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hungry-for-god

Hungry for God

‘The time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.’ (LK 5:34)

In preparation for our 40 days of prayer, it is key that everyone determine what (s)he will ‘fast’ in order to make room to pray. We let go in order to take hold.

In specific, we are making room for God Himself. We skip a meal or a TV show or an hour of Internet browsing in order to spend that time in real communion with the Living God. Perhaps we pray regularly already. That is good. But ‘Pierced for the Bride’ requires extra time. Yes, we shall meditate together on the daily devotion and pray through the 3 or 4 requests. But more than that, I pray that we might linger in His Presence and listen to His whispers. Detached from some pleasing habit, with a few minutes to spare, might we direct our hungers to Him?

Jesus was right. He is no longer with us face-to-face; we know Him through a variety of icons, but we still face the divide between today’s emptiness and tomorrow’s divine embrace. Prayer is the best way of bridging that divide; it manifests dependence on the divine better than any other discipline.

A big part of the theme for this prayer cycle is spousal intimacy, how Jesus on the Cross betrothed Himself to us. But a gap exists between betrothal and full consummation. He pledged Himself to us and left. Many powerful graces do not change that fact but instead direct us to the hope of heavenly union. In the meantime, we ache, we seek, and we lay down good habits for Jesus, the ‘one thing needful’ (LK 10:42).

I am in the midst of determining what I shall fast. I do not mind going without food but must consider what works for all who need me. Like you, I must ask God and wise counselors: ‘What can I let go of in order to pray while still living responsibly before others? I must admit: I have come to love fasting. I embrace the emptiness and ache of going without in order to know Him more.

I am not a patient person. I can still lunge after false meals. Lust does not drive me but is not dead. How I need more of Him in order to be faithful to Him! Fasting helps me surrender the basic ache of my heart to the One who sustains me as I head Home. May you discern what to let go of in order to know Him more.

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how-then-shall-I-fast

How Then Shall I Fast

“We at Desert Stream Ministries are positioning ourselves before Christ Crucified for 40-days of prayer, from October 15th to November 23rd. Our purpose is to welcome Him afresh into our depths, that we might more nearly grasp His heart for the one He loves most, the Church, His bride. For each of the 40-days, the Desert Stream staff will pray at 3pm CST for specific themes and needs. Will you prayerfully consider joining us? ” Andrew Comiskey

“First, let fasting be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.” John Wesley

As Wesley beautifully states, fasting is about the Lord: to glorify Him and join with Him in prayer on behalf of His purposes. Whatever sacrifice we make is unto more time to be in His presence and pray. This sounds wonderfully easy. Yet following these clear and simple guidelines requires forethought, grace and discipline!

Now is a good time to begin to pray and consider what type of fast the Lord is asking of you.

What might you give up in order to give God room to make your heart more like His? He may be inviting and challenging you to sacrifice beyond what you feel able. This might involve you fasting on water and a minimal amount of food.

A water fast requires major adjustments in one’s schedule, allowing adequate time to rest and planning to do less physically and socially.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, author of Spiritual Disciplines Handbook lists some of the things fasting includes:

*abstaining from food, drink, desserts, chocolate, to intentionally be with God.

*abstaining from media: TV, movies, radio, music, email, [Facebook, Twitter], cell phones and computer games to allow space for listening to the voice of Jesus.

*abstaining from habits or comforts: elevators, reading, shopping and sports in order to give undivided attention to God.

I have also heard pastors call their congregants to fast criticism, judgment and cynicism; a fast we could all benefit from, especially if we turn instead to Scripture and prayer.

The encouraging and challenging truth is that we all can fast in some way. We each have something we can abstain from for forty days in order to pray and spend more time with God. Remember, our self-denial is “in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer.” Calhoun, p 218

Fasting clears us out and opens us up to intentionally seeking God’s will and grace in a way that goes beyond normal habits of worship and prayer. While fasting we are one on one with God, offering him the time and attentiveness we might otherwise be giving to eating, shopping or watching television.

Fasting reminds us that we care about “soul” things. We care about the church. We care about the world. We care about doing God’s will. Thus we willingly set aside a little comfort so we can listen and attend to the voice and nourishment of God alone. For God can give us grace and comfort and nurture we cannot get on our own .” Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and be thankful. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ” Col. 3:15, 17

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Pierced for the Bride: 40-Days of Prayer

Zechariah prophecies that God will pour out a ‘spirit of grace and supplication’ in order that we ‘might gaze upon the One we have pierced’ (Zech. 12:10). Likewise, we at Desert Stream Ministries are positioning ourselves before Christ Crucified for 40-days of prayer, from October 15th to November 23rd. Our purpose is to welcome Him afresh into our depths, that we might more nearly grasp His heart for the one He loves most, the Church, His bride. Will you prayerfully consider joining us?

As we allow His passion to provoke us, we will ask Him to penetrate our hearts with His burning heart for the saving and healing of many lives. As a result of God’s piercing, Zechariah foresees a fountain of life that will be released in God’s house for the cleansing of our sins, impurities, and idols. (Zech. 13:1, 2)

We will enter into those waters ourselves and cry out for persons bound by sexual and relational confusion. Our desire is to pray effectually for ministry to deepen and new doors to open in the Church for many who are waiting to be saved from their sin, and reconciled to God’s beautiful purposes for their sexual humanity.

Many today are crying out to the unknown God. We want to cry out for them, asking Jesus to rouse His Church to make known His tender, transforming power to them. We want to see the beauty of His image—man and woman honoring and dignifying one another with their whole selves—become a reality wherever we honor Jesus as Lord.

We will provide a daily devotion and several daily petitions for ministries around the world who provide healing for the sexually broken in the Church. For each of the 40-days, the Desert Stream staff will pray at 3pm cst for these themes and needs. In order to sync our efforts a little more with the rhythm of church life, our Sunday devotional reflection will be from that day’s Catholic Gospel reading. Also, our 40-days end on Christ the King Sunday, which is the last day of the Catholic Church year. We shall be ready for the next day, which is the first of Advent.

Please consider joining us in some form. We will fill you in on more in the weeks to come.

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thedifferenceofmarriage

The Difference of Marriage

The two women looked and dressed alike: pleasant, middle-aged, graying hair cut simply, for the sake of ease. I discovered that they had just ‘married’ in Iowa. My first thought: how hard is it ‘to marry’ someone who mirrors yourself—the needs, hurts, and fears of your own gender and life experience? Not very: in order to be authentic, intimacy requires ‘otherness.’ The gift of one cannot be a whole gift to another if the receiver already possesses the offering.

Maybe that explains the frustration I ultimately felt in trying to make a guy a whole sexual partner. I tried. Admittedly, high-octane sensuality was compelling but at the end of the day, we were still looking at the horizon from the same masculine lens. He was a good friend. But we lied to ourselves in pretending that we had become ‘one.’

You could say our fusion was forced. To be sure, sharing the same wounds was helpful but ultimately boring. We could not conceive new life! That requires becoming one-flesh. And one-flesh requires the awesome and awful challenge of someone who shares my humanity but not my gender.

I say awesome because our bodies are designed for this other, even if our heterosexual desires are frustrated or exaggerated. What’s awful is that our grid has been so skewed by a host of injustices, many of which morph into expressions of false justice (‘marriage equality,’ anyone?) that we can no longer imagine that we were all made to long for this ‘other.’ Even many who love Jesus are convinced that their same-gender attractions are chronic, defining, and preclude the possibility for being reconciled to the sexual gift (s)he is to the opposite gender.

We oppose our own becoming. In the words of St. Catherine of Siena, Jesus creates us without our help but He can only save us with our help.

Jesus helps me become the man I am through my amazing wife. I saw this clearly and felt it deeply last month. Annette and I spent August together apart from ministry and other people. Except for the orbiting of our four adult children (who all live gratefully within ‘landing’ range) we did life together, unobstructed. At first this was hard for me. After an exhilarating year of ministry, I struggled to let down and enter into the quiet and deep place of hearing her, knowing her again, not in the everyday demands but in her hurts, fears, dreams, and observations that require attentiveness in order to become gifts. I sought awkwardly at first to grant her that space. Then it came gracefully, eagerly. No-one welcomes me like she does. And no-one provokes me more. We are one only because she is wholly other than me.

God has built into marriage the challenge of gender difference for the sake of teaching us the art of self-giving. Let’s be clear: friendship is friendship, one-flesh is one flesh. ‘Otherness’ is the goal of sexual self-giving, and only one expression of that ‘otherness’–the lifetime commitment between a man and woman—deserves to be called marriage.

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Judge Not (Part 4) Necessary Judgements

How lovely to see others through the eyes of mercy. And painful. At times it is necessary to see with those eyes the damage we do to one another when the faithful act unfaithfully through sexual sin. St. Paul gives us a powerful complement to Jesus’ command to ‘not judge’ when the Apostle implores us as church men and women to exercise wise judgments in regards to our fellows who have fallen into grievous sins. Why? St. Paul understood that unchecked sexual immorality had power in the believing community to impact the purity and holiness of others.

Paul’s Greco-Roman world differed significantly from the Hebrew community of Jesus in regards to sexuality and spirituality. The Apostle advanced the Gospel among citizens who worshipped many gods and goddesses and whose sexual practices reflected that diversity. Whereas Jesus liberated the poor from the legalistic shame of the Pharisee, St. Paul contended with the near shamelessness of new converts emerging out of an idolatrous, highly sensual world.

In I C 5, St. Paul describes a man in the Corinthian Church who was committing incest with his father’s wife. And the Church was proud of it! (1C 5:2) The severe nature of the sexual immorality at hand coupled with an arrogant tolerance of the sin inspired St. Paul to exhort the members of Christ’s body at Corinth: ‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church? Are you not to judge those inside? Expel the wicked brother from among you.’(12, 13)

In other words, we must discern when the integrity of the Church is being violated. That matters to Jesus and it should matter to us: we must each do our part when members are violating each other.

St. Paul clearly is ‘passing judgment’ on this Corinthian man, and he does so without reservation. His reasons are clear: tolerating sexual immorality among believers has an especially pernicious impact on the whole: ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ (v. 6) Such tolerance undermines the moral standards of the community overall.

Commenting on Paul’s judgment and discipline of this man, Pauline scholar Dr. Robert Gagnon writes: ‘If the Church refuses to take a firm stand against an obvious and severe violation of sexual immorality then its resistance to other types of sexual immorality will be weakened beyond repair.’

Unlike Jewish disciples who were subject to myriad regulations concerning sexual purity, the Corinthians boasted of their sexual liberties as a sign of their progressive, grace-filled faith. St. Paul reminded them in Chapters 6 and 7 of the power of the human body to bind them to intimate communion with God or to other gods and goddesses. He is simply applying Jesus’ mandate: serial, unrepentant immoral behavior puts one at risk from inheriting the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 5: 27-30: Jesus implores us to destroy what stumbles us so we can avoid hell!)

St. John the Apostle invokes the same principle in regards to ‘tolerating’ the prophetess Jezebel whose teaching ‘led the servants of God into sexual immorality’ at the church in Thyatira. The Apostle prophesies intense suffering for all in the church who fail to repent (Rev. 2: 20-23). Strong language: both St. John and St. Paul bring judgment, a sword intended to separate the holy from the defiled in order to preserve the integrity of the whole.

That integrity includes the invitation for the defiled to repent unto the mercy of God. In truth, mercy motivates both John and Paul in their judgments. St. John invites the Thyatirans to turn away from their deception and so avoid suffering; St. Paul implores the Corinthians to turn the immoral man out of the fellowship so that his sin might be destroyed, his soul saved (1 C 4:5). The purging of impurity from the fellowship is married to the hope of restoration for the fallen.

The excesses at Corinth and Thyatira demanded decisive, divisive judgment in order to preserve the dignity of the faithful.

What matters to Jesus, to St. Paul and St. John and I think Pope Francis is that we do not over-emphasize the threat of others’ sexual immorality. We run the risk of magnifying ‘specks’ and missing our own planks.

Two keys here: although we can and must judge certain acts as being a grave, we must entrust ultimate judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.’ (CCC 186)

The basis for such moral discernment is our personal reckoning with moral vulnerabilities. Scripture and Church teaching command us over and over to make wise moral judgments about ourselves. The horizon Jesus has opened for us frees us to make wise moral judgments. And we must, if we want to engender life in our fellows, not confusion or lust or fear.

Solomon implores us to ‘preserve sound judgment and discernment; they will be life for you’, an antidote to not getting entrapped in sin. (PR 3: 21) ‘A man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself,’ (PR 6:32) and I dare say, his marriage too. How blessed we are, when through God’s mercy we have removed the plank from our own eye and can help our brother remove the speck in his.

We want our churches to be safe and clean sanctuaries. But still earthy and honest enough to welcome dirty sheep so they can have a fighting chance to become clean! Perhaps this is among Pope Francis’ main points: Rather than a Church which clings to its own security, He wants a church that is bruised and hurting because it has been out on the streets…‘ If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is because so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the light, strength, and consolation born of friendship with Jesus, and without a community of faith to support them…’ (EG 49)

Might we be empowered by a renewed Gospel that has power to open the horizon of others and grant them a new vision and a new hope for their lives? These men and women surround us in our daily lives: persons with SSA who are blinded by both homosexual fatalism and the stigmatism of the Pharisee.

Might we trust the truth that has set us free, divine love that surpasses our weaknesses and compels us to build bridges rather than walls with others? Let us not be content with being a tidy truthful church but a messy fruitful one. Let’s manifest the mercy that has power to open for all a whole new horizon.

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