Category: Prayer

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Jesus Our Peace

‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled or afraid’ (Jn 14:27).

Not as easy as it sounds. Sure, I’m praying-nothing but time to pray, lingering longer before Him. Hungry yes, still no Eucharist, but the Real Presence of Jesus in His Spirit meets me. At times, my whole being resounds with something like peace.

Until. I surprise myself. Just when I thought I could ‘walk in the Spirit and not fulfill my lusts’ (Gal. 5:16) … Bam. My doctor’s appointment was supposed to be quick and easy. But the line outside for temp-taking and masking was long; when the receptionist reprimanded me in a shrill voice-with a grotesque passport smile-‘Get back sir, you are way too close!’-I saw myself lunge at her and successfully rip the façade off her ‘pleasant’ face.

‘The peace He left’ left. As I paced the waiting area (no room at that inn–most seats were blocked for distancing purposes), I felt good shame and mused on what lurks beneath most of our prayerful efforts. His peace still surpasses understanding but so does the unrest that seeps into our core and rattles us.

I asked for mercy. I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet. It reminds me that Jesus’ mercy suffices and extends way beyond me to meet those most in need of it. ‘O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, empty Yourself out upon us and envelope the whole world…’

I aim His mercy at the world’s front-liners, persons isolated and without familiar consolation in their distress. Like you, I’ve a dozen friends and relatives who suffer alone. And I pray for courageous medics who are the last ones to hold a fearful hand, losing its grip.

That’s the real deal-the crux of this pandemic-good people losing breath and the hospital heroes who accompany them as we look on helplessly through various screens.

We cannot pass through the walls of this pandemic. But Divine Mercy and Peace can. I chuckle at my mixtures then pray for that River to flow to the most courageous, and vulnerable, in this fight.

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Resounding Authority

‘I pray that you would know…His incomparably great power toward those who believe’ (Eph. 1: 18, 19).

Not a big surprise that sexual temptation has increased in the pandemic. But this Easter, with Pentecost right around the bend, I am fighting for a ‘yes’ to chastity that surpasses concession to moral sloppiness. Might our God-breathed resolve rise! Like a prayer, may our authority for purity resound and empower fellow strugglers around the world.

Doesn’t matter the season; we choose today who we will serve. This is what Catholics call self-mastery, taking charge over our own temples. God makes the way and invites us to walk in it. St. Paul couldn’t be clearer—Jesus bought our bodies with His blood and filled them with the Spirit that raised His dead body. Now we can act decisively and ‘honor God’ in our passions (1 Cor. 6).

Harder than it sounds. One cannot underestimate the depth of disordered desires, the divides that define and deride us. We invest more in porn than chastity; we think like Christians but worship at pagan altars. Our common enemy mocks our ‘yes’ to Jesus when we bow the knee to sexy idols. No wonder we’ve little appetite for real people. Shame and self-reproach are closest companions.

No good waiting for magic—the experience that changes everything. We admit powerlessness and we cry out for mercy; we activate the authority He has already given us. In the sexual realm, we act like our own exorcist, or master house cleaner. In the Spirit of Jesus, we cast counterfeits out of the temple. We let them in. Expel them, in the Name of Jesus. Use your authority: ‘GET OUT!’

Countless times, under the sway of temptation, I have simply chosen Him. I cling, His right hand upholds me. With one hand I embrace Him; with the other I wield the sword and decapitate snakes. Simple. Intimate authority that resounds throughout the universe.

All this is impossible without help, without Church. We MUST be known to a handful of persons who share our struggle and our commitment to chastity. Jesus in our friends is stronger than Jesus in our weakness. No other way than through the broken body of Christ—real members who fall, get back up, help us stand.

We are winning because He won already. That win is deeper in us today than it was yesterday. Our ‘yes’ to Him is far more powerful than the grip of sin. Every time we forego lust through our ‘yes’ to Jesus, holiness resounds and strengthens a host of struggling hearts.

Instead of lamenting the influence of charming idolaters, let us exercise our authority. We have power to unite the divided with robust chastity.

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Grounded 8

One strange (if inconsequential) impact of Covid-19 are ‘virtual’ running races. We who have preregistered for, say, half-marathons, are now instructed that the race will be 5000 (or so) solo ones—take to the hills of your choice, pound 13.1 miles yourself, send in your time, and receive a gaudy medallion in a private ceremony of your own design.

Pretty lame for an $80 investment—solos runs are what socially disinclined runners do all the time. After winter’s gloom, Midwest racers want to inhale Spring with others: first, the corporate anxiety of sizing up your competition then boom, out of the blocks, alternately goaded and annoyed by the guy or girl next to us who seem to have the edge, mile after mile. Finally, the last half-mile or so when you draw from untapped sources and lunge to a strong finish.

I love it! It keeps me sharp and in shape, a little defiant of age, still ‘enlarging the place of my tent, not holding back!’ (Is. 54:2) or in St. Paul’s words, ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of me’ (Phil. 1:12). Running races compels me to reach for more. For the last decade of so, I have slowed only a little, and on occasion have surprised myself with better times.

But this 62-year-old mortal is feeling his limits. Last year I suffered a couple injuries while training with my junior partner in chaste crime-capers, Marco Casanova. New to competing, he ran through his limits and aced his first half-marathon in October. Since then, we’ve trained on long runs together, and, I say with feigned humility, he began to surpass me. Ouch. Experiencing him pace then disgrace me by jutting out til he ascended the hill and disappeared… well, I felt 62.

Why then did I ask Marco to do that blasted virtual run, my first? Cause I wanted the goad and I wanted to see God bless the guy as his gift accelerated and he celebrated the grace of running. As expected, we ran shoulder-to-shoulder for the first half, then Marco broke away. I strove to hold my own, and he found the groove right for him. In a flash I reckoned that others stronger and younger than me must share in this race and surpass me. How else will a generation be rescued from the stink of sexual sin? How else will She be made chaste, ready for Her soon-coming-King?

‘Forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…’ (Phil. 3:14)

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Corporate Handover

Aging cuts both ways: yes, we at Desert Stream Ministries are now 40 years wiser, but also stubborn and calcified in ways that can inhibit our gift of ‘living water’ from coursing through Christ’s body.

To be fair, God challenges DSM constantly, especially during annual cleanings—the scourges of Spring, if you will. We expect the leanness of Lent to cast chilly light on the dirt that has accumulated; we name it, cast it out, and remind ourselves to keep it out. Post-Easter we are raring to do, ready to launch, energized by the purge.

Covid-19 prolonged our Lent. Truly! Countless cancellations and re-scheduled events pinched and punched us into another level of surrender: OK, OK God, what do you want? Your servants are too beat up not to listen.

While prayerfully zooming together, Jesus burned off whatever vanity we nourished (flat screen, bad hair, glaring lights, frozen and pinched faces) and kneaded us to new levels of malleability.

We confessed more precisely the little foxes we still entertain. Not felons, we are yet prone to misdemeanors that we see and don’t see. Jesus clarified that we can’t afford self-deception—He is empowering us to pick up swords and sever ties that blind.

Then the challenges at hand: will you, says He, lay down your ways of doing ministry and let me refine and redirect your approach? I want you to hit new targets and you cannot in your old ways of operating. We as a merciful mission have tolerated passivity and unprofessional ways of operating. Our message of chastity for all deserves better.

Jesus is championing and goading us: ‘You can do better! Chastity for all must be heard and administered rightfully if My will for ‘living waters’ is to be realized!’

Pray for us. Speak Lord, Your servants are listening. This work is Yours, we hand it over and allow You to show us how to do it better.

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Grounded 7

Authority arises from intimacy. And intimacy is about spending time with the beloved, lovers lingering together until…

Who knows? How long the lockdown? Next week? Month? When will the roar of ‘normal’ goad us into frantic action and dull our ardor for Him?

Not inclined to rush these days, I am quieted by Love. Deeper than human need, no doubt provoked by it, my hunger welcomes Jesus. He apprehends the ache and surrounds it. He is my desire, the only One who holds my gaze and eases my grasp on lesser objects.

I’ve no planes to catch, no early morning deadlines to deplete me before breakfast. I awake in the dark, rested and expectant, ready for Love. I light candles on the family ‘altar.’ Heavenly bodies beckon to me—Joseph protecting Mary and Son, St. John Paul ll praying for all to conceive new life in Jesus, then the Man Himself, His open body (envisioned by both St. Francis and Faustina) releasing yet again that river of Life. Only His climactic gift can cleanse and restore me.

I remain there for a couple hours until sunrise. Sort of lost in Love. I know that no-one loves me like He does but I tend to forfeit that grace by limiting love to a few minutes, often spent in wordy devotions. Done, box checked. Not the way to live in love; any long-married person will tell you that. Why do we treat Jesus worse than a long-suffering spouse?

Will the way change when the walls to the world come down? Hope not. Maybe I will proceed like I am loved, not stumbling over the debris that derides me. Maybe. To be strong is to be lovesick, overcome in the watches of the night.

I close with lyrics of a simple song—’Draw Me Close to You’–one I sing constantly, quietly, to Jesus:

‘Draw me close to You, never let me go. I lay it all down again, to hear You say that I’m your friend. You are my desire; no-one else will do. For nothing else could take Your place, to feel the warmth of Your embrace. Help me find a way, lead me back to You.’

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