December 17, 2015 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am delighted that we can be in touch with you in this most special of seasons. We have some rich gifts to share as you meditate on the wonder of the incarnation of our Lord. In this newsletter you will find part one of a beautiful essay by Mary Carrington on Living in Incarnational Reality. We're also sharing a recommended reading from Leanne's archives - don't many of us have an ever-growing library of good books through Leanne's rich advice? You will also find important information about upcoming MPC schools and other recommended resources.

In these hallowed weeks of preparing for Christmas, I have been meditating on the words of the great prophet, Isaiah. In chapters ten and eleven his poetry conveys the breakthrough of God's kingdom in symbols of forest and trees. The Assyrians had set themselves up as grand oppressors, and Isaiah foretold their fate through the image of a felled woodland:

See, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
will lop off the boughs with great power.
The lofty trees will be felled,
the tall ones will be brought low.
He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax;
Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One.
                           (Isaiah 10:33-34, NIV)

I remember clearly the sight of a clear-cut forest on a childhood drive in the country. My young heart was struck by the sad devastation, humiliation even, of a once-glorious forest leveled to the ground, its trees hauled away for lumber, leaving a scarred landscape of stumps. Truly this is how God dealt with the arrogance of the Assyrians, and today the image cuts to the heart of our own pride. We need God's righteous judgment to fell our haughty ways whenever we oppose and compete with the sovereignty that is God's alone. The Church too needs the prophetic word by which the Holy Spirit hews down high mindedness that sets itself against God's ways.

God's judgment and salvation are inseparable works, so that this disturbing scene of destruction is mysteriously also a scene of hope. Even as our God moves in great power, His exquisite mercy becomes visible, for the very next verse speaks of something (Someone) new:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
(Isaiah 11:1, NIV)

All honor, glory and praise be unto our beautiful Savior! Humble and undefended, He is planted as a tender shoot in the clear-cut desolation. We know this truth most intimately, for He has taken root in our own hearts. He has descended into the cracked stumps of our shattered pride and failed rebellion, and has rooted into us His own eternal life. It is His passion to place Himself in the center of the scenes of darkest sin and worst wreckage, to give Himself as the seed of new life in exchange for our most hopeless barrenness. This is the sober yet joyful promise of Advent. Isaiah goes on to the final tree on which the Messiah won this salvation of His people:

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples;
the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
(Isaiah 11:10, NIV)

What a privilege to live in that day! To be among those who have been reclaimed by Him, and to now serve Him in lifting up that banner, His wonderful cross! Images spring to mind from Portland and Ticino where we saw Him take root in wounded hearts. I think of the faithful Christian counselors and pastors I met in Nashville who invoke His glorious Presence in the trenches of daily ministry. And I think of how badly the Church needs this knowledge: the Lord's incarnation has made His healing power available for us today.Know that we are immensely grateful for your prayers for this ministry. And know that you are in our prayers as well, as you seek the fullness of His advent in your own souls, and as you seek to lift high His cross in the places where you have been planted to serve Him.

Yours in Christ,

Recommended Reading
By Leanne Payne
from her Christmas 2002 newsletter

Lord our God, help us prepare
for the coming of Christ Your Son.
May He find us waiting, eager in joyful prayer.
from Liturgy of the Hours

The weeks of Advent are traditionally set aside as a time of deliberately entering anew into the mystery of the Incarnation. It is a season of reflection, of repentance, and of focusing our hearts and minds on Jesus, the Word made flesh. There are many books that can help us in these weeks of preparation, and one that has been meaningful to many of us on the PCM team is The Lord by Romano Guardini. Though we have recommended it in a previous newsletter, it is a book that deserves to be highlighted once again. This classic devotional study of the life of Christ is worth reading and rereading, especially during Advent and Christmas, and right on through into Lent and Easter.

Commenting on John 1:1-14 Guardini writes,
Only in the flesh, not in the bare spirit, can destiny and history come into being: this a fact to which we shall often return. God descended to us in the person of the Savior, Redeemer, in order to have a destiny, to become history. Through the Incarnation, the founder of the new history stepped into our midst. With his coming all that had been before fell into its historical place "before the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ:" anticipating or preparing for that hour; all that was to be, faced the fundamental choice between acceptance and rejection of the Incarnation. He "dwelt among us," "pitched his tent among us," as one translation words it. "Tent" of the Logos - what is this but Christ's body: God's holy pavilion among men, the original tabernacle of the Lord in our Midst, the "temple" Jesus meant when he said to the Pharisees: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). Somewhere between that eternal beginning and the temporal life in the flesh lies the mystery of the Incarnation. St. John presents it austerely, swinging its full metaphysical weight . . . Everything is concentrated on the ultimate, all-powerful essentials: Logos, flesh, step into the world; the eternal origin, the tangible earthly reality, the mystery of unity.

Regnery Publishing, Washington, DC, 1982, p. 5


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Incarnational reality is a concept that permeates Leanne Payne's teaching and writing. By incarnational reality, Leanne means the presence of God both with us and within us. Through incarnational reality, in all of its aspects, we share in the life of Christ and undertake a glorious adventure. We relate to God because we are linked with Him through incarnational reality. We can forgive the unforgiveable because of Christ's incarnational reality in us reaching out in love to those who have offended us. God's grace descends into us and transforms us into His image through His incarnational reality dwelling within us. As we dwell in incarnational reality, we also partake of holiness, one of the primary attributes of God. Our intuitive minds permeated by incarnational reality receive words, thoughts, and visions directly from the Father. Christ's incarnational reality comes to touch and heal us through the sacraments. Like C. S. Lewis and Leanne we touch Jesus, and His incarnational reality revitalizes us in the deepest recesses of our being.

What Is Incarnational Reality?

Christianity is incarnational. It can never be understood outside of this context (Incarnational Reality: A Study of the Holy Spirit in Man).

Incarnational reality is a difficult term to define because it speaks of the ultimate reality, God Himself, with us and within us, and who can adequately describe God? Incarnational reality can never be acquired by the mere accumulation of theological knowledge about God. An understanding of incarnational reality, prayerfully digested, can be brought into one's personal walk with God. We come to know incarnational reality by union with Him. We experience the living reality of one of Leanne Payne's beloved expressions, "Another is in me."

Leanne, like C. S. Lewis, points us towards "incarnational reality" or the "reality of God present in and through His creation," (Real Presence, p. 18), which Leanne also refers to as "ultimate reality." Both Lewis and Leanne recovered the "vision of an immanent God - a God who indwells His people" (Real Presence, p. 22). However, the Christ-life in Christians is not something mental or moral according to Lewis. Christians are not copying Christ or thinking about Him, but Christ is operating through them: ". . . the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts - that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body" (Mere Christianity, chapter 10).

While praying about the overwhelming task of writing about incarnational reality, Leanne experienced an unusual vision. She saw Christ's face "aglow and framed by the richest of sun-baked hues." This was, she explains, a vision of the incarnation, "the Uncreated shining through the created." It was God shining through the face of Jesus His Son, both human and divine (Healing Presence, p. 10). In a similar way, God shines through our human faces when we dwell in incarnational reality.

Christ through His Holy Spirit not only indwells our physical bodies but descends "into our deepest beings and lives." As Leanne writes, He hallows and enlightens the will, the intellect, the imagination and the feeling and sensory beings (Healing Presence, p. 11). 

Living without incarnational reality, when our true center is not in union with Christ, we do not listen to God and receive His guidance and wisdom or collaborate with His Holy Spirit. Our minds, as Leanne writes, "developed apart from an active participation in the Holy Spirit (incarnational reality)" yield "a rationalism that cannot receive spiritual wisdom" (Real Presence, p. 52). We do not then live in the "fullness of Christ" and His glorious kingdom. We live as less than we are created to be.

Lewis illustrates the fullness of incarnational reality in the character of Sarah of Golders Green in his novel The Great Divorce. Sarah, as Leanne writes, is "fully infused with the divine life" (Real Presence, p. 45). "Love shone not from her face only, but from all her limbs, as if it were some liquid in which she had just been bathing" (The Great Divorce, pp. 109-110). She is radiating joy and happiness, inviting others to dance with her in the great joy of incarnational reality shining through her.

Incarnational Reality and Our Relationship with God

We are linked to ultimate reality by the person of the Holy Spirit. We do not, however, come to know ultimate reality or incarnational reality by theological or abstract ideas about ultimate reality but by union with ultimate reality - "by establishing a personal relationship between God and man" (Real Presence, p. 31) such as the relationship between Abraham and God in Genesis.

When we lack an understanding of incarnational reality mediated by the Holy Spirit, our own rationalizations or ideas about God are substituted for the reality of the living presence of God. We replace the living presence (incarnational reality) with theological ideas about incarnational reality. As John A. Mackay writes, "belief in the doctrine of the incarnation becomes a substitute for belief in the incarnate God" (A Preface to Christian Theology, pp. 123-124). Oxford theologian Alister McGrath in his book on the incarnation writes that theology at its worst "conveys the deeply misleading idea that Christianity is simply about ideas, and that spiritual growth is measured in the accumulation of those ideas" (Incarnation, p. 50).

However, our hearts are thirsty, as Lewis's was, for a personal relationship with God
and for the fullness of incarnational reality. In The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis writes about Jill's encounter with Aslan.

'I daren't come and drink,' said Jill.
'Then you will die of thirst,' said the Lion.
'Oh dear,' said Jill, coming another step nearer.
'I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.'
'There is no other stream,' said the Lion.

(Lewis, The Silver Chair, chapter 2)

As Leanne writes, "There is only one stream, one link with God" (Incarnational Reality: A Study of the Holy Spirit in Man, p. 9) through His Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit we encounter the living, transforming presence of God that leads us into true freedom.

While ministering at a Ministries of Pastoral Care (MPC) conference, I saw how a rational, heady experience of Christianity can lead to much anger and frustration in the lives of those who struggle with the worst of emotional wounds and grievous sins. One conference participant, who admitted that he was more interested in theological ideas about God than experiencing His incarnational reality, had become very angry with God in his suffering. He had suffered the worst types of physical and sexual abuse in his family as a little boy. He blamed his condition on God rather than seeking ways to drink from the stream and encounter the incarnational reality in a church or a community group filled with the presence of God, such as a Living Waters group, where he could receive further healing for his wounds.

Incarnational Reality and Forgiveness

Our union with God and His incarnational reality descending into us enables us to forgive even in the most difficult situations. Leanne recounts how she found herself "in the midst of a temptation to hate" a person who had envied and slandered her, and she realized how living with that hate could cause a person to kill another. She cried out to the Lord to enable her to forgive and heard the audible voice of what she understood to be God the Father speak, "to me to live is Christ." The meaning of these words of Paul then became clear to her; she needed to allow Christ to live in her and love even her worst enemy through her (Listening Prayer, p. 179). She was able to forgive as she became very aware of Christ in her. Leanne writes, "from that center where He and I were mysteriously one, forgiveness was extended" to her enemy (Healing Presence, p. 102).

Forgiveness will often be accompanied by a divine infusion of God's incarnational love. As a young woman, I suffered many abuses from men. This hardened my heart towards men, and I believed that there was no such thing as a holy man, that every man was by nature perverse and unholy. About a month before I attended a Pastoral Care Ministries (PCM) school, memories of past abuse began to surface in my heart. With God's help and grace, I chose to forgive each abuser as his face appeared in my memories. While attending that PCM school and during the prayer for the healing of misogyny, Leanne asked the men to turn and bless the women who were present. It was in that moment that the wall of bitterness melted in my heart, and I could see man as God made him to be. I looked up to the man standing next to me and with tears in my eyes commented that he was the most beautiful man in God's creation. God's love for men poured through me and transformed me as the Holy Spirit opened my heart to receive truth. The grace of God enveloped me, and His healing incarnational presence descended into me, enabling me to forgive my abusers.

Incarnational Reality and Transformation

Through the new birth and the baptism of the Holy Spirit humans are incarnate or as Leanne writes, "in-gifted, in-graced, in-godded" (Healing Presence, p. 96). As "in-graced" human beings we continually receive "infusions of grace" by the Holy Spirit as we yield to Him. The grace-filled journey enables us to be transformed into the image and likeness of God, experiencing His infusions of grace and strength as we undergo this transformation. As Lewis writes, "Our reality is so much from His reality as He moment by moment, projects into us" (Letters to Malcolm, p. 71).

Leanne illustrates the reality of God's grace being projected into us with an example from Prince Caspian (Incarnational Reality: A Study of the Holy Spirit in Man, p. 2). The children were lost on the trail and in terrible danger from their enemies when Lucy saw Aslan beckon to her. Lucy ran to Aslan and buried her head in his mane. "But there must have been magic in his mane. She could feel lion-strength going into her. 'Now you are a lioness. . . . and all Narnia will be renewed'" (Prince Caspian, p. 135).

Lucy and the other children are "in-gifted, in-graced, in-godded" as they receive infusions of grace from Aslan. Similarly, God's incredible "lion-strength" flows into us in very difficult circumstances. Recently I was caring for a sick husband who had to be taken to the ER for treatment for kidney stones. After spending an emotionally wrenching day at the hospital, I confessed to the Lord that I was feeling overwhelmed with the trauma. A friend texted me a message about Mary receiving strength at the cross when watching Jesus die. As I read the words, God's strength poured into me, and I realized that He had more than enough strength to carry me though. As I began to think of this strength, I almost leaped for joy. My husband had to undergo two kidney stone surgeries, but through it all I was very much aware of God's grace and strength upholding me. The type of strength that flowed into my soul was not a false strength or a stoic strength emanating from my own self-control but an inner strength or, as Josef Pieper writes, a "mystic fortitude" (The Four Cardinal Virtues, p. 140) rooted in surrendering to the strength and power of an incarnational God. We can pray for God's strength as Leanne often did by praying with scriptures such as Isaiah 12:2-6 (NIV):

Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.

Incarnational reality and its transformational character are also described in the hymns of Symeon the New Theologian (AD 949-1022), who stressed the experiential reality of his relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit. "He makes us utterly real" in His image. An earlier translation of Symeon's hymn in Divine Eros emphasizes how we can be transformed such that we reflect and absorb God's glory and beauty. "He shall make all shameful things decent (1 Cor. 12:23-24); by the beauty of his divinity and by his glory He shall adorn them." For instance, when we pray for some whose imaginations have been defiled by pornographic and violent images, we see the Holy Spirit filling their imagination with images of glory and divine beauty. His Holy Presence casts out the darkness and refills, reshapes the previously stained imaginations to become galleries of divine and holy beauty.

Symeon's hymn radiates with the incarnational understanding of Christ's life within us.

We awaken in Christ's body
As Christ awakens our bodies,
And my poor hand is Christ, He enters
My foot, and is infinitely me.
I move my hand, and wonderfully
My hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(For God is indivisibly
Whole, seamless in His Godhood).
I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous?-Then
Open your heart to Him
And let yourself receive the one
Who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ's body
Where all our body, all over,
Every most hidden part of it,
Is realized in joy as Him,
As He makes us, utterly real,
And everything that is hurt, everything
That seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
Maimed, ugly, irreparably
Damaged, is in Him transformed
And recognized as whole, as lovely,
And radiant in His life.
We awaken as the Beloved
In every last part of our body.

(St. Symeon the New Theologian, Hymn 15, Lines 140-190, translated by Donald Sheenan, Greek Orthodox Deacon)

If we yield to Christ through His Holy Spirit, He will transform us. Healing prayer often requires a step of yielding our wills to Christ. I had to yield the pain of my family's rejection to Christ and forgive my family for rejecting me. As I forgave, the darkness of rejection left me, and a tremendous heavenly transcendent joy poured into me. I have experienced many other healings where the darkness has been greater, but Christ's healing has always poured into my soul. As St. Symeon writes, "everything that is hurt, everything that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged, is in Him transformed."


Mackay, John, A. (1970). Christian Reality and Appearance. Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press.

----. (1941). A Preface to Christian Theology. New York: Macmillan.

McGrath, Alister E. (2006). Incarnation (Truth and the Christian Imagination). Minneapolis: First Fortress Press.

Payne, Leanne. (1973). The Sacraments and Their Relationship to the Holy Spirit: An Exploration (Unpublished paper). Wheaton, Illinois: Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections.

----. (1973). Incarnational Reality: A Study of the Holy Spirit in Man (Unpublished paper). Wheaton, Illinois: Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections.

Velimirovich, Nikolai. (1999). The Faith of Chosen People: A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality, Volume 2. New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.

Williams, J. Rodman. (1971). The Era of the Spirit. Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International. 

"Edward Burne-Jones - Nativity - IMG 0732" by Edward Burne-Jones - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Year-end giving to MPC

Ministries of Pastoral Care 2015 Year-at-a-Glance:
  • Fourth consecutive school in New Zealand (February)
  • Sixth consecutive school in Wheaton, Illinois (July)
  • Inaugural school at Canby Grove Christian Center near Portland, Oregon (September)
  • Announcement of new Executive Director for New Zealand MPC: Eloise Hay
  • Presence at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference in Nashville, Tennessee (September)
  • First Italian-speaking school in Pura, Switzerland (October)
2015 was a full year for the ministry! Would you prayerfully consider making a year-end donation to MPC? Our goal is to fully fund our two full-time and one part-time staff members for the next calendar year by raising $86,000. Your contribution will make it possible for Sarah, Lori and Rose to continue with the magnificent work of sharing with people around the world the truth that "Another lives in me!".

Please consider:
  • A one-time donation via debit or credit card;
  • Ongoing monthly donations via debit or credit card;
  • Mailing a check payable to MPC to P.O. Box 3792, Peoria, IL61612
We at Ministries of Pastoral Care pray that you and your family have a joyous and blessed Christmas!

Registration for the 2016 Houston MPCS opens tomorrow!
Please plan to join us for the inaugural Houston school which will be held February 21-26, 2016 on the campus of Woods Edge Community Church in Spring, Texas.

Registration opens tomorrow, Friday, December 18. Click here for more information and to register.

2016 MPC schools and Other Recommended Conferences

God's Healing Presence - Conlee and Signa Bodishbaugh Conference
Marlburg, Germany
January 6-10, 2016
Presented in English with German translation.

Click here for more information.

Living Waters Leadership Training
January 30 - February 5, 2016 

"Living Waters was birthed out of California soil, so I believe this training has a unique anointing to offer a solid, pastoral answer for those dealing with a host of sexual problems, including same-sex attraction." Andrew Comiskey, founder and Director of Desert Stream/Living Waters

Click here for more information or to register.

MPC School - Houston, TX
February 21-26, 2016
Woods Edge Community Church
Registration opens tomorrow, December 18!
Click here for more information and to register!

MPC School - Wheaton, IL
July 10-15, 2016
Wheaton College
Registration opens Friday, January 8!
Click here to receive more information and be notified when registration opens!

MPC School - Jeju Island, South Korea
August 14-19, 2016
Click here to receive more information and be notified when registration opens!