Tag Archives: Family

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Stepping into Blessing (and out of blogging….)

‘May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of people’ (Gen. 28:3).

Today. First day of vacation. Still glowing from last night’s closure of our Kansas City Living Waters Training. That glow will dim, and Annette shall enjoy each other without the electric charge of ministry.

Enjoy. Our life together. Three days ago I drove home on a short break from the training to find Annette swirling in ‘house church’ activity: son and Pastor Nick from Austin requesting help in ordering a communion stole, Katie dropping by to seek one of us to help her check out a new apartment, Sam coming over with son Jacob to shower as his bathroom is being overhauled, Jacob racing out back to our two Labradors where granddaughter Camille (Greg and Christina’s kid) was already mesmerized as these gentle beasts retrieved anything the 1-year-old tossed their way.

My house. Not a monastery but a cyclone of domesticity. Annette confessed wearily in the storm: ‘I would not want this any other way.’ True that. I realized that is why we do what we do in Living Waters. We daily die to sin and idols, we bind our deep wounds to Jesus’, and let Him summon what is most true about us so we can get on with the business of living—entering the dance of life with those we love most. We are offering the gifts we are. Generously. We are becoming a fruitful community.

We have a new evening of the training entitled ‘Stepping into the Blessing.’ Having done a lot of cross time, we figured our people needed a night to just enter the blessing of the Father who longs to give us a share in His generosity. As people stepped up to receive, He mirrored the divine gifts standing before Him; He restored the promise of fruitfulness, the destiny of each to build community.

So for the next few weeks, I will rest in my messy destiny to haul out sweet, soiled diapers, to landscape my acre, to wrestle labs that never lose their puppiness, to grow with my kids in mutual exhortations, to enjoy life with the one I love most. Annette. She’s still the one that I want. By the way, I want to step into the blessing, not write about it. So we’ll connect in a few weeks. Bless you all.

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

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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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