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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Married But Celibate...?

Once again the Anglican/Episcopal church (of which I am a member) has come up with a "middle of the road" position in an attempt to make both sides happy -- and ends up with a ludicrous position that just annoys both sides. The Sunday Times of Britain tells the story: Church to let gay clergy 'marry' but they must stay celibate.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

100,000 Signatures Needed on Downing Street Letter

Congressman John Conyers has joined together with 88 of his colleagues in Congress, in asking the Bush Administration some tough questions about the Downing Street Memo -- the "smoking gun" that shows Bush intentionally misled America into war. Conyers is looking for 100,000 signatures to the letter, which he will personally insure is delivered to the White House. Read what Conyers has to say about holding the Bush Administration accountable at Common Dreams -- then follow the link to Conyers' website and sign on to this very important letter. (Signing the letter requires email verification, to insure each of the signatures is authentic.)

Another interesting article at Common Dreams: why we should buy our gas at Citgo.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Walker Percy & Byron Herbert Reece

Today is the birthday of Walker Percy, one of my favorite Christian existentialist novelists from the American South (Flannery O'Connor would be another). From today's edition of Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac:
It's the birthday of the novelist Walker Percy, born in Birmingham (1916). Walker Percy studied chemistry in college, became a doctor, and practiced at Belleview Hospital in New York. He had to quit when he caught tuberculosis while he was performing autopsies on derelicts. He spent two years at a sanitarium in the Adirondacks, reading Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Camus. When he got out, he converted to Catholicism and decided to become a writer. He said, "[Tuberculosis was] the best disease I ever had." Walker Percy wrote his masterpiece The Moviegoer about a man who feels joy only while watching the movies. It came out in 1961.

Another of my favorite Southern writers, Byron Herbert Reece, also had tuberculosis, but the disease unfortunately drove him to suicide, in 1958. Reese, a farmer and a Lay Preacher in the Methodist Church, was a poet as well as a novelist. I quoted his poem Whose Eye is on the Sparrow in my blog entry for May 9. This is another of his poems that I love:

I Go by Ways of Rust and Flame

I go by ways of rust and flame
Beneath the bent and lonely sky;
Behind me on the ways I came
I see the hedges lying bare,
But neither question nor reply.

A solitary thing am I
Upon the roads of rust and flame
That thin at sunset to the air.
I call upon no word nor name,
And neither question nor reply
But walk alone as all men must
Upon the roads of flame and rust.

Faithful to God's Image Within Us

I'm back from Asheville, where I had a wonderful time at the Sufi Healing Order Leadership Institute. I feel a renewed calling to my ministry as a Conductor (minister who conducts the Sufi Healing Circle) as well as to the Lay Healing Ministry at my church. I'm also feeling a renewed commitment to the healing of the earth, as well as to the healing of those who have been wounded by traditional religion. I'll write more about this over the next few days.

Speaking of religious wounds...

Yesterday I ran into someone I haven't seen in over 20 years. I knew her from my fundamentalist days, when we went to the same Bible study and worked at the same part-time job together. I remember her making a derogatory statement, back then, about Janice Ian being a lesbian. Imagine my surprise, then, to see her wearing a "Lesbian Avengers" T shirt. "Funny story," she said. "Turns out I'm gay." "Me too," I said -- to her surprise. She told me she hasn't been to church in about ten years: "It's just too painful."

I don't know why I said this (it's not a wording I've ever used before), but I found myself saying: "I don't think God gives a damn about whether we go to church or not, as long as we're faithful to Her image within us."

Suddenly her eyes filled up with tears. "Thank you," she said, and gave me a big hug.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Blogging Break

I'll be taking a break from blogging for the next several days. I'm going up to a retreat center near Asheville, NC, for the 5-day leadership institute of the Sufi Healing Order. I'll be learning more about prayer, meditation, and healing in the Sufi tradition. I probably won't have access to a computer for 5 days, unless I drive into Asheville and use the computer in the cafe at Malaprop's Bookstore. It's a safe bet I'll visit Malaprop's at least once (after all, they have books, organic coffee, and also books, all 3 of life's necessities), but I'll probably be looking at books and drinking coffee, not sitting at the computer...


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ray of Hope: The ONE Campaign

At first I thought I was mistaken. Maybe hallucinating. The TV commercial, a public service announcement about world hunger, featured a stream of Hollywood celebrities: Brad Pitt, Susan Sarandon, U2's Bono, Ellen Degeneres, Martin Scorsese, Justin Timberlake, Tom Hanks, Sean "P. Ditty" Combs, Pat Robertson --

Pat Robertson?

I went to the website mentioned at the end of the ad -- www.one.org -- and sure enough, that was Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, right in the middle of this public service announcement full of "liberal Hollywood elites." The ONE Campaign is about fighting AIDS, starvation, and extreme poverty, with a declaration that makes a lot of sense:

“WE BELIEVE that in the best American tradition of helping others help themselves, now is the time to join with other countries in a historic pact for compassion and justice to help the poorest people of the world overcome AIDS and extreme poverty. WE RECOGNIZE that a pact including such measures as fair trade, debt relief, fighting corruption and directing additional resources for basic needs – education, health, clean water, food, and care for orphans – would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the poorest countries, at a cost equal to just one percent more of the US budget. WE COMMIT ourselves - one person, one voice, one vote at a time - to make a better, safer world for all.”

Compassion? Justice? Fair trade? Is Pat Robertson actually starting to practice a little of the Christianity he has been preaching for years?

Alas, a visit to the CBN website shows Pat is still peddling the same old homophobic claptrap (this time with free bumperstickers, so you can advertise your homophobia). He has also added environmentalists to his list of evil left-wingers to beware of. He also uses a lot of webspace to sell a line of nutrition products, CD's, and even mortgage plans.

But still, any group that can get Pat Robertson to be in the same ad as Ellen Degeneres and Susan Sarandon is amazing. Maybe those who would otherwise write off the ad as "liberal do-goodism" will actually visit The ONE Campaign's website and actually begin to think positively about responding to our world's needs with compassion and justice.

Maybe. Let's hope so. And pray so.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Backyard Wildlife: Fierce Mockingbird

Our cat Kato has finally met his match. A fierce mockingbird has taken up residence in the dogwood and pine trees in our back yard, and she is not tolerating the presence of Kato or any of the many squirrels in our neighborhood. The other day she and Kato were both on the back porch, hissing at each other. I’ve seen her “dive bomb” Kato, squawking loudly, chasing him across the driveway and pecking him on the backside. I’ve also seen her chase a squirrel from treetop to treetop until the squirrel finally fled the yard.

A few days ago Kato and I were in the garage and the mockingbird actually flew into the garage to circle Kato and give him a scolding. I’ve named the mockingbird Maude, after the boldly assertive character Bea Arthur used to play on TV. She has a beautiful song, but she rarely sings it because she is always scolding other animals. She is definitely keeping things entertaining in the yard!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Which Author's Fiction Are You?

If your life were an open book, who would its author be? It's not too surprising that when I took the quiz, the answer came back Flannery O'Connor. Like her, I'm an existentialist/mystic living in the "Christ-haunted South." She is the one who wrote, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd."

Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor wrote your book.
Not much escapes your notice.

Which Author's Fiction are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Which Twin Peaks Character Are You?

Here are my results when I took the quiz. The description seems pretty accurate!

Dale Cooper
You're Special Agent Dale Cooper. You're often too brilliant for people to really follow, but your infectious enthusiasm makes up for the fact that you're frequently incomprehensible. You are smart, intuitive, clear-headed, compassionate, and cute as hell -- about your only flaw is your insane coffee consumption.

Which Twin Peaks character are you?
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Monday, May 09, 2005

A Particular Bird

Heloise, the little warbler bird who had hatched her eggs in the birdhouse on our front porch, has flown away, and her fledglings have left the nest. One little bird didn’t make it. His remains were left on the front porch, underneath the rocking chair, and downy feathers showed up in the litter box of our cat Kato. After weeks of watching Heloise and then hearing the chirping of her babies, I was saddened. But I know, of course, that there was no malice on Kato’s part – no more than I have when I eat chicken wings or a pastrami sandwich.

In his book Out Walking: Reflections on Our Place in the Natural World, poet John Leax writes about finding a fledgling mourning dove with a wounded wing, and knowing it had a very slight chance of survival, given the presence of five cats in his neighborhood. He writes about our ability to be moved by the plight of one individual animal. He remembers how our entire nation was fascinated a while back while watching TV news stories about three whales trapped by ice in the Beaufort Sea. “Why,” he asks, “were we so concerned about those particular whales? Why, after nearly eradicating whales for profit, were we spending so much money to rescue three?”

The human imagination, Leax writes, is particular. “One whale, facing imminent death, has more power to move us than a species facing extinction.” But nature is not particular:
The issue is learning to extend our care from an individual to a species. But taken by itself it is not enough, for it does not comprehend the harsh reality of nature’s apparent indifference. Nature, like it or not, is not particular. It struck me . . . that perhaps I needed to learn, not nature’s indifference, but something of her larger concern, something of how particular deaths (even mine) fit into a pattern of exchange and nourish the health of creation.
Finding the remains of Heloise’s fledgling reminded me of a poem by Byron Herbert Reece, the North Georgia poet who lived from 1917 to 1958:

Whose Eye is on the Sparrow

I saw a fallen sparrow
Dead upon the grass
And mused to see how narrow
The wing that bore it was.
By what unlucky chance
The bird had come to settle
Lopsided near the fence
In sword grass and nettle

I had no means to know;
But this I minded well:
Whose eye was on the sparrow
Shifted, and it fell.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Julian of Norwich

Today is the Feast Day of Julian of Norwich. You can read about Julian at Carl McColman's Earth Mystic weblog. Julian is one of the medieval English mystics featured on Carl's Website of Unknowing.

The icon above, by Robert Lentz, is one that I have on the icon wall in my library. (It's available through Trinity Stores.) Julian is often shown with a cat, which anchorites were allowed to have as a practical measure (to deal with the mice). Here she is, again with her cat, as depicted in a stained glass window at St. Hilary's Episcopal Church in Illinois:

Julian is also often depicted with a hazelnut, because of one of her visions in which God showed her the nature of divine love:

"When I saw the vision of his bleeding head, our Lord also showed my soul the unpretentious manner of his loving. I saw that for us he is everything that is good, comforting, and helpful. He is our clothing who wraps us up and holds us close for love..."

"And with this insight he also showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand. It seemed to me as round as a ball. I gazed at it and thought, ‘What can this be?’ The answer came thus, ‘It is everything that is made.’ I marveled how this could be, for it was so small it seemed it might fall suddenly into nothingness. Then I heard the answer, ‘It lasts, and ever shall last, because God loves it. All things have their being in this way by the grace of God.’"

-- from Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich

Here is the prayer for Julian's feast day, in the Episcopal Church:

Lord God, who in your compassion granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things, for in giving us yourself you give us all; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

"Mystics do not simply believe in God; they know God."
-- Marcus Borg