Tag Archives: Parenting

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Fear and Fasting

‘The resurrection of Christ makes life a perpetual feast.’ St. Athanasius

Real life provides many occasions for fear. As a parent, I am particularly in tune to threats upon my children’s good. As they grow and face the ‘free fall’ of their own decision-making, Annette and I have feared for their good. Such fear focuses and fuels our prayers: ‘O God, use this impasse, this accident, this strange relationship, this attitude, this addiction as an open door to Your new life.’

Last weekend my youngest son Sam graduated from college as a teacher. That marks the fourth and final college graduation of my kids. Sam took his time getting there. Our move to Kansas City nine years ago blew holes in his security and he lost ground. He faced more than a few dead-ends before he found Home. Jesus helped him through a group of faithful young adults. Sam has become an upright, dynamic young man and will make a great teacher. I am proud beyond words of his new life, which to me is founded on nothing less than resurrection.

Reflecting on our fight for his rising, I recall countless occasions where fear competed with faith. We could witness Sam’s deception and desperation. Yet we could not save him from either. (We did insist he pay for his own idolatry.) So we waited and prayed and tried to help him when asked. Our hope bottomed out on several occasions but it was God who became the ever-deepening ground of our hope. That occurred wordlessly, without feeling. We were conscious of fear.

I take heart from the saints who had a hand in creating, preserving and proclaiming Jesus’ life. The whole arc of His existence introduced fear into these mortal lives. So God, employing dreams and angels, was quick to speak: ‘Mary, do not fear your favor–the new divine life emerging within you; Joseph, do not fear to protect this woman; she bears great favor.’ (LK 1:30; Matt. 1:20)

The initial response to the resurrection was anything but clarity and assurance. Fear seemed to rule the day as an earthquake and intimidating angel scared the life out of the tomb guards (‘they became like dead men’ Matt. 28:4). Fright seized the two Marys who waited there so an angel exhorted them ‘to not fear.’ Working at it, ‘the two hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples…’ (Matt. 28:8).

I love that: ‘afraid yet filled with joy’, an apt reminder of how we feel toward loved ones whose action we cannot control and yet for whom we seek a rising. Jesus insists. He rose for everyone, and He beckons constantly to us to emerge from the tombs of limited vision and closed horizons. He opened that horizon: we pray that blind eyes might see it, and lame limbs walk towards it. Joy overtakes fear as we consider the magnitude of what He won for all in His Resurrection.

Last Saturday, all my kids gathered with Annette and me to celebrate Sam’s graduation. We feasted on great food and strange humor and the faith common to us all. I could see the earmarks of new life—the horizon Jesus opened for each that each is discovering in his or her own way. On such blessed occasions, we forget about fear; feasting and joy prevail.

‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found. So they began to celebrate.’ (LK 15: 24)

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Fighting for Our Best – Part 1: What Parents Know

Do not be afraid of them; the Lord Himself will fight for you.’  (Deut. 1:22)

cracked mirrorMy mother’s tears spoke louder words in response to my ‘coming out’ years ago. ‘I want more for you,’ she then said.

Parents want more for their kids than misbegotten identities and relationships that render them fruitless. Some convey this concern better than others. We as parents must learn to express our concern well. It is an expression of loving authority.

Annette and I are the parents of four adult children; together, we fight for their fruitfulness. How can we not? Through God’s gift of committed sexual love, we created them! It is normal, right, and godly to advocate prayerfully for our children:  ‘In Your mercy God, show our children the gift that they are and how to offer that gift fruitfully!’

Times have changed since my coming out 37 years ago. Born Kathlyn, the transgender daughter of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, has rechristened herself Stephen. She recently uploaded a video that celebrates her new male self as ‘a queer and nerd fighter’ with a penchant for ‘any male-identified person wearing thigh highs or garters.’ Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad.

My heart grieves for every parent today whose children leave home as an awkwardly emerging man or woman and returns to announce his/her newly re-created ‘gender’ self. Doubtlessly all young adults tempted to do so have faced profound conflicts of soul. But to resolve those conflicts by forcing one’s genitals into lifeless outlets or butchering them altogether is nothing short of demonic: ‘rebellion like the sin of witchcraft, arrogance like the evil of idolatry.’ (1 S 15:23)

All we as parents can do is weep and cry out for the Mercy that rendered us fruitful. We as co-creators of new life have limits. We cannot make our adult children’s moral decisions for them. But we can nurture a vision of fruitfulness for their lives in spite of any declaration to the contrary.

That child will always be the fruit of our love. So shall we implore the God who made us fruitful to gently woo our children back to Himself—the One who knows them best. He alone has power to grant them the ‘more’ of His splendid design for their lives.

‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.’ (Ex. 14:14)

 

 

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Justice for Whom

Advocates for ‘gay marriage’ usually claim no harm can be done to anyone through extending marriage and family rights to two men or two women.

New evidence now exists to show a host of challenges to kids of gay parents.

Professor Mark Regenerus found that, when compared to adults raised in married, mother/father families, adults raised by lesbian parents had negative outcomes in 24 out of 40 categories, while adults raised by gay fathers had negative outcomes in 19 categories.

(See http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jun/10/study-suggests-risks-from-same-sex-parenting/)

More studies are in the works to debunk the myth that kids don’t need parenting from the two who gave them life. To thrive, a kid needs a mom and a dad. Period.

We must take issue with those who, as a result of supporting gay loved ones, fail to see the implications of such skewed advocacy.

A legal change in the definition of marriage is short-sighted and cruel to the most vulnerable ones in our culture—children. Generations-to-come depend upon societal structures that advocate for their best. ‘Gay’ marriage and family is not one of them.

Strange justice: ‘gay marriage’ advocates often cite early childhood experiences of bullying and harassment for their same-sex tendencies as one reason why gay equality is imperative. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that ‘gay marriage’ only perpetuates the destabilizing of young lives.

‘Gay’ marriage and family causes the very ills it seeks to cure.

Christians, take a stand and resolutely refuse to redefine marriage, especially in the face of our president’s decision to do so. Consider those who have come before you. On behalf of the Church, St. Thomas More refused to grant Henry VIII (his king) a divorce, and was beheaded. May we emulate his courage in championing marriage today.

Please join me in this prayer that American Catholics have been encouraged to pray on behalf of religious liberty until July 4th:

Grant we pray, O heavenly Father, A clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us— this great land will always be ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

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Ascending Fear: Jesus’ Absence and Our Authority

Ascension of Christ. Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 - 1872), published in 1877.

‘Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.’ (Jn 16:6)

Jesus had to leave us in order to liberate us. He had to depart in order to give us power. But for the disciples, Jesus’ ascension back to the Father may have felt more like abandonment than the assurance of authority.

Think about it. Jesus’ followers just got in the groove with the Resurrected Christ. (It took a while–remember? They failed to recognize him for days!) Just when they were in step with Him, the Lamb is swallowed up by a cloud. (Acts 1:9)

Jesus, now absent, gives disciples like us His Spirit—powerful and pervasive, but unseen. The Spirit demands our faith and action based on His leading. Yet His instructions are more whispers than proclamations. And we are imperfect ‘receptors’ at best, as inclined to our own darkness as we are to the light. How we long for Jesus-in-the-flesh declaring: ‘This is the way; walk in it!’

That means that we His disciples have to face our fears of ourselves: Can we do this? Was that a prophetic dream or a delusion? What if we obey that still small voice and turn out to be wrong?

What a risky God—entrusting us with continuing His reign of heaven on earth.

Scary stuff! I remember what I felt to be the Spirit’s leading to attend a university discussion on ‘Homosexuality, the Bible and Faith.’ In spite of all the major denominations represented, the course had little to do with any genuine respect for the Bible or faith; it was intent only on asserting ‘gay rights.’

I had only been a Christian for 6 months but I already knew that no-one there knew anything about genuine conversion. So I said so: ‘If Jesus really died for us, then we must die to our right to assert anything other than His rule and reign in our lives.’ I wasn’t voted most popular student that year.

But I did grow in faith because I learned to follow His lead. And He trusted me to step out, however awkwardly, and proclaim His rule and reign. He does so with any willing vessel.

This is the principle of Ascension: He must depart in order for His Spirit to empower us to extend His Kingdom on earth.

That principle applies to our letting people go in order to help them grow. Our releasing them releases the Spirit who will lead them beyond where we can take them.

I see this all the time in ministry. In order for men and women to become leaders, I must release them to step out and take risks. They won’t rely upon the Spirit as much if I am around. My presence may well be quenching the very Spirit that is straining to do great things through them.

‘Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.’ (Jn 14:12)

I also see this in parenting. Annette and I and most of our friends worked hard to be the best parents possible. And then, guess what? It isn’t enough! Our kids may still make bad, Spirit-free choices that grieve us terribly. That’s where Ascension comes in. Our kids’ departure from the Light doesn’t stop the Spirit from brooding, imploring, and ordering all things for the good in their lives.

But parents get in the way of Holy Spirit when we try to be that Spirit. Like Jesus Himself, we must entrust our kids to the One who knows and loves best. We do our part yes—but it is the wise parent who knows when (s)he can do no more but pray. Confessing our fears and controlling schemes only to God, we entrust the son or daughter to the Ultimate Parent. His Spirit will have His Way.

Ascension reduces us to prayer. We grieve and let go and make room for God. Jesus left in order to free us to become people of the Spirit. Might we do the same for those we love most?

‘You may ask for anything in My Name, and I will do it.’ (Jn 14:14)

‘When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you [and your loved ones!] into all truth.’ (Jn 16:13)

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Trusting in Our Fighting Father

Day 4 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘I Myself am fighting for them!’ (1516)

Two streams of mercy converge in our God: His masculine, steadfast love which keeps covenant with us (hesed), and the deeply felt and tenderly expressed love that issues from His depths, as from the womb of a mother (rachamim). Truly we have a merciful Father whose love surpasses that of the most devoted parents!

And like good parents, our Father expresses His mercy by battling for our best; He wars for our well-being. Knit in the womb of His best intentions for us, and empowered by the very force that gave form to all creation, we are the blessed subjects of the God who fights for the dignity of His children.

Moses declared to the embattled Israelites: ‘Don’t be afraid of the enemy; the Lord Your God will fight for you. He fought for you in Egypt, He fought for you in the desert. Remember how He carried you, like a father carries a child, all the way until now…’ (Deut. 1: 29-31) Here we catch a glimpse of the God, both tender and strong (PS 62: 11, 12), who carries us in one arm, and wields the sword against our enemies in the other!

Our Father is essentially ‘salient’, a psychological term referring to the parent whose care is a fusion of tenderness that earns the child’s trust, and authority that commands its respect.

Good parents are wise to aspire to such ‘salience’: Annette and I have certainly tried. I marvel at her bond with the kids; in the course of casual conversation with them, she imparts wisdom and grace to them seamlessly. My strength tends to be in seeing and reminding them of their best qualities and the goals they have established to develop those qualities. When they have stalled on the way or gotten sidetracked, I fight for them mercifully by reminding them of who they are.

And whose they are. Annette and I try hard to not contradict the essence of their fighting Father. But our efforts are only a pale and imperfect glimpse of the One who loves them wholly. In that way, we seek as parents to model authentic reliance upon Himself, in the hope that their hope may expand heaven-ward.

Stalled and stubborn children grant parents myriad chances to trust the Father who fights for them. I recall one child who got into legal trouble and was to be sentenced in court. Crowded and shoved about by a throng of anxious, harassed lawbreakers like us, my son and I lost each other in the crowd.

We sat on either ends of the courtroom. From my view, he looked like a frightened orphan. I realized then that he was an adult, and that I no longer could determine his punishment, or his liberty. He did, other forces did, God especially did. That day in court, I released him to the fighting Father. I prayed for Divine Mercy as my son walked alone to the judge for sentencing.

‘I do not understand how it is possible not to trust Him who can do all things. With Him everything; without Him, nothing. He is Lord. He will not allow those who place their trust in Him to be put to shame.’ (358)

‘Father, we trust You as the One who fights for our dignity and for the dignity of all. You meet us in the desert and carry us; You know our enemies and You battle them. Show us how You fight for us, tenderly and courageously. Train us to fight in mercy for those we love. May we not be so proud as to shame ourselves for not saving them. You alone can do this. Show us how to do our part, that all might be rescued from the grip of evil and set free unto Your best for their lives.’

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