Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Breaking Water

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.

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Burn. Again.

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I [John the Baptist] am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the One coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire…He will gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire’ (Matt. 3:10-12).

Weary and controlling after Thanksgiving (why do joyful occasions make me a jerk?), I extended my misery to Annette and hurt her. Badly. To an outsider, my sin may not have been a felony, but it was one of those flashpoint sins that bound up a host of smaller historic ones; together, they effectively bludgeoned Annette.

At Mass that morning, I brought my sin into the light and heard the invitation that Leanne Payne gave us continuously (out of the mouth of a C.S. Lewis character): ‘Die before you die; there is no chance after that.’ In choosing to lay down my sin and destroy it at the foot of His Cross (‘please God, may it be so this time…’), I perceived with the eyes of my heart a fire raging around me, licking up the mess. God in Christ came with fiery love to destroy the sin that destroys through me.

Advent, like Lent, holds up a mirror to the spiritual monsters we can be—on one hand, earnest and devout; on the other, blackening eyes with limbs we thought were amputated long ago. All this requires is that we look intently and beyond our own selfish rationales in order to behold the hurting eyes of another and finally, the blazing love of God in Christ who awaits our fleshly offering.

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist calls the religious to repentance, rather than the more obviously disordered. Ouch. Annette and I now attend polite religious gatherings defined by worship that is choreographed, carefully. Our prayers tend more toward ‘us’ the privileged interceding for ‘them’, the unfortunates. That gets ‘us’ safely off the hook and frees us to retain our reserve; it frees us from the flames.

In truth, most of us are deeply divided souls and our religious devotion may well tempt us to hide those divides for both the sake of convenience and appearance. In muted tones, mid-week, we hear of crippled marriages, the beloved son’s suicide, the ex-married and ex-middle class Mom who works weekends to eat.

This Advent I pray for the Cross to expose our Pharisaic mixtures and to provoke us into the flames, together, in this one body. I pray that simple songs might set our hearts aflame with His blazing love, that powerful preaching might convict us with signs and wonders following, that the Holy Meal endowed with the Spirit’s power might deliver us from demons, sear our flesh, and unite what’s left with God’s best for our broken lives.

Maybe John is asking us to lay down our linen blazers and tiny crosses around our fine necks; maybe he’s asking us to put our entire selves on the chopping block and to sob over the lies we told and the divided lives we lived. Maybe he’s asking us to forego social graces, to run boldly to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16) and get messy, stripped and naked, so that at last we might say we only want Jesus and that only He can clothe us (Rom. 13:14) with what we need to live undivided, grateful lives.

Maybe then we the Church would not have to worry so much about ‘how to reach the lost.’ They would hear the sobs and see the beeline straight to the altar and would fall face down with us. Together with all the saints, we might cry out for mercy amid the roaring blaze of Love from which none will escape.

‘On that day, the Gentiles will seek out the root of Jesse, for His dwelling shall be glorious’ (IS. 11:10).

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Men with Chests, Part 2

‘We remove the organ and deny the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.’ C.S. Lewis

‘And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.’ LK 1:17

John took a deep breath when he read Tim’s (his teen son) virtual correspondence with a ‘boyfriend’ on the west coast. Any concern about his son’s sexuality was starkly realized in that moment. Rather than shrink back, John knew he had to act. But how? Never close with his dad, Tim at 15 seemed further away than ever.

Yet the two shared more common ground than was apparent. Father and son loved Jesus, father and son shared some relational brokenness: John from sexual abuse, Tim from a neglectful father. In truth, both wanted more from each other and did not know how to bridge the gap.

As father, John knew he had to act first. Provoked by Tim’s ‘gay’ explorations, John knew that he had to draw near to his son while he still had a window of opportunity.  He began by expressing loving concern for his son. Tim at 15 was not a ‘gay man’; he was a boy experiencing same-sex desire and acting upon it in a popular, destructive way. Unless he confirmed Tim as a man, John knew that his son could be lost to the confirmation of the ‘gay self’ and ‘culture.’

And the Holy Spirit was at work in Tim. When he looked over all the pictures he had taken of himself and his new ‘gay’ comrades in California, Tim observed that he was becoming a different person. His ‘look’ was imbued with an alien attitude. He did not like it; somehow he knew that the ‘gay’ sensibility was at odds with his faith and who he in truth wanted to become.

John began to envision his son with new options he might explore to become that man. In the same breath that John asked Tim to break off relationship with his new ‘friend,’ the father invited his son discover these options. Together.  That included getting help for their wounded relationship, church activities, even a mission trip in which they faced beauty and hardship as father and son.

A boy becoming a man also needs space and grace to work out his decisions apart from his parents. Tim drew strength and confidence from some good pastoral help designed for him and his needs.

I had the privilege of seeing Tim and John the other day; I witnessed a strong alliance between father and son. John is actively raising the boy he sired, and Tim is exhibiting a new solidity as the young man he is becoming.

God is turning fathers toward their sons, and sons back to their fathers. He is giving men back their ‘chests’: dignity and confidence in the strength the Father entrusts to His sons.

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Men with Chests, Part 1

‘We remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise.’ C.S. Lewis

‘And he will turn the hearts of their fathers to their children’ (LK 1:17).

A man sexually violated John at 9-years-old. From then on, he hated ‘gay’ men (the unhealed do not distinguish between pedophiles and persons with SSA).

John’s disdain grew as ‘gays’ waged and seemed to win the war on normalizing homosexuality in the culture. Until his church’s men’s retreat last summer. A friend of John invited two broken guys in a ‘gay’ union to the retreat. It seems their relationship was in ruins and they were calling out for God’s mercy. Over the course of the retreat, the Father made His love known to both men through the love of the guys there.

John loved Jesus more than he hated ‘gays.’ When he heard the witness of these two men who had suffered much in their lives but were now experiencing the saving mercy of God, John began to soften: mercy primed him to give mercy to these men. As he did so, he could see the underlying stronghold of hatred in his heart from the abuse. God began a work of restoring John from the deep wound of sexual abuse, a healing that continues to this day.

John’s repentance and healing was timely. His only son Tim suffered from a distant relationship with his Dad. A focused and successful businessman, John had little time for his only son who at 15-years-old was showing signs of gender brokenness. The older Tim got, the more he needed his Dad and the less he liked him. Tim sought solace in his mother who could see her son’s need for masculine empowerment but could not give it to him.

The same summer of the men’s retreat, Tim attended an academic camp at a west coast university. There Tim ‘came out’ with the help of a guy further along in his ‘gay’ identification. Tim’s sexual bond with him also sealed what he believed to be his ‘true self’ as a ‘gay’ person. He arrived home days after his father’s retreat; a few days later, his parents found evidence of Tim’s ‘gay’ life on his cell phone. Primed with mercy, John began to fight for the dignity of his son. More next week.

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The Bad and the Beautiful

‘We don’t want merely to see beauty. We want to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to become a part of it.’ C. S. Lewis

June was a bad month for persons seeking to overcome homosexuality. The once morally sound Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) voted overwhelmingly to change its definition of marriage, Obama polished up his gay-affirming legacy by extending all kinds of ‘gay’ federal rights and an ex-Exodus leader came out with a smooth- as-a-snake testimony of how ‘love means never having to say you’re sorry’ for homosexual practice.

Ah well. I am learning to hear the bad news while listening more intently than ever to God’s love song. Through the God who took on a body, we can hear and see and taste in our bodies Heaven’s desire for us. It’s true: God Himself wants to unite Himself with us, which corresponds with our deepest desires. More than anything or anyone else, we want Him! And He wants us–the God of beauty wants to abide and dwell and remain with us in profound communion.

Amid the din of fallen humanity, I am learning to listen to the Song of Songs. When I do, beauty overcomes the bad and I am reminded that One greater has overcome the world and its deceit. He will overcome that deceit through persons who have been wooed and won over by Beauty Himself.

Applying deftly JPll’s teaching on ‘The Theology of the Body,’ Christopher West describes the real desire in us that God accesses. That desire is sourced in His design for our bodies, a truth He liberates as we learn to dance in harmony with His great love for us. Finally, that ‘dance’ results in our destiny, which is to join Him eternally when heaven and earth become one at the end of time. For now, we long and listen for Heaven’s song, music that flows from His heart to ours. The key is to learn to sing along, and to invite others into the dance.

We cannot expect broken people who barely can hear His song to line up with Christian morality. Instead, we must teach them God’s song of love to them. Once they hear the music, God will prepare them to take the next steps, to begin to move closer to His design for their lives. That’s how I see ‘Living Waters’: it is a series of dance lessons, well-choreographed, in which we begin to move in accord with our design. But that would mean nothing without beautiful love songs.

The Father urged me to begin to listen and pray for a wonderful gay-identified man at my gym who needs Jesus desperately (but does not yet know that.) While praying, Jesus gave me a picture of him, driven and distracted by the demands of others. Then a light shone on him and compelled him to look up. He was filled with light and his face went from gray to gold. Our glorious God said to him: ‘I want your happiness.’ I recounted my vision and his eyes filled with tears. ‘I did not know God cared about my happiness,’ he replied.

My friend is not yet ready to repent of homosexuality. But he is beginning to hear heaven’s song. Alleluia. Beauty wins.

‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers; if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’ Pope Paul Vl

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