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; โ€œA 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.โ€

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.

***
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

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* ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 8:38-39ย  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.

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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 isย  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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ I will do my best to do so, because it’s more than a song to me, it’s a posture ofย  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