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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.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Falling Into Grace

Falling Into Grace,
a beautiful photo by fellow blogger Darryl (Rainbow Pitta).
Click on the photo to see it full-sized.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

In Quietness And In Confidence

"To know what is real and true is to filter this mystery called life through myth and symbol, tarot cards and memories, rituals and all that the senses have available to them. And in doing so, we hope to glean from this river of life a few precious flecks of gold."
--Fr. James Behrens, Through a Wine Glass

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."
--Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--The Book of Common Prayer

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fallen Angels: Before & After

(at the bottom of the Table of Contents Page 2: Portraits)

Which Saint Are You?

Here are my results from the web quiz, Which Saint Are You? It's not too surprising that a Grateful Bear should be described as a "closet hippie" . . .

You are Julian of Norwich! It's all about God, to you. You're convinced that the world has a happy ending. Everyone else is convinced that you're a closet hippie, but you love them anyway.

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

To find out more about Lady Julian and the Medieval English Mystics, visit The Website of Unknowing.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

George W. Bush: Miserable Failure

Go to Google and enter either "failure" or "miserable failure" in the search box -- the #1 result will be the biography page of George W. Bush from the official White House website. Information Week has published an article about why this happens ("Google Won't Remove 'Failure' Link to Bush"). So many bloggers have linked the words "miserable failure" to George W. Bush that it has impacted the formula Google uses in ranking its search results. Information Week calls these bloggers "pranksters," but I don't think this is a prank. George W. Bush is a miserable failure as president, a fact that the folks at Information Week might not want to admit, but it's a fact nonetheless.

So I'm joining the ranks: in that last sentence (and in the title of this blog entry) I linked "miserable failure" to Shrub's biography, and I invite my fellow liberal bloggers to do the same.

Many thanks to my friend Kayanne Young for this great photo illustrating our president's competence and dexterity (notice the phone cord).


Sunday, September 18, 2005

We Are In God, And All That Is In God Is In Us

"Man is not made by God as the wood is cut by the carpenter, for the carpenter and the wood are different, while God and man are the same. He creates of Himself; consequently His manifestation is also God. Man is made of the substance of God; man is in God, and all that is in God is in man."

"The individual soul is a shoot that springs from the all-pervading Spirit, its goal being its origin; and every attachment it has on its way is, no doubt, a detaining on the journey. The soul is never fully satisfied so long as it has not reached its destination. The love of the external world is a rehearsal before the performance, which is the love of God, the Inner Being."

~ Hazrat Inayat Khan (1827-1927), the teacher who brought Sufism to the West

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blog Update

I've made a few changes to the Blog of the Grateful Bear. I've been getting more and more "comment spam" (spam ads in the comments section of each blog entry), so I've made a change: If you want to leave a comment, you'll need to type in a verification word before your comment will be posted. I hope this will not discourage you from leaving your comments, if you're a legitimate reader of this blog and not some computer generating ads for real estate, credit cards, dating services, or Viagra.

Another change: the small advertisements in the left margin are there in an attempt to (hopefully) generate a small amount of revenue to support the websites I maintain. Blogger does not charge a fee for this blog, but I do pay a fee to Homestead.com for the webspace needed for my three non-blog websites:

So if you click on an ad and sign up with one of the advertisers, a small fee will go toward supporting these three websites. I myself am a member of both Audible.com and eMusic, and I highly recommend both sites, especially if you have an iPod. Here are some of the albums I've downloaded from eMusic in the past month:

  • Dar Williams: "My Better Self"
  • The Best of Mickey Hart: "Over the Edge and Back"
  • Krishna Das: "All One" (only 4 tracks, but almost an hour of beautiful kirtan chanting)
  • Various Grateful Dead-related Artists: "Dead Delites Volume 4"
  • The Best of Bob Weir: "Weir Here"

Hopefully the ads will not be a distraction from the blog itself. If you click through the Tarot.com ad (at the very bottom of the page) and have an online reading, I recommend using the Golden Tarot deck (at the bottom of the screen you'll have a chance to choose the deck you use for the reading). The Golden Tarot is a beautiful deck, using collages of artwork from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. And the Hermit card in the Golden Tarot is based on St. Francis of Assisi.



From today's Writer's Almanac . . .

"For All"
by Gary Snyder

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell

one ecosystem
in diversity under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

~ from Axe Handles: Poems by Gary Snyder

Saturday, September 10, 2005

After The Magic

Beliefnet has published an article by my friend Carl McColman, in which he writes about his conversion from Paganism to Catholicism. It's a great article: After The Magic.


Whatca Readin'?

Twyla at the Whimsical Mystic blog recently posted an entry asking her readers, "Whatcha Readin'?" Here were my answers. As usual there's a stack of books I'm in the middle of reading...

Why the Mystics Matter Now, by Frederick Bauerschmidt, a wonderful little introduction to the Christian mystics; this is the book our Christian Mysticism Meetup Group is reading.

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, a well-written and truly suspenseful novel about a scholar's search for the truth about Dracula.

The Gospel of Thomas: I'm re-reading the excellent translation by Stevan Davies, recently released in a new edition (with ribbon marker!) by the Buddhist publisher, Shambhala Library.

Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, by an anonymous Russian theosophist who converted to Roman Catholicism. I will definitely be blogging in-depth about this book in the near future. The book is highly recommended by the Cistercian monks who re-introduced Centering Prayer to the church, Fr. Thomas Keating and the late Fr. Basil Pennington (that last link is from a comprehensive website devoted to the book). It's a massive book that relates the Major Arcana of the Tarot to Christian mysticism, Jungian psychology, the Kabbalah, Buddhist and Hindu thought, and philosophy (he quotes Nietzsche and Teilhard de Chardin a lot). It's precisely the kind of eclectic stew that appeals to a theological mutt like myself.

So to the readers of this blog: I invite you to share, by clicking on the "comments" button, Whatcha Readin'?


Bowing In Our Hearts

From today's Bowl of Saki by Hazrat Inayat Khan:

"It is the fruit that makes the tree bow low."

"A true worshipper of God sees His presence in all forms, and thus in respecting others he respects God. It may even develop to such an extent that the true worshipper of God, the Omnipresent, walks gently on the earth, bowing in his heart even to every tree and plant, and it is then that the worshipper forms a communion with the Divine Beloved at all times."

Friday, September 09, 2005

A Kinder, Gentler Elitism

Former first lady Barbara Bush, on the Hurricane Katrina refugees who are crowded into the Astrodome in Houston:

"What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this [she chuckles slightly] is working very well for them."

What's so sad about "compassionate conservatives" is that they honestly have no idea how elitist and cold-hearted they sound until their handlers tell them, after the fact (or after the press reports their remarks).

Thanks to minddance for the link to the news story.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Hurricane Is Not God's Wrath

Some Christians are already thundering from their pulpits that Hurricane Katrina is God's wrath against America's immorality. Wrong, says Tony Campolo in an excellent article at Beliefnet.

A brief surf around the internet shows a lot of Christian groups claiming that the hurricane was God’s judgment against New Orleans. Here’s a small sampling, from an August 31st entry on Salon.com’s political blog:

The real cause of Hurricane Katrina?

Sometimes, it's hard to keep up.

We reported last night on the cause of Hurricane Katrina -- at least in the eyes of an antiabortion group called Columbia Christians for Life. The storm, the group says, is God's way of punishing Louisiana for having 10 abortion clinics.

Well, at least that's what the Columbia Christians for Life were saying yesterday. We've just received another e-mail from the group, and now it seems to be saying that God sent Katrina after Louisiana to prevent Southern Decadence, an annual gay-themed bash that was scheduled for Labor Day weekend in New Orleans.

The Columbia Christians for Life forwarded to us a press release from a Philadelphia-based outfit called Repent America. In it, Repent America director Michael Marcavage explains: "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."

-- from the War Room blog by Tim Grieve, Salon.com

Tony Campolo addresses such disgusting sermonizing in his Beliefnet article. I encourage you to read it. An excerpt:

. . . But when the Bible tells us about the grace of God, it is giving us the good news that our loving God does not give us what we truly deserve. Certainly, God would not create suffering for innocent people, who were--for the most part--Katrina’s victims.

Perhaps we would do well to listen to the likes of Rabbi Harold Kushner, who contends that God is not really as powerful as we have claimed. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures does it say that God is omnipotent. Kushner points out that omnipotence is a Greek philosophical concept, but it is not in his Bible. . .

That acknowledgement may land Campolo in hot water with his fellow evangelicals! He ends his article with a call to compassionate response:

Instead of looking for God in the earthquake or the tsunami, in the roaring forest fires blazing in the western states, or in the mighty winds of Katrina, it would be best to seek out a quiet place and heed the promptings of God’s still small voice. That voice will inspire us to bring some of God’s goodness to bear in the lives of those who suffer.

Earlier this year, on January 1, I wrote an entry on this blog about some of the theological questions raised by the tsunami in Asia which claimed over 140,000 lives. In response to an article that said “There is no God in this disaster,” this is what I wrote:

As a panentheist, I believe that all things are in God, and God is in all things. So I do believe God was in the tsunami -- but that doesn't mean that God caused the tsunami. I believe God can bring good out of bad events, but it doesn't necessarily follow that God caused the bad events in order to bring about the good.

The search for meaning in tragic events, or in the face of outright evil, is as old as the books of Job and Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Scriptures. There will always be those who seek to find blame for disasters -- as Jerry Falwell did following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when he said: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" (Later, of course, Falwell "apologized" and said he didn't really mean what he had said.)

Jesus himself was confronted with those who sought to find such blame, even from among his own disciples:

As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7, ESV)

Jesus' disciples assumed, wrongly, that since this man had been born blind, someone must have sinned -- either the man (before birth?) or his parents. They had to find someone to blame. But Jesus didn't buy into their blaming. He didn't have time to engage in finding blame but emphasized "working the works" of God who had sent him. In other words, action -- compassionate response -- is what's needed, not blaming. Using the elements of the earth, Jesus healed the man. Jesus calls himself "the Light of the World" in this story, but elsewhere (Matthew 5:14-16) he reminds us that we -- all of us -- are the Light of the World. And we are all called to let that divine light within us shine forth, and to respond to events we can't understand with acts of compassion, not reasoning or blaming.