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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.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Calling on the Name of God

“Even to utter the name of God is a blessing that can fill the soul with light and joy and happiness as nothing else can do.”
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), the teacher who brought Sufism to the west

“By calling on the Name of God, in the form of prayer, or in zikr, or in any other form, what the mystic does is to awaken the spirit of the real ego, in order that it may manifest. It is just like a spring that rises up out of the rock and that, as soon as the water has gained power and strength, breaks even through stone and becomes a stream. So it is with the divine spark in man. Through concentration, through meditation, it breaks out and manifests; and where it manifests, it washes away the stains of the false ego and turns into a greater and greater stream. This in turn becomes the source of comfort, consolation, healing and happiness for all who come into contact with that spirit.”
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan

Both quotes are from today’s Bowl of Saki email
from Wahiduddin’s Web

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Lenten Quiet Day

I spent yesterday morning at a Lenten Quiet Day at my new church, St. James Episcopal in Marietta, GA. We started off with Morning Prayer, chanting the psalms and canticles (Anglican chant style) with one of the priests playing the church's original organ, which is now in the chapel (which was built in 1878). This pipe organ was part of the original church building and was thrown out in the street by the Yankees during the Civil War when they commandeered the church to use as a hospital for wounded soldiers. The organ was rescued by a St. James parishioner and was later restored. Note that I am able to relate this story without using the phrase “damn Yankees,” which shows admirable restraint on my part. :o)

The Lenten Quiet Day also included sessions of Centering Prayer, as well as walking the Labyrinth. I spent some quiet time re-reading some of the healing miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark that we read earlier this year in the online group Lectio Divina. It was a very wonderful and spiritually enriching morning.

Reflections on Two Healings in the Gospel of Mark

Mark 5:25-34, New King James Version:

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”

Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”

But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”

And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

In this passage we see God’s healing power flowing through Jesus. Jesus was so open to being a channel of healing that it happened automatically, even when he was not consciously healing someone. This woman simply touched the hem of his garment and she was healed. She had faith that God’s healing power would flow through Jesus and into her body, making her whole.

Jesus called her out, to make public acknowledgement of her healing. Because of her medical condition she had been deemed “unclean,” an outcast, by the religious authorities of her day. Jesus called her “daughter,” letting her – and the crowd – know that she was not an outcast but part of the family of God.

Mark 8:22-25, New King James Version:

Then He [Jesus] came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.

And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.”

Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.

In this passage we see that healing sometimes happens in stages. The first time Jesus laid hands on the blind man, God’s healing power flowed through Jesus and the man’s eyesight was improved. But the healing was not complete. More than one prayer, more than one laying-on-of-hands, was needed.

If our healing doesn’t happen all at once, it can be discouraging. But the Gospels invite us to be patient, to trust that our healing will happen in God’s time. Even if it seems like nothing is happening when we pray, we can still be confident that God’s healing power is at work in our lives.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fullness Still Remains

When I was a student at Oral Roberts University (1980-82), the “name it and claim it” gospel was really big (it may still be). Oral Roberts had a saying he used frequently when preaching about how we should claim the wealth and abundance we “deserve” as “King’s kids.” “All the gold God ever created is still in the earth,” he would say. I guess that was meant to convey the idea that God had created enough wealth for everyone who “names it and claims it.” But it actually conveyed the idea of a closed system: God is done with creating wealth, so for me to prosper, someone else must do without. I don’t think that was Oral’s intention, but that’s how it came across to many of us who were students at the time.

That idea of a closed system was also reinforced by Lindsay Roberts, who at the time was the new wife of Oral’s son, Richard Roberts (now the president of ORU). I heard her say once, while addressing a large conference at ORU’s stadium-sized auditorium, that she had “named and claimed” Richard Roberts the first time she laid eyes on him, and God answered her prayers: she married Richard. What she left out was the fact that Richard was already married at the time. For Lindsay to get what she “named and claimed” in prayer, Richard had to divorce his first wife. For Lindsay to “win,” someone else had to lose.

Coming out of that background I really appreciate the idea of fullness conveyed in the Invocation to the Isha Upanishad, which the WisdomReading group is currently reading:

All this is full. All that is full.
From fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains.
OM shanti shanti shanti

In his introduction to this Upanishad, translator Eknath Easwaran addresses the idea of a closed system:

. . . sounding more like an algebraic equation than a prayer, this brief utterance quietly contradicts the basis of modern civilization.

Our economic thought operates, as social historian Ivan Illich put it, “under a paradigm of scarcity.” The fundamental assumption is that there is not enough to go around; so we are doomed to fight one another (and an unwilling nature) for material, human, natural resources; each person or group for itself. That was evolution, and that is life.

No, says this Invocation, it isn’t. That is social darwinism, based on the economics of materialism. Spiritual economics begins not from the assumed scarcity of matter but from the verifiable infinity of consciousness. “Think of this One original source,” Plotinus said, “as a spring, self-generating, feeding all of itself to the rivers and yet not used up by them, ever at rest.”

~ from The Upanishads,
Translated for the Modern Reader by Eknath Easwaran

This idea of the One as a self-generating, self-renewing spring fits nicely with Meister Eckhart’s conception of God as “a vast underground river that no one can stop and no one can dam up.”

What I learned at ORU is wrong. For me to prosper – for me to have whatever abundance Spirit intends me to have – I do not have to take from others. Others do not need to lose so I can “win.” God is bigger than the closed systems we build around ourselves. When fullness is taken from fullness, fullness still remains.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

“dervishes mad with secret therapeutic love”

“We are not persuaders. We are the children of the Unknown. We are the ministers of silence that is needed to cure all victims of absurdity who lie dying of a contrived joy. Let us then recognize ourselves for who we are: dervishes mad with secret therapeutic love which cannot be bought or sold, and which the politician fears more than violent revolution, for violence changes nothing. But love changes everything.”

~ from Thomas Merton’s “Message to Poets”
in Raids On The Unspeakable

Photo: Thomas Merton with His Holiness The Dalai Lama, 1968

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Do Not Discuss Nag Hammadi With The Cat

Yesterday I was watching a cable documentary on “the secrets of The Da Vinci Code.” When they began discussing the Gnostic Gospels, I started talking about them to my cat, Kato, since he has indicated a prior connection to at least one of them. But when I said the words “Nag Hammadi” (the location in Upper Egypt where the texts were found in 1945), Kato got down from the sofa and came over to the chair where I was sitting and bit me on the toe. It was a “play bite” like he does sometimes when he’s annoyed with me. When I said “Nag Hammadi” a second time, he came over and bit me on the toe again. Then he seemed to get bored with it all and walked away.