Tag Archives: Family

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Holy Family?

I prepared myself for the worst last Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family. I prophesied a dismal homily on the too-radiant-to-be-believed triad: you know, ‘be holy as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are holy’, piercing neither the surface of family nor holiness.

Wrong on all counts. My pastor pointed out the disparity between our generosity to family members and to strangers. We write big checks to orphans then all but get restraining orders on family members who ‘trigger’ us. Overly sensitive to those we love so much we hate, many of us are anything but holy in how emotionally stingy we are toward family members.

It’s our nature to defend ourselves when loved ones frustrate us. Or take some disturbing turn that frightens us. Jesus stressed Mary out by ditching the clan for some temple time. It was the first sign of Him distancing Himself from her for reasons not yet clear. To be sure, the analogy breaks down with our families: confusing members are messianic only in their own darkened minds. Yet it can help to remember everyone has a subtext that only God ‘gets’ as well as a noble destiny we may have forgotten.

This holy week I had the privilege of responding to an emergency call from colleagues in marital crisis. That holy family nearly blew up as they walked onto a landmine of familiar suspicions and judgments. But they surrendered together to the Father who calmed the storm; holy peace helped them to hear each other so they could glimpse his or her goodness once more. Another couple met with us to seek wisdom on how to best love a son in the throes of an identity crisis. (It’s hard to love a 36-year-old acting 16.) But these parents are digging deep into the Father’s love for their child and his best. However painful, the only way is down– on one’s knees–where love and wisdom are distilled. Generous, tempered care for the other’s good can result from such prayer.

Mary shows us the way here. After her anxiety over Jesus’ disappearance, she does something we all can do—she ‘treasured these things in her heart’ (LK 2:51). That word for ‘treasure’ means to reflect, to conceive something new out of the brooding. It provides sacred space for entrusting the beloved to the Father who sees all (LK 2:51); it may also grant one inspired sight. You could say that Mary’s prayer transformed her fear into marvel. May such prayer make our families holy this year too; may we love our members wisely, generously, in 2019.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Why Gender Matters 6: Heavenly Bodies

Every Sunday I am blessed by a young family of six who typically sit in the pew in front of me. Far from being bothered by the squirms, yawns, and fights that erupt in the service, I relish them. I marvel at the two parents who patiently adjust attitudes and seating; through this prism of life, I behold the Cross and the communion meal and realize this is what is all about—a man and a woman submitting to each other out of reverence for Jesus (Eph. 5:21) and making a way for younger lives to do the same.

I think of our grown children scattered throughout churches in Kansas City and trust that Annette and I did something similar for our family.

Gender difference–and harmony in that difference–points beyond itself; it offers us a glimpse of heaven. Rightfully ordered, the dance of maleness and femaleness—desire and restraint, initiative and response, fruitfulness and frustration—gives us a window to our cosmic destiny.

Let me explain. We are made in His image as male and female. Biblically, we don’t know much more about that ‘image’ except that it is a gendered reality. God chooses to represent Himself in the duality of man and woman together, unity within difference. After we discover this gendered image of God in humanity (Ge. 1 and 2), God is imaged throughout Scripture as essentially masculine in that He initiates relationship with His people (Israel, the Church, etc.) and is likened to a father/husband/lover to His people who are primarily defined in feminine terms–as responders to His love.

So Scripture highlights divine initiative and human response. The latter is not inferior to the former. Both are essential to revealing the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus is responsive, and in that sense ‘feminine’ in relation to His Father—He does only what the Father says and does (JN 8: 26-29). And Mary’s ‘yes’ to God is heroic, the courageous response that sets in motion Jesus’ saving love for all.

Jesus takes this to a new level by defining Himself as a bridegroom to a bride (MK 2:19), a reality that St. Paul capitalizes on in Eph. 5: 22-37 when the apostle likens a man’s servant initiative toward his wife—and her respectful response—as a window to the spousal love that Jesus possesses for His church, a consummation that is a future reality—the feast where the Lamb unites Himself wholly to those He loves (Rev. 21: 1-4). That’s why Christopher West says that marriage is the trailhead to the ‘summit’. That summit is heaven—the wedding feast–our ultimate union with Jesus.

Here we enter into sacrament—in this case, the fusion of body, soul, and spirit in lifelong communion between a man and woman. Marriage helps make concrete and tangible something real but unseen; as a sacrament, it points beyond itself and helps us apprehend an otherwise mysterious spiritual reality.

I marvel at the power of holy and harmonious love between a man and a woman. We are all aware of the power of broken marriages to shatter faith and true spiritual sight. How much greater is the power of faithful love, with all of its frustrations, between husband and wife? Annette and I grow more appreciative of each other as the years pass. We laugh more and bristle less at each other’s quirks and are grateful for the constant ‘yes’ we give each other in season and out. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Through our reliance upon divine advocacy, I pray that our human love becomes a clearer window of heaven for others.

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Why Gender Matters 5: Otherness Nurtures Family

Besides the obvious reasons why a man and a woman need each other to bring forth life, he and she together help the lives that they create become creative.

That takes effort: surmounting the fear that her difference from me is precisely what I most need to thrive. And trusting God that my gendered gift supplies something essential to her. We must foster that reliance upon each other so that otherness breeds more appreciation than annoyance. Or intimidation. Or judgment. I love Bonhoeffer words: ‘God created this person in His image, not mine.’ When I am tempted to forego her vantage point for mine, I recall those words and realize that I am setting myself over the Creator by denying the gift of her difference. Disagree with each other? Of course. Deny her gift? Perilous!

Lent helps here. One discipline we undertake together in this season is daily prayer and reflection on a devotional guide. I never cease to be amazed at her take on the material. It is a window to her soul that I can only discover if I look. And listen. Her splendid difference from me is precisely what engages and challenges and summons my best. She knows that her voice matters. That frees her to respect mine with the editing rights that her conscience demands. I return the favor.

At times such engaging reveals my worst. Before her I face what I do not want to express. In tough areas that I would rather leap over than submit, I must give an answer. And there I discover an ally. In the searchlight of the one I love most, I expose my own demons so that love can have its deepest way in me. My dark silence casts the longest shadow on her. So too does the light shine most brightly when we confess our faults in order to heal each other (James 5:16).

We gathered for a family birthday for Annette last week. My gratitude lies in how our kids look out for each other. I see this as a gift of how Annette has looked out for their best interests. Each of them said just that, in the particular ways she has served them. She gives generously, a mother par excellence. Might her security in the love we share stoke her freedom to offer herself?

Maybe. If so, then I consider my love for her—freely given, with all the fullness I can muster—the best offering of my life.

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Six of 7 Prayers for Marriage: Just Love

love marriage ringIt is now popular to label anyone a ‘hater’ who upholds marriage and refuses to remove its centerpiece: gender complementarity. On the other hand, those for ‘gay marriage’ are applauded as loving and just. I contend that love is far more stern and splendid than conceding to another’s demands. What is harder: to give people what they want or what they need?

True marriage bears witness to all people, including to persons with same-sex attraction, of something deeper and more beautiful than two people sharing lives. It reveals a quality of sacrifice and mutual submission not unlike Jesus’ love for us.

Early on in my journey out of homosexuality, still confused as to my sexual future, I caught glimpses of my parents’ love for each other. However imperfect, they always conveyed respect to each other; I noticed the very specific ways they understood and bolstered each other in their respective weaknesses. These weaknesses grew as they aged but so did their patience and care for each other. My father died with dignity due to the love of his still devoted bride.

My parents’ marriage had a converting impact upon my spirituality and my broken sexuality. It revealed the limits of same-gender pursuits; it opened a window to what I could aspire to as a man created to be in right relationship with woman. What people do not realize is that every human being is created to realize the gift of his/her otherness in relation to the opposite gender.

There are many ways in which we can get stalled or sidetracked in that realization. But that does not change the truth of God’s design and destiny for human sexuality.

When the state upholds true marriage and refuses its redefinition, it points confused citizens like me in the right direction. The state helps clarify the goal of our sexual humanity. It directs us by properly defining reality. The state misdirects us by misnaming reality.

We are thus wise to halt the efforts of gay couples to normalize their unions through ‘marriage.’ In truth, no heart open to the Creator can wholly rest with these ‘normalizing’ efforts. That unrest can work two ways. It can prompt us to go against the grain of our culture and uphold the original meaning of marriage. Or that unrest can fuel the activism driving ‘gay marriage.’ What one cannot resolve internally, (s)he directs outward in efforts to convince the world that ‘we really are normal.’  

But ‘gay marriage laws’ cannot calm the moral unrest underlying two men or women trying to become one. Such laws ‘whitewash’ something that God cannot bless. ‘Gay marriage’ is alien to Him and His design for all of humanity.  

On behalf of the moral and sexual integrity of all persons with same-sex attraction, we act in love when we uphold marriage as one man committed to one woman for the sake of kids they create. It sets a boundary that distinguishes one type of union from another; it clarifies an essential difference between heterosexual commitment and same-gender friendship. In this hour when our nation lurches along the broad path to ‘gay marriage’, we do well to take the narrow way, the way of love, by insisting on true marriage.

Most importantly, we who are married must make every effort to love well our friends with same-gender attraction. We must extend the gift of our communion, just as I benefitted from my parents’ marriage.

Annette and I marvel at a beloved couple. Both spouses have struggled with the husband’s same-gender attraction; they have succeeded at loving each other faithfully and well. You can imagine their grief, concern, and finally their understanding at the ‘coming out’ of their son. Now they love him well. Though they disagree with his choices and self-definition, they manage to treat him with sensitivity, compassion and respect. (CCC #2237)

This couple seeks prayerfully to give their son what he needs, which is their love. They cannot give him what he wants—full acceptance of his homosexual practice.   They have not changed the truth of God’s will to ‘manage’ their disagreement with him; instead they embody the truth by loving him honestly. Their marriage is a living witness of how God created humanity and how He redeems us. It is a bright light to their child and to all of God’s children.

 

Please pray with us this Holy Week as the Supreme Court hears both cases concerning ‘gay marriage’ on Tuesday the 26th and Wednesday the 27th.


 

‘Father, we lift up marriage before you in this hour. We do so for all loved ones with same-sex attraction. For their clarity as Your children, we ask for the Supreme Court to uphold the true definition of marriage. In particular, we pray for plaintiffs opposing marriage, Paul Katami and Kristin Perry, both self-affirmed homosexuals. Would You manifest Your goodness in their lives? Might You give them what they need—a revelation of Your saving love, and not what they want– ‘gay marriage’?  We love You Father and ask for Your advocacy on behalf of marriage in this crucial hour for our nation.’     

 

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Fifth of 7 Prayers for Marriage: Children Need Mom and Dad

prayer-mercy‘At stake [in ‘gay marriage’] is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and mother and willed by God.’    Former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis

May I implore you to join me in prayer for marriage? For children’s sake, might we pray for those making a case for marriage before the US Supreme Court next Tuesday the 25th? Those challenging Prop. 8 are taking the most aggressive stance possible by insisting on a sweeping constitutional right to ‘gay marriage.’ If they succeed, not only must CA implement ‘gay marriage’ but every state in the union must strike down its ‘marriage as male and female’ law.

Please gather with a handful of people before the 25th and pray for real justice. What matters to God and what should matter to us is the fate of children who have no voice. If ‘gay marriage’ becomes the law of the land, children will be subject to the delusion that gender makes no difference in human relating–a slap in the face to God and to the real needs of children everywhere.

Fueling this delusion is practicing gay judge Vaughn Walker who struck down Prop. 8 upon its appeal. He claims that ‘gender is neither relevant nor essential to marriage’, and ‘that it is beyond any doubt that parents’ genders are irrelevant to children’s developmental outcomes.’ Lie upon lie upon lie, poised to become the toxic ground for a new definition of marriage in the USA.

The truth: marriage is sealed by intercourse, the only way to generate kids. Kids require the fidelity of parents in order to thrive, and so marriage demands this fidelity. The marital bond insists that man and woman call each other into account for the children they have created. However imperfect, those who stay together provide for kids masculine and feminine models and faithful love.

Gay couples do neither; they exist in reaction to male/female, and the most recent study suggests that gays tend to be ‘monogamish’—‘emotionally’ bonded to one but sexually open to many.

Dr. Mark Regnerus of the Univ. of TX conducted the most extensive study yet on the effect of gay parents. In contrast to kids from normal marriages, adults raised by lesbian mothers had negative outcomes in 24 of 40 categories, while adults raised by gay fathers had negative results in 19. Not surprisingly, activists have all but lynched Regnerus and his meticulously done work. Just google his ‘New Family Structures Study’; its clarity is confounded by slander posing as science.

Listen to the story of a man reflecting on growing up with two moms:

‘Growing up in with gay parents was very difficult. To most I was a well-raised, high-achieving kid. Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, you grow up weird. I grew up in a home so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

My peers learned all the unwritten rules of decorum and body language in their homes; the learned both traditionally masculine and feminine social mechanisms. Even if their parents’ divorced, my peers grew up seeing male and female social models. They learned to be bold from male figures, and sensitive from female ones. These are stereotypes of course, but stereotypes come in handy when you have to leave the safety of your lesbian mom’s trailer and work and survive in a world that thinks in terms of stereotypes.

I had no male figure at all to follow, and my mom and her partner were unlike traditional mothers or fathers. As a result, I had no few recognizable social cues to offer friends of either gender. Thus I befriended people rarely and alienated others easily. Life is hard when you are strange.’ Robert Oscar Lopez

Please pray with us that the US Supreme Court will uphold marriage and refuse its counterfeits. In its gender duality and pledge to fidelity, marriage serves justice to kids and to the common good. The hour of decision is now upon us.

‘Father, please empower the entire Alliance Defending Freedom team as they make a case for marriage on March 25th. Prepare the Supreme Court to hear their case and be persuaded that it is unwise to redefine the most basic and influential social unit on earth. We pray especially for Chief Justice Roberts. Might You bless and honor him, his faith and his family? Grant him a spirit of wisdom and revelation as he weighs the evidence and guides his colleagues in the decision that is best for all US citizens, especially our children.’

 

 

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