My personal rules of engagement

Earlier today one of my former youth ministry students informed me that he will be visiting a Hindu temple in my area, he asked my insight since I visit different places of worship every now and then. He asked me my insight and I gave it to him, I asked his permission to repost what I sent him and here it is.

1) Take time to listen – it might be obvious, but I truly believe it needs to be done.

2) Look for common ground – I think too often followers of Christ (I speak as one of them) are under the impression that people of different belief systems are 180 degrees from Christianity. Yet as you listen to their stories, you’ll hear how they want to do unto others, they want to feed the poor, they want to honor God, etc. As followers of Christ as we listen, we can find out that we have so much many more commonalities than differences!

3) Dialogue over debate – If you think about how debate works it’s about 2 sides coming up with the most compelling argument so as to defeat the other, the one who has the better argument “wins” and the other person “loses”. In life going by that model will only take you so far, and it will actually be the grounds of alienation between yourself and others. When you dialogue with others, regardless of where you’re at and wherever they’re at, it allows room to talk despite the differences that are present. Dialogue isn’t about about “winning” it’s about communicating, it’s about expressing yourself and allowing others to express themselves as well. It is better to make peace than be “right”.

4) The norms of other belief systems are their own norms – When you think about the Hindu belief system, one thing that you’ll get pretty quickly is their polytheistic belief system. As followers of Christ we might perceive that as wrong, but is it “wrong” or is it fact their norm? It’s what they perceive as normal, so who’s to tell them otherwise? Instead of going with the models of missionaries and colonists in the past of having a particular group of people go with their self-imposed norms, why not engage people where they’re at. Surely, God is big enough to work within the framework of a polytheistic society. Be with people; true incarnational ministry isn’t about bringing in your model of thoughts and ideas and discarding what their norms are will not go over well, let God lead you and guide you, don’t leave your faith at the door, but sometimes you need to step back from Christianity in order to move forward with God and those you’re interacting with.

5) Engagement over judgment – Avoidance is sometimes a problem for followers of Christ; instead of engaging the people around them, they choose to come up with assumptions and sometimes hurtful statements without actually getting to know that group of people. Walking a mile in someone shoes, getting to know them on their terms and in their territory needs to be done. Too often I see followers of Christ who sit on their haunches and wait around with the air of “well when you get your act together, we’ll help you out then”, but as I read the parable Jesus told of a Prodigal Son, it is the father who sees his son off in the distance and runs to him and embraces him. The son’s the one who screwed up royally, in fact he was going back to the father to simply see if there was an opportunity for him to become one of the servants, he didn’t come back with the expectation of being taken back in as the son, of being in good standings with the father, he was expecting to be treated as the lowest. Yet the father takes him back, takes him in as he is and not as how he should be, and if we as followers of Christ can emulate that behavior, our witness will go a lot further in a positive way.

6) Love wins – 1 Corinthians 13, while so often deemed The Wedding Chapter because it’s used as such, should really be a checklist for followers of Christ. By going by what Jesus said as recorded in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We are called to be his witnesses, not the jury or the judge, because God alone knows our thoughts and our hearts. We at the very core of our beings should live out that love to everyone, not just among those who get along with us, but to EVERYONE! It takes time, it is very difficult, but we are instructed by Jesus to do so.

7) It begins with God and it ends with God – I believe in a God who is so big that he will meet us where we are. I am not saying that all roads lead to God, because I believe we have to go through Jesus to get to God, but within that framework I don’t believe it’s tied down to Christianity exclusively. We as followers of Christ do not bring anyone to God, God alone brings people to God, and it is our freewill to accept or not. But when does the average person run out of chances of making that choice? I honestly don’t know, some people might speculate and say the obvious answer is that someone dies, then and there is the “last time”, but again, we don’t know from this side of eternity if death is indeed the final call, that is God’s business not ours. Should we share what we have faith in with others? Absolutely, we’re called to be disciples and disciple others, but again it begins with God and ends with God. When it comes down to it, God doesn’t need us to help him out, but he invites us to! Ministry shouldn’t be so much wrapped up in the person who’s leading it, it should be about what God is doing through the ministry, and sometimes that means stepping out of the way and letting God do what he’s going to do. That might be a hard pill to swallow, but I’ve been learning in youth ministry, that sometimes that is the place I need to be.

Lastly I say this; when you choose to interact with people who might not be coming from your viewpoint, don’t go at it with “Christian eyes” but with the eyes of God, with the ears of God, and with the heart of God. If you don’t have love, what good are you? I don’t say that accusing you of something you’re doing, but keep your reasons in check, if it’s not out of love, then you will only go as far as a mere human being can go…but if you go with the love of God, you will go a lot further than you imagined, it might frighten you because at times that can lead to unexplored territory at times, but it needs to be done, following the tracks of what “everyone” else is doing will leave you with the same results. Choose to be a leader so that others too can learn from your example and blaze an unmarked path of their own, to God be the glory in all things!

~Nathanael~

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Holding on to hope

Holding on to hope

Some days I am me,
others I play the fool and act like someone else,
act like who they want me to be.
But when I get down to the truth of the matter,
the better part of me, the best of me is me!
I’ve been playing this charade for far too long,
this facade I wear is wearing thin.
How long oh Lord?
How long indeed.
I need to take God by faith,
not wrapped up in certainly disguised as faith,
but faith,
as a child who holds on to the hand of the one he trusts,
so I want to hold on to hope,
so I want to surrender and fall into love,
fall into my questions and doubts,
and when I am worse for wear…to walk out anew.
I have faith that I will get there,
maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow,
the road is long but God bless the road that will lead me to where I need to be.
Hope is where my heart is,
Faith is where my eyes are when I cannot see,
I was lost,
and I remained lost,
and perhaps I am still lost,
but someday I will be found.

~Nathanael~

Dog Tired

Dog Tired

For what of what I don’t have, I desire,
and for what exactly?
Meaningless meaningless everything is meaningless,
what has a beginning has an ending,
what has a start has a finish.
I am dog tired,
I am lonesome,
I am weary and downcast over events I cannot control,
Oh how I wish I could save the day,
but I cannot.
Oh how I wish I could tell you that you deserve better,
but I cannot.
What cannot be said remains locked up within me,
I need to let go, but I am foolish and strong-willed and am headstrong.
Someday I won’t have to carry this load,
Someday I won’t be the fool I am now.
Someday.

~Nathanael~

Some Days

Some Days


Some days…
Some days I rather stay in bed,
Some days I rather do nothing rather than something,
Some days each step is like a prayer,
Some days each step is like being in shackles.
The dreary, the doubtful,
The lost, the lonesome,
The weary and wandering,
Lost in a land that seems so bleak with no sign of grace on the horizon.
Awake.
Awake my dreary soul,
Awake from your slumber,
Awake from your anxious state,
Arise.
Arise with the dawning,
Arise with the imperfect,
Arise and take hold of what you can,
get by get help and get going.
Awake!
Arise!

~Nathanael~

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What I’m poor in/What it means to be a man

Not too long ago my father asked me do I consider myself poor, my response to him was in what form. Because as I think about it, being poor, lacking something, doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of money or a roof over your head, there are other types of being poor than that type.

So I explored this question introspectively, if I am poor what am I poor in? It came to me all too suddenly, I am poor in the sense of what it means to be a man. My response to my father is as follows…

If I am honest with myself and where I’m at, the only thing I consider myself poor in, is a sense of what a man’s supposed to be; while I err on the side of being an egalitarian, life in general and certainly the church, the attitude fluxes. Either the guy has to be meek and mild, a pushover, a Yes-dear-I’m-sorry type, or a red meat eating, whiskey swilling, testosterone junkie who works crazy long hours to support his family which there’s no irony to me with those who consider money equals time invested. So I hang on to hope, have faith, and in the words of Bono; transcend the bullshit.

This is what I told my father, this is what I stand by, because I don’t have a freaking clue as to what a man’s supposed to be. I do hope that someday this Johnny finds his June and we settle down, have a family, raise some kids, celebrate holidays, go on vacations…but I am scared shitless at times; shitless over the nature of this world sometimes, the way humanity sucks the big one in regards to how I treat my fellow man and how my fellow man treats me. I did recently question if I want to help raise a family in this world, and as I watched the sunset and pondered/questioned/prayed this into the deepest crevasses of my heart and soul, I know…I feel it within me, that YES I do.

So that’s me, that’s my poverty, but I am doing what I can to get to where I need to be in life. To continue hanging on to hope, to continue having faith, and to continue transcending the bullshit.

~Nathanael~

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No I’m not dead!

I am back. Had to take a hiatus from the interwebs for a short while, but I am back. My time apart has proven to be better than I expected, and I have continued to write with pen-and-paper which has been good in its own right. Something will be posted here that’s of significance.

I hope you’re all doing well,
Nathanael