Episode 13 – “We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology” guest Doug Jackson

Episode 13 – “We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology” guest Doug Jackson

If you’ve listened to the show…
Please click our audience survey button so we can better understand who’s listening.
(It takes about 1 minute to complete and it’s 100% anonymous.)
Spark My Muse
Thank you!

Shownotes for Episode 13  Wine lovers have God to thank + guest Doug Jackson

First, I want to feature the book Doug and I wrote …

entitled Dog in the Gap because of a C.S. Lewis quote “Man and his dog close a gap in the universe”.


And there’s a BONUS EDITION with lots of goodies!
Read a sample here!

Will you fan the spark?

Inspired by how musician Amanda Palmer put it, “Don’t make people pay [for art]. Let them,” I am altering how Spark My Muse stays alive…from bottom to top (literally).

How does it work?

It’s up to you. I need at least $75 per episode to keep it solvent.
Every little bit helps!
So, I invite you to just listen, read, and give as you can.


Thank you! Enjoy the show!

With love,



Who do we have to thank for wine?

God and the Church, actually.

Wine lovers in Western civilization have the Church in Europe (and the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire–which was neither holy nor Roman ) to thank for the large-scale production, the prevalence and the excellence of wine!


Because liturgy involving wine for communion was central to Christian religious practice. Wine was ingested as the saving holy blood of Christ (and bread as the holy body of Christ), usually each and every day. The sacraments of Communion served as saving grace afforded to the Church.

As Roman Empire became officially a Christian Empire (circa 313 CE) many vineyards had to be planted, properly cultivated, and harvested. Grapes had to be made into a lot of to support the daily practice of communion throughout the Empire.

Communion served as wine was the norm among Christians world-wide until recently–in the era of pasteurization. To keep juice from grapes in a state were they would not ferment meant it had to be sufficiently boiled so the natural yeast would die. 

Vehemently opposed to alcohol, Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician, dentist, and Methodist pastor from Vineyard, New Jersey, figured out the process in 1869 with Concord grapes. Most churches did not accept the switch as proper and stayed with wine.

The juice later became more popular during Victorian era because of prominent values of abstinence. A shift then began in the U.S. that made grape juice the main communion beverage (at least among certain Protestants sects).

Several hundred vineyards operating in Europe today can trace their history to monastic origins.

In the 9th-15th centuries almost 1,000 monasteries dotted Europe. They were centers of education, stability, and technical innovation. Monks and nuns could read and write–this was quite uncommon then.

Monasteries cared for the sick, helped the poor, created places of education, and invented Universities. They could not fund all this through donations. Surplus wine was sold to finance ministry work (and also beer, fruit brandies, and cheese, among many other things..even prayers and Salvation ..which–in hindsight–appears to have been a mistake ) .

So, basically, thank God (and many monks) for wine!


Sparking your muse

 Enjoy the fantastic chat with Doug Jackson!


Douglas Jackson, D.Min.
Director of the Logsdon Seminary Graduate Program

Doug Jackson came to SCS in 2006, after serving as pastor of Second Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, since 1993. In addition to teaching courses, Dr. Jackson functions as a liaison between Logsdon Seminary and local churches in Corpus Christi. His areas of specialization include spiritual formation and pastoral ministry. Dr. Jackson has published and presented several articles and essays in religious and literary venues, including articles and lectures on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis.
• D.Min. – Truett Seminary (2006)
• M.Div. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1985)
• B.A. – English Literature, Grand Canyon College (1982)

His blog is here.


Interview / chat notes:


MIN 8:00
on Doug preparing for a his Fall class.

A resource he is using by NT Wright – “The new perspective on Paul”
The covenant people God has saved.

Reformers and the necessary correction in contemporary times.

Confronting individualism
and thoughts on human flourishing.

on the idea of being “spiritual but not religious”

on his work about CS Lewis

Mere Christianity

The importance of imagination for understanding that isn’t covered by rationalism.

on his Oxford lecture
Owen Barfield an influential life-long friend of CS Lewis

Another lecture on Walter Miller – A Canticle for Leibowitz
Apologetic self-proclaimed validity on the rational scheme of knowing.

“Scholarship is about knowing more and more about less and less so that eventually you know everything about nothing.”

James Sire

Malcolm Guite https://www.facebook.com/malcolm.guite
Chaplain of Gerton college and Cambridge
“Faith Hope and Poetry”

He covers the imagination as a way of knowing (an epistemology).

Holly Ordway
Houston Baptist University
“Not God’s Type”

Her 2-track movement toward conversion

Brainpickings.com Maria Popova (an admitted secular atheist on a continual spiritual search)

on Spiritual atheism

….if we come up with a system that covers everything (Christians and Atheists alike)…

“Humans are sensitive and emotionally vulnerable to a wasteful degree evolutionarily speaking…highly valuing the arts.” (Lisa)

Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monk and Abbot
Philip Lawrence, New Mexico
…slipping in and out of atheism….

HG Wells, and the fundamentalist reaction to him and others of his ilk.

on how science and religious circles have had an absolute unwillingness to be in one another presence and (have not wanted) to admit any weaknesses and (instead) just shout louder.


“The best apologetics can do is make Christianity credible and I don’t think it can make it inevitable.”


22:30 “Any belief in any ideal is still a leap of faith for anyone… like Justice, Love, Hope…” (Lisa)

on How people appeal to a standard outside themselves. (CS Lewis)

Theories of “survival behavior value” for Morality and Justice kicks the can. or it lands on simple absurdity and meaninglessness where suicide becomes a valid option.


Doug answering the question….”Is fundamentalism evolving”?

Richard Foster’s classic over 50 years old “Celebration of Discipline”

A story of a crucial pivot point for Doug.

How the psalmists had to cry out to God when the answers didn’t suffice any longer. For us, this is a return more than a departure.”

“I have gained the gift of being able to respect other traditions and admire things they bring us, but I talk to people across that spectrum that have that experience.”


“We go from trusting our denominational address or theology address to trusting Christ but it doesn’t mean an abandonment of it. Choosing a room in the same house to live in.”

Spiritual disciplines most meaningful to him:
On solitude and privacy (the difference). Henri Nouwen explains the difference.
 Henri Nouwen explains in “Out of Solitude” 

Doug: Solitude is for battle. Privacy is to be alone.

Demons come in our solitude (Desert Fathers). The outcome is awareness and purification.

Wanting “the listening heart” (what Solomon really asked God for).
on the importance of listening to God…

My Stockholm syndrome at parties. (Lisa)


“(My) Inability to be with people was driven by a failure to have a real self.”

“you are nearer to me than my own self.” Augustine

Doug realized:

“My real Self can’t be with people because it’s threatened by them, because they’re going to colonize my Self and going to make me into something I’m not. As opposed to having a real Self that can listen because God is protecting that Self.”

Father Francis Kelly Nemeck wrote
The way of Spiritual Direction (his director)
…Doug and I discuss Detachment and Holy Indifference…

St John of the Cross
(Exploring the spiritually obscured times and darker emotions.)

“the nada” (God is “no thing” the silence before God

…on staying in the problems and not panicking.

…on the crucial lesson from his mom that revealed his theology

(unknowing) Apophetic theology

“John of the Cross didn’t want that we should abandon the metaphors but move through them.”


“We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology.”

(which is terrifying but life-giving)

Further exploration in a future episode of John of the Cross with Doug coming soon!


If you enjoyed the show please give it a stellar review on iTunes here!

Watch for new episodes each Hump Day (Wednesday).

Something about a Labyrinth and Surprises


This time the weather was the coldest I’ve ever experienced in Wernersville. Until now, my times of retreat at the Spiritual Retreat Center were during Spring or Summer.

Stripped of leaves, color, and warm weather, the place seems monochromatic outdoors, but is still restful and precious to me. There are many prayer room options, a beautiful chapel, plus rooms for things like creating art, music, reading, or for meeting with others. Each place seems to wait for your arrival. Anyone can go there for the day without notice. I love that about it. That’s true hospitality. You are always received and welcome. You don’t need to be Catholic either. God is there in a special way and it’s a sacred place created solely for the purpose of divine communion and renewal. To me, that sounds just like Heaven.

Unless you get run over by a jet-powered lawn mower, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Center has recently added a prayer labyrinth (shown above). Many people aren’t familiar with labyrinths–their purpose or their gifts. They create the opportunity for reflection and spiritual awareness. Some (Evangelical) Christians bristle at the copious statues, candles, prayer mazes, and other unfamiliarities about a Catholic environment. I suppose I’m post-Evangelical: the richness of the Christian history and the solidifying sense of the sacred draws me toward the transcendent in a place like this. Every time in an unexpected way.

That’s what happens when you go there. You find God. You find God at the center. The center of you…in your core where he’s always been, because he’s everywhere-present and boundless in love. He’s been whispering things of love to you and smiling but you thought it was just bad pizza leftovers or something you made up to make yourself feel better.

Life is like a puzzle. A labyrinth is a puzzle. It’s a tool too. You can study a labyrinth before you walk the path through it, but while you are walking through studying it can make it far more confusing. Usually, you stop being stupid and cease trying to decipher the pattern precisely and just follow it like a child might do. This way, a labyrinth can be a lovely stilling and spiritual experience, not because of its own woo woo mystical powers (it doesn’t have that), but because it invites a traveller to concentrate and focus–to place her steps carefully. Most importantly, it forces one to slow down.

We don’t realize how fast our thoughts buzz until we get these sorts of opportunities to be careful. If you walk a labyrinth things mentally wind down and simplify to, “Stay on the path. Follow this narrow way. Pay attention.” Some enjoy walking very slowly and praying as their heart grows hushed.

Searching for the puzzle
I saw a photo of this newly constructed prayer walk inside the Center and I started to search for it outside. It was actually in plain sight but I hadn’t been looking for it, so I didn’t see it. (In case you haven’t figured it out by now, this true story doubles as an allegory.)

When I spotted it, a man driving a zero turn radius lawn mower was zipping and roaring around it, back and forth; expertly, but fast enough for me to wonder about his judgement. Crisp leaves shot into the air and the wind whipped them into little showers of bullets.

“That won’t work,” I said. “What am I suppose do? Have a peaceful prayer time as Zippy here shoots me with leaves and the mower engine drives me to distraction?” I crossed past the paved puzzle a small stretch to a gazebo with park benches set in a circle.

It was still noisy there, but the mower sounded duller. I would wait him out. I tried to settle my mind. Maybe I could do some warm-up praying. No. My thoughts swam. “Who’s Zippy now?” I thought.

Instead of waiting, I went on a short walk in the wood nearby over a little ridge. The path looked to have been crudely bulldozed recently and massive tree parts and 4 inch thick vines were crammed in piles. It was other-worldly–so many thickets covering whole sections like umbrellas, even though most of their foliage was missing. Surreal yellow leaves on the ground seemed day-glow bright. I felt like a zombie putting one foot in front of the other as I made my way around the wet earth and wild terrain. The humming mower served as a beacon to orient me. It was comforting and ironic.

Then a church bell snapped me back. It chimed 11, and I recalled how church bells were auditory calls to prayer and attention. It felt like a call to go home…to something. I immediately wanted to get my bag from the gazebo and look at the church more carefully in a peaceful and maybe prayerful environment. I managed a shortcut straight up a bank after a brief bout with prickly plants. I got my things and trekked toward the church. When I got there, guess who was on the grounds too? Zippy, or some other diligent lawn guardian, was tooling around the church grounds. The noise was worse now because it was bouncing off the stone structure and echoing off the parking lot asphalt.

I decided to double back and sit on a bench near a garden path that featured the Stations of the Cross. (If you’re wondering about the Stations of the Cross, visit again soon, because I’ll be detailing that in a future post.) I munched on some snacks, journaled a few things, prayed some (kinda-sorta), and enjoyed a few sunbeams that momentarily bested the clouds. It felt nice to be there, but, then I started to feel really cold. My nose had a ice cube quality and the sun had ditched me.

I headed toward the large main building. An ancient woman was being rolled toward the main entrance in a wheelchair. Rather than getting in their way, I decided to walk through the covered colonnade and flank out to the door on the right. I passed the prayer garden on my left. It was filled with statues, fountains, and newly manicured hedges and remembered how pretty it had been in full bloom that Spring. It was much warmer then too. I was getting colder by the second. But, then I got to the door–relief.

Except that it was locked. The metal handle sent a shiver to my backbone straight through my arm. But, “No matter,” I said to myself. I’ll just continue around the building and try the next door just around the corner. There are probably no fewer than 25 exit doors to the place. I’ve exited a number of them and try to find a new one to some surprise new part of the grounds whenever possible. It’s all part of the fun.

No. Locked too. Things were getting interesting.

It turns out that there’s just one way into the place. There are plenty of ways to exit outdoors, but the main entrance is referenced on each locked door. I came to this realization by the 5th door. I’m not sure if the cold was my dulling my mind or if I was too distracted laughing to myself. I had just realized I was literally following a footpath around the structure. It wasn’t just  a path but a puzzle. I could have turned back and saved myself a lengthy walk, but I thought, “Oh! Okay God, this is the labyrinth you wanted me to take.”

Then out loud I said, “Stop being so funny.” At that exact moment, a black helicopter hummed overhead and I briefly thought the things were going to end in waterboarding or an unpleasant government website experience and arbitrary fees. Maybe, I was on the psycho path. I pushed my icy hands into my coat pockets, stopped trying to open locked doors, and made my way counter-clockwise to the main entrance–the long way around. This was probably the intended journey in the first place so I might learn something. I was starting to pay attention. Finally.

No, it wasn’t the labyrinth I set out to do. It wasn’t the one I picked to walk or the one studied as I walked by with Zippy swinging his mower wildly nearby, but eventually it would get me inside if I kept going around and circled the place.

As I got most of the way around the complex I could smell lunch cooking from the kitchen. “The kitchen help probably don’t have to go through the main entrance,” I thought. (It was my first useful notion all day.)

Sure enough: I spotted an inconspicuous point of entry, sheltered with an overhang and a coffee can full of sand and cigarette butts sitting outside the door. Maybe it would be open. It was. As I pull the door a blast of warmness greeted me and behind it the smell of comfort food. I was back. I had almost gone full circle, but I had an insiders’ access point to put things to rights.

Just before I left the place for home I took my friend–who had carpooled with me there that morning–to see the new prayer puzzle up close. I walked through slowly but it wasn’t prayerfully. The symbolism had already done its job. I was just canvasing the design and saying my goodbyes. I got to the center of the circle and I knew I was ready to leave for home.

I did a little spin with my arms out because I think if it was a movie that’s what would have happened right at the point, and then I stepped straight through the center to get back out.

The surprise is that you don’t get to ever really pick your own labyrinth. It is picked for you. You can decide how to walk it and how meaningful it will be. You can be frustrated by it and worry about the turns or you can slow down, put one foot after the other, and get to the center. Then you’ll be home.

# # #


Caught Doing Good (amazing video of common heroes)

Unreachable PrincessCreative Commons License
Hartwig HKD via Compfight

I watched this video (below) and I literally started yelling at the screen, routing for the underdog, and crying when the heroes saved the day. It truly took my breath way and gave me heart palpitations.

We are fragile creatures capable of horrors and grace–of both preserving life or squelching it. I am struck but humanity: the concept, the paradox, and when the ordinary crosses into the extraordinary.

I’m sharing this video with you now because it is amazing and inspiring.
Tell me what you think when you see it.

(btw-Subway trains. Super dangerous! Be careful out there.)

And I’ll leave you with this bit of homily:
When you have the chance to do good, do it. Be ready your moment may come at any time, in a big or small way.

It won’t likely be caught on video, but it’ll make a huge difference.

The Surprise for readers of “Dog in the Gap” [Video]

Doug Jackson
Doug Jackson

 Here are a few excerpts of some advanced praise for our book!

Dog in the Gap: Brief Explorations of Canine Care-Taking and Human Flourishing” (It releases on Amazon: Monday August 19th!)

From Evelyn Romig:
What a refreshing read! And by refreshing, I mean not only crisp prose and photos that are–wait for it–so doggone cute! but true living water for the spirit. This collection of small essays by two different stylists not only celebrates the wonderful relationships of humans and their best friends, it examines the spiritual significance of ownership, training, domestication, and companionship. Doug Jackson and Lisa Colon Delay complement one another: one will write about a specific experience (the true “Labrador” nature of her pup) and then the other will challenge the reader with questions about animal souls, using sources as varied as C.S. Lewis and St. Francis. Hard for the Christian reader to finish this treat of a book without wanting to do two things–share the book and volunteer at the local animal shelter. Thanks, Doug and Lisa, on behalf of the sweet souls that cannot speak for themselves!”
From Michelle Moore Mitchell:

“Just finished reading the review draft. I want more! … Not sentimental — but lots of tears. I’m going to read it again, starting tomorrow. This time, a chapter a day, so I can live with, experience, think about, and feel what is there more fully….”

From Clark Roush:

“Only on page 30, and I can already confidently declare you will want to read “Dog in the Gap.'”

Would you be willing to write a review? Hooray! Use the contact form here.

ONLY 7 days until you can get the much anticipated book I’ve written with esteemed professor and long-time pastor Doug Jackson.

I’m really proud of the content and layout of this book. For instance:
• Nearly all of the 88 pages include a captivating photo which really adds a lot to the experience.

Anyone who’s had a dog they loved will “get this” book (both editions). It’s powerful. It put into words and takeaways those deep bonds and lessons we experience uniquely when we have a furry companion.

• The BONUS EDITION (will also be released on the same date) has well over 100 pages of extras, secret links to exclusive videos for this group, and plenty of extra photos and humor. (It’s the hardcore doggie fans Edition.) See below for the Charity component.

It’s set up to be easy to read. It’s no dense tome. There are terrific stories and there’s plenty of material and insights even a non pet owner can enjoy.

• We are donating portions of the money you pay for the book (which is an affordable $2.99. You’d shell out $3 to help dogs, right?) to two local non-profits:

For Doug, it’s the Gulf Coast Humane Society of Corpus Christi, TX.

For me, it’s a low-cost spay and neutering clinic in Allentown, PA (named alliteratively: “No Nonsense Neutering“). They offer low cost services in Reading, Allentown and Quakertown, PA as a humane and preventative alternative to regulating overpopulation through euthanasia. (Unlike PETA who funds mass euthanasia programs secretly. “Fur is murder!” they say, but they have a mass extermination system in place for kittens, rabbits, and puppies. VIEWER CAUTION ADVISED: Previous link has some grisly and disturbing photos.)

Doug was kind enough to sit down and answer a few interesting questions on video for me. Some I’ve saved for the Bonus Edition for you super fans!  You’ll have to hold tight patiently for a few more days!

In this video (just 80 seconds long) Doug shares what he thinks will most surprise readers about the book.

I hope you’re as excited as we are!

Want a sample to read for free?
Just sign up just below! We’ll be sending it out soon.

Be a fan & Join the Pack of friends and fans of
“Dog in the Gap”

* indicates required


Enrollment is now OPEN for the Mini-Course in May! Dismiss