Tag Archives: Annette

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
Clear to Hear

Clear to Hear

‘I heard birds sing for the first time today.’ So testified a woman from our Mexican Training whose ears had echoed with demonic accusations. As the Father sought after His daughter, members of the leadership team prayerfully spoke a few true words to her about her status as His beloved one. God’s real confirming presence delivered her from torment. One Voice prevailed over many false ones and freed her to listen, to hear in silence God singing over her through a bird.

Not all of us are demonized in that way. But most of us live in the clutter of noisy demands vying for our attention which crowd out His still small Voice. How often do we fail to hear the Word that could be our freedom? Or another’s?

The other day at home, I was listening to something through earphones while cleaning, a familiar scenario in which I attempt to manage my own little universe. Annette tried in vain to get my attention. Exasperated, she cried, ‘We are together in this house, yet alone. That’s just rude!’ Rude, and revealing. What else do I not hear as I immerse myself in an audio world that refuses stillness? The Psalmist declares that ‘the heavens pour forth speech’, but I am not listening. I can and do repel the Spirit’s stirrings (not to mention my wife’s!) with noise.

Yet there are blessed moments when we listen from our hearts. Annette and I are doing ‘Beauty and the Breach’ with our dear friends the Nobregas; together we walk couples-in-conflict through a brief curriculum and listening exercises. Annette and I enter in and ‘exercise’ our own listening skills, especially in hard-to-hear areas. I never cease to be amazed by the healing that comes through Annette’s gracious speech.

Mark my words: we shall never be a ministry that replaces face-to-face encounter with virtual room noise, however noble the blog or video may be! We need to gather together, still our hearts, and listen.

Stillness. Jesus is always calling in the quiet. When I do not start the day in expectant silence, I know I am in trouble. Going to daily Mass helps. Before the Crucified, I am enveloped in everlasting arms, which is why I try to come early and stay late. I need to rest in Him who controls it all through perfect love. Fears and doubts fade away in His Presence. He speaks loudest in silence.

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Annette

Love has a name. I discovered its meaning only when I chose to offer myself 35-years-ago to this person named Annette. What I thought I knew about love meant little as I bumped up against my selfishness. (I prided myself on a kind of reflective, poetic awareness of love but actually knew next to nothing about it.) In joy and especially in her tears, Annette invited me to love her because she was worth it. I wanted to do so. Though desire spurs us onto discipline, they are not the same things. I was flabby in love.

One factor (though by no means the only) involved my homosexual background. Neither God nor I was content for me to muck around all my days bowing before mirror images of myself. I was done being seduced by Narcissus– mirages of idealized masculinity that lured me only to sicken me. The challenge of conversion is that you start to worship the ONE and in so doing you catch glimpses of what is true about yourself and the rest of creation. That is good. And scary. Pieper is right; maybe we stay sick in order to shirk the responsibility of wholeness.

Annette was a real woman, whole-enough: smart and sophisticated, attuned to others, a God-seeker but bound up inside too, as if she had to earn His love. Annette was dimensional, and I tracked with her; I wanted her but I wanted her on my terms and I cannot say I ever got close enough to anyone to know their terms. Until I entered into Annette’s world. Wow. Uncharted territory: would I love the whole of her and ‘man-up’ enough to offer the ragged whole of me?

A few things helped: mutual sexual desire took a little while, as is often the case when one has SSA. The pleasure we found in each other’s bodies developed in the context of a growing relationship; the more we disclosed about our lives and trusted each other, the more we desired each other.

And Annette was easy to desire. She possessed an ease of being, an integrated gift of welcoming others into her life. I marveled at how she could open the door of her heart to persons she trusted and display a range of emotions with an immediacy that at once drew me and challenged me.

It helped to place Jesus at the center of our communion. That may have been slightly defensive on my end but in truth, Annette and I wanted Him and His will above all else. As Annette discovered more about the depth of Jesus’ love for her and welcomed His Spirit in the core areas of her life (she had a lot of fear-based problems due to childhood sexual abuse), she grew more and more beautiful to me. I realize now that marriage involves body and soul and that the enlightened soul permeates the body and makes it hot. Spirit-filled Annette turned me on.

So in fear and trembling and with great expectations, we said yes to each other. Saying yes to each other meant saying no to everyone else. By that I mean divisive things, like unhelpful advice or other lovers, real or imagined. We took the marriage bed seriously and refused to allow phantoms to insinuate themselves into the bond we shared. Yes, we talked things out, still do, but out of respect for each other and on the solid ground of trusting each other.

We share a rich legacy in ministry but deeper still is our family life. Annette is the best Mom: she has never flagged at offering herself wholly to our four kids while also giving them space to grow apart from her. We shared parenting from the start, still do—we have discovered that the task morphs but never stops. Raising kids highlights the truth that sexual love is about more than interpersonal pleasure (though for that I am grateful); God intends sex to create other lives. That is why discipline in the sexual realm is so crucial. What you make you must also tend, and what you do privately gets passed down to your kids whether they know it or not. Sex is powerful. That’s why chastity means everything to us.

As we move into our 36th year, I notice that we bicker less and accept each other more; we no longer treat misdemeanors as felonies and have dug a deeper well of mercy that we offer one other in unspoken ways. We have weathered a host of hardships together, which has seasoned and tempered our bond. Annette grows in virtue, the beauty of holiness. We do not need to ‘talk things out’ as much as before. We look at each other’s exquisitely lined faces with gratitude after 35 years of life together. We speak words of love to each other. We grow in living those words. Not too hard–I know love’s name.

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True Justice

‘The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.’ (PS 103:6)

‘Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.’ Pope Benedict

My wife Annette observed an 8-year-old boy in a waiting room trying to make sense of a photo in People magazine of two men in tuxes, probably a feature on some celeb ‘gay wedding.’ Wide-eyed, and too truthful to have anything but a visceral response to the madness, he said: ‘Are those guys… you know, together? That’s real scary.’

No scarier than the wedding photo in front of me of two men, 20-years apart yet mirror images of each other, with their adopted 4-year-old daughter between them. Her smile is stained, theirs soft and wide as they beam through her at each other. A glimpse of unrealized manhood, a girl in trouble, and the hemorrhaging of justice in the form of ‘gay marriage.’

Children become parents, purveyors of truth, when we celebrate and seal the disintegration of gender identity in ‘gay weddings.’

Consider a young man—Ben—whom I just met at a healing conference. Having come to terms with his own same-sex attraction, he possesses a firm resolve to reach for all that Christ has for him. He also just discovered that his father is now ‘out’ as an active ‘gay man’ and is urging his son to do likewise. Ben’s first task was to set a firm boundary with his deluded father and make decisions for his own integration as a man, including coming to this conference. (Check it out: Ministry of Pastoral Care, founded by Leanne Payne. Excellent)

Over the course of our week together, I observed the Holy Spirit moving upon Ben. He received grace in such abundance that confessing his sin, and grieving over his damaged father and the arc of damage in his life thus far occurred readily, gently. Through a host of Christian loved ones who accompany him on this journey, he will continue to take hold of all for which Christ took hold of him.

In truth, Jesus’ justice for those with same-sex attraction lies in recognizing how oppressed we are and repenting unto the only One who can help us.

On the other hand, justice is thwarted when we redefine marriage. ‘Gay marriage’ validates the disintegration of gender identity for parents and children alike.

‘Marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No-one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize for the sake of justice and for the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow.

First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized. Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes as ‘marriages’ sexual partnerships that many believe are non-marital and immoral. Third, the common good of society is damaged when the law itself becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends.

And is it is out of love (and not hate) and prudent concern for the common good (not prejudice), that we pledge to labor unceasingly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture.

How could we as Christians do otherwise? The Bible teaches us that marriage is a central part of God’s creation covenant. Indeed the union of husband and wife mirrors the bond between Christ and His church.

Just as Christ was willing out of love, to give Himself up for the Church as a complete sacrifice, we are willing in love to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.’

( If you are interesting in reading The Manhattan Declaration concerning marriage please click here.)

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At Peace In War

As ‘gay pride month’, June always provokes a kind of dread in me. This month started out with a bang—a federal appeals court struck down the existing federal law defining marriage solely between a man and woman. Gay pride will swagger throughout the month, amplified by fawning journalists.

Many see the end in sight: finally, our nation is recognizing that homosexuality is a moral good—utterly normal, utterly on par with heterosexuality as solid ground for marriage and family.

Utter nonsense. While praying the other day, God showed me a picture of an oil spill that was spreading out and encasing vulnerable, beautiful creatures. At first the oil had little effect on them. Then it constricted movement, and finally their breathing. I saw a powerful balm being applied to the dying; it alone had power to dissolve the sludge and to restore life. I knew right away it was the blood of the Lamb, the only hope for those encased by ‘gay pride.’

I dread ‘gay pride month’ because it celebrates the slow death of beautiful, vulnerable men and women who believe the lie that homosexuality is their destiny. Unless they repent and receive the blood, they will perish.

31-years-ago this month, my bride and I sped away from our honeymoon suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. Our exit was blocked on every side by a massive ‘gay pride parade.’ The dreamy nuptials collided with a gender nightmare. We made it out fine, grateful for the blood that redeemed us and made us one.

Last Sunday (June 3rd), our second son Nick was ordained as an Anglican priest. The presiding bishop was an old friend—Dr. Todd Hunter, who decades ago led the Vineyard movement in the USA when Annette and I began to train Vineyard churches to heal their sexually broken.

Nick and Todd are both amazing expressions to us of God’s faithful love—the grace He still extends to us though our beloved Vineyard roots, but most importantly, the faithful love that redeems lives from the pit (Nick had his own sludge to reckon with) and sets their feet upon a rock. Our joy was full as we celebrated this public recognition of God’s favor upon Nick.

Todd commissioned Nick by reminding him how rest and peace are the earmarks of solid Christian leadership. “In repentance and rest will be your salvation; in quietness and trust will be your strength.” (Is. 30:15) In spite of the battle waging outside the church walls, God’s Spirit fell peacefully upon all of us. We sang His praise whole-heartedly.

June is ‘gay pride month’ but it is also the month of my marriage and son’s ordination. This is the day that God has made and has redeemed. I will go forth aware of the sludge but more deeply aware of the power of the blood. I will fight this month in peace.

‘I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.’ (PS 40: 1-3)

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Ascending Fear: Jesus’ Absence and Our Authority

Ascension of Christ. Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 - 1872), published in 1877.

‘Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.’ (Jn 16:6)

Jesus had to leave us in order to liberate us. He had to depart in order to give us power. But for the disciples, Jesus’ ascension back to the Father may have felt more like abandonment than the assurance of authority.

Think about it. Jesus’ followers just got in the groove with the Resurrected Christ. (It took a while–remember? They failed to recognize him for days!) Just when they were in step with Him, the Lamb is swallowed up by a cloud. (Acts 1:9)

Jesus, now absent, gives disciples like us His Spirit—powerful and pervasive, but unseen. The Spirit demands our faith and action based on His leading. Yet His instructions are more whispers than proclamations. And we are imperfect ‘receptors’ at best, as inclined to our own darkness as we are to the light. How we long for Jesus-in-the-flesh declaring: ‘This is the way; walk in it!’

That means that we His disciples have to face our fears of ourselves: Can we do this? Was that a prophetic dream or a delusion? What if we obey that still small voice and turn out to be wrong?

What a risky God—entrusting us with continuing His reign of heaven on earth.

Scary stuff! I remember what I felt to be the Spirit’s leading to attend a university discussion on ‘Homosexuality, the Bible and Faith.’ In spite of all the major denominations represented, the course had little to do with any genuine respect for the Bible or faith; it was intent only on asserting ‘gay rights.’

I had only been a Christian for 6 months but I already knew that no-one there knew anything about genuine conversion. So I said so: ‘If Jesus really died for us, then we must die to our right to assert anything other than His rule and reign in our lives.’ I wasn’t voted most popular student that year.

But I did grow in faith because I learned to follow His lead. And He trusted me to step out, however awkwardly, and proclaim His rule and reign. He does so with any willing vessel.

This is the principle of Ascension: He must depart in order for His Spirit to empower us to extend His Kingdom on earth.

That principle applies to our letting people go in order to help them grow. Our releasing them releases the Spirit who will lead them beyond where we can take them.

I see this all the time in ministry. In order for men and women to become leaders, I must release them to step out and take risks. They won’t rely upon the Spirit as much if I am around. My presence may well be quenching the very Spirit that is straining to do great things through them.

‘Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.’ (Jn 14:12)

I also see this in parenting. Annette and I and most of our friends worked hard to be the best parents possible. And then, guess what? It isn’t enough! Our kids may still make bad, Spirit-free choices that grieve us terribly. That’s where Ascension comes in. Our kids’ departure from the Light doesn’t stop the Spirit from brooding, imploring, and ordering all things for the good in their lives.

But parents get in the way of Holy Spirit when we try to be that Spirit. Like Jesus Himself, we must entrust our kids to the One who knows and loves best. We do our part yes—but it is the wise parent who knows when (s)he can do no more but pray. Confessing our fears and controlling schemes only to God, we entrust the son or daughter to the Ultimate Parent. His Spirit will have His Way.

Ascension reduces us to prayer. We grieve and let go and make room for God. Jesus left in order to free us to become people of the Spirit. Might we do the same for those we love most?

‘You may ask for anything in My Name, and I will do it.’ (Jn 14:14)

‘When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you [and your loved ones!] into all truth.’ (Jn 16:13)

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