Family Ties

Church, Jesus, Sacrifice

This was my haunting dream the night of February 1st, 2011.

Matthew 19:29

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”

Taysia looked at me with contempt, my only sister, as if I were a stranger; an intruder in the home. My brothers did too. They all did. Javlin and Jaycee flanked my sister like bodyguards and declared me a danger to the family unit. My news of finding eternal life in Jesus was seen as a virus to the status quo of family decorum, of tolerance, of unspoken values, of keeping peace and order.

I walked gingerly before the triumvirate of judges and argued for my innocence with long-suffering eyes that told of a beloved loyalty to the family name. Unmoved; they remained stern in their judgment. My sentence was shame and banishment. Death would have been more merciful, I thought to myself, as death would be kind enough to put agony to rest.

All three armed themselves with silence and stares as sharp as razor blades. And it cut me. Painfully. Over and over. But there was no time for tears.

My bags were packed but not with much organization. I was in a hurry; like someone running towards the nearest garbage can to puke. Of course, I was not sick, though my stomach couldn’t tell the difference. I wanted to keel over. This stirring love for family swirled so violently inside me that it made me dizzy and nauseated. Love wanted out. To overwhelm and be received. But I knew better and restrained myself. I have never been the agitated type, and I don’t consider myself a stranger to certain pains: I have history with excruciating boils, irrepressible itchiness, blunt forces to the head. But that’s all surface stuff. This?! This pain was deep. It coursed through my veins and systems. Perhaps because this pain was blood. As family is.

My sister and brothers stood there as cold sentinels; my parents not so much. Distraught but firm, my father held my crying mother as I walked towards the door. They no longer wanted part of me. Javlin enforced my exit with his muscular arms crossed and the tattoos of his girls’ names showing; a grave reminder that I’d never see my precious nieces again.

A tear broke loose.

But, I turned my face and bit my lip. I did not want anyone to see my final plea for reconciliation. I was stubborn. I could not renounce Christ.

The final steps towards the door was a walk down memory lane as the family paintings still hung on the wall. There I was posing with my buzzed ‘do, a rare photo smile, and the matching Filipino jerseys that misspelled all our names. In happier times that detail would have induced a chuckle, but the weight of rejection anchored my frown. Taysia’s hair glowed and could run the length of her back unfurled. My brothers were young and waiting for their handsomeness to fill their growing frames. As usual dad looked a decade younger than his age while my mother posed with the muscle memories of her younger years as a Filipino beauty pageant queen. I always took pride in how good-looking they were and grateful to be called their own. And for a brief second I was frozen in time. I was family again within the recesses of self-delusion.

My born identity as a Renegado was demanded to be left at the door. Behind me I knew the collective treasures of priceless memories were being burned into the smoldering fires of ash and forgetfulness. It oddly felt ritualistic, but also criminal as I stowed away those treasures in my heart.

I love my family.

I took the first heavy step out the door where one’s man sunset becomes another man’s dawn. My bags were light as usual, thankfully, because I felt so weak. This freedom was a lonely one. As I took the solitary walk to my car, the Spirit visited me and sang a song of assurance that gave me a peace of the most awkward order.

By your Word I am led to die
Hearts laid to a sword divide
Lambs unto the slaughter
I don’t know who’s my father

Those who do the will of God
They are my brothers
They are my sisters
They are my mothers
Oh where does loyalty lie?
Gone are family ties
Be stronger than these bonds of blood
Adopt me into the Father’s love

I woke up afraid to open my eyes in case the bizarro world was real. When I came to my senses I still battled with the horrifying sadness I felt in having lost my family to the worthwhile conflict of treasuring my King Jesus. This was my dream but a reality to many Christians worldwide caught in the scandal between loyalty and the cross.


70 Years

Church, Grief, Holy Spirit, Psychology

Grief is a normal part of healthy human existence.  Without the ability to grieve we wouldn’t have the ability to love, to feel connected at a deep level to someone, something, or even an idea.  We can and should grieve the loss of a dream, the loss of our home, or the loss of a person that we love to death or relational mayhem.  It is a God designed part of our humanness.

Let Wisdom Lead the Way

Holy Spirit, Old Testament, Psychology

For counselors who profess Christ it is sometimes difficult to remember that God is at work in the world.  Spending day after day with clients who come into sessions with little to no change in their lives, and carrying the same brokenness around with them.  It is easy to question where God is in all of this mess, and it is easy to feel like we’re alone in the trenches with our clients, getting covered in the slime of a more-than-difficult situation.  Sometimes it feels like our client is in another trench and No Man’s Land is in between us with every attempt to cross the distance rebuffed by machine guns, razor wire, and artillery fire.

The Links 3.15.11

The Links

Welcome back to the links. This week, in honor of the current discussion in evangelicalism, we present the Rob Bell/Love Wins edition of links. We encourage you to work through the issues raised with thoughtfulness and with Scripture study. Enough said, on to the links:

The Love Wins page.  Watch the video, then read this parody by Mike Wittmer.

The review that started the response, by Justin Taylor.

The Love Wins interview by Lisa Miller of Newsweek with Rob Bell.

Thanks to my friend, Matt Bell, for this link to an interview by Martin Bashir of MSNBC with Rob Bell on his position on the importance of Christ in this lifetime.

Kevin DeYoung’s in depth review of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins.

The Links 3.9.11

The Links

We’re going to try something new for your Wednesdays, and it’s something I like to call The Links.  It will be 4-5 links to other pages that we think has value (theological, psychological, political, technological, or artistic).  Enjoy:

  1. Visualizing the Bible:  Chris Harrison, a fourth year PhD student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University , and Christoph Römhild, a Lutheran pastor, put together a beautiful piece of art that is actually a visualization over 63,000 cross-references in the Bible.  Recently featured on Wired.
  2. A live recording of the late Gary Moore playing “Messiah Will Come Again” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990.
  3. Because of the recent stir in the Reformed blogosphere over Rob Bell’s as yet unreleased book titled “Love Wins”, Dale M. Coulter at the Renewal Dynamics blog of Regent University Divinity School and the Center for Renewal Studies posted about the controversy (1) and then the possible synergistic perspective that the Reformed may be reacting against (2):

    “It may be worth recalling at the outset that all synergists (Wesleyans, Arminians, Orthodox, etc.) begin from the perspective that the atoning work of Christ is universal in scope, if not in application. “For God so loved” (John 3:16) is understood to mean that God’s love reaches out equally to all individuals on the cross, which is a different starting point than the Reformed claim that the atonement is limited in scope. This may seem basic, but it is important because it presumes that God does not want anyone to perish and the corollary that God does not directly will to send individuals to hell.A second corollary of this point is that synergists usually think that there will be more people in heaven than Reformed folks do although there are clear and important exceptions. For example, because of his eschatology and in light of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards thought that there would be many persons whom God would bring to heaven through his electing grace. Reformed folks in the revivalist stream tend to be more optimistic about the numbers of God’s elect than those not in the revivalist stream.”
  4. Mike Burnette discusses the differences between ministry networks and denominations:

    “My Denomination is not necessarily my strongest network. I love my fellowship. I feel called to this fellowship for life, honestly. But I am realizing that while many of those in my network are in fact of the same fellowship, most are not. In Clarksville, for example, my ministry network is made up of folks from many denominations, and none of them from mine. My closest compadres are GCI, Nazarene, Independent, and pseudo-Vineyard.  None of the AG folks in my town are really connected to each other, much less to me.”
  5. Phil Monroe writes about sharing your emotions through blogs:

    “Not too long ago, someone read my blog and took offense at something they thought I was saying. While I wasn’t saying what they thought I was saying, the truth is I left the door wide open by not being all that clear–leaving something unsaid when discussing a controversial topic can get you into trouble as well as what you do say.”