Feeding those who are hungry as a spiritual exercise; day 6 of Ramadan

Be kind to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbor who is of kin, and to the neighbor who is a stranger, and to the companion at your side, and to the traveler, and to [slaves] that your right hands own. Surely God loves not the proud and boastful such as are niggardly, and bid other men to be niggardly, and themselves conceal the bounty that God has given them. Qur’an 4.36-37

If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be…. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him; because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and the poor, in the land. Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Day 6 of Ramadan’s Suhur was good. I made myself a garlic, zucchini, and egg combination that I put in a flour tortilla that was awesome / healthy / and was a good source of protein! I enjoyed watching the sunrise yet again (it doesn’t get boring to me in the slightest!) and then I got ready for work.
Work was good, it zipped by in the best of ways; I walked quite a bit with my students and I also helped out in the garden. Speaking of the garden, I absolutely love seeing gardens growing flowers and food. In the garden at my work we have some swiss chard, green peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and green beans! I slightly salivated at the things growing that are so healthy and nutritious…but since I’m fasting, I just offered up a quick thanks to God for food and watching it grow.

After work I took some time to meditate and reflect on the nearing first week of Ramadan. I am not as hungry as I thought I would be in partaking in Ramadan, despite having meals spread apart by 15.5 hours (at least). This time of fasting has helped me at becoming more in tune with God, others, and myself. At times because of the clarity of it all I have a bit of sensory overload; colors appear to be brighter, sounds clearer and a bit louder, etc. It has been a worthwhile goal and has served me well thus far.

This evening I joined several guys I know for a night of helping prepare meals that we measure out, seal, box, and prepare to be sent out across the world! Feed My Starving Children is an awesome tangible way in which to feed children around the world.

It was great and I was psyched to be a part of the process. I’ve done this event before with these guys and I dig every moment of it. My goal for the night was to work hard but play hard too; the latter came in the form of me yelling / motivating those around me as well as the guys I was with, I may have been a bit over the top but it was all worthwhile.

It was encouraging to me to see a lot of young children helping out as well. Social Justice, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, listening and being with people is what I like to do. Not necessarily in times that qualify as “spare time” but whenever I can wherever I’m at, because in doing so I serve God when I serve my fellow human being.

The hour and a half that we were there went by very quickly as it often does. We cleaned up, prayed over the food we were sending and for the receipients of said food, and we were done. Next time at Feed My Starving Children can’t get here soon enough!

So with all that being said, feeding those who are hungry were my keywords on this 6th day of Ramadan. Thanks me to God for providing us with food. May we learn to share what we have with our brothers and sisters who are in need because we DO have abundance and we should be willing to feed those who are in need. Thank you for our daily bread, and thank you for life to serve you and tend to the needs of others.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

Camping in the rain sucks – 26/28

Back in 1996 I was in Boy Scouts, and during that summer I made my way up to Wisconsin with my Boy Scout troop to a camp called Freeland Leslie. It was a good summer camp, plenty of fun Boy Scout related activities and a canteen that sold us sour candy and Mountain Dew by the boatload.
Yet while we were out there, it rained; to say that it rained a lot was an understatement and interestingly enough while we had a lot of rain Aurora (where most of us were from) had a rain storm that produced 16.91 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. The 2nd highest 24 hour rainfall in the nation’s history, outside of hurricanes.

My tent unfortunately had a leak from the side and on top which became more and more evident as the night continued. I felt naked and lost in the heavy downpour, I was up most of the night and I was wet to the bone. I couldn’t leave my tent in the thick of it, because where was I to go? Sure I could’ve gone knocking tent-to-tent to gimme shelter, but I didn’t. It put a damper on things, but eventually the sun came up and warmed us up again and camp life returned to some resemblance of normal.

I’m glad that wasn’t the model for future Boy Scout summer camps for me. That was probably the worst weather-related camping experience with my Boy Scout troop, it got better from there. 🙂

~Nathanael~

I’ll take my 15 minutes of fame, but from behind the scenes – 9/28

https://i2.wp.com/images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/23900000/Behind-the-scenes-harry-potter-23916632-2560-1707.jpg
(I’d rather be the camera guy in this shot, not the wizard)

There’s a phrase I through out every now and then I’m about to be photographed; I rather photograph than be photographed, and essentially that’s true in other areas of my life.

Fame has been something I haven’t gone for, nor could I really achieve it, but then again I do tout that I will put Aurora IL on the map for something else besides Wayne’s World (yet it has been amusing to go to Canada as well as Mexico and that’s the reference :-)).

I think there are 3 types of people in reference to “fame” – 1) those who don’t have it, but don’t mind it 2) those who don’t have it, but don’t mind that they don’t have it and 3) those who don’t have it but want it and will do whatever it takes to have it! The latter is the fodder of all things reality television, for better or worse, though worse is a selling point and boy does fail sell well!

The closest brush I’ve had with “fame” was when photos from the Chicago Gay Pride Parade circulated and there were a bunch of Christians will signs of I’m Sorry…I hurt you, marginalized you, et al. I was there! My friends are in the photo, but I’m not, and I’m okay with that 🙂 I was happy and encouraged to be there, and God willing this year will mark 4 years of doing so, I don’t need to be in a picture that has been widely circulated to remember of God’s faithfulness and the process of reconciliation and restoration paired with engagement over judgment.

I also think that being behind-the-scenes is a good position for a leader to be in; because when the focus is on the leader and not whatever the leader’s leading, the focus is off and people can be disillusioned into thinking it’s all about the leader and not what the leader is presenting. I recognize this in youth ministry, and while I’m not disillusioned or egocentric about the ministry I’m involved with, I do know it’s not about me and the functionality of the ministry should be Christ-centered and not leader centered, and if I am in the way I will move out of the way.

Andy Warhol might be on to something when he said “in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”, I for one would rather have my fame behind the scenes.

P.S. The humorous side of me would simply love to write the skits for Saturday Night Live, ultimate behind-the-scenes work for their talented writing crew. With that in mind I’d make a “commercial” for that show that goes like this… Are you depressed? Do you like Cheese? From the makers of Viagra infused Cheez Whiz…

😉

~Nathanael~

A thank you post to my parents

    Not a lot of you know me in real life, some of you do but not the majority of you readers. I’m getting to a place where I need to be, all the puzzle pieces are laid out and it’s assembly time! 🙂 With that being said, part of my plans (despite the proverb of How do you make God laugh? Make plans) includes doing what I can to help cultivate an inclusive to all body of believers out in Southern California, an environment that is loving and accepting of all of God’s children, including the LGBT community. I also desire to see where I can help out in Skid Row Los Angeles, whether by feeding individuals or some other tangible way, I want to get involved.

So where does my sense of social justice come from? Well if I think about it long and hard I would have to say it was instilled in me by my parents. Back in the early 1980s my parents decided that Aurora IL was lacking a facility for assisting mothers in their months of pregnancy, there was an abortion clinic, but there wasn’t much else. Fast forward to 1985, when my parents and 2 other couples started the Pregnancy Information Center, a place where women could come and receive counseling, to help them determine options for their unborn child, and even though the technology isn’t where it is now, they also helped women determine if they were pregnant.

My memories of PIC came primarily by being a presence in various parades that would happen in Aurora. We’d be wearing shirts that said CHOOSE LIFE across them and hand out info to parents and (I think) candy to children. I also remember protesting outside of the abortion clinic, not yelling at mothers but just being a witness outside on the sidewalk (public property), to which I’m told I saved my parents from being arrested when I was a baby on a few occasions.

Since opening up in 1985, PIC has expanded and the local abortion clinic has closed down. My parents aren’t leading up PIC anymore but their legacy remains upon Aurora IL.

***

Now my sense of social and communal justice isn’t the same as my parents, but I have the same drive to change something that desperately needs to be fixed. Jesus’ words of “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matt. 26:11) drive me, motivate me and honestly sometimes haunt me. Being accepting, loving and affirming of the LGBT community has been a journey that’s only 6 years old and there’s still a lot that needs to be done.

Helping out the homeless in my area has rekindled my love for Aurora IL (I wrote about it here), I primarily have done this by helping out at a local soup kitchen that meets at a local church. I’m still thinking of ways I can be more involved in this particular area of social justice, I don’t want to reveal what my next step in this is but God willing I am able to get it off the ground sooner than later.

I already know that while laws of the land may change, people to some degree will still remain the same. In regards to building bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community I will continue to be a part of my local chapter of PFLAG, but now I have a new outlet… Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation have a DVD series and a curriculum based off Andrew’s book Love is an Orientation and it is about bridge building. Andrew’s my hero and I believe in what he and The Marin Foundation does.

The social justice my parents instilled in me is different, but the reasons why are quite similar; bringing about restoration and reconciliation, restoring the perfect shalom that once existed…this is Kingdom of God work, and I want to be a part of it!

~Nathanael~

Falling in love with Aurora Illinois

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” -Marianne Williamson

In the last 3 years I have fallen in love with my hometown and the communities within the community of  Aurora Illinois. To be honest I haven’t loved Aurora for a long time, I haven’t seen much of the world and there have been times where I’ve said I’ve lived in Aurora _____ years too many…not a nice response, but hey I was young[er] and naive[r].

But over the last 3 years I have found callings that help other people; helping out at a soup kitchen, being a youth leader at one of my churches, etc. and I think that’s where my love for Aurora has come into place. In the serving of others, in being the hands and feet of God, in connecting with others and in being and doing… I have found my heart, I have found a heart for my community.

At times I thought that maybe in my serving others it was one-sided, but as I take time to build friendships and take the time to listen to people’s journeys in life I realize symbiotic relationships are unfolding and happening. It isn’t easy being close and vulnerable with others, but I have learned over the years that transparency begets transparency. If I hope to help people be real and authentic with what they’re going through, much of the time it helps to real and authentic with what I’m going through as well; but the caveat of transparency is that one should know ones boundaries as well as one’s audience, some things no matter how real and authentic aren’t for every listening ear, have discernment in your transparency and things should go better.

I have also recognized that I want to share what I love with others; whether the Gospel message or opportunities to serve the “least of these” I want other people to be a part of the process. I appreciate the Lord’s Prayer, because it is my desire to faithfully live and do and be a part of the reconciliation and restoration process, the “on Earth as it is in Heaven” facet of Jesus’ prayer. Good things (as well as bad things) come and go, but God things and things that pertain to kingdom work will last.

With the time that I am here in Aurora Illinois I will do what I can to serve God by serving others. While I do have dreams and aspirations of seeing more of God’s beautiful world (after all he did pronounce it as good, didn’t he?) I will do what I can to serve him faithfully and dutifully with the time he has given me.

~Nathanael~