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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.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Harry Potter: Children's Noir?

If you haven't read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince yet, you might want to skip this blog entry.

If you saw any of the pre-publication hype at all, you know that a significant character dies in the new Harry Potter novel. (I'm not going to give it away here.) The best review I've read of the book, from The Globe and Mail, begins with the line, "Call out the grief counsellors." The interfaith website Beliefnet is offering "pastoral counsel for heartsick muggles" who are traumatized by the novel's ending. Warning: The Beliefnet column gives away the surprise ending in its first paragraph.

What makes this novel darker, more disturbing than the first five is not only its murder of a main character at the end but also the way in which the character is murdered: in a deadly act of betrayal, at the hand of a trusted "friend." There are no neat resolutions in this one, no "life lessons" for the kiddies, no comforting reassurances that all will be well. Murder, vengeance, betrayal -- is this a children's book, or a Hard Case Crime novel?

Still, I agree with fellow blogger Jon Zuck (The Wild Things of God) that this one is "the best of the Potter series so far, and leads to the possibility that the final book might have a markedly different format from these first six." Amid all the intrigue and betrayal, there is still room for character development, even teenage romance. We see the relationship deepen between Dumbledore and Harry, and we learn a lot about how young Tom Riddle grew up to become (or to be destroyed by) Lord Voldemort. Unlike the last novel, Harry isn't so damn angry all the time in this one. J. K. Rowling is maturing as a writer, and I think Book Seven will be better than ever.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Law and Order: Avian Victims Unit

This afternoon I came home to yet another gift from our cat, Kato: a fully grown crow, dead, left in our bed (on my side of the bed). Forensic evidence indicates that it was a clean kill, a puncture wound to the head. Bloodstain analysis suggests that Kato had some difficulty getting the crow through the cat door (not a surprise: the crow was huge) but went directly from the cat door in the kitchen to the bedroom, leaving one bright red drop of blood every two to three feet. Rigor mortis had already set in by the time the body was found. Kato is currently out in the yard chasing another bird, presumably to replace the crow which I disposed of.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Pope Blog

If Matthew Fox can have his own weblog, then why not the Pope? Pope Benedict XVI, referred to by one of my Catholic friends (whom I shall not name here, lest he be summoned to the Inquisition, which might happen anyway if he finds a publisher for his new Tarot deck) as "Benny the Rat" (which reminds me, for some odd reason, of the old song "Boris the Spider" by The Who) (but I digress) (where was I?) --

Anyway, the Pope now has his own weblog, Ask the Pope. (Thanks to Aral Peppermint Patty Pez for the link!) As far as I know, he is the first Pope to be a blogger. Now we can get an inside look at the workings of a great theological mind. Take today's entry, for example...

There is a Cardinal that I work with on a regular basis that doesn’t trim his nose hair properly. There is always one hair that darts out like a weed around mid-afternoon. I’d like to say something to him, but I’m not sure of the best way to broach the subject. I’ve prayed to Mary about this several times and have not received a revelation yet.

The Pope also writes about his upcoming appearance on the TV show Inside the Actor's Studio, being questioned by James Lipton: "What is your favorite curse word?" "Luther."

Welcome to the blogosphere, Your Holiness!


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pulp Fiction Fun

I just finished reading Branded Woman by Wade Miller, recently released from Hard Case Crime. This reprint of a 1952 crime noir novel, from the writing team of Robert Wade and William Miller, is good clean fun. Well, maybe not "clean," but definitely fun. It's a story of intrigue and betrayal in a world of amoral gold smugglers, with plenty of plot twists and surprises. The lead character, a beautiful young femme fatale (pictured on the gloriously lurid cover), is surprisingly complex for a "pulp" novel. If this story were made into a movie (as the authors' "Touch of Evil" was), it should be in black and white, with someone like a young Barbara Stanwyck playing the lead. This is yet another fun novel, rediscovered and reprinted after 50+ years, from the great folks at Hard Case Crime.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

String Cheese Prayer

The new CD from The String Cheese Incident ("One Step Closer") opens with a prayer, "Give Me the Love":

Give me the love I'd have, for all my enemies
Give me the love I'd have, for those I cannot please
Give me the love that knows
all the love there is
Give me the love that knows
all that love can give

That's all I ask of you
That's all I need from you
That's all I ask of you

From the sin that separates, and from the doubts
That have plagued my coming in and going out
May there be a bed of mercy, to lay my anger down
To fill the emptiness, where there is no sound

That's all I ask of you...

My last post here ("'Christian' Radio Rant") was pretty angry and sarcastic. There is much in the world today that can justify anger. I can let the anger lead me into constructive action, and I hope I do that most of the time. But I need to lay the anger down; I can't carry it around with me.

May there be a bed of mercy, to lay my anger down...

Thank you, String Cheese Incident.


Monday, July 11, 2005

"Christian" Radio Rant

Flipping through the radio dial the last few days, I’m struck by a common theme I’ve heard several times on the so-called “Christian” radio stations here in Atlanta. The day of the London bombings, Jay Sekulow used his nationally-syndicated “Christian” radio program to respond to the tragedy in London by – are you ready for this? – attacking the ACLU. How dare they warn us about the dangers of the Patriot Act! Don’t they know we need the Patriot Act to respond to terrorist bombings like the one in London? We’re at war! We can’t be bothered by “quaint” notions like the Geneva Convention, or that annoying Bill of Rights! So what if we give up our freedoms, or watch our civil liberties (and our basic human rights) slowly erode? So what if our “culture of life” government has institutionalized torture and other un-Christian behavior? It’s time to rally around our President, mindlessly and without question! Anyone who dares raise such questions as the ACLU is raising is (the worst insult of all) unpatriotic!

And this morning, D. James Kennedy cancelled his scheduled sermon on his nationally-syndicated program, “Truths That Transform,” to air an interview with “constitutional law expert” Phyllis Schlafly, during which they attacked “the ACLU and other atheist organizations” -- portraying the ACLU as the enemy of all things decent.

Has Christian radio run out of Scripture passages on which to teach?

Did they not get the message from Christianity Today's recent editorial that begins, "George W. Bush is not Lord"?

I'll repeat what I wrote here last month:

The most truly-patriotic thing we can do in this environment is to support two organizations that are standing up for human rights and civil liberties: Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union.

To that list I'll add Sojourners and the work Jim Wallis is doing to remind evangelical Christians that God is not a Republican or a Democrat.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Buddha And The Beats

Fellow blogger PJ Johnston (Blogopotamus!) is blogging about the Beats: She writes about her recent pilgrimage to City Lights Bookstore, a sacred site for Beatniks, and posts Allen Ginsberg's poem Sunflower Sutra (her July 3rd entries) -- as well as the amazing photograph above.

Surfing the web I recently came across an interesting interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of City Lights, about the Beats and Buddhism: Buddhism is Not Un-American. He describes the late Jack Kerouac as "a Buddhist Catholic" -- which in today's pluralistic world is no longer quite so unusual, as the Buddhist Tricycle Blog noted last year.

And speaking of Buddhism, here's a fascinating article about His Holiness the Dalai Lama, talking about a world in which a Dalai Lama may no longer be needed (thanks to Sujatin Johnson at lotusinthemud for the link!).

"All the Buddhas of the past, present and future have arrived at enlightenment by this very same method: the spontaneity of their radiance." --Jack Kerouac

Shine on!


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Emergent Movement on PBS

The "Emergent" movement is the focus of the PBS program, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, which airs this weekend. Here in Georgia, it's on Sunday, July 10, at 6:30 am [Georgia Public Broadcasting], so I'll be setting the VCR. Here's the program description:

Part 1 of a two-part report titled “The Emerging Church” explores ways Evangelical and mainline Protestants are “rethinking” Christianity, both in theology and liturgy. Also: A report on transcendental meditation in one Iowa town.
According to the Religion News Service, the program features an interview with Brian McLaren. I'm currently reading McLaren's amply-subtitled book, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, anabaptist/anglican, methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Another Ringing Endorsement!