Before speaking to a group of students at Florida’s Ave Maria University, I requested prayer and my host Scott and a kind priest interceded with me. We waited together before Jesus. ‘Ask Jesus what you want from Him tonight,’ requested the priest. After a few moments I responded: ‘Reveal Your sufficiency for persons dealing with identity confusion.’ We waited then I saw Jesus pouring out drafts of emerald green ointment upon a crowd. I had never seen ‘the green’ before so was mystified. ‘Green is hope,’ said the priest.
That night as I spoke, hope for transformation rang true, as it did the next day for the staff and particular students who needed counsel for their own lives and for those they love. Jesus made them green with hope. In every unique experience and vexing question, we agreed that He assumed our confusion at Calvary in order to raise us up with clarity as beloved sons and daughter of His Father.
Green with hope, I flew to Malibu California in order to join our Living Waters Training team for an intensive weeklong gathering. Our site, cradled between rocky hills, had been pelted with rain and was now verdant, as lush as I had ever seen it. Creek water rose, and underbrush could not hide new life bursting from the ground. Hope rose from dry and broken hearts. As the team sang and testified and prayed and taught, Jesus became apparent and summoned all to arise into the heights for which He descended into hell. Jesus redeems who He has made.
This group differed in its maturity. These were active spiritual ‘parents’ intent on turning the cultural tide with hope’s crosscurrent. Together we examined the defacing of God’s image. Instead of pouting, we were provoked to fight for countless faces we represent in church families throughout the country: Bethel, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Four Square, and a host of others. In spite of different traditions, Jesus’ love implored us to rediscover the hope of our salvation, to go low in prayer and so raise high the Cross for one Church and one goal for all her members—chastity, the gift of an undivided life.
Jesus made us green, free to actualize our hope. Hope apprehended ceases to be hope. So we left Malibu, ready to fight. Not hard. He gave all to gain us and we shall do the same for those we love: one prayer, one confession, one conversation, one transformation at a time.
The din surrounding Trump’s presidency invites me to sink into the Source, like a child escaping the surface noise by descending into a pool. There I hope to discover a hidden fount that liberates prayers for the man. Nothing else will do. Only the God who meets us in weakness, in silence, can help us now.
Last week I walked through two walls of protesters screaming ‘F**k Trump’ outside an airport. Amid the assault, I noticed one man holding a placard which displayed one of my favorite verses: ‘Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were once aliens in Egypt’ (EX 22:21). I thought of the Latin Americans I know who have helped revive the heart of Church and family in the north. For a flash, I wondered what kind of border best preserves the dignity of all persons, not only US citizens but also aliens in our midst whose gifts are greater than our fears. My thoughts dissolved in the barrage of vulgarities. Silence. Pray for the man.
I returned home to hear Madonna on the DC Mall muse on her plans to blow up the White House (she decided against it) while Ashley Judd coined her ‘Nasty Girl’ protest to protest nasty Trump. Another femme fatale lamented that she hadn’t machines guns in her vagina to aim straight at Trump. Hmmmm. More disturbing was the awareness that close Christian friends marched in smaller versions of ‘Women against Trump’ only to discover that they were unwittingly championing transgender and abortion rights. Since when does any man’s boorish persona justify a woman’s ‘freedom’ to annihilate her birthright or the child in her womb? Silence. Pray for the man.
Like you, I shudder at Trump’s self-congratulatory ways, how he apparently stays up all night to tweet back the stones hurled at him during the day. I pray that others might help him lose himself long enough to discover what best safeguards the dignity of all persons. His task is a crushing one. I love this country and honor the office of the presidency so I shall advocate for Trump’s best on my knees.
I am helpless on the water’s surface. Fox and CNN both confound me. Silence. I shall sink into the Source and pray.
When Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles opened our Truth and Love Conference last week, his words about how we participate in Jesus’ baptism brought this to mind. C.S. Lewis describes a diver breaking the water’s surface then descending into the depths to retrieve treasure from the ocean floor. He breaks the water once more in ascent, joyfully holding out his ‘catch’ for the world to see. So Jesus reclaims our true natures as the Father’s beloved sons and daughters from the depths of enslavement (Gal. 4:3-7; Rom. 8:15-18). In so doing, He reveals His glorious mercy through grateful children.
I marveled at the Archbishop’s clarity; due to Jesus’ baptism (and baptism of suffering of Calvary), we who were slaves to the world’s system of defining ourselves can be free and shining expressions of the Father’s design. He cleared the way for people like me who experience same-sex attraction to forego all worldly claims (LGBTQ, etc.) upon our identities. Instead, we can settle deeply into the truth of who we are as children of the Father who delights in engaging with us in order to impart what we need to grow into maturity.
No small or easy thing, this baptism of Jesus and our own which makes all things new. The stakes are huge, for us and for others; in a world that invites persons made in His image to create their own ‘gender’ reality, we uphold a deeper truth of the Father’s claim upon His children. Let’s start 2017 by actively engaging with our own baptism and the Father’s will for our sonship and daughterhood. Toward that end, I would encourage you to:
Behold the Lamb; we become what we behold. Turn off your screens (after you read this of course) and be still before the Crucified. It helps to simply gaze upon the Cross, which conveys in an instant the watery death He died and His ascent. In the Cross lies all that we need to know: the Son won back for us our true selves. Gazing on the Beloved mediates who we are as beloved children.
Devour Scripture; we become what we eat. Meditate on verses that summon who He is and who we are. The aforementioned passages from St. Paul are a good starting point, as is Song of Songs, a love letter from the Father to His kids. Open the Book and let it permeate you. I memorize key verses so I can summon the truth at hard moments in the day.
Listen to the Father’s voice; we become what we hear. Turn off devices and be still. Listen in quiet to what He wants to say; His sheep hear His voice (JN 10:3). Don’t worry if at first all you hear is clutter. He loves your effort and will honor it. Quiet your heart in the Spirit of Jesus who upon breaking the water heard: ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’ (Matt. 3:17). You please Him; He loves you, His child.
‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved’ (St. Peter, Acts 4:12).
Three kings bowed down before the Infant King, subjecting their royalty to the Lord of Life. No power on earth gave them certainty except the ground of Jesus. Before Him they bowed low, crowns down. They realized what St. Louis Anjou articulated 1300 years later. Born of a queen with a brother who became a king, Louis discovered ‘Jesus is my Kingdom. If I do not have Him, I lose everything.’
Americans eschewed authentic royalty from the start; instead, we crafted the cult of celebrity and made idols out of fragile creative people amplified on concert stages and big screens. Last year, we lost Prince, the androgynous pop innovator, and Star Wars’ Princess Leia. The frenzy that followed suggested Queen Elizabeth had been killed. Yet today’s frenzy will morph fast into tomorrow’s fresh flesh. In the glow of new images clamoring for our devotion, we forget old idols.
In truth, we have been seduced by media manipulations of persons who live risky lifestyles and who may well have drunk the Cool-Aid themselves, believing their own press rather than casting their crowns at the feet of Jesus. We drive the mess. As the protagonist of ‘La La Land’ says about the Hollywood machine, ‘We worship everything and value nothing.’
Especially poignant to me in these celebrity deaths was the exclusion of any reference to Jesus. Had the Prince and Princess made peace with Him? Does anyone care? Carrie Fisher’s (Princess Leia) mother, Debbie Reynolds, grew up a devout Christian and in her early career was outspoken about King Jesus. Yet in the face of her daughter’s untimely end, the 84-year-old said that she wanted only to be with her daughter in the afterlife, and gave up the ghost. Understandable, but shaky ground. Our loved ones aren’t the gate-keepers. Jesus is. Jesus alone. The only sure way to prepare for death is by calling on His name and repenting of every star we have worshiped or sought to become ourselves.
Death awaits all of us. And Jesus is the ground of heaven, our sole path to a happy eternity. Jesus commissions us, His faithful ones, to do everything in our power to love our friends and family into faith in His Name. Like the Magi, let us lay down our crowns and worship the One. Let us then arise and make Him known.
‘All I wanted, something special, something sacred in your eyes; I will be your father-figure…’ George Michael
The pop singer died on Christmas, the day Christ was born afresh in the hearts of faithful ones. Michael’s broken heart gave out as Jesus offered us broken ones the Father’s heart. ‘When you were children, you were slaves under the world’s system. In the fullness of time, God sent His Son…so we could receive our full rights as sons and daughters. Because we are now His children, He sends us the Spirit of His Son, who cries out “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer slaves but sons…’ (Gal. 4:3-7)
Few represent enslavement to the world’s system better than George Michael. He gifted us with infectious pop hooks and videos, while slowly taking his own life in homosexual addiction and drug use. Some claim that homophobia drove him to cruising bathrooms and smoking crack but I say it is the nature of the world’s system itself; the holy longing for Father twisted into enslavement to eroticized ‘father-figures.’
Guilty, sure—sensitive people ‘get’ dehumanizing practices. But bad feelings do not break chains. Drugs dull the ache but cannot take it away. Neither do ‘gay-affirming’ laws (spoiler alert: male ‘gay marriages’ make few if any claims to monogamy) or the likes of Madonna and Elton John whose effusive eulogizing of George Michael suggest their own guilt.
In the glare of a man struck down by a world that enslaves estranged sons of God, we are all a little guilty. We choose to no longer even use the language of slavery to describe the divided life Michael lived. We fear that the ‘gay feds’ will brand us ‘haters’ or worse, ‘reparative therapists.’ Even churchmen qualify the truth that Jesus transforms the ‘gay-identified’ into sons and daughters of the Father.
So we mute the power of Christmas. We turn down the relevance of Jesus’ descent into the muck in order to reclaim children of dignity, who summons what is real and true from the rubble of our lives and who stokes His refinement of us by His Spirit. We are now artful dodgers; we so nuance St. Paul’s words that we reduce the Holy One to a ‘father-figure’ rather than the Lord of all.
George Michael postured himself as a ‘father-figure’ in a vain effort to secure the love he needed. But his world was a cruel, unforgiving one that tempts men only to torment them. His light burnt out. May his tragic end bring us to our knees and provoke us to manifest the One who makes sons and daughters out of slaves.