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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Courage for Chaste Sex

At the Courage conference last week in Chicago, Annette and I had the privilege to testify on the glorious challenge of forging a marriage in light of my same-sex attraction and her sexual abuse—two gifts that keep on giving! Actually, we are gifts to each other who through the grace of Jesus’ cross have delighted in our co-humanity for nearly 40 years now.

We spoke candidly on our intimate life. We wanted to break the false yet common assumption that chastity always involves abstinence. Not so. Chastity is integrating one’s sexuality in such a way that frees one to be faithful to God in singleness or marriage. If married, that means being faithful to the one you actively engage with sexually. For us, chastity invites us into a robust sexual life that celebrates this bond of two–body, soul, and spirit.

The context mattered as Courage has not majored on marriage and the person with same-sex attraction. One might get the impression (however erroneous) that Courage is comfortable supporting singles en route to chastity but uncertain about whether God calls persons with same-sex attraction to marriage. Untrue. Many Courage members are married. And in truth, Annette and I are treated with such dignity in the Courage world. For Annette in particular, the Courage family has been the most warm and consistent and hospitable to her than she has experienced in any other comparable network.

Nevertheless, you could say that marrieds are underrepresented at Courage. Several members have questioned my call to marriage as if my diminishing same-sex attraction invalidates that call. Or disables it. Not true. I am convinced that persons with a background of same-sex attraction who become espoused to Jesus and who ‘work the program’ of acquiring self-control and activating their gender gift for the other become the best spouses. We rely on Jesus and are intentional in our love for this other. We make great lovers. Period.

And we realize that chaste lovemaking—earthy and sensational as it is–must take place in the context of a greater regard for the whole person. We prepare for nakedness by disclosing—fully clothed–our dirty secrets, our ragged complaints, and our gratitude for this person before us who seeks to give all to us. Surrounding our sharing is the grace of Jesus. He gave all, He gives all still, and that makes all the difference.

I close with this brief note I recently found from Annette, fall ’82. It represents for me the foundation for chaste sex. ‘When you remarked on my complexity, I began to reflect on how profoundly the Lord has transformed me. He has wrought changes in me that have created a new heart: a soft, feminine one, not the hard protective shell of a heart I had when we met three years ago. Thank you for standing by me. You represent security to me—the Lord has used you to give me a kind of permanence I’ve always needed. I love you very much.’ Annette

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Cross Fit: Sorrow and Self-Giving

I am just winding up a month off in which I spent a lot of time with the one I love most—me! Ouch. Truth hurts. Gratefully my native selfishness was no match for the glorious time Annette and I shared. We stayed home, caught our breath, and renewed our vows. Time off and tuned to each other: nothing better.

A long time ago Jesus called Annette and me to our primary vocation, which is marriage. Anything good that springs out of ministry flows from this most important union.

No-one deserves my attention like her. Consider this: for the last 36 years of our lives together, Annette has said ‘yes’ over and over again to Jesus as I have gone throughout the world to impart His transforming power for sexually broken people. We love to minister together but kids and Annette’s homing instinct have resulted in a division of labor, which became even more accentuated over the last six months. A flurry of national and international trips rendered Annette nothing short of a ‘war bride’ so it was a huge gift to have a month off to reunite. Thank you to all who helped to sustain Desert Stream in our absence. You freed us from any financial concern; we are deeply grateful. You gave and we rested. Bravo.

As always, repose brought exposure. At the beginning of our time off, Annette brought up afresh an area in which we have disagreed. I disagreed again and could not see her perspective. That day’s Gospel reading—‘whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me’ (Matt. 10:38)—hit me hard and exposed a plank in my eye. A familiar stronghold of selfishness blinded me to Annette’s greater need.

I sought out my pastor and he counseled me well. A deep sorrow over my sin resulted, something only the Spirit and holy space could inspire. Aquinas wrote that such sorrow is sign that the Cross is being born in one’s heart. Let it be so. In areas where I do not see well, I need to slow down and feel the gravity of my sin. Only then will my repentance be genuine, not a superficial shaking off of shame.

That repentance has continued over these weeks and resulted in what I can only describe as a renewed passion in me to fulfill St. Paul’s words ‘to love our wives as Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself up for her’ (Eph. 5:25). No small task! When I take seriously Jesus’ self-giving on Calvary—the piercing that released the healing flood (Zech. 12:10-13:2)—I can re-enter His fruitful surrender and deny afresh my selfish, controlling ways in order to offer what I can to this amazing woman who deserves that and more.

I do not allow my evident faults to stop me from giving more. That is always Jesus’ direction to husbands, a self-giving that springs from the arresting sorrow of His Cross.

Please join Annette and me in Chicago July 27th-30th at the annual Courage Conference where we will share about our rich life together. As I said, we don’t speak together often so join us for this unusual opportunity. The Courage gathering offers an array of healing persons and gifts. Hope to see you there.

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His Body Broken, Bursting with Life

What the world needs today is the credible witness of people capable of opening hearts and minds to the desire for God and true life.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

The seed of God’s Life in us must be crushed in us and offered to Him in order for it to become fruitful (JN 12:24). Then we, like grain threshed and grapes stomped, become a meal for hungry ones.

I ate like a king at the Courage Conference in Chicago last week (Courage is the only recognized ministry in the Catholic Church for persons with SSA and their loved ones.)

I noticed Jill from a distance and remarked to myself how lovely she was: tender eyes as inclined to joy as sorrow, beautiful coloring, fragrant. I remarked to her that her womanhood was a gift to us at the conference. After years of walking with Jesus she could now receive that. ‘I marvel at how He keeps restoring me. I hated being a woman most of my life but now can accept the gift that I am.’

Riding the wave of a gay-affirming age, twenty-something Kevin recounted a series of ‘dating’ relationships with other men and the disintegrating effect they had on him and his family who looked on helplessly. His parting words were simple and epic: ‘Only Jesus can satisfy my longings. I will no longer look to mere men for what only God can give me.’

I sat down at table with a brawny man who alongside his wife looked uneasy. ‘I guess I‘d rather be somewhere else. But I am also glad. Our lives have changed since we discovered our son’s SSA. And I want to keep changing for the good so I can love him better.’ Another person at table, a mother, said this: ‘My daughter no longer practices her faith. But I have rediscovered mine. I now do all I can to help make my Church a merciful, truthful place for persons impacted by SSA.’

Courage helps us know Him more and serve His house better. Please pray for myself and other Courage delegates as we offer ourselves as witnesses of Jesus’ transforming love in preparation for the Catholic Synod on Family this fall.

Our goal is to influence powers-that-be who will make recommendations for pastoral care of persons impacted by SSA for the worldwide church.

Conference dates: August 10th-12th, Detroit Michigan; October 2nd, Rome Italy.

Suggested prayer: ‘Father, we thank you for the truth of how You made us and how You redeem us. Grant courage to the Catholic Church in her truth-bearing. May she not falter but carve a clear path of gender clarity and true chastity.’

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Delivered, Devoted, Declaring

Delivered, Devoted, Declaring

‘Those forgiven of much love much.’ (LK 7:47)

Amid three July gatherings of sinners desperate for Jesus—the annual Courage Conference, Hope 2014 (RHN), and the Spanish Living Waters Training in Mexico City—we celebrated the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene—bad girl made good by the delivering hand of Jesus (‘from her seven demons came out…’ LK 8:2).

How fitting. Mercy alone purged her of pretty poisons, mercy alone provoked lifelong devotion to the only One worthy of it. At all three gatherings we followed the lead of the Magdalene in devoting ourselves to Jesus due to His delivering hand in our lives, be it from the rat’s wheel of lust, from the domination of same-sex attraction, or from the controlling influence of a loved one, still captive.

Marvelous. Mary Magdalene is the Gospel figure who highlights for us how moral and spiritual affliction cannot stand before the Lord of love. Instead, we the afflicted bow down before Mercy and are inflamed by the Fire that makes pure the most perverse. Nothing matters anymore but Him—to cleave to Him, to laugh and weep with Him, to feel what He feels more than the sway of sexy idols.

Mary lived out that devotion. She spent her life on Him, joining a small band of women whom He healed and who then gave all to support Him en route to Calvary. He became her life. When He died, so did the best of her. When ‘they took Him away,’ they took her heart. Perhaps that’s why, unlike the disciples, she wept and lingered at the tomb. The delivered don’t mess around. Love waits.

Of all His disciples, Jesus chose her to be the first one to whom He appeared—Christ Resurrected. That’s why the Church refers to Mary as St. Mary, the ‘Apostle of the Apostles.’ Astounding. Jesus entrusted the most important message on earth to a bad girl, made good (JN 20: 1-2, 11-18).

Today, we the delivered seek to devote ourselves to the One. We declare ‘the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His glorious light’ (1P 2:9). All three gatherings were thick with the fragrance of Jesus’ transforming love, a wooing love that brings sinners home to His rest, His Church.

I have not seen that kind of willingness on the part of the delivered to make known what Jesus has done in the specifics of deep and shameful choices. No more euphemisms or veiled allusions to ‘struggle’—as surely has Jesus has forgiven our sin, we name the sin so that Mercy might have its full effect on all who hear. One Catholic man in particular announced that he was giving up all his spare time this summer to any gathering that wanted to hear what Jesus has done to break the power of SSA in his life.

It is timely that this July marks the debut of two classy full-length documentaries that highlight Jesus’ unfailing love in the lives of persons with SSA. Check them out: Desire of the Everlasting Hills (everlastinghills.org) and Such Were Some of You (purepassion.com).

In a day when ‘coming out’ into some GLBTQRSTUVW variant is nearly boring, how fitting that God is raising up a Magdalene Army. By naming our affliction and its antidote, we testify of nothing less than Christ Resurrected. Delivered, we devote ourselves to Him and declare the wonders He has done.

‘With Jesus everything; without Him, nothing.’ St. Faustina

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