Tag Archives: St. john Paul 11

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Saved by Beauty

‘This aspiration—born of love—is a search for integral beauty, for purity free from stain. It is a search for perfection that contains a synthesis of human beauty—body and soul.’ (Theology of the Body, St. John Paul ll)

As she sat in the morning light, hair shining silver, I realized that she had never been lovelier. All the years together, just shy of 40—and she more dignified and womanly than ever. I thought of the Rogers and Hammerstein lyric: ‘Do I love you because you are beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?’ and concluded nothing except life means little without her. Beautiful Annette, or better put, beautiful marriage, saved me.

Isn’t that idolatry? Doesn’t only Jesus save? Of course, only one Savior, but Jesus has given marriage power to permeate its players with His very Presence in a way that saves man and woman through their communion—body, soul, spirit. St. Paul likens sexual fusion between husband and wife to the ‘great mystery’ of Christ’s union with the Church. For years now, I have participated in this most holy, earthy communion with another; in so doing, Annette and I share in Jesus infusing His Church with divine presence. As Annette and I permeate each other with our self-giving, we are being saved—made holy through love as we ‘submit to each other out of reverence for Jesus’ (Eph. 5:21).

This flies in the face of charges—laughably foolish—that any person who has same-sex attraction cannot be redeemed in his or her sexuality. I came across an ad for the film ‘Boy Erased’ that ominously read: ‘The truth cannot be converted…’ Du, du, du, dumb. Talk about an inverted, uninspired worldview!

As our common enemy would have it, homosexuality, the big ‘H’, now subordinates Jesus to little ‘j’. For every sheep that drank the cool-aid and now believes all we can do for the LGBT+ set is to agree with their divided, sterile identifications—hear this: Jesus redeems us for beauty! And that means He has power to enable sinners from any fractured starting point to join the dance of life. Marital love with Jesus at center redeems persons who participate in it.

‘Boy Erased’ and the trendy assault on anyone who efforts to grow beyond sexual illusion reveal a loss of vision for human creativity and dignity. Not beautiful Jesus; He has never lost sight nor power to summon what He sees. That takes disciplined response, of course. Any good thing does. Becoming who I am is hard yet deeply fulfilling. I am not even tempted to trade my marriage and its unitive, creative power for a weird friendship with a dude. I was created and redeemed for beauty. Beauty saved me.

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

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Polish Spring

‘See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.’ (SS 2:11, 12)

Amid abuse and cover-up, confusion from Pope Francis regarding homosexuality and Irish citizens overturning their abortion ban, the Spirit of Pentecost enveloped a hundred of us in Krakow Poland who gathered for our second Living Waters Training there.

We couldn’t stop singing, and the Spirit kept raining on us as we offered our brokenness to the Crucified in tears and joy. Surrounding our songs was a chorus of birds that worshipped day and night in huge trees that flanked us on every side.

Trainings are just that: arduous, messy, shame and glory, revelation amid hard reality. Why now after seven 16-hour-days am I refreshed? All I know is that I was buoyed, as if I caught a current of the Kingdom and knew intuitively how to navigate the waters. Extraordinary.

It is easy for an outsider to idealize this land of St. John Paul ll and St. Faustina. Traditional values are evident (Poland is not sympathetic to ‘reproductive rights’ and LGBT+ aspirations) and create a kind of moral clarity not evident in America or Western Europe. The Church here is cohesive, a national rallying point amid devastating historic batterings. To many Poles, Jesus through His Mother (Church) sustained the nation’s hope and dignity throughout centuries.

Yet good ethics and history can become prison bars unless the Spirit liberates wounded lives. The Poles may be clearer in their devotion to Christ than many Europeans today but they are no less broken by their bloody history, which gave rise to deep patterns of family disorder, including disordered church dynamics.

For these reasons, I take heart that many Poles are facing their wounds forthrightly with each other. I am in awe of men and women we have now walked with for three years who are different people today: joyful, not glum, with a new well-being in their gendered, bodily humanity. They no longer avoid others’ gaze. One young woman whom I first met in Lithuania couldn’t walk unassisted due to the oppression of her sin and wounds. During this training she bounded around the site, taught better than I did, and will return refreshed to her hometown to lead a Living Water group which is changing the culture of her church.

Most importantly, the nine Polish priests who attended the training taught and shared openly about their wounds and sins against chastity. They honored their office by making clear they live through the wounds of Jesus discovered in His broken merciful members. They released deep drafts of mercy for all of us. We exhausted them and each other in laying bare our need for ongoing conversion.

Wearied in doing well, we welcomed the Spirit’s refreshment. He is accomplishing in the Polish Church what we can only hope for. A Polish Spring, welling up with song in the Spirit of Pentecost: He will have His way with His Church.

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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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November 18, 2014: Summoning the Saints

‘Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did…”’

A young Christian and university student, I was also fresh out of the ‘gay’ scene and grateful to Jesus and His friends for giving me an alternative. My pastors knew many young people like me. ‘Please help others,’ they implored Annette and me, while mentoring us in how to best share our stories and gather seekers for mutual support. My pastors took a risk by releasing us to serve the church. We in turn had to leave our ‘water jars’ and give ourselves away so that others might discover the riches of Jesus in His body.

That was the DNA of my young church: rousing one another to build the Bride. And who better to do so than young ones so grateful to Jesus that they want to offer themselves to His members? He honors these efforts; Jesus certainly magnified our little offering! As men and women received healing in our small groups, we invested in them and they became healers in their own right. God increased their healing as they offered themselves to others.

Because we did everything as a group, no one person had to bear the weight of another’s brokenness. Jesus did, through His Spirit, by releasing a variety of gifts. As wounded healer, we actually created a healing community; we encouraged one another through ongoing training and cyclical opportunities to lead healing groups together. In so doing, we increased our involvement in the life of the greater church. We fulfilled an aspect of St. Paul’s exhortation ‘to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up…’ (Eph. 4:12)

We continue to train lay persons to run these groups. ‘Living Waters’ now flow throughout the world, in nearly every denomination. The local churches need such service for her sexually broken. And just as much, persons whose shame has been turned to glory need the dignity of becoming useful in the restoration of other lives. Without Jesus and His friends, these wounded healers would have been left eternally homeless. Now they help create a home for others in Christ’s body.

My new church home, the Roman Catholic Church, is a deep well of wisdom, authority and abiding love. She is also seriously challenged in releasing the saints to do the work of the ministry. Her strength–providing continuity of leadership—is also her weakness. It tends to create ‘religious professionals’ to which the laity remains childishly deferential. In order to meet the needs of broken people over the long haul, we need bishops and pastors who are open to new models of pastoral care and equipping/overseeing the saints to do such care. May she forsake a restraining (not dead) formalism in order to liberate her wounded healers.

‘It is through you, the laity, that the Church’s mission is fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ St. John Paul ll

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. North & South Carolina, Dean Greer – Coordinator: For new regional leadership to be identified and raised-up, for existing groups and to see new groups  established. 
  2. Aguas Vivas: Evanston, Illinois, Kerrie – Spanish Coordinator: Grace, protection and anointing as Kerri attends the CrossCurrent group at the Vineyard and runs a small group for Spanish speakers.
  3. Restored Hope Network: CCR, Michael Newman, Houston, TX: Culture clashes and more connection with other ministries. Shadow of His Wings Ministry, Lee Preston, Garden Ridge, TX: Discernment for he and his wife to determine God’s path.

“Courage for Reverend Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury), 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 NOV. 16, 17, 18, 19

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unholy hourder

November 16, 2014: Unholy Hoarders

‘I was afraid and I went and hid my talent.’ (Matt. 25:25)

The Gospel and in particular today’s reading on the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25: 14-30) makes it clear: freedom is only found in giving our lives away for others. Fear is the enemy of such freedom. If we doubt the gifts that we are, we lose and so does everyone else. Scripture takes it further. Keeping ourselves wrapped up in fear and self-doubt makes us stingy and miserable, deserving of the loneliness such unholy hoarding incurs.

St. John Paul ll paraphrases Jesus when he wrote his now oft-quoted line: ‘Man can only find himself through the sincere gift of himself.’ (GS 24) Our quest for clarity in any sphere—spiritually, sexually, emotionally—must involve self-giving. Pity the fearful one who stays inside, waiting to be summoned by an intrepid prince or princess. The Prince has come; He has crowned you a gift by virtue of your humanity. Discover that humanity by offering yourself to others!

That call is relevant for persons with damaged relational backgrounds. The only way we change the old set of fearful memories is by offering ourselves. We heed Prince Jesus at every turn. Eventually, we get it. Even if another does not value the gift that we are, the gift cannot be diminished. He who made us and is redeeming us reminds us moment by moment: ‘You are my beloved.’ Our mirror becomes the Creator, not the created, which frees us to risk again.

Happiness results from generous self-giving. ‘Come and share your master’s happiness’ (vs. 21, 23) says Jesus to those persons who offer themselves, over and over for others’ good. Taking our talents and investing them is especially relevant for building up Jesus’ body. I frankly have little tolerance for persons who remain stuck in ‘church-wounds’ and are quick to mutter outside her gates with the bitter throng who detest ‘religion.’

I’d rather be fruitful and happy. Instead of a betrayer, I see a beautiful, broken ‘bride’ who has been struck down but not destroyed. I shall not kick her when she’s down but seek to honor and serve her with all I can give. Jesus helps us here. He always gives us His heart for His bride! I forgive my offenders quickly. And at times I change where I worship in order to be faithful to Jesus by discerning where I can best love and serve her. She is a diverse bride who gives us many points of entry. The Church needs generous givers who will not dwell on her failures but on how she welcomes her Bridegroom beautifully.

To be sure, we must be honest about our fears. Many of us have been pierced by church-related sins that make us flinch to this day. Annette and I suffered seasons of such cruel and arbitrary rejection from churchmen that we have been tempted to bury our talents in fear. We bear the mark of such rejection and must struggle to overcome it. We shall. We want to be both happy and fruitful in our service of the bride who is making herself radiant, without spot or wrinkle. (Eph. 5:27)

‘For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.’ (Matt. 25:29)

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Northeast Region, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Garry & Melissa Ingraham – Coordinators: For strength and vision for Garry & Melissa, for existing groups and to see new groups established.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Leon, Mexico, Emma – Coordinator: Grace and strength to finish their first Aguas Vivas pilot group.
  3. Restored Hope Network: Reconciliation Ministries, Dan Hitz, Roseville, MI: For new office space and start of Living Waters group. Pure Heart Ministries, Jim Venice, St. Peters, MO: personal and ministry health.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), 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 NOV. 16, 17, 18, 19

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