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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 21, 2009

“Word” by Madeleine L'Engle

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I try my words in prayer. All language turns
To silence. Prayer will take my words and then
Reveal their emptiness. The stilled voice learns
To hold its peace, to listen with the heart
To silence that is joy, is adoration.
The self is shattered, all words torn apart
In this strange patterned time of contemplation
That, in time, breaks time, breaks words, breaks me,
And then, in silence, leaves me healed and mended.
I leave, returned to language, for I see
Through words, even when all words are ended.

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I turn me to the Word to pray. Amen.


by Madeleine L'Engle
quoted in Praying Our Days: A Guide and Companion
by Bishop Frank T. Griswold


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

“Night of Hope”

Becky Garrison has written a great review of the Joel Osteen “Night of Hope” concert in New York City. Her review is at the “God's Politics” blog at Sojourners.

I have mixed feelings about Joel Osteen. His book “Your Best Life Now” was one of two motivational books that gave me the confidence to go into full-time, self-employed private practice a few years ago. (The other book, which actually had more practical advice, was “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield.) I really don't have a problem with Joel Osteen as a motivational speaker or writer - he is actually more balanced and realistic than many of the motivational speakers out there. For example, I'll choose Osteen over most of the teachers featured in “The Secret” any day. (And yes, I know Jack Canfield was one of those teachers.)

So while I might occasionally listen to Joel Osteen's podcasts (as motivational speeches, not for theology or for spiritual guidance), I just can't bring myself to watch him on television. He is shown on TV standing in a huge stadium that calls itself a church - but there are no crosses, no symbols of the Christian faith. There is, however, a ridiculously large American flag, which the camera shows from time to time as it pans the well-dressed, mostly-white, affluent audience. Gigantic flag; no cross: it's clear what's really being worshipped in this “church.”

Addendum: Check out my friend Carl McColman's excellent (and thoroughly biblical) reflections on “abundant living” at his Website of Unknowing.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Emergent in the ’Burbs

Matt Scott has written a great blogpost about this past Tuesday’s meeting of Cobb Gathering: An Emergent Cohort, the new Emergent Christian group that formed three months ago. We meet on the second Tuesday of each month, at Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub, on Marietta Square.

Unlike Emergent groups I’ve attended in downtown Atlanta (which tend to be almost 100% liberal or “progressive”), the Cobb group – being rooted in suburban Cobb County, north of Atlanta – is truly diverse, encompassing people on many different points on the theological and political spectrums. Interestingly enough, one of our Cobb folks who is frequently on the “conservative” end of our conversations is viewed as a “liberal” by many of his friends.

We want to provide a “suspended space” (beyond labels of “liberal” or “conservative”) where we can wrestle, reflect, and ask honest questions. When we disagree with each other, we are able to do so respectfully – which I greatly appreciate, since I’m often on the “heretical” end of the spectrum. What brings us together is a desire for conversation and to create a safe place to explore what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a postmodern world.


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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Celtic Mass at St. Paul’s

My friend Donnie and I went to Tybee Island and Savannah for a mini-vacation last weekend. We only stayed three nights, but we were able to devote one day (Sunday) to Savannah, with its coffeehouses and beautiful historic squares, and the next day to Tybee Island and the beach. The waves were too choppy to float peacefully in the ocean, but I had fun bobbing up and down in the waves. And of course we had lots of great seafood! Highlights: the blackened “tuna bites” appetizer and crab cakes (the world’s best!) at Café Loco, and the panko-encrusted mahi mahi at The Breakfast Club. On Tuesday, before heading back to Atlanta, we met with my favorite living artist, Brian MacGregor, and I purchased a beautiful painting of his called “Key of the Soul” – I’ll post more about that soon. We also had lunch at Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub on River Street with our friends Tommy and Trevor, two of the creative forces behind RockOm, a wonderful webzine devoted to music and spirituality.

One of the highlights of the weekend was attending the Celtic Mass at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Savannah on Sunday night. This was a deeply moving worship service that was both contemporary and ancient, grounded in Celtic and Anglican tradition. There were moments of silence throughout the service, which added to the contemplative nature of the Mass.

One thing that was new to me was Tírechán’s Creed, which we said together in place of the Nicene Creed:

Our God is the God of all humans,
the God of heaven and earth,
the God of the sea and the rivers,
the God of the sun and the moon,
the God of all the heavenly bodies,
the God of the lofty mountains,
the God of the lowly valleys.

God is above the heavens,
and he is beneath the heavens.
Heaven and earth and sea,
and everything that is in them,
such he has as his abode.

He inspires all things,
he gives life to all things,
he stands above all things,
and he stands beneath all things.
He enlightens the light of the sun,
he strengthens the light of the night and the stars,
he makes wells in the arid land and dry islands in the sea,
and he places the stars in the service of the greater lights.

He has a Son, Jesus, who is co-eternal with himself,
and similar in all respects to himself;
and neither is the Son younger than the Father,
nor is the Father older than the Son;
and the Holy Spirit breathes in them.
And the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are inseparable.

I don’t know the history of this Creed, other than that it dates back to Tírechán, a 7th century Irish bishop and biographer of Saint Patrick. If anyone knows more about its history, please post it here as a comment. Perhaps this creed resonated so deeply within me because of my Celtic roots (I’m a Scottish and Irish mix, with a wee bit of Cherokee). As a lover of Creation Spirituality, I appreciate this creed’s emphasis on God’s creation as well as the everywhereness of God.

This is from the Celtic Mass’s Offering of the Bread and Wine:

Thank you, O Lord God Almighty,
Thank you for the earth and the waters.
Thank you for the sky, the air, the sun:
Thank you for all living creatures.

Come, O Lord, in the bread of life.

Praise be to you, our Father and Mother, for our homes, and families, our friends, and loved ones. Praise be to you for all the people around us everywhere in this wounded world.

Come, O Lord, in the cup of healing.

St. Paul’s is a beautiful church, a lovely Anglo-Catholic parish with lots of icons, candles, and statues of Mary. This Celtic Mass seemed to make it an even more beautiful and sacred space.


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