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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grounded 2

‘Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has…?’

Hard to identify each little loss—they blur into a haze. Maybe familiar Lenten sacrifices like rich food and wine, or the absence of family and friends with whom to share the leanest of fare? (You can’t ‘zoom’ a meal).

Or is it the now familiar infusion of fear in those around you which challenges your peace? You know, that vow to stay calm, to not let ‘it’ get you. Unless you have no nerve-endings, ‘it’ (covid-19) bangs on your door each time you witness people better than you losing breath. Agitation in the outer courts, clamoring for your core…

Jesus in the Eucharist centers me like nothing else. Partaking of the Body and Blood daily has become for this Catholic convert the centerpiece of my worship. Yep, that is what I miss most in the lockdown—no Holy Meal.

Don’t get me wrong: I love singing simple songs of love to Jesus, hearing Scriptural exhortations to armor oneself in faith, and receiving inspired prophetic prayers. But nothing will do like Christ-in-me, the reception of Jesus in the inner courts, fortifying this warrior in the most profound way.

It took time to get there. I was raised Episcopalian where a slightly diluted Catholic take on communion prevailed; I valued the meal but did not know its Subject. Later charismatic versions were super casual, tough to interpret in their myriad forms. Leanne Payne tutored me in an Orthodox version which opened my heart to more. Then a two-year prep at a local parish before becoming confirmed.

I could hardly wait, for I embraced the Catholic view, as you may well know, that insists on priestly prayers (in the line of Peter) to transform the elements into a re-presentation of Jesus—His real body and blood–every Mass.

Quite a claim. I aspired to this edible Jesus and lived with increasing hunger until that Easter Vigil 9-years-ago. Jesus ‘satisfied my desires with good things’ and I’ve not looked back but knelt forward in daily Mass ever since. Until now.

A virus got in the way. Church doors are locked, no opening in view. I hunger for Him. I can remember Him and many healing meals, can meditate on the Word, and prayerfully agree with Annette about His goodness over our family, but I cannot consume Him. Big loss. I ache for Him, not unlike the wait ten-years-ago.

Only now I’ve ‘tasted and seen His goodness’, passed into Him, consumed and been composed by Him. I hunger and thirst for the One.

If there is a purpose in this ‘ache’, Pope Benedict said it first and best: ‘Do we not often take the reception of the Blessed Sacrament too lightly? Might not this kind of spiritual fasting be of service, or even necessary, to deepen and renew our relationship to the Body of Christ?’

I guess he means that it’s ok to hunger a little, to not take for granted what one now expects. Perhaps many of us do not savor enough the Gift of the Holy Meal.

So I wait again. Help me, help us, O God, to hunger patiently.

‘…If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’ (Rom. 8: 24b, 25)

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Overcoming False Intimacy

I became a man through confronting my pastor for partaking of his sheep, e.g. emotionally and sexually manipulating a host of single women. My efforts were unwelcomed: the pastor duped his overseer, blamed us for being overly rigorous, and turned our colleagues on the pastoral staff against us. For the first time in our lives together, Annette and I (and Desert Stream Ministries) were homeless.

I loved this man but he refused to see the power of his position, the misuse of his body and other bodies, and its impact on the congregation. His moral blindness diminished the power of the Gospel. The community shrank for a couple years until more women came forward and the overseer served justice by replacing him.

Shepherds with sexual integrity serve justice; they give the sheep their due. No confusing messages, no lingering hugs and longing glances—an intact pastor lets his sheep be sheep and makes no sexual or inordinate emotional demands upon them. Such clear seeing and solid limits result from good moral formation before ordination. The pastor-in-training makes peace with his sexuality, is aware of its power, and learns—in the power of the Spirit–to restrain and direct desire for the good of others. For the sake of the Gospel.

But. Sometimes the runner stumbles. Good men begin the race with noble intentions. Yet under the weight of multiple pressures, dormant weaknesses may resurface and become wicked. I have known many men whose unmet need for connection finds a human outlet, which overwhelms their good judgment and goads them to break sacred bonds all the way around. Lord, have mercy. We can and must pray that such compromised shepherds come to their senses. Unlike the pastor I referenced, many do not defend their divided lives. The eyes of their heart open to the damage done and they cry out for mercy.

We recently had the privilege of standing with a pastor who, admittedly weak in areas, has fought hard and out loud for his integrity. In a dark season, he fell back into some old patterns. We as a community served justice with mercy. He was broken and vulnerable before us. Each person honestly expressed pain over his compromise. We had felt his distancing and denials; we conveyed some mistrust and asked what he would do to prevent this from happening again.

Return to his first love. This pastor was successful, much sought out; the roar of ministry had deafened his ear toward Jesus’ still small voice. He committed to reordering his life around adoration of the One. ‘…the answer to the problems that beset so many priests, causing them to fall into patterns of sin, is the friendship I offer them.’ ()

Reveal himself constantly to a small band of brothers. We urged him to redraw his commitment to two or three trusted colleagues with whom he vowed to be utterly, prayerfully honest. None of us surrounding him were pastors, and thus, we could not wholly grasp his burdens. But his pastor brothers could, and we insisted that he forge a community that would be mutually refining. He also promised to let his overseer know his struggle and how he was handling it; at the same time, he knew that daily ‘truth-telling’ would have to be homegrown, not hierarchical.

Reclaim robust chastity. He became a pastor based on his commitment to growing in chastity, a virile integration of his sexuality that would free him to confirm others with clarity and conviction. We confirmed that earthy call and called him to agree once more with Jesus’ ‘yes’ to power from on high to live a united, pure life—body, soul, and spirit. ‘We need that wholeness from you,’ we said. Mercy liberates justice, then justice is served by shepherds whose ordered desires ‘lead us besides still waters’ where we can ‘lay down in green pastures.’

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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prayer schedule

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Grounded 1

My dreams reveal one frustrated guy. I wake up half-smiling at the heart’s antics: I can’t get out of the room or parking lot, no exit, strange humiliations where others have the upper hand and I am out-of-control. This lockdown may just make me loony. In that way, I am a thoroughly fallen American—you know, manifest destiny, don’t fence-me-in, smaller-the-government-the-better kind of stuff.

I am glad for Jesus’ mercy on my stalled but seething heart. And for His Church. On what may be the last homily I’ll hear in person for a while, Father Justin (what a guy) preached on the Samaritan woman. He centered on the fact that Jesus ‘had to go through Samaria’ (Jn. 4:4) in route to Jerusalem. Better put, He chose to go out of His way into this compromised and slightly hostile land in order to extend mercy to a compromised, slightly hostile woman.

Justin’s point? Jesus will go to any length to find you. He will tear up the map, overlook your rebellious thoughts and actions, and pierce every veil in you that repels ‘living water.’ He’ll wear Himself out just to look into your eyes and love you. Lockdowns give you a lot of time to just be loved.

Annoying. I want to act! I don’t want to be the object of desire, I want to be the subject, doing what I want! Well, well. Times have changed.

I was musing on how my roving heart is particularly unsuited for now when I ran into a woman (bad word choice; I kept a polite distance) for whom I had prayed but never met face-to-face. Abbey and I had seen her at different coffee joints; she was evidently trying to erase her womanhood and had adopted a male name.

We both caught her name and brought it into staff intercession. For about 6 months we regularly lifted her up and then, voila, she appeared. Grateful to shake off my self-concern for a moment, I gently told her that Jesus had placed her on my and another colleague’s heart, and that we felt a bit like we knew her as we gathered to pray and caught something of the Father’s love for His very special daughter. Simple. ‘God loves you that much,’ I said and went on my way.

My lockdown may well be an occasion to pray for Samaritans and to enter more deeply into His merciful heart for them. For all of us.

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Whose Witness are You?

Pete Buttigieg is an impressive guy. This former presidential candidate (and potential running mate) gave us the best sound bites of the Democrat debates—smart, savvy, memorable. Yet his life is a tragic reflection of a nation hell-bent on denying its Creator. How else can you make sense of the silence that surrounded his faux marriage to a dude?

The fact that we no longer flinch when a man kisses his male ‘spouse’ on the global stage means we no longer take seriously the Creator and His purposes for our sexuality.

Sounds prudish, I know. Come on, you say, let Pete have his ‘happiness.’ When we think like that, we divorce God from happiness. ‘We concern ourselves with our own interests, and not the interests of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 2:21). Every man and woman must give an answer to what (s)he does with the bodily powers of life and love. Either we aspire to fruitful communion (fusing the unitive and procreative) and represent the One in whose image we are made, or we meet our needs, our way. Whose witness are you?

Come on, you say: leave the oppressed ‘gay’ dude alone. Besides the billions of oppressed ‘gay’ dollars his campaign received, Pete is not the scapegoat here. His ‘out and proud’ status is merely one fractured witness of America’s culture of death, the one we each support in some form or another. I refer to the many dark strands of our national commitment to separating committed sexual love from the creation of children: contraception, abortion, surrogacy, fornication, divorce, porn and fantasy-driven lust and masturbation. Why not ‘gay’ everything? Come to think of it, why not get rid of gender altogether?

Note to the nation: sexual love is about uniting a man and a woman so they can aspire to create and care for kids reasonably well. It’s not about creating my ‘happiness’ by concocting some weird identity or relationship or habit that feels good to me. Sex is about life, creating and caring for someone else.

Just as most expressions of sexuality today fail to bring forth new life, so do these dead-end witnesses cast a shadow of death upon the children who fall under it. Last month at a Denver rally, Buttigieg answered a text-sent question from a 9-year-old boy in the crowd who asked: ‘Would you help me tell the world I am ‘gay’ too? I want to be brave too…’ The crowd chanted: ‘Love is love’…

Pete responded to the boy: ‘Your bravery is an inspiration…You’ll never know whose life you might be affecting by sharing your story…You never know who is feeling a little braver because of your courage.’ When you ‘honor’ Pete’s witness, you help conform a child to his dead-end witness.

Unchecked, much applauded LGBT-prattle from the Buttigiegs of this world stem from our culture of death and darken its shadow on the most vulnerable. We must decide: do we represent our Creator in our sexual values? Or the creature? Whose witness are you?

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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prayer schedule

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Advocacy, Not Acrimony

‘I will not leave you as orphans…The Advocate, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you…Peace I leave with you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (Jn. 14:18; 26-28)

Freedom from our ‘pastor wounds’ frees us to advocate for shepherds. They need advocacy! When we pray for their immersion in ‘living water’, we flush out whatever bitterness (acrimony) still tempts us to bite them and we become conduits of the Holy Spirit. I love that! Rather than pine for pastors’ empowerment of me, I can advocate prayerfully for renewal of their strength. That is how St. John continually defined the Holy Spirit—the Advocate, or mighty Counselor, who makes Jesus known to His own, including pastors.

Our spiritual authority to advocate for shepherds is a great empowerment. We kneel child-like yet ferocious before the One who hears and acts when we rebuke the accuser who shames our shepherds constantly; we invoke that Spirit who reminds pastors of who they are as beloved of the Father. We bind away any familiar spirit of discouragement and ask the Father to woo these ones ‘beside still waters’ where He just wants to love them. There He reenergizes His shepherds for all the glorious impossibilities before them.

Their purposes are essential. God has called these ones to function differently than we do. They have assumed the weighty task of re-presenting Jesus to us. That is one big sacrifice! When they do it well, we grow; when they flounder, we are confused, even scattered. We can pray: ‘Good Shepherd, open the eyes of ____ heart to know You well this day, to walk in step with You, to heed Your whispers. Whatever burden You ask _____bear, may (s)he bear it gracefully with You whose yoke is easy. Reveal Yourself through ____ today.’

Not only have they a weighty purpose, they bear that weight in their personhood. (Yes, yoked to Jesus, but also in their humanity.) Some began to pastor unaware of the weaknesses that could cave under pressure; some pastored as to displace or deny those weaknesses. Surprise! Ministry, like marriage, exposes our cracks. We can cry ‘hypocrite!’ over our divided shepherds, or we can cry out for mercy for them, that ‘living water’ might invite them into wholeness. Ask yourself: what invited you to heal, the accuser or the kindness of God? ‘Jesus, lead these ones into trustworthy friendship with persons who can love them truthfully, well.’

More than anything, pastors need to live out of the loving Presence of Jesus who called them in the first place. ‘Having begun in the Spirit,’ shepherds often proceed in the flesh to do the impossible. They readily bear too much weight which breaks down their lifeline: intimacy with the Father through Jesus. We pray for His Real Presence to come quickly and gather these ones in His arms. ‘Father, would You draw Your shepherds like lambs and carry them close to Your heart?’

We take heart. Like the bold and persistent man who sought bread for his friend at midnight, so we cry out as advocates for our shepherds. We know that You, Good Shepherd, hear and act: ‘If we who are evil give good gifts to our children, how much more will You, our Father in heaven, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask You.’ (Lk. 11: 5-13). ‘Pour out Your Spirit like rain upon our pastors, we pray!’

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

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