Words to raise the dead

When I was younger I was fascinated by the Jewish legend and lore of the Golem. A monster made of the dirt who would come to life when molded by a Rabbi, and when truth/emet was inscribed upon it it came to life, when the “e” was removed death/met terminated the Golem.
A protector of the Jewish people when there were problems; pogroms, antisemitic attacks, and the like.

Given that with what little I know about my Jewish heritage, there were matchmakers and Rabbi’s in my family, so it would have been the latter that took the dirt and inscribed the emet and when the time came met would have occurred…

With that being said, despite centuries and cultures apart, I too raise the dead with my words!

No, I don’t take the soil in my hands and inscribe emet into it, but I do speak words of encouragement, comfort, and life over and into others.

Last week one of my students was in an emotional rut. She had a difficult day, it was known by all, but given some factors in her life it didn’t sink in until much later in the day. When it did, she was moping about and frustrated with herself for the choices she made for herself. Because I don’t work with her all that often, and I’m not in her classroom so I only see her when she goes back to her unit. It was there I saw her in a very despondent state of being, it was there I spoke life into her;

“This is a temporary setback, this doesn’t define you nor does this define your future.”

The light returned to her eyes, hope set back in, and she whispered a “thank you” to me.

***

That’s all it took for my student, and so often it is the case with most people who need words to raise them from their suffering or their metaphorical death. Yet I propose that within speaking life into others, sincerity is key; yes, sometimes the outcome might very well be bleak, and literal physical death could be on the horizon, but there is still room to speak from a place of truth and not one that merely glosses over reality.

Speaking encouragement and life into someone’s life doesn’t take much, but so often we don’t take the time to do this because we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we lose sight of anything that isn’t us. But we weren’t made to be solely focused on our needs, we ought to consider the welfare of others (more on this in my next post).

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

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Morning musing 4.24.16

Early morning musing 4.24.16

I’m thinking of writing for my eyes only an ongoing narrative called “What Bothers The F*** Out Of Me” or WBTFOUM for short.

Now while it might appear to be over the top, after all I’m using a variant of the “F Word” in the title, it’s a strong word because I have strong reactions to some things; such as social injustice, food deserts, racism, grace and forgiveness being withheld on my part, responding out of fear and not love, mental health stigma internal and external, et al.

All of the things that bother me in this life mainly pertain to human behavior, and not the human in and of himself/herself. Which I think is good, because I can work through reaction and respond with action.

I don’t see human beings as issues, their own or imposed, we all have faults and cracks. Yet this is how the light gets in (as so elegantly sung by Leonard Cohen in Anthem), and so I want to expose my cracks and be illuminated.

I have cracks, I have faults, I have an inner darkness, I have fear of true intimacy. But I have a desire for the light to expose all of me, I want to be seen for who I am and not some cheap imitation that’s “socially accepted” and that’s it.

I was made for more than that,
You were made more than that ☺

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

A service of Taizé at DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church

Last night I went to Dupage Unitarian Universalist Church because I found out via their Facebook page that they were going to have a Taizé service.

Taizé is usually a gathering that has elements of chanting, candle lighting, responsive reading, shared silence, and some form of a guided meditation.

In fact, the Taizé service I was a part of incorporated all of these elements. Initially I was a bit thrown off by the shared silence, but I was quickly relieved because despite several shared silence’s, they were no more than five minutes a piece. That I can do (and maybe someday I can level up to Quaker status).

The opening chant went as follows; come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come, yet again, come. (SLT #188)

I found beauty in this chant, and I did what I could to figure out which part of “whoever you are” most aligned with, I believe in that instance I was a “wanderer” and maybe perhaps I am that still.

From there a candle was lit in the center of our gathering. Apart from the dusk setting in quickly, the candle was a nice centering item for when my eyes were open.

Given that our shared silence time wasn’t that long, I found myself more engaged as a result. I mentally prepared myself for the night by mentally chanting a Latin phrase I’ve picked up in my own studying and partaking in Taizé; veni sancte spiritus, come holy spirit.

The highlight of my evening partaking in the service was the guided meditation. Our guide led us (with nature sounds in the background) into a deeper place found within. It’s hard to put into words, but I lived there and thrived there, it may have felt like a lifetime but in actuality it was probably twenty minutes altogether. I caught myself crying a little, because it was beautiful to simply be aligned mind+body+spirit, to simply BE.

After the service I made my way to the labyrinth that’s outside the building. The above picture is from that, as the path is illuminated when the sun is no longer out. It was another wave of much needed introspection and silence entwined. I took my time and meditated all the while, mentally chanting veni sancte spiritus.

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Unfortunately they’re going to be taking a break from this service until October. Until then I’ll have to partake in Taizé on my own or find others to do it with. It’s not often that I am stirred so deeply, so passionately, but I am willing to engage that deeper part of me that resides in the silence.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

There’s no place for bad theology

Occasionally my students will ask me religious / God questions, as I’m known by way of my BEing that I am a follower of Christ. I take all their questions in stride, more often than not I will answer their questions with even more questions.

However the questions gravitate sometimes to something dark, something more personal than not. It is evident in some of the questions that my students ask me about God and matters concerning God that they’ve been sold that God loves them with conditions. I have also addressed questions concerning the love of God, which sadly someone of my students believe God doesn’t love certain people.

When I address the question concerning God’s love for them I let them know why they think that, quite often they believe it’s what they do that earns God’s love, and if what they’ve done or what they are doing now isn’t good then God doesn’t love them. I do what I can to encourage them to do good, for themselves and for others, but I bring to light that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more or make God love us less. God’s love remains the same whether we make good choices or bad choices, but that shouldn’t deter us to do the right thing when we need to.

When I address matters about God not loving certain people, I usually get several things about this question:
1. So often it’s someone in their own lives, past or present.
2. It’s something they may have heard often, at home or at church.
3. The moral highroad is taken. That they of course are loved by God, but x person isn’t.

Depending on how heated the conversation is, because sometimes it is and sometimes it’s a matter-of-fact statement made, I usually say the following;

There’s no place for bad theology

I let it be known that some views of God are really destructive, especially when marginalization and exclusion takes place. I bring it back home to them if they’re having issues with my thoughts, I bring up would they like to be the ones perceived as being unloved by God? It’s amazing how quickly NO is the given answer, and sometimes “but…” is followed with a rebuttal in tow, but that is rarely the case.

I have been affected others by bad theology in my life, I have also been the victim of bad theology, and I realize the ripples it has caused on my soul and for those who have been a victim to my bad theology I am truly sorry.
If you’ve been a perpetrator or victim of bad theology, it’s never too late to make a difference in the lives of others by sowing seeds of good theology. How does one go about sowing these seeds, I like the following acronym called THINK;

Sometimes…
A lot of the time…
ALL the time, we need to THINK about what we’re putting out to others and unto ourselves. It can be a laborious process, but I think (see what I did there?) with practice it’ll become habitual.

So be an agent of change,
be a THINKer,
and as Rob Bell so eloquently put it; “everyone should be everything they’re here to be.”

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Holidays with the Harrisons / The beauty of messy hospitality

My roommate Brian is a swell guy, and in getting to know him better I have also gotten to know his family as well. They have invited me to several family functions, mainly holiday (and soon, a wedding) and today on Easter it was no different.

It started off with going to Easter at 11am at Springbrook Community Church where Brian’s father is the lead pastor.

I was a little early for the 11am service, so I waited around till Brian arrived and then we went into the sanctuary as it was starting…

It was a good Easter service with a few sleigh-of-hand’s by Brian’s father, a lot of laughter and a lot of celebration of the resurrection. From there I met some people Brian knows, and it was nice and social. From there I drove over to their house for Easter lunch, which was great because they do a good job at being themselves and being hospitable.

“Messy Hospitality” is a phrase I’ve heard before to describe hospitality as-is, no hook lines and sinkers, no catches, what you see is what you get, and so on. The Harrison’s home is such a place, and there’s a welcoming in that family that is “as-is” and I love it completely.
Messy hospitality can get complicated as its fractured and untidy. But I suppose that’s the beauty of it, it comes unvarnished and doesn’t have a shine to it for appearance’s sake. As Leonard Cohen croons in Anthem;

                                                              Ring the bells that still can ring
                                                              Forget your perfect offering
                                                              There is a crack in everything
                                                              That’s how the light gets in.

Growing up my family’s life was very private, and consequently my life was very privatized and compartmentalized. Some of it A lot of it was operating out of fear, and fear compounds itself on fear and before you know it you have this massive fear stack that you have no idea how you’re going to dismantle it…except, say if you move in the direction of honesty (to self inasmuch to others), even if that means transparency and, ultimately, messy hospitality.

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Messy hospitality is what I aim to do where I am at in every walk of life unto everyone I associate with. I might not bare my heart on my sleeve, but I will be unflinchingly transparent where needed be. We all need boundaries in our lives, and so there are some things I will withhold from others and my blog for my own emotional and mental health.

For what I cannot wrestle on my own or with the help of others (which is statistically 92.5%) I take it to God in prayer. Occasionally Most of the time my prayers are detailed and very much “warts and all.” God gets me more than the other way around, but with that being said I lay it on thick.

I no longer fear what others think about me (most of the time),
I don’t have a nagging in the back of my mind to keep up appearances that are contrary to how I am feeling and responding to what’s going on inside and around me.
I don’t have a need to wait till I get “there” when it comes to hospitality, my door is wider and my table is inclusive to all.
It took time to get here, but may God be honored by the journey I’m on.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Anxiety sometimes has the better of me

I am typically an individual who isn’t anxious. I go with the flow of life, but I am not defined by the current. But I’m prone to bouts of anxiety, heavy soul-crushing don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed anxiety.
Because of how infrequently I suffer from anxiety, to a certain degree I have control over it rather than the anxiety having control over me. I do have my moments within the throes of it that I think thoughts of rather being in bed than whatever I’m doing at the time.

The thing is, my anxiety is very much in my head. Consequently I wrestle with it, argue with it, talk about it, and ultimately, I fight it. Yes there are some days where it gets the better of me, that the fictitious “what-if’s” are (at least then) seem insurmountable. This past month I’ve been under the thumb of my anxiety, and most of it stems to going back to school in the summer to get my Master’s degree.

I look forward to going back to school, I really do, but the shift of what the education system has become has made me intensely anxious. It’s not a shift that has happened in my time, but over the last few 100 years. Education, for most of the part, was about learning and passing on what was learned to those who couldn’t get a proper education. Nowadays so much of it seems to be about getting that 8×11 piece of paper as a means to convey:
1. I know more than the average person
2. I deserve to be paid more
3. I have value
4. I have additional debt
And granted I want to know more, paid more, have marketable value, have debt…well, maybe not the last part. I know I have to play this game, it’s the nature of the beast nowadays, but when my anxiety gets the better of me I only see this through the lenses of cynicism and skepticism.

But with a breath of fresh air, a lengthy talk with my roommate, a lengthier talk with God, I am not bedridden with my anxiety. Every time I am out of the fog and funk of anxiety, I have more of a sense to my purpose and calling in life. I have a broader sense of I am taking a path that will be frustrating as hell, but even more rewarding. The good outweighs the bad, I smile more often, I am able to see good in myself and others, I see God in others, I realize this is not the end of everything I hold dear.

As I’m prone to offer up a quote in opportune moments, the one that sticks to me is actually found in the Bible. Deuteronomy 31:6 says this; “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (emphasis mine.)
I know I am not going at this alone. I know I am made for better things and getting there takes work and patience. Anxiety is a hell of a stumbling block, but it can be worked through provided I put in the work, provided I let go of the notion that I can resolve it on my own. I need people, I need community in my life to go about and get through this life.

So here on the edge of January ending, I move onward and upward.

Nathanael 1, Anxiety 0.

2015 was a good year

I think the highlight of my year is that I have started the preliminary work required  is that I’m going back to school next year to get my Master’s degree.

This is exciting, and I am thankful to God for having a roomie who has been the impetus to me finally moving in this direction. You see, what I want to do in life requires a few more 8 x 11 pieces of paper to signify that: 1. I can be paid more 2. I know more 3. I can handle more 4. I have the qualifications to counsel others. This is how it’s done and so I shall as well.

***

Another highlight to my year was another year spent counter-protesting the protesters at Chicago Pride, heck I ran into Jesus 🙂

I am proud to be an ally, and I’m proud of the progress made in our country when it comes to marriage equality. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but I know God will meet me where I am at.

***

Another highlight of my year was spending time with my family and rekindling some relationships with certain family members. While I am taking a break from some of my family members, I am more than confident that I’m getting to where I need to be to engage them healthily and holistically.

***

Another highlight of my year was crossing the 1 year mark with my company. I love what I do, and yes some weeks the 40 I put in feels like 80, but I take it all in stride and make the most of it. Change is gradual, and sometimes it seems non-existent, but I keep striving and pushing to make things better for my students.

***

I am looking forward to 2016, it will be the best one yet! 🙂

~Nathanael~