Rambling confession; I am human, I am fragile

Over this past weekend I acquired a 24 hour fever. I seldom get sick but when I do I despise it.

Being sick is part of being human, but it’s ultimately a leveling ground of our fragility. No immune system is strong enough to ward off being sick, and I honestly wish mine was.
Sickness leaves me tired and restless; I want the solace of my bed but sleeping away the hours is hardly my idea of a good time. Sickness makes my skin crawl, my body’s hot one second and freezing the next, this flux sucks. Sickness drains my appetite; I’m hungry for food, a nice cold beer would hit the spot, but I’m left to eating soft foods and staying hydrated solely by water really chaps my ass.
As if the fever wasn’t bad enough, I had a pounding headache and a ringing in my ears. While I slept I had all the above and nightmares, making my possible relief impossible.

***

And after the fever broke, my bones and joints felt brittle and lined with glass. I walked slowly, timidly, haphazardly. Hell, despitefully this lumbering disposition I managed to fall down my stairs in my apartment. This heaped a bit insult to injury because I stayed there a while, I didn’t bounce back up from that and I was reminded to take things slowly. I hate taking things slowly.
The eating solid foods curve post-sickness is a sharp one. I’m glad I have no major appetite, but still the body needs sustenance. Soup and sandwich, delicious when I’m well nausea-inducing when I’m recovering.
The nightmares returned, this time a tormenting “everyone dies alone” was played on repeat for 3 hours. When it had ended, I awoke to the fact that as I was subconscious, I shit myself- need I continue on how vulnerable and helpless I feel?

I will get better, but it’s an exasperating process that I would rather skip. And yet in my vulnerable state I’m surprisingly mindful to what’s around me and what I’ll going through. I am also aware that God is present to my suffering, and despite horrific nightmares I know I will not die alone (whenever that day might occur).

Here’s to recovery, here’s to vulnerability.
– Nathanael –

Church incognito; of silence and community, my experience at a Friends Meeting (Quakers)

Now prior to attending a Quaker service on April 12th, my knowledge of them was very limited. I knew they were prone to be progressive and peaceful, prone to social justice both in small and large ways. With that in mind I decided to go to the one nearest me.

As I got to the door I was greeted warmly and was handed a pamphlet about Quakers. I was encouraged to attend the church meeting as I was a bit early for the service. The meeting addressed some financial issues, and after that a call to silence occurred, and what was lively discussion quickly became collective quiet.

Quietness, sheer quietness. It reminded me to a certain extent John Cage’s 4’33 piece, but there was something sacred to it that I was unfamiliar with on a larger scale.

The silence was broken by a handshake, and it became mutual and communal. I met a good portion of those gathered as there were less than 30 people gathered for the meeting. We gathered together outside the sanctuary, they were curious as to my interest and I divulged to them this project, they were glad that I was there and I could feel it too and it was not a shallow feeling in the slightest.

After having engaged those around me, I took some time to be on my own in the form of reading over the titles on their many bookshelves. A lot of the books I have read or have some knowledge of; progressive Christianity books alongside books by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, my kind of library!

***
Shortly there after the service started, a service that didn’t involve singing but rather praying and meditating and mindfulness all in silence. I was aware of this in advance, and as their website puts it;

“Our Meeting is based on silent worship. It is

possible that no one will speak during the entire

meeting. Anyone is free to speak if he or she feels

moved to it by a leading from the Light within. Each

message will help someone, but our needs differ. If

the message does not “speak to your condition,” try

to reach the spirit behind the words. We maintain

silence for at least a few minutes after vocal

ministry to give time for a message to reach a quiet

center.”

I adapted to this style quickly…albeit too quickly, as I found myself listening to nature outside and the grumblings of stomach inside (mine as well as others). My thoughts found its center time and time again, but I admit I grew internally restless because I am unaccustomed to such a service. I mentally made note of the congregation makeup; one kid, two adults close to my age, and a lot of people in their mid 50s and older. More women than men, and all seemed content to be there.

At the 53rd minute of the service, a woman stood up and talked about wildflowers and faith, how sometimes it is visible to ourselves and others, and other times it lays dormant. And yet it is there even if we don’t see it. It was beautiful and simple, and she was the only one who spoke during the service. It started in silence and ended with communal handshakes.

After the service we gathered in the dining hall to partake in banana bread, fruit, and cookies. I met even more people and they too wanted to hear about my church incognito project. I took time to listen as much as I could, and I talked about what being a Quaker means to them.

I realized from the individuals I talked to when I posed the question “what does being a Quaker mean to you?” that a lot of them resonated with the mysterious nature of God, the part of God that cannot fully be grasped. They were okay to live in the unknown-ness and it caused no distress to them. I also gathered that a lot of them were first generation Quakers coming from mostly Catholic church backgrounds.

I talked a great deal to one woman in particular because as we got to talking it became evident that we’re in the same work field! It was interesting to hear about her perspectives and experiences, and what she hoped to imprint upon others and integrate into her practice.

The Quakers I spent time with were wonderful, hospitable people. Not only to I the visitor but to each other, tending to the needs of each other out of love in the context of community. It was good to engage in their core values, but more importantly to see them in action because that is what matters most, faith in action.

~Nathanael~

Church incognito; from darkness into light, my experience at St. Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church

On April 11th and part of April 12th I attended St. Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church to usher in Pasha, or Easter. I first noticed that for a 11pm service the parking lot was packed! I almost had to park on the grass on the property, but thankfully I didn’t have to. As I approached the entrance I heard some chanting, which sounded live (until they cut it off midway). There weren’t any seats in the sanctuary, so I and a lot of other people were directed to the overflow seating arrangement in their dining hall, in which we caught the service in the form of HDCS (high definition church service) played via projector and projection screen.

It was a bit on the noisy side at first, not in a bad way but one of hopeful anticipation. A bit of cantoring based upon the scripture reading from the gospel of Mark, first in Greek followed up by English, all the while signing the cross was done in homage. And after the gospel reading it got dark, really dark, they actually made it even darker in the building by unscrewing light bulbs for a brief time.

The priest had a lit candle and altar boys and girls came forward and had their candles lit, and from there they lit all the other candles in the church. It was beautiful! I have never been part of a candlelight service that moved from darkness into light. I was left in awe at this practice because I find it to be the nature of things; the darkness before dawn, the bad that seems to prevail in the world and yet God…and good, is pushing forward all the more.
People were leaving at a quick rate and so I moved from the overflow seating arrangement to the sanctuary.

When I got there I took time to take in the icons; I appreciate iconography (I have a few) and to see the host of saints, the holy family, Jesus, etc. was beautiful and I took it in with all my senses. The pine resin incense took me back to my first time attending a Greek Orthodox service, also on Pasha, many years ago with my father. These things are not common in the Protestant tradition, but I appreciate them nonetheless because it resonates with me the mystery of faith and certainly the unknown-ness of God that I will never fully grasp while I am living but striving to learn more but never know all (not that it is humanly possible in the first place).
I left shortly after 1am and there were still a lot of people gathered to worship and celebrate Pasha together. It was good to be a part of this service, I enjoyed it greatly for it nourished my mind as well as my soul.

~Nathanael~

Church Incognito: In the beginning…

Because of a change in my work schedule, I now have a traditional Saturday and Sunday weekend. So I have decided that I will help out with my church’s youth group on Saturdays and visit different churches in my area on Sundays.

I am undertaking this task because I like diversity in community, that is, the more we might appear in our differences the more we are actually the same. I’ve grown up in the church and there are some traditions of faith that are unfamiliar to me, and so it is my intention to engage in said traditions of faith both in showing up, but also by interacting with those who attend if I am able to do so.
I have no guidelines as to what places I will attend, but I will allow the Holy Spirit to prompt and guide me in finding God in church (building) and Church (the people). I will be honest and sincere with others. I will listen, take notes, and BE and perhaps even DO with others. I will have fun. I will listen with open ears and an open heart. I will be dutiful in writing about my experiences here.

Onward and upward!
~Nathanael~

Morning Meditation 3.31.15

image

Morning Meditation 3.31.15

Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Today I and many people remember & celebrate the lives of our transgender brothers and sisters. It is International Transgender Day of Visibility.

While discrimination affects the lgbtq community a great deal, those who are #transgender face more discrimination both inside and out.

As an ally, I have been blessed by my transgender brothers and sisters, and so I aim to stop and address transphobia as it occurs around me. I will carry out justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God and with the lgbtq community.

We still have a long way to go, but I believe we’re getting there :)

~ Nathanael~

I come to the bible with baggage

At my church we recently started a new series called “the white space” (click here for the message from last weekend) and it’s a series about exploring;

The Bible.

Who wrote it? Why do we have it? What’s the purpose of it? Is it to be taken literally or not?

How do we engage the Bible in a way that opens us to the kind of transformation and change that it’s meant to bring in our lives individually and together as a community?

I missed out hearing it last weekend, but this morning as I listened to it via the podcast I started dwelling on what the bible means to me, and it led me to realizing that I come to the bible with baggage.

http://www.lotnisko-chopina.pl/en/airport/about-the-airport/pressroom/news/2013/2/improved-baggage-handling-at-chopin-airport/image

The baggage I come to the bible is threefold; it’s what I gleaned from the bible through my father’s lens, my mother’s lens, and my own lens.
Disclaimer: not all of what I’ve gleaned over the years can be summed up in “good” or “bad” terms, it’s what I learned and it shaped me and still to a certain extent it shapes me. My views of God and the bible 5 years ago doesn’t necessarily reflect where I am now and what I think, evolution in this regard should be embraced not looked at with contempt.

With that being said, what I gleaned from the bible via my father was a black and white stance, a literal take on nearly everything in the bible. I recognized his emphases were on verses concerning Paul rather than Jesus. I also got the feeling that God was out to get humanity, or at the very least a portion of humanity.
I remember when I was either 6 or 7 in our basement we had a easel with a large pad of paper on it, and on it was the Calvinist TULIP acronym on it and a cross shaped bridge between God and humanity. I learned both of their meanings from my father, but even then I wrestled with this take on God.
From my mom I learned I was not good, because “only God is good”, I was called bad but good was never affixed to me. I also learned sin, as she defined it, was whatever separated us from God (and in a way I still hold onto this view). She instilled the majority of my spiritual life between the two of them; bible studies, read-the-bible-in-a-year, “our daily bread” daily devotional, prayer time.

I don’t regret this part of my upbringing, it laid a foundation, my foundation, of who I am today. It served as building blocks and not stepping stones; that is, it built me spiritually, it wasn’t a jumping off to another item, and so on.

***

And yet, as it naturally happens, my views changed. More to the point, I changed. It was gradual, but I realize a common theme; God put people in my life who indirectly caused me to think differently, a gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit to reexamine my thoughts and ideas and views. I will say this, that whenever you encounter “the others” in your life, you might have to change what you hold dear, because people from all walks of life matter to God.
So many of my thoughts and perspectives were laid to waste, my assumptions and presumptions were dismissed, and my level of grace extended and received multiplied exponentially…Thanks be to God!

But still, I carry quite a bit baggage when it comes to the bible. If I’m honest with myself I am usually combatant when people drop a “well you know Paul said about that” in a conversation, and I’m quick to retort “yeah? Well what did Jesus say about that?” Paul has his say in quite a bit of the New Testament, and I want to delve into what he said but it’s hard for me to do sometimes.

But I want to. I want to engage in difficult texts, I want to engage with Christians who have different stories and philosophies and theologies that differ from my own, I want to and I believe I’m moving in that direction.

This past weekend this model of reading the bible was discussed:
image

And it’s what I needed and also what I wanted. God and this model will help me get out of my head and into my heart, inasmuch it’s going from internal practice to external behaviors.
I come with baggage, but I’m able to discard it in a healthy manner that respects both my past and my present, and certainly as God will lead me- my future.

~Nathanael~

Morning meditation 3.30.15

Morning mediation 3.30.15

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We live in a world that’s beautiful, and before you try to sway me into thinking / believing otherwise, here’s my 2 litas. As we enter into Holy Week, we know where this road winds; we know the crowds who waved palm branches will be the ones clamoring to crucify Jesus.
And once we get to Golgotha, we face Jesus on the cross. We collectively put him there, and God leveled with humanity and “it is finished” was uttered and Jesus died for all of humanity, and 3 days later rose again.

It is finished, the God so many then (and even now) thought was out to get them, to destroy them, gave his only son as a gift to humanity. ALL of humanity, not a select few, not to those who followed him, not to those who sing the church songs / know the bible verses / tithe 10%… ALL. OF. HUMANITY.

We as followers of Christ should live that out, the actions of what Jesus said and did to those around us. We shouldn’t be living with our heads down, distancing ourselves, and taking on a false piety that we have the corner on God. We don’t and never will.
God reveals Godsself to all of mankind and womankind time and time again. I try to conduct my life in light of what Jesus said and did, I live in light of the resurrection.

And the world before then and now and beyond our finite mortal coils will get progressively better. It might not seem that way, but believe it or not, perfect shalom is on the horizon.
All of humanity will be reconnected and reunited with their creator, all will be set in a place of peace. This I believe with every cell in my body.
“It is finished” is also a posture of moving forward, to play an active role in this world around us. Don’t let your existence be one of coasting, we need you!

It is by playing a part we make the world a beautiful place. It is a good world, and will continue to be because “it is finished”. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we too find ours as well, and by doing so we can live that out to everyone around us.
There will come a day where everyone will utter this universal truth, and what a glorious day that will be!

~ Nathanael~