I finally know what I want to do with my [work] life

Lately in my church we’ve been doing a series called “Trusting God with…” and one thing I’ve started wrestling with in regards to this series is work.
I love what I do, and yet I have 3 things on my plate as to what I want to with my work life:
1) Youth ministry
2) Social services, working with those who live with mental illness
3) I’m not sure what the job title would be, but I like what The Marin Foundation does, so something along the lines of building bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community.

But I have made peace and I’m reading to move forward into…*drum roll* 🙂

I’m going to continue on in Social Services, working with individuals who have mental illnesses.
I’ve crossed the threshold of 2 years doing just that, and I like it, but the issue I have is that Illinois is ranked near the bottom (48 out of 51) when it comes to supporting those who need Social Services and funding (pay-wise) those who work jobs in Social Services, but still I am going to give IL a little more time and here’s why.

My annual review will be coming up soon and I’m putting together a proposal as to how my agency can return to a more client-centric approach in how they do things. I’m also putting together a book, a self-help book on mental illness and yet I realize that the general population will benefit from learning what I have learned, that (hopefully) the stigma of individuals living with mental illness will be decreased.

But despite all that, if I’m not able to prove my worth in this manner among other things, I’m starting to look elsewhere. I’m looking back to Memphis TN and see what’s available in this field that has proven to be the most stressful, most tiring, most emotionally jarring job I’ve ever had…but it is also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done job-wise. People are people, and this is how I want to invest my work life.

Part of my game plan does include going back to school, Masters in Psychology with an emphasis in Counseling. So maybe Illinois is where I’ll be, but then again Memphis appeals to me as well for many a reason. I fell in love with the people and that city when I was on vacation, good old “southern hospitality” is what I experienced wherever I went. Plus now that there’s a branch of The Marin Foundation being run by Jimmy Cornfoot I’ll still be able to build bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

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Hope renewed for my alma mater (part 1)

In (what I thought) was a publication put out by my alma mater Judson University I put together a bit of a statement about my defining moment at Judson. I proceeded to write the following:

My defining moment at Judson started in the first semester I attended; I befriended and got to know several Gay and Lesbian Christians. Up to that point I thought that the two weren’t compatible, that being a part of the Christian community was mutually exclusive from the LGBT Community. I was wrong, dead wrong. It was in my learning through life with these fine men & women that God started working on my heart and mind on the issue, to where it is no longer an issue for me; I accept, I affirm, and I love the LGBT Community.

It came to a culmination while I was praying on my drive to Judson one day. God pointed out that love requires proximity, and that I was to go to the Chicago Pride Parade to demonstrate that love, so I did. I had my ideas of what I was going to do, but by providence I found out about The Marin Foundation, in which some friends and I met up and accompanied them for the first ever “I’m Sorry Campaign”; a time to confess & own up individually as well as collectively for the damage that has done by the Christian Community against the LGBT Community. I have been attending and inviting family and friends for the last 4 years to partake in this wonderful event. God is already present in Boys Town; I go because I am called to be a part of restoration & reconciliation.

Since the Chicago Pride Parade is only once a year, I do what I can to be involved in my local chapter of PFLAG; to build bridges with the Gay and Lesbians who attend that group, both during the meeting and apart from it.

God freed me from my homophobic bonds, and it all started at Judson

Since the Chicago Pride Parade is only once a year, I do what I can to be involved in my local chapter of PFLAG; to build bridges with the Gay and Lesbians who attend that group, both during the meeting and apart from it.

God freed me from my homophobic bonds, and it all started at Judson.

It received some likes and I received some feedback, but since everything pings back to the commenter or writing on Facebook, I was slightly surprised when it dropped off…turns out my post on the alumni page was removed and I was booted from the group!

My friend Justin noticed both things and brought it to everyone’s attention, and since alumni can reinstate members he added me. It was shortly after my reinstatement the Director of Alumni Relations made a public apology for her actions per some flack she received from some alumni who was wondering if Judson was revising it’s views on the LGBT Community and related. Because she wanted to “avoid division, unclarity and hurt feelings” she booted me from the group and deleted my post.

It was shortly thereafter that statement that a revision of the page was put out, that the views of the alumnus don’t necessarily reflect the views of the school. I reposted my defining moment…and then it took off like wildfire going uphill! A lot of alumni started talking, started actual dialoguing with one another, stories were shared with me and my fellow alumnus openly and some privately! A dream came true to be honest!

I also put forward the why I put my story out there:

All I ever wanted was to share part of my story & create room for dialogue. Yes this issue may be an uncomfortable subject to some, but it needs to be addressed because it isn’t going away.

The current appearance of the church collectively appears to be a place of judgmental homophobic heteronormative individuals, but guess what? That’s the church, not God. God is bigger than that!

God has the first word, but also the last, something to consider during this time that my generation will resolve this issue. It takes a generation to resolve it, but future ones to sustain it.

So come one and all to dialogue and discuss this with me and others. Come, I promise not to bite. be a part of much needed change, come and be, come and listen, come and love.

That statement led to even more dialogue albeit with some debate, some battening down of hatches, some defensive and choice words…but dialogue is still happening, at this point it’s at 220 comments!

My hope is greatly renewed at what this could mean. It wasn’t that long ago when I was a student that I tried to start up a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus. It was shut down, and from what I was told the board members who shut it down were upset that their meeting lasted longer than they wanted it to. Then there were those who represented the student body who were afraid that students would turn gay or lesbian simply by being a part of the group, or that it would become a group where students would hookup…all sorts of lack of knowing nonsense.

Yet maybe, just maybe, this dialogue will help to aid in allies winning the war where I once lost the battle. Maybe, just maybe, this discussion will break down the walls of bigotry and heteronormative mind-think that at times is prevalent at my alma mater.

*to be continued*

~Nathanael~

Building bridges with Muslims

An event popped up on my Facebook feed last night:

“Learn Islam” Classes for New Muslims and Others
These classes are designed for new Muslims and others who want to learn the basics of Islam.
When: Saturdays, 9:45AM – 1:00PM
Where: Fischer Middle School Room 107 (during Al Falah Academy classes)
1305 Long Grove Dr.
Aurora, IL 60504
(this is an ongoing series, so if you’re interested you should come)

I fall in the Others category, but as a lover of learning and a believer that all truth is God’s truth, I went. It was very rewarding to go because I to alter Thomas Aquinas’ quote of “beware the man of one book” I go by “beware the man of only one set of friends”.

I have always been a fan of diversity, and when it comes to people who are diverse, I love them and what they bring to the table. I have a limited knowledge of Islam based on what I have learned and my few Muslim friends who have graciously let me into their lives, their stories.

The reason why I have entitled this post as “building bridges with Muslims” is because there’s a symbiotic relationship in the development; sure I could easily be the one building a bridge to, but this is life, to build bridges there needs to be people on both ends willing to venture out into the sometimes unknown. Unknown isn’t a word that offers up much hope, it is unnerving and it is radical, but my hope isn’t tied up in the unknown. My hope is tied up into something…someone bigger than all my fears, concerns, and ultimately the unknown.

Before I write out a tangent about bridges I am building, have built with others I will say this; if I let fears, concerns, the unknown grasp me and strangle me I would not be the person who I am today. Hope keeps me afloat when I am drowning in my own thoughts. God sustains me and my hope even in times when I am utterly and dreadfully hopeless.

Back to the entry at hand… I was encouraged by today’s get together, because it was a classroom setting of both men and women, taught by both men and women. There was a lot of discussion, interaction, dialogue, and listening. Sure it took some interesting twists and turns, but I can handle that, I in fact like that at times. 🙂 The men whom I talked to were very kind and answered my questions. I did ask them about their stories, where they came from and where they are now today, both from an Islamic standpoint but also their life stories. I won’t disclose them, but one thing I will say is this pertaining to stories and people; people have stories, and people want to be heard, it is healthy and a good thing to get there with people from all walks of life.

This is a weekly get together and I intend to go back next Saturday. I like the group already because they too want to build bridges, they too want to dialogue about commonalities instead of differences. There is no us versus them, there is only we. It is my desire to build that bridge with Muslims as a follower of Isa, there won’t be any converting on my part, only listening and dialoguing and ultimately loving.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”” – C.S. Lewis

~Nathanael~

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Engagement over judgment

The other night at my youth ministry meeting with my fellow high school leaders and middle school leaders, we played a game of “5 minutes in the hot seat”, essentially 5 minutes of questioning the individual that was provided to us, to give ourselves a chance to talk and share a bit of who we are and our stories.

When it got to my turn I got a gist of the kind of questions my fellow youth ministry leaders were asking one another, and so prior to getting up there and answering I started mulling over my answers, but one of my favorite youth leaders asked me out of the blue “what is something you hate?” I responded as such.

I hate it when followers of Christ choose judgment over engagement in regards to the LGBT community. When Christians make assumptions, or all they have on their mind is same sex sexual intercourse, there’s a wall that gets put up and those kind of Christians keep it up, maintain it, but by no means do a lot of Christians step forward to question the wall, leap over the wall, or even break down that wall.

The wall will not always exist within Christian culture, I have faith in God that it will come down completely over time, but I do recognize that while laws on a government level are yanking down the wall (good stuff!) it will take a while for people’s hearts to change…and this is where I come in.

As a straight advocate for equal rights for everyone who is made in God’s image, I believe I am called to build bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community. I choose engagement over judgment, and while I cannot change people’s hearts, I hope and have faith in God that through me and others who are like-minded and like-hearted will help others choose this path.
I do realize as in my own journey getting to this point it takes time, it takes having faith and holding it out with open hands instead of getting caught up in belief and certainty with closed hands. It also takes time to develop personal thoughts and concepts paired with tangible and dynamic love, getting away from “my mom says/my father says/my pastor says/my professors say” is a lengthy but worthwhile endeavor.

So that’s what I hate, but it’s a hate I will overcome with love, God’s love, it takes time but it will be worth it, I have faith it will be.

~Nathanael~

Recap of the I’m Sorry Campaign/Gay Pride Parade in Chicago 2012

This was the first year I commuted primarily by “L” to the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. Blue Line Oak Park to Jackson, to Red Line Addison. It was very obviously very crowded, but there was a sense of bonhomie in the air for different reasons, and my reason was to join up with The Marin Foundation and their I’m Sorry Campaign for a third year.

It was my intention this year to be the eyes, heart, and ears of Jesus; eyes to watch people to see their reaction that an I’m Sorry t-shirt has and draw them into conversation about what we’re sorry about, a heart of love to those around us and whomever I was in contact with, and ears to hear people share their stories with me. I would have to say this approach was personally successful, thanks be to God. 🙂

Due to a route change/extension the parade went the other way and we were half a block from the IHOP in Boystown, but the many I’m Sorry shirts made it noticeable where we were going to be. I said my hi’s and met some new people, I asked them from their perspective why they were sorry and for some it was because of once being homophobic to a point where the individual was worried that being Gay was transmittable, for another it was engaging the LGBT Community in a tangible and dynamic way of love, for another his journey was very similar to mine; years of struggling to figure out a personal stance as to if being a follower of Christ is compatible with being LGBT…
I liked that conversation, because the struggle to get away from “well my mom says/my father says/my pastor says” blanket statements is a worthy one, and I recognize in my life that if a person struggles through this and still thinks the same way at the end of the struggle, I’m more accepting of someone who does the legwork to come up with their own thoughts & ideas on this topic.

Then there was P* and D*; two guys, two moments of expressing I’m sorry for the way Christians have treated the LGBT community, two moments where they got what we were about, two good times and God times. I don’t want to give away their story simply because this moment was ours and ours alone.
I will say that it is a breath of fresh air in these God moments where there’s restoration and reconciliation, where perfect shalom seems closer and closer to coming to fruition. Itwill happen, and I want to do my part to be a part of it!

I had work in the evening so I left earlier, but in a way it was a blessing in disguise particularly with standstill foot traffic. People noticed the shirt and thought at first I was saying I’m Sorry for the pushing to move forward as it was very much the bottle neck at times, but I allowed those inquires to be addressed, to say I’m sorry for the way some Christians have treated the LGBT community by telling them that God doesn’t love them when in fact he does! It was received well, and I thank God for those moments when I couldn’t move forward because of the crowds.

All in all it was a good Pride Parade in Chicago yesterday. I wish I could have stayed there longer but I had responsibilities and I was blessed to have five hours off. The work of Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation and for those who associate with them isn’t a well worn path, it has been traversed by a few but there’s still work to be done. I take the matters of building bridges seriously, intentionally and incarnationally, that is to say I want to be in the same setting where my ministry is.
Jesus exemplified incarnational ministry best, he was with the people, he lived with them, he ate with them, he went through good times and bad times with them. If I call myself a follower of Christ I feel obligated out of love and discipleship to “go and do likewise”. The Gay Pride Parade comes only once a year, but there are still ways for me to engage and build bridges, and you know what? I’m going to do that! 🙂

P.S.  brought my camera, but alas I didn’t take any photos 😦 Oh well, here are some from our event through the lens of others;

I wasn’t angry or pissed, just rather hot…pay no attention to me, I’m better behind the camera lens than in front of it!

Be blessed and continue to bless others,
Nathanael

2 things I’m contemplating prior to the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago

There are some individuals who say that you should compartmentalize and keep the sacred from the secular and vice versa. Yet the way I look at it, all truth is God’s truth and there doesn’t need to be a split up of the so-called sacred and secular.

As I prep for the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago I’m contemplating two things, one’s a well known prayer and one’s a cover song by Todd Rungren’s band Utopia called Love is theAnswer.

Saint Francis of Assisi’s prayer:

Utopia/Todd Rundgren – Love is the Answer

I’m excited for a third year to build bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community (not that there’s no overlap but there needs to be more) at the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. God spoke to me prior to the event 3 years ago and I listened and I acted, and so I prepare to leave my house to answer the call once again.

It must be done, building bridges, because this is an issue the church cannot sweep under the carpet and hope nobody notices…well I notice it and the way we act the LGBT community knows it as well. These things take time, but I have faith in God and my generation that we will take care of the matter to truly take the steps of restoration and reconciliation between the Christian community and the LGBT community. Yet since it is in it’s early stages those individuals who go forward now, such as Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation, are pioneers; they’re blazing a trail that hasn’t been traversed and they’re going on faith and trusting in God because the outcome hasn’t been determined yet…but God will see them and I to completion, I have faith in him to do that 🙂

John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

~Nathanael~

Get out out of church and get to a Gay Pride Parade!

If you are a follower of Christ who desires to build bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community, I advise you (since most of the parades fall on a Sunday) to get out of church and get to a Gay Pride Parade.

It’s one thing to say to yourself and others that you want to engage individuals who have been hurt by Christians, who have been marginalized and maybe even rejected, that you want to build a bridge, that you want to bring about some form of reconciliation and restoration…but if you don’t do it, what good are your words?

Words can lead to ideas, ideas can lead to plans, so why not make your words tangible and go to a Pride Parade and simply take the time to apologize to the individuals around you and even in the parade that you’re sorry for the way Christians have been unChristlike, heck if you personalize it (if you’ve been on the side of judgment and being unloving) and share where you’ve been and where God is leading you, I bet that will go a long way!

I don’t know when all the Gay Pride Parades are, so you’ll have to Google search your city plus Pride Parade.

In 10 days Chicago will be having their Gay Pride Parade and I intend to be there with some friends, The Marin Foundation and Andrew Marin. We’ll probably be in front of the IHOP in Boys Town. I am a follower of Christ and it is my desire and passion to build bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community, will I be skipping church? Yes I will! I have no qualms about it, here’s why…

In Jesus’ telling of the parable of the prodigal son, the father doesn’t wait around for his son to come back to him, but rather when he sees his son in the distance he runs full of compassion to him. Too often I think the church sits back and waits for people to come through the doors and doesn’t budge from its seat, but that’s now how Jesus lived! Jesus engaged the people where they were, he went to them, he lived and functioned amongst them. Sure there were times when Jesus needed a breather and so he and his disciples would get away from it all for a short while, but then he would go back to the people, to humanity.

So like the father in Jesus’ parable I run! I choose to engage the LGBT community where they are and not waiting around for them to come to church, if they do, that’s great! But I rather go to the LGBT community, to the Gay Pride Parade, where the rubber meets the road…and guess what? “Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them” (italics are mine) God’s already at the Gay Pride Parade, he invites me and my friends and others to be a part not be apart.

Don’t let church get in the way,
Be the church at your local Gay Pride Parade this year!

~Nathanael~