Learning and wanting to love again

Love, love is a verb. It’s not a verb because old school DC Talk told me so, it is a verb, it must be active and acted upon in order for its sustainability. But love cannot be sustained if it’s unilateral, and the whole notion of falling in love…it’s temporal and a weak perception of love, because if you can fall in love (hypothetically) you certainly can fall out…and I don’t know anyone who likes the latter, it hurts like hell and leaves one in pieces that take a while to gather, it also leaves one guarded and with a mindset of never again will I fall in love and to that I think it’s good never to fall in love again.

But when it comes to acting on love, being active with love, sustainable and bilateral love…I’m ready to learn how to love again.

Love is universal, but how love is acted out varies from couple to couple; a good book that tackles different love languages is The 5 Love Languages, I highly recommend it, and in the same vein of thought to some degree I recommend Sex God.

In the movie Hot Tub Time Machine there’s this dialogue between one of the characters (a product of the 2000’s) and another character (product of the 1980’s) and I think at times it does sum up love;

Jacob: I’m kinda right in the middle of a thing right now, but can I text you later?
Girl at Club: Can you what?
Jacob: Are you online at all?
Girl at Club: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Jacob: How do I get a hold of you?
Girl at Club: You come find me.
Jacob: That sounds… exhausting.

“You come find me” love beckons, love calls and at times love is indeed “exhausting” but for me, it is worth the exhaustion. It is worth the chance of having my heart ripped out and stomped on again…I’m not stupid, I’m not going to give away myself cheaply, I know the kind of girl I am looking for and I hope she’s looking for me as well.

When I proactively look for love, I deem it “praying with my eyes open”; Love won’t simply fall into my lap, heck if that happened how sustainable if it just came to me, but it is something I must search out and take to God in prayer. I want to love and be loved, I am ready to do my part in the process of looking for love…it is time, now is that time for me. 🙂

~Nathanael~

The prayer of serenity

Some of you may be familiar with the prayer of serenity/serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

I purchased a small stained glass depiction of the prayer above earlier today, because I like the prayer and because at times I actually need to follow what it says! 🙂

To which if I examine it carefully and internalize and process what it says… Somehow by the grace of God I will be granted serenity, I will be able to accept what I cannot change, I’ll have the courage to change what I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

The crucial part of this prayer for me is the acceptance of what I cannot change and wisdom for what I can change, because right now that’s hard for me to get, hard for me to grasp, because there definitely are circumstances in my life I wish I could change and maybe…just maybe, they fall in the acceptance box of not being able to change it, and sometimes that is very hard for me to deal with and simply accept. I do recognize to some extent of what I am capable of doing to bring about change, bring about restoration and reconciliation, to help in Kingdom of God work with the strengths and talents God has given me.

Having this little piece of stained glass will help me to remember and perhaps even offer up this very prayer. I am a work in progress, and God knows and I know that I have this one life to get there, and it is certainly by God’s strength alone that I am able to get where I need to be in my life.

So even as I write… God I do so desperately want to have the wisdom to know what I can change and to accept that I cannot change, I need you so much to get there, I need you so much to help me let go, help me in my self righteousness and when I think I am capable of doing it all without your help, help me and hold me…Amen!

~Nathanael~

Some things I’ve been thinking about (do different versions of the Bible truly make a difference?)

*This is the majority of a letter I recently wrote to some individuals I met at a Bible study that is in support of followers of Christ reading the KJV only, because they believe it is the most accurate version.*

***

Upon my comparing of verses in the KJV and NIV that were mentioned the other day (John 9:6, 1 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Daniel 7:10, Revelation 20:11, Genesis 1:2, Jeremiah 23:1-2, Matthew 7:22, Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-34 and Revelation 11:1-2) I certainly agree that there is a difference in language used as well as language omitted. But as I thought about the verses given to me to cross examine, despite the differences surrounding language, none of the verses seemed a deal breaker to my faith.

For instance, John 9:6 is an account of Jesus healing a blind man. In the KJV it says clay, in the NIV it says mud. Regardless of what substance was made by Jesus which was used to heal the blind man doesn’t cause my faith to waiver. A blind man’s sight was restored to him, and whatever substance used to heal him isn’t something to get hung up on. Focusing on whether it was clay or mud instead of the miracle performed is in my opinion missing the point.
With that being said I believe God is big enough to speak to our hearts and minds regardless of what version of the Bible we choose to use.

When it comes to baptism, I view it as an outward symbol much akin to Communion. Baptism doesn’t save you, believing in whom Jesus is and what he did and what he’s still doing, that is what saves you. Personally I don’t like using the word “saved” in regards to my journey of following Christ, as it seems to have the connotation that the saving work of Christ is isolated to one particular moment in our spiritual journey.
I believe that the saving God has to offer us is continuous, that God saved me yesterday and he will save me yet again today. To reduce the saving as a onetime occurrence seems theistic in nature and makes God out to be small, cruel, and actually apart from his creation. God offered up “it is good” again and again throughout the creation narrative, and I believe that he hasn’t retracted this statement despite how horrible we humans treat one another as well as this Earth he has given us.

Another thing about pertaining to baptism, this symbol shouldn’t create a sense of elitism. There was a similar issue in the early church in which there was a division caused male Jewish Christians to consider themselves better than Greek Christians, as they were circumcised while the Greeks were not. Yet Acts 15:7-11 reveals that Peter spoke up in regards to this matter to which he said in verse 11; “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (KJV). It was through the grace, not the external symbolism of circumcision that merited them salvation.

In regards to Communion, I’m in support of an open table, as my pastor Jeffry says; “It’s a table set by God and not by us.” God already knows the hearts and minds of those who come to partake in Communion. Who am I to judge or state that “those people” cannot have Communion? Besides stating “those people” whoever “they” might be fosters the unhealthy paradigm of “us versus them” and I don’t like it, I rather tear down walls than build more or enforce ones that sadly still exist.

When it comes to sharing the Gospel message, I’m in support of evangelization but by no means conversion. The language and history surrounding conversion and converting strikes me as hostile, as if the reason someone chooses to follow Christ is because the ultimatum is some form of punishment. One should choose to become a follower of Christ on their own accord, and not based on the basis of converting or conversion. Some things I recognize as I share the Gospel message with those my age and those in the high school youth ministry I’m a part of is that it all starts with relationship; in order to build the bridges that may lead to someone becoming a follower of Christ, it starts with getting to know the person and being their friend for being a friend’s sake, if it is with the motive to make them into a follower of Christ, one’s plans might backfire and the true motive of that so-called “relationship” may be exposed for what it truly is and it’s a damn shame.

My generation and those slightly younger than me may be deemed postmodern and that truth isn’t spelled with a capital T, that is, “what’s true for you is true for you, what’s true for me is true for me, because truth is relative based on the individual only.” While it might seem like this is a characteristic of living in postmodern times, I recognize that an important part of my generation’s DNA is the importance of story/personal narrative. God certainly uses our stories (testimonies) because they point to his story. Because of the importance of story I definitely see the hand of God using this to help individuals like me reach out to those who are hungering for spiritual food, desiring to know God and to find out what truth and life is really all about.

When it comes to following Christ it is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, whoever said that it was easy is a liar! I like how Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it; “when God calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
The death Bonhoeffer spoke of is a dying to self and that which was us prior to Jesus moving into the neighborhood. As we grow closer to God as less of us remains and more of him comes to the surface and stays. Following Christ, living unto him and dying to ourselves may cost us everything including our lives but as it says in Matthew 10:39; “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (KJV).

With all that being said, the God presented to me the other day is too small, manageable, contained and tame for my liking. May God continually meet you and the other individuals on your spiritual journeys as I’m sure he’ll meet me on mine. For it is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

All is Grace,
Nathanael

If legalism had a face I would kick it in the teeth

This is the meaning of true love – to give until it hurts – Mother Teresa

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely abhor legalism.

Legalism is defined as “strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit”

I sometimes work with people who are legalistic, and their self-proclaimed legalism keeps them from giving freely out of their abundance. It can be rather disheartening to see these people give sparingly and with an ungrateful heart, my thoughts usually are “then WHY even help?” In a way, the people I know remind me of the Bible story of Ananias and Sapphira who decide to sell a piece of property and give the profits to the church, but the clincher is that they bring the money forward and say this is the entirety of what it was sold for and yet they held back a portion of what they made for themselves! So their intention was to hold back some of it in a dishonest fashion, and when they lied to the apostles God revealed they had lied and stuck both of them dead.

Now I’m not saying God will strike you dead for lying, but there is something to giving out of one’s abundance in a stingy way, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) and with what we can share with others God delights in our giving, but I’m quite certain he would rather have us give because we want to and not because we have to, let alone giving without love in our hearts.

But I also combating legalism through the lens of the Prophet Micah as it says in Micah 6:8:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
– To act justly
– to love mercy
– to walk humbly with your God
I may not be the audience Micah was speaking to, but I think there’s something to acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. When brought to the light, being legalistic and having legalism goes against acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, so maybe with this passage found in the Old Testament it can serve as a litmus test to figure out if we’re doing right by God as well as others; if our hearts and minds are in check for what we’re doing and the attitude to which we’re doing things.

We should give out of love; love for God and a love for others, and sometimes it’s easy to see that we’re doing this and other times it is difficult. Regardless we need to give for the right reasons and not be caught up in our own legalism as well as others.

~Nathanael~

Why I take and make time to pray

As I think about it, my 2 favorite quotes about prayer are as follows:

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me. – C.S. Lewis

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and I asked him to forgive me. – Emo Phillips

Now I won’t say that C.S. Lewis’ polar opposite is Emo Phillips, but they certainly aren’t bedfellows. But despite their differences there’s something to be said about what their take on prayer is. C.S. Lewis’ reason for praying is one of recognizing his utter helplessness and dependency upon God, prayer is about him changing and not necessarily God. Emo Phillips’ take on prayer is one that says (satirically) that sometimes prayer isn’t enough, social action needs to be paired with what we offer up to God, and maybe that in itself is how our prayer gets answered (granted, stealing a bike isn’t right, but it is a clever analogy of prayer combined with social action).

Now when I think about the reasons why I pray, I think my number one reason is because if prayer is communication with God and all relationships are dependent on communication, why wouldn’t I want to talk to God and take time to be in his presence and even take time to listen. I also pray because I need a father figure in my life, and honestly God’s a lot closer to me than my father, I feel his presence and love and comfort in a world, my personal world, which at times feels completely FUBAR.

I usually address God as Father God due to some discomfort with the word “dad” due to my situation, but I am fine with others calling God “dad” or “Abba” or something else. I tend to avoid “Thanksgiving prayer” vernacular and length, I usually speak from the heart or the gut. The Psalmist David was at times all shot and no chaser, I too let God “have it” with my prayers, I’m glad he can handle what I have to say because sometimes he’sthe onlyone who can handle it…and who better than God, the creator of everything, to handle it all. 🙂

The other day at the church where I help out with the high school youth group, the leader & my friend of 18 years, Ben H led the students and the leaders into a time of prayer, quiet/silent prayer. It’s not the first time he’s led prayer in this way and it can be unnerving and unraveling to pray in silence. If we had more time I probably could’ve gotten lost (in a good way) in the silence, but we only did it for a brief while. It was good to pray in this way, and it was very encouraging to get feedback from the guy group as to what they thought about praying in this manner, some could handle it and some could not, but I think that every now and then it needs to be practiced whether it can be done or not, trying in this case matters whether one is successful or not.

Prayer is a vital part of my life, and like C.S. Lewis prayer primarily changes me and then God and like Emo Phillips prayer isn’t considering God to be a genie that grants my prayers as if they were wishes, sometimes the answers to my prayers is me by way of social justice and related. For these reasons and others I continue to pray.

~Nathanael~