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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Tour de Trust

Why did I sign up in the first place? I’ve ridden thousands of miles on bike but have never raced, let alone raced at 7500 feet in the mountains with a 3000 foot incline over its 50-mile course. Such was the Tour of Big Bear CA that I bungled into last week.

We had gathered in that resort town for a family gathering—kids, Annette, and her side of the family who own a hotel there which sponsored the race. How hard could it be, I thought?

Maybe I was lulled into a false peace by my son Nick who tends to win most competitions. (Yes you heard it here; he places FIRST) As I observed him flying around Big Bear prepping for this race with removable pedals molded to shoes and those skin-like outfits, I woke up. At the midnight hour, I realized I knew next to nothing about racing. Nick kept giving me little tips like: ‘You probably need a bike with thinner tires’ (the bike secured for me was thick, with fat tires); ‘You cannot listen to music on a race’ (what, no worship music to drown out my fears? And apparently the roar of riders and cars on steep narrow mountain passes?); I did not even know where to secure my number on the bike.

On the morning of the race, I cobbled together a strange outfit more fitting for running (that’s what I know) than the sleek world of bike-racing. Combined with my fat bike, I felt like an alien, the kid from the country who transfers into your sixth grade class, hapless and eager. And scared. Then I thought: ‘Well, I am an alien. I am so outside my game.’ Then it got fun. ‘OK God, You love aliens. Check. You give strength to weak ones. Check. You won’t let me tumble down the mountain. Check…’ (I deleted actual tragedies from my memory bank.)

Well, some fear can be is a good thing. It drives you to God and empowers you to go where you might not otherwise. The race was on and I found my stride after about 90 minutes of, well, terror. The first part was exceedingly hard, way up and way down with tons of vehicles everywhere. I focused on a few people who traveled ahead of me: mostly Asian and Hispanic (cool CA diversity) who were responsive to my lame ‘looking good’ encouragements (supporting them was insurance against my free-fall). I noticed a couple of guys coming alongside their girls and supporting them in the climb. (Sexist maybe; I thought them noble.)

Anyway, as we rode back from Snow Valley to Big Bear, I loosened up enough to see the hills (they help us right, King David?), 8500 feet of help, something God uses to call us up and out of ourselves into marvels that fear might obscure forever. During the fourth and last hour of the race I began to jam, an alien with wings, grateful for the race.

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Courage for Chaste Sex

At the Courage conference last week in Chicago, Annette and I had the privilege to testify on the glorious challenge of forging a marriage in light of my same-sex attraction and her sexual abuse—two gifts that keep on giving! Actually, we are gifts to each other who through the grace of Jesus’ cross have delighted in our co-humanity for nearly 40 years now.

We spoke candidly on our intimate life. We wanted to break the false yet common assumption that chastity always involves abstinence. Not so. Chastity is integrating one’s sexuality in such a way that frees one to be faithful to God in singleness or marriage. If married, that means being faithful to the one you actively engage with sexually. For us, chastity invites us into a robust sexual life that celebrates this bond of two–body, soul, and spirit.

The context mattered as Courage has not majored on marriage and the person with same-sex attraction. One might get the impression (however erroneous) that Courage is comfortable supporting singles en route to chastity but uncertain about whether God calls persons with same-sex attraction to marriage. Untrue. Many Courage members are married. And in truth, Annette and I are treated with such dignity in the Courage world. For Annette in particular, the Courage family has been the most warm and consistent and hospitable to her than she has experienced in any other comparable network.

Nevertheless, you could say that marrieds are underrepresented at Courage. Several members have questioned my call to marriage as if my diminishing same-sex attraction invalidates that call. Or disables it. Not true. I am convinced that persons with a background of same-sex attraction who become espoused to Jesus and who ‘work the program’ of acquiring self-control and activating their gender gift for the other become the best spouses. We rely on Jesus and are intentional in our love for this other. We make great lovers. Period.

And we realize that chaste lovemaking—earthy and sensational as it is–must take place in the context of a greater regard for the whole person. We prepare for nakedness by disclosing—fully clothed–our dirty secrets, our ragged complaints, and our gratitude for this person before us who seeks to give all to us. Surrounding our sharing is the grace of Jesus. He gave all, He gives all still, and that makes all the difference.

I close with this brief note I recently found from Annette, fall ’82. It represents for me the foundation for chaste sex. ‘When you remarked on my complexity, I began to reflect on how profoundly the Lord has transformed me. He has wrought changes in me that have created a new heart: a soft, feminine one, not the hard protective shell of a heart I had when we met three years ago. Thank you for standing by me. You represent security to me—the Lord has used you to give me a kind of permanence I’ve always needed. I love you very much.’ Annette

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Good to be Alone?

Sexuality has something to do with directing us out of our aloneness and into creative communion with others. God made it that way. However challenging that ‘gift-giving’ is today, it remains the way that we honor our parents, grow in appreciation of our gender and that of the other, and become parents ourselves. The Scripture says it best: how wondrous that God did not create us to be alone (Gen. 2:18)! (Special thanks to Theologian Dr. Mary McCarthy for this insight.)

How clever of the evil one to introduce the idea that real freedom comes from foregoing the aim of one’s maleness or femaleness and exploring any number of gendered selves (60+ and counting). As I engaged with many twenty-somethings who came to our Living Waters Training last week, I could see their battle to forego onramps to alternative identities so they might proceed on the one true highway to wholeness. A route defined by becoming the awesome man or woman, son or daughter of the Most High!

Think about this battle. ‘Tim’ has certain feelings for his own best male friend and comes out as ‘gay.’ Immediately he foregoes the intended good of his masculinity by offering it to a non-creative source (The friend’s mouth or anus.) Immediately, his parents are put in a weird position: they conceived him, after all, and want him to grow in that openness to life. Instead, he insists that they embrace his identity or else. ‘Or else’ probably means he rejects them for telling their truth. Tim’s new way imposes a prison of aloneness: alienation from his family and the purpose of sexuality. All he gets is a friend with benefits, and that won’t last long. Tim is alone. Satan has his way.

We forsake the enemy by entering into the great waves of mercy flowing from Jesus. We immersed ourselves in those waters last week. Repentance to Him and a process of gender reconciliation unites us with the Father’s love for us and the advocacy of His people. Surrounded by that cloud of witnesses, one begins to belong to his or her gender peer. One begins to appreciate the other. One begins to sorrow over the breakdown with parents and begins to access mercy for the damage done. Jesus becomes the conduit of ‘living water’ that liberates a community that (s)he has never known.

When we as the Church become what Jesus always called us to be—a tender almighty, consistent and trustworthy love that dissolves walls and reveals our naked longing for communion—the enemy will slink away like the defeated tyrant he is. Alienated children will discover their true home. This is a home where we live the truth together: ‘It is not good that we be alone.’

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Repent

I joined the Catholic Church because (among other things) of her witness of marriage and chastity; I die daily as a Catholic because of fellow members who defile that witness by championing ‘gay marriage’ and all things LGBT.

Look no further than talk show host Stephen Colbert who regularly advocates homosexual practice or comedian Jim Gaffigan who led his family in waving rainbow flags at NYC’s recent ‘Gay’ Pride parade. Or the National Catholic Reporter who advocated that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois be fired because he established guidelines to ensure that the ‘gay married’ and all who participate in sex outside of real marriage must first repent if they are to actively engage in the Church (Decree Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues’, June 12, 2017 ).

Reporter Michael Sean Winters entitled his scourge ‘Bishop Paprocki’s Unhinged Decree on Same-Sex Marriage’ (June 26th, 2017). The only thing unhinged is a Catholic who claims to take his faith seriously and who advocates that vulnerable persons assume ‘gay’ selves and practices. Wounded people deserve better. Better is Jesus Christ.

The only way a compromised Catholic or any hypocritical Christian comes to know the real Jesus is by following Bishop Paprocki’s simple and merciful call to repent. Repent! We can turn! God gives us grace to come out of demonic shadows where even the faithful are reduced to worldly solutions and platitudes. Instead we can turn into His light and begin to face courageously the mess we have made of our lives, and the mercy that paves marks a whole new Way.

No-one knows better than myself the division of soul, and the spiritual darkness that surrounds, when a soul defies his or her Creator by ‘coming out’ into an alien LGBT self. That power is broken only through admitting one’s error and turning to Jesus. For this we need Church leaders and laity alike to follow Bishop Paprocki’s bold lead. I close with the Bishop’s wisdom:

‘It is not hateful to say that an immoral action is sinful. On the contrary, it is the most compassionate thing we can do to help people to turn away from sin. To ignore another person’s wrongful actions is a sign of apathy or indifference, while fraternal correction is motivated by love for the person’s well-being, as can be seen by the fact that our Lord Jesus himself urged such correction (Matt. 18:15). Indeed, the call to repentance is at the heart of the Gospel, as Jesus proclaimed, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Good News’ (MK 1:15).

The Good News is that God’s mercy and forgiveness extend to those who repent. Mercy does not mean approving of something that is sinful, but does absolve the wrongdoer after a change of heart takes place in the sinner through the gift of God’s grace. It is not the Church that must change to conform its teachings to the views of the world, but it is each individual who is called to be configured to Christ.’ (Homily for Prayers of Reparation for Same-Sex Marriage’ Nov. 20th, ’13)

Please pray that Catholics would align themselves with their truth about marriage, chastity, and the gift of repentance for all sexual sinners.

Please join us in Chicago July 27th-30th at the annual Courage Conference where we will share about our rich life together. As I said, we don’t speak together often so join us for this unusual opportunity. The Courage gathering offers an array of healing persons and gifts. Hope to see you there.

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Cross Fit: Sorrow and Self-Giving

I am just winding up a month off in which I spent a lot of time with the one I love most—me! Ouch. Truth hurts. Gratefully my native selfishness was no match for the glorious time Annette and I shared. We stayed home, caught our breath, and renewed our vows. Time off and tuned to each other: nothing better.

A long time ago Jesus called Annette and me to our primary vocation, which is marriage. Anything good that springs out of ministry flows from this most important union.

No-one deserves my attention like her. Consider this: for the last 36 years of our lives together, Annette has said ‘yes’ over and over again to Jesus as I have gone throughout the world to impart His transforming power for sexually broken people. We love to minister together but kids and Annette’s homing instinct have resulted in a division of labor, which became even more accentuated over the last six months. A flurry of national and international trips rendered Annette nothing short of a ‘war bride’ so it was a huge gift to have a month off to reunite. Thank you to all who helped to sustain Desert Stream in our absence. You freed us from any financial concern; we are deeply grateful. You gave and we rested. Bravo.

As always, repose brought exposure. At the beginning of our time off, Annette brought up afresh an area in which we have disagreed. I disagreed again and could not see her perspective. That day’s Gospel reading—‘whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me’ (Matt. 10:38)—hit me hard and exposed a plank in my eye. A familiar stronghold of selfishness blinded me to Annette’s greater need.

I sought out my pastor and he counseled me well. A deep sorrow over my sin resulted, something only the Spirit and holy space could inspire. Aquinas wrote that such sorrow is sign that the Cross is being born in one’s heart. Let it be so. In areas where I do not see well, I need to slow down and feel the gravity of my sin. Only then will my repentance be genuine, not a superficial shaking off of shame.

That repentance has continued over these weeks and resulted in what I can only describe as a renewed passion in me to fulfill St. Paul’s words ‘to love our wives as Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself up for her’ (Eph. 5:25). No small task! When I take seriously Jesus’ self-giving on Calvary—the piercing that released the healing flood (Zech. 12:10-13:2)—I can re-enter His fruitful surrender and deny afresh my selfish, controlling ways in order to offer what I can to this amazing woman who deserves that and more.

I do not allow my evident faults to stop me from giving more. That is always Jesus’ direction to husbands, a self-giving that springs from the arresting sorrow of His Cross.

Please join Annette and me in Chicago July 27th-30th at the annual Courage Conference where we will share about our rich life together. As I said, we don’t speak together often so join us for this unusual opportunity. The Courage gathering offers an array of healing persons and gifts. Hope to see you there.

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