I’m afraid for the lives of my students

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It has been less than 24 hours ago that police killed Alston Sterling and Philando Castile. It has been over the course of my shift that I started thinking how I am afraid for the lives of my students.

One young man, a kind demeanor, playful and articulate, this is what I’ll remember him for, but what if for some reason he gets singled out by the police and pump him full of lead? They don’t know him like I know him, they won’t have the reach that I do with him, are they going to “shoot first and ask questions later”?

What about another student of mine, a guy who wants to go to college, who wants to make a difference, who wants a wife and family some day. Doesn’t his life matter?

I used to be concerned about my students not adjusting to life in the community, or in a group home setting due to not taking their treatment and individual plans seriously, or just plain old learned helplessness. Now, if anything, I’m concerned that they might become another killed by a cop statistic!

I’m not fearful, police violence has always been around, but now with technology it is more at our front door than it was before. I don’t want to read about my former students shot by the police, especially when I know them and I know some of their families, that kind of hurt I’ll carry with me forever. God forbid they’re found to be innocent and the cops walk free.

The system isn’t successful, the system is corrupt, and no newly elected President will solve anything. Change starts from within, change starts at the grassroots level, and until those changes occur there will be no overarching change within our society.

No justice, no peace!
~ Nathanael~

Morning Meditation 11.15.15

Morning meditation 11.15.15

Islamophobia and bigotry towards Muslims is unChristlike. To accuse Muslims as the ones responsible for the attacks on Paris on Friday is ignorant and operating out of fear. What happened was under the guise of Islam and Muslims, but it’s a farce.

Do not give in to the notion that you are to retaliate, to get your “just desserts” by personifying the evil committed because your appetite will never be sated, take the violence out of circulation within your heart, and let that ripple effect move outward.

Take time to engage in dialogue and conversation with Muslims in your community. For in doing so you will grasp how much there is in common, how much overlap in our humanity and how we treat others.

If we take what Jesus said seriously, take time to dwell on this verse found in John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Let love win within our hearts and flow outward onto our Muslim brothers and sisters who have been misaligned as the ones responsible for the attack on Paris.

~Nathanael~

I come to the bible with baggage

At my church we recently started a new series called “the white space” (click here for the message from last weekend) and it’s a series about exploring;

The Bible.

Who wrote it? Why do we have it? What’s the purpose of it? Is it to be taken literally or not?

How do we engage the Bible in a way that opens us to the kind of transformation and change that it’s meant to bring in our lives individually and together as a community?

I missed out hearing it last weekend, but this morning as I listened to it via the podcast I started dwelling on what the bible means to me, and it led me to realizing that I come to the bible with baggage.

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The baggage I come to the bible is threefold; it’s what I gleaned from the bible through my father’s lens, my mother’s lens, and my own lens.
Disclaimer: not all of what I’ve gleaned over the years can be summed up in “good” or “bad” terms, it’s what I learned and it shaped me and still to a certain extent it shapes me. My views of God and the bible 5 years ago doesn’t necessarily reflect where I am now and what I think, evolution in this regard should be embraced not looked at with contempt.

With that being said, what I gleaned from the bible via my father was a black and white stance, a literal take on nearly everything in the bible. I recognized his emphases were on verses concerning Paul rather than Jesus. I also got the feeling that God was out to get humanity, or at the very least a portion of humanity.
I remember when I was either 6 or 7 in our basement we had a easel with a large pad of paper on it, and on it was the Calvinist TULIP acronym on it and a cross shaped bridge between God and humanity. I learned both of their meanings from my father, but even then I wrestled with this take on God.
From my mom I learned I was not good, because “only God is good”, I was called bad but good was never affixed to me. I also learned sin, as she defined it, was whatever separated us from God (and in a way I still hold onto this view). She instilled the majority of my spiritual life between the two of them; bible studies, read-the-bible-in-a-year, “our daily bread” daily devotional, prayer time.

I don’t regret this part of my upbringing, it laid a foundation, my foundation, of who I am today. It served as building blocks and not stepping stones; that is, it built me spiritually, it wasn’t a jumping off to another item, and so on.

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And yet, as it naturally happens, my views changed. More to the point, I changed. It was gradual, but I realize a common theme; God put people in my life who indirectly caused me to think differently, a gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit to reexamine my thoughts and ideas and views. I will say this, that whenever you encounter “the others” in your life, you might have to change what you hold dear, because people from all walks of life matter to God.
So many of my thoughts and perspectives were laid to waste, my assumptions and presumptions were dismissed, and my level of grace extended and received multiplied exponentially…Thanks be to God!

But still, I carry quite a bit baggage when it comes to the bible. If I’m honest with myself I am usually combatant when people drop a “well you know Paul said about that” in a conversation, and I’m quick to retort “yeah? Well what did Jesus say about that?” Paul has his say in quite a bit of the New Testament, and I want to delve into what he said but it’s hard for me to do sometimes.

But I want to. I want to engage in difficult texts, I want to engage with Christians who have different stories and philosophies and theologies that differ from my own, I want to and I believe I’m moving in that direction.

This past weekend this model of reading the bible was discussed:
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And it’s what I needed and also what I wanted. God and this model will help me get out of my head and into my heart, inasmuch it’s going from internal practice to external behaviors.
I come with baggage, but I’m able to discard it in a healthy manner that respects both my past and my present, and certainly as God will lead me- my future.

~Nathanael~

Seeing with Christ’s eyes; loving my father better

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2 weekends ago at my church we discussed centering prayer, and how to practice this practice:

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In my own time I practiced this out and the word I chose was vision.

Now vision in and of itself doesn’t imply good or even bad vision, it simply means being able to see. As I meditated on this word it was pressed upon my soul that I on my own I have shitty vision when it comes to some individuals in my life, in particularly my father. You see, my father and I have a strained relationship, and some of it is differences in religiousity and some of it is wants/expectations in the other, but this is my narrative so I will stick to my side of the story as it is the only one I truly can convey…
With my own eyes I see my father with shitty vision so much of the time. I want for him to be connected with his humanity, what really makes him real, what makes him alive, and so I self-impose the kind of father I want upon my father directly but so often indirectly. Life since I moved out (and even before then) was hit and miss, and I miss connecting with him, no agenda in mind, just being and doing something with him.

So as I was praying and meditating, vision came to mind, my vision in particular. It was pressed upon my heart and mind that my vision needs to be altered, that my vision when it comes to view myself and others needs to be that of Christ’s. Jesus’ vision was 20-20, he saw people with love and he saw clearly the person before him; he reached out to others and a lot of the time he simply asked them what do you me to do? He didn’t say this with an accusatory tone, but one of love.

In a way, the cataracts of my soul have started healing as a result. So fast forward to last Saturday, my father and I hung out over lunch and a movie, and it was a lot of fun! He showed me a pen he had made for me (his hobby / passion / artist expression is wood working):
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and a few others he had recently made:
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All in all it was a good time with my father, and I attribute it to finally seeing my father through the eyes of Christ. The eyes of Christ sees my father in this way, but myself and all of humanity included! The river of grace runs wide and runs deep for all.

See with the eyes of Christ and change your world!
~Nathanael~

Thank God I am changing; reflections on looking at my older blog posts

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Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple Inc.

I have been a writer for a long time now, and time to time I look over what I’ve written, especially what I’ve written on my blogs. THIS blog is my primary one nowadays, but I know…and I won’t disclose the web pages…where my older blogs are (I’ve been writing online in some way since 2001).
I once stated I was horrified about what I wrote, both subject-wise but also grammar-wise. I think I am beyond being horrified, and if I’m to feel anything about it all I would say I am grateful to God that I am changing. I’m not going to say I’ve changed straight out, because I am still going through the process of change; where I was in life is not where I am now, and I know that in time I will change yet again.

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One thing that captures my attention time and time again with my writing is (and I partially contribute it to being raised Evangelical) my language smatters of exclusive black-and-white truthiness. I had questions and I was obsessed to finding answers to them, and I thought if I have the answers that is all I will ever need, I don’t need to learn more than what the questions and answers entail, but I was wrong for thinking that. Life is so much more than questions and answers, it is more beautiful to live in a world where gray exists instead of just perceiving things in black-and-white terms only. Michael Kimpan recently wrote on the subject of “addiction to answers” and I’ve got to say, that was me to a T.

So here I am, some 13 years into the blogging game, and I still don’t have it altogether…but you know what? I am okay with that. I am okay with changing though it can be painful and scary at times. The vast unknownness of some / a lot of things still creeps in sometimes, but I realize I am embracing community and God even more so in these times than I used to. I used to want to hide in my room, crash on my bed, and sleep the day away…but I’m out of that funk, and even when I am in that funk, I find a way out to doing things in a healthier manner.

Deo gratias for change and changing, not only for myself but all of humanity!

~Nathanael~

I am a fan of Bob of Dylan – 9/28

In theory, I would say that our first loves of music comes from what we hear from our parental units. Subsequently, I grew up in a household listening to my mother’s tunes; classic rock and classical music. Wagner and The Who, Vivaldi and Van Halen, Beethoven and Beatles, Dvorak and Dylan…

It was an odd pairing for certain, and it all depended on what my mother was feeling in the moment; if the classic rock music she was listening took her to a place of remembrance that was fun and enjoyable it stayed on, but if it triggered something in her that was painful she would switch the channel with an indigent “we don’t listen to rock and roll”.

Still through these twist and turns of the radio dial, my love of classical music and classic rock came from her. When I was in my pre-teens I “found” Bob Dylan on my own and learned about what he wrote/sung about. I remember reading with horror the events that unfolded in Bob Dylan’s song about Hattie Carroll, I liked the sense of optimism in “the time’s they are a-changin’ / blowing in the wind”, I even liked to some extent the rawness and stripped away nature to his song “all along the watchtower” (but yes, later on I “found” Jimi Hendrix’s version).

I wasn’t a troubled youth externally, but internally I was. By getting in touch with the protest songs and folk music scene of my mother’s era I was able to work out some of that internal struggle…well, to some extent, that was prior to me making friends who gave a damn about me and my welfare. Still, I liked and still like Bob Dylan for his music and what he communicated in his lyrics.

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Music is one of those things where you can find a band or a tune to suit your every emotion. Sometimes it makes you think, sometimes it puts you in a place of meditation, sometimes it just fills the silence because you can’t handle it…all the while, I think it’s a good thing to find tunes accordingly. Bob Dylan’s tunes of yore have gotten me out of my funk before, they’ve shaken me out of my complacency and have encouraged me to be optimistic (which isn’t my default mode too much of the time, but I’m getting better at it).

So here’s to Bob Dylan, a talented musician whose music has many articulate and ornate layers in his lyrics.

~Nathanael~

Stepping into history can be heavy; Martin Luther King Jr/Memphis

On Friday last week I went to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. As soon as I left the parking lot it felt heavy, as this was the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

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Before even getting here, I the lover of history knew about this site from what I learned in history in my younger years. But reading about such places has a different weight to them, going to such sites can be so heavy.

In case you’ve never been to the museum it goes like this. You park, you walk in the parking lot outside of Martin Luther King Jr.’s room, you go into an underpass of sorts, go into the museum, make your way to the a higher level and there you are in the area where James Earl Ray was staying and conditions of this place are such so it’s presented as it was back then! The bathroom and cracked window in the above photo is where he was when he fired his rifle across to the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out…it is eerie for many reasons, it is very matter-of-fact as to what happened.

It was heavy for me because I think about a lot of things, and when I think about individuals who have moved in the direction of progress, a LOT of people die in their prime for what they believe and stand for; Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr…the list goes on.

There’s something to living for what you believe, and I truly try to live out what I believe as a follower of Christ on a daily basis. Yet there’s also something to living what you believe even if it costs you your life. I don’t think I have any threats against me, I’m a peaceable person and don’t get into a lot of arguments. I passionately dialogue and discuss things out, and so I don’t think I’m someone worth targeting despite perhaps coming from a different stance from different people.

Still those who are martyred for what they believe hold admiration on my part, now suicide bombers who martyr themselves do not hold any admiration, perhaps that’ll be another blog post for another day.

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Martin Luther King Jr. studied the peaceful protesting methodology of Mahatma Gandhi, and he was also a follower of Christ. His words and speeches are prolific and well-known, and he exemplified St. Francis of Assisi’s words “make me an instrument of your peace”. Being where he was when he gave up his spirit and passed on was awe-educing, the silence of that place was deafening. I too want to live out a life of being an instrument of peace, as well as progress for humanity. How will that all look? I don’t know fully know yet, but I am getting to where I need to be in life and I have God to thank for that.

~Nathanael~