The inclusive table; a posture for living, a posture for life

communion
Growing up our house was messy in many ways, but for the sake of streamlining this a bit, messiness by way of things everywhere and anywhere. As a result of this messiness, we didn’t have people come over except for a few barbeque’s and perhaps celebrating a birthday or graduation party; but even these events were few and far between. I ached and I yearned for having people over at my house, I love to cook and I love to cook for others, so to have without was an unfulfilled part of my life…until I moved out.

It hasn’t been dinner parties every week at my house, but it has been a semi-frequent event. Friends have come over, family has come over, a lot of diversity and I love every minute of it. And that’s why sometimes I dwell on the deeper truths that come from a center of “the kingdom of heaven is within you” and “the kingdom of heaven is near” and the truth I find time and time again is that the table is being set inclusively and so with my time and talents, I too choose to set an inclusive table.

My table is messy and dirty, who comes to visit and dine with me varies, but all are welcomed and none are sent home with an empty stomach. More is garnered in time spent at my table, everyone (as far as I know) have had a good time and want to come back. And there are even opportunities for others to go set their table for me, because we’re in this human condition together, there are symbiotic relationships all around us. So that’s my inclusive table, and when I think about God’s inclusive table I think this…

***

Too often, regardless of what religious group you’re a part of or if you’re just a spiritual person, it’s easy to find ways to delineate ourselves from others. Yet in a lot of different religions I find common ground and that comes from personally learning about different religions, but more often it comes from being in community with others; whether it’s sharing a meal or just getting coffee, people are people, and there is so much to learn.

Over the last few years my personal theology has gotten smaller and smaller. Not that I am saying I’m renouncing what I think and believe as to who Jesus is and what is attributed to him doing, but I admit that Christianity does not contain the entirety of God. God isn’t controlled by religions, God is much bigger than that if we allow God to be. Personally what I think my faith is at this time is finding ways to love God and love others and not being a jerk. Sometimes/often times I am a jerk, that I want to bring people to where I am at in life and in my own time frame and not their own. Sometimes/often times I make it more about me than Jesus, and yet I get brought back to a “get it together man!” mindset from the Holy Spirit; she’s pretty good at what she does…all I’ve got to do is sometimes/often times listen to her more and listen to me less.

Reducing in quantity my thoughts and ideas and perspectives that shaped my personal theology has increased my quality 1000% fold! Because I am able to step away from it all, not dejected, not frustrated, but humbled and willing to let God take over. It’s a “burden” of sorts, but I let God have it just as God should. It is about God, it is about us, and sometimes we need to figure out where that line is…but granted, God makes the line, we do not.

***

I think that when I have kids of my own I will provide them opportunities to learn from people from different walks of life, yes I will do my best to influence them from what I know as a follower of Christ, but to aid them in becoming well-rounded world citizens I aim to give them opportunities of going to mosques, synagogues, et al. places where people come together. I also realize that I will encourage my kids to ask difficult questions, and that sometimes questions don’t have answers. This latter part can be perplexing, because it is hard enough to grasp some answers that come from our questioning, but to be without answers period can be frustrating. I also realize that when I get to being a parent I want my kid’s faith to come from where they are at in life, and maybe for a while they will identify what I and their mother have shared with them, but I want them to make it their own- this of course comes with age and maturity, and in their own time frame and not mine.

I want them to partake in the joy and the freedom and contentment and grace and unconditional love that I have found! And that maybe, in which I am hopeful for, they themselves are able to “go and do likewise”. That they set their own tables, holistically, and embrace all because they themselves have been embraced by a creator who created them and loves them deeply and dearly.

~Nathanael~

I don’t have many friends, but – 4/28

https://i2.wp.com/whatislistening.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/friendship-1024x769.jpg

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one. – C.S. Lewis

I don’t have many friends, but, I never intended to be the social butterfly, the “popular” one, or any other descriptive term to describe the person who has a lot of friends.

Thing is, I rather have a good group of friends that I can put out there what’s really going on as to what’s going on in my life, in transparency, in honesty, that have less of that with more individuals.  I am not saying you can’t do that when you have a lot of friends, but I do find that having less friends helps me more especially since I want to keep track of what’s going on in the lives of my friends as well.

I cannot force my friends to give of themselves (time or otherwise), I cannot coerce them into revealing what’s going on their lives. Yet over time, WE have gotten to that place for better or worse. It is realistic to believe that not every time a “fine/good” answer is given that everything is fine or good; I think as a culture sometimes we accept this answer, not so much for the sake of our friends, but our sake and the ownership of actually figuring out what’s going on and sometimes that can be painful.

I rather be fighting side-by-side with my friends than hiding in my own foxhole, I rather be transparent about what hurts me and cuts me deep, than keep up a facade that states life is hunky-dory and I’m okay…because, well, I’m not okay.

For too long in my life I thought I wouldn’t be liked if I revealed the REAL me. Growing up in a household where everyone wore the fake smile, laughed off the pain, never resolved their own issues and dwelt on the issues, it was my norm, but when I went off to college I realized I could be ME despite being a broken individual, and I actually started making friends who encouraged me to be myself.

Now does that mean I wear my heart on my sleeve, by no means, but when I get to know someone, those layers that aren’t me become removed over time. I remove these layers because it’s healthy, provided the relationship’s conducive to that kind of thing, and it helps others get there as well. I like to say, because I know from experience, Transparency begets transparency – I don’t reveal the me as a manipulative tool to get someone to stand and deliver their own issues, if it happens it happens, so much of it begins with me. If I can get to that point in any friendship, that’s great! I just hope and pray that the person believes that I can trust them with their personal junk as I can trust them with my own personal junk. It takes time but it’s a worthwhile endeavor and it has yet to backfire in my face.

~Nathanael

I need new guy friends

I need some new guy friends, I told my good friend Mark as his wedding was wrapping up 2 weeks ago.

For the record, I’ve never have had a lot of friends, nor have I had the desire to have a lot of friends just a handful and a few more. My limiting to acquire more friends is that I like to go deep. Going deep, that is, not staying at the shallow end of the pool conversationally, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally et al.

Yes there is a time and a place when it comes to getting to know someone that you should not go deep, you can but I err on the side of caution and not wearing my heart on my sleeve, and even though I do live in the tension with some of my bestest buds, I never put all of me out the first time I met them, or anyone for that matter.

The thing is when it comes down to it, since 2005 I’ve decided to live life less compartmentalized and more intentional, instead of walking around with a grin of a facade on, I like to be real/authentic with others. I lived 21 years thinking that if I didn’t put on a game face, didn’t let on to what was really going on in my life and my surroundings no one would like me and even worse still, I thought no one would love me either.

Yet as I put my heart out there in faith and hope despite being burned a few times too many, it has served me well to live in such a way.

Yet this is why I say I need new guy friends…

With my friend Mark getting married I no longer have any single friends, and while there will be time to hang out with my guy friends who are married, the dynamic has changed — as it should! If my guy friends who hang out with me a great deal were to carry that over into their married life, I wouldn’t be down with that nor would their wives either.

So my pursuit of new guy friends isn’t one of replacing the guys I know and love so very much, but one of bonding with those who aren’t married and consequently are “more free” like me in single-hood or even dating-hood.

So here’s to finding more guy friends, and living intentionally and less compartmentalized! 🙂

~Nathanael~

Compartmentalization is more work than it’s worth

I’m packing up for 5 days in Wisconsin, and one thing I recognize is my compartmentalization skills; my camera gear is separate from my clothing is separate from my book bag is separate from my laptop bag.

While this is important, well, as long as you know which is which and if you can find what you’re looking for at it’s needed time, life sometimes in itself becomes compartmentalized; my work life is separated from my home life is separated from my spiritual life is separated from the friends I hang out with on Friday nights after work at a bar…

While I do think that balance and boundaries are a good thing, some things need to have that type of order, it is my opinion that compartmentalization is more work than what it’s worth, and that a follower of Christ I should fear or worry about living holistically, because as Rob Bell said; everything is spiritual.

There was a time in my life where I did my best to compartmentalize my life, my life consisted of boxes, all of mine but I only let some people in to what was really going on in my life. I did what I could to keep up a good facade of “everything is okay” but by the time I got to college I started unraveling at the seams.

When I went away to school I tried to keep up a good show of what was going on in my life; after all I was the new guy and didn’t know anyone apart from a friend who transferred from junior college to that school with me, we were actually in the same program before he dropped out and got married while I switched majors and graduated.

Some of my suite-mates and even one of my roommates picked up something was amiss in Nathanael-land (why yes, I am an island entire of myself, sometimes) and they were patient with me and they loved on me which I found odd because I thought that if I put myself out there I would be disliked and even worse, unloved.

Life without love is hardly a life at all, you have to give it and hopefully you get some love as well 🙂 But as I put my hurts and my pains out to my new acquaintances who became my friends I realized that I was still liked…I was still loved.

***

Since my college days gone by I do try to open myself more to people I trust and live life holistically, but I need to step up my game. If I am not willing to be more transparent and less compartmentalized how can I expect anyone else to? My standards are for me, but if I am to part wisdom upon those around me it begins with being the change I want to see in me.

So I will tear down my curtains,
I will reveal what goes on behind-the-scenes,
I will engage with you the proscenium.

~Nathanael~

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~