Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
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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conversion therapy

Nature Rebels

Nature rebelled at our Living Waters Training in Malibu Canyon last week. Charred by the Woolsey Fire just months earlier, the land struggled to absorb five days of driving rain. A stream on the property became a flood as the 20 member team prepped for the arrival of 35 participants. Upon arriving late, I called Dean Greer who calmly informed me that the team had been ordered to evacuate; as he (and Wayne, bless you man!) led the caravan out through the emergency exit, mud slid from the hills and rocks crashed down around them.

On the home front, the rebellion of human nature escalated. A ‘gay married’ actress on television railed against ‘conversion therapy’ as the reason why a young black actor (also ‘gay-identified’) was roughed up by thugs in Chicago a few days earlier. Her theatrical charms overrode any semblance of logic and the audience blew out the studio with cheers and applause. Desert Stream Ministries was pelted by requests from various media sources to weigh in on ‘conversion therapy’ as I awaited Dean’s next phone call.

I was struck by the insanity of demonizing any person who seeks to be reconciled to one’s gendered self and become fruitful. I reread an excellent article by a doctor who pointed out how supporting another’s effort to ‘change’ gender is nothing short of abuse, rendering the person infertile, mutilated, and severely depressed. I responded to one newscaster inquiring about the dangers of ‘conversion therapy’ with this paragraph:

‘As ‘conversion therapy’ has no actual meaning except to scapegoat persons who choose to grow beyond ‘gay’ and ‘trans’ identification, we at Desert Stream Ministries advocate for any person who in light of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria seeks to become an integrated member of his or her own gender and a good gift to the opposite gender. One should be free to secure clinical and spiritual support for these goals.’

Meanwhile, Dean and team arrived safely a nearby church and kicked into high gear to ensure a warm welcome for the participants, including delegates from England, New Zealand, Kenya, China and Columbia. Through it all, we waited, unsure where the sixty of us might go the next day. 16 hours later we received the go-ahead to return to the conference site. Nature’s whiplash was no match for heaven’s intervention.

Where rebellion abounds, grace prevails for those who look to the Lamb. We followed Him more nearly due to the trials at hand. In weakness, Jesus became stronger, clearer, closer than before. We were ready for His touch. He dwelled with us throughout the week, full of grace and truth. The nations marveled as we welcomed the Creator and Redeemer as the very foundation of our selves—our freedom to offer ourselves undividedly.

‘Conversion therapy’? Yes, Jesus converts us as we humble ourselves before Him and each other, awaiting His healing presence. He’s the only therapist worthy of our complete surrender. At the beginning of the week, I received a picture of a sword hanging over us—the threat of weather, slander, even legal action for daring to profess that Jesus transforms lives. By the week’s end I could see the sword had become a gleaming Cross, shining and spinning over us and the whole of creation. As nature rebels, God prevails.

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

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Holy Family?

I prepared myself for the worst last Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family. I prophesied a dismal homily on the too-radiant-to-be-believed triad: you know, ‘be holy as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are holy’, piercing neither the surface of family nor holiness.

Wrong on all counts. My pastor pointed out the disparity between our generosity to family members and to strangers. We write big checks to orphans then all but get restraining orders on family members who ‘trigger’ us. Overly sensitive to those we love so much we hate, many of us are anything but holy in how emotionally stingy we are toward family members.

It’s our nature to defend ourselves when loved ones frustrate us. Or take some disturbing turn that frightens us. Jesus stressed Mary out by ditching the clan for some temple time. It was the first sign of Him distancing Himself from her for reasons not yet clear. To be sure, the analogy breaks down with our families: confusing members are messianic only in their own darkened minds. Yet it can help to remember everyone has a subtext that only God ‘gets’ as well as a noble destiny we may have forgotten.

This holy week I had the privilege of responding to an emergency call from colleagues in marital crisis. That holy family nearly blew up as they walked onto a landmine of familiar suspicions and judgments. But they surrendered together to the Father who calmed the storm; holy peace helped them to hear each other so they could glimpse his or her goodness once more. Another couple met with us to seek wisdom on how to best love a son in the throes of an identity crisis. (It’s hard to love a 36-year-old acting 16.) But these parents are digging deep into the Father’s love for their child and his best. However painful, the only way is down– on one’s knees–where love and wisdom are distilled. Generous, tempered care for the other’s good can result from such prayer.

Mary shows us the way here. After her anxiety over Jesus’ disappearance, she does something we all can do—she ‘treasured these things in her heart’ (LK 2:51). That word for ‘treasure’ means to reflect, to conceive something new out of the brooding. It provides sacred space for entrusting the beloved to the Father who sees all (LK 2:51); it may also grant one inspired sight. You could say that Mary’s prayer transformed her fear into marvel. May such prayer make our families holy this year too; may we love our members wisely, generously, in 2019.

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

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Saved by Beauty 2

‘The joy of a saint is not to draw people to himself…but to cast his crown before God.’ Father Richard Veras

This fall I’ve faced the down-drag of affliction—my Church’s tendency to look good rather than to become good, and my mother who shattered her shoulder in August. In the face of her mortality (resilient and recovering 93-year-old that she is!), I uneasily check my own and am tempted by resignation rather than resurrection.

Jesus is faithful through His saints. During several trips to care for Mom, I attended morning Mass at a local parish. One day a week the priest presides expertly over a sanctuary teeming with elementary school kids while we adults vie for seats in back. A young father who I can only describe as radiant-in-holiness sat next to me and proceeded to boast about his first grade daughter and how he wanted to ‘live out’ the Mass for her. What? I saw him once again, warm and porous-in-love. Light broke my darkness.

A young Filipina woman reads the Old Testament passage and Psalm one day a week at the same Mass. When she does, her beauty and sanctity compel me to listen; I receive the Word freely. I asked her afterwards how she preps, and she responded that she prays to embody the Word for that moment—to step into the Word and become it. What? Something like joy welled up in me and overtook sadness.

I flew home late during my last visit in order to help Annette with the one day a week that she cares for both of our grandkids. Annette has made it clear—on that day, we both care for them. 6-month-old Camille lights up the world with her smile. Nothing like it. She sleeps, she feeds, she fusses, then boom: here comes the sun. One-year-old, Jacob is, well, perfect. My ‘strollering’ with him and our eldest labrador Joni is the highlight of the week. He clutches her leash in his fist; indigo eyes, full of wonder, take in the world around him as if it were Eden’s first day.

Through his eyes, I marvel again, and wait with renewed hope for the Day.

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

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