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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Ecstasy

The Crucified rallied the nations last week in Kansas City; under the flood of His Divine Mercy, we wept for joy. Ecstasy. No better way to describe the 80 Living Waters leaders who gathered around His self-giving in order to offer themselves better to others.

Jesus gift to us at Calvary is accurately defined as ‘ecstatic’: its Greek root means ‘to come out of oneself.’ Jesus’ dying released a river of blood and water. His life source left Him and became the source of our lives, the transforming power that renders us new creatures. Together, His ecstatic gift unites us as one Body. On the cross, Jesus made us His bride. You could say He consummated that union for us through the ecstatic love that crescendo-ed at Calvary.

God reminded us of that consummation on last week’s Feast of St. Augustine, who wrote: ‘This second Adam [Jesus] bowed His head and fell asleep on the cross, that a spouse might be formed for Him from that which flowed from the sleeper’s side…What can be purer than such blood? What more health giving than such a wound?’

We needed healing from His ecstatic wound, cleansing and repair for our wounds. Many tribes and tongues came together—a variety of ages, cultural traditions, economic and educational backgrounds. Most obvious was the divide between Protestants and Catholics. Many of our leaders from fiercely Catholics nations barely know any Protestants; and the vast range of the latter—from Anglicans to Pentecostals–have an equally diverse range of opinions on Catholics!

Our wounds are a great leveler. One priest among us shared with dignity his sexual abuse by an early mentor; he welcomed an ecstatic outpouring from evangelicals who loved him well through a variety of spiritual gifts. Humbly offering our wounds to Jesus via His members invites a rich exchange of ecstatic love that dissolves some of our corporate divides. Ecstasy.

Personally, each of us brought our sins against chastity—as diverse as our Christian traditions. We are united in the conviction that the second Adam always points us back to the first Adam ((Matt. 19: 4-6); at the same time, Jesus points us forward to the glorious redemption of our bodies, radiant in full consummation with our Bridegroom. We live now ‘in-between’ the times: although certain of design–the ecstatic complementary gifts that God fashioned from Adam’s rib—we are also clear on the chaos incurred by sin in our frustrated, fractured efforts to ‘come out of ourselves.’ We have done so regrettably; we, bathed in ecstatic love, assess the damage done: adultery, abuse, addiction, SSA, gender self-rejection, mangled marriages, persons tempted by bitterness due to betrayal then prolonged, unwanted aloneness.

Many different divides and one cure—the Bridegroom consummating love with us and releasing the flood that keeps our heart soft and straight, ready to tell the truth of sorrows and shame but more than that, how the ecstatic mercy of our Bridegroom is mounting, growing, its waters rising in our personal temples (Ezekiel 47) as we throw open the doors and windows and allow others to witness how His loving kindness has shattered the enemy’s design for us.

Our hearts speak truth—we at Living Waters are the first to declare our sin so that the triumph of mercy might extend to a weaker brother or sister. It does! We rejoiced in the epistle reading last week in which St. Paul exhorts us to turn from all sexual immorality as such sin exploits our sisters and brothers (1 Thess. 4: 3-8).

How liberating to hear God’s Word and to go boldly to the throne of grace, allowing the fire of mercy to burn off the deception that immoral acts are fine if each party consents. Lies that we have lived! We now want only to edify, not exploit, the weaker member! We wept as He rained mercy, not judgment, upon our corporate repentance.

As the nations shared of the impact of Living Waters, it was clear that this ecstatic witness of hope amid heinous sins had loosed a river throughout churches that is unstoppable. Instead of shame, the peoples of the earth are receiving a double portion of joy and favor (Is. 61:7), and ‘where that river flows, everything shall live!’ (Ez. 47:9).

His ecstatic love for us produces ecstasy. We live now to come out of ourselves and prepare a more robust, pure Bride for the One who gave all to gain us. No other way to live. No other way we want to live. His ecstatic love is better than any other way of life.

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

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Aging Grace

Does the thinning buffer between us and eternity expose virtue or vice? Does aging make us better or worse? Not sure…

During this summer break—a writing one—I paused to consider the quality of my offering to others and perceived heightened gratitude and grousing. Filters falter as the years add up; the naked self is less defended (too weary to self-justify), painfully self-aware, less inclined to virtual noise, and more reliant upon Jesus. In the uneasy mix, He is the Master.

Gratitude for holy communion reoccurred over these weeks. Annette and I enjoyed each other in some relaxed expressions of intimacy; I savored her gift. She is smart and humble, inclined to offer herself fully, especially to kids and grandkids. Unlike many women who struggle to offer themselves to dependents for fear of losing ‘self’, Annette discovers herself in the offering. It solidifies her.

I also engaged daily with the Living Waters material which I revised over the course of these six weeks. No small task but rewarding in its own way. It meant reviewing forty years of what I see to be the core insights and practical helps in becoming a chaste offering for others, from the vantage point of one who must choose daily to carry his cross in a progressively unchaste world. How does Jesus and His members help us become whole-enough in our gendered humanity?

I was assisted by the sharp mind and ordered heart of new intern/staff person Marco Casanova; I’d not experienced that kind of partnership in a writing project before. I enjoyed the refinement and know it made the revision better. The new guidebook will gleam by next spring (2020), just in time for DSM’s 40th Anniversary. We celebrate that milestone in Kansas City, August 7th-9th.

Ok. Good stuff all. But amid the holy communion came disturbing glimpses of unholiness, my own haggard responses to our tilting world. I refer not only to the earthquakes shaking the globe but also the dirty breath of public opinion that fan sparks into holocausts. Everyone has an opinion, even when they expose only their ignorance, proudly spewed all over the Internet. Narcissistic waste.

Why such little awareness of one’s limits? Why not the humility to pray instead of pontificate? Passion without mercy!

I am as merciless as the objects of my disgust. I fan into flame intolerance and become grossly impatient, enraged by human folly, especially the follies of Christians who should stick with what they know rather than amplify what they don’t in order to build followings. My discontent tempts me to check out, to disengage and do sick unchaste stuff. Aging has made me worse. And wiser. I know better now and my will is sure. I opt for holy communion: my wife, my friends, local Living Waters group, Holy Church. Can’t get saved online. I need Jesus in the flesh.

I spent a lot of time this break in Adoration, sitting before Jesus in a nearby prayer chapel, content to just be with Him. To Him I brought all the delightful, disturbing things that flare up within me. I accept their ferocity, in the light of His love for me. He seems nearer, more clear, rich in mercy and fierce in holiness. He becomes the one true thing I need more now than yesterday. Aging may have worsened me but has inclined me more to Him. I get better only in the light of His love for me. His light shines brighter now.

‘And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light’ (Rom. 13: 11, 12).

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

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Stepping into Blessing (and out of blogging….)

‘May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of people’ (Gen. 28:3).

Today. First day of vacation. Still glowing from last night’s closure of our Kansas City Living Waters Training. That glow will dim, and Annette shall enjoy each other without the electric charge of ministry.

Enjoy. Our life together. Three days ago I drove home on a short break from the training to find Annette swirling in ‘house church’ activity: son and Pastor Nick from Austin requesting help in ordering a communion stole, Katie dropping by to seek one of us to help her check out a new apartment, Sam coming over with son Jacob to shower as his bathroom is being overhauled, Jacob racing out back to our two Labradors where granddaughter Camille (Greg and Christina’s kid) was already mesmerized as these gentle beasts retrieved anything the 1-year-old tossed their way.

My house. Not a monastery but a cyclone of domesticity. Annette confessed wearily in the storm: ‘I would not want this any other way.’ True that. I realized that is why we do what we do in Living Waters. We daily die to sin and idols, we bind our deep wounds to Jesus’, and let Him summon what is most true about us so we can get on with the business of living—entering the dance of life with those we love most. We are offering the gifts we are. Generously. We are becoming a fruitful community.

We have a new evening of the training entitled ‘Stepping into the Blessing.’ Having done a lot of cross time, we figured our people needed a night to just enter the blessing of the Father who longs to give us a share in His generosity. As people stepped up to receive, He mirrored the divine gifts standing before Him; He restored the promise of fruitfulness, the destiny of each to build community.

So for the next few weeks, I will rest in my messy destiny to haul out sweet, soiled diapers, to landscape my acre, to wrestle labs that never lose their puppiness, to grow with my kids in mutual exhortations, to enjoy life with the one I love most. Annette. She’s still the one that I want. By the way, I want to step into the blessing, not write about it. So we’ll connect in a few weeks. Bless you all.

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

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Abuse and Authority

The Church’s authority to restore sexually broken people with the power that raised Jesus from the dead hinges on her repenting from abusing the most vulnerable.

I just returned from what has become one of my favorite nations—Poland. Theologically, St. John Paul ll paved the way for my conversion and St. Faustina permeated his take on gendered humanity with Almighty Mercy. These two Polish patrons ushered me into relationship with perhaps the finest Christians I known in the Living Waters world. Our third training there clarified the import of the Catholic Church to Poland. Hammered on all sides by cruel foes, the nation has looked to the Church as a bulwark against indignities that span centuries.

She now faces new challenges. Outside Church walls, LGBT+ activists bang on her doors with accusations that she is unloving and irrelevant; inside her walls, adult children of abuse are now claiming that her ‘fathers’ corrupted them and must be stopped if the Church is to be faithful to Jesus. Both challenges were palpable at our gathering; I saw both ugly defensiveness and beautiful repentance.

The threat to Poland of a ‘gay’ agenda fired up a rigid traditionalism in some participants. A few expressed contempt for anyone ‘homosexual’, not knowing that they were surrounded by ‘them’ in their small group. Mercy melted machismo as these ‘super’-Catholics realized that their training peers had no political agenda other than repenting unto chastity. All found level ground at the Cross: one people under one Merciful Source. Hardened hearts softened, calloused hands dropped stones. Instead of adopting a Noah’s Ark attitude—close the door and let the wicked drown—repentant ex-abusers committed to becoming Jesus’ hands for all persons.

Add to the mix very recent clerical abuse allegations in Poland. Under this now familiar shadow, LW training participants were troubled, confused, and incredulous. Some coped by denying the charges, claiming anti-Church conspiracies of varying kinds. I would not have it. For every one brave soul who dares to break tradition by confessing how a cleric broke his or her body, there are a hundred more. In a flash I saw clearly how prideful denial of the Church’s capacity to violate the most vulnerable is the essential tool God gives His enemy to fetter the Church’s capacity to heal sexually fractured persons. No confession from the top, no splendor of the Kingdom for the broken below.

So we repented. I veered off my teaching and we as a group wept at the damage: real people, faithful sons and daughter of the Father, picked off by demonized fathers. This spirit of repentance longs to rest on us until every secret is exposed. I contend we must bear that spirit prayerfully until we see Him face-to-face.

Yes we repented, and yes we must seek a posture of repentance. After a while, I felt led to ask all persons sexually abused as children to come forward (if they so desired) in order to receive prayer. I discerned that God was pleased by our posture, as I could smell the fragrance of healing. A dozen came forward, including two priests. In an unprecedented way, the Holy Spirit permeated these brave souls with a dense mist of grace, flooring many. People could not get up for around 15 minutes. I did nothing but watch while others prayed. When the glory lifted, relief and joy and lightness overtook the receivers. The Kingdom came. God gave tomorrow’s blessing that day. He healed the broken-hearted.

‘Restore our authority to heal, O God. Let not prideful self-protection get in the way of Your-Kingdom-come for the abused, persons most in need of Your touch.’

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

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Restoring the Spire

Our gendered humanity—submitted to one another in reverence to Christ (Eph. 5:21)—points beyond itself. It reveals the One who made us to co-create in His image. I glimpsed something divine yesterday in a lovely young couple wheeling a newborn: he proud and protective of his bride, she doting over their new creation. The power and tenderness of ordered humanity cries out: ‘Holy is the Lord!’

On a recent visit to Paris, African Cardinal Robert Sarah likened the torched spire at Notre Dame Cathedral—created like a divine finger to point all upward to God–as a prophetic sign of how we as a Church have failed to direct the world heavenward. Have we forgotten that we in our gendered humanity are called to be that spire? It cuts both ways: we can dignify the other’s existence and magnify Him; we can demonize the other and deflect His glory.

Sarah cites ‘gender ideology’—a refusal to accept one’s nature from God—as a sign of this incendiary spire. He views LGBT+ reality as ‘trans-humanity’, an ‘avatar’ that results from refusing the God who made us. To cast off the call to reconcile with one’s male or female being is to cast off God, to burn with a strange fire that shrouds His witness on the earth.

Agreed. But what comes first? The fallout from male-female hostility or a host of exotic gender fractures? I say the former. We cannot with any integrity or authority call obvious sinners to repentance when we tolerate a host of traditional sins, namely misogyny—the dishonor of women in all of its diverse forms. Simply put, cruel and unusual treatment of the more vulnerable gender is the fuel that drives gender-bending.

I too recently visited France where we held a conference on gender reconciliation in Orleans. It was wonderful, starting with an early morning run where I inadvertently followed the path taken by St. Jean D’Arc who as a teenager obeyed the voice of God and led French troops to rout the English in the 15th century. What a girl.

Her courage reminded me of the women at our conference. One had been sexually abused by her father, another abandoned as a bride by a religiously-unhinged husband. Another woman, an exquisite artist who shared her gifts with us, realized that she had been poisoned by her father’s ongoing adultery and expressed contempt for women. She saw her self-contempt for the first time as a quiet agreement with his sin.

Jesus gave me His heart for these women and reminded me of my subtle misogyny—my wound of corruption–pornography, self-justifying arrogance, my flimsy efforts to put women’s needs ahead of my own, starting with Annette. I was seized with my sin and could repent to the women honestly, as did a young French pastor. Jesus loosed a healing flood for these remarkable women. The mercy levels rose quickly as we men repented, granting Jesus freedom to dissolve strongholds of misogyny in the women.

Jean D’Arc blazed a trail for victory in Orleans. As ‘her weakness was turned to strength and she became powerful in battle, routing foreign armies’ (Heb. 11:34), so we followed Jesus who led us to do our part to restore the spire of holy relating. We rejoiced together in the good gifts Jesus is reclaiming in our gendered humanity.

As we are faithful to repent for any way we have stoked that torched spire, we help restore that spire. May Notre Dame provoke us to become glorious signposts of the One who made us to honor Him in how we love each other.

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

Download PDF
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