Author Archives: revkelly

Merry Christmas!

(The fact that there is no picture to go with this post is my fault. Rev Zita asked me to take a picture of this amazing light display in town and I forgot my camera. I am really sorry, but hope the spirit of this post shines through. Love ya all. Rev. Kelly)

Christmas is a big deal in my part of the world, whether you are a Christian or not. You get together with family and invite the friends, talk and laugh, and yeah, sometimes fight, but it’s all a part of being family.

Here in the USA, we hang lights, buy presents and eat way too much while sharing our stories and reconnecting with those we love. It’s a time for those warm and happy feelings to be expressed, so don’t be shy about it.

Here’s some ideas to get you going, even if it is a little late:

Send Christmas cards and let your loved ones know you are thinking about them. We all love getting something pretty in the mail, but don’t add glitter or confetti! It gets everywhere and is hard to clean up.

Put a nice message on your Facebook page to let your online friends know you wish them well. Add a cute picture or cartoon to spruce it up a bit, or include a link to a fun video or song!

Go Caroling! It’s fun even if you can’t sing, and nobody will criticize your performance because it’s Christmas! (Trust me on this) You can get the lyrics and music online to make it easy.

Go sledding. If you’re not a kid, who cares?

Build a snowman! You can even start a snowball fight.

Wait until dark and then go for a drive to see all the pretty lights on the houses. Lots of communities have competitions for this, so some of the displays are pretty amazing! Take pictures and send them to your friends.

Call your Mom. ‘Nuff said.

Wrap your gifts. Don’t use those nasty gift bags, even if you can’t make a square corner and it looks messy. Use lots of ribbon and tape so you can have fun watching them try to get it open! Wrapping shows you took the time to make it special, all jokes aside.

Be nice to strangers. You don’t know what kind of day someone else may be having, so a cheery ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ could be the high point of their day. Open doors for shoppers and smile!

Bake cookies! Eat them with friends and lots of milk or cocoa.

Watch a holiday movie like ‘Miracle on 42nd street’ or ‘The Santa Clause” (a fave of mine). If you love the classics, there’s always ‘Santa Claus conquers the Martians’ for a laugh!

Whatever you decide to do, do it with people you care about and who care about you. This time of year it’s important to reconnect with one another, at least for a while. You can always fight later; but for now, this is a time of year to put aside the petty things and remember that we are all in this together. Love one another and it will be all right.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, Happy Yule…from all of us at Heartfelt Ministries: Rev. Kelly, Rev Zita (the author), Rev. Tamara, and Zachary (our tech assistant).

 

Happy Solstice 2011!

Today is the Winter Solstice, an important holiday for many pagans and non-christian groups throughout the world. There will be feasting and music and merriment and a general celebration of the slow, gradual return of the sun to our lives. This may not mean much to those of us living in, say, Florida, but if you’ve ever lived a Wisconsin winter, the return of the Sun is a really big deal.

In past times, this was known as Midwinter among the Anglo-Saxons and generally was the last great feast for the year. The cattle were slaughtered at this time, so it was often one of the few times in the year that fresh meat was available as well. That’s a good reason to celebrate! Gifts were given to strengthen family and clan bonds and to show appreciation for a year of service to the village or to the local ruler. The mead had finally matured and with fields covered in snow, folks had some time to party with their friends. Sweet! Everybody dance!

 The village shaman has already concluded ceremonies for the day to welcome the sun’s rebirth and now it’s time for fun. Anyone who can play an instrument picks it up and after a brief debate on what song to start, they get the party rockin! It’s the Eleventh Century and we’re gonna party like it’s 999!

Can’t you picture it? The long, smoky feasting hall with everyone you know gathered together. They’re singing songs, telling stories, and playing games. The village kids are running around screaming with laughter and chasing the dogs. The warriors are bragging and trying to catch the eye of some pretty girl who is pretending she doesn’t notice. Some things never change, hey?

While the men and the village leaders talk politics and the grandmas gossip, the women are pouring out the mead and beer and tending to the feast, roasting meat and cooking vegetables, keeping the kids out of the sweets and the teens out of dark corners.

Fast forward a thousand years: Everybody is gathered for the celebration. The Moms are in the kitchen, checking turkeys and roasts in the ovens and making sure Sue isn’t on the back porch with that boy with all the piercings. The kids are playing Xbox and yelling, the Dads are drinking beer and arguing politics. The soldiers home on leave are comparing duty stories and grinning at the pretty girls giggling back at them. Somebody throws in a CD and starts the boombox.

And the next morning the sun comes up just a little earlier, making the world a little warmer. It’s all about family, people, no matter what time or place you’re in.  To all of our Pagan readers out there, at this turning of the year, a happy Solstice to you all, and a joyous Yuletide from us here at Heartfelt!

The Parable of Virtual vs. Reality

Back in the days of the dinosaurs, when I was in high school, my family had one TV. That’s right, just one, and we didn’t have cable either. Still, we spent a lot of time around that massive cathode tube; time we could have spent on other things. The house wasn’t dirty, but it certainly wasn’t ready for a photo shoot. We ate in front of the tube, talked in front of the tube, paid more attention to the tube than each other.

Then disaster struck—the TV died. Yep, it belched smoke and went to that big electronics dump in the sky.

Ooooh nooooo! What would we do? We didn’t have a lot of money, so it would be a while before we could replace it. My mother flatly refused to use her credit card for a Television, so we would have to save up for a replacement. How awful; and it was in the middle of the Summer Rerun season, too!

It was days before my sister and I stopped whining about having nothing to do. If we whined too loud, Mom would keep us busy, I can tell you that. Oddly, we began to find things to do on our own. We actually started splitting the chores. Reading became a popular sport for us. My sister learned to crochet and I learned to garden. We vacuumed; sometimes we even dusted!

Without TV, our lives changed dramatically. We were forced to live in reality, not vicariously. We were not bound to a broadcast schedule or worrying about what we had missed last night. We hadn’t missed anything and we knew it. We even lost weight. Without the constant barrage of food commercials, we weren’t headed to the fridge every fifteen minutes.

I enjoyed that summer. We had memories of things done instead of just what shows we had watched. We were participating, not observing and it was good.

Still, Mom missed the evening news, and finally bought a new TV.  Once again that flickering blue light ruled our lives. All the benefits we gained over the quiet time were lost. We grazed during commercials and let the chores fall away. We forgot to do things for ourselves. We observed instead of living. All because we didn’t have the strength to turn the box off.

That was twenty five years ago. I don’t have a TV at all now, but I have something even more insidious: the Internet. Having always been an avid reader, I am mesmerized by the sheer volume of information to be explored and it is all at my fingertips. If I run out of topics Google will find something to amuse me.

I am soft and round and seldom out of my armchair for very long. While I am not a geek by any means, I can surf for hours, and I don’t mean waves at Waikiki.  I seem to have forgotten the feeling that being in the real world gave me. I need to be truly interactive and not with a keyboard.

Perhaps the addiction to visual stimulation is one that can be controlled. With hard work I can learnt o limit my time surfing and spend more time actually doing something. I am smart; I can build stuff, make stuff, plant and grow stuff, paint, sing, talk and do things. I am more than a data interface. There is more in life than pixels on a 10” by 17” screen. I can do that.

Atheists Under Attack

Admittedly this is another, where does this guy get off? posting, but seriously, where do these people get these ideas? OK, I need to slow down here, I am speaking of Pastor Mike Stahl of the Living Waters Church. Personally, I think this guy is on an ego trip, especially considering that the URL for his church is not anything about it, but rather the URL is Pastor Mike’s Church. That says a lot right there.

Pastor Mike, and I use the title loosely, wants to create a national registry of atheists; just names, pictures, and general locations, not actual addresses, to inform the public about the atheists that live in their neighborhoods. His claim is that this registry will allow “true Christians” to minister to atheists and warn them about the “dangers” of the atheist lifestyle. Instead, I see this being a trigger to vandalism to local businesses, violence to people, and another way to spread hate in our communities.

This view is not just from the announcement of the registry, but from Pastor Mike’s comparison of atheists to sex offenders and extremist terrorism. I just can’t understand where Pastor Mike gets the idea it is OK to belittle a group of people for their beliefs. Nor can I think of any religion that teaches that this type of behavior is OK.

Pastor Mike, if you find this blog posting, I beg you to stop what you are doing and let people be. Instead of spreading poison and hate, spread love and peace. It better fits the role you are trying to fill.

When Did Socialism Become a Dirty Word?

Most, if not all, of us had American History at some point in our education. We were taught that America was made great on the backs of those who worked hard, served their country and communities. Of course there are other things along the way, such as hard times, social changes, and wars, but the details of our history is not what concerns me so much as the big picture.

Going back to the birth of our country, there were a few things that England, our then ruler, was imposing on the colonists that really stuck in their craw. Religious suppression and unfair taxes seem to come to mind to me. When the time came for the leaders of the American Revolution to start making their own rules, a little document called the Bill of Rights was created. Part of the number one Right is the freedom to of religious exercise. Part of almost every religion that I can think of is to help your neighbor.

Jesus stated that one must help the poor and a rich person has about as much of a chance of entering heaven as a camel has of passing through the eye of the needle. Buddha stated that attachment (to things) causes suffering, One of the five pillars of Islam is Zakat or to give a portion of one’s riches to care for those who are in need (read the poor). Judaism has Tzedakah or charity as one of their founding principals (in spite of the jokes). I could go on.

Here is where my confusion comes in. Most Republicans want to get rid of public programs like Social Security, Medicare, Disability, current health care legislation, and other resources that have been established by past government officials to help the needy, the poor, and those less fortunate. Most Republicans also claim to be fundamentalist Christians who follow the Word of God and Jesus among a small following from other religious sects.

So here is where my confusion sets in. If Republicans are so Christian why are the programs developed to help those in need under attack while tax breaks for the rich and greedy corporations passed into law so easily? Even the Tea Party, that ultra right wing Republican group is doing the same claiming that the Constitution and God are the basis of their movement support breaking the common man to forward their own agenda to get richer and fatter. I just don’t see the work of God, Allah, Jehovah, or any other god in that agenda.

To be fair, this trend is not just followed by the Republicans or the Tea Party, but is across the board. I just see the vocal Republicans who use their religious memberships to further their career as much worse than those who do not wave the flag of “belief” to gain popularity with the general public.

Honestly, if any political leader truly believed what their religious beliefs stated, they would be for the social programs. They would want to help America out of our current crisis and not bail out the fat cats, but instead develop programs that will actually put us back to work and care for those who simply can’t work. There would have been no bail outs for the fat cats when they got themselves in trouble.

So, really when did socialism become a dirty word? It is not a dirty word, it is a good thing that shows that the government and the nation’s communities have a heart and want for society to be healthy.

And before you comment, yes, I know that there are those that abuse the system and take when they shouldn’t. But the vast majority using the system are doing so because they have been left no other choice.

Let’s be proud of being socialist and mark it up to being religious or to being a good person. Your reasons for helping others does not matter; what truly matters is that we as people and as a government show mercy and caring to those who are in need.

Scandals and Politics

Here’s a note from a truly jaded and disinterested voter.

Just another sex scandal. Ho-Hum.

In the last few years we’ve had more than the usual number of sex scandals going on, from sexting to congressional pages to illegitimate children and beyond. And as always, the spin doctors are out in full force acting like somebody’s Victorian maiden Aunt, which means that the Republicans and the Teabag—er, Tea party members are doing their usual song and dance of “ooh, look at the bad, bad Democrat!”

Yeah, right. It’s all pot and kettle, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve heard it all before. The last time somebody tried this, Bill Clinton got another term.

Do you have any idea of how utterly bored we are with continuous scandals? I’m starting to think that even rock stars behave better than professional politicians. It’s all pretty routine, after all.

Democrats are always accused of sex scandals. That’s the way it is. I’m not sure if that means that they are having more sex than the Republicans or if they are just not as good at hiding it. Somehow I have the feeling it is probably both. From the last few scandals, I can say that at least they pay their child support, even if they have to use campaign funds to do it.

Republicans are generally accused of misappropriation of funds or cronyism, insider trading, or something of that nature. They seem to like their stuff rather than sex. They do seem better at wiggling out of it, however. The fact that a lot of Goldman Sachs officers are now working for the Federal Government shouldn’t be a source of concern, should it?

Scandals. Politicians have been creating them, using them and hiding them for as long as politics has been going on. We, the voters, no longer care. I am not so naïve as to believe that my elected representatives are pure as the driven snow. However, there is a limit to my patience and it has been reached. So listen up, ALL of you:

Knock it off and get some work done, damn it!

I don’t care if you are Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, Libertarian or a cross-eyed Jedi. Stop acting like college students at a kegger, for God’s sake. Get your sticky hands out of the cookie jar, it’s empty. Settle down and figure out how to get us out of this hole you’ve dug us into or you can go out and get a real job just like the rest of us!

Professional Politicians don’t seem to be getting the job done at all. Maybe we need to do something both drastic and sensible, like setting term limits for them? After all, we do it for the Presidency, maybe it’s time the Senate and House had to deal with the same limits on their power.

Sounds good to me.

Rev. Zita

Note from Rev. Kelly: If politicians stopped worrying about what happens behind closed doors and started worrying about the condition the country was in, we might see our economy turn around. Instead they are trying to keep us distracted with bullshit.

Do We Need a Manual for Living

Have you ever wished that somebody out there had written a guidebook for life? Heaven knows I do. I look around at the stuff going on around me and I just get confused. They say that with age comes wisdom, and I’m old enough to admit that there needs to be some sort of instruction manual.

Doesn’t it just make sense to have one? I mean come on, we have manuals for gaming stations, and that’s trivial! I think we need a practical, pragmatic, down-to-earth common sense guide to handle the crap life throws at us.

Now before somebody tells me to go read the Bible, let me tell you that I have already, three times, cover to cover, and including the Apocrypha. I’m not talking about a religious guide, I’m talking about one that goes over stuff like doing laundry, how to clean; to cook, controlling your money, managing time, taking care of your body and your mind, etc.

You know: all that stuff you were supposed to learn in high school and never did because you were being all angst-ridden like a good teenager.

I know there are already guides out there that cover everything I’m talking about, but it’s time we had something comprehensive; something that pulled it all together into one package that made sense. You can find books that will tell you how to do everything from change your oil to choose wine; from how to trim your own hair to choosing a lawyer. What we need is something that will pull all that information together into a cohesive encyclopedia of living, a compendium of domesticity.

We need of Universal Field Theory of American Life! (Cue thunderous applause)

What do you think it should contain? I’m thinking things like basic household skills: cooking, cleaning, laundry and organization. Then we can add things like basic manners and courtesy, the principles of respect, how to make a budget, manage your money, pay bills and keep your credit rating up there.

Should we include tech skills as well? They change so quickly that I’m not sure about that.

What about dating? Do we need a section on dating etiquette? Birth control should also be covered and there is bound to be a few folks with their own opinions about that subject. That’s fine, let us hear from you!

Accounting? Business? Auto repair? What subjects do you wish had been taught in school that weren’t? What do you need to know now to make your life run more smoothly?

Please let us know. I f we get a large enough response, we may even consider making this a series or an ebook! It all depends on what you want us to research for you! Let’s make the Practical Heretic live up to its’ name!

Rev Zita

The Wayseers

I know that I have written two other posts on this book, The Wayseers by Garret John LoPorto, and that those posts may be a bit confusing. That is probably because I was confused, which to be honest is not that difficult to do to me lately.

I do like the book and would recommend that you read it if you are into alternative theories on psychology and spirituality. LoPorto starts out with the study of a mutation to the DRD4, something, something gene. It is one of those long scientific names that seems to always throw me for a loop. So anyway, I did some searching and while I do not find Wikipedia to always be a great source of information, in this case it was one of the few that I could actually understand. LoPorto appears to be quoting old studies that gave this gene mutation credit for the thrill seeking personality. There may be a gene out there that determines thrill seeking traits, this gene is not it. What this gene does tell us is the likelihood that the person with it will have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or ADHD. Which LoPorto makes some link between these mental illnesses and the repressed thrill seeking impulses.

LoPorto also quotes Otto Rank quite often, who started out as Freud’s assistant in Vienna, but gained his own popularity through writing alternatives to the mainstream psychology of the time. Admittedly, I have not read Rank’s work so can not agree with or criticize LoPorto’s use or evaluation of it.

Where I did find the confusion is that the link to God or Heart, as LoPorto put it. I am all for a God centered life, whatever that God may be, and living your life as you see fit as well. LoPorto most of the time seems to say that same thought, but at times takes it further by stating that we should follow our impulses. OK, that would be fine if all our impulses were pure, kind, and loving, but we all know that there are darker impulses that if expressed would make our own hell on earth.

Later in the book, LoPorto talks about following those impulses that come not from ego but from the deeper heart. I am not sure that the ego can create impulses, since this is supposed to be the thinking part of us, not the emotional part. Anything from the ego should be thought out and calculated, not impulsive. But those things from the emotions are impulsive.

Granted I am not a psychologist, nor am I well read on most of the supporting materials LoPorto used to hold his theory up. That being said, most of the book was interesting and kept the mind busy examining his thoughts.

Since the mind is still a mysterious landscape for science and the rest of us, I have to stand in support of the fact that until absolutely proven otherwise, LoPorto’s theories are just as valid as anyone’s. And if nothing else, does give us a more positive approach to ourselves than many other ones available to us.

Should Churches Pay Taxes?

It has been traditional over the centuries to extend a rare privilege to all religions: Tax exemption. Is that really necessary anymore?

 I was reading an article on mega-churches the other day. I was astonished by the sheer size of these empires of faith. Many have assets calculated in the millions if not billions of dollars—they own real estate, publishing houses, video and film production companies, public relations firms, advertising, radio and television stations, music publishing, farming and agricultural companies, manufacturing; the list can be very long, depending on the sect.

While all churches and religious organizations have a primary duty in the spiritual realm, it is an inescapable fact that they all operate within the physical and mundane world around us. As part of that world, they utilize public services such as roads, police and fire protection, military protection when needed, medical and emergency services. All of which are paid for by public taxes.

It can be argued that as non-profit groups they are allowed a share of those services for taking on tasks such as caring for the homeless, charitable work like food kitchens and other very noble services. These are tasks that are necessary for a civilized society, but admittedly ones that the civil government often fails to perform adequately. Since they theoretically are not in this for a profit motive, they have to have their burden eased in order to perform their good works better. Plus the tax deductions allowed for contributions to these tasks make it easier for people to donate and support these services.

On the other hand, it can be argued that some of these religious sects are the oldest continuously existing corporate bodies in the world. They have accumulated their extensive assets through donations and bequests, often over centuries. They charge for membership (tithes), they charge for services performed for members, they often require periods of ‘voluntary’ labor in one form or another from assisting with the yard work at the local church to mandatory missionary endeavors lasting years.

In many cases, there are books, videos and CD’s offered for sale or for a ‘donation’ that espouse the sect’s viewpoint and theology. Purchase of these items is usually strongly encouraged, often from the pulpit itself. Classes in topics ranging from Biblical study to self-help, meditation, and personal defense are offered and again, a fee is usually charged. Fund raisers are sponsored at regular intervals and all these proceeds go into the accounts of the religious organization.

I am in favor of churches paying taxes. Perhaps at a reduced rate, but I feel very strongly that if you work in this world, sell something tangible or own your own bank, you should pay taxes to support the services you take advantage of. It’s called paying your share, and while a church may be devoted to their God, they are still manned by humans and should be treated accordingly.

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita

Note added by Rev. Kelly: for those of you who are curious, Heartfelt Ministries and the Practical Heretic are registered as businesses and do not have a tax exempt status. No pot calling the kettle black from us.  Peace!

How Much is Enough?

We live in a consumer society. We buy everything we see and listen to advertisements that tell us we need the latest gadget, the latest fashions, the newest movies and websites, all of it. And then, of course, we have to have the biggest house to store it all, the best cars and trucks to move it all and the most popular blog to brag about it all.

What purpose does all of it serve? There is a saying: ‘you can’t have everything—where would you put it?’ Funny in a sort of wry way, but it illustrates a point. There comes a time when no matter what, you have to say that it’s too much.

Some of the things we need are a given, such as food, shelter, water, etc. Those are pretty basic. When you get into the needs imposed by societies we live in, the list expands somewhat. Now we need such things as work, transportation, medical care, education, entertainment, technology, communications, information, and a slew of extra stuff our ancestors wouldn’t even recognize.

I wonder how different life would be if we just decided to pick and choose what we actually needed and perhaps only a few of the extras, rather than gobbling up everything the advertisers threw at us like greedy ducks in a pond. What if you just chose a few things, rather than tried to keep up with everything? Would your Facebook page really suffer all that much? Who are you trying to impress, anyway? Does anybody really care if you have the latest android or PS3?

Do you really need the biggest house on the block, or are you just grandstanding? Would it really kill your kids to have to share a room? Your parents and grandparents most likely did it for years. Heck, they probably had only one bathroom for the entire house and they did just fine. They may even have had to learn to actually compromise and think about the rest of the folks they lived with.

While technology has become a necessity, how much is really useful to you and the way you live? Upgrading your phone every six months when something new comes out is wasteful and expensive. So you can’t play ‘Angry Birds’ all afternoon, so what? You can’t think of something better to do with your time? Your computer and the internet are modern necessities, but does that mean that you can do without cable? I don’t even own a television set any more and I haven’t missed it in almost two years.

If chosen wisely, the many advances available to us could result in a lessening of the burden of sheer stuff we have to deal with on a daily basis. The paperless office has been touted for years and might even be a reality some day. Our photos, music, records and entertainment are now stored in a hundredth of the space used by our predecessors.

I buy what I need, and try to limit buying what I want. I’ve had my favorite jeans for years, and still wear them often, despite the change in fashion. No one even blinks at them. I choose the look that I want, not one dictated by some oddly dressed “Designer” whose aim is to be memorable, not tasteful. I once read a statement by the 19th century artist and designer, William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not find both beautiful and useful.”

What terrific advice!

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita