Tag Archives: Desert Stream Ministries

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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Forging Young Fathers: Shoring Up Foundations

Marco Casanova and Andrew Comiskey

Best way to prevent moral collapse of pastors? Train them to grow in robust chastity.

It must be evident early on that a young man seeking the priesthood/pastorate engages with God and others consistently about his sexuality. That means that the candidate is integrating his masculine powers of life and love with his Christian commitment. Open and aware, he is allowing his passions to be ordered by the Passion of the One. You could say he lives in the convergence of two streams: the life-flow of Jesus’ blood and water and his own more troublesome waterway of desire. The latter is subject to disorder, which snags or steams up the waters.

I, Marco Casanova, encountered Living Waters as a candidate of the Catholic priesthood. Now as Assistant Director of Desert Stream Ministries, I plainly see the significance of shoring up the foundations of our future “fathers.” Such work is essential to the health of the Body, the Church.

Coming into the light as a seminarian is no easy task. Yet the implications liberated me. The Spirit of God set me in a flow that was inspired and new. I’ve been pondering Ezekiel 47. The stream from the Temple “entered the stagnant waters…making them fresh” (Ezek 47:8). Jesus’ flow of blood and water stirred the stagnant call of Eden in my life, from which I had assumed exception. I felt immobilized because of same-sex attraction. I was missing something profoundly human. Heck, even the Son of God “worked with human hands…thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart.” I wanted to love in a human way, that was ordered and in the flow of the Father’s plan. Such a plan is written in me. It’s written in all of us, according to Eden. I was just late to the garden! That’s okay; the Savior came for such as these.

I have much respect for the good Rector of Kenrick-Glennon seminary, Fr. James Mason, and his human formation team member—Psychologist Dr. Susan Harvath. Their life-force of forming men rests on a simple thesis: “Reveal yourself!” For them most of the necessary prep is realizing a kind of “affective maturity”: making sure these young men are alive to their development as men and show evidence of normal desire and good moral action by which they guide those “waters” well. They deliberately challenge any way young men seek to bypass the hard task of masculine integration by claiming a “spiritual” call when in truth they are just dodging the hard work of growing up. Awesome! Human formation needs to take priority over mystical or intellectual development.

Obviously, Protestant pastors differ, in that they can marry, while Catholic priests must demonstrate a healthy longing for marriage so that their renunciation of it for the Kingdom’s sake is actual, not a bypass. In either case, overseers must make decisions about a pastor’s readiness to be ordained based upon the evidence of growth in robust chastity—the maturity to love a woman honorably and, if necessary, to deny themselves that love for the sake of the Gospel.

Living in the light, “revealing myself,” has been the recipe to my freedom. I wanted to become a priest for most of my life. It was an aspiration I held deeply. It was a pursuit in which I undoubtedly found Jesus. When I felt a strong aversion to even question my becoming a priest, I knew something needed stirring. If I wasn’t free to let go of becoming a priest, I wasn’t free to say yes to it. Leaving the seminary is not the worst thing in the world. Forsaking human love based on a disordered exemption is indeed worse, not only for the Church, but for the man. It robs something profoundly human from him, something essential to any father, biological or spiritual. The call to celibate priesthood is a high call. Therefore, it demands a deep stirring in any future priest. Stir now. Don’t waste a day.

[1] Gaudium et Spes, no. 22.
[2] Susanne Harvath, Paul Hoesing, Ed Hogan, and Jim Mason, Seminary Formation and Transitory Same-Sex Attraction: A Proposal (St. Louis: Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, 2019).

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

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First Love

‘Encourage one another daily…so that no-one may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We share in Christ if we hold firmly to the confidence we had at first.’ (Heb. 3:13, 14)

My life and the life of Desert Stream Ministries is bound together in marriage: Annette and mine, 39-years-old, just one year short of our first Desert Stream gathering in 1980. Marital growth multiplied our offering to others. No doubt about it: as we learned to submit to each other out of fear and joy, God increased the quality of our service. Water levels rose from the well we dug together.

Maybe it had something to do with our brokenness. I was in love with this woman but selfish and subject to immoral shadows; she was abused and hesitant to give up control in certain areas. We knew sin’s deceitfulness!

We shared in Christ together, actively, deliberately. We told the truth of our wounds and learned to prayerfully extend mercy to each other. We strove for justice too, to give the other his or her due. We had a right, lovingly, to the other’s body—to share our love physically. But this had little meaning if we weren’t willing to do the hard work of real ‘foreplay’: sharing the whole of ourselves, as best we could, with our clothes on. It is easier to open your pants than your mouth! As I denied my isolated, wordless brooding for her wise and soft response (usually!), I became a stronger, more whole man. I solidified into a spouse who could help tenderize her sometimes wary heart.

Trust is a gift and a condition of heart that one must cultivate daily in marriage. ‘Sin’s deceitfulness’ is sly, subtle: we harden over time in little unspoken ways as we project old fears and shames onto the beloved.

More than ever in this 40th year of our ministry, the enemy of our marital soul wants to tempt us onto separate tracks. There Anette and I function well enough, like well-tuned roommates, but fail to access marital grace. Only as we submit to one another (Eph. 5:21) deliberately is that grace ours. Time does not make us better spouses; it may well make us presumptuous, unwilling to reveal the blessed, broken, still-needing-confirmation parts to each other.

The marital blow-ups that have singed us all did not begin with a brazen seduction, just a slow cooling of trust and affection then the pull of other gods, other covenants. We can say without hyperbole that the world has never been more effective in firing marital discontent and driving us to dissolve our vows.

This year Annette and I celebrated 40 Christmases together. I want 20 more. To actualize my desire, I must hold fast to these words from Hebrews: ‘We share in Christ IF we hold FIRMLY to the confidence we had at first.’ I have a responsibility to strengthen today what I promised 39-years-ago.

This year I have committed to initiate a weekly time with Annette where we will deliberately go where we may not want to go—focused blessing and also pointed questions about where we are, how we are. We pray and talk spontaneously during the week but in the roar of things we skim hard stuff. It is my duty to take us deeper. If you are a husband, would you consider joining me in this initiative? It is always refreshing to me when the man leads the conversation. What most wives long for, we men dodge. Stop dodging. Slay your enemy by revealing your love, however uneven, to the one who needs it most.

Marital confidence should never become passive; it demands our engagement if we are to thrive in its benefits and reveal something of Jesus’ love for His Bride.

‘Repent and do the things you did at first.’ (Rev. 2:5)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Going the Distance: 40 Years of Healing, Equipping and Proclaiming.

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Glorious Absence

‘I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you…When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth’ (JN 16: 7, 13).

Jesus must decrease in order for the Spirit to increase. Certainly, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son—no competition there! But Jesus chooses to forego His bodily presence with us in order to endow us with His living, unseen presence–the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit at work in us, Jesus claims that He will accomplish bigger and better things than His own rather impressive ministry on earth.

‘I tell you the truth, 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. And I will do whatever you ask in My Name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My Name and I will do it’ (JN 14: 12-14). Ascension reminds us: Jesus must leave earth in order to make us great. Glory overcomes grief, the pain of change, when we submit our losses to the Spirit who overtakes us and empowers us to do what we would not do in the presence of the more powerful one.

Jesus is our model; the servant is not greater than his master. And every servant of His must forego the tendency to so deify our leaders that we fail to see how Jesus is calling us to become more—to do what He chooses to do through us in the absence of the one to whom we may tend to defer on the basis that (s)he has power we do not. Pentecost levels that ground. The Spirit is an equal opportunity employer.

Pentecost reminds us that He wants to do mighty things through us. And however mighty and vital each of us is to His Kingdom come on earth, Pentecost insists that we not congratulate ourselves too much. Our bodily presence will fade out too; mortality reminds us that we are expendable and must always quicken others, especially younger ones, to take their places on the team.

Monique, Claude, Andrew, Charlotte & Werner.

I just returned from France where one of my best friends and colleagues—Werner Loerschter–just handed off nearly 25 years of leadership of Living Waters in that country. What a guy! What fruit! All things considered, France has represented our work better than any other nation, significantly due to Werner and his wife Charlotte’s leadership. In the Spirit of Ascension and Pentecost, they labored for over five years to identify and disciple a younger couple to take over the work.

Last weekend in Lyon France, together with Living Waters leaders from around the French-speaking world, I had the privilege of presiding over this handover. It was glorious. And not without a little grief. I love this couple more deeply than I can express, know the new couple only slightly, and feel the loss of a season rich with the splendor of the kingdom. Yet I know that my friends must decrease in order for the Spirit in their land to increase; new wells must be dug by new people in new ways. Humbling. Hard. Splendid: the rhythm of the Kingdom.

Next year will be the 40-year anniversary of Desert Stream Ministries—40 years of me at the helm. Lord, have mercy. In Werner and Charlotte’s noble reflection, I catch a glimpse of my own mortality and pray for clarity as to who will receive the baton from me. Pray for me to face this Pentecost bravely, with expectancy. May none of us grip what God has entrusted to us so tightly that we fail to release others into their full measures. May we welcome the eclipse of our labors by Jesus’ glorious presence in those who follow us. Bon courage!

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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conversion therapy

Nature Rebels

Nature rebelled at our Living Waters Training in Malibu Canyon last week. Charred by the Woolsey Fire just months earlier, the land struggled to absorb five days of driving rain. A stream on the property became a flood as the 20 member team prepped for the arrival of 35 participants. Upon arriving late, I called Dean Greer who calmly informed me that the team had been ordered to evacuate; as he (and Wayne, bless you man!) led the caravan out through the emergency exit, mud slid from the hills and rocks crashed down around them.

On the home front, the rebellion of human nature escalated. A ‘gay married’ actress on television railed against ‘conversion therapy’ as the reason why a young black actor (also ‘gay-identified’) was roughed up by thugs in Chicago a few days earlier. Her theatrical charms overrode any semblance of logic and the audience blew out the studio with cheers and applause. Desert Stream Ministries was pelted by requests from various media sources to weigh in on ‘conversion therapy’ as I awaited Dean’s next phone call.

I was struck by the insanity of demonizing any person who seeks to be reconciled to one’s gendered self and become fruitful. I reread an excellent article by a doctor who pointed out how supporting another’s effort to ‘change’ gender is nothing short of abuse, rendering the person infertile, mutilated, and severely depressed. I responded to one newscaster inquiring about the dangers of ‘conversion therapy’ with this paragraph:

‘As ‘conversion therapy’ has no actual meaning except to scapegoat persons who choose to grow beyond ‘gay’ and ‘trans’ identification, we at Desert Stream Ministries advocate for any person who in light of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria seeks to become an integrated member of his or her own gender and a good gift to the opposite gender. One should be free to secure clinical and spiritual support for these goals.’

Meanwhile, Dean and team arrived safely a nearby church and kicked into high gear to ensure a warm welcome for the participants, including delegates from England, New Zealand, Kenya, China and Columbia. Through it all, we waited, unsure where the sixty of us might go the next day. 16 hours later we received the go-ahead to return to the conference site. Nature’s whiplash was no match for heaven’s intervention.

Where rebellion abounds, grace prevails for those who look to the Lamb. We followed Him more nearly due to the trials at hand. In weakness, Jesus became stronger, clearer, closer than before. We were ready for His touch. He dwelled with us throughout the week, full of grace and truth. The nations marveled as we welcomed the Creator and Redeemer as the very foundation of our selves—our freedom to offer ourselves undividedly.

‘Conversion therapy’? Yes, Jesus converts us as we humble ourselves before Him and each other, awaiting His healing presence. He’s the only therapist worthy of our complete surrender. At the beginning of the week, I received a picture of a sword hanging over us—the threat of weather, slander, even legal action for daring to profess that Jesus transforms lives. By the week’s end I could see the sword had become a gleaming Cross, shining and spinning over us and the whole of creation. As nature rebels, God prevails.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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