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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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Divine Order, Made Visible

a beautifully intricate spider web in sunlight
(click on the picture to see it full-sized)
from the meditative blog isaiah knows nothing
-- thanks, Tommy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Update: Grace Happens, Part 2

Michael does not have his computer hooked up at his new place yet, so I printed out a copy of yesterday's blog entry for him and took it by the vegetarian cafe he manages. He liked what I had written, and he feels much the same way: as he put it, "Pain. Grief. Love." Michael looked like he didn't get much sleep Sunday night either. Both Sunday night and last night, Kato would periodically circle the place on the bed where Michael's pillow was supposed to be, then look at me and meow. Then he would cuddle up next to me and nuzzle my beard.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Update: Grace Happens

My trip to Asheville, and the String Cheese Incident concert Saturday night, were wonderful. I’ll blog about both soon. Carl, one of the friends I saw String Cheese with on Saturday night, has already written about the show at his Earth Mystic blog (toward the end of his October 23rd post, “Let Zeus Loose”).

Yesterday I helped Michael move his bed and some other things to his new place. It was difficult for both of us. We both know that separating is the right thing to do, but we still care very deeply for each other. I am excited about my new life “on my own,” and I am genuinely relieved that the not-so-wonderful aspects of our relationship are now over. But I am also grieving those aspects of our relationship that were wonderful. Those moments were many, and they are no less real, now that Michael and I are going our separate ways. They are now a part of me, and I will treasure them forever.

The pain I felt yesterday, helping Michael move out, was intense. It was just as intense as the physical pain I felt several years ago in the hospital with the neurological disease, Guillain-Barre Syndrome. After my paralysis wore off, and feeling returned to my lower body, the pain was so intense at times that the morphine and Oxycontin the nurses gave me were useless. The pain I felt yesterday was not neurological, but it was just as intense. In many ways my relationship with Michael has been “in paralysis” for quite a while now. We have tried to re-connect, to resurrect the deep love that brought us together five and a half years ago, but even with the help of one of the best counselors in Georgia, we just haven’t been able to do so. Now that the relationship is ending – now that the paralysis is over – feeling is returning to both of us, and it hurts like hell.

I believe this pain is a grace. I would much rather end a relationship this way, with both of us still caring for each other, than to end it with anger or resentment. This way, the many moments that were wonderful will continue to live on in our hearts.

I still believe what I wrote here before (October 3rd): I have always believed that Michael and I were brought together by Providence. I believe that the same angel who brought us together will continue to watch over us as we go our separate ways.

So now it’s just me and Kato, who has already covered our new mattress with cat hair, and a ton of wonderful and supportive friends. Shit happens – but grace happens, too. I’m currently experiencing both.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Busy Bear: Bible, Cat Window, String Cheese

Earth Mystic (Carl McColman) and I are planning to read through The New Jerusalem Bible, beginning January 1, 2006. Carl does a great job of outlining our intentions at his blog (click here for his entry about it), so I won’t repeat it all here. We plan to invite others to join us, so we’ll be setting up a Yahoo group so we can discuss the readings and share with each other via email. I've wanted to read The New Jerusalem Bible because of its literary beauty ( J.R.R. Tolkien was a contributing translator and lexicographer of the original English edition) and because it contains the whole Bible, including the books Martin Luther ripped out and which do not appear in Protestant Bibles. The reading plan we’re using is very simple; it will take about 20 minutes a day to read two passages, one from the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”) and one from the Christian Scriptures (“New Testament”). If you’d like to join us but want to use another translation, please feel free to do so. Diversity is good! I’ll post the link here when we set up the Yahoo group.

[Addendum: The Yahoo group, named Lectio Divina, is now online. Feel free to join us!]

Click here to join lectiodivina
Click to join lectiodivina

On the home front, Kato the Gnostic Cat and I will be moving into our new apartment the weekend of November 4th. It’s in a pet-friendly apartment complex, and the apartment we’ll be living in is on the edge of the complex, next to the woods where Kato can go hunting. There’s a good buffer of woods between the apartment and the main road, so I feel OK about letting Kato go in and out as he pleases. I’ve already splurged on a fancy Window Cat Door for Kato to use at the new place.

The new apartment is on the back side of Little Kennesaw Mountain (pictured above as seen from Big Kennesaw Mountain), very convenient to the hiking trails. It’s also close to Marietta Square. I’ve written here before about how much I love living close to the Square.

My friend Donnie and I are going up to Asheville this weekend, for the organizational meeting of a new interfaith initiative called Universal Awakening. We'll be leaving the meeting a little early, to come back to Atlanta Saturday night to see The String Cheese Incident at the Fox Theatre.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Reincarnation And The Gnostic Cat

I still maintain an "open agnosticism" toward the idea of reincarnation. I don't deny the possibility, but I don't fully believe in it either. The anonymous author of Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, who was a devout Roman Catholic, accepts reincarnation as a fact. He sees no incompatibility between the idea of reincarnation and the orthodox Christian teaching of resurrection of the dead. I haven't been able to bridge that gap.

Still, there are a few things that make me wonder if reincarnation might indeed be a fact. One thing was the story of how the Dalai Lama was found. In his autobiography, Freedom in Exile, His Holiness writes about the memories he has of previous incarnations, as well as the signs and portents that led the Tibetan regents to find and identify him as Dalai Lama when he was just a child. It's a compelling story, one that can't be easily explained away.

And the dream I had about my cat Kato writing one of the Gnostic gospels -- which I wrote about in the poem Gnostic Cat -- was very vivid, very real. I realize it sounds a bit delusional to say "My cat wrote one of the Gnostic gospels," and I want to emphasize that I'm not actually saying that. But I'm also not denying the possibility.

Consider this: Several weeks ago I came home from work and Kato, who is normally very silent and dignified, was meowing his head off. He was obviously trying to tell me something. I checked the bed to make sure there were no "gifts" he had brought in for me (such as the dead crow I wrote about in July). Nothing there. I checked his food and water bowls, which were full. I gave him some tuna. Still he continued to meow. I went to check the front porch and found a box of books that had been delivered. When I picked up the box, the incessant meowing stopped and Kato went about his business.

There are frequently boxes of books on the front porch, because of my book addiction, and Kato has never meowed about them, either before or after this particular incident. This particular box, however, contained a new edition of The Gospel of Thomas -- one of the Gnostic gospels (and my personal favorite). Could Kato sense, somehow, that the box on the front porch contained a sacred text? Does he have some sort of connection to this text, perhaps from one of his prior "nine lives"?

Or am I merely delusional??? Is it part of a cat's "job" to make humans question their sanity?

Feel free to comment (but kindly).


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Accepting Loss

Today's DailyOM article is a timely one, at least to me. It talks about dealing with loss, whether the loss of a loved one, a dream, or a relationship. An excerpt:

And while there are stages of grief that people go through - moving from denial to anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance - the cycles of grief often move in spirals, sometimes circling forward and then back again. You may even experience moments of strength, faith, and laughter in between. While these emotions seem to come and go sporadically, it is important to feel them, accept them, and allow them to flow. With time, patience, and compassion, you will eventually find your center again.

Nothing new here, but it's helpful to be reminded. Here's the article:
Accepting Loss: The Cycle of Grief


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Goblins And Candle Greetings From Heidi

My friend Heidi (who blogs as VirusHead) has posted a great Halloween Page full of history and lore about the upcoming holiday. She includes a focus on the often-overlooked goblin ("The medieval Christian Church included the 'Gobelinus,' a demon that haunted Evreus in the 12th century, in their pantheon of demons"). She opens the page with a poem that, for me, captures well the spirit of this rainy autumn Sunday here in Atlanta:

Candle Greeting

I send you candle's greeting wise,
a hopeful flame 'gainst light's demise.
The leaves are turned, the harvest's nigh
Remember all - not with a sigh -
but turning threshold of its tide,
admit love's spirit as your guide.

Check it out: Happy Halloween From Heidi


Friday, October 07, 2005

Chance / Another Chance

From The Writer's Almanac for yesterday, October 6th . . .

Wild Card
by Cathryn Essinger

The local newspaper reports
a Houston housewife has found
a three foot long snake indigenous
to California in her electric toaster.

I need to talk to this woman. I want
to know what kind of bread attracts
snakes, if she goes to church on Sundays
and if she believes in chance.

While I have her on the phone, I want
to ask about other irregularities, such as
the Osage orange that showed up
on my front step, a fruit so large

no creature could have carried it.
And what does she make of the wild card
I found in a pile of leaves--a Jack of Spades
masquerading as some variety of oak?

Or the crow who paces the patio,
carrying a packet of taco sauce,
dipping his beak casually, as if
hot sauce were his natural food.

I'd ask about the mouse I found
this morning in the dog's bowl,
frantic, half drowned, the small cap
of his skull bobbing like a tiny buoy.

Still, he swam, betting against all odds
that some housewife might appear
on this Sunday morning, looking for eggs
or waffle mix, and the opportunity to tip

the bowl onto a sunny porch where
a small thing, who has never questioned
the implacable nature of the universe,
could have another chance.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Time Of Grieving

After five and a half years together, my partner Michael and I have decided to separate. Neither one of us is lashing out or blaming the other -- we've just come to realize, after a year of relationship counseling, that we are on very different paths.

We are both hurting and grieving the death of our life together. We both still love each other, and in some ways that makes our breakup more difficult. We are still friends, and we are grateful for the time we spent together.

We will both be moving out of the house we have been renting, the house we had planned to buy together. Michael will be moving in with a friend next weekend. Kato the mystical cat and I plan to move in November.

I have always believed that Michael and I were brought together by Providence. I believe that the same angel who brought us together will continue to watch over us as we go our separate ways.

One advantage of being Episcopalian and having a Book of Common Prayer is that during those times when the heart is too weary and unable to put its prayer into words, the words are provided. The prayer I posted here a few days ago has been a huge source of comfort to me during this difficult time:

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


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Blogging In The Middle Ages

from the Alchemy website of Adam McLean

A Kinder, Gentler Elitism, Part 2

Republican quote of the week:

"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," said [William] Bennett, author of "The Book of Virtues."

--from the Associated Press news story, Bennett: Black Abortions Would Lower Crime

I haven't read The Book of Virtues, but I can't help but wonder what virtues it extols. Racism? Elitism? Using abortion as a tool of social engineering? It's so hard to tell the difference between Republican values and Nazi values these days . . .


Grateful Bear 23:5

Here's a little meme for bloggers, from the blogs of Jon (The Wild Things of God) and Twyla (whimsical mystic):

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to it).
3. Find the 5th sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

My 23rd post was on January 30, 2005: Happy Birthday, Richard Brautigan. Brautigan is one of my favorite poets, a bohemian who bridged the beat generation and the hippie generation. The 5th sentence in my post about him was this:

Brautigan could mix together the absurd and the profound in a single poem, or in a single short prose-poem, which is what many of the chapters in his novels actually are. (I like to think my poem Gnostic Cat shows some of his influence.)

OK, those were the 5th and 6th sentences, but I couldn't very well omit the reference to my mystical cat, could I???