Faith is inclusive

Sometimes I think that matters of faith, Christian-wise or otherwise, are perceived as being exclusive to whomever is in that particular insert-belief-system-here. When I read the accounts of what Jesus said and did, it’s interesting to whom Jesus perceives as having faith outside of the realm of those who are “supposed” to have faith (perceptively, not actually);
– The friends of the paralyzed man who was lowered from the ceiling to the floor (Mark 2:5)
– The Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13)
The faith of friends and the faith of an agent of the government oppressing the Jews are recognized as individuals of faith, for their hope that Jesus is capable and willing to help out. I find it amazing as to the words that are said to be of Jesus’ interaction with the centurion; “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith”. Jesus found great faith in someone who was “the other” and it is something he wasn’t able to find amongst his own people!

I think we need to recognize the wisdom and subsequently people of faith outside of our own traditions, and I also think that people who align themselves with atheism have insight and wisdom as well. In the words of Thomas Aquinas; “beware the man of one book”, my faith comes from God and what I have read about God in the Bible, a God who is loving and full of grace. Yet even though I have read portions of the Torah, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, there is truth to be found, and God is found within truth because God is truth.

Search, doubt, and wrestle with your faith, but recognize this; all truth is God’s truth.

~Nathanael~

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Coming back to prayer (like a child)


(St. Francis of Assisi in a moment of prayer and meditation)

I have been astray from a regular prayer life as of late. I truly pray for others and their concerns, but there are times when I get caught up in prayer and yet I know it is communication with God.

I get caught up because I start thinking and analyzing how I can be the answer to my prayers. It is true, sometimes we are the answer to our prayers, and when we are I think we should act on it. But there are times where we can’t be the answer, that the solution doesn’t lie at our fingertips, but still I fight this more than I should.

Prayer doesn’t make me out to be weak, it does point to where I realize I sometimes don’t have control over what’s going on but just like in day-to-day life I need help. Yet my mentality about prayer has been warped at times because I self-delude myself into thinking “I got this” and subsequently leave God off to the side until I need God. I can’t say that it’s been truly detrimental, but sometimes I wrestle with my thoughts and feelings on my own, I’m selfish about this too much of the time.

***

One quote that has renewed my spirit is one from C.S. Lewis, he said; “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.

Prayer is communication with God, and like a father who’s there so I should return to him as his child and pour out my heart with no guile, no perception of having to tidy up my words and thoughts. My analytical skills are useful, but they hamper me with being real with myself and situation[s] in the realm of prayer, and yet God knows my heart and my mind, God knows what I long and ache for at the core of my being. This is why I want to come back to praying as a child, because a child has an innocence about them that is endearing for not having gone through the strains that come with life, a child trusts and believes in good more over than bad, a child loves without strings attached because it doesn’t get bogged down in analysis and weighing out the pros and cons.

This is the posture I’m returning to; a posture of recognizing how helpless I really am, and how I need to approach life as a prayer and have it flow in and out of me as if it were breathing. I will do what I can when social justice and help are required of me instead of praying for the situation, but even still I will return to a posture of prayer because “it doesn’t change God- it changes me”.

~Nathanael~

Going and doing; grace made me more loving, not more liberal

Luke 10:37 – “…Go and do likewise

Recently I read an article in Christianity Today entitled Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal; It presents some issues I would agree with, social justice issues and justice, but at the same time it states that reading the Bible will keep your views about the LGBT Community intact, that by reading the Bible “it increases opposition to… …homosexual marriage and unions.”

Now I don’t believe that in times when I read the Bible I become more liberal. However, recognizing the grace that has been extended to me, the love God has for me, that has made me more loving rather than straight up liberal, or more liberal as some might think is the case for me.

Grace has been the keys that has unshackled me from myself. Grace has been the table set out for me, but not only myself but those like me and those who are not like me. Grace has been the posture that I aim to live out not only in words but in my actions in community with everyone around me. Yes I might have a liberal leaning towards some things in life, but there are elements of me that is moderate and even conservative. I will even say that grace has allowed me to hear my bro Mark talk about guns and actually take in what he has to say and it makes sense despite me not being a fan of guns! 🙂

There is also the nature of leaning on to the words and actions that are attributed to Jesus; when it comes down to it, I think that’s where the weight of the Bible comes from, not just reading what Jesus said and did, but “going and doing likewise”, that my faith isn’t one of coasting or stagnation, but active with dynamic and not static words.

Yes I have read the Bible as a whole, and I recognize that the context of any portion of the Bible hinges on reading it as a whole, and yet I recognize that even hinges on who Jesus is and what he did. In a way I look at parts of the Bible and use Jesus as the filter; does what this passage say align with who Jesus is and what he did? Yes, how so? If not, how so? It’s why I had issues with Paul and his ghostwriters had to say, because some of it is downright offensive if one’s to use Jesus as a filter. Yet it is still part of the Bible, and there is weight and worth to it, maybe not all of it, but some of it is salvageable.

One thing I lean on to what Paul said can be found in his letter to the Romans:
Romans 8:38-39  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing is able to keep us from the love of God, and yet I recognize in my own life I do a bad job of letting that be known, because I have limited myself to God’s love. I have recognized my thought patterns of thinking I am unworthy of love and grace, and while it’s been some time since I’ve been in that funk I realize that is not the truth because of the truth found in those verses, that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So that’s where dynamic love and grace comes into play in my life. By freely extending what has been extended to me, to loving others unconditionally, Agape, as God himself loves me. It doesn’t come easy but hopefully when I leave this world I get it better than I do now. I’m in it for living and living for the long-haul! As long as I have blood flowing in my veins, as long as I am breathing, may my posture to everyone around me be one of grace and love.

~Nathanael~

Surprised by hope/dismissing my pessimism

Earlier today I was surprised by hope.

I spent part of my day with my mother who has recently had a bad fall which resulted in her breaking and shattering bones in her wrist, she had surgery to screw-and-bolt her back together. It was up and down with her, and it probably could have been more positive if I just kept my damn mouth shut and suppressed any desire to problem solve with her – a word of advice, sometimes putting out multiple solutions, multiple cause-and-effects aren’t always going to be received well. Yet my hope didn’t come from interacting with my mother, but rather my father.

I dropped her off, her stuff, and he spent a good deal talking about random things and then he presented to me a belated Christmas present; hot sauces, gummy treats, and a handmade pen he had made…freaking awesome gifts! Definitely things I enjoy, it was very heartfelt.
Despite these kind gestures on my father’s part, my mind started drifting towards a cynical/pessimistic bent. I started dwelling on how he has hurt me, how we don’t have a healthy relationship, how we don’t talk about things in our lives that is substantial…but then I started thinking positively, that right now he’s being kind, right now he actually put some thought into and handmade a freaking pen! 🙂

right now there is good in him, I can feel it.

***

It’s not easy for me to think like this, if I am honest with myself I am pessimist trying to come off as being realist. I’m getting better, albeit I relapse all too frequently, but you know what? Despite the majority of times when life’s shit hits my fan, caused by myself or others, I cling onto hope and wistfully dream of better. Better will happen, and better happens all the time, so as I said before I’m getting better.

I don’t have a good relationship with my father, but I realize that within this I should be the change I want to see. It’s a long road back to the middle, and perhaps even surpassing the progress I’ve made thus far and the progress I will make, but I have hope that in this area of my life things will get better.
I am beaming, I am radiating happiness and hopefulness in all of this. I will have setbacks, but I am not going to let this kind and wonderful gesture on my father’s part be written off as a once-in-my-late-20s-lifetime occurrence.

~Nathanael~

Occupy love not hate

https://i2.wp.com/www.serve-others.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/bullhorn.jpg

What’s the point if all you do is shout
on the corner to all who walk by you spout
the bible to all different kinds of people
are you the human equivalent of church bell and steeple?
Do you speak up for those who simply won’t,
or do you speak out for those who simply don’t?
Is your posture one of love, forgiveness, and grace
or do you yell till you’re red and angry in the face,
saying God is love* (*but not actually)
He’s out to get you so matter-of-factly
He looks over the world with contempt, so hopeless
He’s angry with you when you lose your focus
He loves only a few the ones called his chosen,
if these are your words they’re cold and rather frozen
You didn’t get the memo, missed the alarm now you’re dozin’
Sure life is shitty sometimes but I don’t remember God reacted
 by saying “This is good, oh wait I take that back”, God never retracted.
God’s love for humanity is there when we choose to hate and not to love,
when we don’t wait patiently, when angrily we push and it comes to shove
When we drop the bomb on our so-called enemies from afar with our drones
When we drop the bomb on our friends in the comfort of our American homes
I don’t profess to be smart, to be wise, larger-than-life and
but I have hope, I believe, that shalom is on the horizon
So when we fuck it up I still believe someday we will get it right
We will walk together in the sun and walk out of this dark night.

~Nathanael~

Happy 2014! Some ways I will be bettering my life

Well 2014 is finally here! 2013 came and went very quickly, but that’s life for you.

Some of my goals and aspirations for this year. In no particular order they are as follows:

– Work out on a more regular basis
(I’ve gotten out of the habit of working out and I recognize the toll it’s taking on my body)

– Draw a bit, even if it’s just once a day
(I draw horribly, but want to put in the time and effort even if it doesn’t pan out – interested in following along on my Instagram account?)

– Get out more and into the community around me
(I have done a bad job in some ways in 2013 in stepping out of my routine, but I aim to change that and engage more with the community around me and the community within my church as well)

– Invite more people over to my place for meals
(I love cooking, especially for those I love and like…kind of self-explanatory)

– Be more intentional with my time
(This is all I have, I won’t be getting any more than what’s allotted to me)

– Forgive more, worry less
(I don’t do a good job at forgiving, I keep a lot of it inside my head and heart and I never expunge it thoroughly. I am also a worrier, and I get bogged down on details and things not coming together as I’d like it to. I want to work on this in this year to come.)

I’m sure more will come to mind, but that will have to wait to later.
Happy 2014 everyone! 🙂
~Nathanael~