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

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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).

Dispatch from Prison Ministry: on Life Sentences

skypennscaveIt’s hard for me to think about being anywhere for more than a few years.

Do you like staying in one spot? Or do you like the idea of finding a new place to live, or at least getting away for a vacation destination?

When I was growing up we moved about every 3-4 years.

Then, for about 7 years we lived in a rural area just outside Murrysville, PA (east of Pittsburgh). Though I lived the same house that whole time, my parents marriage blew apart and my dad got his own place. At that point I was sort of “moving” every other weekend when I went to see him.

Then at 16, I began to bounce around again. Two years living with my dad and his wife, then college (continual moving every few months), then a newlywed apartment, and then our first home purchased. But, since 2001 Tim and I have lived in one spot and raised two children.

They can’t possibly appreciate the stability this has given them, but I’m happy it’s worked out this way for them. I didn’t think we’d settle down here in the boonies or for this long. There isn’t much civilization…not even a Starbucks closer than 27.7 miles away. (Yes, I just checked.)

I’ve been itchy to go and find some new place to live for about a decade.

That’s one reason the concept of a life sentence is so hard to really grasp. It’s a revolting thought.

More than a few of the men I work with in prison ministry will die in jail. Some of them have 30, 40, and 50 year + sentences. A few have a official life or life + sentences.

This situation can make incarcerated men (and women) do crazy, bitter things. “What do I have to lose?” they think.

Penitentiaries are for inmates who commit violent crimes or for inmates who hurt or kill other inmates. They are places where the most violent, disturbed, and sick criminals go.

Where I minister is not a penitentiary. It’s a prison. Most of the inmates are “non violent” offenders. Some of them have done violent things, but they got away with them and were imprisoned for other sorts of crimes. Many have had drug addictions or they did gang or drug-related crime, like stealing, scamming, or running money or drugs for dealer higher- on the food chain. They don’t tend rapists and killers, etc.

Some of the guys did do awful things, but they behaved themselves for 10-20 years and got moved into the prison setting as a reward.

These men understand the privilege it is to be there, and they don’t want to be sent back to the pen.

Still, many struggle with lack of purpose, regret, sadness, boredom, dealing annoying or difficult cell mates, and missing family and friends.

Some lifers find it hard to stay positive. Not surprising, of course.

But here’s the real miracle:

Some lifers try to make the world a better place–their small world. They are (mostly) peaceful and transformed.

Really, you meet all types in prison. You see every mood and attitude. You see all levels of education. All colors of skin. All kinds of hair dos. All shapes and sizes. All economic and social class backgrounds…from guys who lived on the streets to ivy league college graduates, the prison has them.

But the thing that really makes the biggest impact for me lately is getting to know the guys that are grateful and joyful even though they know and everyone else knows they will die behind bars. They will never be freed no matter what good they do or how changed they become. They try to be good and do good because it’s the right thing, not because their situation will improve.

I find that inspirational.

This means that in prison ministry you get the chance to question your own (sometimes) poor attitudes because you can see people in these “lifer situations” go out of their way to be kind, thoughtful, and pleasant; or helpful, generous, and happy.

You ask yourself:

“What’s so bad about my life, really?”

You find some inspiration to say:

“I have my freedom, and for that I should and will be grateful.”

No, not everything is just how we want it to be, but we can take a lesson from these sorts of prisoners.

Besides, our attitudes can be a prison, can’t they?

We may have our freedom, but we may chose a cell of our own making.

Bounce…Bounce… “OINK” [State of the Blogosphere]


LEOL30 via Compfight


“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

Matthew 7:6 from Jesus‘s Sermon on the Mount.

Today, the people who haunt the blogs and freely spew their criticisms are known as trolls and I think there is a spot on parallel with that phenomenon and the point of this scriptural adage.

Here’s how the urban dictionary puts it:

One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark of such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. ‘you’re nothing but a fanboy’ is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevence to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.


Not too many people troll around at this blog and make a mess. But once in a while. It’s not too often that I pontificate on a controversial topic. However, many do. I was at a blog recently where there were a few trolls about and the topic was a disputed sort. Antagonistic little buggers, cloaked (quite conveniently!) in anonymity were pig piling, gorging themselves on accusations and generally being unpleasant and ill-reasoned. (Note that Trolls tote suitcases! They are filled with lots of emotional contents. Baggage. The more baggage there is the more the trollish nature flares up.)


So, it reminded me of the deeper phenomenon, shown in the “pearls and swine” reference.


Rather than readers contemplating or valuing the expertise in any way, I heard the sounds, “Bounce, bounce, “oink!”


So why is that? And why pigs and dogs?
In the Middle East in Jesus’ time, dogs were rarely lovable pets (except maybe to a few the royal class who had time to breed and train them to be lap dogs or sporting dogs that were kept outside and used for hunting). They were not as we tame to be and treat them today. At best they guarded the property, lived on scraps and barked at strangers. Most had bad habits, went scrounging around like tenacious vultures with paws, and would ingest anything, like dead and rotting carrion. Frequently they’d get sick on the stuff and vomit. Then they would eat that too. Yuck.
They were cited in Biblical times as a cautionary tail…er…tale.
Proverbs 26:11
As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.
Pigs fit in the same category. Most people assume that the ancient world couldn’t prepare a delicious and diesease-free pork entrée. Not so. In ancient Summer, pigs were eaten frequently (like me, they adored bacon perhaps). But, in Egypt swine were considered gross and vile. This sentiment seemed to filter into the Levitical laws for the Hebrews who would have been exposed to that cultural norm and largely imitated those dietary preferences. That meant Pigs=yuck. Dogs too.


Even now, dogs and swine both are in the habit of eating most anything and undervaluing certain precious things, jewelry from instance. They will even eat their own excrement, so I’m told. Omnivores indeed! I can vouch for the the fact on dogs, but I have little experience with pigs. Nevertheless, both have undiscriminating tastes, or they have discriminating tastes that are arbitrary and illogical. They also write the worst restaurant reviews.


If a hungry dog or pig, especially if it is untamed, from the wild, and thinks you have food, it will take you out and gobble it up and maybe a few of your fingers too. (I saw Bear Grylls wrestle a Razor Back once.) Best not to bring true valuables to the barnyard or wilderness.


This leaves us with a problem as writers or even as blog comment-writers. Do we bother writing for the public with so many pigs about? With so many unappreciative trollers who are ready to eat us alive, we often end up writing for the folks who won’t value it. I can see why writers close down their comments sections. Pigs and trolls and dogs appear to have a lot of time on their idle hands!


But finding the right audience is hard, even among our friendships.
A friend of mine said something like, “When I write I think about what you’ll think; and if you’ll think it’s good or not. I don’t like the idea of you not liking it.”  I told her, “Well, if I don’t like it, then it wasn’t written for me–it was written for someone else, and that’s fine.”


We aren’t writing for everyone. We are writing for the people who are ready and able to hear us, best.


If pigs or dogs eat your pearls, remember that the jewelry was never for them anyway. They trampled you down because they don’t know any better and they couldn’t comprehend the value you offered. Hold the hope that you will find those who see your pearls for what they are: valuable.


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A Fig Leaf for You & a Fig Leaf for Me


Peter Adermark via Compfight

A shinny new sports car!

Fast. Convertible. Hot stuff. As it growled away I thought,

“What a Fig Leaf!”

In about 30 seconds you can see (or hear) the things people do to cover up… to compensate and distract themselves and others from their insecurities. It’s all a Fig Leaf dance done to hide shame.

To see it in ourselves can take a bit more time. Funny how that is!

We are always, it seems, pushing back somehow on the sense that we aren’t enough. (Even by drawing a comparison, which is what I did when I spotted a sport car fig leaf, reveals my cover up attempt, “I’m not as bad as that.” I said in my heart.)

Consciously or unconsciously we send signals to whomever might listen, even if the listener is us:

• I’m smart enough

• I’m talented enough

• I’m wealthy enough

• I’m pious enough

• I’m capable enough

• I’m attractive enough

• I’m good enough

• I’m strong enough

• I’m loved enough

• I’m dedicated enough

• I’m worthy enough

I. am. okay.

Each way a Fig Leaf. Each way a stab at trying to reconnect and find home. We all long for connection and acceptance.

Social creatures as we are, we still want to look like we have it all under control and can go it alone. The sinking feeling that perhaps we cannot sends a jolt of pain that has us picking fig leaves and making coverings for ourselves.

The truth is being vulnerable feels like being naked. We hate it. We feel exposed. We’d rather hide.

If something or someone reveals our mistake or shortcoming, we take it personally–as a reflection of some core flaw. Fig leaves are everywhere.

I don’t have a sport car to show off, so my fig leaf might not be so obvious to others. But it’s there! Oh, and I have much more than one fig leaf too. I too feel like I’m not enough, and plenty of ways and failures come up each day to point it out for me.

The only thing that helps to give me traction and drop a few leaves is admitting it and risking and then relying on my closest relationships to reorient me–including my relationship with God. Those who really love me reinforce that I already am worthy of love and acceptance. God reaches out in Scriptures, through others, and in the Living Word (Jesus the Christ) to drill home the fact that he covers all shame with empathy and love.

Guilt = I did something wrong (admit it, fix it, move on)

Shame = I am something wrong (we stay stuck, we go numb, we disconnect, we over-protect ourselves)

If you want to drop a few pitiful fig leaves, start by taking a risk and reveal why you cover up. You don’t have to do it in public, but apparently you have to do it to be well.

Brené Brown (who you’ve probably realized by now has inspired this post) says that “We are only as sick as our shame.”

I’m reading this, and I recommend it to anyone who has a Fig Leaf or two.


God, hear my prayer!
I keep scrounging for things to make me feel better.
I remain unfound by your love in times when I deeply need it.
Be my Hope and Deliver
Let your love wash over me and renew me
That I can be born again into a greater Light and Love
And even as a new born baby is vulnerable and so dearly loved
Let me sense that I am your child in the same way
I am strongest and most protected when I realize I am in your arms
Let me sense your acceptance and closeness.
Remind me of who and where you are.

Click for Verse of the day


Sin and Riptide?

escape riptide daigramI love this handy-dandy safety chart on riptide. As you swim inland a rip current will prevent you from coming to shore. It will pull you under and drag you out to sea. Even in shallow water a strong swimmer can drown in rip current, so get wise to the wicked water and read it!

In the start of a new series leading up to Easter, my pastor (Jeff Byerly) began on Sunday talking about Recovery. Using themes from the 12 step program (and the Celebrate Recovery organization) he mentioned that even though we don’t all suffer the torments of pronounced addictions, the path to healing remains the same. This is one of the benefits of a support group like Celebrate Recovery. It functions like a life guarding outpost when the rip current is subtly strong.

Whether we tend to get into co-dependent relationships, spend time looking at pornography, succumb to retail therapy (shopping), fixate on eating too little (or feel the compulsion to eat too much) our compulsions and hang ups read like a similar story, a human story. A normal story.

The most piercing portion of the talk came when Jeff referenced some thoughts from C.S. Lewis…here I’m paraphrasing from Jeff’s paraphrase…but it goes something like…

–Bad people really don’t know that much about their badness— (maybe some of you Lewis fans can point me to the exact reference)

In sinning (which is the normal but deadly stuff of life), we go along with things as they come. We don’t distinguish much as we do mostly what we please. It’s only when we resist, try to consistently do what is right and good and when we try to go against the opposing and fierce force within and without that we run into a kind of riptide trying to pulling us under and kill us. Goodness then is a right mirror showing what still needs work in us. It reflects an ugly picture we don’t care to look at.

Paul really fleshes this out in Romans….What a great devotional read this makes. (Go on and click here for that)

So, it is in doing right where we come against the reflecting pool that shows us how bad are really are. Simply because we have terrible failures. We hit a snag. The contrast our need of rescue. Without the challenge of doing what we know is right, we never really assess the weight and scope of our sinful ways. But, my, how unpopular this concept is. Off-putting and out of vague. Time for a few reassuring pats on the back… But try to be unwaveringly good for a while, and we see how true it is.

And how you’ve ever noticed how self-satisfied people are? It’s probably because they aren’t making much of an effort at consistently doing what is right. They haven’t been humbled by failure. They’ve rarely seen felt this opposing monster for themselves because the room is too dark.

Maybe you’ve felt the same way too at times, “Well, I’m not so bad. I’m certain not as bad as most people.” Trust me, the day will not pass before this thought is likely to cross my mind as well.


It’s that kind of subtle self-dellusion that can thwart our willingness to be a part of the ongoing sanctification of  the Holy Spirit. He works us over and makes us over. It’s that mauling process, if you will, that does the hard work. So, Jesus said, “Only the sick need a doctor.” He was of course talking to sick people at the time, only they didn’t think of themselves that way. There’s nothing more hopeless than that.

If we ever went a whole week noticing and noting all the strays from what we know is right and good and set about to only do right…WATCH OUT. The proof of our weaknesses, problems, and short-comings will pop up like an angry bee sting.


Fatigued then, in a fight to do what’s right, sometimes we realize it is in he surrender to our powerlessness that we find rescue. It’s counter-intuitive as much as swimming out to sea is when you’re almost drowning. But it works. This is part of the powerful of observing a season of Lent.

The great relief from sin and that sort of deadly riptide comes from repentance and forgiveness. This theme is never more potent than when we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday. More on this sort of thing in posts to come. Please click for updates (right sidebar)


Have you felt this kind of riptide?

(You can leave me a voice message with your thoughts, if you’d like. Click the voicemail tab on the right)

rip current image found here: www.palmbeachpost.com