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 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).

What is Celtic (Christian) Spirituality?

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 8.31.12 AMIn recent years there has been renewed interested in the unique flavor of Christianity from the Celtic region. The Celts transformed their paganism into devote Christian practice and belief, but their connection to nature and to each other in community continued to flavor their understanding and practice of Christianity.


The ultimate Druid (their word for a priest) was then, Jesus, the Christ, Son of the Living God.


After the area was first introduced to Christianity, it became largely cut off from the world and also the massive changes in Christianity that happened once it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Subsequently, Christianity evolved and soon involved in the power and authority of the (Rome-based) Roman Catholic Church who dominated and influenced life and culture during the middle ages in almost all of the Western civilized world (except the areas that were not subjected to the influential jihads of Islam).

Most Protestants don’t realize the deep and prevailing influence that the Roman version of Christianity has on how they understand, and practice their faith. Many widespread notions in the Western church, even today, began during the Middle Ages and stemmed from Rome.

Empires have a knack of distorting things for their own gain. Religious empires are no exception.

It’s insightful to see how Celts lived out their spirituality and it can add to our own understanding and growth to learn some things from them.

Here is the wikipedia article to expand your general understanding.

Here are some distinctions:

Distinctive Features of Celtic Christianity:

-love of nature and a passion for the wild and elemental as a reminder of God’s gift.

-love and respect for art and poetry.

-love and respect for the great stories and “higher learning”.

-sense of God and the saints as a continuing, personal, helpful presence.

-theologically orthodox, yet with heavy emphasis on the Trinity, and a love and respect for Mary, the Incarnation of Christ, and Liturgy.

-religious practice characterized by a love for tough penitential acts, vigils, self-exile, pilgrimages, and resorting to holy wells, mountains, caves, ancient monastic sites, and other sacred locations.

-no boundaries between the sacred and the secular

-unique Church structure:

-there were originally no towns, just nomadic settlements, hence the church was more monastic rather than diocesan, resulting in quite independent rules and liturgies.

-also, Ireland was very isolated and it was hard to impose outside central Roman authority.

-influenced much by (original/early Christianity) middle-eastern and coptic monasticism.

-they celebrated Easter and Lent according to the ancient calendar system.

-Irish tonsure shaved the front of the head (like the druids).

-abbots had more power than the bishops.

-monasteries often huge theocratic villages often associated with a clan with the same kinship ties, along with their slaves, freemen, with celibate monks, married clergy, professed lay people, men and women living side by side. (Sometimes monasteries “raided” other monasteries, esp. during the period of the Anglo-Norman invasion.)

-while some monasteries were in isolated places, many more were were at the crossroads of provincial territories.

-women had more equal footing in ancient Irish law, thus had more equal say in church government. (Did St. Bridget receive Holy Orders and act as an Abbot?)

-developed the idea of having a “soul friend” (anmchara) to help in spiritual direction.

-invented personal confession.

-monks traveled as “Peregrinari Pro Christ” (White Martyrdom).

-many pagan practices were “Baptized” such as St.Stephen’s Day, and the resorting to holy wells, and many monasteries were built on pagan sacred site (as evident in the names Derry, and Durrow).


Read more here.


Prayer Attributed to St Patrick, missionary to the Celts:

I arise today, 
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of the sun, radiance of the moon.
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind, depth of sea,
Stability of earth and firmness of rock.
I arise today,
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me.
From the snares of devils, from temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and near, alone and in a multitude

“Power of Image, Play, and Identity”: Thoughts from Len Sweet

Success Kevin T. Houle via Compfight


This is the last bit of reflection on the Leonard Sweet event hosted by Evangelical Seminary this week. (Here’s the first one in the series. Here is the second post.)

 Sweet claims we are living in TGIF times.

Thank God It’s Friday?






Sweet leaves out YouTube which is huge omission. I sense that slipping a V into his acronym wouldn’t be as nifty. (But, I think he’d agree with me that it’s worth inclusion in any assessment of how our current culture learns and is entertained.)

Notice this: All but one of these vehicles of media prominently feature images instead of text. Twitter is driven by 140 text characters (and usually less than that) and this apparently is enough to be radical. Though Twitter is often used for tiny newsy bursts and quotes, tweets tend to include internet links to articles or videos which include visuals.

A new image driven age emerged with televisions in every home in the 1950-1960s. Film? It got super popular and this has never been more true in our current age. Can you think of any other time when you shut off your phone for 3 hours? No. People hate that, but they will sacrifice what that love for something they love even more: Cinema. Nothing solidified the domination of our image age more than the advent of images on the internet. Add to that, the innovative ways of sharing Videos and Images on devices we routinely carry (laptops and smart phones) a major and permanent shift in how we prefer to engage the world occurred. Period.

So what?

Well, we haven’t adjusted, and that is going to really matter. And soon.

Protestants have a substantive Identity crisis because they have lost the story. Disciples have stories: Guiding narratives that set them apart so they don’t have to discover who they are; they can just move forward and be innovative and transformative.

Sweet used the example of Identity in the Jewish culture and ethic group:

• There are about 7 billion people living in the world.

• There are only about 13 million Jews (How much of the world’s population %? is that? Scant.)

• Those with Jewish heritage make up  whopping 25% or so of Noble Prizes winners, Oscar winners, Pulitzers, Tonys, and many other commendations for exceptionality in a variety of fields. How can this be?

A bunch of social science research projects tell us that what lies behind the wild success is namely a firmly formed Identity.
By 12 years old they know who they are, where they come from, and they see themselves in the larger Story (by religious imperative and rites actually: it’s mandatory).

• Jewish culture also has many times of “play”, that is, festivals that tell them who they are. The sit around the table speaking about and interrogating the Story also. This creates a solidified Identity for flourishing.

The last tidbit from the Len Sweet event: Play Ethic

In our mad rush to work and do we have forgotten how to play. God was wasn’t working during Creation, he was making mud pies. He was Creating which isn’t work really. He still is. Labor came hit corruption entered the world and things got messed up. Jesus is always at a party or eating or cooking or making food out of thin air. He loves Martha’s cooking, but when caring for Jesus became work he told Martha of a better way. He didn’t want her to work, but to enjoy. “Sit down and let the rest go.”

If ministry is soul-killing, if it’s a heavy burden and labor, you’re doing it wrong. Ministry shouldn’t be [slow] suicide, says Len Sweet. “Worship is the playground of the Spirit.”

So, really the question remains: Will Protestantism stand the test of time? Signs point to “no”. But, critical to its survival and virility is the concept of creating a lasting and potent Identity that starts with a Story well-told.

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HOW Confession Heals

hearseesayOne aspect of the pre-Easter season (Lent) is confession…

Well, not really. The majority of Evangelicals avoid or ignore the command to confess and even the concept of confession. One great excuse is that we don’t have to be like Catholics who have to answer to a priest for our sins and then do penance. We don’t need a mediator between us and God. How empowering!

But, ignoring or avoiding confession also gives us a chance to hide in our sin and deceive ourselves and others…hum…not so empowering! That’s like putting our soul in jail.

True and thorough Healing and transformation come in and from the context of community.

Jame 5:16
International Standard Version (©2012)
Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

But –Why would confessing heal us?

There is a kind of cleansing that happens in confession. That’s why it’s not optional. It’s not just a purge from our end either.

Revealing ourselves to others has transformative power. Thousands of 12 Step followers will tell you countless tales of life-altering transformation that came through this route.

Simply put–God purposefully makes healing real and possible when authenticity happens with others. It will not happen on our own. This is by design because it makes us healthier to be connected in such a way.

There are no AA groups with 1 member because that would ensure failure. Healing works the same way for all us in that regard. Isolation keeps us stuck and unwell. Blind.

The Holy Spirit uses our honesty and uses our transparency and does his good work. Transformation! A confession is not just an apology (“Hey, sorry I made you feel that way.”) but rather it’s a careful decision to be authentic, to expose one’s self to the light of truth, to change, and to take a new course. So it is blessed.

This is the power and efficacy of prayer and repentance.


In the next post I’ll cover who we should or could confess to…

Do you think it matters who we confess to? (leave me a comment or voicemail)

Do you confess your sins and shortcomings regularly? (leave me a comment or voicemail. Yes or no and why or why not.)

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LASTLY- Is there anything you should confess? You are invited to do that here, or simply admit to confessing to some other human here (if you want to confess in another venue).

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