Amid the din (virtual and otherwise), thank you for quieting your heart long enough to read this.
Amid a thousand requests for your service, thank you for fasting and praying with us these last 40 days, denying yourself for the salvation of others (Jude 20-23).
Amid a thousand requests for your hard-earned funds, thank you for giving to Desert Stream and helping make this one of our best financial years in a decade.
Amid the temptation to wall off sinners who resist God’s mercy, thank you for loving the unlovely generously (Matt. 18: 10-14; LK 6: 35, 36; 2 Tim 2: 23-26).
Amid the temptation to bless a loved one’s immoral choices, thank you for agreeing to disagree as you hold out for his or her best (2 Cor. 5: 16-21).
Amid the many persons who cloud the Church’s glory, thank you for loving ‘her’ by taking your place as an invaluable member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12).
Like the leper who returned to Jesus to thank Him for His healing love, thank you for cultivating gratitude and thus warding off hardness of heart (LK 17: 11-19).
Amid the temptation to detach from God due to unhealed wounds or tendencies, thank you for becoming patient and trustful in His mercy (2 Cor. 12: 7-10).
Amid the loneliness of single life, thank you for showing that His love is enough and that ‘the body is not meant for sexual immorality but for Him’ (1 Cor. 6: 13).
Amid the unmet needs in your married life, thank you for staying true to your vows and thus bearing witness of the saving love of Jesus (Matt. 19: 1-9; Eph. 5).
Amid the temptation to bury your shameful story, thank you for declaring the truth of His saving love in the specifics of your good hard life (1 P 2: 9, 10).
You are the joy of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries, ‘God’s glorious ones in whom is all our delight’ (PS 16: 3). We give thanks for you.
In these last couple weeks of our fast, I’ve had the privilege of making two trips to the Northeast where I witnessed the irresistible splendor of Jesus in His Church, both evangelical and Catholic. The Spirit is stirring up His saints, girding them in truth and welling up like living water to grant the gender broken a better Word. One can have any number of freedoms and still be a slave! Jesus alone frees the sin-shackled and makes us true sons and daughters of the one Father.
In Pennsylvania, I gathered with a group of priests who meet regularly to share their sexual vulnerabilities and the healing love that sets them free; in New York City and New Jersey I gathered with turned-on Korean-Americans who are as committed to becoming whole as they are becoming good news for their LGBT+ friends. I spent most of my time in the borough of Queens where I invested in a church renowned for its efforts at creating emotionally healthy community and fostering racial reconciliation. Stunningly so! Yet the pastors have the wisdom to know the difference between ethnicity and gender identity issues; they celebrate a diversity of tribes and tongues while refusing the ‘gender spectrum’ ideology that fractures God’s children. Mercy welled up as we testified of His unfailing love that reconciles us to our true humanity—male and female–in this one body.
Before setting off for these trips, I had the privilege of assisting at the Mass celebrating the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It is my favorite feast of the church year, as it is the only one that celebrates the Church herself: the irresistible splendor of Jesus revealed in His body. As I read from Ezekiel 47 about the water levels rising in the temple until the saints are immersed and flowing out into the world in order to heal and feed the broken (‘their fruit shall serve for food and their leaves for medicine’, EZ 47: 12), I realized that this is our mission. It is being fulfilled as we gather and lift up Jesus as Healer!
In all of our Northeast gatherings, I fielded questions from countless saints who face increasingly complex hardships due to LGBT+ demands: the deacon working with a nominal Christian family whose 4-year-old daughter showed up in Sunday School as a boy, the assistant male youth leader who announced his ‘transition’ to womanhood, the influential minister now ‘gay married’ and adopting children while extolling the joys of ‘gay Christianity’, the worker whose ‘gay’ boss firmly encourages his employees to stick rainbow emblems on their office doors, and many who simply want to know how to care for loved ones who now live under the rainbow. As we prayed at every meeting for Jesus to come and show us His way–the mercy that is ours only as we enter through the gate of His body and blood shed for us in the one body–the water levels rose and immersed us in the divine love that breaks human enslavement. We bring a better Word endowed with power to save the gender broken. His love radiant in humbled, poured-out saints: Irresistible.
‘We are struck down but not destroyed, always carrying around in the body the death of Jesus that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.’
(2Cor 4: 9b, 10)
As our fast continues, I am especially grateful for the parents of strugglers who are becoming prayer warriors. I believe that the mightiest members of God’s healing army today are mothers and fathers whose children have ‘come out’ as LGBT+. Struck down by unintentional acts of domestic violence, these parents—facedown–discover Jesus for themselves.
Another’s wound and rebellion wakes them up. At last. The God of their childhood becomes Savior and Lord for them now. He gives them a share in His heart for the broken in need of His body. They will change the face of the Church.
I met Teri at an Encourage meeting. She was distraught and nearly hopeless about her daughter who claimed to be transitioning into a ‘son.’ At that point, her goal was to amass info about ‘transgender’ realities. She learned in the next few months that gaining knowledge was her way of controlling the chaos at hand.
When I saw her next at our ‘Open to Life’ seminar, she was remarkably composed. She told me that though she is happy to learn more, she knows what God wants. ‘He wants me. This is more about my conversion than anything else. I am learning how to trust Him as never before.’
Teri followed up that seminar with a small Lenten prayer group we hosted about chastity, what it means to become whole in our gender and sexuality. Several persons attended with apparent gender identity problems. Teri’s divides are not apparent; she looks like the well-heeled and adjusted head of women’s ministry. Yet she was the first to lead out with confession about her issues as a woman and why those issues probably had made life harder for her daughter. What a woman. She goes to the Cross for her own brokenness first. She prays for her daughter out of the mercy she receives from Jesus.
Now I have the privilege of walking with Teri through a Living Waters group. I arrived at my parish early to set up one night and noticed a woman kneeling at the altar beneath the Cross. She was radiant, fragrant with holiness and looked a bit like Mary Mother of God as she united her heart with Jesus. I failed to realize it was Teri until later. No matter; even from a distance, I could discern that this intercessor was in sync with her Savior and destined to move mountains. A sword may have pierced her heart (LK 2:35), but with that same sword, surrendered to Jesus, she will thwart the enemy’s schemes. Thank God for His marvelous plan!
Last week, November 1st, the day the Church honors her members on earth and heaven, we buried my son Nick’s second child Elizabeth in a small plot next to her brother Luke. She outlived him by two weeks. Surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses? (Heb. 12:1) Light penetrated our dismal gathering only by faith.
We had lived with her death for three weeks: numb, uncomprehending. Lamenting for Luke two years earlier was easier; this was more of a dull ache. It remains unfathomable. Two parents should not be admitted to the hospital twice to experience life’s greatest miracle only to return home empty-handed. The dance became a dirge. Twice!
Yes Jesus smashed the head of sin and death. But evil still slithers and strikes. Such cruelty is senseless.
Annette and I longed to bear our kids’ burden. That makes sense: we have more cross-bearing experience. Yet their suffering is uniquely theirs. That is our pain: to walk with them, helpless to change anything. We can only come alongside and pray and hope that the snakebite does not destroy something precious in them.
I cannot describe how proud we are of Nick and Meg. They were awesome parents to both Luke and Elizabeth. The decision after Luke’s death to try again took guts. They gave it their all and endured with dignity the indignity of losing Elizabeth. Together. They share a quiet, profound reliance upon each other.
The All Saints Mass reminded me that the communion of saints is as earthy as the soil in which we interred Elizabeth. We may not have answers but we have each other. And we have help from heaven. Later that day I remembered my favorite saints fighting now for our endurance: Bruno, Francis, Faustina, John Paul II, Therese. I am grateful for their battles, their snakebites, the fires they endured for the joy set before them. They help us. I feel little but know that we are surrounded.
‘The help we receive from heaven is like an invisible yet mighty river of life.’
Count on Hollywood to highlight a real threat to human dignity (sexual assault, power abuse, a la Harvey Weinstein) only to distort its threat to the point of mockery. If Heather Lind’s accusation of 93-year-old George HW Bush’s sexually assaulting her does not provoke an SNL sketch, I’ll never watch it again.
If you recall, actress Lind accused the former president of placing his hand on her bottom as they posed for a large group photo. Wheel-chair bound Bush insists that the position of his hand was the best he could do in light of his lowered seat. Intentional or not, his alleged ‘assault’ seems inflated. Are we ready to describe the brush of a hand (or another body part) against another’s vulnerable area as an ‘assault’, in the same category as rape? Ludicrous, of course, but ‘any type of sexual contact that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient’ is how we now define sexual assault.
This from an industry that rewards feminine sex appeal above all else. Yes there are bad powerbrokers. And yes there are scads of beautiful women who contribute to this exploitation by consenting to a host of vulgar scenarios. Kate Winslet who can hardly keep her clothes on in film self-righteously noted that she did not thank Harvey Weinstein when she won an Oscar for a film he produced. How noble. Another actress now accuses director Oliver Stone of touching her breasts; the only film footage that played in the background as she cried on cue was of her ample breasts displayed for a vulgar/comic moment on a sitcom. Enough said.
In spite of some women’s mixed messages, nothing warrants or excuses sexual assault. I would add to that: wise up and take responsibility. Mayim Bialik wrote a funny, smart essay on ‘Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World’ in which she implores young actresses to invest more in brainpower than bra power. (NY Times op-ed Oct. 13, ’17) Bailik was dissed for collaborating with the enemy. It reminds me of ‘gay’ activists who in the eighties decried HIV-related discrimination while they actively spread the disease by refusing to play it ‘safe.’
Miss Lind, I urge you use your ‘power’ to remove the misplaced hand from your behind. Assume that a 93-year-old unwell man is innocent before declaring him guilty. For the sake of justice, stay off social media. We make heroes felons through virtual kangaroo courts. Let’s also acquire language that allows us to distinguish between ‘brushes’ with another’s sexual intention and actual sexual violation. If everyone has been sexually assaulted, has anyone? We serve justice to those impacted by life-threatening coercion when we calibrate our language and discern proper forums for addressing sexual assault.