Do you live in light of the crucifixion or resurrection?

http://robertfertitta.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/106610-611.32025820.jpg

I think it is good to have spiritual “checks and balances” in our lives. To examine our lives, and how we exude the love of God; are we doing “good things” or even “bad things” because we’re fearful of the wrath of God or are we doing good things because Christ was crucified, died…but 3 days later he rose again? Is that how we conduct our lives?

In my own life when I was younger life holistically was a bunch of do’s and don’ts. Even to some extent the don’ts, whether I don’t or we as a family don’t was a grotesque badge of honor. It set us apart, the “in the world but not of it” mentality that pervades some minds to this day. It was a bit of a wrestle for me personally because it limited my experiences, whether by fear or just the I-don’t-do’s, and in that kind of mindset I can imagine that it must be like living with Christ still on the cross. Christ still suffering and going through pain still suggests there’s this gap between God and man. There’s a train of thought that suggests that when Christ did in fact die that when the temple curtain was split, it showed that God was not contained to only the temple AND also that divide between God and man no longer existed. That, Jesus in his final words of “it is finished” did in fact make it so…

I also look at living in light of the crucifixion to be one of atoning for what we’ve done. Sure we’re no longer offering up grain and birds and livestock as a burnt offering, but thinking about prayers of “God if you do A, I will do / I won’t do B ever again”. To people who pray like this I ask this; why? Was not Jesus the last sacrifice mankind ever needed? Was “it is finished” not enough? Because such actions do point to “not enough” and for the person who lives under guilt- self-imposed or otherwise, lives a life of Christ still on the cross.

It is in light of the resurrection that I choose to live. That the gap between God and man has been restored, and if I am to take these theological extrapolations to the next level, it is in light of the resurrection AND the ascension that I live. That Jesus’ death on the cross brought healing to humanity, and so I must “go and do likewise” and so many other things that Jesus lived out in word and deed, so I too wish to conduct and live my life in BEing and DOing those things to best of my ability.

Granted you can’t have resurrection without crucifixion, you can’t know healing until you’ve been hurt, you can never truly admire the beauty of Spring without having gone through the hardships that winter brings. It is a difficult journey of faith for me at times, and yet one thing I keep in mind is that I will keep walking when I don’t see the road in front of me because God is there. I will keep enduring hardships because God is there. I will grow tired, lonely, disillusioned, and even doubtful…but God is there in the thick of it with me. I keep walking in light of the resurrection and ascension because I know with some of my heart some days and all of it at my end of days that because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection AND ascension I can live freely and fully.

~Nathanael~

My 2 Litas on God’s Not Dead

I put out a challenge for those who got upset by Noah to give as much weight as to what they thought about that movie as to the other movies with a Christian/Biblical theme that are out or will be coming out. In particularly Heaven is for real, God’s not dead, Son of God. A friend of mine lovingly challenged me to watch all 4, and so I’m in the process of doing that.

I’ve seen Noah and God’s Not Dead so far, but will see the other 2 in due time. I’m not a professional movie reviewer, so I’ll just be pointing out what I observed and picked up and out of the movies. And “2 Litas” – Litas is the currency of Lithuania, my father’s country of origin, and I would be lying if I stated I like that country despite not having gone there…yet.
So, here’s my take on Noah…enjoy, or don’t, but hey- my blog my rules! ;-)

P.S. I will be looking at the movie as a movie. I’m going to give my insight and thoughts, what I liked and what I didn’t like, but I’m not necessarily going to be making about the validity of the director’s vision whether or not it is “accurate” or not. Sure I have some issues with movies, but again, it’s a movie and not the be-all end-all to discussions theological, biblical, or other.

God’s Not Dead

I liked the dedication of the main character’s research. I like researching and learning for understanding and also for sharing, the movie showed someone dedicated to finding out more than the answers given to him as well as answers he thought all along. This is the only thing I truly liked about the movie.

The God talked about and represented in this movie is too small. He was prone to being fickle and irked by humans, a God prone to jealousy on our terms and that (sometimes subtly presented and other times it was blatant) that God will disown us if we disown him. Making God out to be like that reduces God’s God-ness and goodness. It is a human trait to write people off when people have dissed us, but I believe in a God of reconciliation and restoration; a good who is in the habit of making “all things new” and that all is being shaped and molded into what will one day be perfect shalom for all of mankind.

In making God out to be too small, it makes us out to be too big. That somehow the weight of our experiences, our faiths, and our beliefs is our responsibility in a larger way than I truly can comprehend. Yes I want to partake in a living breathing active faith, but I recognize my human fragility, and so I let God handle things I can and cannot control. This movie seemed to point to making following Christ to be a weight we carry more than God carries. I truly believe our weight in what we say what God can do and not do from a negative point-of-view is self-imposed more than anything else. We make following Christ legalistic and when we do that there’s no room for grace and unconditional love.

I also didn’t like that the movie had so many biases and stereotypes against different people of different backgrounds.
- The only black guy in the movie informs the professor and classroom his of his nickname instead of his name, “G Dog”.
- The young Muslim woman comes from an environment where she has to wear a hijab in public, which she takes off when her father is out of sight and wears it in his presence. It gets taken to the next level when he’s physically abusive to her for listening to a Franklin Graham podcast about Jesus and kicks her out of her house!
- Then there’s the foreign exchange student from China, who’s father tells him to believe what his professor believes in order to stay the course of doing well in school.
- Even Kevin Sorbo’s character as a professor who’s an Atheist is an belligerent strong-willed my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy. He’s full of himself and what he believes in the realm of God’s non-existence.
Yes some individuals might exemplify the stereotypes presented, but really? You’re going to subtly try to implant the idea that ALL these people and their backgrounds are like this? For shame!

I also didn’t like the nature of having to defend and having to prove God’s existence. I don’t recall reading a Bible verse saying we had to defend God and come up with quantitative proof for his existence. In doing so I saw the movie take on the role of going on belief rather than faith, that it was about getting answers to all the questions, and I see that as antithesis of faith. If I am honest and where I am at in my journey of life as well as my journey of faith, I know less now than when I was younger, I have less answers to the questions…but I am completely okay with that! My desired posture for life is loving God and loving others, and my testimony isn’t my short-and-sweet story of how I got “saved” but rather my testimony is how I see my life and what I’ve done with it to completion. My testimony is far from over.

I also didn’t like that some scenes made it all about God putting us in predicaments where our only option is choosing him. I believe in freewill, so to be predestined to be hit by a car (spoiler alert) Kevin Sorbo’s character finds God as he’s dying. Yes some of us will find God on our deathbed, to make it about “well God meant for you to be hit to bring him glory” strikes me as…well…predestination and to some extent leaves out choice, which I believe we’ve always had- for better or worse.

Lastly what I didn’t like about this movie is that it was marketed as a “Christian” movie. I say it from time to time because I know it to be true;

“the word “christian,” when applied to anything other than a human being, is a marketing term.” – Derek Webb

This movie and some others that Harold Cronk directed were aimed for a target audience only. At least Darren Aronofsky’s movie took a broader swath and didn’t go for *insert audience here* watching his movie. I truly believe that you should do the best that you can with your skill set, just don’t box it in and label it as a way to get one set of viewers/participants through the door, that limits your art and creativity and subsequently that limits God.

~Nathanael~

My 2 Litas on Noah

I put out a challenge for those who got upset by Noah to give as much weight as to what they thought about that movie as to the other movies with a Christian/Biblical theme that are out or will be coming out. In particularly Heaven is for real, God’s not dead, Son of God. A friend of mine lovingly challenged me to watch all 4, and so I’m in the process of doing that.

I’ve seen Noah and God’s Not Dead so far, but will see the other 2 in due time. I’m not a professional movie reviewer, so I’ll just be pointing out what I observed and picked up and out of the movies. And “2 Litas” – Litas is the currency of Lithuania, my father’s country of origin, and I would be lying if I stated I like that country despite not having gone there…yet.
So, here’s my take on Noah…enjoy, or don’t, but hey- my blog my rules! ;-)

P.S. I will be looking at the movie as a movie. I’m going to give my insight and thoughts, what I liked and what I didn’t like, but I’m not necessarily going to be making about the validity of the director’s vision whether or not it is “accurate” or not. Sure I have some issues with movies, but again, it’s a movie and not the be-all end-all to discussions theological, biblical, or other.

Noah

I like how the movie incorporated “The Watchers” and perhaps to some extent they symbolized the much talked about but not understood as to what they truly were- The Nephilim. From what little I know they were some angel-human hybrid group of beings that remain a mystery, or at least to me. I kind of liked the stone figures having human-like characteristics, that while apart from humanity they were still in touch with their humanity and even the part of them that gave them life, and even the nature of their role within the movie and them going back to whence they came under good terms.

I also liked the movie for using “The Creator” in place of God because it is a term I can and do to some extent identify with, especially that God as creator suggests activity, dynamic not static, creator creating rather a creator who created…and kind of got up and left what God had created. It also invites us in to partake in creating as well, and in the movie there were instances in which Noah and his immediate family were in the business of creating as well.

Side note: I have seen several Darren Aronofsky’s movies and one of his trademarks is in this movie. The quick sequential shots to explain time moving quickly, this shows up when Noah explains the creation narrative, and what makes it so good in this movie is that it explains creation and evolution entwined and ONE! It was beautifully done, and while I will probably see this movie again, but back to this semblance of a movie review…

I liked the overarching yin and yang of humanity. Noah wasn’t an altogether good guy, nor was Tubal-cain an altogether bad guy, and that is very human and very true. Yes God/The Creator was also balanced out in this way, and yes I disagree with the portrayal of a God that’s out to get humanity and angry and retaliatory on human terms. God is made small when he is bent out of shape by things we get bent out of shape over, and yet I believe he is allowed to be God when we allow him to be, when he loves unconditionally and extends grace to all of humanity. That is the God I choose to follow because God is bigger than me and all of what I think and hold true.

There was disarray, redemption, restoration weaved throughout this movie’s narrative. All in all a very good movie.

~Nathanael~

The inclusive table; a posture for living, a posture for life

communion
Growing up our house was messy in many ways, but for the sake of streamlining this a bit, messiness by way of things everywhere and anywhere. As a result of this messiness, we didn’t have people come over except for a few barbeque’s and perhaps celebrating a birthday or graduation party; but even these events were few and far between. I ached and I yearned for having people over at my house, I love to cook and I love to cook for others, so to have without was an unfulfilled part of my life…until I moved out.

It hasn’t been dinner parties every week at my house, but it has been a semi-frequent event. Friends have come over, family has come over, a lot of diversity and I love every minute of it. And that’s why sometimes I dwell on the deeper truths that come from a center of “the kingdom of heaven is within you” and “the kingdom of heaven is near” and the truth I find time and time again is that the table is being set inclusively and so with my time and talents, I too choose to set an inclusive table.

My table is messy and dirty, who comes to visit and dine with me varies, but all are welcomed and none are sent home with an empty stomach. More is garnered in time spent at my table, everyone (as far as I know) have had a good time and want to come back. And there are even opportunities for others to go set their table for me, because we’re in this human condition together, there are symbiotic relationships all around us. So that’s my inclusive table, and when I think about God’s inclusive table I think this…

***

Too often, regardless of what religious group you’re a part of or if you’re just a spiritual person, it’s easy to find ways to delineate ourselves from others. Yet in a lot of different religions I find common ground and that comes from personally learning about different religions, but more often it comes from being in community with others; whether it’s sharing a meal or just getting coffee, people are people, and there is so much to learn.

Over the last few years my personal theology has gotten smaller and smaller. Not that I am saying I’m renouncing what I think and believe as to who Jesus is and what is attributed to him doing, but I admit that Christianity does not contain the entirety of God. God isn’t controlled by religions, God is much bigger than that if we allow God to be. Personally what I think my faith is at this time is finding ways to love God and love others and not being a jerk. Sometimes/often times I am a jerk, that I want to bring people to where I am at in life and in my own time frame and not their own. Sometimes/often times I make it more about me than Jesus, and yet I get brought back to a “get it together man!” mindset from the Holy Spirit; she’s pretty good at what she does…all I’ve got to do is sometimes/often times listen to her more and listen to me less.

Reducing in quantity my thoughts and ideas and perspectives that shaped my personal theology has increased my quality 1000% fold! Because I am able to step away from it all, not dejected, not frustrated, but humbled and willing to let God take over. It’s a “burden” of sorts, but I let God have it just as God should. It is about God, it is about us, and sometimes we need to figure out where that line is…but granted, God makes the line, we do not.

***

I think that when I have kids of my own I will provide them opportunities to learn from people from different walks of life, yes I will do my best to influence them from what I know as a follower of Christ, but to aid them in becoming well-rounded world citizens I aim to give them opportunities of going to mosques, synagogues, et al. places where people come together. I also realize that I will encourage my kids to ask difficult questions, and that sometimes questions don’t have answers. This latter part can be perplexing, because it is hard enough to grasp some answers that come from our questioning, but to be without answers period can be frustrating. I also realize that when I get to being a parent I want my kid’s faith to come from where they are at in life, and maybe for a while they will identify what I and their mother have shared with them, but I want them to make it their own- this of course comes with age and maturity, and in their own time frame and not mine.

I want them to partake in the joy and the freedom and contentment and grace and unconditional love that I have found! And that maybe, in which I am hopeful for, they themselves are able to “go and do likewise”. That they set their own tables, holistically, and embrace all because they themselves have been embraced by a creator who created them and loves them deeply and dearly.

~Nathanael~

Why I stopped being a Christian jerk

A couple of weeks ago one of my coworkers and I were talking and…religion (gasp!) became the topic for a while. She shared with me part of her story, where she came from and where she is now. I brought up how that when I aligned myself as an Evangelical it was very limiting, and at times I was downright legalistic on many a topic. She, at this point seeing how I work with my clients, grasped that I’ve changed and she brought up what caused me to start changing, to start loving more and legalizing less…and…well, here’s some of my story in that regard.

I stopped being a Christian jerk when…

I realized how much my faith is mine, but ultimately God through God’s grace and love, how much isn’t me. I have a work ethic that sometimes is off-putting and an amalgamation of cockiness and independence, the “trust me, I’ve got this” shtick is how I sometimes play (thankfully not all the time, I am very much a team player). Yet this is how I at times have conducted my faith, that “hey God, sit down, I’ve got this” and it…it ate me alive to be perfectly honest. I made it all about me, and in doing so I removed God from the equation and I sat down and called myself God. I didn’t do this verbally, but certainly my actions seemed as such, and with being a self-imposed God I made a list of do’s and don’ts of personal morality but I also tried to some extent to hold people to MY standards, and it bound me and blinded me, never once was I free.

But grace somehow made its way in. In my flaws and in my cracks, grace pierced my heart. Grace was followed by unconditional love, which was followed by acceptance and affirmation; that despite all the hell I caused others, despite all the hell I heaped on my head, God still loved me for me, not because…

I bring up the parable of The Prodigal Son frequently because I have been all 3 characters- the father, the older brother, and the younger brother at some time in my life. It was my self-imposed legalism that made me in my own way exclaim that “it’s not fair!” when people seem to get ahead despite me thinking they didn’t deserve it. It was the doing my own thing on my own terms and wanting to find my way back, if just to be back to occupy the lowest position. It was the seeing someone I love hurt and running to them and embracing them instead of letting them endure the long road back with a heavy burden of thoughts weighing them down.

Having been all 3, I want to say nowadays I aim to be like the father; to extend grace and unconditional love to others because this was extended to me, this is what set me free.

***

Because of grace and unconditional love I am at odds with the Christian community sometimes because of my outspokenness about the LGBTQ Community. For me it comes from a place of realizing what followers of Christ have said or done that have marginalized them, that have stripped them of their humanity and ultimately their Imago Dei-ness- that they are indeed made in the image of God. While the LGBTQ Community are not the only individuals who are being marginalized, it’s personal to me and something I am very vocal about, because I too had a hand in the marginalization by way of using the word “Gay” as an adjective for stupid and dumb.
It was while I was in college that a floor-mate of mine changed my thinking about so much about what I thought despite at that time my views were based on ‘well my father thinks/my mother thinks/my pastor thinks’, my floor-mate was what I needed in my life to jar me from my complacency and parroted views that were never mine to begin with, but I hid behind them nonetheless.

It was a 5-6 year journey of wrestling it all out. But I made it! :-)

***

If you are a follower of Christ if the Holy Spirit moves you and beckons you to new places that are outside of your comfort zone (she’s prone to doing that in my life) I encourage you to go and be not only the hands and feet of Jesus, but to be the ears and eyes as well. It was unnerving the first time I went to the Pride Parade in Chicago to be a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign, but God was already there, God just happened to invite my friends and I to be a part of something bigger, something better. God is already *insert place here* and with the grace and unconditional love he lavishes on us constantly, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?

~Nathanael~

The Suffering Christ

[PIANNN.jpeg]

The common denominator between anyone and everyone in all of humanity is suffering. Suffering takes many forms, but it unites us in some shape and form. It is because of this, the Jesus I identify with is one who suffered.

Yet while I recognize when I look at crosses whether he’s on it or it is vacant, I identify with him suffering like us. It takes a God who is willing to hurt like us for me to love God that much more. If God was one who started the wheels of life in motion and walked away or backed out of the scene, I don’t think I could connect with such a God because it lacks warmth, it lacks humanity. There wouldn’t be that connection that I feel in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul if I had to somehow follow a God who couldn’t identify with my life and what I go through.
I know that in my personal life that some individuals I cannot truly identify with; I can’t identify with the issues a single mother faces who survives paycheck-to-paycheck just to put food in her children’s bellies, I can’t identify with being a young Gay man who grows up in a small conservative town where he’s told on a regular basis that being Gay is a sin and an abomination in the eyes of God, I can’t identify with a black guy who despite a rough upbringing he overcame odds and makes it in the corporate world only to suffer the duress of institutionalized racism…I can’t identify with these individuals, but I can empathize, and I can listen to them as they tell their stories, and I can BE with them.

I need a God in my life who can BE with me, which is why the face of God I so often see is a bedraggled, haggard, suffering HUMAN face. It is marred, it is ugly, it hurts like I hurt and yet…it is the face of love, the face of God-with-us, the face of a God who cared so much for ALL of humanity that he set forth to make things right between ALL of us, not just SOME of us.

In this Lenten season I am reminded time and time again of Christ and what he went through as he was with us, and it is encouraging in many ways but one that sticks to my mind regularly is the nature of “go[ing] and do[ing] likewise”. To be a part of humanity not apart from humanity, to love others and serve, to end paradigms that separate US and work towards bringing about perfect shalom and recognize the imago dei/image of God that we all bear. It is also within the context of the lenten season I am aware of where his end and resurrection is ultimately our beginning as well as our own resurrection. Easter brings it all into focus, it is about life and renewal, it is about order being restored and perfect shalom starting to take place with all of humanity.

Love won that day, and continues to win. Each day draws in a bit of perfect shalom for all of  us.
~Nathanael~

Of sushi and the unpackaging of prayer

Last week I made some sushi for myself for the first time ever from scratch. I bought the sushi rice, the seaweed, tuna, salmon, sweetfish roe…and as I made it, I mentally meditated and drifted into prayer, and within the centering of myself I saw in my mind’s eye prayer and how I should give praying a try.

I do communicate with God, which is for all intensive purposes what prayer is, communication with God. Yet I have a habit of thanking God in general terms, but as I rolled the sushi (which I’m actually pretty good at) I got prayer from a sushi point of view.

Sushi, as many of you know, is comprised of the seaweed/rice/some fish or shellfish or related and all of these ingredients make sushi what it is. You can’t remove one ingredient, say the rice, and still call it sushi…and so as I return to praying on a regular basis (to change myself, to change what I can’t via social justice, or even just to BE) with thanking God for all the parts that make for the whole and the whole itself. I’ve already entered in to this form of prayer and I find myself connected, I find myself in tears of happiness in doing this.
Prayer like sushi, who would’ve thought that one of my favorite foods in the whole world would serve me in a way of coming back to prayer? :-)

~Nathanael~