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Splendor of the Kingdom 2

We gathered for our Gender Matters conference in New York City last weekend (soon to be in Kansas City February 10, sign up now!); the Holy Spirit flooded us like a river overflowing onto parched land. He is re-awakening our call to live the-truth-in-love and so authenticates our claim that Jesus makes a better way for the sexually broken.

As Pope Francis says in ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, this can only be accomplished through ‘a radical openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.’ At core, this is nothing less than the core message of the Gospel, which is at once simple, countercultural, and full of joy. We discover that our joy hinges upon responding to His whispers, and on trembling legs advancing His reign where He leads.

Prior to the conference, the Holy Spirit led me to two men with a small child. They were ‘gay’-identified and ‘parents’ of this adopted boy. God gave me His heart for this child; I realized at once that we have a responsibility to such kids. I spoke with the pair about how much Jesus loved them all and had special plans for the boy, a divine paternal desire to confirm him as His beloved. When they said they did not believe that way I said with joy: ‘Well, we all have ideas but none change the fact that Jesus is real and has a great plan for this kid that is greater than your plans!’ I couldn’t believe I said it. Yet the Spirit gave me joy, which enabled them to hear.

We proceeded to our conference where beautiful, broken Christians from around New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut gathered to become better news for persons with gender identity problems. From a host of brave churches, they like us are surrounded by the dull attitude that to be moral is to accept blandly whatever destructive choices others makes on the grounds of ‘love’ and ‘freedom.’ These believers know better and are crying out: ‘Holy Spirit, show us the better way to bring Jesus’ merciful reign to our friends who are self-destructing!’

Two realities were evident: we the saints are so broken! The church who hosted us had a huge cross before which we gathered and simply wept over our own sins and wounds, mostly traditional in nature. We are all victims and perpetrators. Our pain was based on a host of regrettable ways in which we have been complicit with deceived friends and family; crying ‘peace when there is no peace.’ Or the ways we have accommodated our ‘normal’ idols and addictions when Jesus wants to break our chains so we can be free to bring the Kingdom to the enslaved. He did it! His Presence for deliverance was evident and effectual.

The reality of our brokenness was surpassed by His power. Through the good teachings and testimonies, it was obvious that the Spirit is raising up an army of men and women for whom Jesus’ loving kindness is better than anything else in this life (PS 63:3). We live only to make Him known, joyfully, and with humble reliance upon each other. For the first time in years, I wanted to linger with all the saints in the church afterwards. My weariness was eclipsed by the beauty of this Gideon’s army. Jesus Himself is empowering us in our many weaknesses ‘to rout foreign armies’ (Heb. 11:34). We are His members, wholly submitted to our Head, and we will turn the tide of deception on waves of Almighty Mercy.

Please join us in Kansas City for our next Gender Matters on Feb. 10th. Become a part of God’s healing army for broken persons you love. Sign up now!

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Splendor of the Kingdom 1

‘This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel’ (MK 1:14, 15).

We should never reduce Jesus to a tidy set of teachings or ethics. He shatters our controlling tendencies with one touch of His healing, delivering hand. Jesus advances a new universe—the rule and reign of Heaven on earth. He plunges into our depths, casts out darkness, and raises us up as children of Light, beloved sons and daughters of the Father. Tidy? God’s Kingdom is at best disorienting.

This Kingdom comes through joyful declaration of the Gospel, with signs and wonders following–the Word confirmed by spiritual power. As St. Mark recorded, “The people were amazed at Jesus: ‘A new teaching, and with power!’“ (MK 1:27). How can He not shake our little universes?! God has come! God comes to you! Heaven could not hold Him back from descending into our messy lives and breaking the low ceiling that defines us as everything but beloved. His huge ‘yes’ to us liberates our freedom to give shaky assent to Him. He takes His advantage. He becomes our stronghold of light in a dismal world–the luminous foundation of our very beings.

I witnessed how ‘Kingdom-centric’ our Living Waters world is while working with friends Peter Herbeck and Ralph Martin, both pioneers of thoughtful Spirit-filled advances throughout the Church. These guys spearhead a television show on EWTN called ‘The Choices We Face’—they filmed a segment with me (under good lights I look a vital 72—see for yourself when the show airs sometime in mid-2018) and commented afterwards: ‘You have hope for persons facing big sexual challenges because you anchor that hope in the power of the Gospel.’

True that. I am continuously puzzled by persons who hear our hopeful stories of real struggle and real release and respond with: ’I don’t believe in reparative therapy’ or ‘Jesus does not always heal people.’ Huh?

Jesus came to reclaim our lives from the grip of the world and the devil, and to persuade us in love to let go of the fleshly attachments that enslave us. That is true for all persons who seek Him. His descent and ascent is our ticket to paradise—eternity starts today with Jesus. Yes, struggles remain: these keep us humble and reliant on Jesus’ members (how insufferable is the one who declares moral perfection!).

But to reduce Jesus’ radical obedience at Calvary to a benefit for ‘the lucky few’ and to count oneself as ‘untouched’, ‘made for’ LGBT liberties—that is a lie against the Gospel. Yes, in our dullness we can refuse to cooperate with Jesus. And yes, He waits for us to invite His Kingdom to rule and reign in us afresh. God can and does touch all persons who turn toward Almighty Mercy.

Freedom from sin and disorder of all kinds begins, progresses, and ends with the glorious splendor of God’s-Kingdom-come in Jesus Christ. The Kingdom has come. The Kingdom is here. That Kingdom can burn like an unquenchable fire inside you (LK 17:21) and make everything new. Choose this day who will ignite you.

‘We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the morning star rises in your hearts’ (2P 1:19).

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Comiskey at 60 (Isaiah and otherwise…)

‘Arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and deep darkness the peoples of the earth but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you’ (Isaiah 60:1, 2).

Does aging make you better or worse? Guess it depends on who you are looking at. As I turned 60 the other day, I’m more aware than ever of contradictions within me, the mix that alternately cheers and deadens.

How to live honestly yet hopefully? Stay fixed on Jesus: somehow, my ‘cross-eyed’ view apprehends glorious light and sheds it upon the soul’s contours. Shadows flee and hope rises. Almighty mercy frees me to struggle in the Light. In that Light, I can behold the weak one next to me as an equally fit candidate for grace, one destined to wriggle out of frustration and into glory (Romans 8:18-21).

Last week, I reviewed my journals from 2017 and was struck by the year’s difficulty. The gravitational pull of sin and death was evident. But more familiar than a spirit of heaviness were the upward risings that followed every rut in the path. All it took was a gentle act of the will. I offered the shame, disappointment, or fear to the Crucified, who never failed to surge like a crystal stream up the middle of a polluted ditch. I caught His wave through acts of prayerful surrender.

Of course we need reminders of new life. I recall one day last year when I couldn’t summon faith. Giving was down, I had to buy an international air ticket, and the world seemed to be spinning fast, too fast, as if careening off its axis. I called my mother, just shy of her 92-year-old birthday, and offered her my lament. Keep in mind this woman lost her husband of 60 years a decade ago and has had to choose very day to rise and shine. That gets harder every year, as friends die off; she is now the ‘last woman standing,’ the one who cheerfully presides over the memorials of departed friends. She rises on shaky legs, refuses despair and self-pity, and looks to the One who shines upon her.

She heard my lament and responded: ‘That sounds hard. But how great that you are free to launch out into the world and make a difference in people’s lives through His glorious Kingdom!’ I blushed a little and offered my burden to the Lord, who enabled me to straighten up quickly. I positioned myself afresh to reflect His rays. The Light shines in darkness, and cannot be overcome (JN 1:5).

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Boundary Breakers or Makers?

Hollywood’s award season is in full swing and will be dominated by actresses insisting on a new moral order in which men treat them with deference and respect. Right on. You witnessed Hollywood’s best on the Golden Globe Awards wearing black to honor those deadened by misogyny; most female winners will remark on overcoming sexual misconduct as Hollywood’s number one priority.

Time Magazine chose as 2017’s ‘Person of the Year’ the ‘silence-breakers’: women–some entertainers–who refused to be the dirty little secrets of men in power. Writers of the tribute raised a good point: ‘While anger can start a revolution, it cannot negotiate the more delicate dance steps needed for true social change…there’s a great deal at stake in how we assess these new boundaries, for men and women together.’

Jessica Chastain and Meryl Streep.

What are the new boundaries? Is Hollywood capable of covering and protecting its beautiful flesh? Renowned for pushing limits until they shatter, can the entertainment industry tow a line, any line that refuses sexual ‘freedom’?

Case in point. At the same awards ceremony where Jessica Chastain insisted that Hollywood clean up its act (the Palm Springs Film Festival), the young actor Timothee Chalamet won an award for playing a 17-year-old boy having an affair with a 24-year-old man in the film Call Me By Your Name; he thanked his costar’s wife for ‘letting me crawl all over her husband for two months.’ Huh.

In its yearend edition (Dec. 18th, 2017) featuring the ‘silence-breakers’, Time chose this romantic tale of sexual abuse as its sixth best film of the year. Times critic Stephanie Zacharak gushed over the film-as a ‘rapturous, bittersweet seduction. To fall into its arms is bliss.’ No mention that its story centers on a classic Hollywood hunk seducing a teen, and performing a host of orgasmic sexual acts with him. It is soft porn with literary pretensions. Breaking emotional, spiritual, and physical boundaries with other men cost Kevin Spacey his career. It will make the careers of the actors in Call Me By Your Name. So Hollywood says ‘Me Too’ to some, and ‘Not You’ to the films that seduce us.

Having seen the film (please don’t, as its explicit content is disturbing), I marveled at the lack of moral tension contained in it. The boy’s father consoles his distraught son by blessing this most special friendship and even expressing his regret over not ever having had such a same-gender affair. (Adding to the irony: the seducer was the father’s academic assistant whom ‘Dad’ invited into the home to share a room next to his son!) Even worse is the lack of tension experienced by Hollywood over the film. Have you heard any outcry against it?

Apparently Hollywood is selective in protecting human dignity. The industry must become consistent in her moral revolution. That must apply first and foremost to children. If Hollywood wants to create new boundaries then it must also repent for breaking good ones. Hollywood abuses everyone by applauding Call Me By Your Name.

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Smoke, Not Fire

Two weeks ago, a Roman Catholic priest from Milwaukee came out as ‘gay’–made by God that way–to his congregation in an effort to integrate his ‘gay’ self and to help LGBTers follow his path to authenticity.

Blazing a trail with his fiery witness? Nah….Father Gregory Greiten’s effort leaked poisonous gas into the Church; he made smoke, not fire by reducing the God who answers His children with fire to a toothless ancient who wearily confirms our fractured lives. For this Jesus suffered an agonizing death and descent into hell? The smoke that shrouds and chokes, not the fire that illumines and awakens our authenticate selves, is the effect of churchmen who render God impotent.

I struggle to include in a brief blog all the errors in Greiten’s thinking. Let me try.

First, there is no such thing as a ‘gay’ person, if by that one means an individual who is intrinsically rooted in same-sex attractions. That is a popular myth. A person is not born a homosexual or a transsexual or a bisexual. He or she is born to realize her or his dignity as a beloved daughter or son of the Father and as a gendered gift to the whole world. Father Greiten disagrees; he purports that ‘God created him to be gay.’ Says who? Not God…

Secondly, Greiten confuses one’s feelings with an identity. I suspect, like many persons (myself included) with a history of same-sex attraction, the depth and persistence of such desires can tempt one into forming a ‘self’ around them. But such identity formation is alien to the call of Christ. He invites every follower to surrender all other identifications and to take up the Cross as the mark of the new and true self (JN 12: 25). Every priest should know this. If a fatherly leader loses sight of that Cross, how dull the vision for a weaker son! Smoke, not fire.

Thirdly, every priest should know that the Church names homosexual desires as disordered in that they frustrate openness to life: the unitive and procreative purposes of our sexuality. Jesus upheld His Father’s will for man and woman together to constitute His plan for sexual love (Matt. 19: 4-6). Of course many live far from that reality. No matter! God has made a way for persons with disordered desires to be drawn into His merciful gaze and so be ‘loved out’ of every other identification, especially one based on disordered desires. That a priest should base an identity on disordered desires, then urge others to follow his example, is beyond me. Better put, because Jesus’ love has shattered every effort of the ‘gay’ world to name and animate me, I would say that Greiten’s example is beneath me.

Fourth, what to say to the response to Greiten’s witness? His congregation gave him a standing ovation, and apparently his Archbishop blessed his ‘coming out.’ That is for me the worst news of all. It reflects a worldly church nearly dead to the power of the Gospel. Nearly dead. I would put her in St. Paul’s category of being ‘struck down but not yet destroyed’ (2Cor. 4:9). She lives still because Jesus’ lives just as I live today to the beauty of Jesus and my wife and kids and grandkids and a whole new horizon that Jesus opens for every longing, broken heart.

The Church must reclaim her truth and her witness today. You who like me share a history of disorder vanquished only by the greater love of Jesus—let us arise in this hour and become the Church who illuminates the Cross amid shadow and smoke. Let our lives shine forth the glory of Him who authors and redeems true personhood.

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