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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, October 29, 2008

Election Prayer


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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Tides of Faith

Faith is a gift, but the will has a great deal to do with it. The loss of it is basically a failure of appetite, assisted by a sterile intellect. Some people when they lose faith in christ, substitute a swollen faith in themselves. ...Let me tell you this: faith comes and goes. It rises and falls like the tides of an invisible ocean. If it is presumptuous to think that faith will stay with you forever, it is just as presumptuous to think that unbelief will. ...If you find in yourself the least return of a desire for faith... go back to the Church with a light heart and without the conscience-raking to which you are probably subject. Sublety is the curse of man. It is not found in the deity.

~ Flannery O'Connor, in The Habit of Being



Thursday, October 23, 2008

Update on Dad's Surgery

My father, Lloyd Grizzle, had another surgery this morning. This one was to clean out a bed sore that had become severely infected. The doctor said the surgery went well, and Dad is recovering now.

Dad has been in one hospital or another since July. He is currently at Windy Hill Hospital in Marietta, GA. My mother is now looking into nursing homes, where hopefully Dad will be able to get the ongoing care he needs and continue with physical therapy.

Dad continues to experience moments of disorientation, agitation, and fear. Several times he has asked Mother if he has been captured by enemies, or if he is in jail.

But there have been some hopeful signs that Dad's "old self" is beginning to emerge. Yesterday while CNN was on the TV in his hospital room, Dad was able to read what was on the screen about the crisis on Wall Street, and he asked Mother about their 401-K. I'm hoping and praying that these moments of lucidity, when Dad is oriented and fully in the present moment, will increase.

I want to thank all of you who have sent me messages, emails, and phone calls. I am truly grateful for your continued prayers and kindness.

~ Grateful Bear


Sunday, October 19, 2008

BookLog: Where’s Your Jesus Now?

I first came across this book, Where’s Your Jesus Now? by Karen Spears Zacharias, several weeks ago when it appeared as a recommendation for me (based on my past purchases) at Amazon.com. The title hit me like a kick in the gut, for two reasons. First and foremost is the situation with my Dad, who is still in the hospital, facing one medical problem after another.

The second reason is because I still remember vividly being asked that question 20 years ago, when I was a probation officer. A fellow officer’s husband, a DEA agent, had been shot during the arrest of a big-time drug dealer. As he lay in a coma on a hospital bed, his wife looked at me with tears in her eyes and said those words to me: “Where’s your Jesus now?” She wasn’t angry; she wasn’t accusing. She was pleading.

At that time in my life I was a deeply-closeted evangelical and, steeped in the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis, I thought I had all the answers. But even at that time, full as I was of “certainosity,” I knew the only response I could offer my friend and colleague was to embrace her, silently, as she wept into my shoulder. Her husband died a few hours later.

In her book Where’s Your Jesus Now?, Karen Spears Zacharias devotes a whole chapter to “The Religion of Certainosity” – the religion of having of all the answers, of never questioning one’s assumptions, of seeing the world in black and white. Zacharias sees it as one of the dangers that can keep us from experiencing the true presence of God. Like me, Zacharias “used to belong to the herd” of people stricken with certainosity: “We placed a high value on doctrinal creed, foremost in which was the belief that it’s better to be right than redeemed.”

Zacharias gives a list of historical figures who espoused the religion of certainosity: “Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro, Osama bin Laden, Dick Cheney – to name a few.” I’m sure her inclusion of Dick Cheney in that list, as well as her sharp but insightful comments about Ann Coulter, will ruffle more than a few conservative feathers. But like so many good writers I’ve been blessed to read this year (Brian McLaren, Marcia Ford, Tom Davis, Peter Rollins, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Chris Seay), she seems to transcend categories of “conservative” and “liberal,” offering insights and opinions usually associated with both (and neither) perspectives.

Zacharias looks at other ways “fear erodes our faith,” including false images of God: “God is not a capitalist wizard. Nor is he a medical magician,” she writes. She offers the new-age hit The Secret as an example of how people relate to a God who is more of a magician than a God.

I could relate to what she writes about those false conceptions of God. During my Dad’s extended hospitalization over the past 3 months, I’ve frequently found myself angry at God. But the God I get mad at is not even a God I believe in. I don’t believe God caused my Dad to get sick. My Dad’s medical problems were started, back in July, by two gallstones that got lodged in his pancreas – not by God. The resulting stress on his body – not God – led to a domino effect with the subsequent heart failure, lung failure, kidney failure, and brain damage.

In the midst of my current “cloud of unknowing” I don’t know from day to day what I do believe about God. But I can resonate with what Zacharias writes:

I only know that when I pray, God hears me. My doubts. My fears. My cries for help. My gratitude. My songs of praise. And even the most inaudible, inarticulate of prayers, he hears. And never once has he said to me, there’s no room for your doubts. Not has he ever suggested that I ought to go about claiming stake to anything – health or money or big screen TVs. The gifts he gives are given out of his good pleasure, not because of who we are, what we believe, what we claim. If there is anything I know for sure about God, it’s that he doesn’t barter in Green Stamps.
(page 79)

Where’s Your Jesus Now? can be difficult to read at times, especially when Zacharias is writing about tragic cases of murder and violence she has covered as a journalist. This is not a theological tome but more of an extended, Anne Lamott-type essay. It’s written in a breezy, conversational style that some might find inappropriate given the subject matter. But I found it engaging. And during those times of darkness over the past 3 months when I could only read novels, not theology, this is the only Christian book I found I could read and relate to. For that I am extremely grateful.


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The Hermit’s One Book

A quote from Peter Kreeft:

I have a friend who camps in the Maine woods each summer. One day he met an old hermit who had not lived in “civilization” for forty years. He seemed uncannily wise… and when my friend asked him where he got his wisdom, he pulled from his pocket the only book he had had for forty years. It was a tattered, yellow copy of Ecclesiastes. Only Ecclesiastes. That one book had been enough for him. Perhaps “civilization” is so unwise because nothing is ever enough for it. The old hermit had stayed in one place, physically, and spiritually, and explored its depths; civilization, meanwhile, had moved restlessly on, skimming over the surface of the great deeps. While civilization was reading the Times, he was reading the eternities.

~ Peter Kreeft, in Three Philosophies of Life


Saturday, October 11, 2008

God is Present in the Darkness

It has been 3 weeks since I’ve written anything here about my Dad, Lloyd Grizzle, who remains in the hospital, still suffering from complications that started on July 9th with acute pancreatitis. Since then, he has suffered heart failure, lung failure, kidney failure, the MRSA virus (which is still in his bloodstream), two different strains of hospital-acquired pneumonia – and now an abscess on his heart (which is being treated with antibiotics) and brain damage.

After an initial scan several weeks ago led the doctors to tell us Dad’s brain was not damaged during his cardiac emergency on August 17th, the neurologist yesterday confirmed that his brain had been damaged after all. Dad is able to communicate with us vocally but he is frequently disoriented, not sure where he is. He does not remember the house he built in the North Georgia Mountains, he does not remember his grandchildren, and he is only able to name 2 of his 3 sons. He sometimes becomes agitated and has to be restrained so he does not pull all the IV tubes out of his body.

All this has taken its toll on my Mother, who is wearing herself out with prolonged daily visits to Dad. She is not addressing her own medical needs, primarily her need for knee-replacement surgery. Bone is scraping against bone in one of her knees.

At my last visit a few days ago, Dad was lucid, but it was difficult to hear what he was trying to say because his voice was so faint. He pulled me to himself in an embrace and ran his hand along my beard. I made out the words “I appreciate you” but I was not able to hear what he was trying to tell me before and after those words.

I also made out, very clearly, the words “I’m ready to die.”

When he said those words I nodded my head and, when he saw that I had heard him, he sank back into his pillow, relaxing from the effort of trying to talk.

As I’ve written here before, it hurts like hell to see Dad in this condition. Dad was a very active, highly intelligent architect and aircraft design engineer who had started writing historical novels in his retirement. It hurts like hell to think of him experiencing moments of terror when he is unable to know where he is or why he is in restraints. I remember that terror from my own paralysis from Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 2002, those horrifying moments in the hospital when I would wake up in the middle of the night, unable to move, not knowing where I was. For me, those moments were very short-lived. They are not so short-lived for my Dad.

During my own hospitalization in 2002, I took comfort from one of the daily lectionary readings where I learned that God’s covenant and promises to Abraham were delivered to him in the midst of “a deep and terrifying darkness” that had descended upon him in the night (Genesis 15:12, NRSV). It was a great relief to know that, even in those moments of terror, God is somehow present in the darkness.

My prayer for my Dad is that those moments of terror will be few and far between, and that God will continue to heal not just his body but also his mind. My prayer is that God will continue to be present to my Dad, even in those moments when the darkness is deep and overwhelming. And if it is Dad’s time to die, to go home, to be reunited with his loved ones who have gone before, I pray that his journey will be painless and swift.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Banned Books Week