Tag Archives: Poland

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

River Run

As I prepared to run the inaugural half-marathon in Kansas City for 2018, I reflected on the river of mercy Jesus released for us in Lithuania.

We drove half the night from Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania’s biggest city and source of the Divine Mercy devotion initiated by an uneducated nun in the 1930’s. God gave St. Faustina a vision of His mercy for the whole world, a world on the brink of WWII which would prove especially devastating to Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and the surrounding nations that fell under Soviet rule.

From their depths, inspired by this vision of Risen Jesus with a healing flood flowing from His heart, Eastern Europeans Christians were the first to cry out: ‘O blood and water which gush forth from the heart of the Savior as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in You!’ (line from Divine Mercy prayer)

And so did Abbey and me as we awoke in Vilnius for the first of three days of equipping the saints there who lead Living Waters group in Lithuania. From my room I could view the Neris River flowing and I prayed that our efforts there would be like a river of mercy for these saints who, having suffered losses I cannot imagine, now entrust themselves wholly to Jesus.

Another marvel—that morning was Divine Mercy Sunday, the day set apart once a year by the Catholic Church to reflect upon and pray for God’s mercy to well up and envelope the whole world. One billion Christians cast themselves on God’s mercy that day: is it any wonder that the mercy levels rise in the Church like Ezekiel’s vision (EZ 47) of the river rising from the temple altar: first ankle deep, then waist high, then a current so high one must swim in the healing stream that makes everything live (v. 9)?

As we entered our meeting room, I viewed the Cross and the Divine Mercy picture and heard the chorus of worship songs featuring the merciful flood gushing from Christ Crucified and Raised: this is Living Waters! Abbey and I did little but expound upon the basic foundations of our healing groups; we then invited all who thirst in the Spirit of IS 55 to immerse themselves in the flood, to linger there and to receive deep drafts of the Father’s love. We invited everyone who knew that their disordered feelings were sourced in love’s frustration: bonds blocked by Soviet oppression and addiction and abuse that curdled normal longings for affection. God moved deeply; in His great mercy, He loved each one simply, deeply, specifically.

He kept raining His mercy upon us; the river rose higher that afternoon. As we worshipped and gathered before the Cross, Jesus freed us to name how we reject ourselves for having particular kinds of struggle. Shame is a relentless robber that tempts us to refuse the mercy that could be ours. We name sins and receive forgiveness but then fail to extend that mercy to our clean yet weakened selves. We all went deeper in the truth that God loves us profoundly in our still-being-healed state and wants us to welcome His river where we are most inclined to turn away in shame.

The evening was simpler still. How can we not refuse the temptation to despair when the waters are rising? Heaviness rests naturally upon many post-Soviet citizens but when Jesus soaks us in His Father’s love, displacing that spirit of alienation and self-hatred, we cannot help but well up like a fountain of mercy for others! Standing in the river, it was easy to break the power of death and disqualification and to arm ourselves in the weapons of hope: peace, love, joy and the holy purposes our Father entrusts to us as members of His healing army.

Back home, I mused upon that Divine Mercy Sunday in Vilnius and welled up with gratitude for my Lithuanian family, and their legacy of mercy that flows throughout the world. I forgot to fear the rough raced ahead and honestly, ran better than I had in two years. I felt myself to be caught up in the current of something greater than myself, and like Elijah ran furiously til the race’s end.

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Relationships that Heal

While we as the Desert Stream staff prayed for our upcoming Living Waters European Leaders gathering in Poland, I received these words: ‘relationships that heal.’ They do indeed.

For over 30 years, blessed Europe has been the site where deep bonds have been forged. And fractured. The pain of the latter can tend to overshadow my Euro-friendships that endure. Could my ‘bent’ perspective be a part of the problem? Perhaps splinters from broken relationships still sting and obscure my vision.

Isn’t this true for most of us? When we get hurt, affliction infects our eyes and we see others (and the persons they represent) as symbols of conflict that we want to avoid. God was kindly challenging my vision. ‘Open your eyes to the love that is there for you…’

Maybe it’s because our wounds are deep, so much so that we fall into them like ruts in a highway. Our ‘wounders’ loom large and appear bigger than the healers whose unfailing love helped bind up our wounds. God wants us to look up and out to the persons who know us honestly and who still love us. He wants our healers to inhabit our hearts more than our perpetrators.

During our days together in Warsaw, I marveled at several fellow healers with whom I have walked for years in Europe. But none captured my gaze more than Werner and Charlotte Loerschter who as directors of Torrents-de-Vie (Living Waters) in France have been a source of healing for me unlike any others. I recalled our 23 years of digging wells of healing throughout Europe: we wearied ourselves in exhilarating service, in working out conflict, and in binding up each other’s wounds. Through it all, we have come to know each other deeply and at times painfully. Love pervaded all. I know they love me authentically because they know how hard it is to love me. And they have succeeded brilliantly. Whatever wholeness I possess I attribute in part to their love.

I looked upon these friends with gratitude during our gathering. I drank in love. Love is stronger than the death of failed relationships; healing is more defining than hurt. We must allow it to be. I encourage you to look upon the ones who have loved you well. Live in their light, a glorious reflection of His own.

Join us for the ‘Becoming Good News for the Gender Challenged’ fast from Oct. 11th-Nov. 19th.

Download the Prayer Guide:

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Watch Your Step

I ran along the river in old town Kaunas, Lithuania. As I considered the convergence of streams most dear to me, my heart overflowed and I ran with abandon. Surging in me were ‘currents’ of St. John Paul ll and St. Faustina, a European team of wounded healers who heal me, an American team par excellence, and a host of new friends from Poland who gathered to initiate Living Waters there.

Heaven on earth until my foot caught a crack in the path and I dove like a senseless animal into the then not-so-charming cobblestones. ‘Watch your step,’ intoned a still small voice.

I picked myself up, bleeding just a little, and took heed. We faced giants at our first Living Waters Training in Eastern Europe. Poland takes seriously its Catholicism—the authority of the Church, and that means defending the role of ordained priests in absolving sins. Living Waters takes seriously the role of the community in bearing one another’s sins so we can be healed. The priests and parishioners who gathered with us had serious questions about our approach; many also had serious divides in their souls that could only be healed by a band of fellow sinners who fought in merciful humility for their chastity.

I battled confusion and suspicion then rose to testify of both the priestly pillars of forgiveness (on which I depend) and the continuous links of being known daily with my fellow ‘lay priests’ on whom I rely to overcome sin. Jesus forged a way for all concerned to say ‘yes’ to Living Waters for the Polish church; most importantly, sinners were set free by the experience of both priestly absolution and the healing power of the ‘one another.’

I bounded out of our retreat center and somehow avoided stabbing my foot on a rusty spike protruding on the path. ‘I know, I know,’ I whispered heavenward: ‘Watch my step.’

The next fight was harder. In preparatory prayer, we discerned that we had to emphasize one plank of Living Waters—breaking the spirit of despair–in these lands trampled by the bloody boots of Russia and Germany then choked by Soviet rule. Our friends had grown up in the shadow of violent inhumanity. Christ Crucified is easy for Eastern Europeans; they must fight to live expectantly in the light of Love, risen and bursting with life.

The Word came in power and delivered many from the spirit of death. Then despair rolled over the team like a fog. We struggled under a stifling heaviness for a few hours. Then we gathered and confessed our affliction to one another; Jesus broke through with hope and joy. Relieved, I ran back to my room and fell promptly into a pothole. I received only a gentle ‘dusting’, no harm whatsoever, as if an unseen being padded my accident. I laughed, brushed myself off, and pledged once more to watch my step.

‘He will command His angels to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.’
(PS 91: 11-13)

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Human Beauty, Divine Mercy

St. John Paul ll said that we discover our true selves only by sincerely giving ourselves to others. We the fallen know also that we can offer ourselves badly; we grasp, we grope, we withhold. To bridge the gap between the original beauty of God’s purposes for our sexuality and the brokenness we behold today, we need divine mercy.

How blessed am I to have served the saints in both Lithuania and Poland, two lands which have ‘housed’ and honored St. John Paul ll and St. Faustina Kowalska, who 80 years ago received from the Spirit the image of Jesus releasing blood and water for us as the sign and seal of God’s all-surpassing mercy.

I was honored to join with Vilma and her group of amazing Living Waters leaders in Lithuania; we started our time there in Vilnius, home of the Chapel of Divine Mercy which houses the painting of the original image St. Faustina received from God. While we prayed, I ‘sensed’ that the water levels of God’s mercy were rising from the small chapel (in the spirit of Ezekiel 47) and beginning to flow onto the main street then throughout Lithuania.

My hunch proved correct as we gathered with remarkable ‘lay’ healers, bishops, and priests and asked Jesus to pour out His Spirit on the work of Living Waters there. I have not experienced that kind of ‘flow’ before; God strengthened me to prophesy continuously over restored ones who now offer their lives to heal the broken. Such humble beauty! Lithuania elevated my vision of the Church working in harmony to release her deep wells of mercy for afflicted ones.

The respect of St. John Paul ll resounds throughout Poland; how blessed I was to testify with the Living Waters teams there of the integration between the human body and Spirit that the pope emeritus describes beautifully in his ‘Theology of the Body.’ After I testified in Warsaw of how Jesus (through His merciful members) helped me to emerge from the disintegrating impact of homosexual lust, I discovered that St. Faustina’s niece was in the audience, rejoicing in God’s ‘living water’ for the sexually broken.

In Cracow I was honored to address a room full of priests-to-be at the seminary where St. John Paul taught (as Bishop Karl Wotyla). I had a strong sense that these men needed to be lovingly challenged to grow in their own sexual integration. They had great intellectual questions but I felt that unless they could articulate their own experience of God’s mercy as a key to chastity (a catholic word for sexual and relational wholeness), they would miss out on reaching a generation who insist on flesh-and-blood witnesses of the better way Jesus opens for us.

How privileged am I to walk in the footsteps of Jesus’ friends. I cannot recall a more demanding itinerary and the mercy that enabled me to trust Jesus every step of the way. He gives us back our beauty as we surrender to His mercy.

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October 15: Looking on Him Who We Have Pierced

‘Human actions cannot help us but only the sufferings of Christ.’ Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

We begin by gazing on the Cross. Our sins invited Him there. And He was gracious: He suffered and died in our place. Put another way, we killed Him. Each time we bypass the stern and splendid way of love we mock and flog and string Him up afresh. He died once and for all to cancel out our sin. Yet we still do it. Our flailing about like a hooked fish requires that we focus afresh on the One who died for our freedom.

We do ourselves no favors by sweetening our sin with psychological justifications, or deemphasizing our sin due to the more obvious faults of others. When we do that we empty the Cross of its power. God in His mercy gently reminds us of our sin. That slows us down and humbles us. The weight would kill us, should kill us, if He had not gone lower still to bear the unbearable—our sin. When our sin mocked and flogged and crucified Jesus, His death shattered the yoke of what was and maybe still is killing us.

He dignifies us by inviting us to participate in what only He can do for us; He opens our eyes and directs our attention to Him, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29).’ Yet He calls us to behold not a concept of sin but our sin–every vile, prideful, grasping, unclean way we have bypassed Him and sought to justify ourselves. It’s our dreadful way, and God has provided the only way out on the Cross.

Key to my conversion was beholding in the Lamb the sin that crucified Him–my sin that pierced Him in order to pardon me. Tears of contrition and gratitude unite when I gaze on the Cross. I did terrible things and am still capable of the same. He acted too. He submitted to the death my sin demanded. His action trumped mine and became my freedom.

I pray for a sweet and deep spirit of prayer on us all as we begin these forty days. We will feature this choice passage in Zechariah 12:10-13:2, and more: ‘I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on Me, the One that they have pierced…’

Join us as we pray for:

1. Living Waters Trainings: For our next training being held November 1-7, 2014 that God would open the hearts of everyone involved to receive all He has for them. Health and spiritual strength for the team members.

2. Poland: Discernment and clarity as Andrew meets with Catholic leaders in Poland about a possible Living Waters group there.

3. RHN: HIS Ministry, Carl Conli, Fair Oaks, CA: God’s blessing as Carl raises up two potential young men for future leadership. Fresno New Creation Ministries, Russell Willingham, Fresno, CA: Provision and wisdom as ministry undergoes changes.

“Courage for Pope Francis, that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 15, 16, 17, 18

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