Spiral Dynamics Blues (and Yellow and Green and Orange and Red and Purple and Beige)

I don’t buy into Spiral Dynamics completely, but it has helped me see the world in a different way, a way that makes sense as to how people think, act, and interact with one another…

With that being said, here goes something.

***

I am on eHarmony, I mentioned this in my previous post, and things are going swimmingly with connecting with women, finding out about them and their interests and their passions, but then I propose my 3 questions in the dig deeper portion of the guided conversation set up by eHarmony.
I will be gracious in this, I am coming in contact with a lot of women who haven’t given much thought to my questions in an abstract way. Sure some responses I have received pertaining to the LGBTQ Community and God, Heaven, The Devil, Hell are very concrete in nature, but I have grace for them because I once was there as well.

It’s not that my life’s journey is somehow or somewhere better than theirs, I’m just coming from a looking back in hindsight perspective.

Still, I carry on. My roommate thinks I rush into these questions too quickly, that I should ease up a bit before going for the jugular heart of the matter. Maybe I do ask these questions too soon, but frankly I would rather know the answers to these questions, whether in concrete terms or even abstract ones, now then cultivate a possible relationship with someone only to ask these questions at a later time to only, well let’s be frank, cause a rift in our relationship.
I rather take my chances and put my cards face up on the table.

This hasn’t been too hard or too easy, I still feel like I’m baring my soul when I ask these questions to the women I engage with on eHarmony every single time, and I have to sit beside myself after I put myself out there because I don’t like feeling vulnerable; whether that’s something I do to myself or being put in a position of vulnerability.

But life and its wonders and its magical moments, I’m making headway! I know that when it comes to my questions I am not alone, and yet (and this is where the Spiral Dynamics part kicks in) I feel so alone sometimes / a lot of the time because of these things that are of utmost importance to me. I might seem very black and white about these issues, but I think know I want to connect with someone, someone I can evolve with and love, and having someone who’s more of the green yellow turquoise variant will make things easier for us as individuals as well as a couple.

***

Yet I realize there are issues that arise from Spiral Dynamics, it’s formulaic and life doesn’t always go by the rules, this categorizes people, creates/fosters paradigms of people…but still, there is something to how people attract similar minded and hearted people, and I realize in my life that there are people I gravitate to and people who gravitate to me simply because of our commonalities.

Which is why I still press on, why I still ask questions that make or break, still waiver a bit before hitting send but I hit it anyway. I want to believe it will pay off, whether here in eHarmonyland or offline!

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

2 nonnegotiables and a but! Adventures in eHarmony

2 nonnegotiables and a but! What a fun title, eh?

Well as I re-re-renter the dating world (look at me, I’m on EHarmony!) I have self-examined myself as to my nonnegotionables, and here goes something…

***

My first nonnegotiable is that I cannot for the life of me see myself in a relationship with someone who has a firm “I think / I believe” worldview when it comes to matters of an afterlife hell, the devil, demons, and everything in between. It seems to me that when people start telling people they’re going to hell or a particular type of people are going to hell, they’re claiming the moral high ground, that they and their tribe alone are possessors of this capital T Truth.
Furthermore it seems that these same individuals say it matter-of-factly, and that strikes me as very disturbing. It also smatters of elitism, that “we” are in while “you” are out, and this out has implications that are long lasting. I have included “what are your thoughts about God, Heaven, The Devil, Hell?” in my dig deeper questions as a result.

My second nonnegotiable is that I want to find an individual whom is an ally of the LGBTQ Community. The thing is, I am, it’s what God has put on my heart and mind, and I am outspoken about the rights of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, it is a part of me. With that being said, I want to continue in this with a my significant other and to be with someone who doesn’t want to or is opposed to the idea isn’t someone I want to be with. It’s why “what are your thoughts of the LGBTQ community?” is one of my dig deeper questions.

and yet, here’s the clincher, the “but” of my narrative…

If there is an individual who, like me, holds an open-handed posture towards faith, an individual who might include “well I could be wrong” in what they have to say or similar in what they have to say about these matters, I am more than willing to give them a chance.
As Paul Tillich said, “the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty” and it’s from this that I am okay with wrestling matters of faith, theology, thoughts about the LGBTQ Community, and everything in-between. God knows I have done so in the past, and I still do in the present.

So these are the things that I put out there on eHarmony, which is “too soon and too quick” according to my bro, but they are of utmost importance to my life and everything else is secondary.

~Nathanael~

Time management as a spiritual exercise; day 15 of Ramadan

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“Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.” – Groucho Marx

If you think about it, time is essentially all we have. Because when we have shed our mortal coils, that’s it, game over, fin, adios, sayonara, goodbye… But if we’re wise we can make the most of our time rather than wonder at the end of the day “where the heck did this day go?”
Perhaps the best way to begin with time management is finding out what consumes the most amount of your time during the week and then building around that. In my case I have a Monday through Friday 7am to 3pm job, and while I don’t plan for much before hand apart from getting ready to go, after 3pm is up to me to make the most of it.

From there figure out what activities you’re involved with and/or activities you want to be involved with, add that to your time management but also add on time getting to and from said activities as well as prep time (if needed) in doing the activities. From there allow room for leisure; I bring this up because sometimes in the busyness of every day we don’t allow ourselves time to take things easy. In fact, some of us actually feel guilty to have time spent doing nothing productive but hey, if you’re this kind of person I give you permission to be lazy every now and then.

Incorporate time to spend with friends and family; their time is limited inasmuch as yours is and because of the temporal nature of time this time might be the last time. I don’t mean to be morbid, I am just conscientiously aware of how quickly time goes by.

If you’re the adventurous outdoorsy type, I recommend using some time to go outside into the great outdoors and just be. Not everyone can handle being in the outdoors, but if you can, do it! Allow room to go shopping for needs and wants, allow room to cook food and enjoy it at a gradual non-rushed pace, go biking, be mindful of time spent online / Facebook / watching television because these activities in moderation are good but they can certainly be time sappers and if you’re not careful the day can be that much closer to the end because you spent too much time doing these activities.

And lastly if you’re of a faith tradition, take time to engage God in your synagogue / church / mosque / temple / etc. or if you need a break from the community that can be found in places, take time to engage God on your own terms in your own way (I like spending time with God in the great outdoors or swimming in Lake Michigan).

So with all that being said, time management was my keyword on this 15th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for giving us the time we have on our earth. May we invest it wisely and not waste the precious minutes / hours / days / months / years we’ve been given.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

Being flexible in life in community as a spiritual exercise; day 2 of Ramadan

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Yesterday marked the second day of Ramadan, and honestly the time spent fasting wasn’t all that difficult. I started the morning not so bright but early (pre-dawn) with a protein enriched shake and time to pray. It was peaceful and calm as I sat in my apartment and watched the sun rise into the sky. I thanked God for the shake and I thanked God for the beauty of a new day teeming with possible possibilities, and a chance to go to work and make a difference in the lives of others.
It was a good work day and some of my coworkers and students found out about me participating in Ramadan, I politely answered their questions to the best of my ability, and then one of my favorite students chimed in how he wanted to copy me and fast but with the intentions of losing weight rather than as a spiritual practice. And if a month wasn’t long enough, he said he wanted to fast for 2 months!
I didn’t lose my cool, but I did get a little angry with him because his intentions are wrong. He also happens to be a skinny dude already, so to lose weight on top of his already skinny frame would put his health in jeopardy. God I really hope he doesn’t start fasting.

After work, I took time to invest more time in prayer with God. I slowed myself down both physically but also spiritually, to get in tune with myself, to find my center, but also express from the truest parts of me what’s been going on to God. It seems in my times of connecting with God by way of prayer, life seems to pause and slow down in a good way, and given that prayer is communication to God why wouldn’t I want to talk to God!
I also was a bit tired so I also took a nap. Truth to be told, I am a big fan of naps; if I take a 40 minute nap I will be set for the rest of the day. And so, I napped for a while, and then I received a text from my bro Tim if I’d like to join him for Prairie Fest (local shindig in our town) and out of flexibility and wanting to hang out with him, I did! Because of some unforeseen events that came to be we got there later than expected, and yet I rolled with it.
I do find myself to be a very flexible person when it comes to plans in the heat of the moment, but if something is scheduled in advance and that day comes and the event is cancelled, I am thrown for a loop and I take it too personally. Still, being flexible in life in community was a bit difficult for me due to small waves of hunger pangs that engulfed my stomach.

But life rolled on and then it was time to eat! I was thankful to God for life in community as well as the salad I had, which nourished me and sustained me. My mind and heart returned to my center and I was able to brush off the bad vibes I had for things not turning out like I thought they would, and gratitude burst forth from every atom of my being.

So with all that being said, community / flexibility were my keywords on the second day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God, The Provider of Community, for friendship and fellowship with people I love the most.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

P.S. Here are some pretty great links I found:

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Ramadan
Ramadan Etiquette Guide: How to be a Non-Muslim During the Holy Month
5 Ways Fasting in Ramadan Improves Your Faith

Grace at our convenience is no grace at all

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I was dwelling and meditating on the nature of the grace the other day, and it crossed my mind; if we are to extend grace to ourselves and others, it should be radical and be freely extended without convenience.

One of the definitions of Convenience is “adds to one’s ease or comfort” and subsequently lies the crux of the situation; grace shouldn’t be at our ease or our comfort, it should be given freely without strings attached.

Yet I think that sometimes the reason (or at least, one of the reasons) grace isn’t extended freely is because we as humans have this thing called memory, and we recall the offense[s] that have happened both past and present and our actions are somewhat dictated by those memories. We want to extend grace, but we remember what was done to us…to our family…to our community, and in remembering perhaps it takes us back to that moment, whether it was a day ago or 10 years prior or even longer.
And that is why I think grace is hard to extend to others and ourselves, because we want to extend it on our terms and when we want to…but I think that flies in the face of what grace is, because grace subverts the norm every time in every way.

***
So where do we go from here when we’re confronted with our own shortcomings as well as the shortcomings of others? I believe in the words of St. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said “It is always the right time to do the right thing” and this time we have in front of us is ideal for extending grace. Not because we ought to do extend grace, but we should, for in some way this very grace is being extended back to us in a way that gives weight to grace being a beautiful example of a symbiotic relationship.

So wrestle with forgiving the offense, be mindful as how you deal with forgetting, and let grace help you let it go.

~Nathanael~

Grace will set you free (if you’ll allow her)

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Grace is a beautiful thing for both the giver and the receiver, it turns the law on its head, it makes life healthier, it makes engagement with others easier, it helps to see both the human and divine in others…but grace, grace will set you free if you only allow her to.

The thing is, grace doesn’t ask for a lot, in fact it gives of itself without expecting anything in return. This can be frustrating at times for those who don’t comprehend it because so often of the time we want someone to get what’s coming to them, we want someone to experience retribution- by our hands or others.
Yet grace frees us from that, it frees us from wanting the worst in someone and it helps us to start to see the best in someone, which goes beyond human comprehension, but that is what makes grace so magical.

In my own life, I realize that grace has won me over and continues to do so. It is God working through me working with grace to help me realize my fragility, my need for being okay when it’s okay to not be okay. But it is also because of grace that I realize I have value and I don’t need to hang my head and think I am unlovable or undesirable.
As a result, I am able to extend similar if not the same grace unto others.
Grace has set me free because I allowed her to do so, won’t you let her do the same?

~Nathanael~

When age/grace sets in

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Earlier this month I went on vacation to a particular part of Wisconsin that my family and I have been going up to off and on for a long time. This part of Wisconsin was where I spent many summers with my family, a place known to us as “the farm”. The farm is where we got away from our Illinois lives for a while, to have fun, go swimming in Lake Michigan, and enjoy time apart from our very busy lives.
The farm is where R* and P* and their daughter and granddaughter also lived. We occupied the upstairs area while they lived in the lower area, and my memories of them aren’t many apart from R* seeming very grouchy at times, smoking heavily and drinking a bit. I also recall Baron their 3-legged dog, and he was scary and fast…for a 3-legged dog. There were times when they had animals on the farm and it was amusing and smelly, but it was for 2 weeks so most of it was bearable.

Having gone back to this part of Wisconsin my mother informed me that P* had passed away a few years ago and R* was living on another farm not too far away from where we were camping. I don’t know how it got coordinated, but we were able to spend time with R* one day.
I am very glad we did, because R* welcomed us to his place with open arms, and if I had not been the driver for my mother and myself I would have had the beer he offered me. R* offered us Diet Mountain Dew, which upon him talking about his wife who had passed away, I realized that he was probably serving us the soda she herself liked to drink. As he shared of what his wife had gone through leading up to her passing, the man before me appeared to be full of grace. Maybe it’s the years that have passed, maybe my perception of him was wrong all along, but even my mother grasped that age had made him into a softer and graceful man.
R* told us about how one of his regrets was that he didn’t vocalize I love you’s to P* more than he did. They loved each other dearly, but he didn’t always communicate it by words or by hugs or by kisses, and that is something he wished he did. He said all this sadly, but his gracious demeanor never waned. He shared with us with great pride what his kids and grandkids were doing, he talked as a man who embodied love- both in the giving as well as the receiving. When our time with him was coming to an end he told my mother and I where P* was buried and invited us to go visit her. That was endearing to me as well as to my mother. And as we were driving away he told us to text him and come visit him next year and the year after that, and God willing we do the latter.

***

Grace is…well, what can I say about grace? Personally, grace has set me free, it has enabled me to love and care more for others. It has unlocked the part of me that always was but unfortunately was tucked away because legalism bound my mind as well as my heart for a while. This binding was self-imposed as well the Christian culture I was a part of; both paired together led me to live out of fear and the law rather than love. Without giving too much away, grace given and received and extended out of love and even more grace reminds me of Jean Valjean from Les Misérables, whereas grace dismissed and not extended reminds me of Javert from the same play. I have been Jean Valjean my entire life, and yet the extending love and more grace has been but a fraction of my mortal coil…but still I press on with love and grace as my banner, I intend to wave it and extend it for the remainder of my life so help me God.
R* stirred the part of me that wants to be present to life, all of it, both good and bad, but to also be present to grace and to love. I realize so much of the the time…actually, all of the time, my demonstration for how much I love God is demonstrated in whom I love the least. When I am not loving, when I am not graceful, my love for God is not present or at the very least I mar the face of Christ with my actions.

I can’t wait to see R* again, to share life with him but to also extend the grace and love he extended to me. And that is what love does time and time again, that is what grace does time and time again; it gives more and more of itself with no shortage ever.

All is grace,
Nathanael