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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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Random 8

I’ve recently re-connected (in cyberspace) with Chip Camden, friend and college roommate (1980-1982), and he has “tagged” me on his blog to play “Random 8.” Here are the rules:

  • Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
  • Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
  • Players should tag 8 other people and notify them that they have been tagged.

So here are 8 random facts about yours truly, the Grateful Bear...

1. I’m a bit of a coffee snob, only able to drink the finest gourmet coffees. I’m lucky because there’s a wonderful coffeehouse, Cool Beans on Marietta Square (within walking distance of my office), that sells my favorite coffee by the pound: organic fair-trade Sumatra coffee, fresh-roasted on their own roaster. That’s what I usually buy for morning consumption at home. The baristas at Cool Beans, as well at Malia’s Mug, my other favorite coffeehouse, know me by name, and they know I like a shot or two of espresso in a big cup of their dark-roast coffee of the day.

2. I’m currently reading the Southern Vampire novels by Charlaine Harris, and I’m loving them. Each novel is a page-turning blend of humor and horror, crossing genres between fantasy and mystery. Harris’ vampires (and werepeople and fairies) are much less angst-ridden than Anne Rice’s denizens of the dark.

3. I have noticed that if a driver is really obnoxious in traffic, there’s a 90% chance there will be either a Jesus Fish or a George W. Bush sticker on his or her bumper. Or both.

4. Now playing in my car CD player: Cassadaga by Bright Eyes, and Sky Blue Sky by Wilco. Favorite lines from the Bright Eyes CD: “I had a lengthy discussion about The Power of Myth with a post-modern author who didn’t exist” – and “She went to see a mystic who made medicine from rain.”

5. I have a secret fantasy of running away from all my responsibilities and becoming a full time student again, this time studying something fun but “useless” – like medieval philosophy, or the relationship between existentialism and coffee, or the Coptic language (I’d love to read the Nag Hammadi scrolls in their original language).

6. I’m collecting two TV series on DVD: Frasier and Perry Mason.

7. In June, I’m going to two different continuing-education workshops about Jungian dreamwork.

8. Tomorrow I’m going with a friend of mine, Nancy Daniell (we’re co-facilitating the upcoming Mary Magdalene workshop), to visit Cedar Hill in Gainesville, Georgia. I’m looking forward to walking their outdoor labyrinth and meditating in their Ganesh Garden.

OK, that’s 8. And here are the 8 fellow-bloggers I hereby tag to continue this meme…


The Wave

By Bob Seal, from Non-Duality Cartoons.
Thanks to Jon Zuck for the link!


Integral Holiness

My friend Carl McColman has posted an excellent entry at his blog, The Website of Unknowing, called “Integral Holiness.” Carl looks at the way Christians have traditionally defined “holiness” – according to purity codes like those found in the book of Leviticus – and proposes another way of looking at holiness: in terms of compassion, rather than purity. This way of holiness relies less on the laws of Leviticus and more on the teachings of Christ. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

So Many Blogs, So Little Time…

I’ve gotten some interesting comments lately from other bloggers, and I’ve enjoyed exploring their blogs. I’m adding them to the increasingly-lengthy list of “cyberfriends in the blogosphere” in the left margin of this blog. Here are my most recent additions:

Chip’s Quips
A tiny spark of wit for a highly flammable world

The Stumbling Mystic
God shall grow up . . . while the wise men talk and sleep

A micro blog somewhere between progressive Christianity, ethical humanism, and the social issues and pop-culture that surrounds every one of us

Life of a Mother Artist
Portuguese born artist living in UK tells us how she copes with being a mother and a full-time artist

Added 5/24:
The Search for Integrity
Where everything comes together

Added 6/3:
Mystic Heart
Santeria for white girls. Christian mysticism - and more!

The Archbishop of Cowardice

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has made the formal decision to not issue an invitation to Bishop Gene Robinson to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops.

Here is the news story from Episcopal Life Online.

Bishop Robinson, of course, is the “gay bishop” that many conservative Anglicans, most of them in Africa, are upset about. Archbishop Williams has caved in to their demands that Robinson be excluded from this gathering of bishops, despite Williams’ acknowledgement that Robinson is a duly elected and consecrated bishop.

By submitting to the exclusionary demands of the conservative homophobes, Archbishop Williams has become one of them.

Here is the statement from Bishop V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire (May 22, 2007):

It is with great disappointment that I receive word from the Archbishop of Canterbury that I will not be included in the invitation list for the Lambeth Conference, 2008. At a time when the Anglican Communion is calling for a “listening process” on the issue of homosexuality, it makes no sense to exclude gay and lesbian people from that conversation. It is time that the Bishops of the Anglican Communion stop talking about gay and lesbian people and start talking with us.

While I appreciate the acknowledgement that I am a duly elected and consecrated Bishop of the Church, the refusal to include me among all the other duly elected and consecrated Bishops of the Church is an affront to the entire Episcopal Church. This is not about Gene Robinson, nor the Diocese of New Hampshire. It is about the American Church and its relationship to the Communion. It is for The Episcopal Church to respond to this challenge, and in due time, I assume we will do so. In the meantime, I will pray for Archbishop Rowan and our beloved Anglican Communion.

Bishop Robinson responded much more graciously than I would have (one of many, many reasons why he is a bishop and I’m not). I find myself struggling on a regular basis with whether or not I truly fit in with the established Episcopal Church. But I have to remind myself that the Episcopal Church is an autonomous member of the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not an Episcopalian. The Episcopal Church has shown that it is willing to embrace inclusivity by refusing to cave in to the demands of the conservative Anglican bishops who wanted us to “apologize” for having a gay Bishop, and for electing a female Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who speaks up proudly in favor of gay and lesbian inclusion.

The two Episcopal parishes of which I’ve been a member – St. Luke’s in Atlanta for eleven years, and now St. James in Marietta – have been extremely welcoming to me and other gay and lesbian members. St. Luke’s was a safe haven for me to come out of the closet as a frightened fundamentalist 14 years ago, and today St. James provides me with a nurturing and caring community of faith and healing.

The time may come for the Episcopal Church to leave the increasingly-irrelevant Anglican Communion. This latest act of cowardice from the Archbishop of Canterbury may make that step a lot easier.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jerry Falwell, Rest In Peace: Part 2

My friend Heidi (VirusHead) wrote a very thought-provoking response in the comments section to my post about Jerry Falwell. She started her comments with this:

“You are a more loving and forgiving person than I could ever hope to be. You’re an inspiration.”

I don’t know about that. Truth is, I’m not very loving or forgiving toward Jerry Falwell. I think he did immeasurable damage during his lifetime, and I still have a lot of resentment about that. I’m trying to rise above my lack of forgiveness – and the disappointing level of hatefulness I’ve seen from others who are rejoicing in his death – by recognizing Falwell’s humanity. When I wrote that post I was preaching to myself as well as to anyone else.

My comments about Jerry Falwell being made in the image of God are based not on his Christianity but on his simple humanity. To be honest, I don’t think of Jerry Falwell as a Christian. He claimed to be a man of God, but he consistently rejected the teachings of Jesus Christ, by his actions as well as by overt statements like this one:

“His [Jimmy Carter’s] message of peace and reconciliation under almost all circumstances is simply incompatible with Christian teachings as I interpret them. This ‘turn the other cheek’ business is all well and good but it’s not what Jesus fought and died for. What we need to do is take the battle to the Muslim heathens and do unto them before they do unto us.”

– Jerry Falwell, talking about Jimmy Carter in a radio interview on March 4, 2002

So many things are wrong about this statement, it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, the “turn the other cheek business” did not originate with Jimmy Carter – it originated, of course, with Jesus Christ. As for Jesus “fighting,” the only people Jesus fought against were the hypocritical religious leaders of his day, as well as the moneychangers in the temple who were trying to commercialize religion. In other words, the Falwells of his day. And the way Falwell subverted the golden rule to justify violence against Muslims is appallingly anti-Christian.

And this, of course, is just one quote among many that could be used as an example of how Jerry Falwell twisted the teachings of Jesus and sometimes blatantly contradicted them. Many of them, including the one cited above, are collected online at Wikiquote. Don’t click on that link if you have a weak stomach.

My point, I guess, is that I don’t have a pollyanna view of Jerry Falwell. I recognize the damage that he did and the blatant evil (there’s no other word for it) that he spread in his lifetime. But I still stand by my statement that he, like all of us, was made in the image of God, and therefore interrelated, interconnected to all of us. I think we can breathe a sigh of relief that Jerry Falwell will no longer be able to spread his twisted gospel of jingoism, hate, and fear. But we simply cannot rejoice in his death. If we do so (as I said before) we only sink down to the level of hatred and intolerance that Falwell himself displayed during his lifetime.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell, Rest In Peace

I have shed no tears for the death of Jerry Falwell, as I did for the recent death of Kurt Vonnegut. I am saddened that such an influential man spent his life in a darkness of homophobia, deception, and hate-filled rhetoric against those he saw as enemies: in his words, “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU...” (in other words, about 95% of my close friends and associates).

But I am even more deeply saddened by the comments I’ve been seeing on email lists and “progressive” blogs rejoicing in the death of Jerry Falwell. Comments range from “ding dong the wicked witch is dead” to “thank God he’s gone” to “I hope he’s burning in hell.” Such bitter rhetoric only sinks down to the level of hatred and intolerance that Falwell himself displayed during his lifetime. It betrays a hypocrisy and a callous disregard for human life if we can rejoice in the death of any person, even one who caused such pain and division in his lifetime. We are all created in the image of God. All of us – all souls – are journeying Toward the One, and all of us are interrelated, interconnected with each other.

As the Anglican poet John Donne (1572-1631) wrote,

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...

...any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sufi Poetry Carnival

Sadiq Alam, a cyberfriend and fellow Sufi, has invited me to participate in the Sufi Poetry Carnival he is organizing on the web. I invite you to read his post (April 21st) about the Carnival at his inspiring blog, Inspirations and Creative Thoughts.

Speaking of Sufi poetry, I recently read an exciting and inspirational novel that read like an extended work of poetry: Master of the Jinn, by Irving Karchmar. I intend to post a review of the book here soon. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the author’s blog, Darvish, where you can order the novel or download it as an e-book.

Here are my contributions to the Sufi Poetry Carnival, both written by me a while back – but hopefully they haven’t reached their expiration date yet . . .

~ Hamza


WWRD? (What Would Rumi Do?)

Find the silent stillpoint
where Lover meets Beloved –
where Desire and Detachment merge –
where Self disappears into Divinity –

and using this center as pivot,



Welcome to the ranks of those who feel
deeply. This is not an easy path.
You will be subject to both anxiety attacks
and random attacks of grace.
You will have days when everything is crystal clear
and days when everything is murky grey.
You will have days when you will feel such joy
you'll think you might explode.
And you will have days when you will feel despair
so deeply you'll long to be shallow again
and wonder if you can ever return to normal.
The answer is no.
Your capacity for love – the depths of your compassion –
your ability to experience the emotions that make life worth living –
these are directly proportionate to your ability to feel pain.
This is your blessing and this is your curse.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Silly Human Update

by Kato the Gnostic Cat

The large human, the one who is shaped like a bear, is back home now, after being away for a week. I think he went to another one of his Sufi things. I don’t really mind it when he goes away because the other human, the tall slender one, takes care of me, although he doesn’t always respond to my telepathic commands for tuna or jazz. He is not as easy to manipulate as the bear-human.

The large one brought more new books into the house (he is always buying books!) so I had to rub my catface all over them and let him know they are mine. He is reading a lot of books these days about Mary Magdalene and the Gnostic Gospels. I’m familiar with those, of course, from my days at Nag Hammadi. I remember this passage from the Gospel of Thomas, which the bear-human likes to quote:

I am the Light that shines on everyone.
I am the All.
The All came forth from me and the All came into me.
Split the wood, and I am there.
Turn over the stone, and there you will find me.

Beautiful, yes, but it makes me wonder: Why do the silly humans need a book to tell them the obvious?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

How to Tell if a Catholic is Driving Too Fast

(found on the internet)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Blogs That Make Me Think

Long-time cyberfriend Jon Zuck (The Wild Things of God) has tagged my Blog of the Grateful Bear with a “Thinking Blogger Award” and included me in his list of 5 “blogs that make you think.” By the rules of the game, I’m supposed to “tag” 5 other blogs that are thought-provoking. Problem is, some of the blogs that come readily to mind have already been tagged by Jon, most notably The Sound of Diesel Musing and Isaiah Knows Nothing. My friend Heidi (VirusHead) has already been tagged (see her entry dated April 28th). And Jon’s blog itself is one of the most thoughtful sites on the web, full of insightful articles by Jon as well as his many book and movie reviews.

Here are my choices of 5 Blogs That Make Me Think:

1. The Cloud and the Hazelnut ~ The blog and annotated mystical book list of Carl McColman, former best-selling Pagan author, now a contemplative Roman Catholic. His is a fascinating journey of faith, and I’m honored to be his friend.

2. Graceful Presence ~ One of the most thoughtful and deeply spiritual blogs, truly an oasis of grace in the blogosphere.

3. The Christian Agnostic ~ Another blog by a friend, the Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, founder and editor of Whosoever magazine. Political, spiritual, insightful.

4. The Magdalene Mystique ~ The blog of the Rev. Betty Conrad Adam, author of the wonderful book of the same name (see my Blog of the Grateful Bear entry dated March 27th). Blog entries are about Mary Magdalene and the Gospel that bears her name, as well as interfaith entries and news of current events in the Episcopal Church USA.

5. neoNuma Arts ~ The blog of my friend Neil Ellis Orts, performance artist, author, contemplative spirit.

I invite you to follow the links to any of these blogs and be prepared for a thoughtful and enjoyable time. And if you’re one of the fellow bloggers I’ve tagged, go forth and tag 5 more!