Tag Archives: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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India Living Waters

India: God Answers

‘The poor and needy search for water but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst, but I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them…’ (IS 41:17)

It was a good sign. As I greeted my Thai colleague Sue and team at the Kolkata Airport, I looked behind her in line and saw a dozen Missionaries of Charity (St. Teresa’s team) gleaming in white robes, their eyes bright with Jesus as they awaited baggage check and a fresh advance in another region. We walk the path of blessed pioneers.

As Abbey and I motored our way up a dusty mountain to our destination of Shillong in the upper north of India—a finger of land surrounded by Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Nepal, and Bangladesh—I noticed roadside dust and clamor growing green as we ascended a mile high up the hills. Teeming with life, the city beckoned to us; after 40 hours of travel, we felt that strange blend of exhaustion and exhilaration and decided to walk to our first meeting.

What a reunion! Our hostess/leader Bobby is a dynamic, faith-filled wife and mother who simply believes God for the needs of persons in her city: she has started citywide outreaches to the poor, an orphanage she still runs, and now wants to ensure that the deep and often shame-shrouded needs of fellow Christians are met in a safe, merciful and effective way. Living Waters! She travelled twice to Thailand and once to The Philippines in order to raise up a team, and there they sat in front of us now, waiting to pray for our advance: beautiful, humble men and women who were growing whole together, now primed to release healing to others.

India Living Waters

Bobby and Family

Bobby recalled: ‘I was unsure if India was ready for Living Waters. We are an honor, family-based culture: we don’t talk about sexual matters or family wounds—these might dishonor loved ones. But when I returned from Thailand and told friends what I heard, they all started sharing deep, hard things. I realized that whether we like it or not, we need Living Waters!’

Before our first gathering, two fun things happened. Bobby gathered a group of pastors with whom we dined and discussed these issues. Their leader, Pastor Hamlet, reminded me of John Wimber—both wise and merciful men whom God blessed as founder/leaders of thriving denominations yet who only wanted to build up the whole body of Christ with the healing power of Jesus. Like Wimber, Hamlet prefers the Kingdom over church government. I love him.

Soon after our lunch I went for a long run up and down the narrow streets of Shillong and noticed an array of Catholic and Protestant institutions. I then discovered that Catholics had invested huge amounts of energy over the last several hundred years to bring the Gospel to these people—the Khati—and have left an array of schools and educational offerings for them. Further, Welsh missionaries landed there in the early 20th century, burning with the flames of revival ignited in Wales a decade earlier. This city is ready for Living Waters. I was so excited that I started running with a group of Indian soldiers and raced them to their barracks, tying for first with a man one-third my age.

Our conference was full of Jesus, tender and powerful in mercy to meet people in profound areas of need. We preached the truth of our own being-healed lives through the power of the Cross; signs and wonders followed. Like Ezekiel in the temple, the water levels kept rising. Because family is so crucial here, sons and daughters who were already receiving healing from Bobby and team brought parents who began to confess their wounds and failures. Families were being healed before our eyes.

I called up all persons who wanted to help release Living Waters in India; nearly everyone arose. Immediately I thought of Isaiah 41 where the prophet voices God’s commitment to answer the stifled cries of His people: ‘I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs’ (IS. 41: 18). As I shouted out these verses, I wept for I realized in a small way we were fulfilling God’s promise to the poor and needy. I saw waters cascading down the green heights of Shillong, throughout the thirsty byways of India.

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

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Humble Priest

Humble King

I sent out a series of questions to my favorite priests and Rev. Msgr William J King who runs a Living Waters group in his parish responded. Excellent priests exist and deserve our prayers.

“Dear Andrew, your email is a source of grace. Thank you.  It is a blessing for me to be spiritual director for a few priests and to work with the accountability group that you have met.  These inform my responses, below…

1. How has the ongoing exposure of your fellow priests impacted you?

I grieve for them, for many priests are disillusioned especially by a perceived absence of concern and fraternal encouragement from their bishops. Personally, I share that disillusionment and I am, frankly, angered by the dearth of leadership shown by our bishops.  I am different, I suppose, than most priests, since I spent 28 years in diocesan administration, with 24 of those years directly involved in these cases.

2. How can we the laity pray for you in this season?

Pray that we never lose confidence in a loving Father who called us to priesthood and sustains us in the likeness of His Son.  Pray that we never withdraw from being Christ to others, with confidence and hope and love instead of fear.

3. What for you is the worst aspect of this exposure? the best?

The worst aspect by far is the unrelenting, unremitting, unrepentant single-minded focus of the secular media on decades-old abuse within the Catholic Church, while turning a blind eye to current abuse in schools and other churches.  The obvious bias is ignored.  I wonder, where are the Catholic leaders who ought to be standing up publicly and pointing out this obvious and unjust focus?  Can anyone really and truly believe that abuse of minors, or inept handling of reports of abuse, occurred only in the Catholic Church and nowhere else?  Yet, this laser-like focus continues, without distinction between cases 40 and 50 years old, and cases today which are handled totally differently.  The unremitting reportage in this vein is having a clear impact on our people, even our most loyal parishioners, whose loyalty and confidence in the leadership of the Church is eroded by the constant reporting and repeating of stories involving old cases.

The best? I am completely confident that our loving Father will raise up saints in the midst of this crisis — saints to lead us into a new era of holiness and purity.  This crisis is also purging the Church of toxic clericalism, which starts with the implicit notion that priests and only priests should perform certain functions, and leads to a desire to focus on the institution of the Church rather than the people. This was one of the principal mistakes we made who were involved in handling these cases — we looked to the safety of the institution instead of feeling, truly feeling, the hurt and vulnerability of the survivors of abuse.

4. Might you give us keys you employ to stay present to Jesus and others amid what may be a new temptation to discouragement?

I beg the Father for the grace to see others as He sees them, not as I do.  When I offer the Mass, especially in holding the sacred body of Christ and His most precious Blood, I consciously call to mind the victims or survivors of abuse and pray that Our Lord unite their pain to His.

5. How have the rumors of a ‘gay’-infested curia impacted you? Is there a homosexual problem in the priesthood or do you perceive this to be a smear campaign?

The rumors are based on fact. My experience in diocesan administration has brought me into contact with this reality.  I am angered by this objectively, and yet I have seen the loneliness and isolation of priests in curial positions and other positions within the Church. At times I have given in to discouragement, to the point of entertaining (only briefly) the idea of pursuing a profession or career other than priesthood. The Father’s faithfulness calls me home as soon as discouragement enters my feelings, and I am grateful for that. I find myself refocusing my priestly ministry away from diocesan and Church matters and more toward individuals, and so I am extremely grateful for the spiritual direction in which I am engaged, and for ministries such as Living Waters in which grace is evidently overpowering the negativity.

6. As men not immune to temptation, has this crisis prompted you into finding new or renewed ways of ensuring clarity and accountability in your own commitment to chastity? Might you describe how you go about this?

I hear a renewed invitation to personal prayer and to prayer on behalf of brother clergy and for survivors of abuse. I find myself more ready to turn feelings and thoughts of impurity into intercessory prayers for victims of sexual abuse and pornography — a prayer for those whose purity was injured involuntarily..

7. Explain any risk you see in this season of priests fearing exposure for moral weakness and thus being more likely to hide from authority.

Priests are in fact reluctant to seek help from their bishops, fearing that self-disclosure will lead to removal from ministry. This fear, sadly, is based on actual action against priests who have self-disclosed and sought assistance in recovery.

8. How can priests best facilitate a culture of accountability and healing that will prevent sexual immoralities?

Priests must find other priests, and trusted laity, with whom they can be themselves: socialize, find enjoyment in healthy relationships, as well as discuss their own vulnerabilities.  Priests are, almost universally, lonely and overwhelmed by their inability to do everything they believe they must do in order to be “good” and effective priests.  This is a result of a misguided metric of what “success” means in priesthood: home visits made, classrooms visited, parish income, Mass attendance, hospital rounds, filling the obligation of the Liturgy of the Hours — when any of these fall, priests too often judge themselves to be failures and “self-medicate” their feelings of inadequacy through impurity, unhealthy relationships, pornography, or alcohol. This culture of equating overwork with success can be undone only by cultivating healthy and mature friendships within the priesthood and among laypeople. A healthy and life-giving prayer life follows, but I believe that it is the fruit of healthy and life-giving personal friendships, which can them model and promote a healthy friendship with God, and the embrace of a loving Father.

9. What good do you pray will result from this season of exposure?

A better-focused leadership in the Church, less concerned with the size and health of the institution than with the holiness of the people and faithfulness to the Father in abject dependence on His Providence.”

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

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