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~

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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~

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