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Ashes for Beauty

Ashes for Beauty: Five Reasons to Pray for Chastity this Lent

‘We don’t merely want to see beauty…we want to become beautiful.’ CS Lewis

Join us during Lent; each week we will consider a different facet of chastity and how God’s mercy frees us to realize its beauty. Perhaps this Ash Wednesday would be a good time to consider: do I know what chastity is? Have I realized it? What must I do to become chaste? Let’s explore this together for the next 47 days. Consider:

1. Chastity is Beautiful: I love chastity! I discovered its meaning in the Catholic Catechism—‘the successful integration of sexuality’ (#2337) within us, which occurs as faith guides and liberates our bodily longing for connection with others. What could be better than the power of our sexuality under the kind kingship of Jesus? Could it be that His generous self-giving might become ours in the realm of our bodily desires? Beautiful!

2. Chastity is honorable: People we love most are honored when we aspire to chastity. It means we are making decisions for another’s best interests. Chastity creates a ‘highway to holiness’ in the unseen realm of our thoughts and affections. In that way, chastity frees us to honor God ‘in our inmost parts’ (PS 51) and to prepare a way for generations-to-come to discover chastity and its benefits.

3. Chastity is Hard: Our world is crammed with values and symbols that disintegrate our sexuality. When we worship the creature and its demands, we split off from our Creator and become agitated and selfish. It takes effort and training to discover the One who composes us amid the moral storm and grants us peace. Inspired chastity frees us to say: ‘When I am in the storm, the storm is not in me.’ (Matt Redman)

4. Chastity requires Help: Chastity is at once a gift from God and a hard-won goal. Toward that end, we can humble ourselves and welcome the help of brothers and sisters. As sins against chastity love the darkness, we can come into the light of sweet fellowship and partner with fellow sinners equally committed to sainthood. The unchaste provoke relational brokenness; those committed to chastity create wholeness in community, beginning with the honest expression that ‘I am not where I want to be…’

5. Chastity requires Prayer: Jesus always hears ‘the cry for mercy.’ When we are bound to sins against chastity, we know deeply the shame and pain of our brokenness. We can know deeper still the cry for mercy which invites Jesus Himself to lift us from the mire and to help us discover the sure ground of chastity. Let us do so together this Lent.

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California Andrew Comiskey

Five Things You Need to Know about California

‘And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness.’ (IS 35:8)

Fact number one: I write this as we gather in Malibu Canyon for our first CA Living Waters Training in 11 years. We are wedged in-between two Santa Monica Mountains; Bruce Jenner’s home (won’t call him Cait) rises like a castle on a nearby hill. It would be facile to write off Los Angeles as the seat of gender-bending fantasy, no-fault divorce (every adult’s fault!), and Hollywood’s fallen stars reduced to porn. But God honors the faithful in the land; He answers our prayers by releasing His river of ‘Living Water’ upon 60 west coastal saints. Together, from San Diego to Seattle, we are being mobilized by a Force that is furious in love to reclaim His image in humanity.

Fact number two: God is reclaiming His highway of holiness in CA. Each of us represents a distinct faith community that is declaring ‘enough is enough.’ We are committed to gathering in order to declare throughout our churches that He integrates fractured souls through Almighty Mercy. We are the healed, we are the broken; we are His healers arising in His Church for such a time as this. Get ready for new and revived ‘wells of healing’ in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Central Coast, throughout Los Angeles, Pasadena, Long Beach, Inland Empire, Palm Springs, and San Diego.

We are taking up a baton that saints of old carried up the west coast. Second fact: our conference site this week is just a couple miles from El Camino Real, the Spanish ‘King’s Highway’ that Franciscan missionaries paved over the course of a hundred years beginning in the late 17th century. Led by St. Junipero Serra, these men planted the first CA churches in a series of missions that stretched from San Diego to Sonoma. Still functioning today, these outposts testify to faithful ones who braved unimaginable hardships (including clashes with greedy opportunists) to bring Jesus to the native peoples of CA. Truly, their witness along ‘El Camino’ does not honor the king of Spain, but the King of Kings who saw fit to employ them to pave His highway of holiness along the west coast.

Third fact: we at Living Waters move in the flow of the Spirit that was released mightily in 1906 when one-eyed, African American William Seymour began to hold a series of ‘Spirited’ meetings in downtown Los Angeles. Son of a slave, lit from within by holy fire, he dared to allow the Spirit to do what He had done in the Gospels and book of Acts: to heal, deliver and cleanse the people of God. Remarkable in its diversity, this ‘Azusa Street Revival’ united Christians of all stripes, dissolved racial and economic walls, and empowered women to arise in their full Holy Spirit anointing.

Fourth Fact: God used ‘Azusa Street’ as the source of the modern Pentecostal movement, whose early pioneers included Aimee Sample McPherson and the Four-Square Church movement in nearby Echo Park; that wave of the Spirit inspired Chuck Smith who in the sixties transformed disillusioned hippies into ‘Jesus-people.’ Out of Smith’s Orange County-based Cavalry Chapels emerged the Vineyard movement in the late seventies, the birthplace of Living Waters. Today the Spirit continues to fan lives into flame through Bethel in Redding CA, a youthful ‘station’ in the Spirited highway to holiness that runs up the west coast.

Fifth fact: Did you know that the two leaders of the Catholic Church in San Francisco and Los Angeles are godly men who fight for the true definition of marriage and for chastity for all persons, including those with SSA? Newly appointed Archbishops Salvatore Cordileone (SF) and Jose Gomez (LA) are pillars in God’s CA house. Pray for them! They bear unimaginable burdens for us.

God’s hands are not tied by the disintegration of His image in CA. He liberates His saints with passion for His truth. Each of us is a living stone along ‘El Camino Real.’ Pray that we at Living Waters would do our part ‘on the Way’ with passion and integrity. May many broken ones see and hear and return to trust in the Lord.

‘And the ransom of the Lord will return; they will enter Zion singing. Everlasting joy will crown their heads…and sorrow and sighing will flee away.’ (IS 35:10)

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Fun Home Dada Woof Papa Hot lost andrew comiskey new york times


During one week in December, the New York Times highlighted the following Broadway comedies and musicals: ‘Dada Woof Papa Hot’ about two ‘gay’ married couples raising kids and wondering if papa(s) are still sexy ‘hot’ given the unsexy tasks of childrearing; ‘Fun Home’, the best new musical of 2015 now primed for several (inter)national tours and described as ‘the coming-of-age story of a lesbian cartoonist whose gay father kills himself’, and the still popular musical ‘Kinky Boots’ over which a critic fawned: ‘Is it true that drag queens have more fun? The answer is yes and it’s a lesson that mainstream America seems more willing to embrace…’

What comes first: the musical comedy or the embrace of the American public? I say the latter. We now pride ourselves at laughing and singing over the unraveling of God’s image in humanity; that was obvious last June as America cheered the Supreme Court into its biggest win possible for ‘gay marriage.’ Thinking we were freeing the oppressed, we actually helped seal the fate of the oppressed. That includes persons in the throes of psycho-social/sexual/spiritual crises to whom ‘we cry peace when there is no peace,’ and pre-crisis kids growing up to the music of a gender meltdown.

How else can you read the latest results of a study done by Dr. Donald Paul Sullins who found that children of same-sex married couples are more inclined to depression, daily fear or crying, anxiety, and sexual abuse than children raised by any other parental category, including single parents? First we normalize homosexuality and grant ‘gays’ a host of privileges, including marriage, because of their wounds. We have failed to assert that the primary wound is the homosexual condition and that we have real answers for its resolution.

In accepting the deception that ‘homosexuals’ cannot ‘change,’ we insist that children change and become subject to injustices doled out by ‘gay’ caregivers.

Next comes ‘gender reassignment’ where we urge children conflicted by expectations and roles of their biological gender to find solace in the whim of ‘gender otherness’; we urge them to make their dream come true by mutilating themselves and suffering more affliction as a mockery of the opposite gender. Studies point to increased unhappiness for persons after the knife. The song kills.

Interesting: during the week that the NY Times featured ‘gender-bending’ Broadway, the paper headlined a 6-page (I kid you not) article on a real black man (Jerome) who now goes by Kricket. As wounded as a soul could be, Jerome assumed a female persona early on and is now the poster-child for poor kids pursuing free ‘gender-reassignment’ surgery through NY’s Medicare system. All is not well for post-op Jerome. Belying platitudes like ‘seizing her transgender moment’ and ‘becoming a new being,’ are Jerome’s last words in the article: ‘I still feel like an outcast. I do not know how to define myself. Who I am now?’

‘The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost’ (LK 19:10).

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mercy in any language

Mercy in Any Language

‘Divine mercy is the power of God’s love to bring not only good out of evil but the greater good out of evil.’ Fr. Michael E. Gaitley

Several nations gathered in Lithuania last week to enter the ‘Living Waters’ together. Mercy alone transformed bitter cold and wounded hearts into a homecoming for us all. Evenly divided into three cultures, Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians became whole through Jesus’ one broken body. Mercy alone.

Complex tribes and tongues–no match for this foolish American. So God reduced me to mercy. He simply reminded me of my deepest wounds and most stubborn sins and how only ‘living water’ (blood, water, Spirit; essence of Christ Crucified and Raised) set me free. And is setting me free. Settings like this provoke old hurts and sins so I welcomed fresh mercy and gave it away freely. Simple: clever concepts gave way to the river of Almighty mercy.

My friend Abbey Foard sings like a stream of ‘living water’ so she taught us repeatedly the chorus from ‘Good, Good Father’: “You’re a good, good Father: ‘it’s who You are’ (3x), and I’m loved by You, ‘it’s who I am’ (3X).” Simple: He wants His mercy alone to define us. We need to sing the song until it’s our truth.

Then I shared my struggles. I confess the shock of hearing my sins reverberate in three different languages. So be it. I boast of affliction so that His greater grace may rest on me. And them. My wounds are slight in contrast to the historic betrayals of these three nations which endured Soviet rule, especially the Poles who were smashed on every side by German and Russian forces during WWll.

These influences do not end when a treaty is signed and the wall comes down.  Cruelties reverberate today throughout fatherless families in myriad abuses and distortions of intimacy. Only mercy. Only the ‘Good, Good Father.’

God kept the flame of mercy and human dignity alive in these nations through His Church and in particular, two saints from Poland: St. Faustina who reminds us constantly of ‘Divine Mercy’ and St. John Paul ll who reminds us of what it means now to be a gendered gift, no matter how broken that gift may be. Mercy alone.

‘The knowledge of my own misery frees me to know the immensity of Your mercy.’ St. Faustina

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Mother Yes | Andrew Comiskey

Mother’s ‘Yes’

For the last five years, I’ve wondered why the Church begins each year on January 1st by honoring Mary as Christ-bearer, the one who surrendered all to bring forth the Savior of us all. It’s beginning to make sense: our salvation hinges upon that ‘yes’, just as the life of every person depends on a mother’s consent.

That ‘yes’ took on new meaning for me as I started this year celebrating my amazing mother’s 90th birthday in Long Beach CA. Mom has lived to give to her four children and countless others; her only ‘gift’ request was to be surrounded by her four kids in the family home (same one we all grew up in–who can say that?!). Over two days, we prayed and reminisced together, taking our cues from the extraordinary Phyllis Comiskey who leaves Betty White in the dust.

Mom’s determination to choose life started early, with her birth mother (I’ll call her Sue). Social workers removed Sue as a child from an unsafe home; as a young teen, she found work as a maid in a wealthy home where the son of the house impregnated her. Shamed and cast out, she gave birth to Phyllis in a poor boarding house where she lived alone.

According to an intrepid social worker who researched Phyllis’ origins, 16-year-old Sue was a devout Catholic whose only prayer was for her child to be raised in the Church. Too young and poor to raise Phyllis, Sue placed her in an orphanage. After one long year, a Protestant family adopted Mom, not quite up to her mother’s specifications, but permitted because of their devout faith.

Mom combined faith with a spirit of adventure and industry. She wanted more for her life than the regional confines of the upper Midwest; she worked hard and scored a scholarship at the top woman’s college in St. Paul. She then rejected the offer of a local marriage in order to move to post-war Los Angeles.

There she met my Dad who did not share her faith but the same intellectual curiosity and high regard for the dignity of all people. Discontent with my Dad’s choice of a Unitarian church where his fellow educators socialized, my Mom moved us kids to a traditional Episcopalian Church. She wanted us to know the gift of God in Christ, a witness made easier by her own extraordinary self-giving.

All of us kids remarked on the myriad ways she simply gave to us: verbally, materially, constantly and equally. She secured us in love.

Still, all of her love could not spare us kids from getting caught up in the sexy, druggy idolatry of a CA beach town in the sixties. Dead in sin, all her children needed to get saved. My brothers preceded me in living faith and my mom, seeing the ravages of ‘gay’ life on her son, urged me to reach for more as my brothers had, to say ‘yes’ the One who could guide me onto solid ground.

I followed her lead; her ‘yes’ to God, daily and often under duress, paved the way for all my sibs to say ‘yes’ to God. Even my Dad surrendered to the Source of her faithful witness three days before his death 7-years-ago.

Mom asked us kids what we desire for ourselves if we achieve 90-years. Big if. Nevertheless, I want to follow her example of saying ‘yes’ daily to God. She fulfilled the prayers of her poor birth mother whose only hope for her child was Jesus and His Church. I want my ‘yes’ at 90-years to answer my mother’s prayer for me and to emulate her ‘Marion’ example—surrender to God and generous self-giving that makes a way for others to know Jesus’ unfailing love.

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