Tag Archives: Mary

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Ponder, Proclaim

‘Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.’ (LK 2:19)

Many of us experience a tension between prayer and action. We may know well the value of pondering the mystery of God-with-us, this baby Jesus who wants to ‘tabernacle’ with us. Prayer is the main way we become that home where God dwells with us through His Spirit.

Yet we are surrounded by many homeless ones who are clueless that God became flesh and now wants to dwell with them. If you are like me, something ignites during prayer and flares up to break the silence: ‘God came; He’s here! He wants to be with you! You don’t have to work out your hard life alone!’

Perhaps this call to ponder and proclaim are two parts of the same message. Our faithfulness to both is how we create a whole message for the world to hear.

LK 2:15-20 gives us clues to this wholeness. A lot goes on here—a host of angels had just dazzled these shepherds with the proclamation that God the Savior was alive and well and living in a nearby stable. The shepherds found Jesus; we can assume they were more awestruck by God in His littleness than the power-and-light-show of the heavenly host. Jesus must have radiated glory from the manger.

The shepherds were the first non-family members to witness God-in-the-flesh. They were at the lower end of the world’s system; poor rovers, they often were suspect of petty crimes and artful dodging. Fitting that they would become the first new members of the holy family! St. Paul said that we were all slaves to the world’s system until God came; Jesus transforms us from worldly slaves to sons and daughters of the Father. In Him, the homeless secure a home (Gal. 4:3-7).

Mary treasured this encounter between shepherds and the Child-King. She pondered it (v. 19). For the first time, she witnessed the impact of her newborn upon others. It must have taken her breath away. Wow, she thought, this baby is the real deal. He will ditch the rich and lift up the lowly. Everything the angel said is coming to pass.

In Greek, ‘ponder’ means to bring together a few ideas and brood over them in order to create a richer deeper thought. The Latin word for ponder is ‘to conceive’; through her pondering, Mary is once again conceiving new life as she considers the life of her Son. She lights the way for our prayerful renewal as well.

Think of your growing awareness of the truth of Jesus. He probably did not overtake you right away. Rather, His gentle, hidden movement in your life became apparent in prayerful moments and you knew: He IS the Light of my world, just when the darkness seemed to have the upper hand.

That’s good news! Pondering the light of Jesus in our real conflicts is the substance of solid proclamation. Let’s go back to the shepherds. They find glorious Jesus and upon seeing God-in-flesh, they race out to tell others that in truth He is the Savior of all, much to the hearers’ amazement (v. 17, 18). This Jesus has power to make poor ones rich, homeless ones secure, sons, slaves!

As you ponder the impact of Jesus in your life, consider how He is helping you forsake worldly enslavements for your true status as a child of God. The deeper you ponder your transformation the truer will be your proclamation. People will hear the Gospel through the contours of your broken, glorious life!

And you will receive more authority in your own life as you courageously step through fears like ‘People don’t want to hear it; I don’t want to be a hypocrite’, etc. You overcome fear and other enslavements through your proclamation (Rev. 12:11), and make a way for others to overcome too.

Early on in my walk with Jesus, I tried to dull my identity conflict (between ‘gay’ or Christian) by moving back into the ‘gay ghetto’ with an atheistic French family. God would not let go peacefully. Sick from my vacillations, I pondered and prayed and at last decided to follow Jesus simply because He was real. Peace flooded my soul that night; I nearly bounced into a party given by my French family.

A woman there eyed me suspiciously, and asked about the cross around my neck: ‘What does this Jesus do for you?’ I calmly responded that He was setting me free from my ‘gay self’ and same-sex addictions. She started crying and asked if I would speak to her son who was ‘gay’ and suicidal. I did just that. She now knows God is both merciful and powerful. He makes slaves sons.

‘His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.’ (Jer. 20:9)

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Mother Yes | Andrew Comiskey

Mother’s ‘Yes’

For the last five years, I’ve wondered why the Church begins each year on January 1st by honoring Mary as Christ-bearer, the one who surrendered all to bring forth the Savior of us all. It’s beginning to make sense: our salvation hinges upon that ‘yes’, just as the life of every person depends on a mother’s consent.

That ‘yes’ took on new meaning for me as I started this year celebrating my amazing mother’s 90th birthday in Long Beach CA. Mom has lived to give to her four children and countless others; her only ‘gift’ request was to be surrounded by her four kids in the family home (same one we all grew up in–who can say that?!). Over two days, we prayed and reminisced together, taking our cues from the extraordinary Phyllis Comiskey who leaves Betty White in the dust.

Mom’s determination to choose life started early, with her birth mother (I’ll call her Sue). Social workers removed Sue as a child from an unsafe home; as a young teen, she found work as a maid in a wealthy home where the son of the house impregnated her. Shamed and cast out, she gave birth to Phyllis in a poor boarding house where she lived alone.

According to an intrepid social worker who researched Phyllis’ origins, 16-year-old Sue was a devout Catholic whose only prayer was for her child to be raised in the Church. Too young and poor to raise Phyllis, Sue placed her in an orphanage. After one long year, a Protestant family adopted Mom, not quite up to her mother’s specifications, but permitted because of their devout faith.

Mom combined faith with a spirit of adventure and industry. She wanted more for her life than the regional confines of the upper Midwest; she worked hard and scored a scholarship at the top woman’s college in St. Paul. She then rejected the offer of a local marriage in order to move to post-war Los Angeles.

There she met my Dad who did not share her faith but the same intellectual curiosity and high regard for the dignity of all people. Discontent with my Dad’s choice of a Unitarian church where his fellow educators socialized, my Mom moved us kids to a traditional Episcopalian Church. She wanted us to know the gift of God in Christ, a witness made easier by her own extraordinary self-giving.

All of us kids remarked on the myriad ways she simply gave to us: verbally, materially, constantly and equally. She secured us in love.

Still, all of her love could not spare us kids from getting caught up in the sexy, druggy idolatry of a CA beach town in the sixties. Dead in sin, all her children needed to get saved. My brothers preceded me in living faith and my mom, seeing the ravages of ‘gay’ life on her son, urged me to reach for more as my brothers had, to say ‘yes’ the One who could guide me onto solid ground.

I followed her lead; her ‘yes’ to God, daily and often under duress, paved the way for all my sibs to say ‘yes’ to God. Even my Dad surrendered to the Source of her faithful witness three days before his death 7-years-ago.

Mom asked us kids what we desire for ourselves if we achieve 90-years. Big if. Nevertheless, I want to follow her example of saying ‘yes’ daily to God. She fulfilled the prayers of her poor birth mother whose only hope for her child was Jesus and His Church. I want my ‘yes’ at 90-years to answer my mother’s prayer for me and to emulate her ‘Marion’ example—surrender to God and generous self-giving that makes a way for others to know Jesus’ unfailing love.

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Long Way Home Andrew Comiskey

Long Way Home

Enslaved to many masters, a friend of mine wound up in jail. He sobered up when he realized that his ‘holding tank’ was a facility that his incarcerated father had helped build. Courageously facing that he ‘was imprisoned in his father’s house’ was a step for him in surrendering to Jesus who helped him find a new self and a new home in the Father’s house.

Sunday’s Gospel reading is about a different kind of family, a ‘holy one’ with whom we are now very familiar—Mary, Joseph, and Jesus (LK 2:41-52). The family roots of my friend in need of radical conversion are strikingly different from Jesus’ remarkable parents. And yet the Gospel account of Jesus having to leave the confines of his home in Nazareth in order to take the next step to fulfilling His destiny are the same. It’s hard to leave home and become who we are!

Like my friend, Jesus defied expectations (and scared the life out of his parents) by choosing to engage with His Heavenly Father in His house. That is the basis for Jesus’, and our own, confirmation as adults. And it behooves every parent to release its child to this long journey of discovery.

I love the parental witness of Mary and Joseph in Scripture. Ever iconic, they beckon constantly to parents like us who seek to be clear masculine and feminine witnesses of the Father’s love. To be sure, we always run the risk of deifying the holy pair. Then they become two-dimensional figures whose ‘immaculate’ goodness fails to engage our struggle to become holy. Every parent faces some shame and regret. By allowing God’s icons to be fully human, we find help in becoming holy in the fruit and fault of our parenting.

No-one can fault Mary’s devotion to Jesus. He was nearer to her heart than anyone, as is the case with many mothers and kids. And yet the Gospels reveal an ever-widening gap between who and where Jesus needed to be and Mary’s normal expectations. The Father demanded an allegiance of the Son that pierced His mother’s heart. Faith alone enabled her to transform the wounds of His progressive distancing from her to the wonders she could see in retrospect.

And Joseph. His witness is mostly silent and yet his actions on behalf of Mary and Jesus are among the finest displays of protective masculinity in Scripture. Perhaps his steadfast presence was the ‘backbone’ that quietly strengthened Mary as she faced the pain of Jesus’ distancing Himself from her.

No amount of ‘holy parenting’ can prevent this distancing. Jesus had to leave His parents to engage with His Father. As a rule, sons and daughters have to say ‘no’ to parental expectations in order to clarify their ‘yes’ to what will define them as adults. Jesus and our children are not exceptions.

That is terrifying. Competing with the Father’s house are temples to Dionysus and Diana, to materialism and false power. Whose house will define our children?

What we can know is that each kid must be given the dignity to act in undignified ways en route to the Father’s house. Flawed, faithful parents like us can take heart that our kids’ long journey home is overseen by One whom we don’t see. Mary and Joseph help us here. They help us to trust Him, certain that He will transform our kids’ wounds (and ours) into wonders of His unfailing love.

Please Read The Desert Stream/Living Waters 2015 Year End Newsletter

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Expecting More, Together Andrew Comiskey Advent

Expecting More, Together

A young man who repented as a teen from ‘gay’ identification, Nate is growing into his masculinity as Jesus grows within him. I have the privilege of summoning what I see in this progressively robust man of God. Nothing brings me greater joy.

It is easy. Nate says ‘yes’ to Jesus and Jesus guides him into getting what he needs. You like me are called to confirm that growth in the lives of our fellow Christians. In the Spirit of John the Baptist, we can see Jesus growing in others, and speak out the truth of His Real Presence in their lives. That is the essence of Christian community. And its first and most beautiful expression lies in our fourth Advent reading—the visitation of newly pregnant Mary with her cousin Elizabeth (LK 1:39-45).

As soon as Mary sees Elizabeth, the latter, now ripe with John the Baptist, is stirred up by the fiery prophet within who jumps for joy (v.44) to welcome the Christ growing in Mary. Even the fetal John makes straight the way of the Lord! He cannot help it; Jesus is in his midst and even a womb cannot contain him from summoning the prenatal Creator and Redeemer of all.

Elizabeth follows the lead of her precocious son but fulfills a different yet equally important task: to encourage Mary with a Spirit-inspired prophecy. We can infer that a 14-year-old who just discovered that she had been impregnated by God might need a little solidarity (understatement duly noted).

Mary ‘hastens’ to Elizabeth because she needs her. The Mother of God knew somehow that the new life growing in her cousin would summon the new life growing in her. ‘Blessed are you, Mary, for you have believed what the Lord said to you would be fulfilled’ (v.45). Elizabeth nails it: ‘You are not crazy Mary; you are and will be forever blessed. God is growing in you and I honor your faith!’

Each of us needs that encouragement from wiser ones who like us have walked in faith against a cruel, unbelieving culture. Elizabeth had been barren and socially scorned; Mary could have been stoned for her mysterious pregnancy. They knew God alone had masterminded the divine gifts growing within them. Their bond of faith was profound and essential for the fulfillment of that faith.

Similarly, we whom Jesus leads out of any barren, shameful land need fellow pilgrims. We need the holy-wrinkled who have endured the desert longer. Jesus in our fellow humanity is stronger than Jesus in our own hearts. Why else do we go to church? Sorry, I do not go just to find my Head. I go to find His body. I need another to see and summon the Christ growing in me.

And I have the mutual privilege of summoning Jesus in my brother or sister. Nothing grants me greater joy than looking for the one in whom Jesus waits to be summoned behind a veil of sin or sadness. To be filled with the Spirit of John the Baptist or Elizabeth, my spirit leaping so I just have to say why ‘you’ are such a beautiful gift to this church…that is my joy.

We all hold promises in our hearts that need to be dusted off and reconfirmed in our believing communities. Go ahead. Be a prophet. Summon the divine life seated next to you at church. ‘Blessed are you who believe that what God has said to you would be fulfilled’(LK 1:45)!

Please Read The Desert Stream 2015 Year End Newsletter

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Beloved Enemies

October 29: Beloved Enemies

‘If a foe were insulting me I could endure it. But it is you, a man like me, my friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship.’ (Ps. 55: 12-14)

We are hurt most by those we love most. Period. The deeper our relationships, the deeper we can be wounded. That can help explain why a parent’s abuse of his/her child does much greater damage than wounds inflicted by a stranger. The child inherently trusts and loves a parent: betrayal is measured by the depth of a child’s need for care and protection from its parent.

As a parent who stands with many parents on behalf of their adult children, I can also attest to the pain kids inflict on those who sired and bore them. Immoral choices of the young disrupt the old and dishonor them. Few wounds run deeper than lifestyle choices that drive and define a child far from a parent’s values. Simeon’s prophecy to Mary that ‘a sword will pierce your heart (Luke 2:35)’ applies well to the ‘parent-wound’: a child alienated from family and faith due to immorality.

If families-of-origin bind us together and break us too, how much more might that apply to our relationship with the family of God, the Church? We gather there to unite with persons made new by Jesus Himself. We expect icons: stained glass, but glass nevertheless through which He shines.

Our expectations are often dashed by broken ones (sheep and shepherds alike) who fail to be conduits of Jesus for us. Many of us love Jesus intensely because our new lives are bound up entirely in His saving grace. When Christians fail us, we feel the chasm between His Head and His Body like a deep ache. Many young ones fall through that gap and are never reclaimed.

We at DSM/LW love the Church; we are her. We draw on her riches and experience her poverty. She has been good to us! And at times our sweet mother has become a beloved enemy. During one season, our home church banned all of our healing groups and materials. We had become a liability to her; loving her as we did, we felt like a liability. It was no small task to separate Jesus’ advocacy for us from that of the Church. During that season I felt sick whenever I entered the sanctuary. I asked Jesus why and He said simply: ‘It is because you love her [the Church] so much.’

I take heart as I read the lives of the saints. Their suffering seems to stem more from church wounds than persecution from the world. So take heart! Perhaps Jesus allows such wounds to grant us a share in His suffering. After all, does He not love His bride above all else and so suffer for her intensely? Beloved enemies, especially in the Church, may unite us more nearly with His heart than any other source of wounding.

Please join us as we pray for:

1. Mid-Atlantic Region, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Tom Wright, Coordinator: For strength and vision for Tom, for existing groups and to see new groups established.

2.Aguas Vivas: Veracruz, Mexico, Analuisa – Coordinator: For them to find good church covering and for all they need to complete ContraCorriente (CrossCurrent) pilot.

3. RHN: Identity Quest, Robert Gates, Albuquerque, MX: continuing his education, health and personal relationships. Free Indeed Ministries, Ron & Barbara Swallow, Albuquerque, MX: Financial burdens.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director of Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”


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