…But overcome evil with good; my recap of Chicago Pride 2014/I’m Sorry Campaign 2014

Since 2010 I have volunteered with The Marin Foundation and friends in the I’m Sorry Campaign, and earlier this year I spearheaded the first ever I’m Sorry Campaign in Los Angeles, and last year I was a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign in Memphis. But this year was a first for me, as I went to the Chicago Pride Parade to be a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign in front of the protestors.

Reuben, and other guys with bullhorns, and galls with signs, took their anger and fury and crafted for themselves a god and spewed it on anyone and everyone. They had police protection and were guarded, and it was definitely a “great” display in demonstrating the effectiveness of USA’s Freedom Of Speech, but their speech…and conduct within their pin…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.


While it angered me and frustrated me, more than anything else I felt fear being in their presence. These “street preachers” seemed to pick apart everyone and anything that crossed their hairs. I was still fearful when I started dwelling and meditating on Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (bold and underlines are mine.)
It really cleared my fear up very quickly, it also helped me be present; to those in the parade, to those around us, to the other I’m Sorry Campaigners, to the protestors, but also unto God and what I was led to do by the Holy Spirit on the day as well as when I first went in 2010.

We received the usual stuff they hand/throw out at Pride Parades, but we also gave and received hugs and embraces from others, I held shaking, quivering, guys and gals who saw us after seeing the protestors and were incredibly moved by us being present in front of them proclaiming that God is love not hate, we allowed others to cry tears of happiness and relief that not all Christians come across as being unloving, we received we-forgive-you’s for our I’m-sorry’s, but ultimately I believe we embraced humanity but we also embraced divinity as well.

It was a blessing to be a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign for the second time this year. I am glad to play my part in restoration and reconciliation because while ultimately God, I believe with every cell of my body that we can help usher in perfect shalom. I never have the feeling that I am going to bring God to the Pride Parades I attend by way of the I’m Sorry Campaign, because God is already present and moving through those who gather. Being the hands and feet of Christ are important, but being his arms to hug, his shoulders to lean on, and his ears to hear the stories of others, that too is very important. I am proud to be a follower of Christ and I am thankful for the faithfulness of The Marin Foundation and friends who live intentional and incarnational lives, lives invested in the lives of others, lives invested to build bridges between the Christian Community and the LGBTQ Community. Not that they are islands unto themselves, but there needs to be more overlap and dialogue.

Happy Pride everyone, to God be the glory!

~Nathanael~

My recap of the Los Angeles Pride Parade/I’m Sorry Campaign LA

I was greatly encouraged that by word of mouth, a Facebook group page, 12 of us came together to be a part of the very first I’m Sorry Campaign in Los Angeles. While I am used to interacting with those around at Chicago Pride, our interactions with those with whom we offered I’m-Sorry’s were mostly with those directly in the parade. And yet it was received very well.

I can’t even begin to count the hugs, kisses, the weeping in my shoulder blade and thank-you’s and I-forgive-you’s I personally received. I saw some people within the parade who were moved and blew kisses, but thankfully a good deal of those I met and interacted with were on the street level. This is encouraging to me because it meant there was a connection made, a symbiotic relationship briefly established…this occurred after the majority of the people in the parade as well as those who came to watch passed up a group of protestors, a group of people waving their filthy flag under the guise of God, essentially a turn-or-burn message.

But still, my fellow I’m Sorry Campaigners received hugs and kisses, heard stories, engaged with those in the parade as well as those around them. Since I led this up and only met 1 individual for this event, I was slightly nervous as to how they’d engage with those in the parade and those around. They did a splendid job and I know that if they get together next year they will do fine on their own.

***

Usually one Kingdom of God moment sticks out to me after the fact of Pride parades, be it someone I interacted within the parade directly or someone in nearby proximity who saw what we were about. None specifically sticks out because there was an abundance of love and reconciliation and restoration! 🙂 I enjoyed that people were receptive to our cards, read it, got it and looked back to smile/wave/blown kisses/mouthed thank-you’s. That’s how it sometimes plays out in the Kingdom Of God, it takes a bit of time to process what’s really going on and receive it completely and fully.
God delights in our “getting it” and even our extending it to others. Love, grace, mercy, peace, reconciliation and restoration point to what God is doing and even what God has invited us along to do and participate in. God’s presence is already there, but God invites us and coaxes us to be a part of Kingdom work.

Thanks be to God for inviting me to be a part of adventures like this one. I’m not running on a “spiritual high” right now but rather a relaxed state of being and dwelling and thinking over what God has done, a posture of thankfulness to do events like this one. I have seen the hands of God in all of this, and I am grateful to have played a part in it.

~Nathanael~

Why I stopped being a Christian jerk

A couple of weeks ago one of my coworkers and I were talking and…religion (gasp!) became the topic for a while. She shared with me part of her story, where she came from and where she is now. I brought up how that when I aligned myself as an Evangelical it was very limiting, and at times I was downright legalistic on many a topic. She, at this point seeing how I work with my clients, grasped that I’ve changed and she brought up what caused me to start changing, to start loving more and legalizing less…and…well, here’s some of my story in that regard.

I stopped being a Christian jerk when…

I realized how much my faith is mine, but ultimately God through God’s grace and love, how much isn’t me. I have a work ethic that sometimes is off-putting and an amalgamation of cockiness and independence, the “trust me, I’ve got this” shtick is how I sometimes play (thankfully not all the time, I am very much a team player). Yet this is how I at times have conducted my faith, that “hey God, sit down, I’ve got this” and it…it ate me alive to be perfectly honest. I made it all about me, and in doing so I removed God from the equation and I sat down and called myself God. I didn’t do this verbally, but certainly my actions seemed as such, and with being a self-imposed God I made a list of do’s and don’ts of personal morality but I also tried to some extent to hold people to MY standards, and it bound me and blinded me, never once was I free.

But grace somehow made its way in. In my flaws and in my cracks, grace pierced my heart. Grace was followed by unconditional love, which was followed by acceptance and affirmation; that despite all the hell I caused others, despite all the hell I heaped on my head, God still loved me for me, not because…

I bring up the parable of The Prodigal Son frequently because I have been all 3 characters- the father, the older brother, and the younger brother at some time in my life. It was my self-imposed legalism that made me in my own way exclaim that “it’s not fair!” when people seem to get ahead despite me thinking they didn’t deserve it. It was the doing my own thing on my own terms and wanting to find my way back, if just to be back to occupy the lowest position. It was the seeing someone I love hurt and running to them and embracing them instead of letting them endure the long road back with a heavy burden of thoughts weighing them down.

Having been all 3, I want to say nowadays I aim to be like the father; to extend grace and unconditional love to others because this was extended to me, this is what set me free.

***

Because of grace and unconditional love I am at odds with the Christian community sometimes because of my outspokenness about the LGBTQ Community. For me it comes from a place of realizing what followers of Christ have said or done that have marginalized them, that have stripped them of their humanity and ultimately their Imago Dei-ness- that they are indeed made in the image of God. While the LGBTQ Community are not the only individuals who are being marginalized, it’s personal to me and something I am very vocal about, because I too had a hand in the marginalization by way of using the word “Gay” as an adjective for stupid and dumb.
It was while I was in college that a floor-mate of mine changed my thinking about so much about what I thought despite at that time my views were based on ‘well my father thinks/my mother thinks/my pastor thinks’, my floor-mate was what I needed in my life to jar me from my complacency and parroted views that were never mine to begin with, but I hid behind them nonetheless.

It was a 5-6 year journey of wrestling it all out. But I made it! 🙂

***

If you are a follower of Christ if the Holy Spirit moves you and beckons you to new places that are outside of your comfort zone (she’s prone to doing that in my life) I encourage you to go and be not only the hands and feet of Jesus, but to be the ears and eyes as well. It was unnerving the first time I went to the Pride Parade in Chicago to be a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign, but God was already there, God just happened to invite my friends and I to be a part of something bigger, something better. God is already *insert place here* and with the grace and unconditional love he lavishes on us constantly, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?

~Nathanael~

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

O Holy Night revised; personal contextualization to this Christmas carol

For the last 3 years when Christmas comes around and when the Christmas carol O Holy Night is sung, I alter a part of it a little bit:

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I am fully aware that slavery still exists in our world, but if I recall the song was written outside of United States, but when it did come to the United States it was in the time of slavery. With that being said, I get why it was written with slave added to it, but where do I find such conflict within the church today?
Certainly in the churches across America there isn’t a master-and-slave paradigm that exists. However there is a straight-vs-Gay paradigm at times; while there are churches that are accepting, affirming, and loving of members of the LGBT Community there are some churches that practice (whether they acknowledge it or not) exclusiveness not inclusiveness, judgment over love.

So I changed the words knowing this all too well as a straight ally, it is for my brothers and sisters in the LGBT Community whose voices are not heard within Christian circles, who are silenced intentionally as well as unintentionally. I sing for those who cannot sing, who have been kicked out of church because some Christians have not extended Christ-like love to them, I have met some individuals who have gone through this and it breaks my heart but I also know it breaks God’s heart as well.

***

Now this isn’t a post where I’m urging you to “do what I’m doing”, I’m writing this as a wake up call to Christians everywhere! End the marginalization of those who are the “other”; and it very well could mean that it is  someone who is like you more than it means someone not like you.

I recognize in my own life the “other” are Evangelical Calvinists who have a strong sense of believe rather than faith, who have hammered down their personal theology in a controlled and precise matter. Why do those who align themselves like this bother the hell out of me? …I once was like this myself.
In realizing this after the fact (to which it served as a building block not a stepping stone) I dislike who I was, but it is part of my story and I am believing that nothing is wasted, even in those years of creating and perpetuating us-vs-them paradigms.

Yet it is these individuals I need to put more time, more patience, and certainly more love into. It is these people I want to avoid at all costs, but as my pastor wisely put it “you can’t be inclusive to all if you’re exclusive to some”, dammit! Why do you have to be so…right? He is right, and I’m getting that it is like putting a puzzle together; I need all the pieces and not just the ones that strike my attention or are easy to assemble, because any exclusion of puzzle pieces makes for an incomplete puzzle.

Altering “O Holy Night” by saying Gay Man instead of Slave is something that I have no qualms about. Yet I realize that maybe I need to broaden it, because the Evangelical Calvinist is my brother and sister too. That! That is a line I need to sing, because I need to sing for them too. So maybe if I sing it fast enough I can sing Gay-man-and-Evangelical-Calvinist at the same time 😉 I will do my best to do so, because it’s more than a song to me, it’s a posture of  living as God would have me to, it’s living in a more Christ-like way.

~Nathanael~