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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…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, thatΒ 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.

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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! πŸ™‚ 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~

I’m out in Los Angeles for the week

Earlier this year I met one of my online friends offline and we shared life with one another and I brought up a dream I had where took the I’m Sorry Campaign to San Francisco Pride in the Castro District.

My friend doesn’t live in San Francisco but Los Angeles, and he brought up that the I’m Sorry Campaign would be a good thing at the West Hollywood/L.A. Pride Parade and I said I’d love to do help out with that. With a lot of direction and help from The Marin Foundation and Michael Kimpan, that idea and concept talked about earlier this year is quickly becoming a reality.

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I say all this not to toot my own horn, or self-praise myself, but rather turn any resemblance of praise and thanks and offer it up to God. Even though it has been a harrowing experience, despite my anxiety and a few rough patches in getting this together and even rough patches in my own life…I am more at peace about this now than I ever have been because of several variables:

– Someone else believing in me – It has been been encouraging to be given the task to help lead this up. As much as I gravitate to leadership roles, lately I have been plagued with doubt and worry, anxiety and frustration, and when this happens to me in my life (which is an irregular event but still happens.) I don’t function well. at. all.
Yet Michael believes in me and what I am capable of doing. There’s something to the nature of imposing (in a good sense) belief and capability on others, because while it hasn’t sustained me or inflated my ego, it has restored me in some ways and brought about be believing in my capacities.

– I am not going into this alone – If I am honest with myself and you the reader, there is a sneaky sly deceptive voice that tries to get under my skin with a message of “you’re going into this alone” and then I temporarily freeze up and then I find myself dwelling on the last part of Romans 8:31 where it says “If God is for us, who can be against us” and personalize it, if God is for me, who can be against me? It brings me back to level ground, it brings me back to a place of recognizing that while this is new territory, the way has already been paved which is what leads me to my last point…

– God is here, I’m just invited to be a part of this adventure – God is present in L.A., God will be at LA Pride, God will be amongst those in the parade who read our signs and interact with those gathered to be a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign in LA. I realized the nature of God being present at Pride parades when I was on my way to the first I’m Sorry Campaign in Chicago; I was hesitant and even worried as to how the message of I’m Sorry would be received, but a gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit rolled over me, encouraging me that I was to be a part of something bigger and better than myself, something that God was already involved in…before it even happened! That set the tone of my heart, mind, and soul for that one and ever one since, and even the one that’s going to happen this Sunday.

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I am truly blessed to be out here and to be a part of this, to God be the glory in all that we do! πŸ™‚

~Nathanael~

I’m Sorry Campaign – Memphis Pride 2013

So the first leg of my vacation to Tennessee was marked by coming into town for camping, but also Memphis Pride. My friend Jimmy kept me in the loop when I was still in IL, when I was still in limbo with my job pertaining to vacation…but IΒ  made it out to Memphis, and have been enjoying it ever since.

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Okay, so yes I come from Illinois and I have attended 4 Pride Parades in Chicago, so the lag and less of a parade was a little quirky…but still, there were windows of opportunities all around us! People did in fact want to know what we were sorry about, and we talked about the I’m Sorry Campaign on individual levels but also on behalf of Christianity as a whole.

After the parade we all manned a booth in Robert R. Church Park in Memphis, more people talked to us but there were also different churches present who were happy for our presence, happy that (I assume) we were quite the diverse group; both members of the LGBT community, but also allies. I walked around the park checking out the different churches and talking to the people who represented them, it was very encouraging to hear their stories and their church’s goals to promote equality, affirmation, and acceptance as a church community. One church, a Roman Catholic church, has been on quite the journey of being accepting and affirming; after a parishioner’s son committed suicide the bishop, J. Terry Steib, became vocal within his church community but also the community of Memphis. More information about what he said can be found here. It was very encouraging to hear what was said by those who align themselves with Roman Catholicism, because at times I don’t hear their voice all that much or their voices get vocalized by someone else.

It was different from the Chicago Pride Parade, but it was a worthwhile experience. I kind of enjoyed it because it wasn’t such a large parade, which provided more intimacy in putting out there what we were sorry for. Yes I like Chicago for the largeness of it (number 3 in the country, woo!) and for the stop-go foot traffic that gives more opportunities to talk about what I’m sorry about.

I don’t know what next year holds for me in reference to Memphis Pride, but if I can I will be back! πŸ™‚

~Nathanael~

Memphis 10-10 to 10-13

I’ll stay in Memphis – Elvis Presley

Thursday morning at 9:05am I left Oswego IL for Memphis

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9 hours, 540 miles later I arrived at my friend Jimmy‘s apartment. He was already chillaxing on his porch in wait of me (perhaps). I was quickly introduced to Andrew, Cory, and Gabe. Ate dinner, built community, laughed a good deal…and before I knew it, it was nearly 2am!

I jumped in my rental car and headed to T.O. Fuller State Park, 20 minute drive I arrived to my campsite and…cleared out my backseat and fell asleep! Reader’s note: The back seat of a 2012 Toyota Corolla is more spacious than it seems, especially when it comes to sleeping.

I woke up to a barred owl hooting above my car, freshened up and set up camp and then headed out to Pho Hoa Binh for some inexpensive Vietnamese food for lunch. Best $6.22 I have ever spent on Vietnamese buffet!

Memphis being a town chockful of history, I decided to go the Civil Rights historical route and went to the National Civil Rights Museum, the site in which Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was heavy being there, getting an overview of the Civil Rights movement, the bullet shell/pellets/rifle used by Lee Harvey Oswald…it was heavy, and almost for me too much.

The following day I was a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign at Memphis Pride.Β  Now as someone who’s used to a large crowd and large parade ala Chicago Pride, I wasn’t really expecting that small of a parade.Β  Still the element of it ending in Robert R. Church Park and there being booths for all different groups/vendors that was enjoyable. I made the rounds to the various churches, I was given a lot of thanks for my participation in the I’m Sorry Campaign and several invites to visit them the following day for church.

Sunday morning I went to Corey’s house church and had a good time. They asked a random question; “what is your earliest memory?” While I didn’t give mine, I did give the one surrounding being on America’s Funniest Videos with my sister at the mall in the early 90s.

All in all it has been a good trip thus far πŸ™‚

~Nathanael~

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.

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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.

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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? πŸ™‚

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~