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

Day after, day 1 on the road to recovery

Swelling. Bruising. Stuffiness. Pain.

All the things I’m feeling within my chopped liver face, but nevertheless, I am here I am now and I am healing.

With my day off I slept. A lot. But I still had a follow-up to go to and a dentist appointment, but all in all it was a restful day. Tomorrow, until further notice, I will be on light duty at work; this’ll be working in the kitchen, meal prep, et al. I will still see my students but not as frequently (bummer!) and it upsets me a bit…but I need to heal, I keep myself in check with this regularly, as I want to go back to what I was doing prior to getting injured…but I need to heal.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Being present to suffering as a spiritual exercise; day 10 of Ramadan

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Earlier this week I got a text from one of my best friends and he hit me with some hard news; his mother, whose health has already been up and down, had unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse and as a result she was in the hospital. He filled me in on the details and he and I worked out a time for me to visit her in the hospital.
To be honest, I don’t like visiting hospitals because my associations with hospitals have more to do with hurting than healing. I have spent a good deal of time going to and from hospitals and every time I go I have a sense of foreboding. Yet my bro is my bro, I love him and out of love and not moral obligation I went to visit his mom in the hospital with him and his wife.

When we got to her room she happened to be up and happy to see those she knew. Her oxygen machine was running pretty strong, and unfortunately it was causing her throat to ache and it felt internally scratchy to her. We all talked with her and she with us, and it was encouraging to see her so upbeat and talkative despite her suffering a bit more than usual.
One thing I noticed while spending time with my bro and his wife and his mom (and even me) is that we were all present, we were all there, and were all mindful of the pink elephant called suffering that was in the room.

It’s rather commonplace to ignore the suffering of others and to a certain extent our own. We’re constantly bombarded with commercialism that tries to take us from “here” to “there”, and usually the “there” is a place without suffering, without hardships, without need to be present to anything that might cause us distress.
And yet the common denominator across all of humanity unto all people is that we all suffer; granted suffering isn’t a one size fits all, sometimes it’s want of love and sometimes it’s for food for our tables and those of our loved ones. Still it is inevitable to suffer and sometimes when we’re faced with it we want nothing to do with it, or we want to face it alone, and yet there are times we want to be in the presence of our loved ones who will help us through the suffering.

That’s why I consider being present with suffering to be a spiritual exercise; it doesn’t take us away from the suffering to a “there” that’s better, but puts us in the thick of it, the here and now of what’s going on. When we do this we’re given a chance to do something, and sometimes that action of doing brings us to a place of being more in touch with our humanity.

Plus if we’re able to be present with our pain in the presence of others, the weight of it all can be carried. I know for a fact that my bro and his wife and his mom and I carried that weight together in community because we love each other and want what’s best for each other, and in this instance it was so that my friend’s mom didn’t have to suffer alone.

If you’re able to find true community you will find people who will stand with you in the good times and sit with you when you suffer, and if you’re able to be a recipient of that you also can also reciprocate that with others.
I know that in my life it has taken a long time to find such a community, but I love it and I do what I can to be a part of it as much as I can! I am grateful and thankful to God to be a part of a tribe to call my own, and I will be a part of it for as long as I am in the area.

So with all that being said, being present to suffering were my keywords on this 10th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for being ever present in our suffering. You who don’t watch idly by as we hurt, but cry and weep and comfort and love us. May we in return be your hands and feet and eyes and ears to those who hurt as well.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

Morning Meditation 5.23.15

A friend recently asked me the following; “If someone told you they feel like they are going through a challenge and in their own garden of Gethsemane, how would you interrupt that?”

After some mulling it over, I formulated this answer.

“I wouldn’t, I’d listen.

Everyone goes through their own hell, everyone has a cross to bear, most people partake in creating and doing something divine, and some reflect and exclaim “this is very good”.

So if someone is going through their own garden of Gethsemane, I’d chalk it up as being part of the human experience.
We all have personal highs and lows, and perhaps suffering is the common denominator of all humanity. so for someone to go through that kind of event, their own garden of Gethsemane, is both human as well as divine. because as you know, Christ lived with us and he also died for us. I don’t see it as substitutional atonement, she (God) never was, but so often we have gotten in the way and we still do.

If the person is using the language of the garden of Gethsemane, then what you take? The one who responds by force? the one who runs off? The one who falls asleep? Will you take captive an individual who is suffering and agonizing because he/she is cut off from the source of life and love…or will you betray with a kiss?

What you choose to do is up to you. I wish you well and the decision you will make.”

You see, we (humanity) hurt in different ways, it’s an experience we all share even if the type of hurt varies from person to person. Our words aren’t always necessary, and it’s sometimes our presence that can make someone better or even bitter.
So therefore be deliberate in what you do; because in some way, for better or worse, it’ll make all the difference in the world to that person.

~Nathanael~

The Suffering Christ

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The common denominator between anyone and everyone in all of humanity is suffering. Suffering takes many forms, but it unites us in some shape and form. It is because of this, the Jesus I identify with is one who suffered.

Yet while I recognize when I look at crosses whether he’s on it or it is vacant, I identify with him suffering like us. It takes a God who is willing to hurt like us for me to love God that much more. If God was one who started the wheels of life in motion and walked away or backed out of the scene, I don’t think I could connect with such a God because it lacks warmth, it lacks humanity. There wouldn’t be that connection that I feel in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul if I had to somehow follow a God who couldn’t identify with my life and what I go through.
I know that in my personal life that some individuals I cannot truly identify with; I can’t identify with the issues a single mother faces who survives paycheck-to-paycheck just to put food in her children’s bellies, I can’t identify with being a young Gay man who grows up in a small conservative town where he’s told on a regular basis that being Gay is a sin and an abomination in the eyes of God, I can’t identify with a black guy who despite a rough upbringing he overcame odds and makes it in the corporate world only to suffer the duress of institutionalized racism…I can’t identify with these individuals, but I can empathize, and I can listen to them as they tell their stories, and I can BE with them.

I need a God in my life who can BE with me, which is why the face of God I so often see is a bedraggled, haggard, suffering HUMAN face. It is marred, it is ugly, it hurts like I hurt and yet…it is the face of love, the face of God-with-us, the face of a God who cared so much for ALL of humanity that he set forth to make things right between ALL of us, not just SOME of us.

In this Lenten season I am reminded time and time again of Christ and what he went through as he was with us, and it is encouraging in many ways but one that sticks to my mind regularly is the nature of “go[ing] and do[ing] likewise”. To be a part of humanity not apart from humanity, to love others and serve, to end paradigms that separate US and work towards bringing about perfect shalom and recognize the imago dei/image of God that we all bear. It is also within the context of the lenten season I am aware of where his end and resurrection is ultimately our beginning as well as our own resurrection. Easter brings it all into focus, it is about life and renewal, it is about order being restored and perfect shalom starting to take place with all of humanity.

Love won that day, and continues to win. Each day draws in a bit of perfect shalom for all of  us.
~Nathanael~

Suicide is not the solution – 2/28

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I truly believe that one of the common denominators that everyone in every walk of life can related to is pain. Pain caused by self, caused by others, caused by circumstances that are beyond our control and circumstances that might be under our control but still hurt in their own right.

Sometimes when that pain comes it goes rather quickly, sometimes it lingers and goes on and on and you wish you could do something to get rid of that pain, and sadly some individuals think they should just end their lives so as to end the pain as well…

HOLD ON!

Suicide is not the answer, suicide is not the solution, if anything it causes more pain to the friends and family and acquaintances of the one who chose that way out.

How do I know this? Well, none of my friends ever committed suicide, but I tried to on two occasions. I’m not proud of that fact, but I need to say it, because if I can reach through the internet with my story as someone who has tried and they themselves reconsider, then maybe my attempting suicide was not in vain.
Life gets tough, Life is tough, but ending it all will hurt more people than you can imagine. I don’t want to say that suicide is selfish, but in many respects it is; I get that sometimes all that one thinks/feels/dwells upon is the pain and it’s hard to focus on something else in the heat of it, but for the love of God please try! My focus that stopped me from nicking myself the 2nd time was my 3 sisters, I did NOT want any of them to find me in a puddle of my own blood in the bathroom, their finding me like that is what saved me.

I no longer have thoughts of suicide. Have my circumstances changed for the better? Some yes, some no, but I hold on to hope, and I keep pushing forward to make for myself and others a better tomorrow, a better future. I can’t guarantee things will get easier, but I can guarantee that suicide is not going to “fix” much of anything. Hold on, please, hold on!

~Nathanael~

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

22/31 – a dark/turbulent moment in my life

A dark/turbulent moment in my life

It hasn’t defined me nor has it made me turned off to ever having a relationship with a girl again, but one of the darkest and most turbulent times in my life came in the season where my fiancee called it quits on “us”.

I don’t like airing my dirty laundry, especially online, but the time after she broke up with me I was in a mental haze, and I second guessed everything that once was us, I felt inadequate as a man, and not only did I lose my then love that day she closed the door on “us” I lost my best friend and to be honest I haven’t had a best friend quite like her since. I do have good friends, but I put it on the line with her with what was going on in my life and as one of my favorite songs by the Australian band Empire of the Sun says in their song We are the People;
“I know everything about you,
you know everything about me,
we know everything about us”
I lost that kind of dynamic in my life, and for what it’s worth I’ve been looking for that ever since. I don’t look for someone to love in a frivolous manner, I’ve found love before and I don’t want to put my heart out carelessly because it is my heart after all. I am guarded, not too guarded but I’ve been wounded in this way before and I don’t want it to happen again.

Love is one of the best and worst things one can ever do; best because you can experience true intimacy with someone else, but it can be the worst when the one you love suffers in a way that you can’t do a damn thing about it, or when it comes to an end by your loved ones passing…Love hurts like hell when all the pieces fall, but love is the best thing and makes everything seem balanced and worth living for.

I will love again, I am looking and praying with my eyes open for my June, these things just take time and it is worth every second.

~Nathanael~