Tag Archives: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Thanksgiving 2: (Inter)Personal Best

For the last 30 years, I’ve pounded the pavement as a long-distance runner. I ran the LA Marathon in 1989, beat my training partner, and never looked back.

Since then I ran alone. Hard. Desert Stream began to flow to nations; I ran through Perth and Paris, Johannesburg and Jakarta, Auckland and Amsterdam, Medellin and Milan, Hong Kong and Helsinki, Caracas and Copenhagen, Bangkok and Bahrain, Davao City and Dublin. Though I served with teammates, I ran alone, typically in the wee hours. I’ve breathtaking encounters with cathedrals and shrines lit by the sun’s first rays. And more than a few bouts with losing my way in a maze of ancient paths (pre-GPS). Sprinting wildly from one blind alley to another, I’ve come close to missing conferences. Jesus, lead on…

He helped me in the race. My impetus was worship—I ran to the songs that brought Jesus’ presence near. But I ran alone. Charged with Spirit, but alone. I ran through eviscerating conflicts. During one tough bout with international leaders my legs nearly gave way. Emotional wounds physicalized. I asked Him to help me to endure. He did; I was and am thankful for this refuge of the roads.

Back home, I trained and ran about 4-5 races a year. Alone. Post the weather-monotone of So. Cal., Midwest training invited me to enjoy the change of seasons—racing through 15-105 degrees. My mantra was personal best. I surprised myself. Just when I thought my legs had run their last, I beat my time. When I didn’t beat it, I pledged to train harder. I never suffered injury. Thankful.

Early this last year, I prayed for partnership. Our new intern Marco liked to run, had a base of 5 miles 2-3X a week. I asked if he’d train with me for a half-marathon. He committed and didn’t look back. We ran through hurting legs and humidity: in darkness and withering sun. We prayed before and did not talk much during. We needed all the breath we could get.

I loved partnership. I needed it. I faced two big challenges at the onset of our training. A dog roared out of the dark one early morn and took a chunk out of my arm. I nearly snapped my hamstrings (don’t laugh) sprinting for home in a goofy kickball game. My first injury. I couldn’t run anymore.

I wanted Marco to race and I wanted to keep my end of the training bargain. I knew it was unwise to push my recovery but I asked God for it anyway. He heard me. I restarted slowly and trained a little longer, painfully. Marco and I ran the race side-by-side in pouring rain—eyes fixed on Jesus and the best parts of Kansas City. Marco excelled—personal best. I scored too, interpersonal best. Thankful.

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

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St. Katherine

All Saint’s Day reminds us of faithful ones who went before us and made a way for our faithfulness. I celebrated this feast of gratitude for saints in heaven with saints on earth, both Catholic and evangelical, at our East Coast Training in Pennsylvania last week.

I was most grateful for an obscure saint but one radiant to me, Katherine Allen. She was catapulted into eternity after a fiery head-on car collision in 2014. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of her much recently. Until that training. 16 persons for whom she had given her life to reveal Jesus gathered with us and their stories moved me deeply. Around the Tidewater area of Virginia, Katherine had been the bridge for each of them to go from death to life: from slogging through pain-filled, divided lives to accepting Jesus’ invitation to bind up every wound and forgive every sin.

Katherine had a beautiful way of insinuating herself into a variety of persons’ lives—men and women, singles and marrieds, gender-benders and military officers, Church of God and Catholic. Through cheerful, attentive friendship, she mirrored back to each one the truth of how Jesus wanted access to the hidden (this is a very religious area) messes in each one’s life. Trust gained, she would then say something like: ‘Hey, I’m joining with a group of likeminded people seeking Jesus tomorrow night…Wanna come? I’ll pick you up.’

Each one then began the 20-week Living Waters series which Katherine ran like a champ. The groups swelled in size and soon she was running 3 or 4 programs a year, often simultaneously and in different churches throughout the area. Waters of healing rose in temples across town, and the faithful found a safe, dynamic place for becoming integrated human beings. She knew how to spot and cultivate lay leaders to tend this burgeoning work, and these ones—Shelly and Georgie and Joel and Tom and Terri and Bonnie (all present last week) and more became national-level leaders.

A fruitful life. Little did I know what Katherine possessed in her (gifting and character) and on her (Jesus’ anointing). We met in the early eighties when I was president of Exodus. She worked as a student advisor at a Christian college and was concerned about the growing number of persons ‘coming out’; not a struggler herself, she firmly believed St. Paul’s words: ‘We comfort others IN ANY affliction with the comfort we have received from the Lord’ (2 Cor. 1:4). She saw wounded seekers, not deviants, through the healing lens of Jesus. She was among the first leaders trained to run Living Waters and she never looked back.

Seasons change. Growing older, she handed off what had become a full-time effort and her replacement failed. Marvelous Tom and Teri Wright took over Living Waters regional leadership and faithfully ran our groups, but the culture had changed and momentum slowed. Then Katherine was killed: this punctuated poignantly what seemed like the end of a fruitful era.

I know better now. Maybe the seed must die in order to release many more. A healing army is arising in Tidewater again, a mystery for which leader Tom Wright has no answers. ‘It is just God’s timing; we had been held back and now the Spirit is mobilizing afresh those on whom Katherine laid hands’–each one intent on laying hands on others to release a fresh wave of ‘living water’ in Virginia.

Saints like Katherine—interceding now before the Lamb–are gifts that keep on giving.

‘He who goes out weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him’ (Ps. 126:6).

You can purchase “Becoming Good News” in book form directly from Desert Stream or get it from Amazon for your Kindle.

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

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Ecstasy

The Crucified rallied the nations last week in Kansas City; under the flood of His Divine Mercy, we wept for joy. Ecstasy. No better way to describe the 80 Living Waters leaders who gathered around His self-giving in order to offer themselves better to others.

Jesus gift to us at Calvary is accurately defined as ‘ecstatic’: its Greek root means ‘to come out of oneself.’ Jesus’ dying released a river of blood and water. His life source left Him and became the source of our lives, the transforming power that renders us new creatures. Together, His ecstatic gift unites us as one Body. On the cross, Jesus made us His bride. You could say He consummated that union for us through the ecstatic love that crescendo-ed at Calvary.

God reminded us of that consummation on last week’s Feast of St. Augustine, who wrote: ‘This second Adam [Jesus] bowed His head and fell asleep on the cross, that a spouse might be formed for Him from that which flowed from the sleeper’s side…What can be purer than such blood? What more health giving than such a wound?’

We needed healing from His ecstatic wound, cleansing and repair for our wounds. Many tribes and tongues came together—a variety of ages, cultural traditions, economic and educational backgrounds. Most obvious was the divide between Protestants and Catholics. Many of our leaders from fiercely Catholics nations barely know any Protestants; and the vast range of the latter—from Anglicans to Pentecostals–have an equally diverse range of opinions on Catholics!

Our wounds are a great leveler. One priest among us shared with dignity his sexual abuse by an early mentor; he welcomed an ecstatic outpouring from evangelicals who loved him well through a variety of spiritual gifts. Humbly offering our wounds to Jesus via His members invites a rich exchange of ecstatic love that dissolves some of our corporate divides. Ecstasy.

Personally, each of us brought our sins against chastity—as diverse as our Christian traditions. We are united in the conviction that the second Adam always points us back to the first Adam ((Matt. 19: 4-6); at the same time, Jesus points us forward to the glorious redemption of our bodies, radiant in full consummation with our Bridegroom. We live now ‘in-between’ the times: although certain of design–the ecstatic complementary gifts that God fashioned from Adam’s rib—we are also clear on the chaos incurred by sin in our frustrated, fractured efforts to ‘come out of ourselves.’ We have done so regrettably; we, bathed in ecstatic love, assess the damage done: adultery, abuse, addiction, SSA, gender self-rejection, mangled marriages, persons tempted by bitterness due to betrayal then prolonged, unwanted aloneness.

Many different divides and one cure—the Bridegroom consummating love with us and releasing the flood that keeps our heart soft and straight, ready to tell the truth of sorrows and shame but more than that, how the ecstatic mercy of our Bridegroom is mounting, growing, its waters rising in our personal temples (Ezekiel 47) as we throw open the doors and windows and allow others to witness how His loving kindness has shattered the enemy’s design for us.

Our hearts speak truth—we at Living Waters are the first to declare our sin so that the triumph of mercy might extend to a weaker brother or sister. It does! We rejoiced in the epistle reading last week in which St. Paul exhorts us to turn from all sexual immorality as such sin exploits our sisters and brothers (1 Thess. 4: 3-8).

How liberating to hear God’s Word and to go boldly to the throne of grace, allowing the fire of mercy to burn off the deception that immoral acts are fine if each party consents. Lies that we have lived! We now want only to edify, not exploit, the weaker member! We wept as He rained mercy, not judgment, upon our corporate repentance.

As the nations shared of the impact of Living Waters, it was clear that this ecstatic witness of hope amid heinous sins had loosed a river throughout churches that is unstoppable. Instead of shame, the peoples of the earth are receiving a double portion of joy and favor (Is. 61:7), and ‘where that river flows, everything shall live!’ (Ez. 47:9).

His ecstatic love for us produces ecstasy. We live now to come out of ourselves and prepare a more robust, pure Bride for the One who gave all to gain us. No other way to live. No other way we want to live. His ecstatic love is better than any other way of life.

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

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Aging Grace

Does the thinning buffer between us and eternity expose virtue or vice? Does aging make us better or worse? Not sure…

During this summer break—a writing one—I paused to consider the quality of my offering to others and perceived heightened gratitude and grousing. Filters falter as the years add up; the naked self is less defended (too weary to self-justify), painfully self-aware, less inclined to virtual noise, and more reliant upon Jesus. In the uneasy mix, He is the Master.

Gratitude for holy communion reoccurred over these weeks. Annette and I enjoyed each other in some relaxed expressions of intimacy; I savored her gift. She is smart and humble, inclined to offer herself fully, especially to kids and grandkids. Unlike many women who struggle to offer themselves to dependents for fear of losing ‘self’, Annette discovers herself in the offering. It solidifies her.

I also engaged daily with the Living Waters material which I revised over the course of these six weeks. No small task but rewarding in its own way. It meant reviewing forty years of what I see to be the core insights and practical helps in becoming a chaste offering for others, from the vantage point of one who must choose daily to carry his cross in a progressively unchaste world. How does Jesus and His members help us become whole-enough in our gendered humanity?

I was assisted by the sharp mind and ordered heart of new intern/staff person Marco Casanova; I’d not experienced that kind of partnership in a writing project before. I enjoyed the refinement and know it made the revision better. The new guidebook will gleam by next spring (2020), just in time for DSM’s 40th Anniversary. We celebrate that milestone in Kansas City, August 7th-9th.

Ok. Good stuff all. But amid the holy communion came disturbing glimpses of unholiness, my own haggard responses to our tilting world. I refer not only to the earthquakes shaking the globe but also the dirty breath of public opinion that fan sparks into holocausts. Everyone has an opinion, even when they expose only their ignorance, proudly spewed all over the Internet. Narcissistic waste.

Why such little awareness of one’s limits? Why not the humility to pray instead of pontificate? Passion without mercy!

I am as merciless as the objects of my disgust. I fan into flame intolerance and become grossly impatient, enraged by human folly, especially the follies of Christians who should stick with what they know rather than amplify what they don’t in order to build followings. My discontent tempts me to check out, to disengage and do sick unchaste stuff. Aging has made me worse. And wiser. I know better now and my will is sure. I opt for holy communion: my wife, my friends, local Living Waters group, Holy Church. Can’t get saved online. I need Jesus in the flesh.

I spent a lot of time this break in Adoration, sitting before Jesus in a nearby prayer chapel, content to just be with Him. To Him I brought all the delightful, disturbing things that flare up within me. I accept their ferocity, in the light of His love for me. He seems nearer, more clear, rich in mercy and fierce in holiness. He becomes the one true thing I need more now than yesterday. Aging may have worsened me but has inclined me more to Him. I get better only in the light of His love for me. His light shines brighter now.

‘And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light’ (Rom. 13: 11, 12).

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

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Living Waters

Reach

‘Remember not the former things…behold the new!’ (Isaiah 43:18)

Living Waters is a long narrow cross-walk that always opens to Life. To be sure, it can hurt to face the uneven, perilous ground on which we were at once victim and perpetrator, oblivious to both! Eyes open now, we flinch at the poor choices we can still make in light of the Risen Christ. Growing up is hard, and dodging His call to follow onto solid ground offsets the weight of decisive obedience. Yet here lies our cure, our happiness: surrendering to the luminous Christ, His wounds yet visible, who alone has power to transform weakness into creative communion.

That’s why the transformation of persons with same-sex attraction will always remain the prophetic core of Living Waters. Only a third of our people struggle in that way, but those who discover Jesus in the depth of historic yearning for same-gender completion become the strongest, most sensitive lovers of the other sex. As such, we harmonize with Leanne Payne: ‘The healing of the “homosexual” is the healing of all persons.’

Case in point—after a passionate, liberating day at the cross in Manila where we faced the dishonor we incurred and extended to our ‘better’ half, I felt that we needed to celebrate the fruit of our suffering—the evidence of how Jesus trains the faithful to reach beyond personal healing into interpersonal gift-giving. His passion reclaims and realigns our passions!

That night, I asked two Asian couples (Filipino and Chinese) to share candidly of how Jesus through Living Waters communities in their lands helped forge family life out of what the world (and worldly church) would define as pretty raw material. Gratefully, Jesus has overcome the world.

As a young teen, Jerry received hope from his pastor that someday he would thrive as a husband and father. Sexual abuse, same-sex attraction and a promiscuous young adult life that resulted in an HIV diagnosis shattered the prophecy. In his late thirties, Jerry staggered into a Living Waters group to make peace with God. Sue—a leader on the team–did not like men as a rule due to historic wounds but she liked Jerry and somehow knew this was her guy.

After the group ended, Jerry and Sue began to date and he grew rather quickly in love with her; he began to fight for her honor. He won her over and after good counsel they married and immediately became pregnant. Sue released an egg from a medically-pronounced dead ovary, and the child (and mother) remains HIV-free. They can hardly wait for a second child.

Ben met Sara, a native Chinese woman intent on overcoming despair over the failure of men in her life, at the first Living Waters group in their big city. He had just arrived from America to fulfill an early call to serve China. Overwhelmed by the challenges of language, culture and tent-making, Ben barely remembers meeting Sara at that group. His first couple years were a dark night of just getting by, with intermittent return to porn use and lots of self-pity. By God’s grace, he rallied and forged a healing community to support his recovery, which had started years earlier in a Living Waters group in California. He began to pray: ‘Lord, I need a beautiful, smart, empathic wife if I am going to make it here.’ (I love the fact that Ben knew his SSA deterred not from the gift he was and needed to offer!)

He re-met Sara at a party and knew she was the answer to his prayer. They discovered a common language and commitment to wholeness; they soon married and now can attest to how much richer and expansive their lives are together. ‘We can simply give that much more to others.’ They are expecting their first child in a few months.

Jesus reclaims our pretty good broken lives and refines them in the fire of love. He asks us to reach beyond what we’ve known in order to discover the fullness of His will for our humanity. That always involves knowing the gift we are and giving it away.

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

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