Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Overcoming False Intimacy

I became a man through confronting my pastor for partaking of his sheep, e.g. emotionally and sexually manipulating a host of single women. My efforts were unwelcomed: the pastor duped his overseer, blamed us for being overly rigorous, and turned our colleagues on the pastoral staff against us. For the first time in our lives together, Annette and I (and Desert Stream Ministries) were homeless.

I loved this man but he refused to see the power of his position, the misuse of his body and other bodies, and its impact on the congregation. His moral blindness diminished the power of the Gospel. The community shrank for a couple years until more women came forward and the overseer served justice by replacing him.

Shepherds with sexual integrity serve justice; they give the sheep their due. No confusing messages, no lingering hugs and longing glances—an intact pastor lets his sheep be sheep and makes no sexual or inordinate emotional demands upon them. Such clear seeing and solid limits result from good moral formation before ordination. The pastor-in-training makes peace with his sexuality, is aware of its power, and learns—in the power of the Spirit–to restrain and direct desire for the good of others. For the sake of the Gospel.

But. Sometimes the runner stumbles. Good men begin the race with noble intentions. Yet under the weight of multiple pressures, dormant weaknesses may resurface and become wicked. I have known many men whose unmet need for connection finds a human outlet, which overwhelms their good judgment and goads them to break sacred bonds all the way around. Lord, have mercy. We can and must pray that such compromised shepherds come to their senses. Unlike the pastor I referenced, many do not defend their divided lives. The eyes of their heart open to the damage done and they cry out for mercy.

We recently had the privilege of standing with a pastor who, admittedly weak in areas, has fought hard and out loud for his integrity. In a dark season, he fell back into some old patterns. We as a community served justice with mercy. He was broken and vulnerable before us. Each person honestly expressed pain over his compromise. We had felt his distancing and denials; we conveyed some mistrust and asked what he would do to prevent this from happening again.

Return to his first love. This pastor was successful, much sought out; the roar of ministry had deafened his ear toward Jesus’ still small voice. He committed to reordering his life around adoration of the One. ‘…the answer to the problems that beset so many priests, causing them to fall into patterns of sin, is the friendship I offer them.’ ()

Reveal himself constantly to a small band of brothers. We urged him to redraw his commitment to two or three trusted colleagues with whom he vowed to be utterly, prayerfully honest. None of us surrounding him were pastors, and thus, we could not wholly grasp his burdens. But his pastor brothers could, and we insisted that he forge a community that would be mutually refining. He also promised to let his overseer know his struggle and how he was handling it; at the same time, he knew that daily ‘truth-telling’ would have to be homegrown, not hierarchical.

Reclaim robust chastity. He became a pastor based on his commitment to growing in chastity, a virile integration of his sexuality that would free him to confirm others with clarity and conviction. We confirmed that earthy call and called him to agree once more with Jesus’ ‘yes’ to power from on high to live a united, pure life—body, soul, and spirit. ‘We need that wholeness from you,’ we said. Mercy liberates justice, then justice is served by shepherds whose ordered desires ‘lead us besides still waters’ where we can ‘lay down in green pastures.’

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

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prayer schedule

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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

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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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Silent Word, Shining

‘Shine like lights in the universe, as you hold out the Word of life’ (Phil. 2: 15, 16).

A season of silence ends: now back to airports, bills, staff management, and decisions, big and small. 2020 marks our 40th year as a ministry. I shall covet quiet around the edges to reflect on where we’ve been, where next.

It helps to trust the Word has been sown deeply in our hearts and will bring forth fruit—His will deepening, growing, breaking forth as He sees fit. We position ourselves before Him as to reflect something glorious, His very Presence fanning into flame what pleases Him, be it at full volume or in quiet encounters.

I caught a glimpse of this last week as my son Nick preached an excellent sermon on the ‘holy family.’ (After much therapy, he wisely made no allusions to ours.) Afterwards, a young woman unknown to me but a big fan of Nick asked me who I was. When she discovered I was the preacher’s dad, she kind of fawned over me and I demurred: ‘Reflected glory.’

So it is with each of us. The Light has dawned in our darkness—the Word has found good ground in the broken soil of our lives and pleads to unfurl. God’s glory goads us, His silence begs to be broken by the Word declared!

Here we see the genius of this Church season. Advent begins with the promise of Light, with Christmas the Light dawns in Jesus, and now Epiphany—the showing of Christ through the witness of our lives. Epiphany calls us out of what can become an ingrown culture of missals, beads, postcard saints and swoony devotion. Yes, the chaos outside and within demands quiet. But the Word demands a hearing through the story of our messy radiant lives.

Show Christ! Use words! Break the silence between you and a host of delightful creatures in darkness who listen only to their own soundtracks and meandering, fractured narratives. I want everyone to know that Jesus can heal ‘LGBT+’ anything. He surpasses our tendency to settle on misbegotten ‘feeling’ states.

In saying nothing, we stoke deceived powerbrokers who criminalize our good news. Every new presidential candidate wants to outlaw ‘reparative therapy.’ Remember, this is not about a type of counseling. This is about silencing anyone with the courage to say: ‘I’m not sure LGBT+ identification is the best expression of your true self. Let’s walk together in Jesus; He will show you who you are…’

Our transformed lives say it best. Let us heed God’s word to Jeremiah: ‘If you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesperson’ (Jer. 15:19). To be sure, silence helps us to separate the wheat from the chaff, what to say and what not. St. John Paul ll counsels us wisely: ‘We need to learn a silence that allows the Other to speak when and how He wishes.’

Sensitized by silence, the Word commands a hearing—treasures from darkness ready to flair into fireworks. This is our season to shine: God revealing Himself through our witness of His transforming love.

I won’t soon forget Jesus’ invitation last November to declare that love before the Kansas City Council. Sandwiched between the darkened minds of that Council and several rows of disgruntled LGBT+ers, I declared several truths that provoked satanic rage. A roar went up as the Spirit directed me to declare that persons like me deserve choice, that we who pursue chastity are now the endangered minority, and that the Council was in no way ready to vote on something they knew nothing about.

Surprised by my own words, I realized they were not entirely mine, in the Spirit of Lk. 11: 11 and 12: ‘When you are brought before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’

As the Word received in silence burns in us, fan it into flames. Speak. Entrust the fire to heaven. Shine.

‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name”, His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot’ (Jer. 20: 9).

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

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