Happy Spirit Day 2014

http://photos-b.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/10724119_998299566850129_845426300_n.jpg

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.

***
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

Thank God I am changing; reflections on looking at my older blog posts

http://cdn.searchenginejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Job-Change.jpg

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple Inc.

I have been a writer for a long time now, and time to time I look over what I’ve written, especially what I’ve written on my blogs. THIS blog is my primary one nowadays, but I know…and I won’t disclose the web pages…where my older blogs are (I’ve been writing online in some way since 2001).
I once stated I was horrified about what I wrote, both subject-wise but also grammar-wise. I think I am beyond being horrified, and if I’m to feel anything about it all I would say I am grateful to God that I am changing. I’m not going to say I’ve changed straight out, because I am still going through the process of change; where I was in life is not where I am now, and I know that in time I will change yet again.

***

One thing that captures my attention time and time again with my writing is (and I partially contribute it to being raised Evangelical) my language smatters of exclusive black-and-white truthiness. I had questions and I was obsessed to finding answers to them, and I thought if I have the answers that is all I will ever need, I don’t need to learn more than what the questions and answers entail, but I was wrong for thinking that. Life is so much more than questions and answers, it is more beautiful to live in a world where gray exists instead of just perceiving things in black-and-white terms only. Michael Kimpan recently wrote on the subject of “addiction to answers” and I’ve got to say, that was me to a T.

So here I am, some 13 years into the blogging game, and I still don’t have it altogether…but you know what? I am okay with that. I am okay with changing though it can be painful and scary at times. The vast unknownness of some / a lot of things still creeps in sometimes, but I realize I am embracing community and God even more so in these times than I used to. I used to want to hide in my room, crash on my bed, and sleep the day away…but I’m out of that funk, and even when I am in that funk, I find a way out to doing things in a healthier manner.

Deo gratias for change and changing, not only for myself but all of humanity!

~Nathanael~

Transformative beauty; one of the many reasons I love tattoos

Transformative beauty is one of the many things that captures my attention in this world, because it reminds me that no one and nothing is beyond the range of being redeemed. I see tranformative beauty in nature, but more often in humanity, and personally speaking I enjoy seeing the transformative beauty that happens when a tattooist makes something better out of someone’s ink than what they once had.

The owner of Dream City Tattoos, the place where I got my first tattoo, is very good at doing that. Gonzo takes this:

and transforms it into this:

and every time Gonzo posts a tattoo piece of this nature I thank God for his ministry of transformative beauty.

***

When I look at these tattoos I think in broader and bigger terms; that I in someway am capable of helping transform other people’s lives for the better. It empowers me to utilize and hone my own craft, it brings me back to the center of my being and what my calling and vocation is in life.
I am realistic that where I’m at now isn’t where I will be forever, I too am being transformed into something else. Transformation requires change, and it helps if one’s posture of this change occurring is one of acceptance. It isn’t always easy to adapt with changes, and that’s why I also think it is important to be in community, to be around people who you care about and (hopefully) they care about you too so that you can get adequate support where needed.

Be transformed and play your part in transformative beauty, it will make a world of difference!

~Nathanael~

One river, many streams; I love theology (and so can you!)

http://nathanaelvitkus.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/a7cf0-braided_drainage.jpg?w=557&h=476Theology is defined as, according to dictionary dot com, “the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.” I agree with this definition, and more to the point, I love theology.
The thing is, theology isn’t limited to terms solely in the here and now, but across the entire expanse of human history! With that being said I enjoy learning about theologians had to say across that expanse of time. From the early years of the church; the desert fathers and mothers in their self-imposed cloistering away from community brought so much to their community (not how I would handle things, but it worked for them) to more modern contemporaries such as Rob Bell, N.T. Wright, Brian Mclaren, Frank Schaeffer, Rachel Held Evans.

Yet I also look for truth of who God is from individuals outside of my faith tradition because I truly believe that all truth is God’s truth, and that grace and beauty reflect creation as well as Creator so the universe of theology is that much more bigger as a result. I also look for God’s truth in varied mediums apart from what people have said and what people have written, but also what people have created, what people have drawn. It is humbling for me to be in the presence of others and where they have found God and decided to share it with others, it also leaves me enamored and grateful for God making God’s self known in so much of creation. And with that in mind all someone has to do is be receptive to seeing / experiencing God to find God, although there are times where I “see” or “experience” God in a limited way, as Nadia Bolz-Weber put it- “I once was blind, and now can see’: it’s more like, ‘I once was blind and now I have really bad vision’.

You might be wondering, how can I love theology? Well, I would say since the streams are many, find one of interest to you! There’s queer theology, feminist theology, process theology, liberation theology, et al. Maybe you connect with one because where you’re at now, and if you happen to jump into another stream as it were, there is space and grace to do that…progressing and evolving is all part of the process, and I’m led to believe that God doesn’t want us to be a stagnant stream, to state out loud or not that “this is what I believe in, this is what I have faith in, this is what I doubt about…” Sure there might be some things we carry over to the new steam we’re in, but I encourage eating the meat, chewing the fat, but spitting out the bones.

~Nathanael~

P.S. Here are some resources:
Queer Theology
Feminist Theology
Process Theology
Liberation Theology

[in hindsight] what my depression looks like

Well, I’m out of the thick of it, the latest round of my depression that is.

It’s not something that happens all that often to me, but I do realize that it is there. Depression with a capital D, which for me usually looks like this.

Some catalyst occurs in my life (in this case, being unemployed) and I start worrying and thinking negative thoughts about myself, my identity, what I’m capable of, what I’m good at, my value to the world and so on…I also over-analyze even more so; as if I have a scarlet “D” pinned to my chest for all the world to see, as if my emotions and thoughts that course through my mind are translucent and knowable to anyone who catches my gaze even for a fleeting moment.

I stay up later, I wake up later, and I become antisocial and limit my contact with friends and family. I do realize that I do want to hang out with them, but there’s a part of me that thinks “God and I have this, why do I need community?” Yet my bro Mark who has seen me in this state of mind (and body and spirit) shakes me to my senses about the value of community. In these coming-to moments I “get it” even if I don’t practice it out.

I eat…when I remember to eat. I have lost some weight now that I’ve gotten back into a routine of working out, but more weight has been lost in my time of depression than in my time of getting into shape. It’s kind of odd, but I will remember the last time I ate, but not really weigh out the ramifications of having eaten, oh, 2 days ago?

I keep to my pattern of living, but in an empty shell half-assed kind of way. I realize I take in what people have to say, but I listen half-assed, I engage in community, but what I have to bring is half-assed, which only fuels my depression a bit more since I feel as people are fully aware of my half-assedness and are judging me and whispering behind my back when it’s turned.

And stranger still in the midst of my depression, in the midst of my despair- I find God to be present and very comforting at that. I don’t read the bible all that much (though I do plan to do that very soon) any more, but I find myself at a place (despite my circumstances) where I feel wave after wave of “a peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) a pulsar-like notion that “I [God] am here…I am here…I am here”.
This doesn’t stir me from my depression, but it does help ease my pain.

***

I realize this is a part of me and that there’s no escaping it. It ultimately helps me when I’m in the throes of depression that God is there and community is there as well; I might pull back and isolate myself, but it’s there any time I need it. Even when I choose not to accept it, just knowing that it is there is reassuring.

Still I realize that I’m not alone in my depression, that there are other people who have this as well. We (who have depression) aren’t alone in our struggles, which is why I don’t feel like a hypocrite for posting this:
http://photos-d.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/10610997_750469378348947_1854187492_n.jpg
I know how to work through my depression, but please take heed to the phone numbers above and use them if you need to. Not every bout of depression produces suicidal ideations, but still you can call and share (if you want to) what you’re feeling and what you’re going through. They’re good people on the other end of the line, trust me, I worked with some of the individuals.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

When age/grace sets in

http://bobanddebschilling.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/2012_07_20-lacrosse-to-wisconsin-dells-016.jpg?w=521&h=393

Earlier this month I went on vacation to a particular part of Wisconsin that my family and I have been going up to off and on for a long time. This part of Wisconsin was where I spent many summers with my family, a place known to us as “the farm”. The farm is where we got away from our Illinois lives for a while, to have fun, go swimming in Lake Michigan, and enjoy time apart from our very busy lives.
The farm is where R* and P* and their daughter and granddaughter also lived. We occupied the upstairs area while they lived in the lower area, and my memories of them aren’t many apart from R* seeming very grouchy at times, smoking heavily and drinking a bit. I also recall Baron their 3-legged dog, and he was scary and fast…for a 3-legged dog. There were times when they had animals on the farm and it was amusing and smelly, but it was for 2 weeks so most of it was bearable.

Having gone back to this part of Wisconsin my mother informed me that P* had passed away a few years ago and R* was living on another farm not too far away from where we were camping. I don’t know how it got coordinated, but we were able to spend time with R* one day.
I am very glad we did, because R* welcomed us to his place with open arms, and if I had not been the driver for my mother and myself I would have had the beer he offered me. R* offered us Diet Mountain Dew, which upon him talking about his wife who had passed away, I realized that he was probably serving us the soda she herself liked to drink. As he shared of what his wife had gone through leading up to her passing, the man before me appeared to be full of grace. Maybe it’s the years that have passed, maybe my perception of him was wrong all along, but even my mother grasped that age had made him into a softer and graceful man.
R* told us about how one of his regrets was that he didn’t vocalize I love you’s to P* more than he did. They loved each other dearly, but he didn’t always communicate it by words or by hugs or by kisses, and that is something he wished he did. He said all this sadly, but his gracious demeanor never waned. He shared with us with great pride what his kids and grandkids were doing, he talked as a man who embodied love- both in the giving as well as the receiving. When our time with him was coming to an end he told my mother and I where P* was buried and invited us to go visit her. That was endearing to me as well as to my mother. And as we were driving away he told us to text him and come visit him next year and the year after that, and God willing we do the latter.

***

Grace is…well, what can I say about grace? Personally, grace has set me free, it has enabled me to love and care more for others. It has unlocked the part of me that always was but unfortunately was tucked away because legalism bound my mind as well as my heart for a while. This binding was self-imposed as well the Christian culture I was a part of; both paired together led me to live out of fear and the law rather than love. Without giving too much away, grace given and received and extended out of love and even more grace reminds me of Jean Valjean from Les Misérables, whereas grace dismissed and not extended reminds me of Javert from the same play. I have been Jean Valjean my entire life, and yet the extending love and more grace has been but a fraction of my mortal coil…but still I press on with love and grace as my banner, I intend to wave it and extend it for the remainder of my life so help me God.
R* stirred the part of me that wants to be present to life, all of it, both good and bad, but to also be present to grace and to love. I realize so much of the the time…actually, all of the time, my demonstration for how much I love God is demonstrated in whom I love the least. When I am not loving, when I am not graceful, my love for God is not present or at the very least I mar the face of Christ with my actions.

I can’t wait to see R* again, to share life with him but to also extend the grace and love he extended to me. And that is what love does time and time again, that is what grace does time and time again; it gives more and more of itself with no shortage ever.

All is grace,
Nathanael

Virgin Territory, the show

There’s a new[er] show out on MTV these days called Virgin Territory. It delves into following around virgins who come from many backgrounds, and subsequently many reasons why the guys and gals of the show are virgins. Some (no surprise) come from religious background, others are virgins for personal/painful reasons, but all in all I find it to be a pretty decent show.

The thing is, I too am a virgin. I realize that for me and my sexuality it is there but it is dormant in a positive way. I say this because I think sometimes, and yes this is coming from Rob Bell’s SEX GOD book, that culture…Christian and otherwise…tries to dictate how we should be as sexual beings (animals or angels) and even that is being dictated, asexuality / asexuals isn’t talked about.
But, for us who are aware of our proclivity to be sexually attracted to others, whether it’s the same sex, opposite sex, or even for those who are attracted to both sexes there’s a sense of competing voices.

***

As a follower of Christ I’ve heard a lot about sex in Christian circles. Coming from an Evangelical upbringing it was almost on par with that quote from Mean Girls;

And for me that is very misleading, and it drives Christians (or at least a good portion of the ones I’ve met) into thinking/shutting down their sexual drive. I am quite certain, despite being a virgin, that isn’t what God had in mind.

Then there’s other-culture. Sex is sex, no harm no foul as long as it’s consensual and no one gets pregnant and/or an STI they’ll be fine…well, at least that’s how it’s spun time and time again. I do appreciate MTV Virgin Territory’s commercials of only you get to decide whether you want to have sex or not and honestly, yes! That is the answer. Even that is the answer for me, though I am one for waiting for something with commitment and security and intimacy in its truest form.

Here’s my Rob Bell’s Sex God tie-in:
When we deny the spiritual dimension to our existence, we end up living like animals. And when we deny the physical, sexual dimension to our existence, we end up living like angels.

And both ways are destructive, because God made us human.

I am human. I am sexually attracted to women. I know this and I have always known this and despite all the competing voices of what I should / shouldn’t do with my sexuality, I personally am going to wait for something substantial relationship-wise before I have sex. It’s not my religion talking, it’s what want to do with my sexuality. What you do is up to you, your morals might be similar like mine or they might not be, however you choose to work it out is up to you.

~Nathanael~