Making a Spiritual Retreat at home

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It never occurred to me that I could find Jesus at home. Not the flesh and blood but the spirit. My physical sense of longing has been active for years, searching in churches and temples, sacred spaces, parks, oceans and rivers for the God I loved and the God I let go of. There have been days I have found Him deeper in the waves of the ocean than on my knees in a church. In the rough terrain of spiritual travel, the inner divine sometimes gets caught up with the worldview of spirituality. With so many different ways to celebrate God, I have often become mired in the rules and opinions of others. The beauty of humans is their willingness to go to any length to find comfort in the seat of God’s lap, but the darkness creeps up in the judgment of where that lap is. God will always be God regardless of our thoughts or opinions. But the way we relate to God is similar to the way we relate to the world; a blade of grass that speaks to me may mean nothing to you while the sound of the highway may mean everything.

I have been bed bound for several days now and the kids and husband are away. Though the pain has been great, the clarity has been far-reaching. The depths of my heart have been crying out for a spiritual retreat, a time of silence, a time away. And although I have silently prayed for these things, almost an unconscious prayer if you will, I always thought it a bit selfish to ask God for a spiritual getaway. In any event, it would never happen. I have a job and three children, a husband and a full plate; that is until I was forced into bed by something I could not control. So when the family left for the weekend I was in pain and alone. It’s been ten years or so since the last time I ever remember being alone like this. Smack dab in the middle to end of Lent I found myself here, in a desert I prayed for but never saw coming. My first thought was to reluctantly give my pain up for someone who didn’t deserve it, my least favorite person, someone who had persecuted myself and many around me. I asked God to accept my pain as a sacrifice for this man’s salvation, his reconciliation with God and a second chance at mercy.

Heading into day two, the silence seemed uncomfortable. But I noticed the sunlight coming off the kitchen window, the beautiful color of the dark wood stairs and the sound of the highway that reminded me I was not far from the chaos of the world. I wanted to create a sacred space, get on my knees on a kneeler to Mary, look at an iconic picture and find myself surrounded by darkness and candlelight. But from a bed this was impossible, so I started to research retreats at home and found nothing. So I turned back to Jesus and his methodology and the idea of spiritual retreat.

Withdraw to deserted places to pray

I realized that it didn’t take a special set of prayers, or an icon or candles. I didn’t have to fall to my knees. The ocean didn’t have to be close and I didn’t have to sit amongst flowers in a perfectly manicured garden. The house was deserted, my heart was open and I simply had to be…

Many of us find ourselves in these situations. Hectic schedules, health problems, the inability to travel due to time or money constraints. We want bigger houses, bigger jobs and bigger lives.

But bathed in silence, the places that we are planted come to life. The light shines from the darkness

I am not saying that God may not move you, He may. But chances are the thing that you are searching for is right in front of you. We are missing the wood grain, the ray of sunlight, the sacred shrines in our hearts. What we are missing is silence…

I encourage you today to drop the thoughts in your head at the threshold, invite the Holy Spirit in, sit and do absolutely nothing. Like the magic of Beauty and the Beast, the things around you will suddenly start to come to life…

The Confessional Poet

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It took two dead women to lead me back to God one a saint, the other a sinner. God loves them both. I didn’t think I needed them, but I did, I’m just being honest.

Strangely enough, one met her fate in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, the other by self-inflicted carbon monoxide poisoning. Is either one of them considered higher above the other? No, not at all. Especially when both have led you straight to Jesus.

When your dreams fade away because the devil is a liar, there is only tragedy. Even though you know God is there listening, even when you ingest Him.

Depression is a mighty swallowing evil, tempting fate, and the deliverance you may have already experienced. It is the creeping death at your door, an unwanted friend, your greatest torturer that you hold onto for dear life. 

On my journey home, it took a dead woman to revive me. She was more alive to me then some of the corpses walking through churches. She understood my plight in a way others didn’t. She showed me how to swallow God, which brought me to my knees of an altar at Adoration.

It’s been a year of this leg of the journey. I am now a formalized Catholic. I have been baptized, ingested the Lord and become confirmed in the Holy Spirit. I was called to feed the flock through my hands that are utterly unworthy. My husband told me Sunday that he was ready for conversion himself, baptized but not yet a part of the church. I fell to my knees in painful thankfulness. It has been a year of disunity. I am in, he was out. Then he was in. Then the Blessed Mother brought Him all in. And He is all in. So the devil decided to invade my space.

It has been a week of upheaval; great spiritual ruckus. Only God can undo that. I have begged on my knees, tried to read my way out of it. No luck. A rosary or two prayed fervently, prayers for the Blessed Mother’s intercession, fasting and confession. But the days remained dark, and I vowed to stay in my closet until the demon fled. 

I started with a Dave Matthews listening, he is hurting, and it’s good to listen to something raw and true. The tears could not stop, and I refused to stop them. Jesus over me. I prayed, “God help me” one million and four times.

Then to find Gray Street, what a sad, sad song. It’s gotta be about somebody, for somebody. And it was. And it led me to the second dead person to knock on my door, Anne Sexton. What a horribly tragic life, but the words of the priest struck me, “God is in your typewriter.”

And it occurred to me that I was denying the very gift that bit and ached at my soul. The journey is sometimes so rancid. I hate sharing the ugly stuff. But her pain was inspiring, because it was my pain too. 

I didn’t want to be in that pit, I could see it from the no-name words on Wikipedia- they were so generically tragic. That’s it? She put on a fur coat, poured a glass of vodka and left the world in a gas-filled car. It pained me. It pained me so much it woke me up from where I was, and changed my direction.

If I have to write naked to please God I will, because I am sick and tired of realizing I am naked. I have friends out here and in there.I have always struggled with being me, and wrestled with God because of it.

But I’m going to listen to the words of that very wise Priest, the keystrokes as confessional.

Kitchen Table Conversation: Justice

Where is the Love Justice?

As a kid growing up, The Justice League was one of my favorite shows. The cartoon dedicated to superheroes working together to defeat an enemy for the common good appealed to me. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman never failed to disappoint.

Good triumphs over evil.

Everybody needs a hero.

It was so easy then to root for the “good guys” because the opposing evil was always crystal clear. The enemy was obvious, rarely disguised or sequestered in the shadows. There were no “gray areas” just right and wrong.

There is much injustice in the world now.

People are starving, dying, and trafficked as slaves.

Discrimination and religious intolerance are rampant.

War is tearing families apart.

Even some of our real life “heroes” have failed to protect the very people they once swore to serve. There is no lack of media coverage for the latest “cop gone bad” video of the day.

Politicians blatantly betray their constituents for personal gain.

What is fair about .01% of a nation’s population possessing the wealth equivalent to the bottom 90 percent combined?!

Where is “justice” today?

One of three definitions for justice as defined by Merriam Webster is conformity to truth, fact or reason.

Now I’ve lived long enough to learn that facts can be skewed and reason is relative.

Both vary according to personal perspective.

Yet, “truth” is absolute.

God is truth.

“Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice,” Proverbs 29:26 NIV

Justice is often viewed through our own limited experiences or by the tacit agreement of a ruling majority. However, that doesn’t make it true.

So, who are we to judge?

God spared Cain who killed his brother Able.

Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Genesis 4:15-16 NIV

Where is the justice in that?

Mercy, maybe. Or, love.

But justice?

King Solomon asked God for wisdom and with that he was able to administer justice.

Are today’s judges/leaders/ringmasters seeking God for such wisdom?

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Romans 12:18-20 NKJV

Our many nations “under God” certainly haven’t embraced this particular bit of scripture.

Most of us are not mature enough to wait on God’s justice.

How much less injustice would there be in our world if we waited on God instead of us rushing out and creating more mayhem?

I suspect God declares “Vengeance is Mine,” because most of us can’t comprehend what justice truly is.

I doubt any of us can fully comprehend God’s justice any more than we can fully grasp the extent of God’s love for us.

God is justice, yet God is love.

God spared Cain.

God sacrificed His Son that we could be spared as well.

God’s justice crushes the “law” that condemns; He chooses to spare us from what we rightly deserve.

Good triumphs over evil.

Everybody needs a hero Savior.

I’m sorry

“Then Nathan said to David: You are the man.” 2 Samuel 12:7 (NAB Revised Edition)

“I’ve lost the use of my heart
But I’m still alive
Still looking for the light
And the endless pool on the other side
It’s the wild wild west
I’m doing my best
I’m at the borderline of my faith
I’m at the hinterland of my devotion
I’m in the front line of this battle of mine
But i’m still alive”

Soldier of Love, Sade

The words of Nathan stung as I woke up this morning . They were the first I read. I felt the small twinge of a spiritual knife cut into me. I sat with those words, tossed them around and waited, waited for some deeper message to emerge. But the deeper message was already there behind those simple words, “You are the man.” But the words, they were not directed at David, they were directed at me.

Yesterday, after God told me to remain in what I refer to as my “inner convent” I wrote anyway. I couldn’t stop myself. Sometimes the pain of heart runs deep, so deep that the words have to come out. For me, it is through my writing. I have been refined enough to know to hold my tongue, to take it to prayer. I have succeeded spiritually in not feeling anger towards the other person, but sorrow. And writing for me, like many is a gift that God has given me. That gift was buried deep within me for over twenty years, until the Lord said it was time. It took another year after I found Jesus, or rather Jesus found me that I was able to write. And my words, my words are at His direction, never anything I write myself. But there are sometimes I write, when I shouldn’t, and yesterday was one of them.

I appreciate so much this community of faith. This community of loving believers who offer correction and reproof or just some subtle words that say it all to me. Part of this journey involves being exposed and honest. Being vulnerable before people who I know, and those that I don’t. I am beyond imperfect. But I am eager and hungry to learn and be refined in the fire. So I picked up my cross yesterday and this morning was crucified. How else will I learn?

I am willing to be transparent for the God I love and serve. I am more than sure I have disappointed Him on many occasions. Empathy is something that for the most part I do not struggle with, but others do and I have to understand that. I have a lot of emotional depth and breath to me. Some people do not. I have to respect the way God made them and that God is working on them too, as He is working on me. And it is not my job or position to judge them, but to love them in their imperfect state. Father forgive them for they know not what they do…

And it’s always about me. It’s always about you. If we are willing to be vulnerable and humble and exposed, that crucifixion in our hearts will be all the more sweet. My sin- judgment, maybe yours lack of love. I am humbly sorry to anyone I may have offended. I am also a sinner saved by God’s grace. He chose me to carry His message. And sometimes I am imperfect.

And maybe it’s a message for all of us that write. We are messengers sent to bring a certain message, not our own. God maybe pointing to you and saying, “You are the man.” It is a good time to sit and reflect, to examine your conscience and say, “Yes, Yes I am that man, ” and be refined.

Thank you for allowing me to expose myself, to share my message, for keeping me accountable. May God’s love reign in your hearts always, and may you continue to walk in the light of His love.

Climb the mountain: How to pray “Your Will be done” and mean it

And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.” Mark 6:46

His tombstone reads, “Pauper, servis a humilis” (a poor and humble servant) Saint Andre Bessette

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When we are too close up, we can see nothing. Our nose presses up against the glass window, and all we can see is, us. A reflection of our own eyes and mouth looking back at us. I demand this! I want that! I pray your will be done, but I am looking back at me… I don’t mean it. This ministry you planted in my heart God, why won’t you move me? Stomping, exasperated, shaking a door that won’t come unhinged. And all the while He sits by and lets us trip over ourselves, fall, fail, get back up. He’ll let us do it as many times as we need, until our face comes away from the glass in front of it. We are so myopic in our view of God. It’s our corner of the universe, our family, our denomination, our church. This is the God of the Universe, not 7th Street. He didn’t give you the job you wanted? This is a grain in the essence of time compared to His vastness. Get your face off the glass and start walking backwards. No really walking. Keep going until you are at least a couple of feet away. You can’t see yourself so well can you? Now let’s start climbing.

As you back away from the glass window, it’s time to climb. You can only see laterally. You can only see what’s right in front of you. It’s time to get some perspective. Off in the distance you see the peak of a mountain. Suddenly, without thought, you see it right beneath your feet. Look up. It’s time to climb. God, He is up there.

So you leave your purse or wallet or bag behind. Maybe you have some other baggage. Leave that behind to, God’s calling. You start to edge up the mountain. Only a couple of feet up, you look down. Everything appears smaller. You’re not carrying anything with you. You are far from seeing your own face. You are far from seeing anyone at all.

You are now climbing with purpose. You’ve left the world behind you. You are just focused on getting to the top. You look down again and now all you can see are clouds and sky. You feel yourself breathing for the first time in a long time. Your spirit is lifted. You’ve forgotten about whatever it was you were asking God for. Your face is far from the glass window that is now a distant memory. You can’t even remember why you are climbing in the first place or how you got there, all you know is that you are free. Before you know it, you’ve made it to the top. You realized you’ve enjoyed the journey, without even knowing it.

You look down from the top. It is just wind and open sky. You can practically touch God’s roof. He shows you how big the universe is, and it is all His. You don’t even remember your own life down there. You see God’s infinity. You want to stay there. He says you can. That mountain, it is in you.

You’re still in front of the glass window. You open your eyes. You’ve just prayed “your will be done.” Now you know how. 

Invite someone else on the trip up the mountain…

Come climb the mountain with me at There’s Something about Mary

Come on get happy! No, really…,

“Happy are those who love you, and happy are those who rejoice in your peace. Happy too are all who grieve over all your afflictions , For they will rejoice over you and behold all your joy forever.” Tobit 14:14

I think people are still looking for it, I know I still am. For those of us that have found God but have not found happiness, we are shunned. I don’t know many happy people. I have been searching for them. Maybe they live on an island somewhere singing their happy song and dancing their happy dance. I imagine them in brown tiki looking skirts and grass -made headbands drinking coconut drinks out of scooped out pineapples. Don’t judge me- sometimes the wonderment of fantasy is the sole place I see smiling.

I am not depressed, don’t suffer from any diagnosed mental health condition. I don’t use substances to make me feel good and I don’t drink. I don’t stay away from those things because I think I’m better than anyone else, I stay away from them because I know they are fleeting and the small slice of joy they bring won’t last. I have lived there before, and I am pretty sure you have too.

Last night in a state between not fully sleeping and not fully awake, I asked God why I couldn’t just be happy. Now don’t get me wrong, I am at peace. True peace. My soul is settled like a child in her loving mother’s arms. But happiness, that is another thing. 

The Lord showed me a series of events last night, asking me questions along the way.

“Look back on your life before me, what made you happy, what events or things made you smile?” He said

I took a peek into my past, it was moving fast. I thought about someone I had truly loved. This person made me happy. But the happiness faded like the autumn trees, and I was left with nothing.

I thought about graduating from college and law school and remember feeling accomplished, but not so much happy. That was expected of me. I don’t remember anyone gushing over me or telling me I was wonderful. I was on a robotic path that I had accepted and so nobody was surprised when I graduated summa cum laude from college, or received the law school’s service award. But then I remembered Jessica whose case I worked on in law school. We applied for clemency to the governor for her. I spent countless hours on her case. Living my dream made me happy, but then it ended. And on becoming an attorney to hundreds of children in foster care, I realized that Jessica’s face was everywhere. It was overwhelming, and that did not make me happy, anymore.

And so after scanning my head for some more memories and realizing that “happy” was fleeing too, I gave up. God didn’t, He was still waiting for me to think it through.

I started thinking about the day He found me, or how hard it was to be a Jewish convert, and then I just started thinking about Him, and I smiled. It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve known Jesus. Yes that sounds so very cliché. But I know Him. And unlike anything before I met Him or after, He always make me happy.

Inside that seed of peace He planted, is my happy. I realize that like so many other believers, without knowing it, I get swept away at times by the worldview of happiness. I am trying to say this in the most non-Christian way possible, because I hate when my writing gets caught up in the modern Christian dialect like “the world” or “believer.” I like worldview better, because that alludes to what everyone else is doing.

I’ve taken myself off of every social media outlet but this one. I don’t exist out there. I tried to outdo God last night by beefing up my fiverr account, but no go. He told me I was worth more than that, metaphorically more than $5.

And then He showed me this:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. These are the ways of the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, and being too proud of what we have. None of these come from the Father, but all of them come from the world. The world and everything that people want in it are passing away, but the person who does what God wants lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17

You can sit there and try to tell yourself a million times this scripture is not for you, but it is. We all do it. If you call yourself a Christian there are words in here for you, and if you don’t I hope you see the light breaking through from behind these words. 

Abandon all you know if you want to find happiness. Your preconceived notions, your quotes of inspiration on post its that only last for so long. Stop looking at pictures from the past. Sit in that scripture and breathe it. I’m dead serious. Inhale its aroma. There is a deep wisdom in there, do you see it? Don’t look at the religiosity of the statement, look at its words.

The next time you go chasing happiness like me, figure out what the last thing is you did that took you into the worldview of what should make you happy. Now leave that behind. Start walking again, this time into the light within yourself.

You can find me searching for eternal happiness at There’s Something About Mary.