I started here with the idea of visiting all the different Catholic churches in Detroit between then and Lent. But somehow I didn't get much farther than the first few times I visited this particular church.
It is something very, very special. Passionate preaching. An incredible Gospel choir. Lots of cultural diversity. And a sense of welcoming community that often is hard to find in some suburban parishes.
The thing that most struck me that first Sunday I attended was the 5 people who came up and asked me my name. They noticed I was a stranger, that I was sitting by myself in the church.
Bob the older gentleman gave me the biggest hug at the Sign of Peace (which takes 15 minutes here because people walk around and hug each other!). Hermann the adult altar server said, "Hi my name is Hermann! I have never seen you before here. Welcome!" Three sweet older ladies came up, asked my name (without ever telling me their names!), and told me they love when visitors come.
I have fallen in love with this sweet community.
And for me it all started with friendly smiles and the ministry of name asking.
One of my favorite Gospel stories is when Mary Magdalene is at the empty tomb.
She is weeping, and so hysterical she mistakes Jesus for the local gardener. But when Jesus calls her name, "Mary" she realizes whom is actually standing before her. Whenever I read this story, I am always left wondering at the power of names. I think about the beauty when we hear God call us individually by our name.
The ministry of name asking and warm smiles is not one I see done really, really well in suburban churches sometimes. No, I am not saying you need to join an inner city church to find the best spiritual home.
But for me it is found in a small community on the east side of Detroit.
My experience at St. Augustine and St. Monica has reaffirmed to me the power of calling people by their name; whether thanking by the name the guy at Kroger who bags my groceries or the gas station attendant who gives me my change.
Call people by their name.
Do so with a warm, friendly smile.
Yes these are small things. But small acts of love can make a big difference.
Last week I went on a 5 day silent retreat. I was going through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. They are typically done over 5, 8, or 30 days. If you've never done them I would highly, highly recommend it.
I was really excited but nervous and anxious at the same time. For a very type A, loud -mouthed extrovert, 5 days of silence was going to be "interesting".
It was hard at times for sure (like the hissy fit I threw when the priest asked for my phone #yupthathappened).
At the same time, I couldn't imagine a better time to do it than in the middle of Lent.
I've been on retreats before but never the spiritual exercises. And it was both spiritually and mentally exhausting as well as refreshing.
God really convicted my heart of several pet sins I have grown to easily accustomed to. I realized yet again how noisy and loud my life is. I experienced sorrow in my heart during one meditation when I just wept for all the things in my life that hurt my friendship with Jesus. I wept (a lot) over excuses I have made for myself.
And yes God told me I was too controlling in our relationship and my daily prayer life.
One evening meditation I was given to pray with was Psalm 63. The very beginning of the Psalm starts off, "O God, You are my God." That part stopped me dead in my tracks.
I had to really sit with the fact God often is not God in my life, I try to be God.
And throughout the week, this issue of my control issues kept coming up in my reflection and other Scripture passages I prayed with. It came up when I had a full on hissy fit when I gave up my phone. And later in the week when I received really disappointing news of not getting a job I so very much wanted; I realized I tried to control getting what I wanted to happen.
Throughout the week, I kept asking Jesus to show me where I am controlling with Him...what are the ways in life I am controlling? Ask and ye shall freaking receive!
That is the hardest, but most beautiful part of silence. You cannot run away from the truth that wells up inside you. You cannot run away from yourself or what God is whispering in your heart. You have to face your all your stuff head on, there is no way to escape it.
Friday morning I was driving to my last daily spiritual direction appointment. I was feeling really sorry for myself and still hurt and confused why I didn't get this job.
I was driving along and asked Jesus out loud, "What are you trying to teach me with getting this news right now?" I sat in silence most of the ride, and in my heard heard, "You're not in control sweetie."
The image that came to mind as I heard those words deep down was Jesus just gently rubbing my head as He spoke to me.
You're not in control sweetie.
No I am not. I never have been. And maybe for the first time in my life I am realizing that.
And that is has been hard, exhausting, refreshing, and eye-opening all in one.
But that is the thing. God is always a gentleman. He never shames us. If we hear that voice of shame or condemnation creeping in, it is never Jesus but always Satan. #gobacktoHellwhereyoubelong !!!
These 5 days helped me become really honest and vulnerable with myself and more importantly God.
I have a new, more refined perspective on some things in life. I will be on that journey till the day they put me in the ground.
But the beauty of this time away is I cannot un-learn what I have learned about myself or heard God speak to me.
I am learning how to really have open hands with God and not be grabby where I am so attached to what I want for my life.
That can be an awkward place to be. But for me right now, it is the best possible place to be.
Jesus, please help me to live my life with open hands. I want You to be God. I don't want to be God.
There has been a lot of talk about women in the news lately.
The Women's March in DC (and other sister marches around the country) and the March for Life shortly afterward. Then of course there are all those disgusting things the President has said about women. #gross
Women's rights, empowerment, and equality are certainly not bad. Some of it is awesome and really good stuff. I am all about the empowerment of women today.
But let's not be all about championing women's empowerment and then waltz over to the theater to see 50 Shades Darker opening tomorrow.
We live in a culture that is horrible confused and screwed up when it comes to a healthy understanding of love, sex, and relationships.
Apparently the sexual revolution of the 1960's was to make us happier and more free.
From where I sit, I don't see much more sexual freedom.
What has it gotten us?
A pornography EPIDEMIC.
1 in 3 women is a victim of sexual abuse.
50% divorce rate.
Crude sexual humor is tolerated, widely accepted, and deemed as "mere locker room talk."
Women and children are bought and sold into sexual slavery.
Terms like "Mommy Porn" in relation to movies like Magic Mike (aka stripping men).
Movies like this illustrate to me how wrong we've gotten it.
Sexual abuse, manipulation, coercion are never something to be tolerated, let alone glamorized. Misogyny and mis-treatment of women (and children) is something we as a culture should not settle for.
We don't know what the Hell we are doing. And maybe as a society we haven't for a long time.
All the sexual pain, brokenness, and abuse we see play out in the world is connected and it affects us all.
In our own way, let's not be silent about it.
Let's not support it.
Let's not tolerate it.
Because "that stuff" never empowers women.
And it certainly does not honor the dignity and beauty of woman.
I don't know what your plans are this weekend. Personally I need to tackle two baskets of laundry that have been staring at me for a week.
Whatever your plans, please don't confuse talk of empowering women and marching in the streets to watching this movie or supporting this attitude at large in the world.
Because crap like this doesn't support or honor all that women have and are in the world...