Tag Archives: Christ Crucified

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Smash Flood

‘They will look on Me, the One that they have pierced…and grieve bitterly. On that day a fountain will open to cleanse them from sin and impurity’ (Zech. 12:10; 13:1).

Jesus mirrored hard truth. Outraged man shattered the mirror. God retaliated by releasing a flood of divine mercy from His broken frame, the only source that restores us to the truth.

Barbara Taylor Brown says it best: ‘I remember being at a retreat once where the leader asked us to think of someone who represented Christ in our lives. One woman stood up and said: “I kept thinking: who is it who told me the truth about myself so clearly that I wanted to kill him for it?” Jesus died because He told the truth to everyone He met. He was the truth, a perfect mirror in which people saw themselves in God’s own light.’

The Desert Stream staff now habitually gathers to tell each other the truth about one another’s strengths and weaknesses. As the sugary, soft fruit of the therapeutic age, we delight in blessing each other’s good points but brace ourselves for the bad. We flinch to even use language like ‘bad’, preferring words like ‘unchallenged strengths.’

What I recall from those meetings is the ‘bad.’ I couldn’t recount the ‘blessings’ but have wrestled in the wee hours with the difference between how I see reality and how others see mine. I have not wanted to kill certain staff members but I’ve rehearsed ‘setting them straight’ monologues before sleep. How much bigger the gap between God’s truth and ours? The difference: in exposing our self-deceptions, He submits to our smashing, and offers Himself as the antidote.

He gives all—His body pierced for our washing and broken for our bread, the meal that makes us whole. For us who are troubled and touchy and too readily defended—pour out Your ‘vengeance’ upon us this Good Friday, Good God.

Barbara Taylor Brown again: ‘In the presence of His integrity, our pretense is exposed. In the presence of His constancy, our cowardice comes to light. In the presence of His fierce love for God and us, our hardness of heart is revealed. I am not worse than you nor you I, but leave Him in the room and there is no room to hide. He is the light of the world. In His presence, we either fall down to worship Him or do everything we can to extinguish His light.

Today, while He dies, do not turn away. Make yourself look in the mirror. Today no-one gets away from being shamed by His beauty. Today no-one flees without being laid bare by His light.’

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October 30: Fire of Love

‘Our heart should burst out of our body at the realization of the status and dignity which infinite Goodness has appointed us—first by creating us in His image, and then by joining His divine nature with our humanity to ransom us and create us anew! More than this He could not give…Oh ineffable consummate love! You really are in love with what You have made!’ St. Catherine of Siena

We overcome idols and enemies through the fire of love: God’s burning spousal love for us ignited on the Cross. To recall continuously, at times rapturously, the spousal bond He forged with us at Calvary can lift us out of the mire of self-concern.

Let me tell you what I do every morning before Mass. I turn my eyes to Christ Crucified; He fills me with the ardor necessary to stop scheming with thieves. I cease being entranced by sexy idols when I welcome His holy embrace once more; if necessary, I lay down the armor of self-pity and the weapons of self-vindication. I draw from the Source that satisfies and familiar robbers like lust and enslavement to my ‘wound-ers’ fall away quite easily.

Think about it. We create idols only when we are not properly worshipping the One worthy of our full devotion. So get practical and place yourself where He is. I realize that is easier said than done for addicts but take heart: God knows your struggle and pours out even more grace to help you to choose Him! Marvelous love!

We need to learn how to quiet our hearts before the Crucified and grieve the pain that underlies our lusts and wounds. It is beautiful to offer our ache to Him; He unites it with His longing for us. His longing for us supersedes whatever wayward emotions or affections tempt us. He loves us that much.

His love frees us to give up our grasping impulsive efforts to meet our own needs. He wants to get at what really drives us. He wants our suffering! We learn to linger in His Presence and He invites us to share our sorrows with Him. Grieving with Jesus is always good. Divine consolation and peace await the yielded, broken heart. We entrust all injustices to ‘the One who judges justly’ (1Pt 3:23).

Love alone sets us free (unlike masturbation, anger, envy, pride, self-hatred and gossip!) We discover that we simply cannot hold on to our offenses. We want our hands and heart free to worship the One whose embrace summons the deepest, truest desires of our heart. We want Jesus. No-one or nothing else will do.

‘So let you heart hold back no longer. Let the city of your soul surrender. If it does not surrender to anything else, it will have to surrender to fire—for Jesus has set fire everywhere, and there is nowhere you can turn without encountering the fire of love.’ St. Catherine of Siena

Please join us as we pray for:

1. North & South Carolina, Dean Greer – Coordinator, For new regional leadership to be identified and raised-up, for existing groups and to see new groups established.

2. Aguas Vivas: Evanston, Illinois, Kerrie – Spanish Coordinator: Grace, protection and anointing as Kerri attends the CrossCurrent group at the Vineyard and runs a small group for Spanish speakers.

3. RHN: Mastering Life Ministries, David Kyle Foster, Franklin, TN: please pray for screenings of documentary “Such Were Some of You” around the US. Hearts Set Free, Donald Smith, Cleveland, TN: prayer for finances.

“Courage for Pope Francis, that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 27, 28, 29, 30

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Details Concerning My Conversion to Catholicism

Dear Friends,

I wanted you to know that on Easter (April 2011) this past year I was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. That significant decision began three years ago and involved two rounds of RCIA (the adult catechism course), wise counsel, and much prayer.

I want to emphasize that my decision is a personal one. Desert Stream Ministries has not become Catholic; it remains ecumenical and will continue to serve a variety of churches, mostly evangelical, which seek to minister to broken ones.

Furthermore, the Living Waters program will not be altered in any way. Its foundations are intact, a gift to the whole church.

I decided to become Catholic for several reasons. The first is the leading of the Spirit. I surrendered my desire for the Church after a year, and yet my longing intensified.

The reasons for my longings are evident: I love the centrality of Christ Crucified, the Eucharistic celebration in its two-fold emphasis on breaking open the Word and Bread daily, a non-personality driven approach to church-life, the Church calendar, and the historic teachings of the Church in regards to moral theology.

‘The Catholic Church is the sole surviving coherent institutional voice of morality in a world under the tyranny of relativism,’ wrote one Pope, expressing well one reason for my standing with the Church in this hour.

What I love challenges me continuously. What the Church believes she struggles to live. And though I agree with most fundamental doctrines contained in the catechism, I am troubled by some, and continue to seek God and wise counsel about them. Also, parish life is not highly conducive to the ministry I have pioneered, and will require more patience and wisdom than I have.

Answers to a few commonly asked questions:

Confession to a priest? I see no conflict between confessing to a priest and the type of confession we do daily with one another in our ‘Living Waters’ world. A Catholic seeking sobriety in today’s idolatrous world needs both a good priest and good friends with whom to work out grace and truth-filled accountability.

A closed Eucharist? I value the Church’s high view of communion. I did not partake of the Eucharist until I was confirmed, respecting that only Catholics are allowed to partake of what is believed to be the Lord’s Body and Blood. However, I have no conflict with partaking of the Lord’s Supper with Protestants who hold a different view of the elements.

The idolatry of Mary? I have always valued Mary more than most evangelicals: ‘Blessed is she among women’ is biblical truth!  I honor her because she points away from herself and toward Jesus continuously. The Catechism forbids the deification of her and thus of anything approaching worship. Because I value her humility above all else, I struggle with the attention the Church gives her, and certain doctrines that grant her attributes that I do not see reflected in Scripture. Though these are not ‘deal-breakers’ for me, they give me pause. Pray that I might distill what is precious from what isn’t.

Lay ministry in the Catholic Church? The Church highly values the ministry of lay persons. That is essential for me, for our mission at Desert Stream involves equipping the saints to walk with other saints into sexual and relational wholeness.  For my volunteer service (each Desert Stream staff person must be involved in a church-based healing group), I am exploring an opportunity to serve the Church where I live. God help me and them!

Wholeness and holiness in a perverted Church? The Church has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals for a couple of decades now. It is a good and necessary thing. I believe that God is disciplining her, as Christian ‘love’ without discipline is not love at all. Strangely, my allegiance to the Pope came about in the last year amid all the scandals. I entrusted myself to him as the leader of my Church and vowed to prayerfully stand with him in this crucial hour of his leadership.

I await new partnerships with which to serve the Church in this hour of her discipline. She currently has few effective outlets for sexual restoration, beginning with her priests. It is too early to tell how I might help her. I shall begin by serving where I can in the local church or diocese.

A schism in Living Waters due to my conversion? A rumor began last summer that my Catholicism broke up our unity in Living Waters, especially in South America. That is false. Argentine Mauricio Montion chose to no longer serve under my leadership due to my change, and the Living Waters International Council assigned him another overseer. I am glad he is still committed to Living Waters and that he has fresh oversight.

Is Annette a Catholic? Annette began the process toward Roman Catholicism with me then stopped mid-way through. We work hard to sort out our differences here. I attend her Church on Sunday morning then go to early Communion most mornings. It is not easy but as mature Christians and married partners we are seeking to grow through this challenge.

(I would not recommend that spouses go to different churches! At this point, however, we are doing the best we can, respecting one another’s consciences.)

An evangelical Catholic? You betcha. My roots will always be evangelical. I believe in the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ, founded on the Scripture. I also believe in the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. That means I have more to learn than I ever will; I hope it also means that my reliance upon Jesus and each other as our Source for sexual wholeness will wake up sleepy Catholics.

Catholic elitism? I do not think of myself as having found the exclusive or best Church; I respect everyone’s right to discover Jesus where (s)he finds Him on the local Church level. The Desert Stream staff represents a variety of Churches; we work out daily what it means to find the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Combined, we compose one body.

Church Unity? The little conflicts that have arisen thus far over my Catholicism are an acute reminder to me of how divided the Christian Church is. While praying the other day, I saw a gulf of water between two groups of people. It was vast, water mixed with blood. Instinctually I knew that this was the Mercy stream from the Crucified; it also represented the Protestant/Catholic divide, still bloody, still too large to bridge.

Then I saw broken people coming to either side of the river and putting their weary, fractured limbs in the water. They were receiving healing and were unconcerned about the doctrinal differences on ‘the other side.’ They just wanted and needed Jesus and welcomed all who sought the same.  Healing of sexual brokenness was helping to heal the greater divide between the two groups.

I pray that the mission of Desert Stream Ministries will do its part to heal our one divided Church.

‘There is one body, and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’(Eph. 3:4, 5)

UPDATE January 23rd 2012 at 2:00 PM CST:

Dear friends,

Thank you all for your concerned, thoughtful response to my Catholicism. It honors me that you would take the time to respond. I am reminded of the many years we have stood together for holiness and wholeness in Christ’s body. Our commitment endures, even as the particular arm of Christ’s body in which we stand may have changed! Again, bless you for your friendship, advocacy, and respect, even if you disagree with aspects of Roman Catholicism. We all love Jesus, and are seeking to prepare a people for Himself. Even so Lord, come!

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New Birth and Battle

New Birth and Battle

‘Now burn, new born to the world!’ – Gerard Manley Hopkins

I recall one December when two warring nations agreed to a cease-fire. In light of the Prince of Peace, they agreed to a temporary peace, only to resume the battle a day later.

Like you, I will awake on Dec. 26th to the sounds of air-raids and bombs dropping. I will not linger in misty dreams of an eternal cease-fire; I must face the battle.

I derive courage from Bonhoeffer who warned his ‘army’ opposing Hitler to not use Christmas as a fantasy island, a nostalgic defense against the threat of death. Rather, he implored them to welcome the Child-King into their depths, the Christ who descended there on Christmas to make them His freedom-fighters, faithful and true!

My church bears witness of this Christmas passion eloquently, upon the altar. Christ Crucified remains central, even at Advent. But from the Lamb a sash of royal purple descends and frames a small figure of Mary on the side. She is illuminated, open and humble, and one can see that the strand of purple that descends to her also ascends from her to the babe, her Son Crucified. In a flash, the symbolism helped me recognize the indivisible bond between the God who became flesh, and the flesh that was pierced.

Mary helps us here, as we can understand the whole of Christ’s human life through her eyes, from the crib to the cross. In her humanity, we can understand His: her marvel of the Babe, and the sword that pierced her soul at His piercing.

Christmas peace brings a sword. From the cradle to the tomb, He waged and won the war that we must still fight—the fight for all to know Mercy, and be reunited with their original dignity.

Deeply grateful this Christmas, I still grieve over the state of the wounded and deceived. I just read that one in five women in the United States has been sexually assaulted, that the Obama administration recently championed gay rights as fundamental human rights to all the nations of the earth at a UN Council (a secular view of human sexuality, at least), and that divorce is now so common among conservative Christians that ‘anti-divorce’ arguments have all but disappeared’ from our ranks.

We run the risk of losing our bite and our fight as Christians, choosing to dull the darkness rather than combat it with the radiance of Jesus.

This Christmas, let us welcome the Babe who composes us in order to rouse us. From the crib to the cross, He gave all. He won our hearts, that we might hold nothing back to win the world. May His peace prepare you for war.

Like Bonhoeffer, Edith Stein was executed in a Nazi death camp. She writes: ‘The way from Bethlehem leads inevitably to Golgotha, from the crib to the cross. When the blessed virgin brought the child to the temple, Simeon prophesied that her soul would be pierced by a sword, that this child was set for the rising and falling of many. His prophecy announced the passion, the fight between light and darkness that already showed itself at the crib.’

‘Now burn, new born to the world!’

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Merciful Trust

Day 39 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Merciful Trust

‘Trusting in Your Mercy,

I walk through life like a little child,

Offering You each day this heart

Burning with love for Your greater glory.’ (2)

St. Faustina possessed a simple trust in Jesus. Its clarity pierces hearts and moves mountains today. She saw in Christ Crucified God’s richest expression of Mercy: Water for cleansing sin, Blood to give us new life. And she trusted wholly in the power of that healing flood to save souls from hell and for heaven.

In light of all her hardships, ‘in spite of everything’ (24), she trusted Jesus. That was her unwavering legacy. It has power today to change our darkness into light.

I have been walking through a hard season; God has reduced me to Himself, to the Cross. That means trusting afresh the Mercy that won me, and the Mercy that will guide me onto surer ground in this rocky season. You can understand why St. Fautina’s ‘Mercy mission’ melded beautifully with my need to trust Mercy afresh!

In confusion, I place my trust in Jesus; in loss, I trust in Jesus; sleepless, I envision Him as St. Faustina did, Crucified yet alive with Water and Blood streaming from His heart for me. Trusting in His Mercy grants me Heavenly peace, and I rest once more.

For the mission of Desert Stream Ministries, we face extraordinary resistance; the majority defend the ‘gay self’ as normal, and thus see no problem with ‘gay marriage.’ And many churches, not wanting to offend, refuse to offer clear expressions of healing for the sexually broken. A scandal-rocked Catholic Church may be primed for some new models for dealing with her broken, but will have to risk getting her hands dirty with broken shepherds and sheep.

Where sin abounds, grace abounds more. Might darkness only be the backdrop for a glorious dawn?

We entrust ourselves to the Mercy of God. ‘Although sin is an abyss of wickedness and ingratitude, the price paid for us can never be equaled. Therefore let every soul trust in the Passion of the Lord and place its hope in His Mercy.’ (72)

“Jesus, full of joy in the Holy Spirit, said: ‘I praise You Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.’ “ (Lk. 10:21)

‘Jesus, we trust in Your Mercy. Let Mercy be our clarity in confusion, our gain in loss, our hope amid uncertainty. May we awake each day with a song of praise for Your Mercy.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

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