26 May 2017

3 Myths About Catholics & Divorce

Life doesn't always go the way we plan.

Sometimes our greatest dreams do not turn out the way we hoped.

Case in point, the title of this blog post. 

Going through a divorce and receiving an annulment have taught me more about myself, relationships, and life than I ever thought. Like x100.


Yes God hates divorce, but He does not hate divorced people.

I believe He can even use the ending of marriage to bring about a greater good. 
How? Because I see it playing out in my own life.


I hope my experience can be an encouragement to someone else who is on a similar journey.

READ THE REST HERE ...





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24 May 2017

Prayer That Keeps Me Honest & Humble

Over Lent, I went on retreat for 5 days of silence. I equally loved and hated it.

One of the things that kept coming up for me was how controlling I can be with God in our relationship sometimes. It is such a normal reaction, attitude for me that I don't always see when I am doing it.

In life, I generally like to take charge and get stuff done. Less talking and more doing. It is constant struggle to not live in the mindless busy but stay rooted in silence.

Since my retreat, I have been ending my day in with a particular type of prayer. The kind where you have to face yourself and not avoid the uncomfortable stuff you'd rather ignore...which is helping me become a little more humble and honest with myself.



I am talking about The Examen Prayer

Approximately 500 years ago, Saint Ignatius of Loyola developed this daily way of praying that invited people to examine their daily lives so they could better serve God and be aware of His presence in their daily lives. 

It is a spiritual tool that teaches you to look for God in daily life. Personally, I find it helps me stay spiritually aware.

The steps are very simple:

  1. Transition: Become aware of the love with which God looks upon me as I begin my examen.
  2. Gratitude: Note the gifts of God's love given to me the past day...count your grateful's and thank God for them.
  3. Petition: Pray for insight and strength that this examen will be a work of grace, fruitful beyond my human ability.
  4. Review: Walk through your past day with God. Look for stirrings in your heart and thoughts God has given you. Look also for those that have not been of God. Review your choices and responses to both, and throughout the day in general.
  5. Forgiveness: Face your shortcomings of the day and ask God's forgiveness.
  6. Renewal: Look toward the following day, and with God, plan concretely how to live it in accord with God's desire for my life.

The priest who led me on retreat also encouraged me to begin praying the examen daily in the evening. However, he challenged me to add one more piece to the part where I review my day with God. 

Ask the Lord sincerely and sit with this question, "Where have I been controlling with God today?"

BOOM. drop the mic.

Sitting with that question every night (okay almost every night ;) is opening my eyes and helping me be more honest with myself and God. 

And this concept keeps coming up for me in lots of different ways. 

God just keeps reminding my control-freak-of-a-heart that if I try and control and manipulate my life, I will never be truly happy, that I will never be at peace.


I used to think prayer was about the right words or having it together to come into the presence of God. But that is not what prayer is at all.

Prayer is just being honest with God. And the more I do this in my own relationship with God, the more I see Him gently softening those rough edges of my heart and attitude.


What helps you stay honest and humble in prayer, your relationship with God? I'm curious what helps and works for other folks :)



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15 May 2017

Reclaiming Daughter-ness

Last fall, my friend Sarah and I were catching up over coffee and she started telling me about Shauna Niequist's newest book she recently read that was quickly being recommended to everyone she knew.

So naturally next pay day, I used some of my monthly chump change to buy it.

I read and savored it up. Every last word.

This past week I re-read it again. In one particular chapter, something struck me I hadn't noticed from the first time.

Shauna was talking about how in this season of life she is relearning her own daughter-ness; she's re-claiming something over the years that got lost and misplaced.

I have been thinking about that a lot over the last week.

Growing up in church, there were a lot of things I heard with my ears but never translated to my heart.

Jesus loves me.
You are a daughter of the King.
You were created for a life that no one else can fulfill.

Stuff-ish like that.




Honestly I heard it a lot. 

Some of it felt reallyyy cheesy. Some I didn't believe for years because of my own brokenness and wounds. 
Eternal truths that never register in our heart will never change us the way God desires.

I had many good people in my life and church community remind me of these truths. But that 18 inch journey between the head and heart sometimes is the hardest journey we'll ever embark on.

I am 31 years old. And for the first time in my life, I am really reclaiming my own daughter-ness.

Not in some happy-clappy Jesus or cheesy kinda way that's loud or obnoxious. Even though I can be kinda loud sometimes. #asktheyouthgroup
But in the that in changes the way you look and talk to yourself, the way you look at other people. The way I just feel in my own skin...its just different.

Those 18 inches between my head and my heart are more unified and whole than they have ever been in my life.

Maybe its all the kick a$@ counseling I have been going too (Mary, you can never retire! ;). Maybe its because I've worked hard on issues and wounds I dragged into a marriage that didn't last. 
Maybe its because I've really processed and healed from my divorce and not seeking a relationship as an emotional band aid. Maybe its because this season I feel so connected, deeply rooted emotionally 
and spiritually.
Honestly its a cocktail blend of all of them.

When I was still married, one of the things my counselor taught me to help me get through the day was choose certain truths to say out loud to myself every day. Being the control freak I can be, I took it a step further. #naturally

I set 3 timers on my phone throughout the day to go off. When they did, I stopped and repeated two things.

First, the Serenity Prayer.

And second, my own: "Jesus help me to see and love myself the way You do. I am a beautiful, strong, courageous woman and I am taking back my power to be emotionally and spiritually healthy."
Those words began to take root in me, and as I really prayed sat with them, I felt my tangled spirit slowly begin to untangle.

I have lived the majority of the first half of my life not knowing my daughter-ness before God.

But the second half of life is going to be much different because I know to my core my own daughter-ness, my place in the family of God.

And that is the best possible place to be and live in.



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03 May 2017

Politically Frustrated (and Homeless)


We live in very interesting times culturally and politically in our country.

It can be so easy to get worked up over articles and Facebook postings (myself included). 
Sometimes on the interwebs things feel as rough as they did before the 2016 election...and that was before President Trump had control of the POTUS Twitter account. #pleasesomeonetakeitaway

But I was really disappointed at the end of last week as I started reading a lot on how officially the Democratic National Committee has stated they will only support pro-choice Democrats.

Cardinal Dolan who is currently the chair of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities came out and strongly called them out on such intolerance. Anybody else feel like he reminds you of a jolly, smiley Santa Claus? 

Just me? Okay. :)

Sure it has been widely known for awhile that overall as a whole the Democratic party has led with a pro-choice card. But after the election, I guess it strikes me that they are coming out so guns blazing on such a critical life issue.



So what's a Catholic Christian supposed to do politically these days?


Anybody else feel politically homeless, or is it just me?



It is getting more tricky and difficult. I have a much harder time feeling good about the GOP. When Donald Trump is the best we've got that is kinda scary to me.

At the same time, I hate how boldly intolerant the Democratic Party is acting. 
I believe in supporting both an unborn baby and the mother, both lives have equal worth and value. 
Abortion is not good for anyone.

In a world where tolerance has basically become the 10th Commandment, Democrats are saying pro-life people are not welcomed and will not be supported as candidates on the Democratic ticket. 

It makes me wonder could this totally backfire on them? 
Could this draw more folks to the GOP?

I don't know and suppose only time will tell.


So what do YOU do?

I try to remind myself its always better to shut up and not lead with the reactionary (still working on that piece).

I make an effort to read and listen to people on both sides of the aisle.

I try to value honest, respectful dialogue over just being right.

I am grateful for lots of writings and documents of the Catholic Church that offer me some sanity in well balanced perspective on social teaching, morality, and ethics.


And at the end of the day, I remind myself I will never first identify with an ideology or political party. But rather my primary identification is striving to follow Jesus Christ in all aspects of my life. 
I don't do it perfectly and have a ways to go (just ask my family). 

But I ardently desire that identification to be the leaven in how I live my life, treat others, and do ministry.

Hopefully that is all our goal.


How do you wrestle through all this stuff with culture and politics in one hand and your faith in the other?



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20 April 2017

Divine Mercy Taught Me How to Forgive

Sometimes there are seasons of life defined but certain lesson God is teaching us.

Recently I been in a season of mercy in life. And in the not so distant past, the Catholic Church celebrated the Year of Mercy.

Those two, plus my pilgrimage experience in Poland for World Youth Day last summer have been some powerful ways God has been working on me.


When Divine Mercy first became a "thing," I only liked praying the chaplet because it was faster and easier than praying the whole Rosary. Thankfully, I have grown up spiritually (some) since those days.


The beautiful image and devotion of Divine Mercy have taught me many things over the last year or so.




The mercy of Jesus Christ is the most powerful force in this world.
It can change our lives if we choose so.







Namely, Divine Mercy has taught me how to forgive...


READ THE REST OVER HERE ...




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19 April 2017

What the World Really Needs from Women

I feel like there is lots of talk about women these days.

From Kellyanne, Hillary, and the popular #daywithoutwomen, and the list goes on and on.

There are many things in the culture today we're very confused about. Feminism and the empowerment of women are two that have been on my mind a lot lately.

I am ALL about the empowerment of women today. Some of it is really good stuff; some of the original suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony were pro-life women. 

I believe in the values of equal pay and rights for working women. I believe women should not be objectified and talked about as body parts or in ways deemed as "mere locker room talk." We need to stand up and defend women who are abused and robbed of their dignity.

Our world today is unknowingly aching for a true, beautiful reflection of the feminine genius that St. John Paul II spoke of with such love.




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05 April 2017

365 later.

Life is really different than it was a year ago today.

A year ago today I wore a black skirt with a blue blazer. I walked into a court room with my parents. A judge asked me to verify I was not pregnant and if this marriage was beyond repair. I faintly uttered a soft "yes."

Later that night, I went out to dinner with my siblings. I was in the car and my brother-in-law reached  to the back seat and squeezed my hand and said, "You will be okay Patty. You'll be okay."



Even when I most have felt like I am not gonna be okay or that the sadness was too much, David was right. I am going to be okay.

Life feels uncertain in other ways, but I am going to be okay.



I'm living on my own (actually for the first time ever! #icecreamfordinner ;). 

I've been going to counseling and reading recovery books like its a second full-time job.

I am going to a divorce ministry training with some ladies from church in hopes to start a divorce recovery group where I work.

I am talking with a friend in hopes to work together to create some kind of presentation and/or supportive network to women in relationships where the man is addicted to porn...how to support and empower these women in a difficult situation.

I joined an awesome parish.

My annulment went through.

I am in regular contact with women around the country in a similar situation I was and meeting more Catholic women who have went through a divorce.



But sometimes I still get easily overwhelmed and want to jump in bed and pull the covers over my head. The past several days I've been riding the struggle bus.

Who am I kidding. I was DRIVING the freaking struggle bus...because why else would I eat a pint of ice cream on a Saturday night? 

Last night I called my Mom...cause sometimes you just need to talk to your Mom.
I blubbered and cried: I'm excited but really, really nervous to date again, struggling with loneliness sometimes, and facing disappointment of not getting a job I really wanted that I thought was God's will for me. 

I get anxious sometimes worrying how long it will take to pay off my school loans and wondering how the budget will balance each month or how long I'll have to live with things so financially tight.





Life is always evolving and changing and sometimes I feel like I cannot keep up. But then again its not my job to be in control of my life either.


A year ago today my prayer was to not let the hurt and sadness drown me. And it hasn't.

Today my prayer is the prayer of abandonment.


Father, I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me as You will.

Whatever You may do, I thank You; 
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only Your will be done in me and in all Your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into Your hands, I commend my soul; 
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands without reserve
and with boundless confidence, for You are my Father.





So here's to living this more and more in each day...

And to whatever the next 365 days hold.



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24 March 2017

Silence or Why I Need to Shut Up More

I remember like it was yesterday.

In college I got very involved in a local Catholic campus ministry program. The priest who oversaw it was Fr. Brendan Walsh. He is from Ireland and has been one of the greatest spiritual influences in my life so far. I even got to go on pilgrimage groups with him to Medjugorje and Ireland.

One time I arrived for a holy hour of Eucharistic Adoration before Mass. I came dragging a bag of books, my Bible, and journal.

He looked at me, saw my stuff and smiled saying, "Patty dear, you talk to much at God. You have to stop talking and shut up. That way you can hear God better."

Yup the priest told me to shut up. Stop flapping my gums in mindless prayer.
Don't just yammer at Jesus. Listen to Jesus...just be with Him.


Over the years, I have still teased him about it. But the older I get and more I grow in my relationship with God, I see how right he was in telling me that.

Last week again a similar type experience happened while I was on silent retreat. But this time, the insight came from one of my best friends (who happens to be a priest) and was my spiritual director.

We were meeting for daily direction. I would receive my Scripture passages to pray and meditate with for the following day.

One day I came in sharing how Jesus was pointing out to me how controlling I can be with Him as well as in my daily prayer life. #humbledmuch ? 

I started sharing how uncomfortable that made me feel to acknowledge this. I began to see all the ways I don't let God be God, the ways I try to be God. I had to start to realize when I start to regiment and put God in a box, that never goes well.

While I love Jesus a lot and want to live my life for Him, I also am apparently controlling. 

As I shared this with my friend, he started smiling ear to ear.

"Patty are you really surprised?"

"Everything you do is fast and quick and certain. You talk fast, you write fast, you read fast, you walk fast....your power walking leaves people in the dust!"

Geez. What is it with priest's calling my bs?!  ;)


One the blessings of taking time to go on retreat is that you get uncomfortably outside your comfort zone and daily routine. And when we do that, when we make the space for God intentionally we put ourselves at a better disposition to hear His voice.

I want to get better at making more space for God in my life. Not the kind where its like checking off a box on a goal-planning sheet. But the kind of space that helps me re-arrange my life, attitude, and perspective.

I want to make more time for silence in prayer.

I want to have more silence in the car, puttering around my apartment, and life in general.

I want to have open hands with Jesus. 

I do not want to be God in my life. I want to let God be God.

I want to shut up more in prayer, like Fr. Brendan sweetly challenged me when I was in college.


I am in a season right now where God is reminding me of lessons I need to constantly return back to.

Silence.

Letting go of control.

Simplicity.


I am fairly certain it will not be the last time God has to remind me I am being controlling or a priest telling me I cannot just talk at Jesus.

But deep down I am grateful for these lessons and reminders.


Because I know I really do want to live my life for Jesus...and more and more each day I realize He is the thing that only really matters in the end.



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22 March 2017

The Ministry of Name Asking

I have been attending weekly worship my whole life.

I have worshipped with people in different languages and on different continents.

The majority of my church experience has been in mostly white, suburban Catholic churches.

But recently I have noticed a particular ministry often missing from other Catholic churches I have attended or visited. 

The ministry of name asking.


Since mid-November, I have been attending Mass on Sunday at small, vibrant inner city parish in Detroit, St. Augustine and St. Monica.

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.



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20 March 2017

When God says you're too controlling (aka retreat reflections)

Yup God told me I am too controlling. #truestory


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.
I want You to be in control over all.

Just help me to get out of Your way.



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09 February 2017

There is No Grey Area for Abuse & Misogyny

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...



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06 February 2017

Three Books That Actually Changed My Life (and that every woman needs!)

Over the years, I have went to counseling on and off at different times. Counseling is great thing, and at some point in life I think everybody should go. We all have issues and baggage to work through. Why not face it and use it as a growth opportunity?

The woman I currently see I have been with for 3 years-ish. She has challenged me in more ways I can count and helped me work through stuff in ways I never knew I needed. Continuing to work with her is one of the best ways for me to heal and be better prepared for a future relationship someday.

There are three specific tools, or books we have used in our time together that have been absolute game-changers in my own healing and self-discovery.

Disclaimer: No I don't think self-books are all we need to heal and work through our issues but there are a tool in our toolbox; one way to help us face the painful, even traumatic stuff in our lives.



Hi my name is Patty, and I am recovering codependent. #truestory

I spent about a year working through the above workbook, which is also accompanied by this book. In terms of counseling, this is what I am just finishing reading and working on. 

Both books are very, very good, but also quite painful at times because it goes into the nitty-gritty of past abuse and/or trauma which lead to codependency. 

So what exactly is codependency?

According to author Pia Mellody, codependence as "the lack of those functional internal habit patterns regarding the body, thinking, feeling, and behavior that are necessary to be a mature adult of having healthy relationships and finding a reasonable level of comfort in life."

Codependents have difficulty:

  • experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem
  • setting functional, healthy boundaries
  • owning and expressing their own feelings
  • taking care of their needs and wants
  • expressing thoughts and feelings moderately
Mellody, herself a recovering codependent, goes into great detail about each symptom and how it plays out in and affects our lives. She helps the reader dig deep, really.deep. Working through this with my therapist helped me look at my childhood honestly, acknowledge and work through past abuse and trauma, and untie all the unhealthy knots to learn how to be in healthy relationships with others. Its like I'm giving a future relationship a complete detox of all the unhealthy I used to function out of.

Highly, highly recommend. 



I come to realize I've had some very faulty, idealistic idea's about love and relationships. Sure all those Disney movies and happily-ever-after stories probably don't help, but I cannot blame it all on that.

Looking back on all dating relationships and to some degree my relationship with men has not been healthy. Much of it seemed from my own neediness, emotional insecurities, low self-esteem, and falling in love with the idea of being in love. Just looking back at how my perspective has changed over the last year has blown me away.

This book is based off the 12 Steps and has lots of exercises and journal prompts to make you think. 

I can look back and see what were the unhealthy dynamics present in past relationships. It can feel a little embarrassing to of course learn this all after the fact of going through a divorce but I'm not gonna beat myself up about that either.

You know what you know when you know it.

And I know a lot more about myself which is only going to help me in my future.

Very good read, not as triggering as the previous workbook and accompanying book.
Very practical.



I stumbled across this book quite by accident right before the holidays. It wrecked me.

Shame is one of the most powerful, deadly lies Satan can get us to believe about ourselves. It can sneak in and take over your mindset and what you think about yourself.

Herself an abuse victim and passionate Christian, Christine breaks down the hidden consequences of shame and the effects of it in our lives. She breaks down powerful Biblical truths in strong and mighty ways.

This book surprised me. It was like the cherry on top of a delicious ice cream sundae, the finishing touches of many other things I have been learning and wrestling with.

Very easy, yet powerful read. Every woman needs to read this book.




I hope you check out these books and find them as helpful and life-changing as I have. If you ever get a chance to read them, send me an e-mail and let me know what you think of them!

Do you have any life-hanging books to recommend? 

What have been game changers in your own personal story?




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03 February 2017

3 Sins I Wish the Church Talked About More

When I was a little kid, I used to think because I didn't commit this or that sin I was a better or holier person. Because I hadn't killed anyone physically or stolen millions of dollars I was a relatively decent, okay kinda Christian. 
Which as I got older set me up to compare myself to the public sins of other people I noticed quite easily.

I've come to learn whenever I am dangerously close to seeing the splinter in another eye without seeing the freaking beam in my own, it never ends well. ever.

I love the Church and there are a ton of things we do really well. But sometimes there are things I wish we would talk about more.



Gluttony
 I love me some good food and drink (on occasion). For most of my life, I have a somewhat unhealthy relationship towards and with food. I have used food as a crutch, a way to numb myself, and sadly as a way to reward or "treat" myself with a weight loss. Gluttony is one of those seven deadly sins I think that gets easily overlooked or downplayed. 

Is gluttony equal to lust? Well no, at least I don't personally think that.

Gluttony is really a heart issue; its a deep craving for excess. And gluttony is something that tries to fill the voids that only God can really fill.

I was well into my late 20's before I had a priest (lovingly) call me out in the confessional for using food in an unhealthy way just as a person could use drugs or sex in an unhealthy manner. It really helped drive home the point that anything in excess is never healthy for us.

I wonder if more people saw gluttony as a problem would that foster a deeper awareness to those who don't have enough food to eat? Would it challenge us to be more conscious of our own consumption or see how much food we waste? 

For me, actually naming and seeing when I am gluttonous has helped remind me of the other things in my life I can use in excess or try to fill with instead of God.




Lying
I was the kid growing up if I tried to lie to my parents, one of three things would happen. The truth would be written all over my face or twenty minutes later I would come back to my parents telling the real truth or I would immediately get caught. I suck at lying. 

As I got older, at times I would try and justify things like little, baby "white lies." You know the kind. When you actually don't want to see that person and let them know you're not feeling good. Or saying  "something suddenly came up." I don't live here in this reality regularly, but over the years I have told more my share of "white lies." I have rationalized my actions or reasons for doing so. On some level, I am sure we all have.

I have come to realize though that when I have caught or experienced people lying to me, it is awful. I feel unsafe, threatened, and wonder if this is a really trustworthy person. We all know how it feels when someone breaks our trust. It is awful.

The older I get the more I see I cannot rationalize my poor choices. If I except someone to be 100% truthful and honest with me, I have to hold myself to the same rigid standards. Living in that reality is hard, but for me it has also been a freeing reminder to really treat others the way I want to be treated.



Pornography
The quickest growing addiction in our culture is pornography and sexual addiction.

I am 31 years old. I have heard 2 pastor's speak publicly on this.

I get that it is very, very difficult for a pastor to publicly address. I get that is so tricky when you have families with children at church on Sunday. Marriages are falling apart and dying from this (mine did). People are trapped in deep, painful addictions. For the mission of Jesus to truly be effective and life-changing, we have to go to the messiest, most painful places with individuals and families. 
And this is one of the most broken places where both men and women are today.

We know our culture doesn't have a problem with porn. But the Church has to get MUCH deeper in the trenches. Over the last year or so, I have become so personally convinced of this because I experienced it first hand. I know God wants to use me in some way to help witness into this.

I certainly do not know exactly what that will look like or have all the answers. But I am convinced I'll somehow play even a small part to minister to others and the wider community.



What do you think we as church need to do a better job of talking about and facing together? 

What are the unsaid things that need to be talked about more?




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31 January 2017

Andrew Garfield, The Face of a Modern Seeker

I am always on the look-out for good articles, movies, or video clips that I can use in ministry to help people think or connect faith to everyday life and culture.

I recently saw the new Scorsese movie Silence with a friend of mine. While it has gotten some criticism and not done so hot at the box office, I was surprised how I much thoroughly enjoyed it. After the seeing movie, I spent a little time watching You Tube interviews with people who acted in the film. Some of them like Andrew Garfield, jumped both feet into studying and living the Jesuit spirituality.


The following interview clip is with Andrew Garfield and Stephen Colbert.
The first 3 minutes and last 3 are where its at.



I actually really love this interview.

Here you have this young, handsome actor; he is making big bucks and has been nominated for an Academy Award (I hope he wins for Hacksaw Ridge!). While not raised with any religious upbringing, Garfield shares his great surprise on what it meant to come to know and love Jesus Christ.

In another interview, Garfield talks about the profound impact going through the Ignatian spiritual exercises was for him. He said: 

"What was really easy was falling in love with this person, was falling in love with Jesus Christ. That was the most surprising thing ... That was the most remarkable thing-falling in love, and how easy it was to fall in love with Jesus."


An encounter.

A personal encounter helped this successful millennial meet Jesus Christ for the first time in his life. 

It all started with an encounter.

In this interview Andrew Garfield represents the face of a modern-day seeker. He represents a generation I am living in; people who aren't (always) necessarily opposed to God, faith, or spirituality, but often no one had told them about Jesus. No one has provided an opportunity for them to encounter Jesus in a personal way.

Garfield does not sound overtly against religion but he sounds relatively open to spiritual ideas and concepts. He had no one in his life that ever told him about Jesus from what it sounds like. 

And then on a retreat studying and learning for a movie role, Jesus personally became real to him. Garfield was surprised, even caught off guard.

And I just love that raw honesty in how he describes that realization. I know in my own life too some of the most powerful experiences of God have been where I am totally caught off guard.


This interview clip reminds me that what wins over the hearts and minds of people is offering them an opportunity to encounter something more, Jesus. The power of that encounter is like spiritual dynamite. 

People don't connect personally to the right doctrine or theology, but to a person.
And encounter always starts and ends with that same person.


In a world of seekers, I hope I can be that person to offer an opportunity, to extend an invitation to something, someone more.

Whatever it looks like in my life, I do not want to miss those opportunities...




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23 January 2017

3 Netflix Documentaries to Challenge You

There have been some really good documentaries on Netflix I have been watching over the last few weeks.

Here are three that I have found particularly eye-opening and have challenged me.


The True Cost


















Over the last years, there has been much more talk on ethical fashion and what does it mean to make ethical choices for our clothing purchases. This documentary opens up the tragic reality of millions of people around the globe who work in sweat shops for low-cost high fashion for the western world.

It was helpful for me in understanding something I've heard about before but never have consciously looked into.


13th


It is clear that in 2017 in the United States racism and racial injustice are still very much a problem and rampant sin. 
This is one of the best documentaries I have seen. It was heartbreakingly sad and eye opening all in one.

The film takes an in-depth look at our nation's dark history of racial injustice and slavery. It also draws connections to our current criminal justice system, hugely over-crowded prisons, and out-of-balance drug laws that more often than not seem to target people of color.
It is unsettling and compelling. But watch it.


The Propaganda Game


This is a video-style 2015 documentary was created by a foreign filmmaker who visits North Korea and thoroughly examines the country's propaganda machine.

North Korea is the most secretive country in the world today. It gives such a compelling look into what life is like for the North Korea people. They really are living in a cult, it is mind blowing to think so man millions of people are living this way; with nor rights, freedom, or personal voice.

I am telling everybody to watch it (even the teens in youth ministry) because it is that good. By the end of the movie, for a minute I was questioning could life really be so bad? It looks not that bad...well that's good their propaganda machine is.




Do you have any good suggestions on films or documentaries to watch?

Have you ever watched any that changed your perspective or broadened your personal views?



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20 January 2017

How I Got Pro-Life-ing Wrong

I've always identified as a pro-life Christian, from womb to tomb. 
All of life is sacred and precious. I hate that abortion exists.

This election cycle + a lot of reading has led me to a deeper sense of what it means to be pro-life.

Unborn babies are very vulnerable. They have no voice and cannot stand up for themselves. 
It is absolutely a Holocaust of innocent life.

Today there are many other holocaust's going on in our world; where groups of people have no voice, rights, and are treated as sub-human. The holocaust of refugees and migrants. The holocaust of women and children trafficked and sold into sexual slavery. The holocaust of the death penalty. The holocaust of children around the world who die from not having enough food to eat or basic sanitation and they die of diarrhea. 

These are also people too, who in a similar way to victims of abortion have no voice and no rights. 


I guess I feel frustrated to be honest.

I am frustrated that it seems (to me) political parties use abortion as a bargaining chip to win over a certain vote. It feels like the problem of abortion is treated as chess game with politicians sometimes.

I get angry when crazy voices say "You have to vote for Trump because he is pro-life and if you don't it is a mortal sin." And putting an aborted baby on the altar where the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is celebrated and honored? Don't even get me started
Last time I checked, our job is not to judge people for how they vote but help others make an educated vote by the light of their own conscience. 

I get frustrated when Christians (who have good intentions I do believe) only speak about abortion. It is all they talk about, all they focus on, especially in an election year. They understand and are passionate about the slaughter of millions of babies in abortion, but are they equally aware and educated about the children who suffer from malnutrition globally or sold into sexual slavery as young as six years old

I'm really not trying to condemn people, I guess it is pent up frustration being verbally expressed. #yayblogging ;)

The issue of abortion is critical when it comes to our voting as believers. I am not saying it doesn't matter. It plays a huge role in voting responsibly, and is a primary issue. It mattered to me in how I personally voted in this crazy election. And I couldn't stomach either of the candidates.

I used to think being pro-life was just about abortion. But being pro-life is more than that to me now.

A pro-life ethic should carry and apply to all area's of culture, global issues, and people. 

I want to be an advocate not just for the unborn, but for the overturning the death penalty too. I want to be an advocate for the dignity of women and children treated as if they had none. I want to understand the pain and suffering of refugees or undocumented workers fleeing their homes. I want to better understand why the world has enough food and resources to end world hunger, but we don't.

To be a pro-life Christian in 2017 looks different for me than it used too. To be pro-life as a Catholic Christian means to live and apply all the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. That is not a liberal or conservative attitude. It is what the Church teaches. 

Now does the dignity of the human person trump the responsible care of the environment? Yes. But respect for the life and dignity of the human person I believe includes many, many people.

For me, it means to be educated and aware (as much as possible) of the many holocausts affecting a variety of people with no voice. And there are so many today.

And they all matter. They all need a voice, and they need us to be that voice.

Unborn lives matter so much. But so do, the other voices of people who cannot speak for themselves.

It doesn't matter how you voted in 2016 or what your political leanings are. 

But maybe enhancing a pro-life view in this way can bridge greater unity and effectiveness in our Kingdom work?

Maybe it will help build greater dialogue with people across the aisle whom we may not agree with?

I like to think and hope it would help. And if that happens we make the world a little more just and less cold like Pope Francis has said.


And who wouldn't want a world where there is more mercy?


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