A service of Taizé at DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church

Last night I went to Dupage Unitarian Universalist Church because I found out via their Facebook page that they were going to have a Taizé service.

Taizé is usually a gathering that has elements of chanting, candle lighting, responsive reading, shared silence, and some form of a guided meditation.

In fact, the Taizé service I was a part of incorporated all of these elements. Initially I was a bit thrown off by the shared silence, but I was quickly relieved because despite several shared silence’s, they were no more than five minutes a piece. That I can do (and maybe someday I can level up to Quaker status).

The opening chant went as follows; come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come, yet again, come. (SLT #188)

I found beauty in this chant, and I did what I could to figure out which part of “whoever you are” most aligned with, I believe in that instance I was a “wanderer” and maybe perhaps I am that still.

From there a candle was lit in the center of our gathering. Apart from the dusk setting in quickly, the candle was a nice centering item for when my eyes were open.

Given that our shared silence time wasn’t that long, I found myself more engaged as a result. I mentally prepared myself for the night by mentally chanting a Latin phrase I’ve picked up in my own studying and partaking in Taizé; veni sancte spiritus, come holy spirit.

The highlight of my evening partaking in the service was the guided meditation. Our guide led us (with nature sounds in the background) into a deeper place found within. It’s hard to put into words, but I lived there and thrived there, it may have felt like a lifetime but in actuality it was probably twenty minutes altogether. I caught myself crying a little, because it was beautiful to simply be aligned mind+body+spirit, to simply BE.

After the service I made my way to the labyrinth that’s outside the building. The above picture is from that, as the path is illuminated when the sun is no longer out. It was another wave of much needed introspection and silence entwined. I took my time and meditated all the while, mentally chanting veni sancte spiritus.

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Unfortunately they’re going to be taking a break from this service until October. Until then I’ll have to partake in Taizé on my own or find others to do it with. It’s not often that I am stirred so deeply, so passionately, but I am willing to engage that deeper part of me that resides in the silence.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

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Church Incognito; Intellectual, Communal, Missional, my experience at a Lutheran Church

On the Saturday night before Mother’s Day I was talking to my friend about my Church Incognito project. I was still undecided as to where I’d be going to church on Sunday and he invited me to St. Olaf’s Lutheran Church, as he and his brother and his mother and grandmother would be there! I love my friend so it was an easy sell.

Upon arriving to St. Olaf’s I arrived almost at the same time my friend and his family did! So it was great to finally meet them! As we walked in we were all greeted warmly by the ushers as well as our mutual friends who also attend the church.

As I entered the sanctuary I scanned for familiar faces as well as to get an idea of who attends St. Olaf’s, and it was encouraging to see a diversity of older individuals and their families as well as younger families, and there were even multi-generational families represented. I am always encouraged by the latter because it’s something I would like to do someday, that is, go to church with my kids and my kids children. There’s something beautiful to it and I am pleased to see it happening in real life.

As the service started I was encouraged by the pastor making it known that he wanted St. Olaf’s Lutheran Church to be “intentionally making this place a place of welcome”. There was the passing of the peace, there was re-greeting some friends, and then it was time to sing hymns and reading Bible verses corporately.
Having grown up in the church for nearly my entire life long term memory has served me well. I enjoy singing hymns, especially as one voice within a church. There weren’t any “new” ones so I was able to find the cadence with the congregation and sing along. Even reading the Bible out loud and in community is one of my favorites as well, especially when it comes to reading what’s attributed to the doings and beings and sayings of Jesus. The power that comes with unity when it comes to serve God and serve others is hard for me to put into words, but for every instance I am able to worship God in the context of church I am ever grateful.

The service was good, Mother’s Day was the theme and so the message was along the lines of why God made moms. It was systematic in nature with bullet points:
1. Moms FEEL with us.
2. Moms PROTECT us.
3. Moms SACRIFICE with us.
4. Moms CREATE a home for us.
5. Moms MOTIVATE us.
How do we respond?
How can we honor our moms?
1. We OBEY them.
2. We BLESS them.
3. We TAKE CARE of them and lastly…
4. CHOCOLATE!

All very good, and Bible verses supported these points. And after a few more hymns, church was over! I was invited by friend’s mother to spend mother’s day with them but I already had mother’s day plans of my own so I politely declined.

Overall it was a worthwhile time spent at St. Olaf’s. It was good to see old friends and some new, and to finally connect with some people I knew solely on Facebook at first. I love Lutherans, they’re for the most part an intellectual group of people and I for one appreciate people who have smarts that they utilize in a communal-missional sense. Lutherans have that in spades, and while I might not align myself denominationally I have no qualms with those who do provided they recognize their identity in Christ first and foremost. Hearing about faith is one thing, but I am ever pleased to see it in action, and Lutherans for the most part have that down.

~Nathanael~

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

what do you do when your inclusive community has conflict?

I honestly don’t know.

But I am willing to learn, willing to BE a part of this experience, and hope for the best because I really don’t know how it’ll play out…
Community can be a complicated thing sometimes, because people are complicated and come with complications. It’s not that they can’t be worked through, in fact, the differences and complications flavor a community even more so as a result. Yet I realize that a community works best if there’s a common purpose for all even if those individuals are coming from diverse backgrounds. It makes it that much more easier if said individuals can each vocalize in their own way, why they’re “here” and perhaps even where they’re coming from that has brought them to this point.
So the best I can surmise at this time within my community is that provided we’re honest to ourselves and to others as to what’s going on, we’ll be able to get through this. If members choose to bottle up their emotions (and provided they keep it solely there) they hurt themselves only…not the healthiest of options, but not everyone is able to communicate what’s going on, let alone, communicate what they’re feeling or thinking.

~Nathanael~

Being mindful on Martin Luther King Jr day / We have so far to go

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(my favorite quote by him)

I was reading and listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s I have a dream speech the other day, and this time around of listening to it this part jumped out at me; “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I listened to its entirety, being mindful of what he said, but I grew a bit sad because we’re still not there yet.

I don’t need to rehash events that took place in 2014, if you follow the news even casually you know what happened and perhaps even the where and possibly the why. But it goes beyond racial inequality, we still have human trafficking, people still die of water issues and starvation, LGBTQ rights are disregarded by states as well as countries. And while it might seem like too much sometimes, it doesn’t have to be, anyone can be a voice for themselves and sometimes they can be a voice for others as well.
On a personal level I realize that this life I live wasn’t meant to be turned inward, I wasn’t meant to take on life alone for my own gain or to tackle issues as they come up alone. I was made…I am designed for community, and part of that means thinking and acting and being more than “one person”.

***

A few months ago I went to a conference about what’s going on in Israel as well as Palestine. It was well attended, and in between the sessions we had breaks to get coffee and perhaps dwell on what we had just heard and learned. I asked those around me and those at the coffee station what they had thought so far. The most common answers I heard that day were:
“I can’t wait for God to do something about what’s going on in Palestine and Israel”
and
“I want to find out more about what’s going on in Palestine and Israel so that I can do something about it.”

Frankly, those are postures I have taken on in my life, thankfully I lean to the latter. One that expects God to take care of the problem and one that wants to play a role in working to change that problem. While I do think God could very well take care of such matters devoid of human interaction, I don’t think it was meant for us to do. We can play a role in finding a way to be engaged in a social justice manner. How does one get social justice minded? I honestly don’t know, I only have suggestions not solutions. Perhaps the questions of 1. What am I passionate about in life? 2. What fires me up? 3. What injustice in the world do I see that bothers me? 4. What can I do to bring about change, no matter how microcosm it may be? is a good place to begin.

In my own life, the issues of what happens to the LGBTQ Community on a local level are on my heart and on my mind. Being an ally has taken time, but I am thankful to God for leading me here and beyond. It’s why I participate in the I’m Sorry Campaign, it’s why I own up to my shortcomings and collective issues caused by Christians. There’s still so much that needs to be done, but it’s being done.

The sooner you start, the sooner it becomes a habit. The sooner it becomes a habit, the sooner you can impress these values on your community going outward. It also helps you find people who are likeminded and likehearted, people who resonate a deep “me too”. Your life is not your own, you were made for so much more!

“It’s always the right time to do the right thing” – Martin Luther King Jr.
~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~