Happy Spirit Day 2014

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Today is Spirit Day, which is a day to stand in support and solidarity of the LGBTQ Community. I too stand in solidarity for the LGBTQ Community, as a follower of Christ / Red Letter Christian I am compelled to.

One of the verses in the Bible that speaks to me about love is found in John 13:34-35, in which Jesus said; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Here’s the thing I’ve found to be true in all situations pertaining to people that are either similar to me or different than me:

Love requires proximity.

If I have choose to avoid certain individuals, if I keep my distance, how then will the love of God flow out of me to those individuals?

If you’re going to be intentional with someone, you should want to BE with them, you should want to hear their stories, you should want to break bread with them and so on…because in doing so, the differences that you might have thought existed have now become less than before. You connect with them on a human level and you realize not only their humanity but yours as well.

I’m not saying you ought to do what I do, think what I think, or even believe what I believe. All I’m saying is get to know people in proximity and allow your posture to be one of grace and humility. Otherwise you’ll find that you’re there but not there, and others are bound to pick up on this fortified wall you’ve surrounded yourself with and they might not be receptive to you.

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It is for these reasons I choose to model my life after Christ’s; for this I choose to position Jesus at the center of my life, in him I find a purpose to live, in him I have found ways to “go and do likewise”. And what does that look like? Well I would hope that it is in alignment with Micah 6:8, that I “act justly…love mercy and…walk humbly with…God.”
For this I choose to be an ally to a community that has been marginalized and picked on by the church. For this I choose to be outspoken for those who sometimes do not have a voice. For this I cannot keep quiet. For this I choose to love instead of hate or show indifference or apathy.

May my love be louder,
Nathanael

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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

Going and doing; grace made me more loving, not more liberal

Luke 10:37 – “…Go and do likewise

Recently I read an article in Christianity Today entitled Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal; It presents some issues I would agree with, social justice issues and justice, but at the same time it states that reading the Bible will keep your views about the LGBT Community intact, that by reading the Bible “it increases opposition to… …homosexual marriage and unions.”

Now I don’t believe that in times when I read the Bible I become more liberal. However, recognizing the grace that has been extended to me, the love God has for me, that has made me more loving rather than straight up liberal, or more liberal as some might think is the case for me.

Grace has been the keys that has unshackled me from myself. Grace has been the table set out for me, but not only myself but those like me and those who are not like me. Grace has been the posture that I aim to live out not only in words but in my actions in community with everyone around me. Yes I might have a liberal leaning towards some things in life, but there are elements of me that is moderate and even conservative. I will even say that grace has allowed me to hear my bro Mark talk about guns and actually take in what he has to say and it makes sense despite me not being a fan of guns! 🙂

There is also the nature of leaning on to the words and actions that are attributed to Jesus; when it comes down to it, I think that’s where the weight of the Bible comes from, not just reading what Jesus said and did, but “going and doing likewise”, that my faith isn’t one of coasting or stagnation, but active with dynamic and not static words.

Yes I have read the Bible as a whole, and I recognize that the context of any portion of the Bible hinges on reading it as a whole, and yet I recognize that even hinges on who Jesus is and what he did. In a way I look at parts of the Bible and use Jesus as the filter; does what this passage say align with who Jesus is and what he did? Yes, how so? If not, how so? It’s why I had issues with Paul and his ghostwriters had to say, because some of it is downright offensive if one’s to use Jesus as a filter. Yet it is still part of the Bible, and there is weight and worth to it, maybe not all of it, but some of it is salvageable.

One thing I lean on to what Paul said can be found in his letter to the Romans:
Romans 8:38-39  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing is able to keep us from the love of God, and yet I recognize in my own life I do a bad job of letting that be known, because I have limited myself to God’s love. I have recognized my thought patterns of thinking I am unworthy of love and grace, and while it’s been some time since I’ve been in that funk I realize that is not the truth because of the truth found in those verses, that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So that’s where dynamic love and grace comes into play in my life. By freely extending what has been extended to me, to loving others unconditionally, Agape, as God himself loves me. It doesn’t come easy but hopefully when I leave this world I get it better than I do now. I’m in it for living and living for the long-haul! As long as I have blood flowing in my veins, as long as I am breathing, may my posture to everyone around me be one of grace and love.

~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~

Marriage equality in Illinois!

The other day Illinois became the 15th state to marriage equality to all. I am encouraged by this momentous time in my lifetime, and I am pleased that my friends within the LGBT community have the opportunity (if they so choose) to get married and have the rights afforded to them that they once did not.

As a follower of Christ and a straight ally I welcome this newest law that has passed within my state. I believe that between consenting individuals they should be allowed to love and marry whomever they choose to. I truly believe that love wins, and for some that love has been hampered by the lack of being to officially take their love to the level of marriage per their state’s laws, but now in Illinois that is no longer an issue.

Such an awesome moment in Illinois’ history,
Nathanael

Hope renewed for my alma mater (part 1)

In (what I thought) was a publication put out by my alma mater Judson University I put together a bit of a statement about my defining moment at Judson. I proceeded to write the following:

My defining moment at Judson started in the first semester I attended; I befriended and got to know several Gay and Lesbian Christians. Up to that point I thought that the two weren’t compatible, that being a part of the Christian community was mutually exclusive from the LGBT Community. I was wrong, dead wrong. It was in my learning through life with these fine men & women that God started working on my heart and mind on the issue, to where it is no longer an issue for me; I accept, I affirm, and I love the LGBT Community.

It came to a culmination while I was praying on my drive to Judson one day. God pointed out that love requires proximity, and that I was to go to the Chicago Pride Parade to demonstrate that love, so I did. I had my ideas of what I was going to do, but by providence I found out about The Marin Foundation, in which some friends and I met up and accompanied them for the first ever “I’m Sorry Campaign”; a time to confess & own up individually as well as collectively for the damage that has done by the Christian Community against the LGBT Community. I have been attending and inviting family and friends for the last 4 years to partake in this wonderful event. God is already present in Boys Town; I go because I am called to be a part of restoration & reconciliation.

Since the Chicago Pride Parade is only once a year, I do what I can to be involved in my local chapter of PFLAG; to build bridges with the Gay and Lesbians who attend that group, both during the meeting and apart from it.

God freed me from my homophobic bonds, and it all started at Judson

Since the Chicago Pride Parade is only once a year, I do what I can to be involved in my local chapter of PFLAG; to build bridges with the Gay and Lesbians who attend that group, both during the meeting and apart from it.

God freed me from my homophobic bonds, and it all started at Judson.

It received some likes and I received some feedback, but since everything pings back to the commenter or writing on Facebook, I was slightly surprised when it dropped off…turns out my post on the alumni page was removed and I was booted from the group!

My friend Justin noticed both things and brought it to everyone’s attention, and since alumni can reinstate members he added me. It was shortly after my reinstatement the Director of Alumni Relations made a public apology for her actions per some flack she received from some alumni who was wondering if Judson was revising it’s views on the LGBT Community and related. Because she wanted to “avoid division, unclarity and hurt feelings” she booted me from the group and deleted my post.

It was shortly thereafter that statement that a revision of the page was put out, that the views of the alumnus don’t necessarily reflect the views of the school. I reposted my defining moment…and then it took off like wildfire going uphill! A lot of alumni started talking, started actual dialoguing with one another, stories were shared with me and my fellow alumnus openly and some privately! A dream came true to be honest!

I also put forward the why I put my story out there:

All I ever wanted was to share part of my story & create room for dialogue. Yes this issue may be an uncomfortable subject to some, but it needs to be addressed because it isn’t going away.

The current appearance of the church collectively appears to be a place of judgmental homophobic heteronormative individuals, but guess what? That’s the church, not God. God is bigger than that!

God has the first word, but also the last, something to consider during this time that my generation will resolve this issue. It takes a generation to resolve it, but future ones to sustain it.

So come one and all to dialogue and discuss this with me and others. Come, I promise not to bite. be a part of much needed change, come and be, come and listen, come and love.

That statement led to even more dialogue albeit with some debate, some battening down of hatches, some defensive and choice words…but dialogue is still happening, at this point it’s at 220 comments!

My hope is greatly renewed at what this could mean. It wasn’t that long ago when I was a student that I tried to start up a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus. It was shut down, and from what I was told the board members who shut it down were upset that their meeting lasted longer than they wanted it to. Then there were those who represented the student body who were afraid that students would turn gay or lesbian simply by being a part of the group, or that it would become a group where students would hookup…all sorts of lack of knowing nonsense.

Yet maybe, just maybe, this dialogue will help to aid in allies winning the war where I once lost the battle. Maybe, just maybe, this discussion will break down the walls of bigotry and heteronormative mind-think that at times is prevalent at my alma mater.

*to be continued*

~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? 🙂

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~