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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
becoming home

Becoming Home

‘We fully “become” our true selves within relationships. A positive sense of self, rooted in worth and value, arises out of an attuned, empathic, supportive and caring environment in which secure attachment is established. By caring for and attuning to another’s needs, and by empathizing with his or her emotional world, we help others to internalize a sense of well-being.’
Dr. Janelle Hallman, Living the Truth in Love (Ignatius Press)

How many young persons are emotionally homeless? How many have been set adrift by a break in early bonds of love? How many angry, hungry lambs forsake the witness of their own bodies and the Good Shepherd then morph into a number of selves and sexual partnerships in order to secure that love? How much of the ‘trans’ craze is undergirded by the near inability of persons to welcome the good gift of their gendered humanity through whole-enough persons who make a home for them in their constant love?

These questions arose for me throughout an intensive leadership day sponsored by Courage last week. Dr. Paul McHugh of John Hopkins University who led his team there to stop gender reassignment surgery when it became clear that most young people change their minds and later regret such surgery addressed us and made clear that the real battle is spiritual and philosophical—‘what constitutes human nature?’ If our biological selves have substantial meaning, then we must direct persons onto a course of loving care that will help them come home to their real selves. Another keynote, Dr. Paul Sullins, is among the foremost researchers today on the effects of ‘gay marriage’ on children. His evidence that these children are over twice as likely to develop serious emotional problems made clear that ‘the absence of sexual complementarity creates obstacles in a child’s development.’

We are creating an emotionally homeless generation who does not want to hear that they need to come home to anything but their new liberties. But these liberties damage them further; the need for empathic, attuned, and loving care is what they need in order to be reconciled to who they are. So when Dr. Janelle Hallman finished up the day with three hours of recounting how she has cared for women with a host of identity issues for over 25 years, I listened and connected with her attunement to the real needs behind the ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ self.

I marveled at her therapeutic expertise, empowered by the Holy Spirit and her own integrity as a woman, that has enabled her to walk for years with wounded ones in all their defensive glory until trust is achieved and the tending to the core needs can begin. Love wins, as caregivers like Janelle become a home (of sorts) to the emotionally vagrant.

It brought up a flood of healing memories for me. Many years earlier as a young married man and minister, a flood of same-sex desires arose; I knew it was a symptom of deeper needs and stubborn defenses that I had to face with skilled care. I began a long relationship with an amazing Christian therapist who was strong and masculine but deeply attuned to my plight and wise in helping me to probe beneath the surface. I worked out deep ‘father’ issues with this fatherly healer and he helped me further integrate my longing for masculine love into real friendships, not shameful fantasy.

Jesus wants the best for us and He wants us to give the best to those we love. Had I not found the kind of loving care I did, a man who helped secure me in my home as a whole-enough man, I may have been unable to provide a home for Annette and my four children.

I am about to proceed to our Living Waters Training where men and women whom Jesus is restoring are seeking to gather in groups in order to provide safe, healing places in the church for identity strugglers. Pray for us as we humble ourselves before God and one another to become a home for others.

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love at true sight

Love at True Sight

‘To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be.’ Dostoevsky

I knew Sara dreamt of being a man, and was trying hard to pull it off with a swagger in her trousers and loafers and men’s dress shirt. But I saw a beautiful woman. Set adrift by the failure of men in her life, she was seduced by the illusion of masculine power. Now she is the seducer, and she carries it off pretty well.

God is not fooled. Nor am I. He made her and intends for her to realize who she is as His beloved daughter. And if I am to love her well then I must line up with that reality. No matter what the culture says about gender as a fluid state of mind– every person needs to be reconciled through Christ to his or her gender birthright.

The faithful must love others in fidelity to the Creator. Especially a generation being fed the lie that gender norms are bondage and that freedom means casting off gender distinctions altogether—in the very mortal words of the now gender-free Miley Cyrus: ‘I’m just even, just equal…it’s just how I feel.’ MTV released a new ‘snap chat’ thread aimed at 12-25 year-olds that features male teens made up like slutty women with various celebs declaring ‘F…k gender norms.’ A generation needs a vision of the substance and dignity of gender.

Men and women lost in this gender jungle need empowered Christians to prayerfully insinuate themselves into their lives. Only believers in dynamic communion with Christ Creator and Redeemer possess the authority to see through the darkness and to summon what is truly good from a gender-lost generation, and in particular, to the man or woman God calls us to pursue. By ascribing gender clarity to a person, we help to restore personal dignity, which is always the glory of God in humanity.

Only eyes that see in harmony with the Creator will behold the true self; only the heart empowered by the Redeemer can persist in love until light dawns for persons living in gender disorder. Sara allowed me to pray for her. It was not hard to see her beauty and to invite her to rest in the Father’s substantial love for her. She cried a little in His Presence, that Spirit who always woos her to come home to Himself and thus her true self. Perhaps it is harder to swagger and to strive than to surrender to the One who holds us near, in all our fractured glory.

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love this country united states

Love this Country?

My pastor recently implored us to love this country (or whichever one is ours); he argued, ‘we only seek to save what we love. What we hate we want to destroy or at least be rid of.’

I agree. I work hard to save what I love. I rally around people whom I want to reclaim for God’s Kingdom—my kids, spiritual kids, people whose divided lives and marriages need healing. I hate deceitful attitudes and mindsets designed to bar people from God’s Kingdom; I want to expose what blocks genuine mercy.

But my country? I feel divided toward her, neither hateful nor impassioned with love for her well-being. I am at best detached from her, due in part to Obama’s treachery in courting American voters in 2008 with a pro (real) marriage ticket then revealing his hand in a series of gender-bending power plays over 8 long years. Hillary will quicken the slide into inhumanity (at least she’s honest about it), unless she is Trumped. I muse at the absurdity of choosing either candidate—the wall-building bully or the ‘empowered’ woman who uses her strength to close the womb or kill its fruit.

But I remember America’s goodness too: her beauty, her generosity, how her citizens have fueled Kingdom efforts throughout the globe. I am grateful, and realize that no amount of bad politics can snuff out the simple power of the Gospel that her citizens have extended with clarity and ingenuity.

I confess I don’t know how to love America, any more than I know how to vote in November. But I will seek to love her by fighting for the law written in every American’s heart (Rom. 2:15), raw treasure that Jesus still seeks to provoke and fulfill. I will fight to save what is good and true and just about my country.

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the nations return living waters

The Nations Return

Last year, some Living Waters friends from Thailand and China urged us at DSM/LW to gather international leaders again in Kansas City.

I balked and winced as I recalled the vision a dear friend had given me five years ago—it was nothing but a burnt field, still smoking. So was I. After 30 years of building Living Waters around the globe, I was asked by a council of Living Waters leaders to step off the team so that they could pursue other goals.

Overnight, friends with a shared language became strangers whose perspective I could no longer discern, let alone contend. The joy of gathering with the nations became a landmine, which had blown up in my face. A burnt field indeed.

In the years that followed, I spent time daily before the Crucified and died to what had been. I alternated between hope that leapt at God’s lead and despair that slouched toward early retirement (bleech!). I wondered if seeds that die always release more life (JN 12: 24-26).

God invited me into new friendships. Anne Paulk and Stephen Black asked me to join them in starting a national coalition of ministries—Restored Hope Network–for persons impacted by SSA, as Exodus tanked before our eyes; of equal blessing was Father Paul Check, the leader of Courage, who mentored this new Catholic and gave me a chance to share my witness in his world (which is becoming mine as well). I love these networks; I hope you do too, as they are beautiful expressions of God’s heart for persons with SSA.

My primary call, however, is Living Waters. To my surprise, some of the nations where we had released Living Waters re-initiated relationship with us. Provoked by conscience and now seasoned in ministry and decision-making, they wanted to return to the source. I was grateful yet tentative as I was and am still unwilling to return to the ‘good old days.’ They weren’t that good and they are over.

So I wondered; might we build relationship based on mutual respect and a desire to grow together into a new season? I now realize that I had tolerated ‘cloak and dagger’ stuff in the old system. No more. Either we trust each other or we choose other partnerships. This work is impossible when squinting at and whispering about colleagues.

The DSM/LW staff agreed to host our international friends who wanted to come. Most of our friends did (which floored me) and honestly, it was heaven-on-earth. We started at the Restored Hope Conference in Chicago (amazing) then met at my home and at our offices for 3-days in which we dined, prayed, and centered on the Kingdom of God, embracing the whole Church, and identifying weaknesses in our married and single lives. No pressure, just the real Presence of God meeting us and helping us to love Jesus and each other more. Fragrant. God kissed us.

Poured out, the DSM/LW staff inhaled the truth that the nations had returned to us. But differently now, like adults with a shared bond. We like each other; we want to be together. Beautiful–new life springing forth from scorched, rich soil.

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love has a name

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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