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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, November 30, 2005

Al Franken on the New Testament

“I’m Jewish. So I suppose I’m not really in much of a position to argue that conservatives have hijacked Christianity. And I haven’t read the New Testament from cover to cover. But from what I understand, if you cut out all the passages in the Bible where Jesus talks about the poor, about helping out the least among us – if you cut out every single one of those passages, you’d have the perfect container to smuggle Rush Limbaugh’s drugs in.”

~ from The Truth, with Jokes by Al Franken


Beliefnet has two great articles online about Advent, one of my favorite seasons of the liturgical year:

Diary of a Former Pagan: Celebrating Advent as a Catholic
by my friend Carl McColman

An excerpt: “Advent is a time of honoring the pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In honoring her pregnancy, we are reminded of that most subversive of spiritual qualities: patience. Advent is about waiting. Waiting for the birth, waiting for the fullness of time when the mystery will be revealed. It’s not just about a birth in a Bethlehem manger that in any case has already happened long ago. Rather, Advent makes the pregnancy and the waiting real, here and now. We are all like Mary, pregnant with the Christ child in our own hearts, minds, and souls.”

Why I’m an Advent Christian
by Ronald Klug

An excerpt: “Advent Christians believe Christ came, but still we sing ‘Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.’ We believe that in Christ the kingdom of God has dawned, but still we eagerly pray ‘thy kingdom come’ because we long for a world that is still to come. Exile, longing, watchfulness and waiting resonate with us.”

Monday, November 28, 2005

One Cool Cat

This morning I was playing an album of classic jazz I had downloaded from eMusic.com (Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, 1957). As soon as the album began, Kato the mystical cat, my feline roommate, came running from the bedroom where he had been curled up on one of my pillows (which he thinks is his throne). He stared at the speakers for a moment, then proceeded to do a complex series of yoga asanas – including both “downward-facing cat,” which he does every morning, and “upward-facing cat,” which I’ve only seen him do a few times. He then sat down in front of the speakers in “sphinx” pose and listened to the music. It’s a short album – only six songs – but Kato sat in front of the speakers listening for the full 37 minutes, till the album ended. Then he stood up and went about his catly business.

I’d never seen Kato respond to music before, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he likes jazz from the beatnik Fifties. He is, after all, one cool cat.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gratefulness and Thanksgiving

Brother David Steindl-Rast has a fascinating column at Beliefnet on the relationship between gratefulness and thankfulness: "Gratefulness is the mystical dimension of gratitude, thankfulness, its theological one." It's a timely article for the Thanksgiving holiday:
Heart of Gratefulness: Life is a Gift

Also check out Brother David's website, Gratefulness.org

{While we're on the subject of being "Grateful," here's a site where you can download The Grateful Dead Hour each week.}

I have a lot to be grateful for: wonderful friends and family; a warm and welcoming church, as well as my other communities of faith, the Sufi healing circle and the Atlanta Christian Mysticism Meetup; a career I enjoy; a great new home with a cuddly cat and plenty of books to read; and the transformation of a romantic relationship into a friendship. Lots of reasons to be a Grateful Bear.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving weekend?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This past weekend I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with some friends, including fellow bloggers Wheezing Girl and Earth Mystic, who has already posted his Top Ten list of things he liked most about the movie. I really enjoyed the movie, although the large Diet Coke I drank left me with an aspartame headache halfway through it; I need to see it again, “unimpaired.”

This fourth installment continues the somewhat darker tone set by the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and it is definitely driven more by story and character than by special effects – although the effects are spectacular, especially the scene in which Harry is pursued by an angry dragon after Harry has taken its golden egg. There are a lot of funny moments, too, and moments in which we see the magical Harry and his friends as normal, sometimes-awkward 14 year olds.

I was disappointed by the very small role played by Professor Snape (the delightfully dismal Alan Rickman) in the movie, although his role in the book Goblet of Fire was also small. Brendan Gleeson's scene-stealing performance as “Mad Eye” Moody, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, was hilarious and at times moving.

The best review of Goblet of Fire that I’ve seen so far comes from an unlikely source: Christianity Today magazine. I agree with their reviewer that the portrayal of Lord Voldemort (played by Ralph Fiennes) could have been stronger and less like “a whiner, a bald man in a cape with a bad nose job.” I do find it appropriate, though, that the evil Lord Voldemort was played by the same actor who played Martin Luther.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Tea With Cozy Mystery And Cat

This weekend I visited Tea and Traditions, a charming little tea room very close to my new apartment, and picked up two new teas for my one-cup infuser: Moroccan Mint and Floral Ti Kuan Yin, an Oolong tea with a “delicate, floral aroma and light honey/chestnut nuances with a lingering aftertaste.” (How could I not get a tea named after Kuan Yin?)

I sipped hot tea while finishing The Perfect Paragon by M. C. Beaton, her newest “cozy” mystery novel, set in a little village in the English Cotswolds, featuring amateur detective Agatha Raisin. Kato the cat was curled up on the sofa next to me.

The prophecies concerning me have come true: I am turning into an old cat lady. Oh well, I guess there are far worse fates...


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Which Literature Classic Are You?

Here are my results when I took the quiz. I've never read The Name of the Rose, although I've been told by several people that I'd really enjoy it.

If you take the quiz, let me know which classic you are. Click on the "comments" button below.

The name of the rose
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a mystery novel dealing with theology, especially with catholic vs liberal issues. You search for wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that learning is essential in life.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

My favorite line from the quiz: “Theology runs through everything in me, like blood.”

What Kind Of Coffee Are You?

You're an Espresso.
You're an Espresso

What Kind of Coffee are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, November 18, 2005

Not Just A Failure -- He's A Liar, Too

The Nation magazine has posted an excellent analysis of President Bush's recent attempts to rewrite history. Americans are starting to wake up and smell the dishonesty: a recent poll "found that 57 percent of the respondents now believe that Bush 'deliberately misled' the nation into war." Bush may very well be remembered in the history books as the "president who conned the nation into an ugly war."

Here's the article, by The Nation's Washington editor, David Corn:
Bush Rewrites History To Criticize His Antiwar Critics
{Thanks to Earth Mystic for the link!}

The Nation is, of course, the magazine that ran the award-winning cover ("WORRY") of Bush as Alfred E. Neuman, back in November 2000.

Also check out The Nation's comic on The Four Freedoms, 2005


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Better Brains Through Meditation

Brain imaging of people who meditate regularly reveals increased thickness in regions related to perception. Here's the news story: Meditate on This: Buddhist Tradition Thickens Parts of the Brain.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Not Quite Metrospiritual

Beliefnet.com has a fascinating article about metrospirituality, which they define as “the mainstreaming of Taoist, Buddhist...and Hindu values, among others, into an easily digestible, buyable form.” I do have some of the characteristics of metrospiritual folks: I buy organic food at Whole Foods Market (as well as at the local co-op), I’ve taken Kundalini Yoga classes, and I have a statue of Quan Yin in my living room. But when I took the quiz I came up as not quite hip enough to be called “metrospiritual”:

You are almost metrospiritual but you need a few more notches on the hipness meter before you can consider yourself a true metrospiritual. Your values are in line with metrospiritual thinking, but your lifestyle choices don't always match up. Either that, or you just can't afford a hybrid Lexus.

I think what made me so unhip on the quiz is the fact that I shop at Target, I recycle rather than drive a hybrid car, and I have more crosses in my home than Buddhas. Oh well…

Are you a metrospiritual?


Friday, November 11, 2005

Litany for Peace

Abbot Brian Brown has posted a beautiful Litany for Peace to the Anam Turas email group on Celtic spirituality, in honor of the Feast Day of St. Martin of Tours. The archives of Anam Turas are open to the public, so you can read the Litany without joining the group (although you're certainly welcome to do so, if interested):

Reading (and praying) the Litany, I was reminded of Jimmy Carter's recent words, that he worships the Prince of Peace, not the Prince of Pre-emptive War.

The Litany for Peace includes one of my favorite prayers for peace, from the Book of Common Prayer:

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all people may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Also worth checking out: cyberfriend Jon has an excellent post on his blog about the quote from the Sufi mystic Rumi, "Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment" (the post dated November 10th).


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Update: Grace Continues To Happen

Everything is now moved in to the new apartment, which is full of boxes and disarray. The Comcast technician came this morning and connected my cable and internet, so I’m back online now. My email address, gratefulbear, was associated with our old account in Michael’s name, but I was able to get it transferred to my new internet account – so I’m still gratefulbear @ comcast.net.

I want to thank everyone who has sent me supportive emails, as well as left comments here on the blog, as I’ve gone through the separation from Michael and the move to the new apartment. Thanks also to the wonderful friends who came out on Saturday to help Michael and me move: Celeste & Mitch, Adam, Carl, my brother Danny and his wife Beverly, and my brother Jason.

Kato has not yet figured out his new window cat door. I think it reminds him too much of the carrier we put him in for the move over here. Don’t tell him, but he’ll also be getting into the dreaded carrier next month for his annual visit to the vet! He is frustrated by the lack of free access to the outdoors, although he could have his freedom to come and go if he only knew how to use his cat door. (There's a parable there...) Overall, though, Kato is adjusting well to our new home, and there are plenty of patches of sunlight for him to lie in and plenty of birds in the surrounding woods to keep him entertained.

This morning I sat out on my new porch and read some of The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters, by Luke Timothy Johnson, while drinking my morning coffee. The trees in the parking lot and surrounding the apartment complex are starting to lose their leaves, but there are still quite a few bright red and orange leaves in display. The sun is shining brightly, and it’s a beautiful Autumn day. Grace continues to happen.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Moving Day

I got the key to the new apartment on Tuesday and have started the process of setting up a new home for Kato the cat and me. I’ve started packing up the books – thirty boxes already, and I still have two and a half more bookcases full of books to box up. Saturday is the big moving day, when some wonderful friends will be coming over, some of them with trucks, to help move the big stuff. Both my brothers will be there.

I recently purchased a beautiful three-foot-tall statue of Quan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, and I plan to make her the centerpiece of my new living room. For me, she embodies many of the same energies as Mother Mary, as she does for many (as the Wikipedia article about her points out). In fact, last year the Buddhist TricycleBlog had an entry about Buddhists who are traveling to Lourdes and other Marian sites to pay homage to Mary -- which is angering some conservative Catholics who want to keep Mary all to themselves.

The trees in and around the apartment complex are starting to turn, and some of them are already a brilliant orange. I’ve seen a few other cats (and one dog!) in the complex, so I’m sure Kato will be staking out his territory.

Tomorrow Michael and I will go to Comcast to close out our joint cable/internet account and open separate ones. I’ll be offline for several days, until service is connected at the new apartment. Same thing with my home phone number, which will get connected on Wednesday.

So I won’t be making any new entries here for several days, unless I go in to the office (which I don’t plan to do over the weekend). Have a good weekend!