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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, April 27, 2007

The Elements of Grace

What is harvested in the world is composed of four elements:
water, earth, wind, and light.
What God harvests is also composed of
four elements: faith [pistis], hope [elpis],
love [agape], and contemplation [gnosis].
Our earth is faith, for she gives us roots.
Water is our hope, for it slakes our thirst.
Wind [pneuma] is the love [agape] through which we grow;
and light is the contemplation [gnosis] through which we ripen.

Grace is transmitted to us in four ways:
the work of the earth, the taste of the heavens,
and love and truth, which are beyond the heavens.
Blessed is the one who makes no sadness in the soul.
That one is Jesus Christ.

~ from The Gospel of Philip, Leloup-Rowe translation, p. 147

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kato Loves Coltrane

Kato the mystical cat now knows the word “Coltrane.” When I say it, he goes over to the CD player and waits for me to play him some jazz. It has to be jazz from John Coltrane or from a like-minded artist (Sonny Rollins, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, etc.) from the same era, the late 40’s to early 60’s. And it can’t be vocal jazz: I tried to play my CD of Fred Astaire singing while accompanied by Oscar Peterson and combo from 1952, but Kato meowed at the CD player until I (like the obedient staff-human I have become) put on an instrumental jazz CD for him, “Soultrane” by – you guessed it – John Coltrane. Then Kato curled up into a little ball and purred contentedly as he listened.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Prayer for Earth Day

Earth teach me suffering,
As old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me courage,
As the tree which stands alone.
Earth teach me freedom,
As the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me to forget myself,
As melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me regeneration,
As the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me humility,
As blossoms are humble with beginning.

~ Chief Yellow Lark, Lakota
from the May-June 2007 issue of Yoga + Joyful Living

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thank You Mr. Vonnegut

One of my heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, “came unstuck in time” last week when he passed away at age 84. I was deeply saddened when I read the news.

Kurt Vonnegut was chief among the writers who provided a lifeline to me when I was a geeky Baptist high school kid. Vonnegut, along with Richard Brautigan and Ray Bradbury, broke open my mind and my heart and helped me see the greater world beyond the fundamentalist world in which I was raised. Some friends and I even formed a tongue-in-cheek club, the Kilgore Trout Literary Society, named after a recurring character in Vonnegut’s novels.

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut

Many thanks to cyberfriend Trev Diesel for linking to the excellent obit from Time magazine: Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007.

Thanks also to my friend Heidi for her blogpost about Kurt Vonnegut, which includes a number of excellent quotes and links.

My favorite essay by Vonnegut in recent years was Cold Turkey, which he wrote for the magazine In These Times and from which I now quote:

Doesn’t anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools or health insurance for all?

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. …

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Counseling Website

I’ve been working on a new website for my counseling practice, www.GrizzleLPC.com. On the site, I’ve included a page for each of the two aspects of my practice: Counseling for Personal and Spiritual Growth, and Pre-Trial & Court-Related Assessments.

I closed the office in Canton in February (although I’m still seeing some clients in Canton, at the Herb Shop and Healing Center) and expanded the office on Marietta Square. I now share the expanded office space with Tim Franzen, Certified Addiction Counselor, and my ex-partner (now best friend) Michael Varnum, Certified Massage Therapist. We have created a wonderful space for healing and growth, and I look forward to seeing our practices continue to expand.

Above: the building where our office is located, as seen from Marietta Square.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My Medieval Character

Check out my Dark Ages profile

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Easter Blessings

This Sunday, unusually, Western and Orthodox Easter celebrations fall on the same day, while Passover is observed throughout Holy Week and Easter weekend.

If Passover celebrates the resurrection of a people from the death of slavery in Egypt, Easter affirms the resurrection of individual souls. But both reflect ancient beliefs, lodged deep in the Mediterranean psyche, about the resurrection of the natural world after winter’s death.

~ from The New York Times:
On Easter, Symbolism and the Exuberance of Spring


“If Jesus is the once and for all sacrifice for sin, understood metaphorically now [not literally], it means that God has already taken care of whatever it is that we think separates us from God. It means that God accepts us just as we are and that the Christian life is not about getting right with God. God’s already taken care of that. The Christian life becomes about something else, namely, living within this framework of radical trust in God and relationship to God that makes possible our transformation, and, ideally and ultimately, the transformation of the world.”

~ Marcus Borg, from explorefaith.org


[Jesus] uttered a triumphant cry: “It is accomplished!” and it was as though he had said: “Everything has begun!”

~ Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ


I called through your door,
“The mystics are gathering
in the street. Come out!”

“Leave me alone.
I'm sick.”

“I don’t care if you're dead!
Jesus is here, and he wants
to resurrect somebody!”

~ Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks


Easter Card above from explorefaith.org

Sunday, April 01, 2007

God Among the Pots and Pans

In Teresa of Lisieux’s words, “the Lord needs from us neither great deeds nor profound thoughts. Neither intelligence nor talents. He cherishes simplicity. Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” She likely did not know of the Tao Te Ching, the great Eastern mystical text, which also advises, “Do the great while it is still small,” but their similar insights proves the universality of mystical insight. In a similar vein, Teresa of Ávila also observed, “God lives also among the pots and pans,” in other words in our daily actions. Generations of monastic cooks in both the East and the West have also noted the importance of mindfulness. Thirteenth-century head cook and Zen Master Dogen’s “Instructions to the Cook” recommends we practice in our whole life, for our whole life. Teresa of Ávila said, “When eating partridge, eat partridge. When praying, pray,” meaning that there is a time for every activity and for putting our full attention on each moment. She could have been echoing the Buddha, who said, when you walk, just walk; when you eat, just eat.

~ from Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul,
by Caroline Myss