Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Faith

We are healed and we will be healed by faith in Jesus. So will our loved ones. To stop trusting Jesus for His full and perfect will for everyone we love (including ourselves) negates the power of what He won for us at Calvary. ‘By His wounds we are healed’ (IS. 53:5; 1P2:24). Period.

Like every virtue, faith is both a gift of grace and an arduous goal. For persons coming out of disordered identities and desire, it is easy to trust Jesus when we experience ourselves as solid expressions of our gender, our ‘sap’ flowing in creative directions. It’s quite another to trust Him for healing when we burn with lust and self-hatred. How much more difficult is faith in God for the parent whose adult-child announces the ‘gay’ wedding or gender reassignment? ‘Faith, the evidence of things not seen,’ (Heb. 11:1) indeed!

It helps to anchor our faith in Gospel accounts of healing; over and over again, Jesus honors the faith of afflicted ones (morally, physically, emotionally) by restoring them completely (Matt. 9:22, 15:28; MK 5:34; LK 17:19; 18:42, etc.). Today, we tend to use Gospel healing accounts as metaphors for healing, as if Jesus’ touch is a spiritual abstraction. That becomes an excuse for unbelief. I love the theology of Dr. George Eldon Ladd (The Presence of the Future, Eerdmans) who majored on healing and deliverance as evidence of God’s Kingdom come in Jesus, a key that John Wimber utilized unlike any other leader as he led the Vineyard movement (of which I was privileged to be a part for twenty years.)

Wimber knew that God’s Kingdom reign was heavenly, the ‘not yet’ of our pilgrim journey, but that Jesus brought heaven-to-earth ‘now’; Christ demonstrated tomorrow’s blessing today through signs and wonders. That means we as Christ’s followers, endowed with the Spirit’s power, can heal others this side of heaven. That requires faith in the unseen reality of Jesus who restores the afflicted through His faithful ones (JN 14:12). That drives our work at Desert Stream, and defines us as a Kingdom people who cry out constantly: ‘Come Holy Spirit, and do what only You can do for hurting ones, starting with us, the staff!’

The fact that we as a team (who have been praying and healing for decades) still cry out indicates that we live between two ages—‘the now and the not yet.’ We trust God to establish His rule and reign in our midst but know also that we are en route to full Kingdom reign.

I can recall multiple healings that Jesus has done at the core of my gendered and sexual self, each one a marvel of grace tied directly to sources of same-sex attraction. But I still must pick up my little cross daily, which means remembering who I am as a son of the Father, rebuking the devourer, and making good moral choices that ensure the health of family and friends.

Sometimes that cross is easy and light, at other times, a weight that can be carried only with the help of others. I can bear the moral effort required by faith because God has opened the eyes of my heart (Eph. 1:18). That is the gift of faith; I see and trust Jesus. I want no other Kingdom but His, and He grants me glimpses of this Kingdom as we walk together toward what I cannot see in full.

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Living Hope

‘Jesus, You are everything to a lonely soul.’ St. Faustina

Mark was among the brightest of Living Waters’ young lights; he faced his same-sex attraction squarely and well with a similarly motivated group of men and women in Los Angeles. He left for China to fulfill God’s call on his life (he had studied Chinese and Asian culture at university). As he was learning Mandarin, Kim from Northern China was majoring in English. She came to the same metropolis in China where Mark had just found a job as an English teacher. They met without sparks at the first Living Waters group run in that city.

Much to my surprise, I reconnected with Mark there; my sister and husband were on job assignment in that city, attended the church sponsoring Living Waters and alerted me to the group starting. I just happened to be elsewhere in Asia and managed to combine a family visit with the launching of the group. Marvelous.

Mark poured himself out in the healing culture of Living Waters but lived and worked far from the sponsor church. In truth, the good news of Living Waters in the city dimmed as he faced what it meant to assimilate into a culture founded on words and habits not yet his own. He had few local friends and frustration with local churches wary of his presence. Lonely and feeling powerless, he descended into Jesus and wondered if He could be everything for him.

Blessed by Living Waters, Kim deepened intimacy with Jesus but remained uncertain about her relational future. She grew up in a household that dishonored women, a theme played out daily in her job with an organization that helped prostitutes get off the streets and into other work.

Mark and Kim met again at the going-away-party of the coordinator of the Living Waters program they had both attended two years earlier. They were different people, Mark humbled by hardship and alive to her beauty, Kim seeing him as the radiant man he is for the first time. They began dating and worshipping together; after two years of falling and rising in love, they discerned their readiness to fuse lives in Chinese, for a people for whom Christ gave all.

I recently reengaged with them a couple months after their wedding. The grace of marriage has enlivened them. Kim said that that she ‘had never imagined how good life could be; Mark honors me, and that gives me hope for all, especially the women I work with.’ Mark: ‘I wake up and feel full. My same-sex attraction has diminished as we go deeper in God together. Rather than fear not being enough for Kim, I have more to give.’ Jesus gives generously through marital love. Who He has joined, let no-one divide.

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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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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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