love requires proximity – of evangelicals, reformed sex offenders and pedophiles

Love requires proximity has been the mantra of my heart for a while now, it unsettles me, it gets me out of comfort and drives me into the direction of where rubber hits the road time and time again. Yet there are still people I have yet to engage, and lately as I’ve been meditating and praying over who do I need to invest in that I’ve put off in investing I’ve come up with 3 groups of people:
1.) Evangelicals (across the board, not simply fundamentals)
2.) Reformed sex offenders
3.) Reformed pedophiles

Now I cannot fully explain the latter 2, but I can certainly address the first one.

I once identified as being an Evangelical in my life. I knew the Bible verses, I knew the songs, I had good answers to difficult questions, I had good torts and rebuttals to those who dared rattle my belief system, I had belief and I thought I knew it all and in knowing it all that’s all that mattered.
Funny, God must be a fan of baseball, because God certainly threw a few curve balls my way.

- God put members of the LGBTQ community in my life, and so I needed to rethink what I thought / what had been instilled into me.
– I wrestled with doubt and questioning (and I still do) and realized the shakiness of my foundation…and being okay with not being okay.
– I worked in youth ministry contexts where students went through issues I never imagined because I was wrapped up in bubble wrap whilst in my Evangelical bubble.
– I furthered my education in science and learned how there is evidence that the world isn’t young (gasp!) and that there is strong evidence to support evolution (double gasp!) and yet I see God’s handiwork in it all.

among other things…

And now on the outside of Evangelicalism I hold know position of being “better” or “more evolved” for where I am now. I realize that my season of being an Evangelical took something from me, but it also gave me a pretty good foundation as to where I am now. Yes it wasn’t all good, but that’s why with much of life’s experiences I have or am in the process of thanking God for that season of life. I am also finding ways to “eat the meat and spit out the bones” of these experiences.
But back to love requiring proximity… The Evangelical camp is one I have until recently distanced myself from, but 2 things have shifted that, one local and one a bit more broad.

***

Locally I am involved with a Bible study that meets on Tuesday nights at various restaurants in the area. We’ve been going over Ephesians and soon we will will be starting a book about idolatry. The individuals who make up this group are diverse in their thinking, as with many groups of people, one thought pattern doesn’t fit all. And while I knew some of these guys prior to being a part of this Bible study, I know them a bit better than merely what’s on the surface.
I appreciate sharing with them my insight and I appreciate what they have to offer up as well, even if we tend to go down quite a few rabbit trails. :-) It has been a real blessing investing time with these individuals, not because I have a time-with-Evangelicals quota I need to fill but because it comes back to (you guessed it) love requires proximity.

***

On a larger swath which I am looking for ways to connect, is Brandan Robertson’s Evangelicals for Marriage Equality campaign.

Marriage equality isn’t something I think about when it comes to Evangelicals, I admit that I was privately homophobic and used the word Gay as an adjective for stupid or dumb for a brief season of my life, but when Brandan put out some info about this campaign, my heart leaped for joy!
He might be placed under the microscope by many for this bold and courageous move on his part, but I know that it is needed. The world needs more Evangelicals like Brandan, and I will do what I can to help their voices be heard!

Thanks be to God for instilling in me the desire to love in proximity to others for the goodness of others.

~Nathanael~

Morning meditation 11.24.14

Morning meditation:
It’s not fool proof, nor is it straight out fact, but I’m willing to venture that how we answer this following question shapes our outlook on the world and how we interact with it. Ready? Okay!

“The world is a _____________ world.”

This past Saturday I celebrated Shabbat with some Progressive Jews in my hometown. I found them while doing some searches online, and what appealed to me was their values statement, especially the part where they said the following;
“Our actions within this community nourish one another’s spiritual growth so that we may fulfill the Jewish social justice imperative of “Tikkun Olam” (repair of the world).”

I, as an individual, believe the world is a beautiful place. It teems with life and Godness and goodness and richness it sometimes makes me cry happy tears.
I grew up hearing that the world was broken, ruined, fallen, et al. and in some ways that dictated my perspective and conduct within the world. I left it alone, I gave up, I slumped my shoulders in apathy. As I’ve gotten older God has performed a bit of heart-and-mind surgery upon me. I see the world in a much better light, I see myself contributing to it and helping to be a part of change, restoring and reconciliation, pushing forward as we a human race move forward in the direction of perfect shalom.

I am not naive, I am not socially blind to the times when mankind hurts itself or others. But these setbacks does not sway me from pressing forward in doing good, it does not sway my thoughts and prayers of “thank you God for making a beautiful, wonderfully made, good Earth.”

So, what say you? How do your thoughts and views shape your world and the world at large?

Be blessed and continue to bless others, do your part in “Tikkun Olam” where you can with the strengths and gifts God has given you.

~Nathanael~

I won’t play second fiddle to religion; a vent of sorts

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I love you too much to let you go or dismiss you, and I won’t ever discard you…but why do you discard me?

Why do you take on some new church activity? You are already involved in a LOT, and here you go and be a part of something new. But in your process of being a part, it’s making us apart, and when I see how you’re doing and what to hang out with you but you say you have a church function to go to, I get hurt. I get hurt because you place religion ahead of me, I get hurt because I question what you’re actually learning and if you’re applying it in someway to your life- if you did, it’s quite possible you’d see through the religiosity and actually interact with me.
Is it because you want to be affirmed and lauded without having to change a thing about yourself? I mean, I see what you do and I get that you’re someone striving to change yourself without changing your behaviours, and if you’re not changing your behaviours then…why and what exactly are you trying to prove?

And yet I realize the hypocrisy in my tone, I too once piled on a lot of religious activities and functions within the week, and it took a dear close friend to point out what I was doing, it took the holy spirit to point out why I was doing what I was doing. So can I fault you? Not entirely, but I would hope you and I have a good enough relationship at this point where if I’m calling you out on this you know it’s from a place of love and not condemnation.

Please, come back, to reality and life with me. Please, stop faking it, stop using religion as a means to doctor the symptoms (and perhaps even the cure) and just. get. well.
Trust me, when you’ve let go of this you’ll be more free (it takes one to know one).

I’m not asking you to pull the plug on all of your activities, but I would just like you to be a more selective with what you do and with whom, because it’s not all healthy…because not all Christians are healthy…and those are worth letting go, but it’s up for you to determine said individuals that not me.

Come back, please, for me…for us…for all the goodness in the world that exists outside the parameters of religion. I need you in my life, I need a whole person working out their life and not someone who compartmentalizes everything and subsequently me.

I’m not playing second fiddle to your religion any more.

~Nathanael~

</vent>

transplant, but don’t cut, your roots; an open letter to new Christians

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Recently I found out about an event where some former Muslims turned Christians talked about their experiences and how they became followers of Christ/Isa Al-Masih. When they were asked questions about Islam they chose to focus on some of the negative aspects they found within Islam, they also perpetuated some fear based around Sharia law and Islamic fundamentalism especially in the area of it coming to the United States of America.

***

Fundamentalist ideals and views can be found all over, and not solely in religious forms. So to get worked up about the minority in Islam is rather foolish, because focusing on this may lead to fear, and fear is a horrible way to live out one’s life. Sure be proactive, but don’t be foolish.

Also there’s the nature of followers of Islam, they have dreams and ideals for their families and community at large, they have values that benefits all. I have some Muslim friends and I’ve been to the local mosque on more than one occasion and for a while last year I was learning about Islam 101 through the local mosque and I received nothing but love and hospitality. While some skeptics might say they were being nice to me because it was their intention to convert me to Islam, that this was the sole reason why they were being nice, I beg to differ; I used to bullshit others (for many reasons) and I can tell you this, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter (past or present) and the love and hospitality I received at the mosque was genuine.

***

So this message is primarily intended by new Christians, and here’s what I have to say. Transplant your roots if you do, but don’t hack away at them. The time you were oriented in another religious direction or even if you had no previous religious direction was not spent in vain. The process I kind of mentally go through in any new situation or direction is examining my past, learning from it, and essentially “eat the meat, spit out the bones”. One of my more recent favorite authors (Ian Morgan Cron) spoke at my church last year and I got the chance to talk to him privately about his book, and how I appreciated it but more to the point I could relate to it. He listened exceedingly well and responded in 3 words:
nothing is wastedin regards to where I’ve been in this life. It stuck deep and it is still something I dwell on, and I recognize this can be placed on pretty much any experience life throws our way. nothing is wasted, there’s always something to learn from and grow on when we transplant our roots.

***

So if you’re entering a new job, becoming part of a new religion, or anything else that matter, I hope you’re able to glean from where you’ve come from to become a better you where you’re at with what you’ve gone through and/or where you’ve come from.

~Nathanael~

Seeing with Christ’s eyes; loving my father better

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2 weekends ago at my church we discussed centering prayer, and how to practice this practice:

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In my own time I practiced this out and the word I chose was vision.

Now vision in and of itself doesn’t imply good or even bad vision, it simply means being able to see. As I meditated on this word it was pressed upon my soul that I on my own I have shitty vision when it comes to some individuals in my life, in particularly my father. You see, my father and I have a strained relationship, and some of it is differences in religiousity and some of it is wants/expectations in the other, but this is my narrative so I will stick to my side of the story as it is the only one I truly can convey…
With my own eyes I see my father with shitty vision so much of the time. I want for him to be connected with his humanity, what really makes him real, what makes him alive, and so I self-impose the kind of father I want upon my father directly but so often indirectly. Life since I moved out (and even before then) was hit and miss, and I miss connecting with him, no agenda in mind, just being and doing something with him.

So as I was praying and meditating, vision came to mind, my vision in particular. It was pressed upon my heart and mind that my vision needs to be altered, that my vision when it comes to view myself and others needs to be that of Christ’s. Jesus’ vision was 20-20, he saw people with love and he saw clearly the person before him; he reached out to others and a lot of the time he simply asked them what do you me to do? He didn’t say this with an accusatory tone, but one of love.

In a way, the cataracts of my soul have started healing as a result. So fast forward to last Saturday, my father and I hung out over lunch and a movie, and it was a lot of fun! He showed me a pen he had made for me (his hobby / passion / artist expression is wood working):
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and a few others he had recently made:
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All in all it was a good time with my father, and I attribute it to finally seeing my father through the eyes of Christ. The eyes of Christ sees my father in this way, but myself and all of humanity included! The river of grace runs wide and runs deep for all.

See with the eyes of Christ and change your world!
~Nathanael~

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.

***
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

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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~