Thursday, May 30, 2013


Daughter and I are headed for Montana early tomorrow morning.    By bus.  We are going to visit my parents and family in Glendive.     We will get there Saturday night and then go to church with them.  It is the first Sunday of the month so my dad will play his clarinet for the congregation.  My dad turns 95 on June 6th.

This pic with Katy (and Liebe) and her grandparents was from 2009. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Lovely and I celebrated our 30th anniversary yesterday.   We were married Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 28th, 1983 at First Presbyterian Church in Billings, Montana.  We went for a honeymoon to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria, B.C.  On the way back to Seattle from Victoria we had our picture taken on the ship:

Bev added the text and the square frame.

We do look a bit young, 21 and 20 to be precise.

Oddly enough 17 years later, I accepted the call to be the pastor of FPC Billings following the pastor who married us, Rev. Jim Bell.   I learned a lot from serving that congregation for four years and met some wonderful friends.

Yesterday was a good day.  We are thrill a minute kinds of folks and spent the day at the library, getting flowers from Lowe's and watching The Big Wedding.

What's wrong with that?  I'd like to know...

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I am going on vacation for a couple of weeks.  I will be back in the pulpit for Father's Day.  Then my church granted me six weeks bereavement leave.   As I wrote to them:

Dear Friends,

At the last session meeting, Tuesday, May 14th, the session graciously offered me bereavement leave with pay in addition to my contracted study leave and vacation time.   This is very generous and appreciated.   I wasn't quite ready earlier, but now is the time that I am ready to take this leave.  I will be gone for six weeks from June 17 through July 28.   This is a light time on my calendar and it happens to coincide with the year anniversary of losing Zach. 

Rev. Don Steele will provide pastoral care including funerals if needed.   I will also be in Montana next week and miss two Sundays, June 2 and June 9.  I will be back the week of June 10-16.

Here is the worship schedule:

June 2       Phil Steffey
June 9       Don Steele
June 16     Me
June 23     Rich Fifield
June 30     Phil Steffey
July 7        Kip Elolia
July 14      Rebecca Nunley
July 21      Bill Kirkwood
July 28      Don Steele

As you know, Bev ended her position at Dobyns-Bennett on March 15 and this time of bereavement has been incredibly valuable for her.  I am looking forward to spending time with her.   She will line up the music for this period at church.  She may or may not be present at worship.  Being out of D-B and present at church has been good for her.  She will do her own thing in regards to that but she will make sure all the music is covered. 

I will be taking a full break from church.   My tank is on fumes.  I am not sure what I am going to do, but I know a lot of it will be going through a lot of Zach's stuff and cleaning out a lot of things.  I may be in town or not.  But I won't be doing anything church related, except to clean out stuff.  I will keep the radio program, although even there I may run a few reruns.   I don't have a plan! : )  We will be present to Spirit.

Bev, Katy, and I are very grateful for this congregation.  One of the new members who joined on Pentecost Sunday told me that one of the reasons she was joining this church is because she saw the love this congregation had for us during this time.   That says a lot.   It is the truth. 

If you have questions about the specifics of the leave, you can talk to Don Steele or to any of the session members who were at the meeting, David Roane, Carol Ann McElwee, Jennifer Gardner, Jeff Wardeska, Michael Clark, or Kathy Wing. 

One thing I do worry about is that people might slip away when I am away.  Our congregation needs everyone's support (time, talent, treasure, you know).   I hope that you all will participate in the life of the community including worship during this time.  Who knows, perhaps the congregation itself can find ways to forge deeper bonds.  

I love you all...

Blessed Be,

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Picture Reprieve

I needed to get that out yesterday (or early this morning).  Now, for some pics.

Bowling at Christmas.  What is he doing with his hands?

Zach and I are photobombed by Lovely.

Auntie Michelle.
They are special.


I like those pics when one member of the party tries to make for a pleasant and pleasing photograph and it just won't happen because of the second member of the party.


Auntie Lora.  Both are in the same party.

Cousin Anjelica.
The only one looking at the camera.

Ah, but here is a nice one.
Katy's MSW in 2011

Mourner's Bill of Rights--Tenet Eight

This is number eight in the Mourner's Bill of Rights with comments from Chelsea:

"You have the right to search for meaning."

~ Alan Wolfelt's eighth tenet of the Right of Mourners
"Why did this happen?"
"Why me?"
"What is the meaning behind this?"
How many times have you asked yourself these questions? It can be an endless circle of questioning and not finding answers. However, as you surrender to the not knowing, you may begin to feel more peace and understanding.
You do not have to accept other people's answers.
You may have received comments from people trying to give meaning to loss, such as "There is a reason for everything," "God has a plan," or "At least you got all those years with them." These answers typically don't provide comfort and may certainly hurt your feelings. Instead, look for your own answers.
It's okay to search for your own personal meaning and your way to make sense of things.
Nice work, Chelsea.  Good answer.

Job asked the same question.  He received no answer from God and crappy answers from his friends.  The clever trick of that ancient story is that we the readers know the answer.  We know exactly why Job suffered.  God was making bets with Satan.  That is a creative way of saying that there is no reason.  There is no better statement for ancient atheism than the book of Job.  The author of Job pushed the limits of divine meaning to the absurd.   It is a preposterous story which is of course the point.   There is no meaning or plan to any of it.  No one is calling the shots.   No divine protector is shielding people from tornadoes, hunger, war, alcoholism, or suicidal tendencies.   No divine being is making it all better.

That is just what I think.  But I don't know if my thoughts are normal. 

As Chelsea says, "You do not have to accept other people's answers," including mine.  

Let us ask anyway.


Why isn't Zach a happy 26 year old man?  Why isn't he here to help his mother and father celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary?   Why won't he be here for Sunday supper?  Why won't he ever play with his new cousins?  Why won't he play video games with his old man?  Why won't he ask me for advice?  Why won't he see the latest Star Trek movie with me?  Why won't he find his soul-mate?  Why won't he have children of his own?  Why couldn't I help him ease his psychic pain?  Why did I fail him?

Don't you dare try to answer these questions in the comment section.  It is boorish to offer answers to rhetorical questions posed by pissed-off grieving fathers.  Remember Job's friends?

I don't know the answers.  If I did learn the answer it would be as lame as the one God provided Job from the whirlwind.  To summarize in three sentences and eight words God's answer to Job (chapters 38 to 41):
I am God.  You are not.  Fuck you.
If I were in seminary I would submit that as a term paper on the exegesis of Job.  My title would be longer than the paper itself, The Meaning of the Divine Speech from the Whirlwind in Job 38-41 in the Context of Post-Modern Grief and Existential Search for the Sacred.

Now you might think it isn't a nice thing for a minister to drop the F bomb in a blog post.  No it isn't.  But I am a father.  Losing a son to suicide is not a nice thing.

A friend of mine who lost a son in the Iraq War sent me this book, Grieving Dads:  To the Brink and Back.  I like it because the authors speak clearly and occasionally use foul language:
Is it normal... lose the fear of dying? feel guilt regarding the death of my child? be pissed at people I don't even know, just because they're laughing at a joke or going on about their life?
...or cry when I hear a song or read a Hallmark card that has nothing to do with my child's passing?... utter the words, "fuck you" at the most inappropriate times imaginable?  p. 119
I am not sure if I am normal but I have felt (and done) all that.  Grieving Dads is a book for fathers written by fathers who have lost children.
     For all of the bad things a man might encounter in his lifetime, there can be nothing that comes even close to the loss of his child.
     According to Nick, "Losing a child is the worst loss a human feels."  This he says from a knowing perspective.  The kind that comes from losing a daughter to a heroin overdose.
     There were many other "knowing perspectives" gathered while talking with the grieving dads I've met.  Like the one from Kent, who watched his son, Chris take his last breath at the scene of a motor vehicle accident. 
     Or Ed's "knowing perspective."  His came as a by-product of finding his 17-year-old son, Joey, hanging from a ceiling fan.  
     Ed helped cut Joey down.
     And afterwards, like many fathers who have had to endure the shock, trauma, and agony of losing a child, Ed often wished that something would happen to him, not only because he wanted the pain to stop, but he wanted to see Joey again--if only for the chance to ask him, "Why?"
     I told you their stories were terrible, didn't I?
     Well, I wasn't kidding. Their stories are indeed terrible, and quite purposefully raw.  There are no candy-coated messages to be found here.  No empty talk about another angel in heaven or the death of a child being part of God's plan.
     So, if you are holding this book in your hands with the expectation that you're going to read the same sort of "self help" drivel you can find everywhere else, you're in for a disappointment.
     If this book ever gets made into a movie, I promise you it won't be a chick flick.  It wasn't written from a woman's perspective.  It wasn't written by a Ph. D. in psychology.  It wasn't written by an Oprah Winfrey book-of-the-month club author, either.
     Instead, it was written by men who are part of a brotherhood shaped out of unimaginable loss, unbearable grief, unrelenting despair--and all the things that come along for the ride.  p. 2
Back to the tenet at hand.  I have the right to search for meaning, so says tenet eight.  That's normal.

Just because I have the right to search doesn't mean I will find it.  All I know now is that Zach is gone and that reality is sinking in day by day.  There are days that I feel damn angry about it.  I am not always angry.  Sometimes just sad.  I am also exasperated, exhausted, exercised, dimwitted, dumbfounded, delirious, confounded, confused, crotchety, bewildered, bewitched, befuddled, addled, anxious, annoyed, and oh here it is again, angry.

A few weeks ago I asked my counselor if I was normal.

He said, "Of course not."

That made me feel better.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Here it is:

Leviticus 19.28: You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord. 
Despite the Lord's command I had my flesh gashed, tattooed, burned, and inked for the dead anyway.  Not just the dead in general but for one in particular.   Whenever I put my hand on my heart, I will put it on Zach.      

If you are thinking of allowing someone to "tattoo any marks upon you" I recommend Brandy (she's a fine girl) at 2 Ton Gallery in Kingsport.  She did the same for Lovely and Daughter, too.

Mourner's Bill of Rights--Tenet Seven

Here is tenet seven of the Mourner's Bill of Rights with commentary from Chelsea:

"You have the right to embrace your spirituality."

~ Alan Wolfelt's seventh tenet of the Right of Mourners
If you are a spiritual person, it is more important than ever to embrace your faith.
If you feel disconnected spiritually, this may be a good time for examination. Many times people find a different type of connection after loss. Other people say their connection grew even stronger.
You may find answers through the spiritual realm when you ask "Why me?" "Why did this happen?" or "Why am I here?"
If you feel angry with God or higher power, know that this is acceptable and experienced by many. It is important to process this anger. You can do this by talking to someone, perhaps a spiritual counselor or minister. You can even look to others that have gone through loss and see how they found strength in their spiritual connection.
There are many books and resources available that can help you understand grief better. You may even find through this experience that what you thought you believed actually isn't how you feel at all. Loss changes your outlook.
Through organized religion we are sometimes told what to believe and how to behave. Grief may even force you to explore your feelings about your own spirituality, which can help to discover a very loving and magical connection.
The important thing to remember is that you have every right to practice your faith and question your faith.
This one is a biggie for me.  Ministers often are seen as the "designated believers" for the congregation.  We believe in the impossible stuff so you don't have to.   I reject this role.  I always have.  My role is not to encourage people to believe in things that are hard to believe simply because to do so is expected.    If you have a hard time believing in heaven or that a divine being answers prayer and think that the role of a minister is to help you believe in those things, I will be a huge disappointment.    The ministers who can find creative ways to rationalize the improbable and pray away the impossible are a dime a dozen and you can find them anywhere.

However, if you are comfortable with questions, including questions that have no answers, I will be an enjoyable traveling companion.  Progressive Christianity is not for everyone, especially for those who desire the comfort of assurance.   I don't object to assurance.  I have no desire to make people less assured.  But my preaching and teaching commitments are not there.   I encourage people to question rather than settle for answers.    I tend to resonate with people who value freedom over assurance.

What does all this have to do with tenet seven? 

I am now in a position in my personal life in which beliefs in life after death and a personal God would be relevant.  However, I am of a particular spiritual type that does not believe or desire either of these speculations.  That has always been my spiritual type at least since my first semester at seminary.  Once I realized that you didn't have to believe in those things to be a Christian or a minister, I ceased trying.

That doesn't mean I don't make use of the symbols and liturgy of Christianity that were created in a pre-modern era.   I am happy to pray with people.  I don't do it because I think my prayer is going to change anything.  I do it because I think it is a way to express solidarity and love.   The liturgy of resurrection etc. is the unique Christian way of saying that a life matters and that the individual has entered the Great Peace and all is well (at least with that person, the mourners have work to do).

Yet I did have this nagging sense that perhaps I hadn't suffered enough, lost enough, or faced my own mortality enough to express this openly.   After losing my son, I think I qualify.  Who wouldn't want the assurance of heaven and a personal God more than someone in my position?   Still I have no interest.  Why?  Why is it important to some and not others?  It isn't because of suffering or life situation.  People are just different.

That is the point of tenet seven.  We are different.  We grieve as we believe.  Some of us are into a personal God and/or life after death, and some of us aren't interested.   If we are grieving, we have a right to embrace our own belief.  That includes the minister. 

Some might argue that while I have the right to my personal beliefs, I forfeit them, or at least I have to silence them if they conflict with the beliefs of the church.   After all, a minister is called to do a job, to preach the gospel.   There are standards, right?  You don't want a biology teacher throwing out the textbook and teaching creationism because she personally believes it.   I don't disagree with that.   My questions are these:  What does the church believe?  Who gets to say what the church believes?   Which church?   Do beliefs ever change?  Are some beliefs more important than others?  What is the gospel?  I have many more questions than that, but that is a good start. 

I don't happen to think that either the existence of a personal God or life after death is central to Christianity.  I think the point of Christianity is about living this life and that those other more speculative matters are addenda. I think we are in the midst of great change and that the best way to be a minister amidst them is to be honest about these changes and to explore them with the congregation.   My task is to be honest with my own journey, to communicate it as faithfully as possible, and to encourage others to find their own path.   The thing we have in common is not the particular path but a shared hospitality to all travelers.    

As far as beliefs go, I believe in love and in the sacredness of life.   Because my home tradition is Christianity, the doorway to a life of meaning is through the teachings and example of Jesus.  That is "good news" or the gospel.  Even though I don't believe in a personal God (that is in a being outside of nature that interferes with it) I do trust in God.   I tend to resonate with Paul Tillich and think of God as Being itself.  It is a name for whatever is.  God is the universe and if there is more than the universe, God is that, too.  God is also a specific way of being in the universe.   Justice, compassion, and love, are characteristics of this way.   

I don't believe in a personal God but I do personify God.  Because human beings evolved to give agency to anything that moves, rather than fight it, I have fun with it.  In my last sermon I personified God as Mama Goddess.  Do I believe there is an actual being, Mama Goddess, somewhere under Earth or in the sky?  Of course not.   It is a language trick that enables us to tell stories and to speak about that which is important.  It also motivates us to reflection and action in a particular way.  In this case, "Mama Goddess" helps us challenge outdated and harmful ideas such as patriarchy and create new and better ones like equality for Earthlings and care for Earth.

Grief is a sacred time, a "thin place" as this writer shows.  A thin place is not just a physical location but it can be a state when the "veil between the mundane and the Sacred is suddenly especially thin."  Here we brush up to the sacred.  Insight may be clearer.  In some ways important matters become more in focus.  Old categories and beliefs can become profane.   During grief little is more annoying than someone who wants to comfort you with their beliefs.   That person is playing in the shallow end of the pool.   You are in the deep end.  Grief is the via negativa, the spiritual path of letting go.   You are letting go of the less interesting, the less true, the binds, the shackles, and you have no idea where you are going.

Grief is not simply a bad thing to hurry through or endure.  This is a sacred quest.  You are finding a deeper sense of you.  Your true friends won't hurry you or worry over you.  They won't try to teach you, heal you, correct you, or guide you.  They will walk alongside you. 

Grief can be a creative time and a draining time.  It is work.  Spirituality is an important part of it.  As Chelsea says:
The important thing to remember is that you have every right to practice your faith and question your faith.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mourner's Bill of Rights: Tenet Six

I am continuing the series on the Mourner's Bill of Rights.   Here is the latest from Chelsea

"You have the right to make use of ritual."

~ Alan Wolfelt's sixth tenet of the Right of Mourners

The funeral or memorial service is an important part of the healing process. It provides a way for people to support you and allows you to honor the life of your loved one. Do not let anyone tell you differently.
  • How you decide to honor and celebrate your loved one is your decision and yours only.
    Unfortunately, others may not respect your wishes and will share their opinion about which rituals are right and which ones aren't. Just let this go. Your energy needs to be focused on celebrating the life of your loved one in a way that feels right to you.
  • You also have the right to continue rituals... the funeral does not have to be the last time you honor your loved one.
    You may want to consider starting your own rituals or traditions to honor your loved one and keep a connection with them. A ritual can be anything that you desire. You can hold a prayer service, write messages on balloons and release them to heaven, or do a charity event in your loved one's name. There are so many things you can do to keep the memory of your loved one alive and close to your heart.
Choose what feels right to you.

We had the funerals.  Other rituals are ongoing.

I have decided that I am going to disregard scripture.  In fact I am going to disobey it outright.   This verse in particular: 

Leviticus 19.28:

You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord. 

I am planning on getting a tattoo to honor Zach.

Right over my heart.

Heart plus infinity.

Lovely and Daughter already have disobeyed the Lord, so I might as well join them.  

Chelsea said to do what feels right.  So take it up with her.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Mourners' Bill of Rights: Tenet Five

Here is the latest from Chelsea:

"You have the right to experience "grief bursts"."

~ Alan Wolfelt's fifth tenet of the Right of Mourners
The emotional outbursts can be our greatest enemy but our biggest savior. Sometimes we avoid calling friends, talking about our loved one, or participating in a holiday or event because we fear that it will be too hard. We fear that we won't be able to face pain and the emotions will take over.
Sometimes the things that seem the hardest are not as bad as the anticipation. Once the first holiday or birthday comes along, the day may seem better than expected due to the anticipation. The first steps are always the hardest, but the ones after may get easier.
It is the outbursts that come out of nowhere that can knock us down and catch us by surprise. You could be laughing and enjoying time with friends and family and then all of a sudden you began to cry. It just happens like that. Something reminds you of your loved one and the tears come.
Don't be apologetic for your feelings or tears.
They are a natural part of the process and you have the right to experience them in public or private.
Oddly enough, the outbursts like to come when I am leading worship.  You can't get more public than that.   Yesterday, I had to hold it back during the hymns that had nothing to do with Zach, but that doesn't seem to matter as I get emotional over a lot of things these days.   This Is My Song (in the UUA hymnal) is one of my favorite hymns.  I can barely get through that one.

It was "good church."  We celebrated Pluralism Sunday and I was the anchor for the May Pole.  Emotional outbursts include random smiles and laughter, too.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mourners' Bill of Rights: Tenet Four

For those keeping score, according to Chelsea it is now Day 261 of 365 of my grief.  Chelsea is on a different calendar.  I didn't invite Chelsea into my life until about a month or so after Zach's death, 49 days to be precise.   According to the day calculator it has been 310 days since Zach's departure. Here it is in bold:
310 days
Since Thursday June 28 2012
a Thursday 10 months and 5 days from today

How many days are left in my contract?   How many more grieving days do I get before I am supposed to have my s**t together?  Chelsea is cutting me off at 365 (by her count).   I could start her over again, I suppose, but that feels a little self-indulgent.   Today she continues her commentary on The Mourners' Bill of Rights

"You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits."

~Alan Wolfelt's fourth tenet of the Right of Mourners

Your world has been turned upside down since the loss of your loved one. 

Please don't expect yourself to be able to do the same amount of activity or work you had done in the past. 

Your body needs to rest while it is healing. Listen to your mind and body and no one else. 

This emotional rollercoaster may have left you tired, achy, and energy-stricken. The few days or weeks after the death of your loved one, you may have felt like you were on autopilot to move through all the tasks to be completed. Once we come to understand the stark reality of death, we hit our limits and it is very important to implement self-care. 

Remember, you come first!

Did you notice that sentence,
"...The few days or weeks after the death, you may have felt like you were on autopilot..."?

We are into months now.   In 55 days, we will start counting in years.   I am not on autopilot, but I am not flying this thing.   I am conscious of my limits.    But because I also have a tendency towards laziness, narcissism, and self-indulgence, telling me, "Remember, you come first!" is not always sage advice.  

My father, who will be 95 this year, knows one Bible passage by heart.  He used to quote it to me:
A little sleep, a little slumber, 
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
When is whatever this is something else than it is?  I don't know.

Why did Forrest Gump start running?

Answer:  Grief?

Why did Forrest Gump stop running?

Answer:  He was done.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Does Grief Need Healing?

The ever-faithful Chelsea wrote me again today:
Dear John Shuck, 
When your emotions sneak up on you, don't push them away. 

Let them in and feel every ounce of them because you will experience healing at the deepest level possible. It is when you don't allow such feelings, that grief will become buried and cause more problems later. 

Emotions can be a reminder just how much your loved one means to you. 

Remember is okay to feel happy, relief, and joy too. Release any guilt you have about feeling happiness; your loved one would want that for you. 

There is likely no greater sadness and no greater heartache than to lose someone you love. Continue to expect yourself to go through a wave of emotions with the waves getting smaller over time. 

Each wave gets you closer to healing. 

Good advice.  The last line is worth comment:
Each wave gets you closer to healing.
I am not happy with the word "healing" as it applies to my grief.  Healing implies illness, sickness, or wounded-ness.  Something is wrong with the griever and there is a goal to get better or to heal.    I don't feel sick or ill.  I feel like I am on a quest.  Or perhaps I am as I wrote in my last sermon on a sailboat in the fog.

The image on the sidebar is a shattered stained-glass window.   At some point I will make something from it, maybe.   But I don't feel ill.   I don't think I need healing. 

I am searching for a metaphor for my experience.   I found this post on this long-abandoned blog, Grieving and Loss:
No one can really tell you what it is like to grieve. To truly understand the process, you must experience it yourself. However, metaphors can give us a glimpse of the grieving experience. They also give us some insights into the grief journey -- a universal journey that you and others may have gone through and will continue to go through.Here are some interesting grief metaphors:

"Grief is like a labyrinth. A labyrinth is not a maze as there are no dead ends and no wrong turnings. There is only one way -- forward." (Artress, no date)

"Grief is a graceful, periodic, deliberate walk backwards while keeping a sure foot in living forward." (Moules, Simonson, Prins, Angus, and Bell, 2004)

Grief is like riding an emotional roller-coaster. You will surely go through the ups and downs when you are on the ride.

Grief is like climbing a mountain. At first, the slope is steep. The journey is hard. Then you reach a plain field where you can stop and rest before you continue the climb. At last you reach the mountain top! Just when you think the hiking is over, you see another peak. There is one more to conquer. So you choose to walk down to the mountain valley before you climb up to the next mountain. Though the valley is deep, it is necessary. And with past climbing experience and training, you are more equipped for this now.
 To use a metaphor from the Bible, grief is a
walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
I have been acquainted with that psalm through hearing and reading.  Now I know it through experience. The "shadow of death" is the shadow that death consigns to the grieving.   Death shadows the grieving.   The shadow knows.  Dark shadows.   Jung's shadow encounter.  

The Bible is great for these images.  The Hebrew children had to wander for forty years in the desert.  Why?  Perhaps they were grieving the loss of Egypt.  Slavery is not so bad compared to this incessant wandering.  Jesus was tested in the desert for 40 days.  Elijah hid in a cave.

For the most part, grief is waiting.  Waiting and sitting.  Grief is absurdly waiting for Godot: writing blogs, walking dogs, wandering in circles, doing whatever including nothing, anything " hold the terrible silence at bay."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mourner's Bill of Rights--Tenet Three

Here is the third tenet of the Mourner's Bill of Rights with commentary from Chelsea.
"You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions." 
~ Alan Wolfelt's third tenet of the Right of Mourners 

Oh, the rollercoaster of emotions! It is quite a ride. Have you ever felt so many emotions at such intensity? Isn't it crazy how they just creep up on you at the most random, inopportune times too? Losing someone can break you wide open letting all the myriad of emotions escape. It is amazing how you can go from happy to complete sadness in an instant. One little thing can just send you in an emotional outburst. There can be nothing more frustrating than not being in control of your emotions. The important thing to remember is that behind the tears, rage, and sadness is pure love.
No kidding, Chelsea.  Sometimes I think I should wear a sign that says, "Watch out, I bite."

I do have the right to feel these emotions.  I don't have the right to dump them on others.   I try to take care regarding that.  Anger is an especially tricky one.  Sadness is an emotion that is acceptable, but anger is more of a challenge.  You know why I am sad.  Why anger?  There is no object for the anger.   To put it another way, there are a thousand objects but none of them is the real object.

What helps is to know that whatever emotions I feel, that doesn't mean there is something wrong with me or that I should add layers of guilt on top of it.    I do get caught off guard by my reactions to things now and again.   Talking about it helps.  Writing too.  Thanks for reading!

When Dogma Dies

I haven't written much about Presbyterian stuff over the last ten months. This caught my eye.  Los Ranchos Presbytery in California had a discussion about religious beliefs.  They are calling it a  discernment season.  Some congregations are leaving the PC(USA) as I wrote about here.   This conservative presbytery gathered a panel to address theological questions.    Conservatives are concerned that the PC(USA) is rejecting their fundamental beliefs.  Apparently, the point of this exercise was to determine how heretical the denomination has become in order to justify packing up the hymnbooks and leaving.

I wish I were on the panel.  I could have provided some diversity.   But it isn't just me.   If you listen to any of my interviews on Religion For Life, a common theme emerges.   Dogmatic religion is not interesting.   Many of us are moving away from exclusive claims ("Jesus is the only way") and literalism ("bodily resurrection") at light speed.   It will take a long time before official documents reflect the changes, but what these three guys are debating is akin to the number of angels dancing on a pin head.

I don't care what anyone believes.  I do care when the conservatives try to impose their beliefs.  They want everyone to believe as they do.  Hopefully, when they see that this cannot be done, they will either live and let live or leave and let live.