Exciting News!

Living the Truth In LoveThe book I’m working on is still in process, but I’m very excited to say that a book that I contributed a chapter towards is soon to be released!

Here’s a link to the book at Ignatius Press.

And here is a link at Amazon. (Get ready for a lot of entertaining one star reviews, once the wolves who dislike Church teaching catch wind of it!)

And for a sample, here’s a link where you can click on some sample pages.

The Straight/Not Straight Trap

I’ve been writing for a while now about how I find the notions of “straight” or “something not straight” opposed to man’s dignity. I find the separation of sexuality into those two camps to be a rather insidious trap that’s been foisted on society, especially for young people.

If, for example, a boy finds some sort of attraction for a guy in his gym class that stirs within him during adolescence, or he finds himself aroused by a movie star oozing masculinity on the big screen, it means that whatever he are, he is something other than “straight.”

I’ve never seen it put that way in any sort of publication until just today.

The Pew Research Center put out a study a few years back on LGBT issues and this line I found intriguing:

The survey finds that 12 is the median age at which lesbian, gay and bisexual adults first felt they might be something other than heterosexual or straight.

The bifurcation of mankind into “straight” or “something other than heterosexual or straight” is something towards which the Church needs to be a sign of contradiction.

As the Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Church says,

Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”

C. S. Lewis On Overcoming Chronic Temptations

I’m doing a bit of writing for my book, when I find the time to do so. It’s going to take hours and hours of work, and lots of revisions. One of the fun parts however is looking for things to include. I have collected over the years a lot of quotes that I want to put here or there in my book, and as I go along, I continue to find new gems. This is a good one that I think will find its way into my book on overcoming pesky temptations or addictions. This is excellent from C. S. Lewis:

I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc. don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We all shall of course be v. muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the v. sign of His presence. . . .

–from a letter to Mary Neylen, 20 January 1942

An Email From 2000

As I’m working on my book, I’m spending a lot of time digging through journals and old emails, piecing together the journey that has led me to where I am now. This one struck me in particular. It was an email I wrote to the pastor of the Christian Reformed Church I was attending at the time. He and I had begun talking together about my desires for men and how best to respond to them. He didn’t force onto me the idea that I needed to try to find women attractive, which I think a lot of people suffered from during the late nineties and early 2000’s. He was rather more concerned with caring for my soul, and its deepest longings. He also believed, as I did, that the path to peace for a man like me rested in Christian teaching on human sexuality.

I have wondered when the seeds of my current thinking were sown, essentially that God allows whatever suffering that happens in our lives for our good and for our sanctification. I suppose those seeds have been strewn along the path most of my life. The message of Good Friday and Easter tells this story as clearly as anything, but to grasp its personal meaning in our life is another thing completely. But I think 2000 was the year I began to at least begin to be able to wrap my head around the concept, though this was still before I had ever been with a man. It wasn’t until really becoming the Prodigal Son that I could see the beauty in the paradoxical notion of suffering as being a gift from God.

I read this now I and I see it as a foreshadow to my arrival back in the arms of the Catholic Church. You’ll notice a reference to St. John Paul II’s encyclical Salvicifi Doloris, which I called “a little pamphlet” on suffering. I also mention the value I received in reading C. S. Lewis’s book The Problem of Pain, plus Peter Kreeft’s reworking of Lewis’s ideas in his book, Making Sense Out of Suffering. I also mention Viktor Frankl’s remarkable book on suffering, Man’s Search For Meaning. All four I think are necessary reading for anyone who lives in situations that are difficult to understand the reasoning behind.

Dear Pastor Dave,

I just thought I’d drop you a quick line on the heels of Sunday’s sermon. Your sermon echoed things I’ve been thinking about lately. I have finally gotten down to reading the books I’ve told you about, and I’ve found them to be quite insightful. Lately I’ve been reading Lewis’ Problem of Pain, a book by Peter Kreeft on suffering, a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (which has had a profound impact on me) and some other books as well, including a little pamphlet called the Christian Meaning of Suffering by John Paul II which is fantastic. The notion that God is watching over us even in the midst off suffering is quite liberating and assuring for me as you taught on Sunday.

I’m finally seeing the hope that exists in suffering, that good can come out of it. In my situation, I guess the struggle for me has been how to make sense out of the suffering that those who deal with same gender attraction go through. In a lot of the books I’ve been reading, they have spoken of suffering as a way in which we can identify with the sufferings of Christ, and even that, in some mystical, spiritual way, our sufferings can emulate the sufferings of Christ by somehow playing a role in the redemptive aspects of Christ’s suffering. In the book by Frankl, he talks about the fact that suffering needs to have a purpose, and when meaning is found in suffering, suffering can actually be embraced as a gift. I’m beginning to see suffering as something that can be offered up to God on behalf of others, as a part of “taking up our cross daily.” As I read these books, and thought about some of these ideas, my mind turned to Christ’s words which spoke about his burden being easy and his yoke being light. I’ve always struggled with making sense of those words of Christ, because it has always seemed that life is very hard. In light of what I’ve been reading, I wonder if the idea of carrying a burden or yoke on behalf of another is what makes the burden easy and light. This seems to follow Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross–certainly the burden was overwhelming, but he persevered out of his love for us knowing that the sacrifice would free us. For me, I guess I would like to believe that times that are difficult for me as I struggle with my same gender attraction issues, are times that can be offered up as a sacrifice I willingly take on behalf of others I know who battle as well. I’m curious to know your thoughts on these musings of mine, and it seemed that on the heels of your sermon on Sunday, now would be the perfect time for me to write you about these thoughts.

I also covet your prayers. I find myself at times having burgeoning desires to “find someone.” It seems to me as I desire to be free of these issues, it just becomes more and more clear to me how strong these issues are within me. I do believe that God has the power to change my desires, i.e. a possible future of marriage and a family, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. It has been somewhat sobering to me of late that I have felt something akin to romantic flutters a couple of times when talking to different guys. This is something new to me–historically my feelings were non-existent towards guys in person, and any thoughts/feelings were relegated simply to fantasy, guys on the net, or plain old lust. This is something new to deal with and contend with. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me–there certainly is a huge part of me which would like to “have a relationship,” though in my most sober moments, that scares me to death. Yet the desire is there, and I flirt with it in my mind, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve felt this way. Anyway, I would appreciate your prayers. In the part of my mind which tries to analyze such things through rational thought, I view these desires of mine as ways in which I have daily opportunities to deny myself in obedience to Christ, that “taking up my cross” in some sense means not fulfilling those desires. In that light, I view those who struggle with homosexuality having a unique opportunity within human experience to obey Christ’s call to sacrifice the desires of the flesh out of obedience to him, which of course fits in with the notion of sacrificial and redemptive suffering on behalf of others. It’s all well and good to sit and ponder such noble possibilities, but living them out is another thing altogether, and I guess that’s why I’d appreciate your prayers.

Thanks so much for your time, and giving me the O.K. to email you. I appreciate it immensely. God bless you–I thank God for you and for bringing me to your church–I know it’s where God wants me right now.

Take care,

Dan

White As Snow

I haven’t been posting much on my blog of late. My writing life has been spent on other endeavors, primarily my new book.

But I just received an email today from a reader which prompted me to pull something out of my archives on my computer and post this for him, and for others with the same concern.

Essentially he mourns the loss of his innocence, something I understand as well.

I’ve reached a point though where I realize that God isn’t so concerned with my past, or my lost innocence. Rather, he’s concerned with today and wants me to focus not on what I might have done in the past to sully my innocence, but rather what he does today to make me “white as snow,” as Isaiah says:

Come now, let us set things right,* says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool.

Bingo.

I love how Isaiah puts it, “Come now, let’s fix this stuff.”

It’s no big deal to God to clean us back up, to mend our wounds and to wipe away the ways in which we might have sullied the innocence we had in our youth.

I’ve learned to be gentle with myself along with my repentance. Should I ever be surprised that I screw up? I have to say to myself, “I’m a weak man. Did I forget that so quickly?”

And then run as quickly as possible to the Sacrament of Reconciliation where the becoming white as snow happens once again, thanks be to God!

I’ll close with two thoughts about lost innocence from the Church Fathers.

From St. Clement of Alexandria, speaking of those who once lost their innocence, who are reborn in “spiritual virginity.”

For he who has exercised concupiscence and then restrained himself, is like a widow who becomes again a virgin by continence…For they are virgins, in respect of their abstaining from what is evil.

And from St. Basil the Great, written to a woman who lost her innocence:

We can escape now. While we can, let us lift ourselves from the fall: let us never despair of ourselves, if only we depart from evil. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. O come, let us worship and fall down; let us weep before Him. The Word Who invited us to repentance calls aloud, Come unto me all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 There is, then, a way of salvation, if we will. Death in his might has swallowed up, but again the Lord has wiped away tears from off all faces of them that repent. The Lord is faithful in all His words. He does not lie when He says, Though your sins be scarlet they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18 The great Physician of souls, Who is the ready liberator, not of you alone, but of all who are enslaved by sin, is ready to heal your sickness. From Him come the words, it was His sweet and saving lips that said, They that be whole need not a physician but they that are sick….I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Matthew 9:12-13 What excuse have you, what excuse has any one, when He speaks thus? The Lord wishes to cleanse you from the trouble of your sickness and to show you light after darkness. The good Shepherd, Who left them that had not wandered away, is seeking after you. If you give yourself to Him He will not hold back. He, in His love, will not disdain even to carry you on His own shoulders, rejoicing that He has found His sheep which was lost. The Father stands and awaits your return from your wandering. Only come back, and while you are yet afar off, He will run and fall upon your neck, and, now that you are cleansed by repentance, will enwrap you in embraces of love. He will clothe with the chief robe the soul that has put off the old man with all his works; He will put a ring on hands that have washed off the blood of death, and will put shoes on feet that have turned from the evil way to the path of the Gospel of peace. He will announce the day of joy and gladness to them that are His own, both angels and men, and will celebrate your salvation far and wide. For verily I say unto you, says He, there is joy in heaven before God over one sinner that repents. If any of those who think they stand find fault because of your quick reception, the good Father will Himself make answer for you in the words, It was meet that we should make merry and be glad for this my daughter was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found. Luke 15:32