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Monday, January 18, 2016

The Invitation

I usually publish my blog entries on Mondays.   I write all week and then on Friday, after prayerful contemplation, I schedule the post for early Monday morning.   I do this because it allows me the opportunity to “back out.”   If you haven’t noticed, I’m a horrible proofreader.   I love to write but when I attempt to make corrections, I fail miserably.    So, I give my blog a final once over on Sunday night before my words hit the Internet.   This past Friday was no different, I scheduled my post entitled “My Crazy Catholic Cabinet” for publication on Monday, January 18th and for some unknown reason it posted immediately!  Realizing this snafu I frantically attempted to remove the post and reschedule it for Monday, but the program failed!    Right or wrong my words were out there for the world to see and I was powerless.   I looked at the clock, I had promised a friend I would attend a prayer service at her church at six o’clock, it was already a quarter past five and I wasn’t even dressed yet!   By five thirty the post had already been viewed by five people; the horse was out of the barn, there was no point in trying to close the barn door now.   Maybe that particular post needed to be seen at that exact moment.   Who am I to question the Holy Spirit? 

I previously mentioned  I had promised a friend I would attend a prayer service at her church.   I hadn’t talked to this woman in over nine years.   You see, we had a minor disagreement about a particular religious teaching.     Well, it was more than a little spat; it was a full-blown screaming match.   We had been attending a Pentecostal “mega” church together for about a year, but I was struggling with their teaching on “being saved” and eternal damnation.     I had prayed about my doubts and received a revelation I believed to be of God that supported my Catholic belief.   I was excited about my spiritual experience and was anxious to share with my friend how God had spoken to me.   When I shared my personal miracle, she became angry.   I was going against everything the Pentecostal church believed to be true.    I don’t know why I fought with her that day.  My usual stance was to surrender and accepted her truth no matter what.   This woman was like a sister to me.  I loved her, but this time, I stood firm in my belief and refused to retreat!   A few weeks later I left that Pentecostal ministry and began my journey back to the Catholic Church.    I am now certain my personal message was inspired by God.

Over the past nine years, we played a silly game of cat and mouse, but we couldn’t escape the reality that we shared a thirty-five year history.     I was present at the birth of her son,  and she witnessed the birth of my two children.   Over the course of our thirty-five-year friendship, we had experienced traumatic life altering events and been a source of support for each other.   She was Godmother to my first born child and I was Godmother to her son.    Unfortunately, we are both extremely stubborn women, so over the past nine years, we avoided one another at all cost.   I don’t know why we acted so childish, maybe it's not for me to understand.      When she sent me a friend request on Facebook last week I was shocked.   I hesitated at first and suspiciously asked myself, “Why now?”  A devout Catholic friend of mine once told me “In times of uncertainty take three deep breaths and say a prayer to the Holy Spirit”, so I did just that and then clicked “accept.”        

A few days later,  she sent me an invitation to attend a Women’s Praise Night at her church.    Once again, I was apprehensive, but I prayed about it and accepted her invitation.   Later that evening  I told my husband about the invitation to attend the Women’s Praise Night, he surprisingly said “Maybe this will be good for you.   You can be with other women, share your thoughts and beliefs, I think it’s a good idea.”   His reaction was shocking because he wasn’t her biggest fan.   My husband doesn’t react kindly to  “in your face” evangelization tactics and viewed her as a, for lack of a better word, “Jesus Freak”.    I sensed his prompting to accept her invitation as a sign from God!  In fact, this was a “call the Pope” bona fide miracle!

After my blog publishing drama, I rushed out the door at ten ‘till six to get to the Praise Night.    I prayed all week and played out all these scenarios in my crazy mind.   Was I walking into a Pentecostal ambush?   Should I dig out my Catholic apologetics notes and prepare myself for battle?    My friend and I had not parted on good terms.   Maybe she heard I had suffered a mental breakdown and was looking for an opportunity to repair my soul and bring me back to her way of thinking.    But, the more I prayed, I felt the Lord moving me to abandon my anxiety and just accept what would be.   If you haven’t noticed yet, “accept” seemed to be the word of the week!

When I entered the church gathering space, my friend was nowhere to be found.     Apparently, she was picking up a few more women and was on her way.     It was a very welcoming atmosphere, the lighting was dim, candles were placed decoratively around the room and appetizers were being served.   I didn’t know anyone so I was a little nervous.   Believe it or not, I tend to be a bit shy in new social settings.   After a few uncomfortable minutes, I reluctantly put on my "big girl panties" and began shaking hands and introducing myself.     As I talked with these women, I noticed a distinct theme… they were broken and they were searching for something outside themselves for answers.    I could relate to their pain, I had been there, but my faith had led me past that emptiness.   I wasn’t the same broken woman I was ten years ago.   When I suffered my breakdown in 2006, I was spiritually bankrupt and felt God had abandoned me.  When I experienced my depressive episode this past October, I was confident that God was with me, helping me carry my Crazy Cross.   So the nagging question returned,  “Why had God brought me here?”  

When my friend finally arrived, she hugged me and then disappeared.   I became frustrated.   For the next half hour, I would seek her out,  she’d introduce me to another woman and then disappear.   We hadn’t spoken for nine years and this was our grand reunion?   So I prayed for guidance and felt compelled to stay.   I had already stepped through the looking glass, I was now curious about what was on the other side.   So I accepted the Lord’s guidance and stayed.     

Modern praise music was playing as I walked into the sanctuary.   I knew what to expect, this wasn’t my first rodeo!     I had been a member of a Pentecostal church before; I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and received the gift of tongues.   The scripture reading from Matthew 18:20 repeatedly came to mind - “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them".  I thought to myself, "I can pray alone at home or pray here with a group of women….I guess I'll stay".    At first, I sat quietly in my pew and just observed.   Women were scattered everywhere throughout the Church.    Some were sitting prayerfully in their seats, others cross-legged on the floor and still some standing hands lifted in praise.     There was even a woman sitting at an easel painting a picture.    It was at this moment that I had a choice, walk out because the chaos was uncomfortable or stay and praise God.   I decided to stay.  

I closed my eyes, listened to the music and prayed.  At one point I stood up and just felt the warmth of the spirit around me.     It was good to be with women of God and be free to praise Him this way.       I was reminded of  2 Samuel 6:12 “Then David came dancing before the LORD with abandon."  Sometimes a little chaos is good!       About a half hour into prayer I opened my eyes and caught a glimpse of my friend.   She was in the front row, praising God with her entire body.   Her hands were lifted high and I was positive she was filled with the Holy Spirit and interceding for every woman in that room.     I felt a sense of pride.   This is my friend and she is doing exactly what God willed.   She is literally traveling to the deepest, scariest sections of our city and bringing women out of the darkness and showing them the light of Christ.   She is saving souls and changing lives.   My friend is a voice crying out in the wilderness.   Seeing her Friday night filled my heart with joy.  

I had to leave before the service was over, but as I drove home, I thanked God for allowing me the opportunity to praise Him with my dear friend.    I also thanked him for revealing to me that I was on the right path.   You see, today my faith is strong.   Over the past nine years, I have discovered that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Catholic Church.     I witness a miracle at every Mass when bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.   I experience the presence of Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.   Where else in the world can you go and know you are indisputably in the presence of Jesus?    I have held hands with women in charismatic prayer and witnessed the miracles of those prayers.   I have had the Word of God revealed to me in Catholic Bible studies.   I have been inspired by the words of Catholic evangelists such as Mother Angelica, Father Albert Haas, Johnnette Benkovic, Chad Judice and Hector Molina.    I am a Catholic woman, strong in her faith.  

My friend and I have traveled very different paths but I believe that our time apart was what God intended.    God directed my friend to join a  smaller ministry where she could grow and bring people to our Lord.   God moved me to learn more about my Catholic faith and bring them to our Lord through the Church.    Both paths lead to the ultimate truth…Christ.   I’m glad I accepted my friend’s invitation.   Last night, I sent her an invitation to have coffee and talk.   Perhaps, this time, we can agree to disagree on what divides us and build on what unites us....our love of God.   I wonder if she’ll pray about my invitation and accept.  

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