I am me (part 1); a preface, a parable

The kingdom of God is like…

A vegetarian is invited to a barbeque cookout and attends. The vegetarian knows full well that he’s going to be hungry so he brings himself food that he eats and has a good time.

The non-vegetarians observe this and ask; “what’s with the Boca Burgers? Don’t you want a REAL hamburger?” The vegetarian smiles and says, “no thanks, this is what I eat, this is what I need in my life. It wasn’t always so, but I’ve changed. Feel free to eat one in my honor if you so choose, but that isn’t me any longer.” The non-vegetarians smile and say; “suit yourself, enjoy your Boca Burgers!” And all is well between the vegetarian and the non-vegetarians, because it’s about the fellowship and sharing of life, not the food being ingested by all parties…

Thanks be to God!

Hello again! I’m “back” to writing here on WordPress, a lot of things in life has changed and I feel the impetus to write on here again. This preface, this parable is but a veiled idea behind other ideas behind what’s going on in my life as of late. So buckle up, things are about to get interesting!

~Nathanael

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~