their homophobia as religious values and their hatreds as wholesome tradition will also try to use the president's gay positive speech against him. Still, he keeps talking. And if he's willing to take that risk, perhaps we can trust him to take others. We can at least hope. And, we can acknowledge that he is at least willing to recognize that we Queer folk exist. That's something. It's not enough, but it's a very good start.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Ft. Lauderdale

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sacred Days in June

Father's Day.
Gay Pride.
Summer Solstice.
June offers these opportunities for reflection and spiritual growth.

In neo-paganism, the summer solstice is when the masculine divine energies ("the god")are at their peak as is symbolized by the sun on the longest day of the year. Father's Day is a day observed in various countries honoring those who have been good fathers or who have been like fathers in our lives. And of course Gay Pride is a celebration of LBGT people and a recognition of LBGT contributions to society.

Each of these observances call us to be our best, to celebrate our potential, to recognize our sacred value, and to commune with divine energy.

May the sacred energy of summer bless us and fill us with hope, joy, and well-being as we continue on our spiritual path.

Blessed be!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Theocracy Is Always a Bad Idea

As we stand encouraged by the bravery demonstrated by the Iranian citizens as they protest injustice and dictatorship in their country, we should be reminded that theocracy is always a bad idea.

When those who hold secular power believe that they have a God-given right to hold that power and that when they enforce their beliefs, prejudices, and preferences they are acting for God, then the result is bound to be autocracy, and autocracy can never be just.

When people use government to privilege one religion over all others, to insist that everyone live by their religious convictions, they are in fact using religion to control, exclude, or punish people who are different from them. That isn’t democracy. That isn’t justice. That isn’t spiritual integrity.

We see the problems with theocracy when it is a “different” religion in “another” country. But I hope we remember how dangerous and distasteful theocracy really is when people in THIS country want “our” religion (whether Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Islam) to call all the shots! When people use religion to argue for discrimination against gays, for mistrust of various other religious movements, for government control of women’s bodies, they are in fact wanting the government to uphold their understanding of God and God’s will. To see how well that works out, we need only look to Iran; and to see how satisfying that is to a people, we need only look to the Iranian public whose vote and voice have been limited by the decree of a religious leader who is the “supreme leader” of the republic. The problem isn’t that the religion in question in Iran is Islam; the problem is that religion is personal and should not married to government. We need never fool ourselves into believing that Christian theocracy would be any less oppressive or any more satisfactory.

Religious people can be motivated by their faith and religious people have the right to express their opinions. But they do not have the right to use religion as the excuse to limit the rights of others.

Theocracy is always a bad idea. Separation of religion and state remains the better way!

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral
www.sunshinecathedral.org

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Believe...

I believe in the Process of Life, the “Ground of Being,” the Web of Existence, the Field of Infinite Possibilities. I believe the spirit of Life is universal and that it is expressing in, through, and as all that is. I understand that I am part of the universal Whole and my life is one of the ways that It knows Itself. I believe the life of humanity is divine Life!

My function in the Universe is to allow the Universal Presence to express perfectly through and as me. We are always using universal laws, but we can learn to use them intentionally and consistently. I choose to use the Law for my good (and the good of others). I am learning to learn to direct my word and my thought in positive ways so that I am attracting and manifesting only what is good.

When I remember that I am one with all Life and Life is innately good, my experience of life tends to be good also. When I allow myself to know at the deepest level that the Universal Spirit is truly good and only good, and that the Law of Mind is how the Infinite operates, then I experience the healing of conditions. When I operate in the power of this Truth, my life is filled with more peace, more joy, more vitality, and more abundance. My goal is to trust these gifts more completely and to experience them continuously.

I believe in “the eternal Goodness…and eternal Givingness of Life to all,” and I am working to remove any mental blocks that might prevent me from trusting this divine Goodness or from allowing It to express fully in my life.

--Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral


(c) Durrell Watkins 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Pointless Poem

Gecko on my window ledge
You sit in deep contemplation
As if to make a heart-felt pledge
Sincere but without ostentation.

Are you in a prison cell?
Or are you sitting on a throne?
What’s the version you would tell?
Would you laugh or would you moan?

First catatonic; now you’re not!
You turn your head so swiftly
You flee as if the ledge were hot
Or perhaps you just don’t like me.

(c) Durrell Watkins 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Feeling Our Way to Positive Thinking

"Our feelings let us know what we're thinking." Marci Shimoff
We think about 60,000 thoughts each day. We couldn't possibly control every thought, and yet we know that positive thinking is more beneficial for us that pessimism. So if thoughts sometimes just happen, but we want the majority of our thoughts to be hopeful and confident, what can we do?

We may not even be aware of some of our thoughts, but we are always aware of how we feel. If we check in with our feelings, we'll be able to tell what our dominant thoughts have been. Are we agitated? Then our thoughts haven't been pleasant! Are we scared? That mean's we've been focusing on scary things. Are we sad? That's the result of thinking about something sad.

Our feelings let us know how our thoughts have been going. If the feeling we register is negative, that means our thought patterns have been negative. And that's when we can begin to say hopeful things to ourselves. We can notice what is good in the moment. We can see the opportunity that is at hand, or we can focus on a positive lesson we've learned. And if that seems too difficult, we can simply choose to smile. Just turn the corners of your mouth up, right now. Don't you already feel a bit lighter than you did only a second ago?

By noticing our feelings, and choosing to focus on what's good when our feelings tell us we've been too focused on what doesn't feel good, we are developing a more positive attitude. Maintaining a positive attitude will help us navigate the difficult times, appreciate the good times, and move in the direction of our Good.

{from Healing Rays: A Progressive, Positive, Practical Weekly Reflection}
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral
www.sunshinecathedral.org

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's All In Your Head...Sort Of

People misunderstand New Thought and Positive Thinking philosophies. They tend to think that Religious Scientists, Divine Scientists, followers of the Fillmores, and Peale-esque Positive Thinkers are just pie-in-sky, rose colored glasses types who can’t understand how rotten life can be. They accuse the positive thinking crowd of not being more careful with social analysis and not being compassionate toward those in need. I disagree with their assessment of the New Thought/Positive Thinking schools.

Those who choose optimism over pessimism, hope over despair aren’t delusional. Those who know that an “I think I can” attitude is more energizing than a “what’s the use attitude” are actually quite practical. Those who look for what is left more than at what is lost, who learn from failure rather than feel defeated by it, who dare to believe they deserve Good in their lives even when it doesn’t seem to be showing up, and who choose to believe every experience can lead to something better even if the experience itself is disappointing aren’t denying the painful moments, they simply aren’t letting those moments define them; they aren't letting the painful moments be the last word in their personal stories.

What happens in life may not be all in our heads, but in another way, maybe it is. If people’s attitudes, thoughts, and actions weren’t motivated by greed, would there be as much poverty in the world? Maybe the poor haven’t created their own poverty, but collective thoughts and attitudes have contributed to the problem of poverty. And those who see blessings in spite of their poverty - are they really poor? And the person who made a conscious decision to resist poverty, to work two or three jobs, to get an education, to save every penny possible, and to raise himself or herself out of poverty no matter how long it might take…isn’t that positive attitude more likely to help that person succeed than a defeatist acceptance of an unpleasant situation?

The same observations could be made about health, happiness, relationships, etc. Our attitudes may make us feel that things are better, or worse than others would judge our situation to be. Our attitude might help us overcome difficulties, or find encouragement and peace in spite of them. Clearly, our attitude about our circumstances is important…perhaps as important (or more) than the circumstances themselves. Positive Thinking encourages us to hold onto the thoughts that will help us feel better so that we can give our best effort and make the most of life. So, really, improvement does begin with our thoughts. That doesn’t mean we aren’t to care about others…of course we should care! Positive thinking doesn’t mean that disappointments never happen, or that people should be blamed for their suffering…but positive thinking does say that hope is what suffering people need, and suffering is more likely to be comforted with optimism than with fear.

Helping people “look for the silver lining” is actually offering them empowerment. And even if our highest hopes and best efforts don’t prove successful, didn’t hope feel better than misery? Didn’t attempting something feel better than waiting for the worst to happen? Doesn’t trying and failing feel better than not trying at all? And if we learn something useful from the failure, isn't that better still?

Positive thinking might bring forth a miracle; and even if it doesn’t, it still seems to be a better plan and giving in to fear, regret, and despair.

Today may my thoughts be positive and my attitude hopeful. May I always do my best and feel good about my efforts.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral
www.sunshinecathedral.org

Isn't Ignorance Exhausting?

Pat Robertson, proving once again that there is no cure for the common fool, has now declared that homosexuality is caused by abusive coaches and guidance counselors. I swear. I'm not making this up. It's so ridiculous you must think that I just threw it out there to see if you were paying attention; but no, that apparently is Mr. Robertson's ill-informed, unenlightened view. My guidance counselors (in Jr. High and High School)were women, and not abusive women at that. And, as I was in the marching band, my life was pretty much coach-free. Still, I wound up gay as a goose (and completely unrepentant I must say!).

The disturbing thing isn't that some southern homophobe hates queers and has a seventh grade understanding of human sexuality. The disturbing thing is that I know his name, and when I mention his name you know who I'm talking about. How can someone who chooses to be so ignorant (and yes, it is chosen ignorance...there is far too much information about this sort of thing readily available for anyone to believe that basketball and track coaches are the cause of same-gender attraction!) have such influence in the lives of so many??? I don't have an answer, but I can say that his brand of never-ending homohatred does get really tiresome.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Friday, June 05, 2009

Marriage Equality in Six States

New Hampshire, Iowa, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, & Massachusetts have so far led the way to marriage equality in the U.S. Some will insist this is proof that the world is ending, and maybe they're right. Maybe the worldview that says the majority can control, oppress, or marginalize the minority is finally ending and being replaced by a genuine respect for diversity and inclusion. Maybe the world where marriage is a heterosexual privilege is coming to an end and is being replaced by one where all citizens are afforded equal rights and equal opportunity. Maybe the world where prejudice disguised as religious values is coming to an end and is being replaced by a world where spirituality is defined by affirming the sacred value of all people. Maybe the world where fears and hatreds are codified in constitutions is coming to an end and a new world where "liberty and justice for all" is no longer a mere slogan but a lived reality is being established. Yes, maybe the world of heterosexism is being threatened by a new world of tolerance and goodwill. That may be the worst fear of some, but the deepest hope of others. May the world of hope replace the world of fear soon and very soon. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral
www.sunshinecathedral.org

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Sad? Silly? Crazy? Cruel? The Pope's Attitude Is Anything But Good

According the AP, "marital fidelity and a 'moral view' of sexuality are the best strategies to stop the spread of AIDS," said Pope Benedict while welcoming Namibia's and South Africa's new ambassadors to Vatican City. “Only a strategy based on education to individual responsibility in the framework of a moral view of human sexuality, especially through conjugal fidelity, can have a real impact on the prevention of this disease,” Benedict said. Apparently the moral view, for the pope, doesn't include the use of life-saving condoms.

Maybe it's just me, but i'm a little annoyed with someone who takes a life-long vow of celibacy presenting himself as the authority on human sexuality. And I'm furious that decades into the AIDS crisis, "conjugal fidelity" is the best response a major religious leader can offer. The Pope's advice is flawed for AT LEAST three reasons:

1. Covenantal fidelity is just that...faithfulness to a covenant. The covenant two people make may exclusive..."You and me and no others will we see." But a covenant can also exist between three persons..."We three are all it will be" or even between four persons, "Us four and no more." You see, covenants are negotiated and honored by the people living with them.

I'm a little conservative about this personally, and prefer the two person model, but other relationships are built on different values and seem to do fine. Fidelity isn't about how many people make up the relationship. Fidelity is about keeping your promises. Such fidelity will provide emotional safety within a relationship, but will not magically protect one from AIDS. If the covenant allows for "extra curricular" sexual activity, or if someone within the covenantal relationship is HIV positive, fidelity to the promises made will not prove to be an anti-viral strategy.

2. That leads to the second reason this out-dated, hopelessly irrelevant papal point of view just doesn't work. Even in the most conservative, old-fashioned (by Western Christian standards), narrow way of thinking, monogamy is not a magic barrier against a virus. If there are two people in a relationship, and they choose (and I insist that it is their choice to make, not the pope's) to be monogamous, but one of them is HIV positive, monogamy will not keep the virus in one body while preventing it from spreading to the other. Condoms, by way of contrast, will.

3. Finally, I do agree that a "moral view of human sexuality" is needed. And the moral view would suggest that we should not value dogma over human lives. Condoms save lives. Let's use it as a mantra: Condoms save lives! Condoms save lives! Condoms save lives!
It's the 21st century and time to acknowledge that human sexuality is good, human-beings are capable of negotiating their own relationships and the terms of those relationships, and people shouldn't have to die because a celebate man nearing the end of his life doesn't understand that.

Now, let me be clear...celibacy is a perfectly valid life-style choice (as long as it is freely chosen and not demanded).
Monogamay is a valid choice...if that is what both parties in the relationship mutually agree to.
Open relationships can be moral, again, if the parties agree that is what they want and they are faithful to whatever rules they agree on in order to keep them emotionally safe in the relationship.
And, loving relationships that invovle more than two people (such as a three person relationship), if the relationship is mutual and life-giving, can also be healthy, moral, and holy.

Life and love and human sexuality are more complex than the pope's antiquated rule book from patriarchy's hey-day seems to allow. Yes, people in relationships should keep their promises, and we should trust them to make promises they can keep, but my relationship (or yours) is really not the pope's business. And regardless of the promises people make to each other, condoms must be available for their physical safety. I'm just not willing to risk human lives to protect the rules that give the pope his power.