Of God, the universe, and how the more I know the less I know

Imagine if you will the universe. We as humans have a desire to make sense of the world around us as well as the universe around us, and so we send objects in space to take photos of us and then some. What we can see is appropriately known as “The Observable Universe”;

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and it is as we zoom out we can see the complexity and the magnitude of the universe. We get lost in the bigness of it all, we are enamored of the complexity and we are compelled to travel farther into space.

and in a similar fashion, that’s how I “observe” God.

***

It is true, that God is as big as you’ll allow God to be, so if you make God convenient, bite-sized, put-God-in-your-pocket, manageable, domesticated, and so forth…God will remain that small. God will be knowable, comprehensible, understandable, and you never need wonder what is God up to because God has been reduced to a systematic theory and thus is fully known.

But, if you are one for dreaming big and offering up bold statements to God, try this one on for size; “God I want to know more about you, on your terms and not my own”. It’s not an uttering of magic words, it’s simply allowing God to be freed from the constructs we impose upon God.

It is under these circumstances that we go further and further out and see how small we truly are inasmuch how big God is; the box we once contained God to is a mere blip, and the further out we go the less we know and yet it is because of this we are compelled to go out farther still.

***

So let go of the God you once claimed to know and go farther. And as you go out you will see your smallness and fragility, but embrace the fact that God loves you deeply and completely!

~Nathanael~

Grace at our convenience is no grace at all

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I was dwelling and meditating on the nature of the grace the other day, and it crossed my mind; if we are to extend grace to ourselves and others, it should be radical and be freely extended without convenience.

One of the definitions of Convenience is “adds to one’s ease or comfort” and subsequently lies the crux of the situation; grace shouldn’t be at our ease or our comfort, it should be given freely without strings attached.

Yet I think that sometimes the reason (or at least, one of the reasons) grace isn’t extended freely is because we as humans have this thing called memory, and we recall the offense[s] that have happened both past and present and our actions are somewhat dictated by those memories. We want to extend grace, but we remember what was done to us…to our family…to our community, and in remembering perhaps it takes us back to that moment, whether it was a day ago or 10 years prior or even longer.
And that is why I think grace is hard to extend to others and ourselves, because we want to extend it on our terms and when we want to…but I think that flies in the face of what grace is, because grace subverts the norm every time in every way.

***
So where do we go from here when we’re confronted with our own shortcomings as well as the shortcomings of others? I believe in the words of St. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said “It is always the right time to do the right thing” and this time we have in front of us is ideal for extending grace. Not because we ought to do extend grace, but we should, for in some way this very grace is being extended back to us in a way that gives weight to grace being a beautiful example of a symbiotic relationship.

So wrestle with forgiving the offense, be mindful as how you deal with forgetting, and let grace help you let it go.

~Nathanael~

My thoughts as a follower of Christ in regards to ISIL / ISIS

I’ve spent some time contemplating what the response of Christians in light of ISIL & the 21 Coptic martyrs, here’s my short list:
1. Forgive ISIL; it skews their humanity & takes away from their Imago Dei-ness and ours if we don’t forgive.
2. Don’t cherry pick the Koran.
3. Don’t assume all of Islam is violent. Realize that extremists in any religion are usually the smallest voice clamoring to be heard, and it’s their extremism that separates the true followers from the rest.
4. Engage the local Muslim community with open hearts and open ears.
5. Cry out to God as to what the hell is going on, use them fighting words and get real about what bothers the fuck out of you.
6. Choose love over hate, and operate out of love not fear or ignorance.

– Nathanael

I know how to BE, but I don’t [always] know what to say

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to a wake and a service of a young man I kind of knew (I know his family better). I knew about when it would be and I knew where it was being held, but when the time came to head there I changed my mind.
It’s not that I am not uncomfortable with being in the presence of suffering and those who suffer, on the contrary I think I am pretty good at BEing in the present. However, I am prone to overthinking and overanalyzing things, and I talked myself out of going because what if I was told to say something, what if I were to provide verbal comfort?

Where I am at in my journey of life and journey of faith, I cannot bring myself to verbally comfort someone who is suffering. I can sympathize, I can empathize, I can BE, I can be silent…but words, words escape me if someone wanted verbal comfort because I find a lot of comfort words in times of suffering to be trite, cliche, and even the exact opposite of comfort.
To extend myself a bit of grace, I will say this; the words I select are deliberate much of the time, I am careful in self-examining myself in what I am to say a good deal of the time. It is probably because of this I come across as being quiet, but on the contrary, provided I think things through I have quite a bit to say!
But saying anything in times when people are hurting strikes me as taking away from what’s going on, and I rather be than to do, I deliberately choose silence paired with comforting.

***

In hindsight, I wish I went. I wish I went to be present with the brothers, the parents, the extended family, the friends, et al. because if I were able to get out of my head and BE, that’s all that would matter and it would matter immensely as a lot of the time we need someone to listen to us without having anything to say.

Lesson learned,
~Nathanael~

The interconnectedness of trees; we have more in common than not

Today I attended the Aurora Jewish Renewal Congregation, a collective of individuals whom I find to be very inclusive as well as progressive, who admit the diversity in their thinking as well as their theology. Unbeknownst to me until I arrived was that today is Tu B’Shevat in the Jewish calendar.
Tu B’Shevat is essentially New Years Day for trees; a time to come together to thank God for food grown on the vine or tree, but to also be mindful in ecological matters too. It was nice to not only break bread (Challah is becoming one of my favorites) but to also be mindful in the bounty God has given us in the form of dates, apricots, grapes, almonds, and walnuts.

This got me to thinking on my own as well, especially the nature of trees and more to the point, groves of trees and trees intentionally planted to block wind.

https://heritageoakwinery.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/img_0742b.jpg?w=645&h=364
These trees are placed together, their roots are interconnected, they stand together and they support the other…and what does this mean to me? It means to me that we have more in common than we don’t, we have a commingling of divinity and humanity rolled into one, and ultimately- when we stand together, our roots entwined, we are at our strongest when we work together as one.
This truth I have known for sometime, but it sometimes becomes even clearer than it normally is. It is a thing of beauty to have a-ha/eureka moments, it is good to be mindful and aware and thankful and grateful for the diversity and unity of interconnectedness of friends across the spectrum of life.

Thanks be to God!
~Nathanael~

It’s okay to not be okay…and other truths

It’s okay…

It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to dream small and dream big.
It’s okay to not dream at all.
It’s okay to have faith.
It’s okay to doubt.
It’s okay to be denominationally aligned.
It’s okay to be a free range soul.
It’s okay to have opinions.
It’s okay to change your mind.
It’s okay to read read the religious texts of other religions.
It’s okay to read comic books.
It’s okay to love yourself.
It’s okay to love others.
It’s okay to love the opposite sex.
It’s okay to love the same sex.
It’s okay to love your friends.
It’s okay to love your enemies.
It’s okay to be in crowds.
It’s okay to make a fort out of pillows and read alone.
It’s okay to silently meditate.
It’s okay to crank it to eleven and jump on your bed as you did when you were a kid.
It’s okay to remember.
It’s okay to forget.
It’s okay to have busy days.
It’s okay to have days to yourself.
It’s okay to listen to your favorite musicians.
It’s okay to listen to something new.
It’s okay to hug.
It’s okay to kiss.
It’s okay to laugh.
It’s okay to cry.
It’s okay to hope.
and (once again for posterity sake)
it’s okay to not be okay.

~Nathanael~

what do you do when your inclusive community has conflict?

I honestly don’t know.

But I am willing to learn, willing to BE a part of this experience, and hope for the best because I really don’t know how it’ll play out…
Community can be a complicated thing sometimes, because people are complicated and come with complications. It’s not that they can’t be worked through, in fact, the differences and complications flavor a community even more so as a result. Yet I realize that a community works best if there’s a common purpose for all even if those individuals are coming from diverse backgrounds. It makes it that much more easier if said individuals can each vocalize in their own way, why they’re “here” and perhaps even where they’re coming from that has brought them to this point.
So the best I can surmise at this time within my community is that provided we’re honest to ourselves and to others as to what’s going on, we’ll be able to get through this. If members choose to bottle up their emotions (and provided they keep it solely there) they hurt themselves only…not the healthiest of options, but not everyone is able to communicate what’s going on, let alone, communicate what they’re feeling or thinking.

~Nathanael~