Blog

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grounded 1

My dreams reveal one frustrated guy. I wake up half-smiling at the heart’s antics: I can’t get out of the room or parking lot, no exit, strange humiliations where others have the upper hand and I am out-of-control. This lockdown may just make me loony. In that way, I am a thoroughly fallen American—you know, manifest destiny, don’t fence-me-in, smaller-the-government-the-better kind of stuff.

I am glad for Jesus’ mercy on my stalled but seething heart. And for His Church. On what may be the last homily I’ll hear in person for a while, Father Justin (what a guy) preached on the Samaritan woman. He centered on the fact that Jesus ‘had to go through Samaria’ (Jn. 4:4) in route to Jerusalem. Better put, He chose to go out of His way into this compromised and slightly hostile land in order to extend mercy to a compromised, slightly hostile woman.

Justin’s point? Jesus will go to any length to find you. He will tear up the map, overlook your rebellious thoughts and actions, and pierce every veil in you that repels ‘living water.’ He’ll wear Himself out just to look into your eyes and love you. Lockdowns give you a lot of time to just be loved.

Annoying. I want to act! I don’t want to be the object of desire, I want to be the subject, doing what I want! Well, well. Times have changed.

I was musing on how my roving heart is particularly unsuited for now when I ran into a woman (bad word choice; I kept a polite distance) for whom I had prayed but never met face-to-face. Abbey and I had seen her at different coffee joints; she was evidently trying to erase her womanhood and had adopted a male name.

We both caught her name and brought it into staff intercession. For about 6 months we regularly lifted her up and then, voila, she appeared. Grateful to shake off my self-concern for a moment, I gently told her that Jesus had placed her on my and another colleague’s heart, and that we felt a bit like we knew her as we gathered to pray and caught something of the Father’s love for His very special daughter. Simple. ‘God loves you that much,’ I said and went on my way.

My lockdown may well be an occasion to pray for Samaritans and to enter more deeply into His merciful heart for them. For all of us.

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

Download PDF

Whose Witness are You?

Pete Buttigieg is an impressive guy. This former presidential candidate (and potential running mate) gave us the best sound bites of the Democrat debates—smart, savvy, memorable. Yet his life is a tragic reflection of a nation hell-bent on denying its Creator. How else can you make sense of the silence that surrounded his faux marriage to a dude?

The fact that we no longer flinch when a man kisses his male ‘spouse’ on the global stage means we no longer take seriously the Creator and His purposes for our sexuality.

Sounds prudish, I know. Come on, you say, let Pete have his ‘happiness.’ When we think like that, we divorce God from happiness. ‘We concern ourselves with our own interests, and not the interests of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 2:21). Every man and woman must give an answer to what (s)he does with the bodily powers of life and love. Either we aspire to fruitful communion (fusing the unitive and procreative) and represent the One in whose image we are made, or we meet our needs, our way. Whose witness are you?

Come on, you say: leave the oppressed ‘gay’ dude alone. Besides the billions of oppressed ‘gay’ dollars his campaign received, Pete is not the scapegoat here. His ‘out and proud’ status is merely one fractured witness of America’s culture of death, the one we each support in some form or another. I refer to the many dark strands of our national commitment to separating committed sexual love from the creation of children: contraception, abortion, surrogacy, fornication, divorce, porn and fantasy-driven lust and masturbation. Why not ‘gay’ everything? Come to think of it, why not get rid of gender altogether?

Note to the nation: sexual love is about uniting a man and a woman so they can aspire to create and care for kids reasonably well. It’s not about creating my ‘happiness’ by concocting some weird identity or relationship or habit that feels good to me. Sex is about life, creating and caring for someone else.

Just as most expressions of sexuality today fail to bring forth new life, so do these dead-end witnesses cast a shadow of death upon the children who fall under it. Last month at a Denver rally, Buttigieg answered a text-sent question from a 9-year-old boy in the crowd who asked: ‘Would you help me tell the world I am ‘gay’ too? I want to be brave too…’ The crowd chanted: ‘Love is love’…

Pete responded to the boy: ‘Your bravery is an inspiration…You’ll never know whose life you might be affecting by sharing your story…You never know who is feeling a little braver because of your courage.’ When you ‘honor’ Pete’s witness, you help conform a child to his dead-end witness.

Unchecked, much applauded LGBT-prattle from the Buttigiegs of this world stem from our culture of death and darken its shadow on the most vulnerable. We must decide: do we represent our Creator in our sexual values? Or the creature? Whose witness are you?

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

Download PDF

Advocacy, Not Acrimony

‘I will not leave you as orphans…The Advocate, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you…Peace I leave with you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (Jn. 14:18; 26-28)

Freedom from our ‘pastor wounds’ frees us to advocate for shepherds. They need advocacy! When we pray for their immersion in ‘living water’, we flush out whatever bitterness (acrimony) still tempts us to bite them and we become conduits of the Holy Spirit. I love that! Rather than pine for pastors’ empowerment of me, I can advocate prayerfully for renewal of their strength. That is how St. John continually defined the Holy Spirit—the Advocate, or mighty Counselor, who makes Jesus known to His own, including pastors.

Our spiritual authority to advocate for shepherds is a great empowerment. We kneel child-like yet ferocious before the One who hears and acts when we rebuke the accuser who shames our shepherds constantly; we invoke that Spirit who reminds pastors of who they are as beloved of the Father. We bind away any familiar spirit of discouragement and ask the Father to woo these ones ‘beside still waters’ where He just wants to love them. There He reenergizes His shepherds for all the glorious impossibilities before them.

Their purposes are essential. God has called these ones to function differently than we do. They have assumed the weighty task of re-presenting Jesus to us. That is one big sacrifice! When they do it well, we grow; when they flounder, we are confused, even scattered. We can pray: ‘Good Shepherd, open the eyes of ____ heart to know You well this day, to walk in step with You, to heed Your whispers. Whatever burden You ask _____bear, may (s)he bear it gracefully with You whose yoke is easy. Reveal Yourself through ____ today.’

Not only have they a weighty purpose, they bear that weight in their personhood. (Yes, yoked to Jesus, but also in their humanity.) Some began to pastor unaware of the weaknesses that could cave under pressure; some pastored as to displace or deny those weaknesses. Surprise! Ministry, like marriage, exposes our cracks. We can cry ‘hypocrite!’ over our divided shepherds, or we can cry out for mercy for them, that ‘living water’ might invite them into wholeness. Ask yourself: what invited you to heal, the accuser or the kindness of God? ‘Jesus, lead these ones into trustworthy friendship with persons who can love them truthfully, well.’

More than anything, pastors need to live out of the loving Presence of Jesus who called them in the first place. ‘Having begun in the Spirit,’ shepherds often proceed in the flesh to do the impossible. They readily bear too much weight which breaks down their lifeline: intimacy with the Father through Jesus. We pray for His Real Presence to come quickly and gather these ones in His arms. ‘Father, would You draw Your shepherds like lambs and carry them close to Your heart?’

We take heart. Like the bold and persistent man who sought bread for his friend at midnight, so we cry out as advocates for our shepherds. We know that You, Good Shepherd, hear and act: ‘If we who are evil give good gifts to our children, how much more will You, our Father in heaven, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask You.’ (Lk. 11: 5-13). ‘Pour out Your Spirit like rain upon our pastors, we pray!’

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

Download PDF

Softening Hardened Hearts

‘Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.’ (Heb. 3:13)

At a church service headed by a dynamic, on-the-go leader, a young father asked for prayer: ‘I am ashamed to admit but I am desperate for attention from my pastor who just hasn’t time for me.’ A young woman confessed to me soon after: ‘It’s like he [the elusive pastor] looks right through me but never sees me.’

Both are sensitive souls who suffer from sins of omission from their own fathers; they are insightful enough to know they transfer childhood needs onto pastors who usually fail to meet them. Insight here helps but does not heal. In fact, therapeutic connections can tempt them to a kind of hardness of heart—a defense not unlike the one they erected to the original man who got away.

Of course, real sins of commission occur—ways that pastors have hurt or betrayed us. No projections here: just real bruises from pastors who did some damage. Combine that with larger-than-life media exposure of abusive shepherds—amplified though the virtual universe—and our little wounds can widen. After a shocking round of clerical sexual abuse headlines, I worked hard to not project suspicion onto every priest I encountered for the next month.

Our hurt collects other hurts. Our hearts naturally harden through the deceitfulness of sin—omissions, commissions, and how we imprison many for the felonies of a few. That costs us. And the 97% of pastors who only want to father us well. When sin incites dullness and dread of them, we do more than demonize innocents–we lose necessary links to community and to Jesus Himself. We may become like an increasing number of Christians who fail to gather at all anymore, claiming a purely ‘individual’ relation with Jesus.

We need the lifeline of shepherds. That’s how God made us, and that’s why He commissions certain ones to help us take the next steps in our walk with Jesus. And guess what? Shepherds need us too. Yes, we are sheep and at the same time, we are Jesus’ members, shoulder-to-shoulder with our shepherds who need our witness, our encouragement and the unique gifts we bring to our churches.

What do we do? We use our insight wisely. We combine awareness of childhood wounds with adult actions. First, we own our ‘father wounds’ and ask Jesus’ forgiveness for imposing the burden of reparenting on a mere mortal. Second, we identify ‘pastor wounds’ and seek ongoing healing for them. We forgive our offenders. Third, we turn toward and live through the One Father revealed to us by Jesus who has nothing but time for us. He loves to love us.

We must cultivate this love but it’s easy. The Father loves us like no man ever could and gives us grace to give our fathers, to treat them mercifully as fellow humans, not as the next man who lets us down. I love shepherds because the Good Shepherd loves me well.

‘Simply present your needs to Me with a trusting heart and I will show you that I am a lavish provider for those who let Me take care of their needs.’ In Sinu Jesu

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

Download PDF
pastor

Loving Pastors?

OK. I’ve got a great pastor. Father Justin is orthodox and admittedly human: richly so, kind of noble but not self-important. His confidence in mercy frees him to be a sinner but not perilously. His solid bearing as a father frees me to exhale. The impact of a pastor’s integrity makes me want to pray for all the pastors I know. That’s what our Lenten prayer focus will be for the next 47 days. Plug in your pastors and join us?

I pray for pastors because if I do not, I get caught in petty judgments that calcify into suspicion. Let’s face it: we are consumers–spiritual gourmands–when it comes to our leaders. Add the global virtual lens that frames them as pedophiles at worst, abusers at best, and we might confess we see pastors ‘through a glass darkly’. I submitted a piece on pastors last year to Justin and he remarked gently: ‘You sound angry…’

Angry. Got it. He was right. I carry concealed weapons when it comes to divided pastors who threaten to divide others. But my caution belies a deeper truth: human anger tends to frustrate the righteousness of God (James 1:20). I look no further than my own divides—personal fissures irritated by a host of external prods. My self-directed anger, or another’s, heals me not. Either makes me sick and sad, inclined to isolate and lie against the truth. Only this gaze of Love, this Jesus who looks on me kindly and constantly, frees me to bypass pet idols and proceed (however shakily) to offer others my best self.

If that is true for me, then why do I deny that for pastors? Why do I deflect the light of love from them rather than offer them up to the One whose love sustains and dignifies each one of us, if only we would open ourselves to Him?

Lately I spend a lot of time in Adoration—focusing on Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist—wordlessly confessing that He is all and nothing else much matters but His gaze of love on me. On us. When I think of the demanding, inherently frustrating, never completed, usually lonely task of pastoring, I know that only Jesus’ intimate bond of love with each shepherd can cure what ails him. And as I linger in His courts, I can bring these leaders with me and offer them up as well, asking Him to shine on them and so call them in from the cold and be loved for a while.

I am indebted to a book on praying for pastors—In Sinu Jesu–written by a monk for fellow priests. The author listens, and Jesus speaks to us: ‘Do this one thing, Adore Me, and wait upon Me, and you will see in astonishment that I will do all the rest. There is but one obstacle to My plan here, and it is that you lose the grace for which I brought you here by becoming distracted and consumed by a multitude of other things. Be faithful to what is essential, your being with Me—and all the rest will be given to you besides.’ (Matt. 6:33)

We at DSM will give up distractions this Lent so we can linger longer before the One who makes us whole and who can do the same for our pastors. Let’s forego our laments and lay our shepherds before the kind face and heart of Jesus.

I’m including a schedule when we at DSM will pray once a week. Besides following us weekly, may I ask you daily to lift your pastors using this simple prayer?

‘Father, I offer You the Precious Lamb of God for my cleansing and healing, and for the cleansing and healing of Pastors_____. I ask that You Jesus shine the light of Your merciful face upon_____; Holy Spirit, break the grip of discouragement, and infuse them with the grace to linger before Your love. May You become their all-in-all.’ Amen

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Download PDF
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: