speaking up for and defending others as a spiritual exercise; day 11 of Ramadan / A fierce kind of love; my recap of Chicago Pride 2015 and the I’m Sorry Campaign 2015

I am going to make this a “two birds with one stone” post, so here it goes…

Speaking up and defending others is a spiritual exercise, because sometimes in life others need your voice / be an alternative voice / be a buffer / be an ally, and yesterday friends and acquaintances of The Marin Foundation were that to the LGBTQ Community by way of the I’m Sorry Campaign. But it so happened that I and several others positioned ourselves at the end of the parade, in front of the protesters.
Now I don’t have much to say about the protesters because they’re a verbally violent and virulent bunch of people who have a convoluted understanding of God and God’s love for humanity. God’s out to get you, and if you’re a member of the LGBTQ Community or even an ally, the wrath of God is and will be poured out upon you and they want to make damn sure that you know it; they make this known by their numerous signs and bullhorns, and it gets loud and hurtful quick.

My friends, and acquaintances, and The Marin Foundation, do what we can to build bridges between the LGBTQ Community and primarily the church community. Not that they’re mutually exclusive but there’s been an unfortunate marginalization that has been occurring by the church to a certain extent for quite some time now. We want to be agents of change, agents of a fierce love that does what it can to bring forth restoration and reconciliation.
I am encouraged by the I’m Sorry Campaign and what it is capable of doing. I am also encouraged by it being seen at different Pride Parades around the country as well as outside; it’s amazing to see what God is doing through others who want to bring about reconciliation and restoration unto the LGBTQ Community who has been marginalized by the church. We’re getting better all the time in doing so!

So for the second year running I positioned myself in front of the protesters. My friend L* and I found ourselves there a bit earlier, we actually beat the protesters there!

and with some time to spare we took care of a few errands before heading back to our spot in front of where the protesters would be. Having one under my belt I felt less nervous about being there. This year we actually had more space than we did last year, and so while we were right there in the front of the protesters it didn’t feel like their bullhorns were positioned directly right behind our heads.

As more protesters got settled into their places, more friends and acquaintances made their way to the spot as well. My friend D* and I did what we could to be a buffer directly behind them, we were at the barricades that kept them in (or the rest of us out). I did feel the verbal heat from what they had to say, but my anxiety and fear was not present. God was with us and he wasn’t going to let us down, and it was the presence of God that sustained us that day because love is louder than hate, and we got to be a part of that fierce love of God that loves everyone.

Given that we were at the end of the parade, and so it started rolling by our location close to two and a half hours. Immediately our presence was known by those in the parade to be one of God’s love and one that wasn’t like that of the protesters who were behind of us. Hugs and thank-you’s were extended by those in the parade to us, for they could see that we were willing to be there and to be present as a counter-protest to the protesters. Most of those in the parade had moments of “getting it”; getting what we we were saying and what we stood for, and it was the a very beautiful thing to bear witness to time and time again.

Our love is fierce to the extent that we couldn’t hate the protesters, for we also vocalized our love for them as well! I am reminded of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King who said; “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” And it’s true! If we were to lower ourselves to the level of the protesters than in a way we’d be no better than they are. But by loving them as God loves us, we are able to transcend that fear and that hate and overcome it despite the odds.
The protesters were dismayed and a bit angry at our verbalization of our love for them:

But despite the fact they didn’t feel the same way, it was the right thing to do and we meant it. It is the fierce love God that propels us forward to go out into the world and do big things, it is the fierce love of God that sustains us and helps us become a voice of change, it’s the fierce love of God that will see each and everyone of us to completion. May our actions and words in defending those who have been hurt and marginalized by the church become a balm of healing. To God be the glory!

That is why speaking up for and defending others were my key words on the 11th day of Ramadan. May God, the defender and protector of the wounded, continually bring about change in our lives and in the lives of others, so that we can be instruments of his peace, so that we can be instruments of his fierce love that is lavished greatly upon all of us every day.

Salaam Alakium and Happy Pride y’all!
~Nathanael~

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Recap of the Chicago Pride Parade/I’m Sorry Campaign 2013

This past Sunday marked the 4th time I was involved with the I’m Sorry Campaign and engaged in tangibly coming forward in a posture of I’m Sorry for the way the Christian community has treated the LGBT community.

***

For starters, I got there late, oy do I hate being late. Weaving through the crowds from Wellington to the IHOP off of Halstead took 1.5 hours! It was during my time getting to our spot that that I found out that a bunch of I’m Sorry Campaigners went to where there were protesters, but the ministry of the I’m Sorry Campaign proceeded in both locations (I will write more about this later).

It was during the parade I asked several individuals about what they were sorry about. Some of the responses were about the stereotypes they had drawn up at one time about individuals of the LGBT Community, some of it was expressions of being sorry for the way some Christians treated individuals of the LGBT Community, and some of it was just their opportunity to be fully come out for themselves and some were there in support of their daughter (I love L*’s parents!)

Another blessing of the day was that one of my fellow PFLAGers was out there too! I met some of his family who he already shared with them what the I’m Sorry Campaign was all about. It is a blessing to see people I care for and love with those they also care for and love, it’s one of my favorite parts of aiding to perfect shalom.

It was only after the parade that people were asking me what I was sorry about, and for me I’m truly sorry for the way Christians have treated the LGBT Community inasmuch to say that God doesn’t love them, whether by directly communicating that or by living a life that makes God out to be a heteronormative diety…God’s not, he’s much bigger than labels we affix to him.
I think the one definitive moment of talking to some lesbians and gay men about what I’m sorry about when I was congratulated by a lesbian who said; “I’m an atheist, but thank God for what you’re doing!” Thanks be to God for moments like these, where the person who doesn’t believe in God’s existence gives thanks to God…amazing, truly amazing.

***

I’m glad to have gone, and sadly my mother was going to join me for the I’m Sorry Campaign but got lost in the crowds (found her though! :-)) yet as I’ve heard her perspective she had a good time in her own right and 2 gay men helped her have a good time and they truly took care of my mother in a Christlike way, yay for the kindness of strangers.

In addition to going to Chicago Pride this year it is my intention to go to Memphis Pride; I’ve got some vacation time and I want to use it, and I love Tennesee, and the LGBT Community…why not? 🙂

I will end my recap in this. Love wins, and love covers a multitude of sins. When we love as Christ loved us, when we posture ourselves into making ourselves servants instead of leaders, taking time to BE with others, God is with us no matter where we might be. I can’t say I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone inasmuch as I have expanded my comfort zone. By loving and taking time to BE and listen and talk and share the love of Christ any shred of timidity I might have goes out the window. God truly gives me clarity to seek out after those whose stories need to be heard, I want to be a vessel for God’s kingdom and glory to be and to love.

~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

Breaking away from being a leader…and being okay with the outcomes

Breaking away from being a leader…and being okay with the outcomes

At this year’s Gay Pride Parade in Chicago I have predetermined not to act as “leader” of the group of individuals who usually go with me to this event, I handed the reins over to my former pastor’s son who has been with me from the start, a guy several years younger than me but that’s okay with me.

I not the official “leader” for my group of friends who attend the Gay Pride Parade, but I do invite people, I share my story, I give them the details as I know best and I keep them in the loop of things as I learn them. I did this the first time I went to the Gay Pride Parade 2 years ago as well as last year, but in all honesty I thought I would be in Southern California by now and so that’s why I shifted gears and passed off the leadership position (for what it’s worth) to someone else. Now that I am still local, I haven’t gone back to leading up this group and I am perfectly okay with it, but it takes time for me to be “okay with it” as I like to see things out to completion, including roles of leadership and essentially those that follow the leader.
I have to some degree always taken on the role of the leader, either by default or because I was assigned to the task, which for the most part I never have had a problem with that and for the most part people haven’t had a problem with me being a leader because I think I’m fair, I delegate responsibilities to others well & I’m a good active listener.

I don’t know how it’s going down with my friend taking over as a leader, I do sense that maybe I should have been a better mentor in helping him lead, but I’m not sweating the details at all, what happens will happen, and I think that might be an important quality of being a leader – letting the chips fall where they may and not getting up in arms over it.

Because there will be occasions in my life where I won’t be in charge or I will delegate responsibilities and I will be leading but from a position where people are running the show and I’m leading in other ways. I can’t always be the “go-to guy”, if I’m not able to be reached I have to make alternative people be the ones who can be reached and that’s a little nerve-wracking for me but distance can be a healthy thing and if I’m a husband and a father, I need to make time for them and not give them the leftovers of my energy at the end of the day.

~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~

The kingdom of Heaven is like…(a God moment at today’s Gay Pride Parade in Chicago)

*This took place near the end of the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago…*

He walked by with the intent to leave the parade because it just ended, but he stopped cold in his tracks when he saw our I’m Sorry t shirts.

(Andrew Marin and I!)
I could see in his eyes fear at possible rejection if our shirts meant something hurtful and hateful. I caught on to his fears early and engaged him in dialogue as to what we were saying we’re sorry about; sorry about how Christians might have directly or indirectly told him they’re not loved by God and there’s no place for the LGBT community in the church, and that in fact God loves them and we do too and there IS a place for you in the church – this is my response to what I’m sorry about

His fears subsided, his frown became a smile, “So you’re saying you are sorry for what Christians have said? That you truly love me?” By now his smile was a full blown grin and he (by now he revealed his name – Nathan) told my friends and I “you guys are REAL Christians! That is bombass!”
Nathan shared how his Christian parents threw him out when he came out to them, his hurt visibly noted as he through up a shrug and referenced John 3:16, I get that and I get the passage when it says “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish by have ever lasting life.”

I pulled Nathan into my circle of friends even closer and I asked him if I could pray for him, “I have a better idea” he said, “let’s pray for one another.” My friends and I proceeded to lift Nathan up in prayer; for a good day, for a good week and I closed by praying for reconciliation and restoration between him and his parents. We finished the prayer, talked a little more and gave hugs and then he was on his way with a smile on his face for getting to meet us.
This time, this moment, was definitely a God moment. He put us then and there to engage Nathan in conversation, to share what we sorry about and to lift him up in prayer. May God reconcile and restore the rift between him and his parents, and since reconciliation and restoration is kingdom stuff this left me smiling and crying a little, because in this God moment this is what the kingdom of God is like.

~Nathanael~

Another God moment involving Andrew Marin/Marin Foundation

I had just gotten off work last Thursday night and I needed to pick up some groceries, while shopping I bumped into a professor I had when I was still attending the local community college. It was very neat to bump into him because I’ve been meaning to (more details in my next blog). I was asking him how the family was, because at the time I was taking his speech class his wife was pregnant with twins, and I shared with him that I remembered that because he brought in photos of the ultrasound photos  I was excited for him…oh yeah, those twins are 6 and a half years old, my does time fly!

At the end (or so it seemed) of our conversation we shook hands and I asked how I could pray for him, he asked for prayer for traveling mercies, that his drive back to his house would be a safe one, and he returned the favor.
I shared how I want to get into youth ministry and I need discernment in finding a church that is (at the very least) GLBT friendly, because with God’s help I can help make it a church that is GLBT affirming and loving.

His jaw dropped at this, and he shared with me:

This has been something that’s been tugging at my heart as well as my wife’s.

He went on to share with me that he does find it rather sad, silly and disturbing the way Christians do not fully engage these people/keep them at a distance/don’t let them attend their church. He went on to tell me there’s a pretty large Lutheran church in the area that does a very good job at engaging/loving/accepting members of the GLBT community! I’m going to find this church and possibly attend next Sunday!

I shared with him what my friends and the Marin Foundation did last year at the Gay Pride Parade with the I’m Sorry campaign. He was amazed and awe struck at this gesture by Christians, to go out and bring much needed restoration to the GLBT community.
We shook hands one last time and he told me come by his office near the end of the semester for some coffee and communication, heck yeah! I can’t wait.

It was good to see him again and have this God moment, it is also encouraging to find out other believers who want to help bring restoration, to help rebuild a burnt bridge between Christians and the GLBT community.

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