Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Fruit of Scandal

‘For you became sorrowful as God intended…Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done’ (2 Cor. 7: 9-11).

Like you, I strain to see good come from Church-mishandling of abuse. And I’m not sure if mandates from the top down—even decisive, far-reaching ones—will satisfy. We must pray, bearing with her exposure; we who wait expectantly will be doubly blessed when we behold beauty emerging from the broken ground. I am doubly blessed as I write this. During a trip to a state where the Church has been rocked by criminal investigations, I began to see life signs.

First, the abuse scandal has prompted a renewed commitment to healthy communion among priests. I was privileged to attend a chastity group run by a priest for priests. A handful of men have forged deep bonds through their differing vulnerabilities—same-sex attraction, porn temptations, inclinations to unchaste relations. These brave men are equally diverse in their stations in life. Some are young and newly-ordained, others at midpoint, still others retired. All led out humbly with their frailties and have forged a fraternity of mercy and accountability that is glorious, free of competition and drab shoptalk (aka grumbling). Authentic, attuned care prevailed.

I witnessed the fruit of their communion, as I had met most of them a couple years earlier. This round they were more focused, more earnest to ensure that their weaknesses become holy strengths; instead of isolating in fear, these men are learning to connect with humble courage.

Second, I had the honor of meeting Paul, the Dean of Students at a large seminary in that state. He is extraordinary—open, humble, holy. And grateful that the seminary is flourishing, with this year’s class being the largest one in twenty years. Amid the scandal, solid young men are being summoned by God to become a new standard of integrity.

Paul and his team have a lot to do with that. Among the main priorities of the seminary is cultivating a culture of transparency. Mentors are activating the students themselves to set up a variety of small groups in which peers provoke one another to holy self-giving. I asked Paul if a ‘gay-identified’ student could make it in the seminary. ‘His brothers would never let him get away with it. He would have to lose the ‘gay’ rap and get on track towards integration like everyone else.’ Awesome.

Paul continued: ‘We work especially hard to discern the emotional maturity of students, to ascertain that they are growing in their capacity to form healthy relationships with both men and women. They need to wrestle with what it means to make a fruitful commitment to celibacy. That may mean taking a break from the seminary in order to figure out what they really want. Seminary should be a place where people come and go. We pray that some will return, better able to say ‘yes’ to God in a healthy, fruitful way that will endure.’

What Paul emphasized was that seminary is not just about individuals discerning a lifetime commitment to the Church but also the Church discerning a lifetime commitment to them.

For the first time, I witnessed the fruit of scandal. From the fire of abuse, a repentant Church is emerging. She is at once sorrowful for her sin and zealous to glorify Jesus, each member doing its part to become one chaste bride.

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

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Living Waters

Reach

‘Remember not the former things…behold the new!’ (Isaiah 43:18)

Living Waters is a long narrow cross-walk that always opens to Life. To be sure, it can hurt to face the uneven, perilous ground on which we were at once victim and perpetrator, oblivious to both! Eyes open now, we flinch at the poor choices we can still make in light of the Risen Christ. Growing up is hard, and dodging His call to follow onto solid ground offsets the weight of decisive obedience. Yet here lies our cure, our happiness: surrendering to the luminous Christ, His wounds yet visible, who alone has power to transform weakness into creative communion.

That’s why the transformation of persons with same-sex attraction will always remain the prophetic core of Living Waters. Only a third of our people struggle in that way, but those who discover Jesus in the depth of historic yearning for same-gender completion become the strongest, most sensitive lovers of the other sex. As such, we harmonize with Leanne Payne: ‘The healing of the “homosexual” is the healing of all persons.’

Case in point—after a passionate, liberating day at the cross in Manila where we faced the dishonor we incurred and extended to our ‘better’ half, I felt that we needed to celebrate the fruit of our suffering—the evidence of how Jesus trains the faithful to reach beyond personal healing into interpersonal gift-giving. His passion reclaims and realigns our passions!

That night, I asked two Asian couples (Filipino and Chinese) to share candidly of how Jesus through Living Waters communities in their lands helped forge family life out of what the world (and worldly church) would define as pretty raw material. Gratefully, Jesus has overcome the world.

As a young teen, Jerry received hope from his pastor that someday he would thrive as a husband and father. Sexual abuse, same-sex attraction and a promiscuous young adult life that resulted in an HIV diagnosis shattered the prophecy. In his late thirties, Jerry staggered into a Living Waters group to make peace with God. Sue—a leader on the team–did not like men as a rule due to historic wounds but she liked Jerry and somehow knew this was her guy.

After the group ended, Jerry and Sue began to date and he grew rather quickly in love with her; he began to fight for her honor. He won her over and after good counsel they married and immediately became pregnant. Sue released an egg from a medically-pronounced dead ovary, and the child (and mother) remains HIV-free. They can hardly wait for a second child.

Ben met Sara, a native Chinese woman intent on overcoming despair over the failure of men in her life, at the first Living Waters group in their big city. He had just arrived from America to fulfill an early call to serve China. Overwhelmed by the challenges of language, culture and tent-making, Ben barely remembers meeting Sara at that group. His first couple years were a dark night of just getting by, with intermittent return to porn use and lots of self-pity. By God’s grace, he rallied and forged a healing community to support his recovery, which had started years earlier in a Living Waters group in California. He began to pray: ‘Lord, I need a beautiful, smart, empathic wife if I am going to make it here.’ (I love the fact that Ben knew his SSA deterred not from the gift he was and needed to offer!)

He re-met Sara at a party and knew she was the answer to his prayer. They discovered a common language and commitment to wholeness; they soon married and now can attest to how much richer and expansive their lives are together. ‘We can simply give that much more to others.’ They are expecting their first child in a few months.

Jesus reclaims our pretty good broken lives and refines them in the fire of love. He asks us to reach beyond what we’ve known in order to discover the fullness of His will for our humanity. That always involves knowing the gift we are and giving it away.

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

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who you looking at jesus

Who You Looking At?

Easter opens the eyes of our heart to see the Risen Christ. For the first time, again. He is here! He has walked through our walls; His gaze, lit with tender mercy, catches ours and enlivens our hearts, summoning us from the dead.

On Easter Sunday Annette and I experienced together that slight disappointment which one more often experiences on New Year’s Eve—high expectancy, low return. We were weary and subject to the slumber of small disturbances. We stalled at the empty tomb, our gazes cast down and dulled to the marvel of Jesus on the lam. I was jolted to life by the angels’ words to grieving tomb women: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!’ (LK 24:5).

I immediately went into prayer, looking for this holy Rover. I found Him in my Divine Mercy image, the Risen Christ regarding me kindly, His wounds yet visible and pouring forth a life-giving stream of blood and water. I love this glimpse of Jesus and I centered on it like a spent child hungry for a parent’s attention. I’ve stayed near merciful Jesus since then as I journeyed to the Philippines for our biggest training there yet, one distinguished by Chinese translation and many participants from that great land. Challenges of size and language came easily as I fixed my eyes on Divine Mercy in the meeting hall and in my room. Wherever I went, I knew He was nearer than a brother–looking, loving, and sustaining my efforts through pure mercy.

During the first night of ministry, Jesus said: ‘Now that your heart is clear due to the way I look at you, I want you to look at every person that way, the way that I look at you’! What? I protested: ‘God, I am a busy man: I put my head down and charge to the next thing. ‘Linger’, He instructed, ‘Look with marvel at each one I have sent. Be My loving gaze upon them.’

DSM Staff in Manila.

I did what He said. When I was tempted to race, I looked up and out and inquired visually of each one’s well-being, blessing each in a Spirit of generous mercy. Especially with frustrated or annoying faces before me, I maintained a stream of merciful contact. I was helped by Acts 3:4 when Peter said to the hurting man pleading for healing: ‘Look at us.’ The cripple obeyed and was instantly healed when he gazed at Peter and John. I claim no such apostolic power but I know that an inspired look of love to a soul cast down steadies the uncertain heart.

After a while, I began to see other things—from the merciful gaze came prophetic sight as to who these ones actually were. Prospective burdens became beautiful sons and daughters of our Father. A royal procession emerged from the ash heap: kings and queens, lovers and warriors, exquisite representatives of Jesus. The prophetic vision lasted throughout the week and only increased when God knew I would say what I saw. These ones now know that Jesus has destroyed the low ceiling that stunted their stature. As they emerge into their full, original form, we together proclaim in awestruck wonder: He has risen, and we with Him!

‘It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as what you meet…only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities…that we should conduct all our dealings with one another.’ – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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

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bearing the cross

Bearing

Though I love the benefits of Jesus’ cross, I am tempted to hate sharing in that cross with Him. It hurts to bear up under the burden He invites us to shoulder, namely grief over His Church.

During prayer for the healing of our corporate compromises, I realized: what I most value as a Christian—killing sin through swift confession before it kills me, my marriage, or another; living out loud in community in order to grow beyond same-sex attraction into real fruitfulness—is not enough believed or practiced in my Church. For this I suffer, a grief Jesus has invited me to bear. I am not alone but alongside other members who share these values and love the bride enough to grieve too.

This Lent He invited us into a little share of His cross; would we bear this for an hour or so each week in prayer? We discovered we couldn’t shake that burden after the meetings ended. It stayed with us, and seems now like a heart condition. Indeed, we carry it for her cleansing. Perhaps St. Paul’s mysterious reference in Col. 1:24 to bear in one’s body a share in Jesus’ suffering for His body applies here. Who knows? We pray on.

My friend Dana recalled her experience of a 14-mile procession she and friends made one Good Friday with a large wooden cross—each took turns shouldering it: ‘As I carried the cross, it sunk into me and its weight increased. It became a part of me; I realized that it was Jesus inviting me to walk with Him to help carry His cross. What seemed too heavy became doable with Him.’ Christ in us: to suffer, and to hope for glory (Col. 1: 27). That reminds me of Bonhoeffer’s words: ‘We know too little in the church today about the peculiar blessing of bearing. Bearing, not shaking off; bearing, but not collapsing either; bearing as Christ bore the cross, remaining underneath, and there beneath it, to find Christ.’

Having looked hard together at a scandalized Church, we have done more than meet to pray; rather, we have received a spirit of prayer with which to pray unceasingly for her. Over the long haul. Change takes time and occurs as prayer like underground wells spring up on the earth and accomplish the impossible.

We pray for witnesses of transformation in the sexual arena to arise and take their places alongside leaders who welcome, guide, and amplify their experience of an empowered Gospel.

We pray for the eloquent truth of Pope Emeritus Benedict—‘Sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction which is not homosexual…its meaning is to bring about the union of man and woman which gives humanity posterity, children, future. This…is the essence of sexuality’—to fuse with the fatherly compassion of Pope Francis. May that fullness of mercy and truth compel Christians to turn from sexual sin (beginning with clergy) toward the arduous, splendid process of becoming chaste.

We pray for courageous leaders who eschew politics for the transformation of souls. Might orthodox leaders refuse clericalism by equipping lay men and women to serve the broken; might the unorthodox be routed lest the Church’s mercy be diluted further by the call to ‘accompaniment’ without repentance or discipline.

Might we, horrified by our own sin, find beneath the cross that no sin can ever be alien to us (Bonhoeffer) and in mercy cry out for all sinners–bishops and busboys, popes and plumbers. Might God grace us to bear holy grief and the hope of glory long after Lent.

‘We do not want you to grieve like those who have no hope…’ (1 Thess. 4:13).

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

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freedom naturally lady gaga

Freedom, Naturally

I chuckled as Lady Gaga decried Vice-President Pence ‘as the worst representative of Christianity’ because his wife took a job at a school that defines freedom as reserving sexual love for marriage and thus requires employees to deny themselves other forms of behavior or identity. Gaga was nearly outdone by Ellen Page who branded fellow actor Chris Pratt a ‘hater’ for attending a church that believes similarly.

I guess Gaga and Page equate freedom with doing whatever one desires. To live one’s desires is to live free. Besides the absurdity of two women who pride themselves on being non-judgmental damning anyone who disagrees with them, I think it might help to say a few words on Christian freedom.

Christians certainly recognize that persons possess desire in many directions—Jesus Himself speaks of the heart as a fountain of feelings that can result in self-harm and damage to others (MK 7:14-23.) St. Paul takes this a step further when he theologized about the evident sexual immorality of ancient Rome; he claimed that humanity knows better and must suppress what they know in order to act unnaturally, under the power of enslaving desires (Rom. 1: 18-32). That rang true.

I was free to identify and behave homosexually but became a slave to my desires. Passion did not liberate but rather dominated me. Instead of learning to direct my sexuality in a way that engendered life in others, I became self-concerned and chaotic in seeking to find myself in a series of cracked mirrors. You could say I was being true to my bad self. That has a morbid integrity all its own but thank God for persons who advocated for me beyond the superficial intercession of a Gaga or Page. This slave needed freedom beyond ‘to thine own self be true.’

One’s true nature is bound up in another: the person of Jesus Christ. Christians know this with childlike profundity. Rather than rail at other’s addictive symptoms, they accompany wanderers unto Himself, the only unchanging mirror of the true self. Jesus, at once Creator and Redeemer, has gentle authority to summon who we are from a host of weak options, including LGBT fragmentation.

Then comes the good hard work of becoming chaste, which is all about harnessing desire in a way that dignifies everyone. No stranger to sensational enslavement, St. Augustine says it like this: ‘Through chastity, we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity’(CCC #2340).

What a guy. He gave language to our divided hearts which will flail about in vain for a center until we find ourselves in Jesus. Gaga knows something about this in her stated regret over partnering with abuser/rapper R. Kelly. This gifted woman now aspires to dignity, even to Christian faith. Why cannot she allow others to pursue theirs without demonizing them? She might just benefit from knowing how Jesus takes slaves of LGBT freedom and makes us fruitful sons and daughters.

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

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