Cleaning as a spiritual exercise; day 7 of Ramadan

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“As you live deeper in the heart, the mirror gets clearer and cleaner” – Rumi
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil” – Isaiah 1:16

Day 7 of Ramadan and this fast is proving to be quite a useful spiritual practice in and of itself, but today I found myself in a place where I did a lot of cleaning. Upon getting off of work this afternoon I examined my apartment and I realized that it was in disarray; not that it’s one giant mess, but admittedly I have let some of it go where I probably shouldn’t have.

So with that in mind I started cleaning up my townhouse quite a bit. I worked diligently all the while listening to the tunes of Serj Tankian, Neon Indian, and Com Truise. When all was said and done, I was proud of my accomplishments in such a short period of time. I smiled at my work with a nod and wink to God and a mouthed “it is good” at seeing the progress made of a good cleaning.
I think that’s how God reacts when she lends her hand in the cleaning process; that progress is made and things are better than they once were. I am thankful to God that she lets us partake in the cleaning process as well, in making the world a better place for everyone. The world is being cleaned and being pushed further and further in a better direction, and as the writer of the poem wrote in the creation narrative of Genesis 1 in the Bible, it is good! God never removed that statement from the earth although it’s understandable why sometimes it might not seem that way, but that’s why we should press forward in being good stewards of our world!

So with all that being said, cleaning was my keyword on this 7th day of Ramadan. Thanks me to God, The Master Cleaner, making this world a better place and inviting for all of us to take part in it. We help heal this world, this pale blue dot, every time we clean it up to the best of our abilities. May we continue to clean up where we can when we can, for our sakes as well as the sakes of others!

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
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~

While I was teaching Sunday School…

I help teach Sunday School at one of my churches every 1st and 3rd Sunday, here’s something that gripped me this past Sunday…

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Lately we’ve been teaching the kids the Bible as an overarching story, we’re covering events from creation in the OT to the birth of Jesus, death of Jesus and resurrection of Jesus in the NT. It’s not a bad curriculum, as it does give us time to discuss with our kids what they’re hearing and to see if they have any questions and/or we ask them questions. We started this curriculum to coincide with Easter, when we finish up it’ll be Easter morning, so kudos to the Sunday School powers that be at my church who thought that one through.

So last Sunday we were discussing sacrifice as how it was done in the Old Testament, where a lamb without blemish or disease would be prayed over by one of the rabbis and through the prayer the sins of the rabbi as well as all the Israelites would be put on to that lamb, from there the rabbi would slit the lamb’s throat and it would die and it would be the sacrifice for everyone for a year.
In the NT with Jesus, the ultimate and also the last sacrifice that was ever needed to bring restoration between God and Man, Jesus died on the cross, Jesus is our much needed sacrifice, so that through him we can have atonement and restitution made between us and God.

As we told this story, a boy who’s probably 10, a visitor to our church and Sunday School for the first time started crying at this point. You know what? I truly believe he was crying because he “got it”; that WE are the reasons why Jesus became a sacrifice, that WE are the reasons why Jesus suffered such a horrible execution…but thankfully by the grace of God that isn’t the other story, otherwise I’m just jabbing my jaw/typing my fingers off for no reason.

I wish I “got it” more often like that little boy did. That when I read “he was wounded for our sins” I actually think more than a flesh wound, but a metal to flesh, gory, horrifying scenario. I (even for a dark mind such as my own) make the crucifixion of Christ relatively tame. I do think of the implications at a deeper and sometimes darker level, but I don’t read into it like a copy of Frank Miller’s Sin City.
I need some time for self examination, and as an introspective person that is quite easy for me to do…why do I tame down the shedding of blood, the horrifying and death-taking and life-giving of the crucifixion of Christ? (I will get back to y’all on this later)

But back to “getting it”… My prayer is for God to use this in this boy’s life; by way of us Sunday School teachers but also his parents, to ask the why questions and to truly starting a relationship with God. He might be young, but even Jesus made known that children are important to him.

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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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