I know how to BE, but I don’t [always] know what to say

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to a wake and a service of a young man I kind of knew (I know his family better). I knew about when it would be and I knew where it was being held, but when the time came to head there I changed my mind.
It’s not that I am not uncomfortable with being in the presence of suffering and those who suffer, on the contrary I think I am pretty good at BEing in the present. However, I am prone to overthinking and overanalyzing things, and I talked myself out of going because what if I was told to say something, what if I were to provide verbal comfort?

Where I am at in my journey of life and journey of faith, I cannot bring myself to verbally comfort someone who is suffering. I can sympathize, I can empathize, I can BE, I can be silent…but words, words escape me if someone wanted verbal comfort because I find a lot of comfort words in times of suffering to be trite, cliche, and even the exact opposite of comfort.
To extend myself a bit of grace, I will say this; the words I select are deliberate much of the time, I am careful in self-examining myself in what I am to say a good deal of the time. It is probably because of this I come across as being quiet, but on the contrary, provided I think things through I have quite a bit to say!
But saying anything in times when people are hurting strikes me as taking away from what’s going on, and I rather be than to do, I deliberately choose silence paired with comforting.

***

In hindsight, I wish I went. I wish I went to be present with the brothers, the parents, the extended family, the friends, et al. because if I were able to get out of my head and BE, that’s all that would matter and it would matter immensely as a lot of the time we need someone to listen to us without having anything to say.

Lesson learned,
~Nathanael~

The interconnectedness of trees; we have more in common than not

Today I attended the Aurora Jewish Renewal Congregation, a collective of individuals whom I find to be very inclusive as well as progressive, who admit the diversity in their thinking as well as their theology. Unbeknownst to me until I arrived was that today is Tu B’Shevat in the Jewish calendar.
Tu B’Shevat is essentially New Years Day for trees; a time to come together to thank God for food grown on the vine or tree, but to also be mindful in ecological matters too. It was nice to not only break bread (Challah is becoming one of my favorites) but to also be mindful in the bounty God has given us in the form of dates, apricots, grapes, almonds, and walnuts.

This got me to thinking on my own as well, especially the nature of trees and more to the point, groves of trees and trees intentionally planted to block wind.

https://heritageoakwinery.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/img_0742b.jpg?w=645&h=364
These trees are placed together, their roots are interconnected, they stand together and they support the other…and what does this mean to me? It means to me that we have more in common than we don’t, we have a commingling of divinity and humanity rolled into one, and ultimately- when we stand together, our roots entwined, we are at our strongest when we work together as one.
This truth I have known for sometime, but it sometimes becomes even clearer than it normally is. It is a thing of beauty to have a-ha/eureka moments, it is good to be mindful and aware and thankful and grateful for the diversity and unity of interconnectedness of friends across the spectrum of life.

Thanks be to God!
~Nathanael~

It’s okay to not be okay…and other truths

It’s okay…

It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to dream small and dream big.
It’s okay to not dream at all.
It’s okay to have faith.
It’s okay to doubt.
It’s okay to be denominationally aligned.
It’s okay to be a free range soul.
It’s okay to have opinions.
It’s okay to change your mind.
It’s okay to read read the religious texts of other religions.
It’s okay to read comic books.
It’s okay to love yourself.
It’s okay to love others.
It’s okay to love the opposite sex.
It’s okay to love the same sex.
It’s okay to love your friends.
It’s okay to love your enemies.
It’s okay to be in crowds.
It’s okay to make a fort out of pillows and read alone.
It’s okay to silently meditate.
It’s okay to crank it to eleven and jump on your bed as you did when you were a kid.
It’s okay to remember.
It’s okay to forget.
It’s okay to have busy days.
It’s okay to have days to yourself.
It’s okay to listen to your favorite musicians.
It’s okay to listen to something new.
It’s okay to hug.
It’s okay to kiss.
It’s okay to laugh.
It’s okay to cry.
It’s okay to hope.
and (once again for posterity sake)
it’s okay to not be okay.

~Nathanael~

what do you do when your inclusive community has conflict?

I honestly don’t know.

But I am willing to learn, willing to BE a part of this experience, and hope for the best because I really don’t know how it’ll play out…
Community can be a complicated thing sometimes, because people are complicated and come with complications. It’s not that they can’t be worked through, in fact, the differences and complications flavor a community even more so as a result. Yet I realize that a community works best if there’s a common purpose for all even if those individuals are coming from diverse backgrounds. It makes it that much more easier if said individuals can each vocalize in their own way, why they’re “here” and perhaps even where they’re coming from that has brought them to this point.
So the best I can surmise at this time within my community is that provided we’re honest to ourselves and to others as to what’s going on, we’ll be able to get through this. If members choose to bottle up their emotions (and provided they keep it solely there) they hurt themselves only…not the healthiest of options, but not everyone is able to communicate what’s going on, let alone, communicate what they’re feeling or thinking.

~Nathanael~

Being mindful on Martin Luther King Jr day / We have so far to go

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(my favorite quote by him)

I was reading and listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s I have a dream speech the other day, and this time around of listening to it this part jumped out at me; “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I listened to its entirety, being mindful of what he said, but I grew a bit sad because we’re still not there yet.

I don’t need to rehash events that took place in 2014, if you follow the news even casually you know what happened and perhaps even the where and possibly the why. But it goes beyond racial inequality, we still have human trafficking, people still die of water issues and starvation, LGBTQ rights are disregarded by states as well as countries. And while it might seem like too much sometimes, it doesn’t have to be, anyone can be a voice for themselves and sometimes they can be a voice for others as well.
On a personal level I realize that this life I live wasn’t meant to be turned inward, I wasn’t meant to take on life alone for my own gain or to tackle issues as they come up alone. I was made…I am designed for community, and part of that means thinking and acting and being more than “one person”.

***

A few months ago I went to a conference about what’s going on in Israel as well as Palestine. It was well attended, and in between the sessions we had breaks to get coffee and perhaps dwell on what we had just heard and learned. I asked those around me and those at the coffee station what they had thought so far. The most common answers I heard that day were:
“I can’t wait for God to do something about what’s going on in Palestine and Israel”
and
“I want to find out more about what’s going on in Palestine and Israel so that I can do something about it.”

Frankly, those are postures I have taken on in my life, thankfully I lean to the latter. One that expects God to take care of the problem and one that wants to play a role in working to change that problem. While I do think God could very well take care of such matters devoid of human interaction, I don’t think it was meant for us to do. We can play a role in finding a way to be engaged in a social justice manner. How does one get social justice minded? I honestly don’t know, I only have suggestions not solutions. Perhaps the questions of 1. What am I passionate about in life? 2. What fires me up? 3. What injustice in the world do I see that bothers me? 4. What can I do to bring about change, no matter how microcosm it may be? is a good place to begin.

In my own life, the issues of what happens to the LGBTQ Community on a local level are on my heart and on my mind. Being an ally has taken time, but I am thankful to God for leading me here and beyond. It’s why I participate in the I’m Sorry Campaign, it’s why I own up to my shortcomings and collective issues caused by Christians. There’s still so much that needs to be done, but it’s being done.

The sooner you start, the sooner it becomes a habit. The sooner it becomes a habit, the sooner you can impress these values on your community going outward. It also helps you find people who are likeminded and likehearted, people who resonate a deep “me too”. Your life is not your own, you were made for so much more!

“It’s always the right time to do the right thing” – Martin Luther King Jr.
~Nathanael~

Allow room for change, allow yourself to be changed

I grew up in an environment where  systematic theology was  commonplace; that if you did spiritual act x + y you’d get spiritual result z. But while there is some weight to  systematic theology, like a lot of things, formulas don’t always give the results we’d like. So what becomes of a faith guided by formulaic methodologies? We can lose faith, we can throw in the towel, we can grow jaded and cynical, and so on.
So I propose holding faith with an open heart and open hands. That we hold up our faith with the intention to allow room to change and even more to the point, allow ourselves to be changed.

***

I find myself aligned to following Christ by way of being a Progressive Christian. And while part of myself is negated when labeled, I find it to be a healthy way to engage others in matters of faith & other ways as well. It is not beneath me nor is it a point of weakness to utter up a “I could be wrong” because my open-handed faith gives me space and grace to question, to doubt, to wonder, among other things.
So I urge you reader to allow God to mess with you, to allow your faith to  transform from black and white thinking and doing to seeing the bright colors God has made and engaging them with open hearts and minds.

~Nathanael~

My goals for 2015

My theme for this upcoming year is to be more mindful and assertive.

I also have some goals in mind:

1. Go to lectures and related at places within the community
2. Travel a bit (I’m giving thought to going to Lithuania and Iceland).
3. Get back into shape (we all say this, but I aim to be intentional).
4. Take the I’m Sorry Campaign somewhere new (Portland is on mind, so is San Francisco).
5. Write more and perhaps even channel it into my book about behavioral health.
6. Find ways to be more engaged with NAMI on a local level.
7. Meditate more.
8. Eat less.
9. Give more of myself.
10. Work at not overthinking and overanalyzing anything and everything.
11. Work on being less cynical and be more hopeful.
12. Go on local roadtrips.

So far, that’s what my goals are for 2015!