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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.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Blogger Blues

Blogger has introduced a new “Beta” form of its blogging service, supposedly an upgrade, but so far it seems to be more trouble than it’s worth to make the switch. When Trev Diesel made the switch, he lost his blog and had to set up a new one until Blogger was able to recover his original. Now another cyberfriend, Tommy (isaiah knows nothing) has lost his blog entirely and set up a whole new blog at WordPress. I hope Blogger is able to recover Tommy’s original blog; he had some wonderful entries there.

The lesson: Don’t switch to Blogger Beta! The bugs are definitely not worked out yet.

Update: Blogger has now restored Tommy’s original blog. Check it out: isaiah knows nothing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Prayer of “Thank You”

“I have noticed that the most balanced minds praise the most, while the cranks and the misfits and the malcontents, they are the ones who are the least grateful.”
~ C.S. Lewis

“If the only prayer you say in your whole life is thank you, that would suffice.”
~ Meister Eckhart

At this season of Thanksgiving I invite you to spend some time at the Gratefulness.org website.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Holiday Strangeness, Part 2

CNN: Toys for Tots will now accept talking Jesus dolls

One Truth, One Voice

“The soul of all is one soul, and the truth is one truth, under whatever religion it is hidden.”

“If the eyes and ears are open, the leaves of the trees become as pages of the Bible. If the heart is alive, the whole life becomes one single vision of His sublime beauty, speaking to us at every moment.”

~ Hazrat Inayat Khan

“Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It’s important because it’s the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you ‘my beloved daughter,’ ‘my beloved son,’ ‘my beloved child.’ To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.”

~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Smiling Bear

Two recent photos of me (October 2006):

Top: in Sarasota, Florida,
during my recent Cherag training

Bottom: on Marietta Square
photo by Arlia Hoffman
{check out her blog, Endless Possibilities}

Holiday Strangeness, Part 1

Toys for Tots rejects talking Jesus dolls

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A talking Jesus doll has been turned down by the Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots program.

A Los Angeles company offered to donate 4,000 of the 1 foot-tall dolls, which quote Bible verses, for distribution to needy children this holiday season. The battery-powered Jesus is one of several dolls manufactured by one2believe, a division of the Valencia-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., based on biblical figures.

But the charity balked because of the dolls' religious nature.

Toys are donated to kids based on financial need and "we don't know anything about their background, their religious affiliations," said Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Virginia.

As a government entity, Marines "don't profess one religion over another," Grein said Tuesday. "We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family."

Michael La Roe, director of business development for both companies, said the charity's decision left him "surprised and disappointed."

"The idea was for them to be three-dimensional teaching tools for kids," La Roe said. "I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible."

According to the company's Web site, the button-activated, bearded Jesus, dressed in hand-sewn cloth outfits and sandals, recites Scripture such as "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." It has a $20 retail value.

Grein questioned whether children would welcome a gift designed for religious instruction. "Kids want a gift for the holiday season that is fun," he said.

The program distributed 18 million stuffed animals, games, toy trucks and other gifts to children in 2005.

This story is true "holiday strangeness" on so many different levels...

  • Jesus isn't "fun" enough by Marine Corps standards?
  • Of course the Marine Corps doesn't want to expose tots to the Prince of Peace! If they take his teachings too literally (especially the Beatitudes), the tots won't grow up to be Marines.
  • Who would actually buy such a tacky gift for their kids (besides Ned Flanders)?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Trev’s New Web Address

One of my cyberfriends, Trev Diesel, has moved his blog, The Sound of Diesel Musing, to a new web address:

Nov. 18th Update: Blogger has repaired the glitches with Trev’s blog, so it’s now back at its original location, http://trevdiesel.blogspot.com/

Check it out, and while you’re there, order one of his CD’s. Here’s what I wrote about “The Parachute EP” back in February:

It’s a great CD of six tracks with a “jam band” vibe – especially the title track, “Parachute.” If you like Phish or the String Cheese Incident, you’ll enjoy this CD. Kato the mystical cat enjoys “The Air Up There” (Track 5), which features a jazz trumpet.The Parachute EP also has a contemplative vibe, especially “When I Die” (Track 6), a beautiful song inspired by this poem by the Sufi mystic Rumi:

I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones, To Him we shall return.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Prayers for Rev. Ted Haggard

I’ve gotten several emails from friends asking what I think about the big story in the news about allegations that Rev. Ted Haggard paid to have sex with a gay prostitute. Here's the CNN news story.

As a gay man, the main thing I feel about Rev. Haggard is sadness. If the allegations are true, it means he led a tortured double-life, proclaiming to believe one thing (homosexuality is a sin) while secretly behaving in a totally different way. In psychological terms it’s called “cognitive dissonance.” I know what that’s like, because that’s how I lived from ages 20 to 32 – my closeted “zombie years.” It’s a hellish existence, filled with shame and self-hatred. It’s truly a miracle I didn’t end up schizophrenic. I could have very easily fallen into using dangerous drugs, like Haggard may have (he has admitted to buying crystal meth, a drug that is rampant in the gay community), and I’m very grateful I didn’t.

Turns out Rev. Haggard wasn’t quite the raving conservative that much of the press has made him out to be. The GetReligion blog has an entry by Terry Mattingly that makes some points about how “moderate” Haggard was, at least in evangelical terms. Mattingly references a statement on homosexuality adopted by the National Association of Evangelicals under Haggard’s leadership – defining same-sex relations a “sin” that, “if persisted in . . . excludes one from the Kingdom of God.” Mattingly makes much of that clause, “if persisted in,” which I guess implies a kinder, gentler form of homophobia. (???)

Yes, Rev. Ted Haggard is a hypocrite, as countless blog entries have stated and many news stories have implied. He preached against a “sin” (two sins, if you count illegal drug use) that he himself may have indulged in. Ironically, last Sunday, before this news story broke, Rev. Haggard prayed from his church’s pulpit, “Father, help us this next week and a half as we go into national elections. And, Lord, we pray for our country. We pray that lies will be exposed. We pray that deception will be exposed.”

But I choose not to respond to the news about Rev. Haggard with gloating or with self-righteous indignation. I remember the words of Jesus (“Let the one without sin cast the first stone”) and I choose to respond with prayer:

prayer that Rev. Ted Haggard will experience true healing in his life and learn to accept himself as God created him to be;

prayer that Rev. Haggard’s wife and 5 children will find love and support from their faith community, not exclusion;

prayer that others leading double lives will see the tragedy of this story and choose to come out of their own closets of self-hatred and shame.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rev. Grateful Bear

Last week I was ordained as an Associate Cherag (Minister) in the Sufi Order International.

I am already an ordained Conductor in the Sufi Healing Order, which is the healing ministry of the Sufi Order International. Ordination as Conductor authorizes me to conduct the Sufi Healing Circle, a ritual of healing prayer created by Hazrat Inayat Khan, the teacher who brought Sufism to the west in the early 1900’s. It also authorizes me to offer classes and workshops on healing, which I will be doing next weekend with my dear friend and fellow Conductor, Isa Donnie Ray.

Ordination as an Associate Cherag (the word means “light-bearer” or “lamp”) authorizes me to conduct the Service of Universal Worship, a beautiful service – also created by Hazrat Inayat Khan – exemplifying the underlying unity of religious ideals. At one altar we read from the Scriptures of each religion represented on the altar. We light a candle for each religion, symbolically representing the wisdom brought to the world by each faith tradition.

The ordination happened last Friday at Rising Tide, a Sufi center in Sarasota, Florida, where I was attending a 10-day training for Healing Cherags (ministers with a special emphasis on healing ministry). I’ll be continuing this course of study over the next 12 months and will return to Sarasota for two other extended trainings in 2007, one in May and one in October/November. At the end of the training session next November, I’ll advance from Associate Cherag to full ordination as Cherag.

During the next 12 months, I’m encouraged to offer the Universal Worship Service, and I plan to do so in the Atlanta area. I’m also authorized to perform marriages, funerals, house blessings, and other ministerial services.

The Sufi Order International is a universalist Sufi order, so there are mureeds (initiates) in the order who are also active in other faith traditions. In fact, there are even some Episcopal priests who are also ordained as Cherags. I intend to remain an active member of my church, St. James Episcopal in Marietta. The Eucharist and the weekly healing service offered each Wednesday at St. James are still very meaningful sacraments to me. While I recognize that some conservative Christians would have difficulty with the universalism of the Sufi Order, there is no such conflict between my beliefs as a Sufi and my beliefs as a liberal Episcopalian. Jesus is very much alive in my life, as Healer as well as Divine Beloved.

I’ll also be using my Sufi name more often: Hamza, which means “Lion.” This name was given to me by Jacob Kalb, my guide in the Sufi Order and my mentor in my Cherag studies.

I invite your prayers as I continue this course of study in the healing ministry over the next 12 months.

~ Hamza Darrell Grizzle (Grateful Bear)