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Annette Comiskey

Annette

Love has a name. I discovered its meaning only when I chose to offer myself 35-years-ago to this person named Annette. What I thought I knew about love meant little as I bumped up against my selfishness. (I prided myself on a kind of reflective, poetic awareness of love but actually knew next to nothing about it.) In joy and especially in her tears, Annette invited me to love her because she was worth it. I wanted to do so. Though desire spurs us onto discipline, they are not the same things. I was flabby in love.

One factor (though by no means the only) involved my homosexual background. Neither God nor I was content for me to muck around all my days bowing before mirror images of myself. I was done being seduced by Narcissus– mirages of idealized masculinity that lured me only to sicken me. The challenge of conversion is that you start to worship the ONE and in so doing you catch glimpses of what is true about yourself and the rest of creation. That is good. And scary. Pieper is right; maybe we stay sick in order to shirk the responsibility of wholeness.

Annette was a real woman, whole-enough: smart and sophisticated, attuned to others, a God-seeker but bound up inside too, as if she had to earn His love. Annette was dimensional, and I tracked with her; I wanted her but I wanted her on my terms and I cannot say I ever got close enough to anyone to know their terms. Until I entered into Annette’s world. Wow. Uncharted territory: would I love the whole of her and ‘man-up’ enough to offer the ragged whole of me?

A few things helped: mutual sexual desire took a little while, as is often the case when one has SSA. The pleasure we found in each other’s bodies developed in the context of a growing relationship; the more we disclosed about our lives and trusted each other, the more we desired each other.

And Annette was easy to desire. She possessed an ease of being, an integrated gift of welcoming others into her life. I marveled at how she could open the door of her heart to persons she trusted and display a range of emotions with an immediacy that at once drew me and challenged me.

It helped to place Jesus at the center of our communion. That may have been slightly defensive on my end but in truth, Annette and I wanted Him and His will above all else. As Annette discovered more about the depth of Jesus’ love for her and welcomed His Spirit in the core areas of her life (she had a lot of fear-based problems due to childhood sexual abuse), she grew more and more beautiful to me. I realize now that marriage involves body and soul and that the enlightened soul permeates the body and makes it hot. Spirit-filled Annette turned me on.

So in fear and trembling and with great expectations, we said yes to each other. Saying yes to each other meant saying no to everyone else. By that I mean divisive things, like unhelpful advice or other lovers, real or imagined. We took the marriage bed seriously and refused to allow phantoms to insinuate themselves into the bond we shared. Yes, we talked things out, still do, but out of respect for each other and on the solid ground of trusting each other.

We share a rich legacy in ministry but deeper still is our family life. Annette is the best Mom: she has never flagged at offering herself wholly to our four kids while also giving them space to grow apart from her. We shared parenting from the start, still do—we have discovered that the task morphs but never stops. Raising kids highlights the truth that sexual love is about more than interpersonal pleasure (though for that I am grateful); God intends sex to create other lives. That is why discipline in the sexual realm is so crucial. What you make you must also tend, and what you do privately gets passed down to your kids whether they know it or not. Sex is powerful. That’s why chastity means everything to us.

As we move into our 36th year, I notice that we bicker less and accept each other more; we no longer treat misdemeanors as felonies and have dug a deeper well of mercy that we offer one other in unspoken ways. We have weathered a host of hardships together, which has seasoned and tempered our bond. Annette grows in virtue, the beauty of holiness. We do not need to ‘talk things out’ as much as before. We look at each other’s exquisitely lined faces with gratitude after 35 years of life together. We speak words of love to each other. We grow in living those words. Not too hard–I know love’s name.

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good father

Good Father

By Cindy Del Hierro

Chris Tomlin’s song, ‘Good Good Father’, swept through many of our churches this past year. The melody and lyrics ring true to our hearts: “You’re a good good Father, it’s who you are, and I am loved by you, it’s who I am…” Like a heavenly lullaby, it soothes the wounded soul by affirming our sense of belonging and identity. Unintentionally it became a theme song for our Living Waters group in Denver. Lyrical phrases from Tomlin’s song lingered over us as we pressed into what can be a painful redemptive process: “You call me deeper still, into love…”

“You are perfect in all Your ways”…Two women experienced His perfect way in my small group. Each one came to the group with an aching wound from the lack of an earthly father in their early lives. Still longing for his confirmation, they were stuck in their healing process and unable to comprehend a way forward. For Joey, the loss of father had occurred while she was still in the womb; her father had taken his own life before she was born so she never truly knew him. For Jamie, the loss occurred when she was 8-years-old after her father was murdered in prison.

Both of them expressed similar feelings of disconnection, confusion and lack of self-confidence. Week after week, the pain of abandonment and grief surfaced. Hearing about the significant role God intends father to play in our lives exposed the depth of their ‘father-wounds.’

While taking time to pray through family history and generational sins, a surprising connection unearthed between them. Neither woman knew each other before Living Waters nor did they live in the same part of the city or go to the same church. But while storyboarding the generations, a revelation came that shocked us all. Jamie’s father had once been married to Joey’s mother! In fact, Jamie’s father raised Joey’s older siblings from whom she had heard many stories about him. He is actually buried next to Joey’s own father and she visits the graves often!

This revelation provoked deep pain for both women. Jamie expressed the unforgiveness she held her entire life toward the woman (Joey’s mom) who “stole” her only dad. The pain of knowing he left her for another family had never been released, until that day. Bewildered, Joey became self-conscious and speechless then yielded to God’s grace in a holy moment. A flood of memories and meaning came to both of them. Together they permitted the heavenly Father to love them in the midst of stinging pain and sins committed by their fathers.

A resounding melody came bursting in: “Many searching for answers far and wide, all searching for answers only you provide, ‘cause you know just what we need before we say a word …it’s love so undeniable, peace so unexplainable! You’re a good good Father, it’s who you are, and I am loved by you, it’s who I am!”

Cindy leads Living Waters in Denver CO and is our Rocky Mtn Regional Leader

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radical kindness

Radical Kindness

‘He was led like a lamb to the slaughter…’ Isaiah 53:7

We will never know exactly what drove a man to slaughter over 49 people in an Orlando nightclub. Such evil defies comprehension. What oppressed the shooter to the depths that only mass murder lured him to ‘empowerment’? Was it a sexual conflict, an ethnic/religious wound, the slow burn of feeling ostracized to the degree that picking up guns gave him a power denied elsewhere?

Radical wound, radical fear as we await the next combustion between oppressed souls and a demonic drive to power. Perhaps we are foolish to reduce the source to radical Islam and/or radical homophobia: Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and Columbine all involved human grenades who blew up the living to appease dark gods and gaping, twisted souls.

Wise men claim that radical evil is the absence of the good. Perhaps we need a source of kindness more extreme—more authentically powerful–than wreaking havoc. That goodness is embodied in God Himself who chose to be led to the slaughter in order to establish us in peace. He gave up His power in order to make us strong in love. Love Himself—the Creator and Redeemer of all—shows us that real security comes only from God’s self-giving, as Jesus once and for all poured out His very essence into the cracks of our broken humanity.

We who are weak need only look upon the Crucified. He not only gets our fears, our conflicts, and our striving for power amid myriad insecurities; He is the answer to them, the anchor of our souls, sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19).

Might we invoke His peace and His powerful love today? We need both if we are to be free to prepare others for the day on which they will stand before Jesus. We do not know the hour. What we do know is that God Himself entered into the slaughter in order to save lives. ‘Jesus, release faithful Christians to all persons directly impacted by the Orlando tragedy. Show them Your kindness, a river of Life more radically good than the threat of evil.’

‘No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine’ (Psalm 33).

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redeeming_the_past

Redeeming the Past

By Brian Barlow

On a recent trip to San Diego, I was given an unexpected gift for my birthday. My bride Nichole had been planning this trip for several weeks. We dropped the boys off at grandparents and arrived at our new waterfront hotel in downtown San Diego.

San Diego held for me many memories from my sexually disoriented past. We walked the streets together and I saw familiar sites which evoked that past. I found my heart growing heavier as the night progressed. Once seated for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, I began to share with Nichole my regrets over unhappy relationships with guys I had met in San Diego years earlier.

I hadn’t expected our trip to produce raw and melancholy emotions about my past. Thank God our marriage is secure enough for us to bear each other burdens related to past sins and hurts. Still, it was awkward, especially when the host greeted us and engaged in conversation. His ‘gay’ persona left me sober. It wasn’t offensive or flagrant, just familiar. I pondered and quietly asked the Lord: ‘What is this? Am I feeling regret? Am I digressing? If so, how can I stay present? You have transformed my life by giving me a wife and family, a gift I once thought impossible when I wandered these familiar streets alone many years ago…’

Then the Holy Spirit whispered: ‘I have come to redeem that past.’ I sighed then realized that was a moment when the “there and then” could be healed in the “here and now.” But how? I felt grief and shame over the life I once lived. I regretted how I hurt good people. Then I felt the Lord redirect my thoughts back to our host: ‘He is a man in the “here and now” whom you can choose to love rightly, a man created to reflect My image. He needs to know I AM his Fighting Father still fighting for his life.’

When our meal was finished the host returned to the table. In that moment, the Lord prompted me to ask a question: ‘What’s your name? How are you?’ “Nicholas” seemed perplexed and gave a simple response to which I asked again: ‘Is there anything you would like us to pray about for you? Anything in your life that you need? Financial? Life in general?’

His face sobered and he responded, ‘I really want to keep this job! I just started two weeks ago and I really like it.’ He responded in earnest this time I asked if we could pray; Nichole and I each held a hand. In the moments that followed the man seemed renewed. Though we can never know the sum of this man’s life, three people entered into a holy moment of healing in that restaurant. We who each reflect the image of God portrayed the glory of God together.

We are created by the Father who made us to live in right relationship with others. Throughout the years that original portrait might be misused, discarded, stolen and hidden for fear of being reclaimed by the rightful owner. Sound familiar? Life can mare and disfigure our portrait to the point of becoming unrecognizable. It would take the “Artist Himself” to reclaim and restore the image to its original state.

That is what the three of us shared together in a Mexican restaurant. By reaching through the pleasantries and calling him by name, we gave Nicholas a moment to pause and be known. Even more so, he was reminded that he has a Heavenly Father who sees him and who has not forgotten him. As Nichole and I prayed over Nicholas, we experienced the Living God embrace us. ‘Thank you, what a gift!’ responded Nicholas. ‘Can I give you a hug?’ He then reached for Nichole. Joy replaced heaviness.

Brian Barlow is our amazing regional coordinator for Southern CA. Come and hear Nichole and Brian at our daylong conference in Pasadena CA on August 20th. Sign up now!

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An Open Letter to Every Man who Leaves Wife/Kids Because He is ‘Gay’

An Open Letter to Every Man who Leaves Wife/Kids Because He is ‘Gay’

Dear ____,

Bless you for finally being open about your same-sex attraction. That is a brave step and I pray that God and a faithful community will honor your confession. You have a big part to play in whether your honesty honors you and your loved ones.

What you are admitting is that you have desires that seem to conflict with loving your wife and children. That is different from assuming a ‘gay’ identity. As we are sons of the one Father, made in His image, we can agree that God sees us not as ‘homosexuals’ but as His men. He calls all men to live in right relationship with our brothers and to choose (or not) to express our sexuality in a loving bond with a particular woman and to open together to the new lives created by marital love.

Guess what? You made that choice! What best defines our sexual humanity is not our feelings but our capacity to make sound, thoughtful decisions about what we do with our sexuality. Your choice to marry and to have children defines you far more powerfully than same-sex attraction. Plus, the person you said ‘yes’ to with your body and the lives you fathered need you. Your freedom depends on it. You will never find happiness outside of your faithfulness to these relationships.

You say you hoped that marriage would resolve your same-sex attraction. It does not. In fact, it tends to highlight the many desires that conflict with being faithful to our loved ones. That is where love finds its most perfect expression. Your same-sex attraction is the tool God wants to use to teach you to love others because they are worthy of love, not because all your needs are being met. Welcome to ‘the club of men with conflicting desires’; welcome to the Cross whereby we surrender worldly dreams and mobilize for real people, real love.

I am surprised you never sought out any help for your same-sex attraction. God wants to use your ‘secret’ to cause you to grow through conflicting desires, not in spite of them. You have not exhausted the depths of the help available to you through Courage or the Restored Hope Network. The question is: will your honesty lead you to repentance or will it be an excuse to leave your loved ones for the ‘gay’ life? You are already playing victim. Don’t. You are not one. You can make choices for fidelity in the full light of your same-sex attraction.

Doubtless, many persons today will champion you ‘coming out’ as an act of bravery. Get real. If your honesty results in divorce, you act like a coward and subject your loved ones to grave injustice. St. John of the Cross said: ‘In the end, we will be judged by love.’ In light of your admitted weakness, choose love, real love and so prepare for eternity today. If you choose your ‘gay’ freedom instead, you will inflict damage on all you influence and will suffer eternal consequence.

We do not choose our desires but we choose what we do with them. Choose well friend. Please feel free to contact us at Desert Stream/Living Waters if you want to talk through your options. Don’t get lost in our cultural confusion. Last week, a new study came out that documented how gay unions in the USA have doubled in the last 25 years. Don’t be a casualty. Don’t make loved ones a casualty. I urge you to think and act and love like a Christian. Bless you friend. Hope we will hear from you.

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