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

https://nathanaelvitkus.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/a7cf0-braided_drainage.jpgTheology 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

11 years of youth ministry – 20/28

Over the last 11 years I have volunteered in different youth groups; inside the church, outside of the church, high school, as well as middle school.

The first youth group I helped out with was with a Jr. High youth group at my former church which went by the name CHAOS.

Truth to be told, it was.

I remember how naive then, calling the shots and acting like an authority figure without having a relationship with my group of guys. Yeah, that didn’t work out that well. But I quickly surmised that Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights were not enough, and so I found ways to connect with my group of guys outside the designated times. We had video game nights, my invented sport of “formal basketball”, and a Proverbs Bible study. It was outside the box, it was quirky and it was messy, but those guys I knew back then in my early years of youth ministry, I still keep in touch. In fact, one of my earlier youth ministry students is a guy who has introduced me to his trivia league at a bar in my area (he’s over 21 now so it’s all good) which I try to go to every Wednesday.

I do admit, that there have been times where the CHAOS was more internal or external. When I first started high school youth ministry it was with Young Life. I needed a 2 year internship when I was once a youth ministry major in college, and my bro from community college days hooked me up with the youth group he attended and went on to lead in. I was stoic and reserved, and I kept to myself as a leader because I think I honestly didn’t know how to come across as a ‘type a extrovert who dives into the games headfirst with reckless abandon.’ At that time I didn’t know how to utilize my strengths because I perceived them as weaknesses; I am a type b ambivert who is good with leading a small group. I am also someone who’ll ask the designated questions, and ask more pertinent questions than the ones provided to me. I am also one to call out students who give me answers they think I want to hear rather than the ones that they really want to give.

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As a result of my strengths and weaknesses in the context of youth ministry, I know where my place is and I am okay with that. Too often ministry in any context appears to be an Anglo-Saxon W.A.S.P. extroverted males club ONLY, but I thank God for diversity and the ability to use my strengths accordingly. I also am thankful that youth ministry isn’t about me, and that I don’t need to put on an air of ‘look at what I am doing’ but rather ‘look at what God is doing’ and I see that on a regular basis.

Youth ministry isn’t where I’m going to end up work-wise, and I’m okay with that. I will still invest in the lives of others but in a different context because I realize where my strengths lie and I’m going to give it all I have.

~Nathanael~

It’s not a relationship if there’s no communication – 5/28

https://i2.wp.com/cdn2.mamapop.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/uber_ear_trumpets.jpg

In any relationship, you better put out.

Put out what you want out of it that is (what did you think I meant? ;-))
Despite being funny and perhaps slightly provocative, there’s a lot of truth what I wrote. It is only little kids who can start up friendships on a truly organic level; he has crayons/Legos/Hot Wheels, I do too, let’s share, we’re now friends…But as you get older, you start to realize that friendship isn’t as easy as it once was.

Differences don’t make for a deal breaker in friendships, diversity in all shapes and forms is the spice of life, and it makes for better relationships because it gives you the room to hear from someone who’s on a different path in life. In my own life I recognize that the differences I have between friends has aided to my broader thinking about the world at large.
If there’s truth to Thomas Aquinas’ statement of beware the man of one book in the same turn beware the man of one type of friend; because anything that is outside of that group of individuals norm (self-imposed or not) is going to be mere speculation.

Another facet of relationships is what you won’t do. I don’t think that on our minds from the get-go, but over time we might unless we suppress/”put up” with the foibles and faults with our friends, but there’s a line to that, and if it becomes detrimental and unhealthy for you it might be a good time to call it quits. Now what constitutes a deal breaker? I truly think it varies relationship to relationship, but there are some common threads; you’re taken advantage of, you’re put down, you’re physically/emotionally/spiritually/etc abused, you feel worse after hanging out with that individual than better, you’re not given room to speak, you’re not given room to BE who you truly are…these are some symptoms that the relationship isn’t a healthy one. If you have the audacity to say something along the lines “but I can’t stop being friends with that person, they’re my friend!” Well, here’s one for you, would a REAL friend treat you like dog shit? Would a friend really make you compromise your integrity and character? If it’s not healthy, there’s no point being around that person at all.

Put out what you can in any relationship in a healthy manner, if one relationship doesn’t work out, there will be opportunities for others. 🙂

~Nathanael~

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21/31 – My best friends and what makes them special

 

My best friends and what makes them special

I haven’t been one that could be described as a “social butterfly” and so my friendships have been low in numbers, but deep ones all around. I do appreciate the diversity in my friendships, variety is the spice of life and it certainly plays out in regards to my friends.

Sonia – our friendship goes back to 2004 when we were in a diversity group at the community college we both attended. Religion and stereotypes were brought up, she shared what people thought about Muslims and I brought up what people thought about Christians, and from there our friendship was born. She’s getting married this year, I’ve been invited to the wedding and it should be awesome! I love her dearly, she’s an awesome person.

Ben – Ben and I go back…18 years back, we were in Boy Scouts together and since then we still hang out, I actually work with him in the same high school youth group. He’s a good friend because he and I have been through a lot of good times and bad times, I’m always glad to have opportunities to speak my mind about what’s bothering me as well as good things on my horizon. He is a fan of beer like I am, so there are times where we kick back, drink brews and talk about theology…beer + theology = a good combination.

Mel – Back in 2004 I met Mel while running Cross Country in college, she was a fun one to run with…and there were times in my kindness where she had to beat me to it; for instance, I would open the door for her (I tend to do that for people) but she would dash off down the halls of our school just to open the door for me, she went out of her way to do things like that. We still stay in touch, she’s out on the East Coast so I don’t see her all that regularly but our times together is worthwhile.

Mark – I’ve known Mark for close to 4 years now and initially he and I were opinionated on the same thing, but from different sides, and while that can cause rifts in any relationship, we get along peaceably nowadays and hang out, do youth ministry together & go on adventures taking pictures.While we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything he speaks his mind and doesn’t ride on the coattails of someone else, which even tho we have differences that means a lot to me; someone who is articulate in their own way instead of expressing the opinions of others and passing them off as their own. He’s been immensely helpful, a good listener inasmuch a good talker, a balance of both serve him well.

Alex – Not only do I work with amazing guy, he’s an awesome bearded long-haired guy like me! 😉 He’s not one of my oldest (as in knowing) friends but we share a lot, and I’ve been real with him with what’s going on in my life and he does likewise. He’s a well thought out individual who has a lot of information on genocides and such, not perhaps the best of subjects but he knows the underpinnings of a LOT of things and it startles me sometimes how some things have come together. He just started watching Lost so it’s been amusing (from one who watched the entirety of that show in 2-3 weeks) to hear what he’s finding out on one of my favorite shows ever.

~Nathanael~