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Episode 20 – Puncturing the Illusions of our own Ableism and Flawed Ideas of Normal (with Tom Reynolds) part 1

Episode 20 – Puncturing the Illusions of our own Ableism and Flawed Ideas of Normal (with Tom Reynolds) part 1

Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds, PhD


Shownotes: PART I
A conversation (in 2 parts) with

the author of Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, by practical theologian Tom Reynolds


Tom joined the Emmanuel College (part of the University of Toronto) faculty in 2007. He is committed to an interdisciplinary, practical, and relational vision of theology, his teaching and research address a range of topics related to constructive theology (particularly the doctrine of God and theological anthropology), theological method, intercultural and interfaith engagements, contextual theologies and globalization, philosophical theology, disability studies, and the thought and influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

His recent Articles


MIN 4:00

Incorporating the theology of disability into his work training pastors at Emmanuel Seminary, because theology is personal, and not disconnected from the real world concerns of the church and people living their lives.


About his son Chris sparking his interest and work in the theology of disability.

5:30 Learning that disability isn’t a problem to figure out, but rather it’s about a person who I love and live with, and care with and for, which radically reoriented my perspective on theology.


Disability and God’s Providence

(Questioning does God “cause” disability as a curse or opportunity for healing…or a kind of moral lesson…)


His son exploded the theological categories (and assumptions) pertain to Providence…making everything confusing and needing to be re-thought.


What is abnormal? What is “faulty” humanity?

Amos Yong, Hans Reinders, John Swinton writing on the topic too.


Tom details the new book on the Theology of Care which builds on the first book.


Some churches stress Cure over Care in terms of disability.


(Lisa) My visit to a church where the leadership was interested in healing my son from his non normative experience of the world.


The range of responses churches have when encountering people with disabilities.

The  church’s “urge to cure” is better than outright exclusion, which plenty of families have encountered.


It comes from the the idea of remaking and fixing someone in a way that is more comfortable for non disable people and normalcy (what they consider normal). Not helpful or Christian.


About the church that didn’t want his son as a disruption and a church that did receive them.


“How can we help you?” was water for his parched soul. How the church accepted and welcomed the uniqueness of his son.


Hospitality vs. a narrow view of what is preferred.


The messiness of various kinds of people, in general, means we have to expand our view of grace.


Who gets to be a full-fledge member of the church community?

and the “mascot syndrome” for those with disabilities.

16:30 – 17:50

Levels and types of responses:

• Tolerate disabled, but they do not get to be a true part of the church.

• “Inclusion” sometimes means means the the “outsiders” get invites to the inside group based on the good graces of the in group, but are still treated as problems to be solved, or people that are to receive the gestures of charity from others (people for whom things are “done for (them”)”. Doing for instead of “being with”.


What is access? In is not just accommodations (i.e. ramps and special bathrooms) and alterations but ongoing…

Faith communities may be not expecting and not ready to receive those with disabilities.


It’s not an issue about outsiders, because disability extend to a broad range of issues, both visible and not visible, including mental health challenges that are already there.


Thinking of the word “BELONGING”

as in “to be longed for when you aren’t there in the fullest sense.”

John Swinton and belonging


Jean Vanier “In giving and receiving do we really thrive as people”


Unconscious bias that includes “fear of the stranger” and “fear of the stranger within”.


We fear weakness and vulnerability.


Before “mainstream”…the stigma of “retard”…and fearing and disposing weakness.


Nathan means gift. (Lisa) I learned that I had to recognize weaknesses (shortcomings) in myself the I saw reflected in my son…and communities can do the same type of thing unconsciously.


“The encounter with disability punctures the illusions of what we think of as our own strengths.”


The journey with a child with disabilities is isolating.


Societal epidemic that fears being vulnerable or perceived as weak or unable to perform in ways that are considered valuable by society.


We have to see what are myths about autonomy, independence, and productivity where are assume we are self-reliant and these qualities are prized so highly. “Able-ism” (The idea that being able in body and mind is normal and most vital which serves as the lens by which we see and judge the world and others outside those parameters as faulty.)


Tom’s latest work called “A spirituality of attentiveness”. Christianity: St Paul’s strength in weakness serves as a prophetic witness against a society that prizes the strong as the main thing of value. 1 Corinthinians pretense of strength undercuts our ideas of grace)


We are all only temporarily-abled. (Lisa).


On hearing “You must be so blessed to have a disabled person as a teacher.” Is this sometimes a reframing of the situation that spins the situation to be more palatable? A glossing with spiritual truths and making it about spiritual growth.


Instead, Chris’s life seeks its own flourishes, and he may at times function as a teacher.


Thoughts on intellectual ability (or inability) and belief in terms of Salvation.

God’s works God’s own path in different ways and in different capacities with people. This undercuts my arrogance (as a theologian), so I don’t think I can so easily map it out definitively and universal for all people in all places.


His son’s atheism (who is the God he doesn’t believe in)…and how that challenges our presuppositions about God.


“It is in the kind of relationships of mutual belonging that the full image of God is borne out.”


(Lisa) To my son I said, “when you see someone who is loving you, you are seeing God.”

(Lisa) On how I changed from thinking “right belief” as the way to understand God was central. Our intellectualizing what God has done is not salvific.


Martin Luther’s theology of the Cross:

The pretense that we know exactly where God is and how God works. Where God is most hidden is where God is most vividly revealed in saving ways.


“Who I am to declare that God’s grace only works in some ways? and the God’s capacity and God’s own mystery is limited to what I would deem and my community would deem adequate.”


What the practical theology of disability tells us about Grace with God and relationships with others.


“The longer I live and work as a theologian the more I realize the limitations of theology and the true infinite mysteries of God.”

Jesus was disruptive to religious pretense and suppositions. “You say this..but I say this…”

Theodicy – The question of why does God allow suffering and how should we think about suffering.

How Tom, as a theologian, answers the question,
“Why would a sovereign God allow a person to be born disable and encounter such suffering?” (This is great!)

The best is yet to come! Come back for part II next week.

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

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

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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
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

18:00 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).

Faith = a Basket of Eggs: In Tribute to David A. Dorsey



So, a dear man died one week ago. Dave, to his students (because he preferred this), and Dr David Dorsey, PhD officially. On Tuesday the chapel was packed for his funeral as hundreds resolutely braved sub zero wind chill to pay respects, support his family, share memories and express their sadness at the loss. For us who remain in this world and knew him the hole of his absence hurts. It actually feels painful.




If I tried to tell you all the things that I loved about my former Old Testament Professor, or the countless benefits to me, or the simple and genuine ways he loved on me and others, I would be typing for days. Suffice it to say just about everyone on Tuesday was in tears and everyone felt the weight of the loss as we remembered his light in this world.

In the next few weeks I hope to share some of the insights I gleaned from this amazing scholar and human being.

For now, I’ll share with you something Dave taught us about faith. Granted, I won’t do it justice; and if you read this and heard differently from him, please add your own amend in the comments section.

So, here goes…
He said the faith of the patriarchs of Israel might not be the kind of faith we suppose it is. Hebrews 11 gives us a “Hall of Fame” of the faithful. We may think that these people trusted and relied on God. They did. But we get the pedigree of it all wrong. The practice of faith is much richer than we might suppose, especially at first glance reading the list of the faithful.

Instead, it’s something like this:

Faith is not about being hopeful about what lies beyond the bend in the future. It not really about a “blind” ascension to trust either. Those are good and important in their ways, but when we speak of the life of faith in terms of the Old Testament faithful, like Abraham leaving everything he knew for the wilderness for instance, we are really talking about a concept much like “putting all your eggs in one basket.”

That’s how Dave put it. The word picture stuck and it stuck good.

With the Life of Faith…
You are deeming God good, trustworthy, and loving and then you put it all on the line.

(So, it’s rarer than you think!)

You stop hedging your bets. You stop saving a little security for yourself. You stop holding something back that gives you a sense of control. You bet the whole thing. You leave nothing back. You. go. in. wholly.

Sometimes, I find eggs in my pockets, or around the house, or in places that I didn’t know they were, like a weird easter egg hunt. Not chicken eggs, of course, but the eggs of my worries. I may have thought I handed the basket over, and perhaps I really did, but life can make you lay a few eggs. Sometimes people throw them at you too.



Faith, Hope, Love. Those are what remain, yes?

Faith = a Basket of Eggs.

It’s a shocking level of vulnerability: the life of faith.

You can tell when you do it too. You get a mixture of feelings. Great relief that your job is over, your poor skills are not needed any longer, and someone more capable is now responsible and in charge. Whew! Then, you may get a twinge of terror at the power you gave up, but probably never really had anyway. You become all at once very hopeful and very dependent. It’s precarious.

There’s a rare beauty to it.

Sometimes we give up our baskets and sometimes they sort of get pried out of our hands.

Dave was gravely ill for over 3 decades. His was a life of faith. It had to be. And he handed over eggs.

It was a wrestle match, he would tell you. He didn’t always feel faithful. He made mistakes. His candor was humbling. But, through his honesty he became faithful all the more.

There’s something about growing to trust God for each breath, and believing that God revealed himself as a thoroughly good and gracious and generous Creator and Sustainer in the passages of the Old Testament that transformed this brilliant man into a true saint. Not sappy, but real. All at once very strong and stable and yet achingly weak.

Dave was not self-righteous but gracious. Not arrogant in any discernible manner, but loving and open to others. Concerned with others and their lives and largely uncomplaining. Free with his humor and goodwill.

Hear this: You don’t get the privilege to meet people like this very often. You don’t get to be a person like this often. It’s takes an amazing about of formation, re-formation, and transformation. It doesn’t happen by accident or by genetics.

A life of faith means that you hold nothing back. See the difference?

It’s not using power to feel better. It’s giving it over to be fully won over.


In a life of faith you love whole-heartedly. Not because it’s safe. It never is. But, because it is good. A life of faith means that you have a sharp, ongoing sense of your own weaknesses and dependence, and that goes overflowing into compassion for yourself and others.

A few days after Dave’s death I was praying in the car out loud as I do sometimes. (I take more comfort in doing this now. People talk on the phone hands-free all the time in their cars and look like they are talking to nobody. Now, I just look like I’m having an important conversation. In fact, I am, especially when I shut up.)

So, I was in the car and I was warring as I too often do with things in the distance. Shadows, possibilities, next steps. I was planning, wondering, and worrying–like I was holding a bunch of eggs and walking on a lake of ice.

And then I said, “No, this just won’t work. I see I’m holding too tightly. I think I have to go all in. I have to have faith. I have to put all my eggs in one basket. Your basket.”

And a song sung by Ella Fitzgerald came to mind. I’ve embedded the audio so you can hear it after you finish.

Then I simply burst into tears, because that’s what a godly and good legacy looks like. Literally, one leaves words to live by. Dave’s words of life and hope and faith were ringing true in my mind in everyday life, even after he’s gone. And I thought, “That’s an amazing man and I was given an amazing gift to know him.” I kept having to wipe away tears for awhile.



Spirit, you know, is “breath of life”. (The Hebrew and Greek words for breath carry this meaning.) God is Spirit. When you see goodness, when you see sacrificial love, when you see wrongs being made right, you see God. You see the Spirit of the unseen God. Those describers are just part of what and who is impossible to confine or describe fully.

God isn’t just Life Force, but God is that too. And I don’t think Dave lost his own spirit or the Spirit. I think God became greater. The Spirit got so great that it filled him, and his body of water and carbon gave out, finally. It birthed something new and better and unseen and lasting.

And this Spirit and the part of Dave that is Dave (his truest self–his soul) joined up in union with the Great Spirit, somewhere and everywhere, the One, True, Living God who defies reason, explanation, and the limits of us, and even of the universe.

But, Dave didn’t completely leave us. But, my does the sting smart, right now! From my experience I know it dulls in time; but the pain is, at first, ultimate.

Yet, the fragrance of his spirit remains. And it is sweet.

It’s around us when we remember him. The Spirit remains, and Dave’s flavor fused with that true Spirit carries on with us. We miss the more familiar everyday interaction with him so dearly, and always will, until the same happens to us and we are joined somehow together again.

To those who grieve him: his family and friends, I join you in your deep and powerful sorrow. I join you in your joy–that is bitter and sweet–that realizes the gift he was–having known him, been enriched by him, and been intimately connected to him. Your loss is not small.

May you feel the comfort, presence, shalom, and holy goodness of the Spirit of God.




Here is a brief local obituary posting of David A. Dorsey.


With these links you can enjoy two of his most well-known books:


(egg photo is a Creative Commons image.)

90 Seconds to a genuine inner gaze

90 Seconds to a genuine inner gaze

Two things that don’t really go together are SPEED and Introspection.

But in 90 seconds, I think you can get off the blocks and make that crucial first step to the kind of growth that can only happen by linking up with the transcendent through your unique humanity. An inner gaze has to start somewhere. If not, we get stuck.

Be warned, once you look inward it can be painful. This is one reason why it happens too infrequently. The point though is to get started. Sometime during the holiday weekend I’ll post something of a followup. Creating a useful tool for yourself…the spiritual autobiography (which is something I too will be doing for my Masters class work. I hope you’ll join me).

For now, follow these simple steps: 

  • 1. Get paper and a pen
  • 2. Jot down the first things that come to you mind as you read the list below. (Don’t linger on this list. Be speedy.)
  • 3. Put away your paper for 1-3 days.
  • 4. Revisit your notes in 1-3 days when you have 20 minutes or more. (I’ll remind you, here at the blog.)

Consider these questions:

  1. Look at your failed or troubled relationships and list similarities, and note what makes you angry about them, or things you fear.

  2. Examine past patterns and recurring themes in your thoughts and behavior. Note any patterns that you see.

  3. Uncover the commonalities in your interpersonal difficulties. Do the same troubles with others come back again and again? Note them.

  4. Label areas of stagnation in your life, (i.e. work, relationships, poor habits, etc.).

  5. Consult with trusted friends and objective sources to ferret out problem areas. Okay, this takes some time, so for now jot down a few names.

  6. Include a list of your good qualities/strengths, and places or ways you find encouragement. [This should be easy, because it’s the feel good part. Briefly, look for all the good you can and mark it down.]

(So, what did you think about these questions? Was it hard to do?)

photo credit

Broken Pots Shine Beautiful Light

We not made out of such strong stuff, are we? Dust to dust.

Though at times we feel confident or even invincible, reminders of imperfection, mortality, weakness, and helplessness spring up everywhere.

Suppose you placed a lit candle in a jar–a solid jar, what would happen? A bit of light would come out through the top, yes?

Now suppose that jar was punctured, shattered and pieced back together, or cracked in places. Some could think the piece was ruined. Others would admire it even more, once a lit candle was placed inside, because the spaces would fill with beautiful light. The weaknesses of the jar would shine as the most beautiful parts, making a unique and dazzling spectacle of shapes and illumination for others to see. The specialness would be the combination of once-perceived flaws co-mingled with the luminosity and brilliance of something added to it, working through it for something altogether appreciable and precious.

Be encouraged, you broken pots out there! Never over-worry that you have made mistakes, or that you have flaws, weaknesses, gaps, and broken spots. We all do. The grace and radiance of Christ will shine that much more through you because of them, if you allow it, and let the Light work in you. Each space that you give over to the Light will be made beautiful. Christ, and his love and grace is the light that gives new hope, and a new purpose for the scars we carry, and broken parts we’ve sustained.

Light from within a beautiful fixed jar

Verses to ponder:

2 Corinthians 4:7 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show us that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Each time [God] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What broken space has the light shined through in your life?

Will you let all your broken places be a light for others?

What area might this be in, and how will you move forward in this process?

(all comments, thoughts, ideas welcome)

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