Tag Archives: st. paul

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Become Who You Are

The full stature of our humanity is always just outside our grasp. Someone truer, stronger, more tender-in-love awaits his or her true revelation.

As God made us in us His very image, He has wired us to represent Him more nearly, more authentically. For this we must reach. Joseph Pieper describes such inspired aspiration as magnanimity, our ‘yes’ to realizing the greatness He stamped upon every cell of our being.

He is faithful. We have all experienced leaders who have witnessed our childishness, roll their eyes, and mutter: ‘Grow up.’ Not our Father and Son. When we fall short of greatness, fumble the ball or even foul out, He loves us through our shame and gently commands that we become more. He wills what He commands. Nothing less than the power that elevated Jesus from the tomb infuses our weak ‘yes’; He helps us to break through the invisible wall that keeps us crowned by childish things.

The other day, in response to an attitude Annette witnessed in me as less than godly and manly, I sought the Lord and He invited me: ‘I want you to become bigger in this area. As you stand tall and refuse to bend, I will give you victory.’ He has. I must choose daily to stand in that higher place. As I do, I grow into the freedom for which Christ set me free.

It hurts but helps us to bump against low ceilings of immaturity. Growth requires our ‘yes’ to Spirit-inspired commands to break the previously unseen wall.

How sad when we don’t. I know a good man who loves Jesus and leads others in His Name who is convinced that he is intrinsically ‘gay.’ Though he refuses explicit homosexual behavior, he is bound by boyish dependencies that belie his 39-years. These friendships are flirtatiousness and campy; his immaturity confuses others and keeps him a pre-teen, emotionally speaking.

It’s hard to grow up. And our Father helps us. He knows we tend to familiar, lesser selves due to laziness and lack of vision. You could say St. Paul wrote most of his epistles for just that reason, to remind faltering Christians to become who God made and redeemed them to be.

LGBT+ month reminds us that we live in an age that has stripped ‘compassion’ of magnanimity; we have lost vision and spiritual power. Let us reclaim both. St. Paul’s words ring truer than ever: ‘For you were once darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord. Live as children of the Light’ (Eph. 5:8). St. Augustine says it another way. ‘Live up to what you have become.’ Become who you are.

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Grounded 5

A renowned director despises vast landscapes in his movies: ‘Humanity reveals itself only in cramped quarters’, he mused. Apply that to one month in quarantine and he’s right: barely recovering addicts circle their troughs, the mildly anxious teeter on paranoia, sad persons fade, party creatures crash, and binge-watchers without a hint of faith perform exorcisms on the faltering Internet (apparently Satan is in league with most providers.)

Easter is timely this year. Jesus shows up in real time—our time—and saves us from ourselves. He may just join us for breakfast; He deftly walks through walls into strained small gatherings and brings life, hope, light. Disease and death don’t have the last word. He does; He is the Word of Life, inexhaustible in exchanging our little scandals for His mercy that makes all things new.

Yep. In this plague-weary Easter time, the cry for mercy is the best ticket to the free elevator. Heading up. After all. St. Paul exhorts all who claim to be Christian: ‘If you are risen with Christ, set your hearts on things above’ (Col. 3:1). OK, OK. We need help to ascend. Cry for mercy. Rise with Him.

We at the Desert Stream staff are in a 9-day prayer cycle leading to this upcoming Divine Mercy Sunday. A week after Easter Sunday, the Church sets apart this day as a lush opportunity for every person on the planet to open him or herself to Living Water, ‘the blood and water that gushes forth from the heart of the Savior as a fountain of mercy for YOU…’

St. Faustina received that little prayer and we as a ministry pray it all the time (in the context of a bigger one called the Divine Mercy Chaplet—download it here). An uneducated Polish nun, just out of her teens in the 1930’s, she obeyed Jesus’ revelation to her that His mercy could alter the course of the whole world. Instead of judgment, Jesus wants to immerse rebels in the healing flood emanating from His heart. She endured the battering ram of hell itself for mercy’s sake and now Divine Mercy is honored throughout the global Church.

She wrote pithy things like sin’s ‘misery invites the depth of His mercy’, always punctuated by ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ Last night, tossed by financial and moral and ministry-related concerns, I cried for mercy then sealed it: ‘Jesus, I trust in You…’

I awoke refreshed, in full agreement with the Psalmist: ‘You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Ps. 31:8)

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bearing the cross

Bearing

Though I love the benefits of Jesus’ cross, I am tempted to hate sharing in that cross with Him. It hurts to bear up under the burden He invites us to shoulder, namely grief over His Church.

During prayer for the healing of our corporate compromises, I realized: what I most value as a Christian—killing sin through swift confession before it kills me, my marriage, or another; living out loud in community in order to grow beyond same-sex attraction into real fruitfulness—is not enough believed or practiced in my Church. For this I suffer, a grief Jesus has invited me to bear. I am not alone but alongside other members who share these values and love the bride enough to grieve too.

This Lent He invited us into a little share of His cross; would we bear this for an hour or so each week in prayer? We discovered we couldn’t shake that burden after the meetings ended. It stayed with us, and seems now like a heart condition. Indeed, we carry it for her cleansing. Perhaps St. Paul’s mysterious reference in Col. 1:24 to bear in one’s body a share in Jesus’ suffering for His body applies here. Who knows? We pray on.

My friend Dana recalled her experience of a 14-mile procession she and friends made one Good Friday with a large wooden cross—each took turns shouldering it: ‘As I carried the cross, it sunk into me and its weight increased. It became a part of me; I realized that it was Jesus inviting me to walk with Him to help carry His cross. What seemed too heavy became doable with Him.’ Christ in us: to suffer, and to hope for glory (Col. 1: 27). That reminds me of Bonhoeffer’s words: ‘We know too little in the church today about the peculiar blessing of bearing. Bearing, not shaking off; bearing, but not collapsing either; bearing as Christ bore the cross, remaining underneath, and there beneath it, to find Christ.’

Having looked hard together at a scandalized Church, we have done more than meet to pray; rather, we have received a spirit of prayer with which to pray unceasingly for her. Over the long haul. Change takes time and occurs as prayer like underground wells spring up on the earth and accomplish the impossible.

We pray for witnesses of transformation in the sexual arena to arise and take their places alongside leaders who welcome, guide, and amplify their experience of an empowered Gospel.

We pray for the eloquent truth of Pope Emeritus Benedict—‘Sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction which is not homosexual…its meaning is to bring about the union of man and woman which gives humanity posterity, children, future. This…is the essence of sexuality’—to fuse with the fatherly compassion of Pope Francis. May that fullness of mercy and truth compel Christians to turn from sexual sin (beginning with clergy) toward the arduous, splendid process of becoming chaste.

We pray for courageous leaders who eschew politics for the transformation of souls. Might orthodox leaders refuse clericalism by equipping lay men and women to serve the broken; might the unorthodox be routed lest the Church’s mercy be diluted further by the call to ‘accompaniment’ without repentance or discipline.

Might we, horrified by our own sin, find beneath the cross that no sin can ever be alien to us (Bonhoeffer) and in mercy cry out for all sinners–bishops and busboys, popes and plumbers. Might God grace us to bear holy grief and the hope of glory long after Lent.

‘We do not want you to grieve like those who have no hope…’ (1 Thess. 4:13).

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

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freedom naturally lady gaga

Freedom, Naturally

I chuckled as Lady Gaga decried Vice-President Pence ‘as the worst representative of Christianity’ because his wife took a job at a school that defines freedom as reserving sexual love for marriage and thus requires employees to deny themselves other forms of behavior or identity. Gaga was nearly outdone by Ellen Page who branded fellow actor Chris Pratt a ‘hater’ for attending a church that believes similarly.

I guess Gaga and Page equate freedom with doing whatever one desires. To live one’s desires is to live free. Besides the absurdity of two women who pride themselves on being non-judgmental damning anyone who disagrees with them, I think it might help to say a few words on Christian freedom.

Christians certainly recognize that persons possess desire in many directions—Jesus Himself speaks of the heart as a fountain of feelings that can result in self-harm and damage to others (MK 7:14-23.) St. Paul takes this a step further when he theologized about the evident sexual immorality of ancient Rome; he claimed that humanity knows better and must suppress what they know in order to act unnaturally, under the power of enslaving desires (Rom. 1: 18-32). That rang true.

I was free to identify and behave homosexually but became a slave to my desires. Passion did not liberate but rather dominated me. Instead of learning to direct my sexuality in a way that engendered life in others, I became self-concerned and chaotic in seeking to find myself in a series of cracked mirrors. You could say I was being true to my bad self. That has a morbid integrity all its own but thank God for persons who advocated for me beyond the superficial intercession of a Gaga or Page. This slave needed freedom beyond ‘to thine own self be true.’

One’s true nature is bound up in another: the person of Jesus Christ. Christians know this with childlike profundity. Rather than rail at other’s addictive symptoms, they accompany wanderers unto Himself, the only unchanging mirror of the true self. Jesus, at once Creator and Redeemer, has gentle authority to summon who we are from a host of weak options, including LGBT fragmentation.

Then comes the good hard work of becoming chaste, which is all about harnessing desire in a way that dignifies everyone. No stranger to sensational enslavement, St. Augustine says it like this: ‘Through chastity, we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity’(CCC #2340).

What a guy. He gave language to our divided hearts which will flail about in vain for a center until we find ourselves in Jesus. Gaga knows something about this in her stated regret over partnering with abuser/rapper R. Kelly. This gifted woman now aspires to dignity, even to Christian faith. Why cannot she allow others to pursue theirs without demonizing them? She might just benefit from knowing how Jesus takes slaves of LGBT freedom and makes us fruitful sons and daughters.

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

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with jesus anything

With Jesus, Anything

Reflecting on my 60th year, I was beautifully interrupted by a snow storm that knocked the power right out of us; we were babysitting grandson Jacob while his parents cheered the Kansas City Chiefs onto victory in their division at the local stadium. (Congratulations to The Chiefs for nearly making the Super Bowl.) Annette and I shivered, laughed, and bathed Jacob in the kitchen sink by candlelight.

We love our new digs but it seems we moved into the Bermuda triangle of power sources. Breezes snap electric lines and blow up transformers. O well…My decisive word this year: If ‘without Jesus we can do nothing’ (JN 15:5b), then with Him, we can do anything.

That first and mostly applies to married life. I love Annette more than ever but am less sure of my capacity to actually love her as St. Paul implores husbands, you know, like Jesus offered Himself to the Church. OK, not there yet. It helps to know that marriage itself roots and grounds me in my manhood through her authentic, distinctly feminine self.

Listen to what St. John Paul ll says about marriage in Theology of the Body: ‘Marriage penetrates into the dignity ascribed to humanity as image-bearers by virtue of creation, and at the same time the dignity ascribed to sinful humanity by virtue of redemption.’ Good news for original sinners like me. In marriage’s unflattering mirror, I am humbled by Jesus who always invites me into mercy. From that artesian well I draw constantly and am empowered to give myself more and better to her. In the end, I will be judged by love, the love I gave to that woman. With Him, I can do anything.

That applies pointedly to my love for the Church. This messy witness of Jesus’ unfailing love takes more love than I have. I’ve only to sink a little deeper into the mercy pool to rediscover my gratitude and ardor for her. Strength rises as I wait on Him, His heart for her, that I might love her more, and better. By that I mean the many people I serve every day who are her—broken, beautiful, members, yet often half-blind. It helps to recall what I did not see until I did. Pair that with the realization that I still don’t see that well and you can understand why I cannot love her without Him. But with Him, I can do anything for her, His Bride.

Recognizing the value of trouble in loving the Church helps a lot. I use to shy away from trouble. But now I kind of like it. No sadist, me, but a realist who recognizes blessing and building up the Church provokes the rage of Satan himself who wants to keep her divided and weak, barren in her capacity to bring forth a vast harvest of spiritual children. I have a big enemy who hates what I do. So I am learning to bear his vengefulness patiently, assessing trouble as a sure sign of heading in the right direction–all the while laughing at my self-seriousness and the (comparatively) weak efforts of the enemy to thwart mine. With Jesus, I can do anything for generations yet-to-come.

I love getting older because life gets simpler. It becomes more about Him. In that way I grow young, as eager as a well-loved child to see Him face-to-face.

‘Love is a sweet tyranny, and one who loves has no other language but one… which always has a never-fading youthfulness on the lips of one who loves.’
Archbishop Luis Maria Martinez

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

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