Just Not Feeling It - Feelings and Being

It wasn't that long ago, just 'the other day' as we say here in the South, that I was visiting a rural church for worship. After the call to worship by a well tuned choir, the pastor headed to the pulpit. He rose slowly, with an audible groan, shuffled to the pulpit, arranged a few papers and then without looking up, spoke a droning welcome, "This is the day...that the Lord has made..let us be (hesitation) joyful."

It was almost a scene from Saturday Night Live. I didn't know if I should laugh or moan. Clearly his life moment and his words were - disconnected.

Sometimes we don't feel it. Sometimes we are just not happy, joyous and free. What do we do when our desire to be joyful and our feelings don't jive?

Here's some thoughts on that:

1. It's OK to feel bitchy, sad, discouraged and down right 'unholy.' Emotions aren't evil, just uncomfortable. Give yourself a break. It will mostly likely pass.
2. What I feel doesn't have to determine what I do. Acknowledge how you feel, but don't inflict that on innocent (or guilty, for that matter) bystanders.
3. We can change our attitude. Write a list of things that are good in your life. Recite positive and life affirming statements. If I say, "I will win. Why? I'll tell you why. Because I have faith, courage and enthusiasm" ten times, it will likely change my attitude.

One of my favorite quotes comes from William James, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind."


Some Days

Some days require 2 cups of coffee and an extra hearty laugh.


Some Thoughts on Sin, Judgement and Theological Perspectives - The Odd Journey of Loving Others

"Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" – Rubbish!

Pardon me while I rant... We mean well when we invent platitudes and politically correct proclamations. I, above many others, am sensitive to the need to for non- offensive statements and the inclusion of divergent opinions, however, when it comes to utterances that just don’t make any practical sense – I’m not so tolerant. One of those sayings is “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” How do you do that? 

I don’t believe we can separate the two, at least not on a pragmatic level. How do you love the sinner and hate that sinners behavior? (Side note -of course I have trouble even defining what a sinner is, anyway. Isn't a non sinner an imagined state of faultlessness? As such, why do we even talk about such? I'd rather dispense with the term 'sinner' outright. It makes more sense to speak of loving people, even those who are doing destructive, and hurtful things to themselves or others.)  Can a person really differentiate themselves from their actions? Is it possible to really speak of someone apart from the choices that they make or the life they live?

It is our living that fills our soul, fleshes us out as people. We are human beings and our being can't really be segmented from our actions any more than our actions can exist without our being. In short, we don't have the option to love someone without loving the whole package. As my mother is often quoted (by me), "We love you warts and all."

So our theology has to be one that either supports loving or hating the person. Does God call us to love people who are doing bad things? Simply put, yes.

The challenge to love wouldn't be much of a challenge at all if it was to only love people who fit our particular perspective of good. Loving people that are different, and even those who are - by most assessments - bad, is hard work. As soon as I have it figured out - I'll let you know. In the mean time, let's not avoid the hard work of growing more capable of a greater love by speaking such silly things as "love the sinner, hate the sin."

Our use of such remarks is most often our attempt to state judgment on someone without taking responsibility for that. It reminds me of growing up in the South. Here you can say anything you want to about someone if you state it correctly - just end your statement with "bless their heart."

He is such a thick-headed oaf - bless his heart.
She is quite the whore - bless her heart.
That one isn't the sharpest tack in the box - bless her heart.

You get the idea. When someone talks about hating the sin, what they are really doing is judging. I love him, but I hate his drug use. I love her, but I hate the way she dresses. I love those people but... and then anything that comes after the but is really what you want to say.

I'm advocating a more difficult task of dealing with why I am judging others and learning to love more. Who's in?


A Child's Humorous Theology - Children's Messages are Often Poignant

Sometimes the children's message comes from the child. A child was seated on the front pew during a particularly crowed service. As the pastor, enthusiasm running full tilt, stood to invite a packed sanctuary to give generously to the offering... "As we prepare to give to God from our abundance, let us remember that if it wasn't for God' generosity, we would all be but dust..," as the pastor paused for emphasis, the child turned and spoke into the silence - "Mommy, what is butt dust?"

Truth is stranger than fiction and but for the love of the Divine, as suppose we would be little better than butt dust.

Enjoy your day.


Saying "Hell, Yeah!" To Life - Guest Post

Dena Harris, Author

Please welcome Dena Harris, as our guest post today. I spotted this post over at her blog and it just felt like one of those "things I wish I had said from the pulpit." I asked her to share it here - she said "Hell, Yeah!" Enjoy.

I bought a pineapple last week and cut it up for Blair. (Betcha didn't think this post would start like this, did you? Ha! Keep reading.) This morning he mentioned something about the pineapple and I said, "Yeah, I took a bite of it. It's not bad."
"I think we need to watch how we phrase things," said Blair. "'It's not bad,' is not a very enthusiastic way of saying something is good."
He's right. And the Universe is sending me signals to watch my language. Just last night I had dinner with my friend Melody who informed me about a blog she'd read about saying "Hell Yeah!" to life. The writer, she explained, said that too many of us go around settling in life and that he had decided if he couldn't answer, "Hell Yeah!" to whatever person, situation, or choice was put in front of him, the answer would be "no." 
I googled "saying 'hell yeah' to life" and found this post by Derek Sivers. Read it. Here's the opening to tempt you:
Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I'm trying:
If I'm not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then say no.
Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” - then my answer is no.
When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”
He goes on to give excellent examples of how he's put this new philosophy to work. Blair and I were talking this morning about what a difference such an attitude should could bring. For example:  
  • Want to go exercise? It's not, "Yeah, I guess I should," it's "Hell yeah I do!"
  • Chinese for dinner? Hell yeah!
  • Go for a walk? Hell yeah!
  • Crank out some writing this morning? Hell yeah! 
 But how will this work on things we maybe really don't feel like saying "Hell yeah!" to but that have to be done anyway? I still think the philosophy will work. Suppose I don't feel like cleaning the house. If I stop for a moment and think about why I like a clean house--it puts me in a good mood, calms my mind, makes me feel organized, I like knowing everything is in its place, I work better when the house is in order--then maybe I can work myself up to a "Hell yeah, I do want to clean the house because I want all those things that follow!"
Anyway, there's going to be a lot of cursing around the Harris household this week because we're going to embrace the hell yeah way of life. 
Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, let me get a "HELL YEAH!!!" ;)


God Loves Us Even if We're a Bad Joke

Can I tell you a bad joke? A lesbian, a Baptist and a Serial Killer Walk into a Church…

I’ve heard some funny jokes in my day. My favorite –with all due apologies to my family and friends who have heard it a thousand times – goes like this: A man walks into a bar. –pause- “Ouch!” Get it? I just think it is hilarious!

This post starts out like a bad joke- a lesbian, a Baptist and a serial killer walk into a church. What happens next? Actually, that could be a very interesting exercise in reflection. How would that joke end? I’ll give you a few minutes to think about it. Go ahead.

What would happen if that really happened the next time you were in church? A lesbian. A Baptist (that one is really scary). A serial killer. Question, how would you know? It isn’t like the visitor’s pad has a place for you to check. Visitor – check. Prayer request – check. Would like a visit from the pastor– check.  Serial Killer - check? How would we know? In fact, on any given Sunday the scary truth is there very well may be a Baptist in your midst!

All too often we gather in a common setting for worship and make assumptions about the people in the same room. The reality is that everyone of us carries our own unique set of dreams, mistakes, regrets and particular formulations. Say it with me, "I'm unique, just like everybody else." We are (and I mean this with all love and kindness) the makings of a bad joke - over and over again.

Given that truth - how cool is it that the Divine welcomes us to gather and seek our own peculiar journey?


Bart Ehrman's Forged : A Review

I invited Mr. David Teague to offer this guest post here on Wishful Preaching. David is a long time friend and a recorded Quaker minister (which makes him a real Friend). Enjoy his post! - Kim the Preacher

There are twenty-seven books in the New Testament. How many of them were written by people we can identify with any degree of certainty?


That’s the answer given by UNC professor Bart Ehrman in his recent book, Forged. (The books, by the way, are Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, I Thessalonians, and Philemon – all letters of Paul). And, while there is some discussion about one or two more, the bulk of modern Biblical scholars agree with Ehrman's list.

As for the other twenty books, Ehrman divides them into two large groups: anonymous works mistakenly attributed to Apostles (Matthew, John, and Paul) or people remembered as apostolic companions (Mark and Luke), and writings, some inside the New Testament (like Ephesians, Colossians, Titus, the two letters to Timothy, the two letters of Peter, Jude, and – in Ehrman's view – Acts, James, and II Thessalonians), and others (the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Pilate, III Corinthians, the letter of Barnabas, or the Gospel of Nicodemus, for example) outside the Bible altogether. For these books Ehrman uses the modern word for writings produced by people pretending to be someone else, in this case someone more authoritative: forgeries.

Ehrman cites a number of ancient Greek and Roman sources to show that ancient people shared our concepts of forgery and plagiarism, and that such writings, when detected, were almost universally regarded as lies, and therefore illegitimate. Nor are such forgeries confined to whole books of the New Testament: the ending of the Gospel of Mark (16:9-20) was added later, as were John 7:53-8:11 (the woman taken in adultery), and I Corinthians 14:34-35 (“Let the women in the churches keep silent”). As Ehrman remarks, “Whoever added the final twelve verses of Mark did not do so by a mere slip of the pen.”

The philosophical and moral dilemma posed by the probability that so many of the New Testament writings are what we now call forgeries is obvious. Ehrman, in fact, ends the book with a (relatively short) discussion of whether lying is ever justified, and he is clearly unsettled by the knowledge that the majority of the books of the New Testament are not what they are purported to be.

As I see it, however, we Quakers may well have an easier time living with the results of modern critical study of the Bible than do many other faith communities. We regard the Biblical writings not as the “last word,” but as the first – the first layer of experience in our spiritual tradition, if you will. We know that such “nuggets of truth” as we are able to mine out of our own lives, and share in spoken ministry during meeting for worship, come from imperfect individuals. This being the case, I, for one, think we can live with the revelation that the Bible is very much a human book, as well as a divine one. Who knows? For some of us, the new perspective may even make it easier to appreciate the Good Book for the masterpiece – or, rather, the collection of masterpieces – it really is.

David Teague