Holidays with the Harrisons / The beauty of messy hospitality

My roommate Brian is a swell guy, and in getting to know him better I have also gotten to know his family as well. They have invited me to several family functions, mainly holiday (and soon, a wedding) and today on Easter it was no different.

It started off with going to Easter at 11am at Springbrook Community Church where Brian’s father is the lead pastor.

I was a little early for the 11am service, so I waited around till Brian arrived and then we went into the sanctuary as it was starting…

It was a good Easter service with a few sleigh-of-hand’s by Brian’s father, a lot of laughter and a lot of celebration of the resurrection. From there I met some people Brian knows, and it was nice and social. From there I drove over to their house for Easter lunch, which was great because they do a good job at being themselves and being hospitable.

“Messy Hospitality” is a phrase I’ve heard before to describe hospitality as-is, no hook lines and sinkers, no catches, what you see is what you get, and so on. The Harrison’s home is such a place, and there’s a welcoming in that family that is “as-is” and I love it completely.
Messy hospitality can get complicated as its fractured and untidy. But I suppose that’s the beauty of it, it comes unvarnished and doesn’t have a shine to it for appearance’s sake. As Leonard Cohen croons in Anthem;

                                                              Ring the bells that still can ring
                                                              Forget your perfect offering
                                                              There is a crack in everything
                                                              That’s how the light gets in.

Growing up my family’s life was very private, and consequently my life was very privatized and compartmentalized. Some of it A lot of it was operating out of fear, and fear compounds itself on fear and before you know it you have this massive fear stack that you have no idea how you’re going to dismantle it…except, say if you move in the direction of honesty (to self inasmuch to others), even if that means transparency and, ultimately, messy hospitality.

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Messy hospitality is what I aim to do where I am at in every walk of life unto everyone I associate with. I might not bare my heart on my sleeve, but I will be unflinchingly transparent where needed be. We all need boundaries in our lives, and so there are some things I will withhold from others and my blog for my own emotional and mental health.

For what I cannot wrestle on my own or with the help of others (which is statistically 92.5%) I take it to God in prayer. Occasionally Most of the time my prayers are detailed and very much “warts and all.” God gets me more than the other way around, but with that being said I lay it on thick.

I no longer fear what others think about me (most of the time),
I don’t have a nagging in the back of my mind to keep up appearances that are contrary to how I am feeling and responding to what’s going on inside and around me.
I don’t have a need to wait till I get “there” when it comes to hospitality, my door is wider and my table is inclusive to all.
It took time to get here, but may God be honored by the journey I’m on.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Praying with my eyes open; a return to finding a girlfriend

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Genesis 2:18 – The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Queen – Somebody to Love – “Oh Lord, Ooh somebody, ooh somebody, Can anybody find me somebody to love?”

    I find myself constantly in prayer and as of late I’ve realized I’ve stopped praying for a certain someone…a certain woman…in my life. I don’t know why I’ve stopped praying for a girlfriend in my life, I really don’t, and the pangs of singleness are flaring up again. It’s not that I am exposed to a lot of couples who are young (of age, or at heart) and in love, it’s just I realize that with all my passions and aspirations and desires are carried out alone. It’s not to say that I want a girl that will do exactly what I do, but rather I want to share my world with and I want to partake in her world as well.

I have learned…and have relearned multiple times…that communication is vital in a relationship, and not just mere “hey how’s it going, fine and you?” shallow-end-of-the-conversation-pool talk, but the mundane as well as the hard and difficult but real / authentic talks that need to be had. I realize that I have no problems with getting there with others, albeit sometimes I put more out there at a quicker rate than what people are accustomed to but here’s why.
In my first 22-23 years of living, I was a calculated and serial bullshitter! I presented myself in a way that I thought was socially acceptable, a nice and tidy outside might reflect a nice and tidy inside, right? Well, it wasn’t me, and yet I thought to myself constantly if anyone finds out who you really are and what you’ve been through, they’ll stop liking you and even worse, stop loving you. It wasn’t true, but when you hear something often enough or repeat something to yourself no matter how false it is it will be true to you.
So I spun this lie in my head until my world evolved…my comfort zone expanded…and I found out that even when I put myself out there, warts and all, people still liked me and loved me. I haven’t looked back ever since. And while some relationships among some individuals I entrusted my story with have gone belly up over the years, I don’t regret the brief friendships that were based on transparency and honesty to the other person, and so I continue to conduct my life in this way; not holding back, not bullshitting, being transparent, and being the best damn version of myself. I and like the rest of humanity is evolving. And so often we are the force[s] that move us forward or keep us *here* wherever *here* might be. Not saying that *here* is not a good place, but if you find that it is and you want to move forward, it’s time for you to move forward…and if you need it, you have permission to move forward.

***

With that being said, here’s my transparency; I have no freaking clue of how to jump back into dating / I don’t know what my “scene” is when it comes to dating. Real talk, apart from work, my social interactions either occur at bars or in church. I am prone to overanalyze and overthink things…everything…and so I weigh out what either place has to offer, the types of women, and I even check my prowess.
I am not an alpha male, I don’t ooze testosterone and type a-ness, I don’t reek of Brut and pheromones…I’m an assertive type b introspective ambivert who is better at active listening than talking, good at making out, loves God and craft beer, loves word-related games of all sorts, likes to workout but doesn’t regularly hit the gym, has Zach Galifianakis as a spirit animal, tie-dye and weird socks wearing, wish-I-could-wear-shorts-all-year-round kind of guy!

I know this FULL well about myself, and I love myself for it; I thank God for these traits and nuances about me on the daily, but I also realize that too often I am stuck in my head. The insecurities of being liked and being loved sometimes crash over me like a tidal wave; I am the beach and I am pounded by a seemingly unending barrage of doubt and helplessness at times.
It’s because of getting stuck in my head that I don’t venture one iota of courage when it comes to the opposite sex…and therein lies the basis of my singleness. I have dated before, hell I was also engaged as well, but it seems like with every passing day / week / month / year I grow a bit more frustrated. It’s why I am returning to praying with my eyes open, because it connects me with something deeper than myself. It’s not a shot in the dark or a hail Mary play, but as a means to be verbally transparent before God. God already knows me, but remember what I said about communication? Yep, same thing applies here.

So that’s where I am returning to. I may have walked away from this practice for a while, but I know I will get there. It might be cliche to say, but so be it, it’s equally about the destination inasmuch the journey. God bless this journey I am about to embark on, who knows where it will lead, but I am ready and I am willing to go where it leads.

~Nathanael~

I’m out in Los Angeles for the week

Earlier this year I met one of my online friends offline and we shared life with one another and I brought up a dream I had where took the I’m Sorry Campaign to San Francisco Pride in the Castro District.

My friend doesn’t live in San Francisco but Los Angeles, and he brought up that the I’m Sorry Campaign would be a good thing at the West Hollywood/L.A. Pride Parade and I said I’d love to do help out with that. With a lot of direction and help from The Marin Foundation and Michael Kimpan, that idea and concept talked about earlier this year is quickly becoming a reality.

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I say all this not to toot my own horn, or self-praise myself, but rather turn any resemblance of praise and thanks and offer it up to God. Even though it has been a harrowing experience, despite my anxiety and a few rough patches in getting this together and even rough patches in my own life…I am more at peace about this now than I ever have been because of several variables:

– Someone else believing in me – It has been been encouraging to be given the task to help lead this up. As much as I gravitate to leadership roles, lately I have been plagued with doubt and worry, anxiety and frustration, and when this happens to me in my life (which is an irregular event but still happens.) I don’t function well. at. all.
Yet Michael believes in me and what I am capable of doing. There’s something to the nature of imposing (in a good sense) belief and capability on others, because while it hasn’t sustained me or inflated my ego, it has restored me in some ways and brought about be believing in my capacities.

– I am not going into this alone – If I am honest with myself and you the reader, there is a sneaky sly deceptive voice that tries to get under my skin with a message of “you’re going into this alone” and then I temporarily freeze up and then I find myself dwelling on the last part of Romans 8:31 where it says “If God is for us, who can be against us” and personalize it, if God is for me, who can be against me? It brings me back to level ground, it brings me back to a place of recognizing that while this is new territory, the way has already been paved which is what leads me to my last point…

– God is here, I’m just invited to be a part of this adventure – God is present in L.A., God will be at LA Pride, God will be amongst those in the parade who read our signs and interact with those gathered to be a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign in LA. I realized the nature of God being present at Pride parades when I was on my way to the first I’m Sorry Campaign in Chicago; I was hesitant and even worried as to how the message of I’m Sorry would be received, but a gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit rolled over me, encouraging me that I was to be a part of something bigger and better than myself, something that God was already involved in…before it even happened! That set the tone of my heart, mind, and soul for that one and ever one since, and even the one that’s going to happen this Sunday.

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I am truly blessed to be out here and to be a part of this, to God be the glory in all that we do! 🙂

~Nathanael~

I don’t have many friends, but – 4/28

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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

We’re not promised a happy ending/All is Grace

I recently read Brennan Manning’s memoir All is Grace

and it’s interesting, much to what I love about the guy, is his level of transparency. Transparency in his peaks, but much of it is spent in the valleys, a guy who is an alcoholic (though he no longer drinks it is still a part of him, he admits that) who right now is physically feeble and has someone who has to take care of his needs; from getting dressed, using the bathroom, etc. it’s nothing glamorous…

He’s quick to point out that when his mother passed away he started drinking and didn’t stop…and consequently passed out and missed his mother’s funeral. He talks about how he would have long binges of drinking, passing out and waking up in his own vomit.

At times I think Christianity gets sold as a “if you become a follower of Christ life all of life’s issues will melt away and you’ll be made whole” and yet, for some of us in our journey, this is far from the truth. It would be nice if this were so, but we who are followers of Christ have issues just like everyone else, to buy into prosperity gospel messages and Christianese that says “all will be fine, it gets better” can be more harmful than helpful.

Take for instance the song “it is well with my soul” by Horatio Spafford (find out more about him here). The guy loses 4 of his daughters in 1 shipwreck, he pens a beautiful song that many followers of Christ take as a coming to terms and surrender to God in difficult times…
But the guy later in his life suffers a mental breakdown, he even thinks of himself as a second Christ! He loses much that once defined him…how many of you knew that part of his story?

Sure some of us might be able to get back on track, and yes God’s the one helping us get there, but I see that our job is remaining faithful and trusting God in what he’s doing — we’re doing, despite of not seeing the road ahead. In my times of doubt and pain on my journey, I sometimes lose my sight of the path, but I keep walking in faith and not by (you guessed it) sight.

My walk with God isn’t so much about what comes my way, but about faith and having grace, for myself and everyone. One thing that Brennan Manning has said over the years that rings truer and truer in my life is that “God loves you [and us and me] as we are and not as we should be.”
If God were to love me when I finally got to where I need to be in my life…well, there wouldn’t be any love for me because I will never get to that point in my life. But because of Christ, and of God’s love for humanity (not just His followers, mind you) he has grace and the pools are lovely and deep and by no means are they running on empty.

I don’t always see it, I don’t always know it, but it is still there in times when I don’t get it at all. I guess that’s why I like serving God by serving others, because what God has helped me realize is to share the good news of His grace, and I do see reluctance in people, people who might consider themselves unworthy of his grace, and we are…but that’s what makes it relevant, that it is God bringing us forward and He’s the one who’s guiding us because of who He is and not who we are.

All is grace,
Nathanael