From Prodigal God to Wild and Wise Man

The men’s prayer group that I’m a part of finished “Prodigal God,” by Tim Keller and is now reading “From Wild Man to Wise Man,” by Richard Rohr.  The switch from a Protestant theological book to a Catholic pastoral book has its challenges, but I think the Holy Spirit is with us.  My discernment could be wrong, but I see an emerging “picture” of what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us.

From “Prodigal God,” we were shaken from our comfort zones.  It made us see that we were the “elder brothers” in the parable, comfortable in our faith, secure in our own righteousness.  We realized that “if [we] have not grasped the gospel fully and deeply, [we] will return to being condescending, condemning, anxious, insecure, joyless, and angry all the time” (Chapter 4, page 70).  We learned from Tim Keller that the parable of the prodigal son was not primarily to assure “younger brothers” of God’s unconditional love.  It was a warning to moral insiders: “we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right” (Chapter 5, page 78).  The true elder brother is Christ.  We need to go through our own crucifixion, die to our self so that Christ can work through us.  Then, we can answer the question, “Well, who should have gone out and searched for the lost son?” (page 80); the answer would be “Christ through me.”

“The Prodigal God,” by Timothy Keller

Keller’s book left us asking for more.  How can we become more like Christ?  How can we die to our self and let Him live through us?  The Holy Spirit helped us vote for Richard Rohr’s book.

While nearly everyone in the men’s group only has negative things to say about Rohr’s book, we all agree that the conversation is very enlightening.  Again, I could be wrong, but I think that’s a sign that the Holy Spirit is with us.  How can so much disagreement be productive?  How can so many men’s egos be kept in check if not for the Holy Spirit giving us the grace to be humble?  It’s Emmanuel, “God is with us.”

Putting aside the poor writing style and weak Scriptural references, “From Wild Man to Wise Man” is already leading us on the male spiritual journey it purports to do.  Just this past Saturday, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with a personal revelation about my journey.  Another man in the group is currently a lot closer to God because the Holy Spirit is making him face a mental anguish that he would rather avoid.  The first ten chapters of the book led our rag-tag group of men to a precipice.  Whether we decide to jump and experience the frightening fall to self-awareness is our choice.  But it’s certainly exciting to see the Holy Spirit working among us!

“From Wild Man to Wise Man,” by Richard Rohr

Great Advice for Daughters

Muhammad Ali and Daughter
Muhammad Ali and Daughter

The following advice has been blogged about by various people.  I haven’t been able to find the original source.  So, if you happen to know, please comment and let me know.

The story allegedly comes from Muhammad Ali‘s daughter, Hana, a name that also happens to belong to my youngest daughter as well.  Ali’s daughter visited him one day, but was dressed indecently.  The story continues:

When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.

My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.”

He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”

Ode to Sleep Deprived Parents

My wife found this hilarious YouTube video that took the classical symphonic piece Carmina Burana and changed the lyrics.  There was a contest for the new lyrics and a father, Matthew Hodge, won with his entry.  Being parents ourselves, my wife and I really appreciated this:

What If My Children were Gay?

An old friend found my reflection about gay marriage and Satan ridiculous and challenged me to consider what I would do if I found out my children were gay.  My eldest daughter is now two years old and the other is just four months.  I have about six years or so before their sexual awareness.  So, I have time.

Nevertheless, it’s a very good question to explore, now.

Same-sex attraction is as natural as concupiscence.  It doesn’t make them bad people just as my tendency towards sexual immorality doesn’t make me a bad person.  We’re just broken in different ways.  What will bother me the most is the vitriol thrown at homosexuals by self-righteous people.

Moral Insiders Treating Others Without Dignity

Moral insiders often do not treat homosexuals with human dignity; I’d be even more sensitive to that if my girls were gay.  I think it is an injustice, the way we moral insiders treat moral outsiders.  I’ve been reflecting on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  As the elder brothers, we should be going out to find our wayward younger brothers who are squandering our Father’s inheritance.  We should not be brooding in our Father’s house, objecting to His mercy.

My girls, if they are imperfect, need to be confident of my love for them – just as I am confident of Our Heavenly Father’s love for me, as imperfect as I am.  They need to understand the true meaning of free will, and the reality of God’s prodigal mercy.  Our goal in life is to become the best-version-of-ourselves.  If my girls discover that they are gay, then my job as their father is to help them become the best version of themselves, despite the heaviness of that Cross.  I am to be like Simon of Cyrene and help them carry their burden, not like the Pharisees who are ready to cast the first stone.

Maya drinks a bottle of milk and then a bottle of water or two before bed.  So, she needs to go to the bathroom three to five times before falling asleep.  My wife finds going potty that many times is excessive and that Maya is merely trying to avoid sleep.  When Maya sneaks out of her room and finds mommy, she cries while being told “it’s the last time.”  When she finds daddy, she gives a sheepish grin, takes his hand and skips to the bathroom.

Maya learns discipline from mommy, forgiveness from daddy (what Anne Marie terms “spoiling.”)  In matters of the Spirit, our Mother Church teaches me what is right and wrong, and our Heavenly Father teaches me about His abundant mercy.  Our home is our daughters’ first experience of the Trinity; if they cannot be accepted in our family for being gay, then we would have failed as parents to live out the Gospel message of love.

My love as a parent, though, doesn’t give me the right to define what is moral.  If my daughters choose to live a sinful life, then I will continue to love and bless them as God even now continues to love and bless me in my broken, sinful state.  How is their father any better as a Christian, any less of a sinner?  How is their sexual sin any worse than mine?  The sun will continue to shine on them as it does on me.

If they insist on gay marriage and children from that marriage, I will tell them that this is not what God wants.  There will be consequences, but I will be there for them.   I will continue to love, pray, fast and sacrifice myself for their sake.  I will care for their spouse, when she is sick.  I will babysit and cook for them so that they can have a break.  I will love them and the new community they’ll bring into my life, even though they are living a life of sin because God loves me even though I myself live a life of sin.  How can I do any less than my own Father?  Christ surrounded himself with moral outcasts and gave them hope.  Perhaps I am called to do the same with the help of my daughters?

Being a Christ-like example of love and mercy may not be enough to inspire my children to a life of conversion.  They may harden their hearts against any religious message because it contradicts the life they’ve chosen.  If that’s the case, then I will offer up my own life in exchange for their immortal souls.  There will be consequences to their actions, but I will pay those consequences myself if, in the end, they do not repent.  For God so loved the world that He gave up His only son for the expiation of their sins.  For I so love my daughters, I will give up my life for them.  What will my Passion be?  That’s for God to decide.  In the meantime, fatherhood is a training ground for that ultimate sacrifice.

So, to answer my friend’s challenge, while I cannot change God’s definition of marriage, I am willing to pay the price for His forgiveness of their sins.

Story of Hana’s Birth

Hana Therese Chiang was born on a rainy evening, November 29th, 2012.  We barely made it to the Methodist Hospital in time; my wife already felt the need to push as we went down the elevator to Labor & Delivery.  All told, we were in the hospital less than 30 minutes when our second child came into the world.

[instagram url=http://instagram.com/p/TkE_mDQKJ3/ width=400]

We didn’t intend to cut it so close.  We wanted to put our two-year old, Maya Elise, to sleep at my parents’ home before going to the hospital.  Maya wouldn’t fall asleep even after an hour.  We could hear her voice faintly in the cool and calm evening, screaming abandonment at our sudden departure.  I wiped the sad raindrops from our windshield as we left Maya with my parents.

We should’ve gone immediately to the hospital after Maya’s dinner and bath.  The contractions were getting closer, but still manageable at that point.  Had we done so, the hospital staff would have had time to get my wife a proper bed, prepared her with an IV solution in her arm, filled out the standard intake forms and Dr. Morrison would not have already gone home for the evening.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  There was no sense in beating ourselves up.  The contractions were doing a fine job of that already.  Our immediate task was to divert attention away from the pain with breathing and visualizations.  Think happy thoughts.

It’s not exactly hypnosis, but I don’t know how else to describe it.  I didn’t use a gold watch and ask my wife to follow it with her eyes as I swung it back and forth.  I did use my most calm and soothing voice and insist that she look at me and breathe with me.  “Take a deep breath and moan when you exhale,” I’d say.  The contractions were hitting her hard while we were on the road.  My wife was getting nervous.  “We’re almost there, sweetheart — breathe with me!”  Her sweaty hands clenched mine tightly as I drove the wet roads with my other hand.  “Don’t worry, my love, we’re still an hour away from active labor.”  That, of course, turned out not to be true.

The nurses were scrambling for a bed and equipment while I tried to keep her from pushing.  My wife dropped to her knees in pain.  She held onto my hands, but gave me a look of fear.  “I want to push!”

One of the nurses stopped what she was doing, “Don’t push, dear, the doctor’s not here, yet!”

“Deep breath… Moan!  Uhhhhhhh!”  I moaned right alongside her.  “Relax… Deep breath… don’t push, relax the muscles — moan, uhhhhhhh!”

The water broke.  The nurses came into the room with a delivery bed and my wife immodestly ripped off her clothes and slipped into the hospital gown.

“There’s myconium,” a nurse said as she checked my wife’s labor.  I looked between my wife’s legs: yes, that looks like baby poo to me, too.  This means fetal distress and usually calls for a C-section.  Fortunately, we were too far along active labor for that.  There was a real emergency, though, because Hana could end up breathing the myconium into her lungs.  The nurse will stick a tube down Hana’s throat, suck out the afterbirth, and check to see if there’s any signs of myconium in the lungs.

“Where’s Dr. Morrison?”  My wife a asked.
“He’s on his a way,” replied a nurse.
“Should we get the epidural?”  she asked me.  Her brow was already covered with huge drops of sweat.
“Dr. Morrison is almost here,” I replied.  “Only a few more minutes.  The epidural will delay for an hour or more.”  My wife nodded in agreement.  The need to push came again.

My wife is literally a hero.  Courage, endurance and patience against an onslaught of pain.  Between each contraction, I tried to focus her on breathing, relaxing and preparing for the next wave.  I described visuals of Guam, Hawaii, and Moganshan.  I reassured her that Hana was okay.

Her eyes would bulge as she stared into mine.  I smiled, “You’re doing great!  I’m so proud of you.  You’re amazing!  Breathe with me — deep breath, uhhhhh!”  We kept that up for over 20 minutes.

When the doctor finally arrived, my wife only needed a few pushes and Hana was out.  We didn’t need to push with Maya.  The doctor we had then, Dr. Fong, insisted that we not push and let the uterus do the pushing.  Perhaps there was more of an urgency this time because of signs of fetal distress.  The pushing caused a bit of tearing.  Hana was also bigger than Maya at birth: 7lbs, 6oz compared to 5lbs, 3oz.

Hana latched on quickly.  I was back at my parents’ home before midnight to put Maya to sleep.

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