Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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Night Nurse

No, I am not referring to the snazzy ’31 melodrama starring Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable nor the Marvel comic book of the same name. I am confessing my paltry efforts to serve Annette as she seeks recovery after surgery (and now healing from my hapless ‘night nursing’.)

I may be many things but ‘helpful’ fails to make the top 25. I’m not practical in the least; the Comiskey credo for fixing things is to push and press until the gadget either gives or shatters. Lucky Annette!

When she calendared her procedure, we both wondered how she might fare under my care. Would this bind or break us? Scorecard thus far: C+

Day #1: Annette goes under the knife for the first time since Sam’s birth–the last of four C-sections in ’87. I manage to be in the right places, cheering her on as she is whisked into oblivion and present in the room when she arrives groggy, nearly incoherent. When she comes to, the nurse asked her (as they now must by law) if she has been abused to which Annette answered: ‘only by my husband’s humor.’ Ouch. I recovered in time to fetch her pudding and ginger ale.

Day #3: Annette gets home fine but tires of pudding and ginger ale. I whip up a strange combination of greens culled from several bags in the bottom bin of the frig then add a Trader Jo’s grain blend. When some slopped to the floor, even the dogs refused to eat it. Isn’t that biblical? Annette settled for my fantastic yogurt bowl with blackberries.

Day #4: The flowers keep coming. As it is 25 degrees out, tulips and lilies and roses are a welcomed break in the gray but honestly, when the altar flowers from Christ Church arrived and more than filled the room’s only available corner, it looked like Annette was being memorialized. As she lay there sleeping, dignified by silence, I thought of why I love her more now than ever.

She suffers well and recovers better by doing everything the doc asks. She follows every label and takes every walk required. She does not complain and seems genuinely concerned when yours truly gets struck down by the flu. No matter. Over these days, I am motivated by Annette’s gorgeous resilience—how for the last 36 years she got up and served this family when she felt like slime. Bravo.

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Unoffended?

John the Baptist, imprisoned and burning with hope for the Messiah, sends friends to check out if this Jesus is the real deal. Christ’s response? ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me’ (Matt. 11:4-6).

Why are Jesus’ miracles of transformation offensive to us? Pastor Jimmy Seibert, founder of the evangelical Antioch church planting movement, took heat recently for upholding how his congregations are helping persons with same-sex attraction ‘find out who God is and who He has made them to be…I’ve seen hundreds of people change their direction from SSA to a heterosexual lifestyle. It doesn’t mean there isn’t struggle…but there has always been grace for those who choose that.’

Yes and amen! We honor the work of Seibert and Antioch–a fresh wave of mercy flowing throughout the USA and the world in order to provide community support for persons turning from all types of false identifications unto Jesus Christ. Among them are persons rendered blind, lame, deaf, and poor by the exploits of the ‘gay self’ and who discover a whole new way of being in Christ and His Church.

Offensive. What may once have seemed like an ordinary expression of Jesus’ transforming love has now become a feast for media vultures. And sadly, as in Jesus’ day, it is often the religious establishment who join in the accusations. Remember, it was the Pharisees and Sadducees who railed against Jesus’ wonder-working power. They found His almighty mercy disruptive and intrusive; He encroached on their domain with power to set captives free. He exposed their powerlessness to call persons out of the tomb of sin and death. They took offense, and put Him to death.

Similarly, the Jimmy Seiberts are among the bold and few churchmen who do more than uphold the law of God–they champion His power to raise sinners from the dead! To be sure, breaking free of LGBT identification and becoming wholly grounded in Christ is no minor miracle. It requires nothing less than the juncture of our recognized poverty with the One whose love breaks the low ceiling imposed by our rebellion and an unbelieving culture.

Such breakthrough should seem plausible in this season of angelic visitations, pregnant virgins and guiding stars; nevertheless, I encounter Catholics and evangelicals constantly who raise their eyebrows at the prospect of Jesus actually having the power to reorder the sexually disordered.

Maybe that’s the rub. Weary and worldly, we now tend to doubt that there’s anything ‘disordered’ about same-sex attraction, or any other gender variation. To recognize another’s transformation would be to admit that maybe something is wrong—with a loved one, or with oneself. And that we are wrong for settling for less than God’s best.

And if something is wrong, then what? Does God have good things for us beyond our agreements with the status quo? Will He bear with us in our fragile and inconsistent efforts to become all that He has called us to be?

We are in the center of His heart. Advent is a time of hoping for more, of recognizing that the deserts in our lives are actually virgin territory, the very ground in which Jesus wants to impart to us the seed and water and breath to make us fruitful. A Child is about to be born; He vows to summon a host of sons and daughters from the dead of sin.

‘Then will the eyes of the blind be open, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy’ (IS 35: 5, 6).

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Living the Truth in Love

We ‘equip holy ones for the work of the ministry…so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human craftiness and cunning…Rather, living the truth in love, we shall grow up in every way to Him who is our Head, that is Christ’ (Eph. 4: 12, 14, 15).

What is the solution to the ‘craftiness and cunning’ of the Obama administration (to be accelerated by Hillary’s) in regards to a radical gender agenda now played out on the global arena (see Obama’s speech to the United Nations, September 20th, 2016)? This is the man who began office by pledging fidelity to traditional marriage then pushed through ‘gay marriage’, condemned reparative therapy, and ramrodded transgender bathrooms in every elementary school in the USA.

Anyone who disagrees with his advocacy of an ever-splintering array of gender identities is condemned as a hater, and is withheld power and finance. Worse, the majority of Americans have been tossed and blown about by this false justice; the latest Pew Research poll shows 54% of US Christians now believe that homosexuality should be accepted and integrated into society.

How do we respond? Legal answers won’t help us now. Nothing short of the radiance of wounded lives, raised from the dead of gender disorder by God’s grace, will do. They live the truth. Formerly divided, these men and women now bear Christ and bear witness to how He has united them with their gendered bodies and with His healing Body, the Church. They now live to make Him known through practical merciful service.

I witnessed this marvelously in Oklahoma City last week where sister ministry First Stone celebrated its 40th Anniversary. My great friend Stephen Black leads the work there and assembled quite a crew for the party, including ace radio talk show host Janet Mefferd and homegrown testimonies that blew me away. (Persons who almost lost their lives to the cunning and craftiness of men are always the best witnesses.)

One man became mercilessly addicted to meth in his ‘gay’ adventures and on his second jail sentence determined to follow Jesus, never to look back. He did not. Another lost family and self-respect to years of gender-bending pursuits until he began the road home, with a lot of help from Stephen and friends. Yet another testified of years of abusive treatment from men that resulted in a middle-aged affair with another woman and the torment that followed, torment that ended only when she called on Jesus Who then invited her onto a much longer process of gender reconciliation through a First Stone-sponsored Living Waters group. Her life radiated from within, a blend of beautiful womanhood lit up with merciful gratitude as she ‘shines like a star in the universe, holding out the Word of life’ (Phil. 2:15).

God is not duped by tricky humans. He foils their plans by persons who live to tell of His merciful love. We live only because of Him and for Him. We are many; He is rousing us for such a time as this.

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (JN 1:5)

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Marvelous Wound

Jesus’ broken body loosed a river of healing, not only for our personal wounds, but also for the massive divides we face as His body, the Church. These divides are many and complicated. Yet how mighty is the flood of blood, water, and Spirit upon broken ones who seek to ‘be brought to complete unity’ (JN 17: 23)!

I share a bit in the wound between Catholics and Protestants. It smarts when I hear either party speak smugly about the error of the other. When I do, I cling to the Crucified and allow a fresh draft of mercy to keep the wound clean. More and more, that burn and that mercy seem to define our Living Waters ministry.

On the eve of our 40-day fast for the Church, I had the privilege of visiting Santiago Chile where Ruth Olave and team have dug a deep well of ‘living water’ in the Vineyard Church there. I originally helped envision them to do Living Waters a decade earlier as a fellow evangelical. Last week I returned as a Catholic.

It is difficult for North Americans to understand the historic wound between Catholics and Protestants in South America. While Catholics continue to be a minority in the diverse religious culture of the USA, Catholics ruled both church and state in the south; in spite of independence from Spanish domain a century ago, the RCC still predominates and has often discriminated against evangelicals. Combine that with ‘born again’ former Catholics who eschew their history as false and serious Catholics who view these ‘sectarian zealots’ as false. Wounded!

In light of our love for each other, the evangelical team of Living Waters leaders in Santiago had concerns about our new ‘whole church’ approach to the program. I entered into our time together not knowing how to answer all their questions, which came fast and hard during meetings in which many leaders expressed concern about Catholic influence, wanting to work with Catholics, etc.

All I could do was hide myself in the wounds of Jesus. That’s where the water is! I can never fully know another’s suffering due to religious conflict but I can feel my own pain and take refuge in His merciful side. Answers flowed from love, however halting and imperfect. By the end of our time, we agreed to walk together in love for any broken person seeking mercy. On Christ, the one foundation (1Cor. 3:11), we will build together. Living Waters alone—His very mercy–makes a way.

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