Comm(unity): Transparency begets transparency/trust me I’m a recovering habitual liar

A lot of comm(unity) has to do with finding people who not only do we get along with but people we can put our trust in. If we can trust other people with the small things, we can get to a place in our friendships where we can share the bigger things. It takes time to get there, time invested combined with love, love combined with reading between the lines without judgment.
I can read people pretty well, granted I have a background in Psychology but even before that I could easily figure out who was telling me the truth and who was bullshitting me, but it was kinda easy, because well I once was a habitual liar and a bullshitter myself.

Growing up life was all kinds of hard (still is in many respects) and yet the cries of help offered to people I thought I trusted went unheard. Mainly due to who my family is in this community, people didn’t suspect that our pretty little “Camelot” was unraveling at the seams… It didn’t help that the church I was attending was very patriarchal in nature; that it was my father’s job this my father’s job that…but if that’s the root of the problem, tough shit suck it up – rhetoric of this nature burned me up inside for this supposed community of Christians acting like assholes to my family and I.

I saw that I wasn’t able to get any tangible help and rather than hide my face from daylight I put on a new face, one that was a mask that hid the pain inside and yet appeared to be doing alright. I transitioned into a bullshitter and a habitual liar and it took time to “perfect” it and has taken even more time to undo it…but I’m getting there. Yet when I was in the mode to lie to everyone about everything, I was surprised at how people believed me, did you really think I got these marks on my arms from “falling off my bike”? It got me thinking that if I were ever honest with my situation, would people believe me and comfort me in my darkest moments? At that time I would have said NO, but today I say YES, and tho I can’t be transparent with everyone (outside of the fact that it’s not healthy) there are individuals who know my story and know what’s really going on in my life.

My transition to being someone who is honest with what’s really going on started when I went to college, within the first semester I got the sense of what comm(unity) should be and how it is lived out. Transparency was a key to a door I never knew before, because I was meeting and living with some people who really didn’t “have it together” and the people around them loved on them despite of flaws apparent and flaws hidden.
Within one semester, ONE semester, I knew this was a better way to live my life with people. One of my first moves into being transparent and real/authentic with others started with my parents, I worked up the courage to tell them about how I tried to commit suicide twice, I don’t really know how it affected my father but my mom broke down. I confided in some friends who I knew for the longest time and it was something beautiful, it has been something beautiful because they’re still in my circle of friends in this beautiful thing called comm(unity).

***

So today in my life, I can read the people around me like books, but I don’t hold it over their heads and I do what I can to help them and love on them. We were made for comm(unity) from the very beginning and I’m doing what I can make it. Transparency begets transparency and from there we can live as we were intended, with no shame as to what we’ve done and where we’re still struggling because we know there are people out there who truly care about us, who when they ask “how are you doing?” they aren’t asking this flippantly or without the desire to get a flippant answer. When people do give me the “good” or “fine” question, I sometimes question them with a “really?” because if the person I’m asking this is someone I know pretty well, an answer of that caliber doesn’t suit me and I want to know what’s really going on.

I urge you if you’re in need of comm(unity) I will do what I can to be here for you. Granted I’m not a 24/7 doctor who makes the occasional house call, but I CAN listen, I can pray, I can speak (but only if you want me to). I’m not the only one here on WordPress like that, but sometimes you need to test the waters on your own, to find a shallow end that leads to the deep end, and when you get there and you’re getting over your head I hope you find people who will rescue you and throw you a life preserver.

~Nathanael~

George W. Bush is gonna have to wait till I ask him my question…

My alma mater for college has started something new this year, they’re calling it a “World Leaders Forum” and since I graduated there in Dec. there’s an opportunity for me to go and listen to…

George W. Bush speak.

Now I would definitely like to go to this, but my reasons are mostly self-motivated; I want to ask him a question if there’s a Q&A and I kinda want to keep it from being a Republican Party party at my school…but Dubya has to wait because I’ll be working with my church’s high school youth group.
I do wish I could ask him my question, especially in light of the recent wars we are in, and while politics is mostly a battle over who’s shit smells nicer, shit is shit and regardless who’s in charge it isn’t going to change by much (this is coming from someone who voted for Obama last term). My question is about defining what a “Just War” is and then proceeding to ask him if he thinks then the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “just”.
Granted I probably could not get the question out as there are probably people who will be monitoring what’s said, but I wish I could ask it nonetheless because I want to know his thoughts on the matter.
We’re getting into the basis for the Easter holiday with the high schoolers, we have some neat things lined up for them in regards to it, may God move in our midst and our hearts during this time.

Sorry Dubya, till next time okay?

~Nathanael~

Comm(unity): Time spent or time invested?


The other day a good portion of my time was at the wedding of one of my former youth ministry students. J*’s a good guy, I’ve known him for a great deal and I’ve spent as well as invested time on him for nearly as long as I’ve been doing youth ministry.
I was the only leader present at his wedding, the only one who was able to reminisce of times gone by since he was in Jr. High. There were plenty of friends and family gathered, to which I was at the table where most of his friends were. To which everyone of those young men and women (with the exception of 1) at our table were my youth ministry students.
J*’s best friend B* was the best man, he and I go back to my early days of youth ministry as well, but our relationship isn’t based on the fact that I simply chilled with them on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, I invested time into both of them by way of other means…

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but J* and B*, God and I, ALL of us have been through a lot together; from random trips to a Russian Charismatic church I attended in my early college years, playing more Halo than I care to , Wendy runs, Bible studies, “Formal Basketball”, etc.
When I left for another college it kinda broke my heart (as well as theirs) that I could no longer invest on a regular basis to these guys; we had email and phone calls, and MySpace but it certainly doesn’t replace interpersonal time invested. I also found it kinda sad that when I would ask them who are their favorite leaders they would first mention the woman who was at one time the official youth minister for them and then me, this is just to say that the ones they connected most with in the context of youth group were ones who were no longer there.

Comm(unity) for us hasn’t been all peaches and cream, there have been times where either as a group or myself mentoring to them one-on-one…truth to what’s really going on comes out, and you know what? That isn’t possible unless time invested occurs.

There have been a lot of youth ministry leaders who have spent time in J* and B*’s lives but I was the only one present, and I know it comes down to that I stepped outside of the designated “youth group time” and invested MORE into their lives. Granted I cannot do this with everyone of my students past and present, but I think that with a sizable youth group with a large group of leaders this can be done better.

I’m not done with investing MORE time in the lives of my youth ministry students, I already recognize that while I might never have the money I will always have the time for them. Granted I know it’s gonna be reworked in my married/wife-and-kids days because time with them will have to take precedence because it really won’t go over with my wife and kids if I’m talking as well as living out of 2 sides of my mouth.
Let it be said that I don’t invest in students because I’m expecting something out of them, I’m doing this because I recognize that a good portion of the people who have helped me (and continue to help me) get where I am today are ones who have spent as well as invested their time in me. In the context of youth ministry my main goal is to love on others and share the Gospel message with my students, and it definitely comes from a place of “preach[ing] the Gospel at all times and when necessary us[ing] words.” God willing I help to teach and instill in my students who God is and to help them take ownership in their spiritual development and make it their own.

In this technology age it is easy to connect and reconnect with my students, but it has made it harder to do this in real life. I’m getting better at this than when I first started out and with summer approaching (apart from balancing out work and etc.) real life comm(unity) is very possible and I can’t wait.

~Nathanael~

Radical Honesty Week (for me)

So I decided for kicks, why the heck not, reactions positive as well as negative I’ve decided to practice radical honesty this week. To which I’ve decided the key to it is to be tactful to all and blunt to those who can handle it.

In my case, in my life and for this week I won’t be telling a 3 year old what’s really going on in my life, no need to start counseling at such an early age but someone I trust, say some of my fellow youth ministry leaders CAN take what is really going on in my life.
So far it has been pretty good, I’ve definitely pushed the limit in being truthful, not at the point where people think I’m a dick or an asshole, but to seriously let the cat out of the bag.
I know some people might try to get to me on this, say my best friend’s brother in law asked me if I thought he was fat and so I said do I look stupid (yes, I’d answer this way to my girl if she asked and I know it’s Rob Bell-ing an answer) and then I told him I like him the way he is…chalk one up for radical honesty!

So yeah, I’m excited for the possibilities this week has to hold with being radically honest, I truly believe transparency begets transparency, so this could definitely be a good thing.

~Nathanael~

The essentials of Comm(unity)

We were made for community, or how I look at it, comm(unity). Whether our community is made up by the people around us or whether the people we know here on Xanga. We. Were. Made. For. Community.

I’ve been active with different youth groups for nearly 8 years now and I recognize how often this rings true; when we (leaders as well as student) gather together on Sunday mornings and/or Wednesday nights we usually come because something bigger than ourselves occurs in our togetherness. Some students come to connect with others, some students come to connect with God and some are able to do both, but regardless of the reasons why we come it comes down to community.
Community is about having a common interest and perhaps even a common goal, that we’re “here” to do something, to be someone, to connect…I kinda like this word connect, in fact religion comes from the words to AND connect and essentially this connectedness I see in the youth ministry is a religion, and not that it’s a bad thing, but this religion helps us to connect with God and essentially one another.
I also recognize in this youth ministry setting we’re intentional at shying away from the trivial day-to-day blasé questions; truth to what we’re going through, truth to what we’ve been through comes through trust. Trust is essential to this community, because if we think whenever we open our mouths what we say won’t be respected or listened to, if we think our baggage will become the fodder for someone’s gossip, we won’t be real/authentic, we won’t share out of authenticity and vulnerability and we won’t have (you guessed it) community.
Oh sure, you can connect with others and keep it “safe” keep it on the shallow end of the pool, but this can only last for so long because it gets tiresome jumping through the same hoops week in and week out.

Comm(unity) can lead to trust, trust to transparency and transparency on to authenticity. In the latter stages one can say without a shadow of a doubt that I do not have it all together, I do not have all the answers and sometimes I doubt myself and what I truly believe…and you know what? That’s where I am now in life, and it doesn’t come from being flippant but coming from a place where if I’m going to help cultivate honesty and comm(unity) in others it begins with me, it begins with me being transparent and I find transparency begets transparency.

More to come on this subject of comm(unity),
Nathanael

While I was teaching Sunday School…

I help teach Sunday School at one of my churches every 1st and 3rd Sunday, here’s something that gripped me this past Sunday…

***

Lately we’ve been teaching the kids the Bible as an overarching story, we’re covering events from creation in the OT to the birth of Jesus, death of Jesus and resurrection of Jesus in the NT. It’s not a bad curriculum, as it does give us time to discuss with our kids what they’re hearing and to see if they have any questions and/or we ask them questions. We started this curriculum to coincide with Easter, when we finish up it’ll be Easter morning, so kudos to the Sunday School powers that be at my church who thought that one through.

So last Sunday we were discussing sacrifice as how it was done in the Old Testament, where a lamb without blemish or disease would be prayed over by one of the rabbis and through the prayer the sins of the rabbi as well as all the Israelites would be put on to that lamb, from there the rabbi would slit the lamb’s throat and it would die and it would be the sacrifice for everyone for a year.
In the NT with Jesus, the ultimate and also the last sacrifice that was ever needed to bring restoration between God and Man, Jesus died on the cross, Jesus is our much needed sacrifice, so that through him we can have atonement and restitution made between us and God.

As we told this story, a boy who’s probably 10, a visitor to our church and Sunday School for the first time started crying at this point. You know what? I truly believe he was crying because he “got it”; that WE are the reasons why Jesus became a sacrifice, that WE are the reasons why Jesus suffered such a horrible execution…but thankfully by the grace of God that isn’t the other story, otherwise I’m just jabbing my jaw/typing my fingers off for no reason.

I wish I “got it” more often like that little boy did. That when I read “he was wounded for our sins” I actually think more than a flesh wound, but a metal to flesh, gory, horrifying scenario. I (even for a dark mind such as my own) make the crucifixion of Christ relatively tame. I do think of the implications at a deeper and sometimes darker level, but I don’t read into it like a copy of Frank Miller’s Sin City.
I need some time for self examination, and as an introspective person that is quite easy for me to do…why do I tame down the shedding of blood, the horrifying and death-taking and life-giving of the crucifixion of Christ? (I will get back to y’all on this later)

But back to “getting it”… My prayer is for God to use this in this boy’s life; by way of us Sunday School teachers but also his parents, to ask the why questions and to truly starting a relationship with God. He might be young, but even Jesus made known that children are important to him.

[n][v]

I get by with a little help from my professors

This has been buzzing around in my head for a while, but starting Monday I’m going back to Community College.

Now, it’s not that I’m going back to take classes (tho if they had a cooking class, I might) it’s to get a copy of my transcripts and get in contact (if possible) with every professor I had there. My school days have been long[er than I wanted them to be, but life happens], and I definitely enjoyed my community college more than my 4 year school, except for the friends I’ve made at the latter as well as buckling down and taking courses that pertained to my Psych undergrad, oh and graduating lest I forget that part as well.

I already bumped into one professor and we had a good chat, and soon enough we’ll be getting coffee soon enough, but he wasn’t the only professor; my art teachers, my music teachers, my sociology teacher and even my tennis teacher! Plus I might get into contact with the people I interacted with in my extracurricular’s – diversity group, cross country, newspaper, Christian fellowship…

So that’s my plan, to get in touch and simply show my thanks for those who helped me educationally get where I am now. I’m not done with my schooling though, I’m putting energy into looking at M Div. programs overseas, preferably Ireland (to get some traveling and studying abroad out of the way, out of my system).

[n][v]