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Heart of the Lion

‘I love you tenderly, faithfully, mercifully; and I will draw you into the embrace of My friendship, and hold you close against My sacred side until, at length, You come to abide in My Most Sacred Heart, the sanctuary of My elect, and the refuge of poor sinners.’ In Sinu Jesu

Leon (lion in Spanish) houses the longest running Living Waters group in Mexico. The city’s core is Sacred Heart Church, built only yards away from an archway commemorating the city’s founding in the 15th century. Displayed atop the majestic door is a life-size lion. Aha, I thought: The Lion of Judah endowed with power to vanquish sin, leading us into the House of the Lamb—Jesus’ Sacred Heart, Almighty God slain for sinners who welcomes the poor into the chambers of His compassion. The Lion becomes a Lamb: cleansing, feeding, healing, protecting the most vulnerable in the courts of His Heart, His house, in the city’s center. Jesus is the Heart of Leon.

We passed through Lion’s gate to go to Mass soon after arriving. It was Friday night, the first of the month—celebration of Jesus’ Sacred Heart. The house was packed, the pastor turned on and up, the rapt crowd hanging on every Word declared; passionate, yes, then quietly reverent for the Meal of His Heart, partaking of the Lamb broken for us. Afterwards, the pastor invited up all intercessors who wanted to pray for someone in need of Jesus’ Sacred, sheltering Heart; he offered each intercessor a red-ribboned medallion of that Heart as a reminder to pray daily for that one. The crowd stampeded the altar. Jesus is the Heart of Leon.

My Leonese friend, Samuel Rojas, exhausted his young adult life in ‘gay’ pursuits then began to be drawn back to Jesus through a devout mother. Sharp of mind, he realized through studying developmental psychology that his same-sex stuff was a window to wounds, distorted perceptions, and unmet needs. He wanted healing and began to seek it through Jesus’ Sacred Heart of love for him; practically, he attended Courage meetings in the city and Living Waters Trainings outside Leon. He was aggressive in pursuit of wholeness—lion-like—but at the end of the day realized that any progress in chastity was pure gift, born of the Lamb’s merciful Heart. Jesus, the Heart of Leon, shares His Heart with Samuel.

It was fun to watch Samuel grow. Each year, in weeklong trainings (Argentina, Mexico City, Guadalajara), he progressed, one step at a time. He caught a vision for life beyond abstinence, he started dating Alejandra and married her in Sacred Heart Church, the two had a son David, his mother came to get healing for herself….He has become a good leader of others, working in sync with his parish and pastor to accompany spiritual sons and daughters into growth in chastity.

After Mass Friday night, I was pleased to discover that our conference was to be held at Sacred Heart Church. We gathered joyfully; Mexican bearers of ‘Living Water’ witnessed to how Jesus restores His wounded and makes us healers in His house, merciful agents of His Heart. I realize that each one worshipping, repenting, and receiving healing from fellow members is being built together to take their places in His Sacred Heart–lion-like, utterly tender, imploring all—‘Come into the Heart of Leon and be set free!’

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

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Flyover?

Kansas City. Cowtown? Coastal flyover zone? C’mon. We are the champions.

As a focused Kingdom-minded guy, I am not that partial to geography or football. While celebrating our friend Tracey Bickle’s 60th birthday a couple months back, I ran into her brother Mike (founder/director of International House of Prayer, aka IHOP) to whom I nodded when he asked if I still could care less about the game.

What a difference a Superbowl makes. Something overtook me. Maybe it was my rabid fan base of a family—each member donning any bit of red fabric they owned. My pastor son Nick even wrote this prayer, tweeted all over town: ‘O God of Conquest, You train our hands for war, our fingers for battle; we pray You so guide Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and our fledgling run defense, that the 49ers might be destroyed and Chiefs fan everywhere may drink deep of the sweet marrow of victory; through the only Name under heaven by which we are saved, win or lose, now and forever.’ Amen.

Maybe it was the team itself: yeah, great players but kind of humble, a super team-centric band of brothers; thoroughbred Mahomes looking a bit coltish, like his status has not quite caught up to him, coach Andy Reid more like a clerk at Quik Trip than a coastal supermodel.

Maybe it was the day of the game itself. 63 degrees, my running buddy Marco and I ran alongside Blue River for miles experiencing Kansas City at its best: trees glimmering silver and bare in the sun; kind, expectant-of-good-things families and couples and singles blessing passers-by. Peaceful. Traffic-free. Primed for war.

The game itself was a glimpse of what we all should do when the enemy takes ground: not give up, rally harder, slap down passes, vie for miracles of grace that God grants guys like Mahomes. For His good pleasure. And ours. I lay prostrate before the TV blathering in tongues as we overtook ‘em.

I love this city. Decent. Pretty godly. Humble but unafraid to smash the opposition. We could not do what we do without the Bickles and IHOP. I would not have become a Catholic anywhere else. Nowhere else do I see this kind of a diverse faith base intent on victory under fire. Flyover KC? No way. I’ve landed.

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

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Best Group Ever

I kid you not. After 40 years of leading Living Waters groups, I just finished the best one ever. These twenty weeks rolled out like a dream. OK, chalk it up to extraordinary co-leaders (Marco and Becky) and inspired worship (Abbey singing at piano as we bowed before the Tabernacle and Divine Mercy).

Maybe it had something to do with diversity. I led one of many small groups alongside my coleader from IHOP; we accompanied a Reformed lay leader, a priest, a therapist, and two other Catholics—some single, some married, various kinds of lust—all unified in our commitment to becoming chaste gifts. Awesome.

Perhaps it was the team. Having done the group at my parish for six years now, we are gaining traction with lay leaders emerging from the group who now serve others. Every teaching, we had a man and a woman exchange well-honed, embodied reflections. God’s image in humanity—broken, being healed, hopeful—unfurled before us every week. It convinced me again that lay leaders, properly equipped, are the best witnesses and (practical) expositors of redemption.

The goal and apex of Living Waters: restoring honor between women and men. We admitted diminishment in our gender gift due to how we bruise each other. Perpetrators and victims all: still, the women bore more hurt, and it was humbling to witness these sassy, effectual career women and mothers weep before the Cross as Jesus accessed the damage done by sins of misogyny. We men squirmed, subject to the good shame over our misogynistic lusts and narcissism; we were also subject to toxic shame, which deadens us with self-hatred and tempts us to make women the problem. At the Cross, Jesus met us and bound up our shame, as well as misandry: the more subtle ways that women dishonor us.

Heavy stuff. Impossible without Jesus among us. The Cross is enough. When we bypass Jesus in the gender wars we can only seek to control or be controlled. Docile before Jesus, through the Cross, we spoke specific blessings over this ‘other’ whom God made in distinction from us. He is teaching us through the Cross to love each other, to honor His whole image.

The last meeting, during team prayer, many of us–wearied and distracted by the demands of the day–wondered: ‘What have I to give tonight?’ I received a picture of a golden mantle over us. I could see the anointing of Living Waters resting on the parish and us; unified, we as a team were extending that mantle. I felt the Lord whispering to us: ‘Just enter into My work tonight. It is Mine. I delight in giving you a little share in preparing a people for Myself.’ With that, we rested, and went forward into an intensive night. We remembered the work was His and were grateful to share in it. Frankly, I can’t wait to start again.

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

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Clear-Sighted Compassion

John the Baptist’s astute sight and sound: ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (Jn. 1:29) takes my breath away. His vision stops me in my tracks and invites me to yield to Jesus whatever ‘sin-sickness’ needs His cure. He is masterful: re-entry into His wounds assures me that He will assume my dross while surrounding what is precious. And vulnerable. Repentance always requires healing Presence to fortify and lend form to what is weak but inclined to truth.

Last Sunday’s Gospel account met me poignantly, unexpectedly. Before the Lamb, I saw a picture of a car with a minor, almost unseen dent. The danger lay in rust slowly growing and extending its corrosive fingers from the minor injury. I knew what it was. Though familiar, the same new sin, it scared me. I needed to linger in the inner courts of the Lamb, facedown before the cleansing, healing flood still faithfully flowing from His wounds–a fresh washing, and drowning. I needed two things: to die afresh to that corrosion and to resubmit the wound to Him.

To be honest, that hurt my pride. And goaded my impatience. I am sick of this process! So easy to exalt the lifetime plan of becoming chaste—so easy until you hit a bump in it and are thrown off your proud horse, any illusion of having arrived.

I spent a longer time in His Presence than usual and asked what He was doing. Before I could hear, a deep sadness welled up in me, a nearly primal loneliness defined eloquently by Joseph Pieper ‘as a truly penetrating knowledge of created things that is associated with an abysmal sadness…which cannot be lifted by any natural force of knowledge or will.’

My first tendency is to renounce such sadness as ‘the worldly sorrow that brings forth death’ (2 Cor. 7:10). But this was different; God—not His enemy—was surfacing a deep sorrow related to historic disconnectedness. He timed it well, and I could see (my heart tends to ‘see’ things more than ‘hear’) His eyes looking at me with deep compassion. That freed me to grieve more deeply, and I recalled the many Gospel passages where Jesus looked at harassed, clueless people and had an immediate, gut-wrenching longing to help them, e.g. compassion (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:22; Mk 6:4; 8:2). He looks at me kindly too.

As I welcomed His consolation where I need it most, many faces of persons I love who also face a similar loneliness came to mind and I could see and weep for them with fresh compassion. I recalled a boy in my neighborhood whom I see often playing by himself; he is being raised by a group of ‘intersectional feminists’, I presume ‘lesbian’-identified, with one ‘transitioning’. His family beliefs preclude any bridge to manhood for him. I will advocate for him, starting on my knees: ‘Jesus, good shepherd, give me Your eyes and heart with which to see, to feel deeply, to act with compassion for him.’

May we welcome the Lamb of God where we most need Him and allow His compassion to infuse how we love others.

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

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Fierce, Tender Love

‘Each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.’ (Neh.4:18)

Fighting for wholeness is at once a personal and corporate battle. We help others refuse daily the lure of familiar gods while we strategize to stop the advance of enemy armies. Like the rebuilders of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time, we heal with one hand and lance demons with the other.

Poland understands this well. The most powerful Catholic nation in Europe, she refuses to bow the knee to the LGBT+ juggernaut that has all but brought Western Europe to its knees. For example, France is mounting a national bill that would criminalize helpers who accompany persons beyond the rainbow curtain.

I just returned from Poland where we visited several Archbishops—gatekeepers of the Church who welcomed us. Like all church leaders, they are aware of the abuses and scandals of hypocrisy in their ranks. And they hold fast to how Jesus offers the better way to all who surrender to Him. They will not tolerate sexual identities built on a fault-line, incapable of engendering life.

What they did not know was how Jesus is transforming sinners like you and me, persons painfully aware of the wound but now immersed in the Mercy that has become our freedom, our wholeness, the gift we offer others out of gratitude.

Yes, we concurred; we must resist false ideologies. But at the same time, we must heal our divided members. We boldly proclaimed how this Church has become for us—and we for her—a community of healing capable of routing foreign armies. Ours is her deep wellspring of mercy for good Catholics harassed by idols and demons who seek chastity, not politicized ‘identities.’

We experienced the fierce and tender intercession of our Polish patrons—St. John Paul ll who ever displays the beauty of man for woman, woman for man, and St. Faustina who insists on Jesus’ mercy conquering all counterfeits.

These Church warriors teared up as they heard our stories: we declared to them: ‘We are the Church—members of Jesus—witnesses of wholeness and now healers poised to dig deep wells of mercy in every diocese of this great land.’

We were heard; we were welcomed. ‘Make Your Church in Poland a beacon of healing for all of Europe and beyond, Almighty King and Author of Mercy.’

‘I do not have time to tell about… [those] whose weaknesses were turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.’
(Heb. 11:32-34)

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

Download PDF
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