Thursday, September 27, 2012

Understanding Unity with the Divine

I posted on Facebook this wonderful quote from Paramahansa Yogananda: "Realize that you and [God] are one."
A friend commented that while she was open to this Truth, it was sometimes difficult for her grasp.
This was my response:
Ultimate Reality (aka "god") is what is really real, the "stuff" from which life is made. My reality must be THE Reality. We are each an individuation of the Whole, an expression of the Infinite, Eternity experiencing Itself in/as time.
Our physical bodies and ego attachments seem so small compared to the vastness of the All, we sometimes can't imagine that we are part of It, but we are.
A kidney may seem small compared to the rest of the body, but it is all the same an integral part of the body, part of the unified whole. The kidney is "one with" the rest of the body, even though in function and experience it seems separate from the lungs, heart, liver, eyes, toes, tonsils, etc.
"One with" doesn't mean that there isn't more than our current experience, but it does mean that we are part of the All, and the All is expressed, at least in part, in, through, and as us.
We think of God as in 'heaven" but Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was within us. Where is God? In heaven. Where is heaven? In us. So God is in, that is, a part of, us! God is the All in all, so we are one with our Source even though there is more to the Source than we can experience in a single moment of illusory time.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Everyone Needs Help and Nobody Holds a patent on Kindness (Lectionary Reflections for Sept. 30, 2012)

Here are my reflections on the Lectionary Readings at Sunshine Cathedral for Sept. 30. I have been posting these reflections in the weekly newsletter (The Sun Burst), but space constraints this week didn't allow for it. So, i'm posting the reflections on this blog for this week. Best wishes - Durrell

Numbers 11.4-6, 11-14
1. It’s OK to want more, but we are unlikely to receive more (or appreciate it when/if we get it) if we don’t appreciate the good we have now.(4)
2. We often romanticize “the good old days” instead of remembering that we weren’t really happy then either. Wanting to go back to a glorified and largely fictional past only keeps us from enjoying the possibilities at hand and moving forward to the possibilities of the future. “The past is past and the future has infinite possibilities”
3. Are we ever tempted to blame misfortune on a divine puppet master pulling the strings rather than facing the challenges and moving through them? (11)
4. Mothering image for God. Moses is “not the mama” but God is. Still, a mother’s children are meant to grow up and deal with life as adults. God’s maternity is not the issue. Our being stuck in immaturity, however, is. (12-14)
5. We can’t do everything alone, nor should we. The “spirit” that has empowered and “called” us is bountiful enough to empower and call others to work with us. Sometimes to lead effectively means to share the burden of leadership and let others do their part (less micro-managing and more equipping of more leaders)

James 5.13-15
1. In trouble? Pray (for help). Things going well? Pray (a prayer of gratitude). Prayer isn’t about making things happen; it’s about communion with Spirit/Source/divine Substance (“God”). When things are difficult, Spirit can be a comfort, a soothing balm. When things are good, Spirit can help us appreciate the time of ease and achievement and the more we appreciate, the longer the good times may last, or at very least, the stronger the memory will be for us to conjure up during the next round of difficulties so that we can remind ourselves that things can get better. We can’t go back, but remembering the lessons of past failures and successes can help us move forward. (13)
2. Prayer, communion, union with the divine Source and the community helps us feel stronger, more hopeful, and therefore more whole. Medicine is better today than it was in James’ day, so prayer alone isn’t our only hope, but it’s a good addition to the healing course of action. And, we know the subconscious mind is very powerful. If prayer helps us believe in possibilities, the power of the subconscious will do what it can to validate that belief. And the power of the subconscious mind is considerable! But, no matter how much better physical conditions get, prayer can relieve stress and fear, and that in itself is an amazing healing. (14-15)

Mark 9.38-41
No one holds a patent on kindness. See someone healing in Jesus’ name, that is, in the caring, egalitarian way that he did? Someone is touching the untouchable, loving the unlovable, affirming the marginalized or forgotten, giving hope to those who were hopeless? Who cares if they are Catholic or Protestant, B’hai or Hindu, Atheist or a Voodoo priestess? Who cares if they are a nurse, a chiropractor, a pharmacist, a social worker, a Reiki practitioner, or a grandmother administering a home remedy? Who cares if they are a Christian Science practitioner, a Pentecostal Faith healer, a Wiccan priestess making an herbal tincture or a Buddhist acupuncturist practicing his healing art? If they are trying to help without hurting, nurturing rather than attacking, caring rather than ignoring the problem, aren’t they on the same side as all caring, compassionate, kind-hearted people? Anyone who shows kindness is doing a good thing! (We might even say, a holy thing). What would Jesus do? Try to help those in need. People doing that are certainly being Christ (or Buddha or Yogananda) to the world. If they are trying to help, and our aim is to help, we are all really on the same team.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Religious Freedom isn't a Right to Oppress

Against birth control? Don't use it. Disagree with same-gender loving people getting married? Don't marry someone of your gender. As the president has said, "Religious freedom doesn't mean you get to force others to live by your beliefs." Getting a bunch of people scared of an "other" and then holding a referendum to vote against the "other" having equality isn't democracy. It's bigotry pretending to be religion and it defiles both the name of democracy and religion.

Happy Mabon


Dear Friends -
It's a rainy day today, one of many in an especially rainy season this year in South Florida. One of the great things about a dark, rainy Saturday is that the mind seems to go naturally and easily to a place of reflection.
My thoughts today turn to recent events: The unrest that seems to keep much of the world agitated. The recent deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other diplomats in Libya. The terrible ways that religion is often misused to create division rather than to celebrate diversity. The recent increase in hateful rhetoric against same-gender loving people. The on-going war on women's independence over their own bodies. If my reflection were to stop at this point, I should be terribly depressed!
But I think of the rain and I imagine it washing away the unrest, the fear, the agitation, the hatred, and the mistrust in the world. I think of power and privilege being "watered down" so that justice and equality can flourish.
And once I imagine this spiritual cleansing, then I remember positive possibilities that fuel optimism.
Today is the First day of Autumn. In fact, Autumn began today, Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 10:49 AM. This day is known in some traditions as "Mabon." Mabon is a weaving festival where members of a community weave strands together to symbolize adding to life as it is whatever they wish for life to become. What a beautiful tradition!
So, on this rainy beginning of Autumn, I think of the life I am weaving with my thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and choices. I think of the blessings I would add to my life and the life of my community: I wish for good health of mind and body. And what I wish for myself, I wish for everyone. I wish for prosperity, achievement, and happiness. And what I wish for myself, I wish for everyone. I wish for peace and confidence. And what I wish for myself I wish for everyone. And I wish for the pledge I grew up reciting in this country to become a promise and an experienced reality not only for this country for but all places in the world. I particularly call to mind the words, "One [people]...with liberty and justice for ALL."
To the world as it is, may we weave strands of hope, healing, and happiness, peace, purpose, and prosperity! Let this be our prayer and our intention and our commitment.
The Psalmist wrote, "The Eternal watches over the steps of those who do justice." That seems like a good Autumnal Equinox affirmation and a call to continued positive action.
I hope you will join me for worship tomorrow, Sept. 23rd at Sunshine Cathedral and remember all the wonderful events we have coming up to celebrate the Cathedral's 40th anniversary. But for now, let the thunder be the power of hope in your hearts, let the winds be the breath of life that fills you with peace, hope, and joy, and let the falling rain be a reminder that heavenly blessings are flowing abundantly into your life now and always.
Happy Mabon!
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister

Barbra Streisand Calls us to move forward, not back

from the article by Barbra Streisand (for full text clink link above)

"Obama has been more fiscally conservative than any other president in recent history, with the exception of President Bill Clinton.
"President Obama has been far better at creating jobs than President George W. Bush. During the 7 years and 8 months of George Bush's presidency, before the financial crash, only 2.6 million new private sector jobs were created. In the final month of George Bush's presidency, the country lost 800,000 jobs, and in the last six months of the Bush Administration, the country lost over 3.5 million jobs.
"However, in the last 30 months under President Obama's leadership, nearly 4.6 million new private sector jobs were created (averaging about 150,000 new jobs per month). In President Obama's last 2 ½ years in office, 40% more jobs were created than in nearly all of President Bush's eight years in office.
"The last President who was elected amidst a severe economic crisis and high unemployment was Franklin D. Roosevelt. His policies strengthened government so that it would protect the people (creating Glass-Steagall to regulate the banks, the FDIC to insure bank depositors, the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate the stock market, and Social Security to help people build a safety net for their retirement). FDR's strategy to spend money to create jobs and stimulate the economy is what ultimately helped pull the country out of a depression.
"Even though the country's most respected economists have agreed on what history has already proven -- that MORE federal spending, not austerity, is necessary to stimulate the economy and create jobs, today's Republicans categorically reject this strategy. They are running on a platform of further deregulation and cutting spending to the bone, so that those earning millions will get more tax cuts, even though it means Americans who need a safety net won't have it.
"Unlike Mitt Romney, President Obama believes we need to invest in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure and reform our tax system to create good jobs, grow our economy and pay down the debt in a reasoned way. He believes in an inclusive country where all people deserve equal protection and treatment under the law, as well as equal opportunity, whether they are gay, straight, black, brown, white, religious, atheist, old or young.
"The choice is clear. Would you vote for a person who pays his taxes or someone who wiggles his way out of them? Do you want a President who has gained the respect of the world community or someone who on a recent diplomatic trip abroad provoked the ire and ridicule of other world leaders? Do we want a country where everyone is fending for themselves or where everyone is pitching in and working together? Do we want to go backward with Mitt Romney or move forward with President Obama?"

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Than One Way to be Religious

More Than One Way to be Religious

“Prophet” Cindy Jacobs recently declared that weather hazards and ecological problems are the result of divine wrath in response to presidential decisions. And without offering specifics, she prognosticated that more calamities are on the way. Of course, it’s a safe bet that something unhappy will happen somewhere. It doesn’t take a great psychic gift to make that guess!

Before this embarrassing statement suggesting that weather is caused by the gods and “bad” weather is the result of divine displeasure I had never heard of Ms. Jacobs, but I’ve heard her kind of blame, shame, and scare theology all too often.

I spend my life building religious community. I offer a message of hope and healing to help people navigate the chances and challenges of life. I try to affirm the sacred value of all people. I work to get people to stand up and speak out for peace, diversity, equality, and justice. That is, in my view, is religion's high purpose.

Religion gives us language and space to celebrate joys, face difficulties, and form human bonds that prove to be the cure for loneliness. Religion is not meant to increase our fears, strengthen our prejudices, or give us enemies to blame for the uncertainties of life.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, heat-waves, blizzards, and even terrorist attacks have all been blamed on liberals, pro-choice politicians, same-gender loving people, and whoever else rightwing extremists might name as the reason for misfortune that they insist is Heaven sent.

I remember at the beginning of the AIDS crisis some preachers claiming that the disease was God’s punishment against people who Christian fundamentalists found to be unworthy of respect or even tolerance. Almost as reprehensibly, many other clergy remained silent as people continued to suffer and die from the then little understood but clearly devastating disease.

I don’t know why anyone would choose to embrace an understanding of spirituality that suggests a deity will send disease or any disaster. Such petty instance that everything unpleasant is proof that a supreme being hates all the people they hate makes religion seem irrelevant and oppressive; it also makes representatives of religion seem more committed to hatred and bigotry than to enlightenment and progress.

As a representative of religion (progressive religion, but religion nevertheless), I very much resent that religion is so often misused and I wish to offer a better, kinder, more reasonable, and more useful understanding of faith.

It is the worst sort of opportunism to use tragedies as a means of promoting hatred and intolerance. The appropriate response to tragedy is compassion, not blame. The best use of religion in times of trouble is to offer comfort, not condemnation. And if we listen to the “better angels of our nature” we will affirm human dignity in the face of chaos rather than using chaos as a weapon to further dehumanize those we may not understand or like.

We are each entitled to our own understanding of the Sacred, of course. But I, as a religious person, will have no deity that would not bless same-gender love, that would send storms to punish many just to torment a few, or that would send rather than heal disease.

But thankfully, there are other understandings of the ultimate reality that many of us call “God.” Some of us believe, teach, and experience the divine as a comforting presence, an urge to do good, the capacity to love, forgive, and share, and a deep desire to bring peace, hope, and healing to all people.

We are each entitled to our own understandings, but I for one will always choose those that build up rather than tear down, that heal rather than hurt, and that affirm diversity rather than demand division. I just wanted another religious voice to be heard today.

Durrell Watkins holds sociology and theatre degrees from Henderson State University and Goddard College, respectively, as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Episcopal Divinity School. He is the author of Wrestling with God without Getting Pinned: Old Stories, New Thoughts, & Progressive Spirituality (Outskirts Press, available at, and is the Senior Pastor of the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale (

Thursday, September 13, 2012

prayer for the world

PRAYER FOR THE WORLD by Durrell Watkins

Universal Spirit of Life,
In the midst of conflicts, fears, troubles, and concerns, we dare to believe in the possibility of peace, in the power of hope, and in the reality of love.
May our world today embrace the amazing potential that lies within every human heart.
May our world today seek peace instead of war, healing instead of revenge, communion instead of conflict.
May our world today choose to be aware of the ubiquitous web of existence to which we all belong, and may human dignity be affirmed and the sacred value of all life be celebrated.
Let blessings now flow into every life and may peace prevail on earth. Amen.

Religion Shouldn't Be an Excuse to Hate

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

How I will vote...

Who will I vote for? That's no one's business; but I don't mind confessing that I will be voting for a woman's right to choose, for labor rights, for marriage equality, for accessible health care, for social security and medicare and student loans and for a tax system that asks everyone to pay their fair share. The party and the person that will get my vote is my business, but the issues for me are clear. I will be voting my values, and human dignity and equality are chief among my values.

First Night of DNC 2012

Amazing. Sikhs, Muslims, Jewish people, African Americans, Latino/as, people of Asian descent, women and men of all ages, first, second, and third generation Americans, and a huge crowd that roars with approval every time marriage equality is affirmed...a convention that looks like America and that affirms the dignity of all people and all kinds of people. Yea, I'm a little teary...feeling patriotic even :-)

Gotta Vote! Please Vote!!!

The Tea Party is to the Republicans what the Dixiecrats were to the Democrats. They can say its about taxes (and I don't understand who doesn't want to pay their share to make sure that we all have all that we need!), but there is a lot of racism, misogyny, and homophobia in the mix as well. If we don't want heterosexist, white supremacist, fundamentalists becoming the representative face of the US, we all must vote in November!

History Made Last Night...

President Obama, the first African American POTUS, is also the first POTUS to affirm support for marriage equality. His wife, on national television, affirmed support for marriage equality at a convention of the first major party in US history to affirm support for marriage equality. I realize this gives the LDS, the Roman Catholic church, and every fundamentalist the excuse they need to declare a
ll out war on the president, but I am so proud that we have national leaders who will say and do what is right rather than what would protect their own privilege and power. I hope such courage is rewarded. That is the kind of decency, integrity, courage, and inclusivity that we need in our leaders. But come what may, I am just so proud that we have leaders who will say no to discrimination even if it means they will suffer discrimination as a result. I want to be the Obamas when I grow up...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

I am

I am
“The Spirit is truthful and takes us at our word. If we say, ‘I am foolish and ignorant,’ it lets us be what we say we are.” Emma Curtis Hopkins

One of the biblical names for God is “I AM.” I wonder if that is why Jesus only followed the words “I AM” with positive statements. “I AM the true vine”, “I AM resurrection and life”, etc. Even in his most painful hour when he asks for water, he doesn’t say “I AM thirsty,” he says, “I thirst.” We can acknowledge an experience without identifying with it. What are we pulling into our I-AM-ness? When you say I AM, you are using one of God’s names; don’t use it in vain. Following Jesus’ example, always follow “I AM” with something good (and NEVER with anything negative).

Prayer Treatment
I AM a person of power. I AM wise and wonderful. I AM filled with light, love, and joy. I AM forever blessed. Amen.

Durrell Watkins
Sept. 4, 2012
Spirit & Truth Magazine

Big picture

This election isn't just about the economy. The economy was in free-fall before Nov. 2008 and yes, it is now better. GM lives. Jobs have been created. Taxes on the middle class have been lowered, and attempts to make the super-rich pay their share are underway. Decreasing taxes on the wealthy while spending huge sums for an unjust war used up a surplus and destroyed a balanced budget...but those were 2001-2009 choices, not 2009-2013. So, things are b
etter, but in addition to the economy, gay rights have been promoted, health care has been made more accessible, the person who actually did orchestrate the 9/11 attacks is history, a third of the Supreme Court members are women...more than just the economy is better. Everyone must vote his/her own conscience, but please do vote and please think about more than the economy, and remember, the economy really has improved too.

A firm stand for marriage equality

the Democratic Party approved the following language in its 2012 platform: 
"We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples..."

Regardless of party affiliation, Americans can be proud that A party has taken this step toward full inclusion and non-discrimination. I am thankful for those who affirm my full humanity and the sacredness of my loving relationship.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Divine Supply

“I bow to the One who shares everything…I bow to the ever Bountiful. I bow to the Unlimited.” From the sacred songs of the Sikhs

We live in an abundant universe. Look how extravagant, even wasteful Nature is. Consider the Field of infinite possibilities. Imagine all the talent in the world, all the ideas that have been and all that will be, and consider the uncountable number of breaths you have already taken in life. When we remember how opulent life is meant to be and how generous Life really is, we can participate in the circulation of divine supply and release all fear of lack and limitation. Our good is at hand!

Prayer Treatment
My good is at hand! This is how it must be, and this is how I now allow life to unfold. Abundance is mine. I receive it. I give thanks for it. And so it is.

Durrell Watkins ("Spirit & Truth" magazine, Sept. 1, 2012)