Category: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Weekend in Warsaw

I usually hate to travel during this desert season but I could not resist the temptation to invite myself to the first assembly of 100 Living Waters members and leaders from four robust groups around Poland.

Under the strong leadership of Father Joseph and a national team of clergyman and lay persons, the Poles have taken up this work with an unprecedented focus and strategy. Joseph and tribe translated Living Waters, secured the theological blessing of the Polish bishops for the guidebook, mobilized male and female lay leaders to coordinate the groups, and enlisted Catholic priests—all admitted wounded healers— to work with them from the start. That means these healing groups will have the advocacy of the Church and Her sacramental worship.

Polish St. Faustina and St. John Paul ll must have smiled as I engaged with sinners of many kinds whom Jesus is transforming to take their places as part of His healing army. These sinner/saints embrace strugglers who often have given up on the Church until Jesus encounters them and urges them homeward.

My friend Jacek left the Church to pursue homosexuality and at the nadir of his sensational misery met Jesus in a ‘gay’ bar where Christ audibly asked him: ‘Do you want to belong to Me or not?’ He did, and began his re-engagement with Christ through the Living Waters community. After a history of sexual abuse, many male lovers, and a psychotic break, Karin could not overcome her depression until a friend invited her to the Living Waters pilot group in her city. She found the Man of her dreams who is freeing her from the darkness.

Part of my goal was to instruct all 100 to effectively share how Jesus through His community is satisfying their desires with good things. God confirmed our efforts at our Sunday Mass which featured St. John’s account of the Samaritan woman (JN 4). Jesus encountered one far from God and brought her near to Him through the water that cleanses and the blood that gives new life (‘living water’).

He did so by kindly revealing her false lovers. Jesus loved her thoroughly: exposing her poisoned well in order to satisfy her fully with Himself. Her response was to declare to all who would listen that this Man highlighted her shame in order to surpass it with His glorious love. So we departed Warsaw that weekend, refreshed in the mercy that empowers us to well up like a fountain for all who thirst.

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Love and Wisdom 1: The Counsel of Friends

‘To love a person means to see him as God created him to be.’ Dostoevsky

Kate led a home group where she befriended and cared for ‘Kevin’, a young adult actively involved in this large dynamic church. What Kate did not know was that ‘Kevin’ had been born Karen; for the last decade, Karen had assumed a masculine identity and was en route to ‘gender reassignment.’

Weeks before her final surgical effort to re-identify as male (her breasts already removed), Karen felt led by the Spirit to make her transition known to Kate, the spiritual leader whom she knew best and trusted most. No-one at the church had ever known Karen as anyone but Kevin. Karen asked Kate: ‘Is becoming ‘Kevin’ God’s best for me?’

Kate knew little about the complexity of persons who from the first few years of life nourish silently an alter ego of the opposite gender. But she was a woman of the Spirit and prayed intently for her pastoral charge. God simply gave her the words: ‘God did not make a mistake in creating Karen.’ Kate told ‘Kevin’ her counsel and pledged to support her in every way possible in that truth.

Karen came to us a few months later; we had just begun a Living Waters group in that church. It took an empowered, Spirit-filled and truthful village to help her make peace with her real self. She did, and became one of our best leaders.

Kate fulfilled what Joseph Pieper describes as the crucial link between wisdom and love as expressed in authentic friendship. Love always seeks the best for a friend based on wisdom. Pieper heralds the role of wise friends, who, operating out of divine love, counsel others according to ‘the truth of real things’ so that what is actual and good might become reality.

Nothing better defines how godly friendship operates. Remember how wisdom ‘forms right judgments concerning how one is to act in the here and now’ (Pieper)? No easy task, this getting of wisdom in an age of 50 plus gender ‘selves’! Operated wisely and in loving accord with ‘Kevin’s’ real self, Kate summoned the truth of Karen in that crucial juncture of her decision-making and counseled her to align herself with Reality. Godly friendship helped preserve Karen’s life.

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Green Jesus

Before speaking to a group of students at Florida’s Ave Maria University, I requested prayer and my host Scott and a kind priest interceded with me. We waited together before Jesus. ‘Ask Jesus what you want from Him tonight,’ requested the priest. After a few moments I responded: ‘Reveal Your sufficiency for persons dealing with identity confusion.’ We waited then I saw Jesus pouring out drafts of emerald green ointment upon a crowd. I had never seen ‘the green’ before so was mystified. ‘Green is hope,’ said the priest.

That night as I spoke, hope for transformation rang true, as it did the next day for the staff and particular students who needed counsel for their own lives and for those they love. Jesus made them green with hope. In every unique experience and vexing question, we agreed that He assumed our confusion at Calvary in order to raise us up with clarity as beloved sons and daughter of His Father.

Green with hope, I flew to Malibu California in order to join our Living Waters Training team for an intensive weeklong gathering. Our site, cradled between rocky hills, had been pelted with rain and was now verdant, as lush as I had ever seen it. Creek water rose, and underbrush could not hide new life bursting from the ground. Hope rose from dry and broken hearts. As the team sang and testified and prayed and taught, Jesus became apparent and summoned all to arise into the heights for which He descended into hell. Jesus redeems who He has made.

This group differed in its maturity. These were active spiritual ‘parents’ intent on turning the cultural tide with hope’s crosscurrent. Together we examined the defacing of God’s image. Instead of pouting, we were provoked to fight for countless faces we represent in church families throughout the country: Bethel, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Four Square, and a host of others. In spite of different traditions, Jesus’ love implored us to rediscover the hope of our salvation, to go low in prayer and so raise high the Cross for one Church and one goal for all her members—chastity, the gift of an undivided life.

Jesus made us green, free to actualize our hope. Hope apprehended ceases to be hope. So we left Malibu, ready to fight. Not hard. He gave all to gain us and we shall do the same for those we love: one prayer, one confession, one conversation, one transformation at a time.

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No Place like Home

‘I witnessed God’s glory in every broken life.’ Living Waters participant

We just finished our Living Waters group at St. Thomas More’s in Kansas City. It was a hard group–a handful dropped out and the deep needs that remained in the group seemed overwhelming. It helped that we met in the sanctuary where we were constantly drawn up into the huge Crucifix above the altar, a reminder that He was assuming the unbearable. Just below, we raised a 10-feet image of the Divine Mercy where the flow of blood and water rose in our midst. We finished the group refreshed, grateful. Some members and team commented:

‘I came to Living Waters expecting others to heal me. I found a group of people all looking to Jesus for healing who directed me to Him. Now I look to Him.’

‘I’m a giver in my church, the one others look to for healing. Living Waters focused the Father’s loving attention to my needs. I am learning to listen to His voice in particular areas where I need Him more than ever.’

‘I am not as afraid any more of my brokenness. I can trust God when He reveals areas of blindness and deep need in me. I am secure enough in His love to see things as they are, confident that His truth is my freedom.’

‘I’m in a painful, vulnerable season of my life. I have renewed my love for Christ Crucified; my wound invites me into deeper intimacy with Him.’

‘I love the Divine Mercy! Through the eyes of my heart, I now see that my same-sex attraction has a place to go. I am filled with new mercies to give as I go.’

‘In my everyday life, I am surrounded by people who could care less about holiness. In Living Waters I discovered a people whose priority is to grow in holiness. I am grateful to have found walking partners; I must have them.’

‘As a small group leader, I would show up empty every week. And every week, each small group member would bring her gift and God would fill us all. He is the healer and He uses every member. Healing does not rest on me.’

‘I had never taught the material before. As I did, God confirmed the work He has done in me and took me deeper.’

‘Now I have a mission: to make this offering known to my church connections. I want Living Waters to flow where I live.’

‘This parish had an abusive priest years earlier whose sin came to light later, creating scandal and the familiar skepticism that the Church damages the vulnerable rather than healing them. Through Living Waters, I discern that Jesus is taking back ground from the enemy. God through His Church heals His lambs.’

Abbey closed our last meeting by reminding us all that Living Waters is an open door, a community of healing that one can re-enter at any time. It is a place where Jesus redirects our focus upon Himself in a safe yet challenging way. It is a healing home where we too become safe ‘homes’ for others to know Him more.

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Living the Dream

‘When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel had commanded him and took his wife into his home.’ (Matt. 1:24)

Men live their dreams when their entire beings are aligned with God’s will. Those dreams, as St. Joseph reminds us, may well involve angelic encounters in the night, but more than that, it involves a daily ‘yes’ to manning up for the mundane needs of those God entrusted to us. Not-usually-mystical or sexy, living the dream is about the good of others. And it always involves forsaking vain dreams in order for our lives to be a blessing, not a waking nightmare, for persons we love most.

A man’s value hinges upon the value he demonstrates to those God entrusts to him. His dependents become independent, better able to master difficulties, when a man uses his power to empower wife and kids (or any dependents God entrusts to us.) Happy is the family whose head focused his strength to summon the good of his beloved ones. When he lives to provoke and protect the dignity of his family, a man lives the dream for which God created him.

Conversely, our corporate sadness is sourced in men who fail to keep their promises of love. Uncontestable and radical are the wounds perpetrated by the man who got away—the one who employed his strength to satisfy the sensual gods but wasn’t man enough to stay. Binding up the deep cuts of betrayal takes up much of our time in Living Waters. The hard truth is: our church world is full of adult children and ex-wives of men who abandoned their families.

Rather than live the dream, these men now pursue vain dreams that become more nightmarish as time advances. Sexier, younger partnerships reflect a ghastly image of the man who gave up everything for a glimpse of beauty that eludes his grasp. Adulterous partnerships are phantoms which please in order to torment. By their very nature they cannot grant true happiness. These days, lovers of either gender will do but we must be clear that this is the same old nightmare—the man exchanging beloved ones for new models while choosing to numb himself to the monstrous consequence of his actions. A sure sign of entrenched evil in our culture? When such choices are interpreted as ‘justice’ for the man, be it in the form of a more ‘understanding’ woman, a ‘gay’ mate, or the ‘freedom’ to pursue his transgender self.

For such a time as this, we need the witness of St. Joseph. God chose a just man to fulfill God’s dream for his life. In saying ‘yes’ to that dream daily in how he cared for Mary and Jesus, St. Joseph brought forth the Savior of the Universe.

We don’t know much about him from Scripture. He spoke only though righteous action. He quietly united himself with the Father’s will; he demonstrated his manhood by advocating for his family at its most vulnerable—Mary in her social shame, Jesus under the rage of Herod. St. Joseph is (for me) Scripture’s best witness of inspired masculinity. After all, the divine apple was sustained and strengthened by this most noble tree.

We too may have dreams that we believe God has put on our hearts. Like St. Joseph, we must wake up and act upon its fulfillment every day in order for it to come true. St. Joseph’s fidelity to God and loved ones made him great. May we follow his lead of guarding God’s best for his family. May we too live our dreams in fear and trembling, exchanging phantoms for the Father’s will and true happiness.

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