Tag Archives: Church

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
esperanza

Esperanza

‘You are no longer aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone’ (Eph. 2:19, 20).

Mexicans do it better. Living Waters anyway. Attribute it to truer body/spirit integration. Or greater openness to the Spirit. Or deeper awareness of poverty, submitted to God. All I can say is that I left Guadalajara full of hope (‘esperanza’ in Spanish) for a Church with whole Fathers who welcome the broken and raise up a host of healing sons and daughters.

Maybe it was the Church building itself. Perched atop the ground level where we prepped and prayed as a team, I did not see the sanctuary until the conference. White stone floors with windows, streaming sun and ascending onto a high unfinished ceiling where birds nested and sang throughout the day–‘Even the sparrow finds a home, a place near your altar, O God’ (PS 84:3)! And the altar: simple and sturdy, hewn from yellow onyx marbled in black, a rugged wooden crucifix loomed above, complemented by ‘Bienvenidos.’

The Guadalajara Team

The Guadalajara Team

Jesus welcomed us there; we found a place near Your altar, O God. This was partially due to Father Ricardo, a young priest who spoke movingly and hopefully of God bringing him to the end of himself, then ‘living water’: God’s merciful touch through the healing community. He invited us into that community, one he developed by pioneering Living Waters groups in his parish and beyond. I marveled during the first call for healing from the evils of adultery and childhood sexual abuse—both rampant in Latin culture and hidden behind the appearance of ‘honor’—as literally all 100 participants came forward for ministry! This never happens in the USA. It does in Mexico. Glory to our merciful King.

And the witnesses of healing: Samuel whom God transformed from ‘gay-identified’ to family-defined as he now faithfully leads a wife and son (and Living Waters group in nearby Leon), Francisco and Meric who became a godly, chaste married couple with the help of Fr. Ricardo and Living Waters, Lalo for whom Jesus broke the grip of depression and released him to fruitfully serve others, and many more. Hope rose like the river in Ezekiel’s temple (EZ 47), so much so that a man locked up in shame due to years of sexual abuse and addiction wept for the first time in 10 years and declared: ‘I know God has more for me than abstinence.’

Amen. We are all works in progress, much like the sanctuary herself which awaits His finishing touch. But we aspire in hope, fed by the healing Presence which flows from the altar. Guadalajara granted me a fresh glimpse of the readiness of God to heal. All it takes is a humble clean pastor who gathers his lambs and teaches them to yield to the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

‘In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Eph. 21, 22).

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Home Fires

OK, OK, I love my wife and kids and dogs and house. But I am most at home before the One. During these days of Christmas, my eyes are fixed on the little baby in the cow stall; I bow in worship. He is the Lord. He is no mere extension of my religious imagination, nor a sentimental reminder of Christmases past. From the manger He burns with fire that unites crib to charismatic signs to cross. He is God, I am not, and as I bow I find peace. I am at home.

True worship results from gratitude but requires holy fear. My welcome of Jesus’ coming espouses me to His Father in an intimate bond of love and at the same time makes me His son (Gal. 4:3-7). Only God could do that. A wise-man said that reverencing the Christ-child celebrates our own new birth. Yet if I fail to realize that this babe is the Creator/Redeemer of all then my worship is in vain. My ‘home’ becomes a house built on sand.

Godly fear is a forgotten value. Whiners who cry injustice selfishly trivialize real trauma, abuse and harassment; they lose their home. A real homecoming requires that we deny our demands and give Him highest place. We unruly sheep need to stop bleating and bow. Hear Fr Alfred Delp on godly fear: ‘Man must learn again–really, personally, practically, and daily—to reckon God as the ultimate category of reality, as the decisive judgment of all that exists….We have lost this category [of godly fear]. We are no longer a people of clarity who know about this one Lord and who stand in simplicity without usurping the Lord’s rights, without betraying our duty to Him, or bargaining. Fear of God…means knowing the absolute, inalienable dominion of the Lord of all.’

Only out of godly fear can we grasp the miracle of Him drawing near to us. The other day in Adoration (when Catholics adore Jesus in the Eucharist) I felt led to meditate on John 6:53-55 where Jesus makes explicit how He becomes our home: ‘I tell you the truth, unless eat the flesh of Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you…For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides/dwells/remains in Me and I abide/dwell/remain in him.’

Wow. Adoring Jesus in tears over the abuse scandalizing the Church, I experienced a new power, a burning in my belly as if Christ-in-me was intensifying and would not be diminished by the devils of a few. Rather than forsake my Church home, Jesus was becoming my home in order to fight for His bride. I recalled Jesus’ words ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (JN 15:5b) then joyfully realized the converse: ‘With Him I can do everything [He asks]!’

I prayed with new authority for the Church in her season of shaking. Delp again: ‘The time of the great intercessors has come. Prayer does not mean some Quietist approach dispensing us from action and responsibility. To the contrary, this is a much harder principle of action. The time of pure action, consecrated from within has come. The precept of Ignatius…says that the interior life must fill and support the exterior life and make it fruitful….Today more than ever, action, commitment and achievement must unfold from devoted worship.’

Let His burning love infuse ours as we pray. Never alone, we can bear what He asks. And burn. Nothing less than His fiery love will grant us peace and pierce the darkness.

‘We should not avoid the burdens God gives us. They lead us into the blessing of God. To those who remain faithful to the hard life, the interior springs of reality will be unsealed…The silver threads of God’s mysteries within everything that is real begin sparkling and singing…

God becomes man. Man does not become God. The human order remains and continues to be our duty, but it is consecrated. And man has become something more, something mightier. Let us trust life because this night must lead to light. Let us trust life because we do not have to live it alone. God lives it with us.’
Fr. Alfred Delp’s last Christmas meditation from prison, 1944.

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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Messy, Joyful Easter

I woke from a fitful sleep, jet-lagged and already critical of the things that awaited me at morning Mass. I countered with a prayer for humility and tolerance of things I dislike like dour congregants and uninspiring music. After all, it is Easter! Jesus is walking through walls and telling folks to get their hands off Him then insisting that they lay hands on Him—all kinds of messy, unpredictable stuff.

I cringed slightly as I eyed the cantor for the morn; golden in her intentions, her voice hurts me. As she geared up for the processional hymn, she appeared shaken like a diver peering into the pool below and realizing it may not be deep enough. But she soldiered on and was soon joined by the booming off-key voice of a visiting pastor whose joy in serving us that morning overtook all else.

His sheer exuberance invited us all in to celebrate: Jesus is alive, and that changes everything. Like my critical spirit. Listening to cantor and pastor make a joyful noise at once delighted and convicted me. God is so much bigger than my snide critique. He wants to blow open our defenses, walk through our walls, and rouse us to cooperate with Him in dissolving others’ defenses against the Holy One.

The pastor grinned from ear-to-ear as he showered us with the waters of cleansing (a cool Catholic thing for the several Sundays of Easter); I obviously needed to renew my baptismal vows that Sunday! And I found that if I sang along with the cantor during the offertory I could not afford to be critical of her. The pastor sermonized powerfully on how community is essentially for grasping the hope of new life—we behold the glorified One together. I was proud to be there.

I left Church joyful, expectant. I wanted to give new life away. Later on I ran into a guy whom I had met a few years back. At that time he announced to me rather arrogantly that he was a ‘gay Christian’ with a new boyfriend. Things had gone badly for him: I could tell from his few words and demeanor that he was suffering. Though he did not recognize me at first, I did him and I told him specific things I had not ceased praying for him in the last five years. He was speechless and teary-eyed.

Messy, joyful Jesus is on the move. Walk through walls with Him. It is Easter and that changes everything.

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Zeal for His House has Consumed Us (and our finances!)

We are on fire and need fuel to stoke the flames. Help us with a one-time gift.

Here’s the deal. We have been burning with passion for the Church as never before, starting with our 40-day fast last fall for the gender broken then blazing trails in congregations on the west and east coast. Most passionately, we fought hard to ignite a blaze smack dab in the middle. Our Gender Matters conference in February broke all expectations with over 20 different churches represented–both Catholic and evangelicals—from which two Living Waters groups started, upping our number to five churches now on fire to heal the broken in Kansas City.

We are burning! And broke. Last week we paid all of our debts only to discover we were overdrawn at the bank. In all of our fire-starting, we lost sight of how low our funds had become, resulting in pay cuts, failure to print valuable resources, and discouragement (if we let it). Bleech.

So help renew our passion. We are consumed with zeal for the Father’s house and seek only to burn brightly for Him, thereby starting a host of fires. We burn because you fuel us. Better put, God puts us on your heart and you throw a log on the fire. That’s how we blaze.

For over 38 years, Desert Stream Ministries has prayed, encouraged, and helped restore persons who realize only God can answer their deepest cries.

We are in need of $20,000. Please help.

Between now and November, we are gearing up for six week-long Living Waters Trainings throughout the world. A one-time gift would help us get our bearings and launch out with renewed passion. YOUR HELP MATTERS. Give today.

Please give a one-time gift of _______. May zeal for His house consume us afresh!

Andrew

 

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