In defense of crying about Jesus

February 11, 2014 | 95 comments

Speaking of conferences, I spent all this weekend at the IF Gathering, and…wow.

Of the hundreds of women in attendance, I’m pretty sure I was the only Catholic. I was there as a guest of my dear friend Lisa-Jo Baker, who seemed to be both excited and a little bit concerned about what I’d think of this event.

Lisa-Jo Baker and Tsh Oxenreider,  my interpreters for the day.

With Lisa-Jo Baker, my Protestant-to-Catholic interpreter, and Tsh Oxenreider.

We walked into the Austin Music Hall, where a praise and worship band hand already begun blasting out a song that filled the auditorium. When we got settled at our table I noticed that almost all of the hundreds of women in attendance had their hands in the air!

Needless to say, a million question flooded to mind: Was this a requirement? I thought about doing it too, but I wasn’t sure of the proper procedures. I mean, am I allowed to do it in the front row? I might block the view of the people behind me. And am I obliged to keep my hands raised for a specific amount of time? I could only confidently commit to 30% of the song since, you know, my arms might get tired. And if my arms do become fatigued, could I lower them a bit, or is the 65-degree angle that most people are holding the preferred position?

It all seemed very complicated, so I just stood there like a statue of a startled Catholic woman.

“What is going on here?” I whispered to Lisa-Jo at a break between songs. “Is this a church service? Or a concert? Or a conference? What happens if I don’t raise my hands?”

Lisa-Jo looked over at me with a huge smile, barely containing her laughter, and said, “This is going to be so much fun.”

I had no idea.

My Benedictine medal next to my pass for the IF Gathering.

My Benedictine medal next to my pass for the IF Gathering.

A spoken-word performance by Ann Voskamp and Amena Brown. Spoken word!

A spoken-word performance by Ann Voskamp and Amena Brown. Spoken word!

I’d never seen anything like it. We Catholics aren’t known for this style of event, and when I was an atheist I never got together with other nonbelievers to sing about nothingness.

And I have to admit, when I walked into the conference, I didn’t think there’s much of a place for this kind of thing in my spiritual life. After all, this is a religion of truth! There’s no end to the craziness you can believe when you start letting emotions cloud your thoughts. In order to have authentic relationships with Jesus, we must first have an accurate understanding of who he is — and in order to do that, we must remain focused on what is true about him and his Church, not what makes us feel good.

So when I first looked around the auditorium, I felt a little guilty for using a ticket. I was grateful for the invitation and I enjoyed everyone’s company, but, really, it was kind of a waste for me to be there. Who needs an experience when you have the truth?

Liveblogging by candlelight.

Then Angie Smith and Annie Lobert took the stage together to share their stories. The lighting was perfectly calibrated to focus our attention on them and not the distractions of the crowd. The sound system was crystal clear. The video feeds allowed us to see close-up images of their faces, so that people all the way in the back row could catch even the most subtle flickers of expression.

They took turns telling their stories, and it was obvious that their words were the fruit of great sacrifice in the form of experience, prayer, and preparation.

Annie Lobert spoke of her descent into prostitution, and Angie Smith spoke of drifting away from God due to a life of comfort. They wove their tales together, demonstrating that even people whose lives seem utterly different on the surface have the same need for God at the core. When Annie said that she first got involved with pimps because they claimed to be successful businessmen and she was desperate for comfort and love and approval, I felt a tightness in my throat. When Angie shared about the time in her life when she felt like she didn’t need God because she already had everything she wanted here in the world, my face flushed as the words hit a little too close to home.

In my own prayer life I had been pondering these same themes, considering just how far off track things can go when we look to other people to fill our empty places. But now that I was encountering these same thoughts in a new way — experiencing them through a well-delivered story — they took on a new dimension, like a flat picture coming to life.



I would find this over and over again throughout the two-day event:

I kept having these powerful emotional reactions — and, despite myself, I kept feeling like they were good things. The brain-in-the-jar side of my personality firmly warned me that events designed to produce emotion were dangerous and manipulative, but my heart kept telling the brain in the jar to shut up and cry about Jesus for a minute.

I squirmed in this tension for most of the conference. And then, toward the end, something clicked.

Aaron Ivey of the Austin Stone Band was on stage, signing a song called Jesus Is Better. He poured great emotion into each word — but, more than that, he and the other musicians delivered a superb performance. Each guitar chord and drum beat came together at just the right time in just the right way to accentuate the ebb and flow of the lyrics. It was breathtaking to see the way all of these elements coalesced so perfectly to form something so much bigger and more powerful than the individual parts. Praise and worship isn’t normally a genre I enjoy, but this wasn’t praise and worship music as much as it was simply good music.

And when the singer began belting out the lines begging God to help us understand how much we need him more than we need anything else in the world…I’ll go ahead and admit that I cried.

As I wiped a tear from my eye, I realized that this was emotion as a response to beauty, not emotion for emotion’s sake. I can see how an event where there is pressure to have a certain reaction would be dangerous. If there’s a feeling like “IT’S THE CRESCENDO OF THE JESUS SONG, SO ALL GOOD CHRISTIANS WILL CRY NOW, ” that’s a problem.

But if you have an auditorium full of people getting teary-eyed or waving their hands as an authentic response to beauty, it’s something different — something good.


When you walk into a great cathedral, that rush of emotion that overtakes you is the sensation of an impossible-to-understand truth suddenly penetrating your soul; it’s a moment of finally understanding that God is so great and we are so small in a way that you never could when you read about it in a book.

And so it was with the conference.

I already knew that Jesus’ love for me is unconditional; I’d been thinking about it a lot in prayer. But when a woman got up on stage and conveyed that same truth through a soul-stirring song, the melody of the music and the poetry of the words opened valves in my soul that were normally slammed shut. The truth was no longer confined to my intellect, but flooded with warmth and power into every part of my being.

That is, ultimately, what I took away from the IF Gathering:

Beauty helps us digest truth, and the type of feeling that is the product of a response to beauty is not dangerous or artificial. In fact, it’s a sign that something really good is occurring, because it’s the feeling of truth penetrating the soul.


As I walked out of the auditorium after the last song, I was filled with inspiration to make beauty a bigger part of my spiritual life. Whether it’s through singing Vespers with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist or praying in front of a richly colored icon or blasting O Sacrum Convivium through headphones while I pray the Rosary, I see now that beauty is an essential aide to the absorption of truth.

As surprised as I am to hear myself saying this, I think I’d like to go to another praise and worship conference too. I’ve heard that there are gatherings out there that feel more manipulative, but I’d definitely sign up to go to another one like the IF Gathering — because the hallmark of this particular event wasn’t the emotion per se, but the fact that it was the fruit of a lot of hard work and sacrifice from people who were willing to create something beautiful for God.

(Maybe next time I’ll raise my hands.)



  1. jen

    My favorite video on the subject of hand-raising in worship is actually this one by Tim Hawkins:

    It’s a comedy routine but it’s scarily accurate.

  2. Anne

    This is how I feel listening to O Holy Night and so many other songs. Their beauty just pierces you, speaks truth. On the flip side, the praise hands were super distracting this Christmas when I visited a local Baptist church’s free concert. I was so moved by their beautiful voices but so distracted by the Amen corner that I could directly view. I conceded that I might have been so moved as to move my hands like that while singing in concert like them…hard to say.

  3. Chat

    just wondering if you have experienced attending a similar gathering led by Catholic lay people?

  4. Amy

    Oh, I love this post. Once during Mass the choir uncharacteristically sang a very jive-y version of Lord of the Dance, which immediately irritated me because it’s a song I love, and they were singing it like a praise band. Then they started clapping to the music and everyone in the congregation started shifting uncomfortably. Praise-band Lord of the Dance is not a good idea. BUT, I totally agree that the emotional response to beauty is so powerful and signals, as you perfectly phased it, “the feeling of truth penetrating the soul.” The first time I heard the song “This is the Air I Breathe,” sung solo by a woman with a hauntingly beautiful voice, I cried. During mass!! I was kind of embarrassed, but it was a truth moment for me. Thanks for this.

  5. Laura

    i was so moved by this post that I raised my hands while reading it!

    seriously…I hear what you are saying, as I recently went to my first Christian concert and was a bit taken back by all of the raised hands. And then just weeks ago, while driving around town, with Matt Maher’s Lord I need you blaring, I was shocked to discover I had been steering with only one hand…the other was raised….

    i think when beauty is born out of the overwhelming truth, it is a simple instinct to point up to its all powerful source.

  6. suburbancorrespondent

    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”

    Looks like Keats beat us to it! And then, of course, there is C.S. Lewis:

    “We do not want merely to see beauty… we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses, and nymphs and elves.”

  7. Mary

    Have you ever heard of Charismatic Catholics? A Catholic Women for Christ Conference? The Women’s Magnificat Prayer Breakfasts? Fully Catholic, fully sold-out to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Fully in line with the church (Pope Francis says he is one of us and it doesn’t get more Catholic than that.)(And I meant the first one not the women ones, lol, because I too can over think and be a jar in a brain…..)

    • JoAnn

      I am a Catholic Charismatic and raise my hand at all our prayer meetings and when we have a Charismatic Mass. I don’t want the people around me to feel uncomfortable, but sometimes when I’m singing in the choir my hands start going up of their own accord!!! I keep them low so I don’t distract. But raising your hands in worship of the Lord is so freeing and liberating. When we give ourselves completely over to Our Lord – and let HIM do what he wants with us, then raising your hand in praise seems the LEAST you can do!

      Allow yourself the joy and pleasure of praising God with your hands raised Jen, it will bring you a step closer to Him. And, you don’t have to wait for music. Raise your hand as you thank Him on a daily basis. Find out what true freedom really is!

    • kim

      I was thinking the same thing about Charasmatic catholics. Truley all Catholics are called to be Charasmatic, being a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. I wonder if there are any prayer groups by you.

  8. Jen Towers

    Oh but we Catholics do praise God in this way! Or at least can! When I was 21 I went to a Catholic Charismatic Conference after laughing at Protestants on TV falling over “slain in the Spirit”. Boy did God open my eyes! Praising God with your whole body and soul is a very powerful thing, and very vulnerable. When you place your arms up and shout out to God (in tongues or not) you are definitely not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. I am not saying this form of praise is for everyone but definitely what I imagine Heaven to be. Every moment praising our God. Steubenville’s conferences are full of praise and worship and the gifts of the Spirit. NET Ministeries missionaries also worship God in this way. Adoration with hundreds of souls falling to their knees with their souls crying to God with praise and adoration is one of the most beautiful things on earth.

  9. Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    That is so true, how beauty points us to truth.

    I’m also wondering if you’ve ever atteneded any Catholic Charmismatic events, as that seems to be the closest Catholic thing to a protestant praise and worship.

    I can definitely attest to the fact that the Catholic charismatic movement was infuential in bringing me deeper/closer to Christ. I’ve always been Catholic, but it wasn’t until I started attending Youth 2000 retreats (way back in the 90’s) which are somewhat charismatic that I started to really understand and see the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith.

  10. Lindy

    I’ve been waiting for you to write about this topic, Jen. I’m a Catholic convert after growing up Evangelical, with a short stint in an Assemblies of God church(with lots of emotional services, hand-raising, tongues, etc…) I have too much to say on the subject for a blog comment, but I love the way you’ve sorted through it–a genuine response as the result of experiencing something beautiful is good. Maybe all of us need more of that–especially some cradle Catholics who have never experienced something like this before.

    I’ve been there, though, in my head, about hand raising. It’s funny the analytical part of my mind always seemed to take over.

    Maybe someone should create a Worship Personality Quiz? That would be interesting.

    • Little Wife


      Great comment! I went to a conference a while back (for Outdoor Ministries, but that’s neither here nor there), and the speaker taught that we experience closeness to God in four main ways- and each person relies on one or two more than the others.

      The ways are through knowledge, through emotions, through creation, and through mystery. I’m s knowledge-emotions person, my husband is a creation-knowledge person. He sees God in the truth of the Bible and in “knowing” God’s truths, but mostly in the great outdoors. I see God best in knowing, and then through emotions (in songs, in relationships, etc). I thought it was an interesting view of different “styles” of worship.

      A quiz would be cool!

  11. Hillery

    I love reading your blog and seeing events through your eyes and experiences. I was raised in a Pentecostal church. Where emotional experiences were more valued than the knowledge of the Bible. Not to say that all Pentecostals or Protestants are this way, but my childhood was. Though I remain Protestant, my husband and I have purposely sought out a place where we can learn more about God In a more peaceful and thought provoking environment. I still experience God with emotions, but I find the moments to be more genuine, less contrived. When God speaks in clear whispers and loving touches and is not forced on me.

    Beauty is a necessity. Our creator gave us beauty for a purpose. It may be music, or art, or for me, a majestic landscape that nourishes my soul and let’s me know that God is here, listening.

  12. Erica Saint

    “I see now that beauty is an essential aide to the absorption of truth”

    As a Catholic turned Protestant turned Catholic again, I totally understand your thoughts. Great post!

  13. Kelly

    I love your post – it’s funny, i always look longingly at the If website and think “I will be the only catholic there”. I think all women who love Jesus should overlap at times. Also, I have been the the Catholic Women’s conferences, the Women’s Magnificat Prayer Breakfasts, etc. They are events I enjoy, but I don’t consider them the same “genre” of something like If gathering. And who doesn’t need a little more joy in their life?

  14. Lisa-Jo

    Being at IF with you was my hands-down favorite part. It was an honor and a gift to see it through your eyes. And this line? Well, yes, it sums it all up perfectly – for a lot of us actually I think – “but my heart kept telling the brain in the jar to shut up and cry about Jesus for a minute.” Allume in October? 🙂

    • Lisa-Jo

      Related: I just noted the irony in the fact that my comment includes a “hands-down” remark 🙂 perhaps my subconscious is sympathizing ? 🙂

  15. Heidi Saxton

    When I was 18, I was in a car accident that crushed my pelvis and left femur, which the doc “pinned” with a metal rod that went from my knee to just below my hip joint. After months in bed I eventually started getting around on crutches, and my AoG friend Bill invited me to a “healing service.” It was my first encounter with charismatic worship. Long story short, when the preacher put his hand on my forehead to “pray for my healing” and tried to push me over onto the ground, on crutches, I braced myself and pushed back. Idiot.

    A year later, the pin in my hip worked itself loose and started digging painfully into my hipbone. Since my leg had healed, they scheduled surgery to remove the pin. The night before my surgery a church deacon and his wife came to my room to pray for me. He asked me to stand up, and said God wanted to heal me. Remembering the first incident, I balked. He persisted, and finally I stood up just to shut the man up. I told myself I’d scream bloody murder at the first twinge.

    Instead, the pin clicked back into place. The pain was gone, instantly. The deacon and his wife left, smiling and praising God.

    I, on the other hand, was pissed off. What are you doing to me, God?! So many other people who need healing much more than I do … why would you do this?

    As a Catholic, I’ve come to understand that the most profound acts of healing, and the most intimate forms of worship, are interior. In my case, God knew there was a hard place in my heart from that first encounter, and wanted to transform my heart. So he sent the deacon to heal me in private, after the first preacher humiliated me in public.

    There may be outward physical manifestations (in my case there was), but when it becomes all about “performance,” we lose the point. I think you sensed this, Jennifer. Yes, the soul responds to beauty, to truth, to goodness. And God is the source of all these things … yet the devil is smart, and is very good at counterfeits. And the way to tell the two apart is not by appearances, but by the fruit it produces: Does it draw me closer to God and his Church, or deeper into self?

    It sounds like this concert struck a chord with you … and I do think that there is room for expressing authentic emotions in Catholic circles, though for many saints these expressions had a more “mystical” than “charismatic” expression. The God of All Knowing sees our hearts, accepts our gifts of love for what they are, and invites us to surrender on the inside (whatever form the exterior expression may take.)

    God bless!

  16. Christie Purifoy

    I loved this post! I’ve known Lisa-Jo for years but for months now she’s had the same question for me every time we get together: “Are you reading Conversion Diary??” And now I know why. Honesty and wisdom stirred together with humor? Wonderful. I especially love this image: “like a statue of a startled Catholic woman.” Ha!
    But I love this even more: your willingness to talk openly about differences. Because I don’t think we can have true unity unless we are willing to speak honestly and lovingly about the different ways we worship. I grew up with the kind of praise band music you describe, and I’m grateful for experiences that taught me to worship fully and without holding back in any way. But, I’ve also grown tired of feeling (at times) manipulated, I’ve grown resentful of worship that feels too calculated, and now I participate in a Rite II Episcopal service with a choir singing Bach and Handel. But you’ve helped me to realize something – it’s all about beauty isn’t it? Joining together to create a beautiful experience can be a sacrifice of worship for the God we love. And beauty is found in many different forms. Sitting quietly in my pew as the sounds of Bach waft over my head is only one. A good and beautiful one, but not the only one.
    Thank you.

    • Caroline M.

      Hey sister, nice to hear from another Episcopalian! You said what I was trying to, but much better.

    • Lisa-Jo

      So much yes to this Christie! (Also, a side of “I told you so” 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Just one more thing we have in common Christie. Oh my.

  17. Kelly

    I am a convert that came to the Catholic church through the charismatic movement. I went from Charismatic evangelical, to leading music for a charismatic Catholic prayer group, to going to Holy Mass, to converting. It’s a larger story, but the essence of it, is that I recognized Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
    I was also blessed to be a part of a Catholic charismatic group that employed careful structure and adherence to order and guidelines. So, you know, no shenanigans.
    Interestingly enough, I attend the TLM most Sundays. I find the opportunities to go to charismatic functions a very meaningful addition, a chance to worship in a different way, outside of Mass, as another part of my life in Him.
    Just my two cents. 🙂

  18. Heather

    I love LOVE Praise and Worship music..when I was in (Catholic) music ministry, that’s mostly the kind of music I did. Part of why I loved going to Franciscan Univ conferences was because of the p&w music.

    I love the music at our current parish – it’s all hymns and chants, and very reflective and beautiful, a beauty that I can appreciate…but man I miss me some P&W! There’s just nothing like it! I look forward to the day when I can be involved with music ministry like that again.

    What a great experience for you, Jen!:) Thanks for sharing it so honestly.

  19. Lynne

    Growing up (when I was a staid Baptist rather than a staid Catholic) I had many friends who were Pentecostal or Assembly of God–totally charismatic. It freaked me out. But then after becoming Catholic, I stumbled into a Charismatic Mass and was REALLY freaked out (are they supposed to be doing all this??). But the most moving, beautiful and sacred moment ever was at a NET adoration. We were in a dark a gym packed to overflowing with teenagers, and Father processes in with the monstrance, his arms elevating it for all to see. As many as could fell to their knees, and if anyone wasn’t weeping, well…that must have been a hard-hearted dude. Now I know why the word “awesome” was invented, because that was us, full of wonder and awe.

  20. Dana Laviano

    This is a great post – very thoughtful and thought-provoking. I cannot “get into” the Charismatic Catholic form of praise and worship. My idea of beauty is different and I am very uncomfortable with that way of expressing oneself (particularly within the context of the Mass) but I appreciate your willingness to keep an open mind. I’m not sure I would have been as gracious. I see by this post that when I automatically say “no way, not for me, uh-uh” that I miss an opportunity to connect with others and learn from them. Thank you Jennifer for being an ambassador of sorts with our “separated brethren”. Understanding one another leads to unity and peace.

    • LPatter

      What a great comment.

  21. Ellen

    This is so very very well expressed! I grew up around Catholics whose devotional sense was charismatic so the raising of hands and praying in tongues were normal. At one point I did question whether it was all am emotional thing. Yet… They would pray that way in response to the mystery of the Eucharist. What I learned was that emotions so rightly ordered could only help in the spiritual life. And like anything that becomes a movement, there are the crazies and the there’s the jargon and then”we’re better than you’s,” but that’s not the real meat of it. It’s prayer for people who came to the same conclusion you did, that the beauty of God demands a response of the heart.

  22. Martha

    Did you know you can even raise your hands in Mass?!!

    The beauty of the Catholic faith rests on its Truth – and Truth isn’t afraid of anything that is also true. So the faith is varied and bold!

    I raise my hands in Mass – sometimes during the Gloria (because I love it so much), sometimes during the communion hymn. I do it while wearing a veil on my head. I do it whether the song is in Latin or English or any other language. I do it because sometimes the Holy Spirit moves me to do so. Sometimes I raise them to my sides, sometimes higher.

    Isn’t it so awesome to be Catholic and to be able to use whatever tools God gives us to praise Him? I love that we don’t have to stick to any one thing – I love that being Catholic means we get to embrace all that is good about worship. There is no one Catholic style of worship, and that’s just as it should be!

    • Caroline M.

      I used to go to a church where there was a high immigrant population, and it was common to see this combo of veil-wearing while raising hands and praying out-loud. You would see the same people crossing themselves and genuflecting one minute and then closing their eyes and raising their hands to sing the next. It was a beautiful thing to see.

  23. Caroline M.

    This was so interesting to read. I came from the other side as it were – I grew up going to things like this, and my experience was very bad. However, I’m trying to come to the place where I can distinguish between the good and bad parts of what I experienced. Many of us have an immediate repulsion to this type of event, but that’s mainly because we experienced spiritual abuse in similar settings, because we were pressured to “come down the aisle,” or because you “had to” lift your hands to fit in. So then of course I swung the other way and got entranced with incense, chant, etc. I honestly couldn’t have gotten through that conference without some serious flashbacks haha, but I’m very glad that they are doing good things for others! And I do think you’re right about emotions being so important.

  24. Velvet

    Like someone upthread wrote, my entire reply to your experience would be too long for a comment, but let’s just say I feel you, sort of in reverse. I notice the emotional filters coming off as I experience more of the Catholic faith, as I find so much relief in the truth there. I rarely cry EXCEPT in Church. I’m thinking the cry room should be more inclusive – for young children and formerly emotionally unavailable converts. Ave Maria used to be a lovely tune – now it’s at least a two tissue experience.

    • Dana Laviano

      I am the same way! I cry at every Mass, overwhelmed and humbled by God’s mercy. I never go without a hankie in my pocket.

  25. Lindsey Watson

    I love this– I am comfortable being brainy and non-emotional (especially about Important Things like faith), and I often feel this tension in my evangelical church. Sometimes I DO feel emotionally manipulated, but this is a great reminder that emotion *as a response to truth* is a beautiful, real, meaningful thing.

    I attended an IF: Local gathering in a movie theater and I also had my expectations totally exceeded! I thought it was a perfect blend of style and substance, of feminine grace and solid truth. So glad you enjoyed it, too!

  26. Melanie

    I was raised in a small non-denomination called the Church of Christ. We, too, have a history of truth over emotion (and it’s hilarious to say that the CofC and Catholocism have anything in common!). That being said, the first time I was overwhelmed by the beauty and love of Christ combo was in a church in Key West, FL. I thought maybe I was losing my mind or being processed by demons! The imagery in the icons of the building spoke to me and brought me emotionally closer to God and Jesus than I had ever been, so I think I get a little of what you’re talking about here. Thanks for sharing. You can read about my experience here –

  27. Michele-Lyn Ault

    Oh, so good. I read every word, and even re-read a few. I am not a crier, not naturally. I’m fiercely independent and can be harsh and mean, so I’ve been told. But with that said, God’s Spirit has a way of melting all my defenses and reaching the deepest parts of me and I fall apart… I cry, I weep when I sense His Presence. It. Never. Fails. No matter how I try to hold back. I’ve learned, I can’t. More than that, it’s so much better if I don’t. He does a deep soul work that only He can do, and I may not see it, but I know He’s changing me from the inside out, transforming me into His image, making this very independent woman more dependent on Him.

    I appreciate you sharing your perspective. It’s one that is rarely spoken about with such humility and open-mindedness. Thank you. I grew up Catholic. 🙂

  28. Shelly Miller

    I grew up Catholic, now married to an Anglican priest with a whole lot of hand raising in the middle. It’s a long story but I wanted to stop by and say how much I love this, you’ve put into words my first experience in a Charismatic, expressive worship service many years ago. I love it. Thank you.

  29. Allison Howell

    Yup. This is what I miss now that we’ve converted. And my husband’s Pentecostal preaching!

  30. Martha

    Quick overview of the comments is interesting; people seem to like it. Praise and Worship gives me the heeby jeebies. Only one step away from Charistmatics, and they are indeed very dangerous.

    My spiritual advisor who is a dear and trusted Priest told me to run, not walk, away from any of this (my friends ‘speak in tongues’ and I asked him what I should do).

    One question. If your relationship with Christ is built upon your emotions (I’m not saying it is, just that some P&W people’s are), what happens when you (and it happens rather frequently, even with the saints), experience a period of aridity, or a ‘dark night of the soul?’ Do you now lose your faith?

    When I pray the nightly rosary with my kids, we generally don’t feel like waving our hands in the air, or crying or getting giddy. Many times we don’t feel like saying it at all, but we do, and the *peace* that comes with it is priceless.

    Don’t eat me! Just sharing my thoughts, which don’t have to agree with the crowd, as I understand. 😉

    • Sarah

      Just a quick note, Martha…I think the peace that you mention comes? That’s the whole point. God’s people drawing near to Him. When we authentically draw near to God, he draws near to us. You draw near through your nightly rosary prayers, I draw near in other ways. Praise God he loves us all and is quick to come near with his perfect peace.

    • Little Wife

      I can definitely understand your feelings on that. I recently heard a radio show talking about why men in particular seem to shy away from the church, and they said that research has shown the #1 reason is because guys don’t often have much patience for the phoney- and sometimes, the Praise and Worship crowd can be far from authentic. And you’re so right- folks who find God only in emotions are so often left without faith when things go wrong, when things don’t “feel” full and right and holy. Mountain-top experiences can be so powerful, but what happens when we come down from the mountain into every day life? Churches have to balance truth with feelings- and teach that the Truth always trumps my emotions (the Bible says that my emotions lie!)

      I also wanted to share a word about the ‘speaking in tongues’ crowd… in the New Testament, someone who spoke in tongues always had an interpreter- someone who understood what they were saying. Or, they spoke in the language of a people group in the audience. So much of the current ‘speaking in tongues’ stuff is meaningless because no one understands what they’re saying! How is that of the Holy Spirit?

      I’m with you- 1 Kings 19:11— “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

      • LPatter

        I have heard the interpreter thing before, can you offer a resource for me to read, specifically the passage in Scripture where you get the “always” part? I know Paul lists the gifts as tongues, interpretation of tongues, et al, but as they are listed separately I think its clear that they are 2 different gifts, and I had not remembered the part about every community having the interpretation in every instance. Where is that? I have yet to see it but a priest friend mentioned that to me once as well.

        The thing about tongues is that it is the Holy Spirit interceding and praying because “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” yet at the same time, tongues is considered the lowest of the gifts because it is given once for always and the person can use it at will (understanding that it is always used for worship of God and the Holy Spirit prays through that mysterious language), whereas prophecy for example is given in the specific instance every time. There is also the possibility that the Lord would desire to give the gift of interpretation more often but we are not open or prepared for it in the same way that the early church was. Certainly I have heard of those who have that gift today, but not many. Tongues, by the way, is not something I would consider an emotional or mountaintop experience, though some may be moved to praise in tongues when experiencing a moving moment of adoration – but I would place that “movement” in the soul/spirit.

        When you say “how is that the Holy Spirit,” I understand it as a sincere question, but I would challenge you to oonsider how it could be building up the community and the individual even without direct interpretation. (And even if you don’t/can’t accept this or it doesn’t resonate, perhaps you could accept that perhaps there is something greater going on there that you are unaware of? None of us can see everything that God is doing in others!)

        So praying/praising in tongues: It is the idea, similar to surrendering our body to Him for use in worship (hands, resting in the Spirit, etc), that there is a whole level of worship that supercedes our language and reason (not contradicts, but supercedes, in that God is infinitely higher and we are limited) – that if we allow God to praise in and through us, He can give us the words we didn’t know we needed! (St. Augustine, paraphrase – You are closer to me than I am to myself!) Sometimes intercession in tongues can be more powerful because the Holy Spirit knows the truth of what another soul needs, while we do not. (And also what we need when we do not!) It is also humbling, and humility is powerful, and allows God to be God.

        I have seen youthful zeal take the expression of tongues to a place that is unnecessary and likely driven by the flesh, but far and away those whom I have encountered who pray in tongues are reverent, humble, respectful, and communicate a powerful presence of the Lord in their prayer and service to the community.

        I have learned a lot of this over the years through trusted Catholic spiritual advisors and guides, and communities, and have also had a lot of questions and skepticism too. I wish I could offer better resources to share, but that is a summary of some of what has made sense to me and some of the experiences (again, in orthodox Catholic circles, Franciscan U, CFR Franciscans, TOR Franciscans, Diocesan Charismatic Conferences, etc)

        Hopefully that wasn’t overwhelming, but I felt called to offer some of the knowledge that has been passed on to me on the topic, and maybe answer questions that others might have.

        PS – I also love that quote from Elijah, and conincidentally Benedict Groeschel uses that as his title (Still small Voice) for his book on discerning the authentic movement of the Holy Spirit.

    • Leticia Adams

      The dark night of the soul is very hard to trudge through when you “feel” nothing. But that doesn’t mean that feeling is bad. God gives people who are going through the dark night feelings sometimes as encouragement.

      I would not really brush all charismatics with the same brush either. The Apostles spoke in tongues, so did JP2.

    • the other Becky

      I think that there is an important difference between having your relationship with Christ built on your emotions and allowing yourself to express your emotions that come from the joy that Christ gives you. I think it is a pervasive problem with Catholic worship both public and private that there is not openness to expressions of love and joy. David danced before the Ark, in such a wild manner that his wife was ashamed of him. But David said that he was dancing for the Lord.

    • Bethany V.

      I’m sorry that you seem to have such a negative view of charismatics. Personally I think the label has been unfairly defined to assume lack of logic and massive emotion. My church has often been labeled charismatic but it is a description word not a denominational label. Being charismatic simply means practicing many of the spiritual gifts as outlined in scriptures, often within the context of the church service itself. I believe in the active involvement of the Holy Spirit in our mind and emotions. That being said, I prefer to think of my faith as incorporating my emotions, not being based on them. My faith could never be based on emotions, it is based on truth. But I am an emotional being, so my emotions do play a role in the way I interact with my Savior and Lord, as well as with other Christians.
      I have experience dark nights of the soul, as you put it. It was a challenge and a test, and there were times when I had to remind myself that truth does not change, even why my emotions do. There were times when I didn’t want to raise my hands, or kneel or do anything at all. So you know what? I didn’t. I just sat and prayed, or sat in silence when I didn’t even have the words to pray. God was still there. I have great respect for the Catholic and Episcopal branch of Christianity, but I don’t think you have a monopoly on peace. Please don’t take any offense, if anything I just wish to clarify that not all charismatics are as shallow as you seem to imply, nor are we dangerous. (Any more than all Catholics, all Presbyterians or all Baptists are etc.) I’ve had some serious problems with Charismatics, as well as with Catholics and those of other denominations, but I try not to paint with a broad brush whenever possible. I guess the question I always ask is, is your worship experience drawing you closer to Christ and is your relationships with him making you more like him? I think all authentic followers of Christ must ask those questions, no matter our “style” or denomination.

  31. Sarah

    I am so glad I read this post. With this notion of “an authentic response to beauty” you’ve helped close a loop in my spiritual journey….

    Getting even the smallest glimpse of God’s glory has always sparked emotion in me. But growing up in the Catholic Church, I witnessed very little emotion. Then at 16 I experienced a non-denominational service and (after I was able to get passed the raised hands), the Truth I was taught in the Catholic Church finally starting coming alive in my heart.

    Then, when I visited a Cahtolic Church again after many years away (after getting passed the sit down, stand up, kneel now that now seems so foreign to me), I was relieved to discover that my emotional response to God was there, too.

    I am so thankful that God is God no matter where we worship. I’m so thankful that he doesn’t require a formula for worship.

  32. Alysa

    I love hearing about this from your perspective. Thank you! I’m so glad you found authentic worship in that space.

    Also, it was lovely to meet you there.

  33. Jen Hatmaker

    How happy was I to meet you?? And I could not possibly love this post more. I so deeply appreciate your perspective and humility and wisdom here. This is my favorite:

    “But when a woman got up on stage and conveyed that same truth through a soul-stirring song, the melody of the music and the poetry of the words opened valves in my soul that were normally slammed shut. The truth was no longer confined to my intellect, but flooded with warmth and power into every part of my being.”

    Wow. Such a delight to meet you, Jen. We live right here in the same city together, so now we should have lunch. XO

  34. ro elliott

    Oh I get this…I was raised in the Catholic church when the mass was said in Latin…growing up it was all a bit distant to me…when we moved to the south and I found out for the first time there were others beside Catholic and Jewish on this earth. My parents finally let me go to my first Protestant service…my circuits were over loaded…people where talking…laughing…I had a hard time adjusting…overtime…through a very painful process…I left the Catholic church…I lost for family for a season… my pendulum swing settled to a smooth rocking…I have come to treasure the richness of my Catholic up bring…for a long time…I thought we should go to many churches…each one has a richness that can be added to our lives. OH OH…and singing Dominican Nuns…there is nothing more beautiful…I was in the St Dominic chapel in Rome… the nuns sang …it was angelic singing….I could have sat there for a very long time.
    My dad who is 89 has given a book called “Divine Intimacy” : mediations on the interior life for everyday of the Liturgical year. It is the richest “devotional” I have ever read…just incase you are not familiar with this…I thought I would pass it on.

    • Do Not Be Anxious

      Just started reading/praying with Divine Intimacy last week. I read about 200 books a year, about a third spiritual books. This is one of the best books I have read (am reading).

  35. Kristen N

    Thank you for this post on charismatic prayer and beauty. I’ve been fortunate to visit the Sistine Chapel many times and often had tears upon entering that mystical place. Same thing when I listen to some of Bach’s symphonies (the cello can leave me in a puddle!). True beauty not only uplifts our minds and spirits, it can also be incredibly healing to our souls. This is one reason that church art, architecture and music are so important.

    Now I’m going to go sign up for some sort of charismatic prayer event! My soul needs it!

  36. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Just to be clear: Is there going to be guidelines for hand raising etiquette at Edel? I kid.

    Also, this post has a lot of wonderful and important truths, and “Imma let you finish,” but can I just say, I belong to a charismatic Catholic church, and the speaking in tongues has me asking a lot of the same questions. And mostly it’s just me thinking, “Well, I must look awkward just sitting here.”

  37. Ann Voskamp

    Finally getting to talk face-to-face after all these years? Humbling joy, Jen.
    And still, the conversation was far too short! 😉

    I think often of Walter Brueggemann:

    “The poets want us to re-experience the present world under a different set of metaphors and they want us to consider an alternative world not yet visible.”

    I look forward to a longer conversation, Jen…
    All’s grace,

  38. Little Wife

    Oh this made me smile- especially your initial reaction! I grew up Catholic/Protestant, was baptized into both faiths (double-dipped, as it were) and I truly enjoy and value both traditions. We currently attend a Protestant church. The differences in worship are something that resonate with me big time.

    I don’t really agree with your assessment that Catholics aren’t about the experience. A Catholic mass is all about the experience, to me! The kneeling, the standing, receiving communion… participating in one big, beautifully synchronized event! Sure, if I went to Mass all the time, I might not really “feel” that experience, but man. It’s quite an experience to me, and I wonder if it was meant to be that way to early Christians. Each symbol, each ritual, pointing parishioners to God. It’s such an experience.

    I do agree that some Protestant churches really take the emotions too far- that the truth gets lost. It’s not hard to find worship that isn’t about God so much as it is about making people “feel” a certain way. It’s a balance, really. I also think that changing up how you worship every once in a while (whether it be in a Praise and Worship service, a walk in the woods, a moment of silence, or a Mass) is so good for us. God doesn’t just exist in my prayer corner, or in my church, but in every day and every where- in my intellect and in my emotions, in my soul and in the creation around me. I think I forget that, and mixing up my “method” of worship helps make that clearer to me.

  39. Jamie Ivey

    Loved this! My husband was the worship leader at this event and so I was a bit apprehensive at first thinking I was going to read that you hated it. 😉 Loved reading about your experiences this weekend through your eyes and now wish I would have met you b/c I think I sat beside you in one of the sessions!

  40. Morag

    I was eagerly awaiting this post – I was really happy when you said you were going to IF. I watched a lot of the livestream yesterday (the bonus of being sick and not feeling up to doing much else) and I was struck by the beauty and honesty of all the women up on the stage. It was interesting to add some faces and voices to names and words on a blog page. It was lovely to see the diversity of the church represented, and your presence there as a Catholic was part of that excitement for me. I’m a Protestant married to a adult Catholic convert, I go to Mass every week and am doing a lot of waiting on God – IF seemed to be on that theme – waiting on God to show up and move through us.

  41. Leticia Adams

    I love Annie Lobert. She is one of the best testimonies of what God can do with your life if you give Him a chance. I saw her on 20/20 along with the priest from “The Rite” when they did a story on possession and I’ve been following her on Social Media ever since. She does amazing work in Vegas with women who work the streets and with victims of sex trafficking. I can’t believe she was in Austin and I missed it. I would have stalked her. LOL!

    Praise and Worship: Something that I miss about my protestant days. Catholics kind of freak out about it, but it is beautiful. I turn up some Third Day in my car and cry sometimes. Music is how I pray. It could be Christian music, Tupac, Akon, Seether or whatever hits me at the moment. It’s crazy, but so true.

    • LPatter


  42. Jeanette

    Great Post! Love your honesty and authenticity. I was raised by a Charismatic Catholic mom and my heart and soul are moved to tears when I experience the movement of the Holy Spirit in the beautiful ways you described. I see these type of events as just another way to praise and worship the Lord in a community of fellow believers and it honestly even makes me more excited and attuned to the worship at the Mass which is the perfect prayer!

  43. Kris

    You encapsulated something I’ve felt for awhile. We have an amazing choir at one of our Sunday Masses and sometimes, they move me to such emotion. I love going to that Mass. I used to worry that my Mass experience was tied too much to that particular choir, but I realized that I still feel the love for the Mass no matter where or when I attend, but the music there just elevates my emotional response in my heart to being united with Christ, and I love that.

  44. Jennie Allen

    New friend- this is one of my very favorite reflections yet. I look forward to more conversations in the future. Your words and and presence and perspective mean so much to me- thank you for braving the unknown with us.

  45. LPatter

    LOVED this authentic testimony! Can relate. My F & T fight (Myers Briggs), but F wins out in my preferences/profile – still, my overanalytical side can really get the best of me! God made our emotions, and did you know that in one articulation, JPII ADDED AFFECTIVITY to the classical expression of how we image God???!!!! (Intellect + Will? He said something like, “Reason, Affectivity & Will” – amazing, right???!) And like BXVI says in Deus Caritas Est- there is Eros and Agape in God – and our emotions/desire move us toward Him! Love the way you converge the classical expressions of beauty with a true articulation of human emotion and relationship – it is rarer to find, but you are so right – when the emotions expressed are real, uncalculated, and in response to Him, man – it is BEAUTY itself!

  46. jdukeslee

    Meeting you was a highlight of my weekend at IF. You are positively delightful.

    ~ Jennifer Dukes Lee

  47. the other Becky

    Okay, I know this is not the point of the post, but I can’t help wondering: how do you pronounce Tsh?

  48. Do Not Be Anxious

    I belong to Christ The King charismatic Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, MI. The day I walked in about 15 years ago and saw the hands raised and heard the voices (even if I didn’t understand them) raised in prayer, I knew it was home for me. And yes, even mass is exciting for me.

  49. Bethany V.

    I enjoyed this blog post, though reading the comments was an experience in itself. I was raised and still attend a charismatic church, but I guess we’re unique in that strong biblical knowledge and teaching are also central. As a young person I liked the emotional aspect of the worship, as an adult I have more of a mixed view. I see how it might feel to someone coming in from the outside (someone of a different denomination or even an unbeliever). I’m acutely aware that too much emotion can be manipulative, but yet that doesn’t mean that we ignore the emotions altogether. I’ve come to a point where I express myself in worship as I feel led and try not to worry or even think about what others might think. Sometimes I just sit (usually with a child on my lap)and listen to the music. Other times I dance. (Yes, we are one of “those” churches, I even lead the worship movement and dance ministry). I guess the way I’ve always looked at it is that there is theology and there is style. I’ve attended many different churches all of whom preach the scripture and believe the same truth that I do. But we have different stylistic ways of celebrating it. My best friend in college grew up in an Assemblies of God church, later attended was in ministry at a large mid-western mega church and now has converted to Catholicism. For her, the change meant finding a peace she had lost. I’ve happy that she has a closer relationship to Christ than she has ever had before, because it’s that the whole point?

  50. Kelley Mathews (@FVstrive)

    I remember meeting you at IF and talking about our faith traditions. I was raised Catholic (I know I mentioned that to you, but you met a lot of people so I don’t expect you to remember) so the hands-raised thing is still not my chosen posture of worship. I’m usually rattling my fingers on my hip to the beat, instead. I loved what you said here “But if you have an auditorium full of people getting teary-eyed or waving their hands as an authentic response to beauty, it’s something different — something good.” I think that’s what beauty does — it demands a response, it evokes emotion from even the most stoic. I’m so glad you were there, and that we were able to meet.


    How interesting you mentioned your discomfort at a protestant event because that is just how I feel when I worship in a Catholic setting. I love so much of your symbolism (please pass the holy water) and the kneeling and the sign of the cross. Beautiful signs of devotion we often don’t have as much in modern protestant churches. I love that we have much to learn from one another. And may it only make us a little uncomfortable 🙂

  52. Jesabes

    I was hoping you’d write more about IF! I loved seeing the different perspective of actually being there in Austin as opposed to watching on a live feed (like I did). And I spent way too much time wondering what the keys were that everyone was wearing. I thought it was some sort of organizers thing. I wondered, too, what you were thinking of it as a Catholic:)

  53. Michelle

    You have way with words. I got sticked from a-z and it was an interesting read. I used to attend other denomination’s program but stopped because I don’t feel at home. I do not hate any though

  54. Tina

    Firstly, kudos to you for being brave enough to step out of your comfort zone like that. I was raised Catholic, and visiting my first Pentecostal church was quite the eye opener. 😉
    I consider myself a reformed Presbyterian now, but I leaned toward Presbyterian because they are more brain and less emotion. Many call us the “frozen chosen”.
    I hope you continue to attend conferences like these. I agree that some are designed more to elicite only an emotional response; I call those pep rallies. I try to avoid those.
    Blessings to you!!

  55. Lily

    I absolutely LOVED this post.

    I grew up Catholic but was a nonbeliever, left religion when I got old enough to make my own decisions, spent many years far away from God and religion, then ultimately became a follower of Christ.

    My first time in a non-Catholic setting was almost exactly like yours. 🙂 I had never seen people put their hands up in the air.

    God is bigger than any one denomination. When it comes to worship… Some prefer the quiet reverence that can be found in the Catholic church. Others prefer a more lively, joyful celebration when praising God.

    The important thing is our relationship with God…. and growing in spiritual maturity, and wisdom and being who Jesus called us to be.

    Thank you for this post!

    God bless!!!

  56. Angie Ryg

    “But when a woman got up on stage and conveyed that same truth through a soul-stirring song, the melody of the music and the poetry of the words opened valves in my soul that were normally slammed shut. The truth was no longer confined to my intellect, but flooded with warmth and power into every part of my being.”

    Oh, this is so good. A beautiful and open post about more than the conference, but also His truth of loving His children. And the hands thing? Your last line? Loved it!


  57. Trish

    I saw your pin of your Benidictine Medal and IF key and it piqued my interest. I read your diary entry and it reminded me of a few “Christian” events this Catholic girl has attended. You give such a great description of your experience, but you also mention that you have never attended anything like that before. It made me reflect and think about where you can have this same experience in your Catholic community.

    I am in no way saying you should not go to another IF event or similar, I just want to make you aware that the same can be had within your Catholic community. The two that come to mind are:

    1) a Catholic Charismatic event, there are some in the Austin area (, you can experience the same beauty with Catholic teachings.

    2) Religious Education Congress held in Anaheim CA each year. Holy Family parish in South Pasadena gives a great description of the event ( You can also find more information on the event website as well ( This is an event I have heard so much about, there is so much to do and learn and see and hope to attend myself one day.

    Thank you for sharing and I will continue to keep an eye on your blog. Being a cradle Catholic I so enjoy hearing the perspective and insight converts have that I feel many of us have missed out on.

    Again thank you and God Bless You

  58. Lisa

    Wow, Jen, I loved this. My Catholic background before college was very traditional, with lots of Latin at our church and HS. Then I went to Franciscan University for college and soon began to truly appreciate Praise & Worship. It opened my prayer life up in many ways. I think BOTH aspects (more traditional & P&W) are beautiful and I am grateful I was introduced to both!

  59. Jamie Bezdek

    I loved reading this because I was part of a mixed IF Local that was a good proportion Catholic. It was interesting to hear a Catholic perspective and I agree. I don’t think I got the same thing out of it as some Protestants, etc, but I thought it was good, enjoyed the speakers, and definitely had a take away message to work harder to make my relationship with Jesus more personal.

  60. Jane Hartman

    The scriptures are full of men “lifting holy hands” during prayer, during worship, all in thankfulness and praise to God. We’re actually admonished to do such. I think it can be overdone but done in sincerity and thankfulness, it is beautiful.

  61. Beth Anne

    I went to the Allume conference in October and met Lisa-Jo and tons of other christian bloggers. And it was awesome to meet them and connect with them! I was probably the only Catholic there and tons of ppl asked me if I was uncomfortable at all and really I wasn’t…and they thought it was weird. But I’m the odd catholic that has been exposed to a lot of different christian things and lifeteen masses and youth events and praise and worship in college that lean on the “charismatic” side and honestly I love it!

    Glad you went and had a great time!

  62. Seth

    I like your accurate description of the ‘culture shock’ one experiences at charismatic prayer events. Having been one to value Truth primarily, I can relate to your unease.

    Once I experienced being ‘slain in the Spirit’ that unease decreased. I do not consider myself a charismatic Catholic, because I think that term diminishes the reality that charismatic gifts are the rightful property of every Catholic, not just the ones who like waving their hands in prayer and joined the CCR.

    What you describe has been described by many wise, Truth-first theologians as the Gift of Tears- such as St. Ignatius of Loyola, who cried during most Masses. It’s taken me by surprise on more than one occasion and each time revealed to me more deeply the dear and tender Mercy of our God.

    One does not need to attend praise and worship venues to avail oneself to charismatic gifts, but one is less likely to see Catholics in the pew giving over to such encounters. I think we are less overt than our Pentecostal friends, but we all have had quieter moments of awareness of the Real Presence, and they have kept us faithful to the sacraments.

    Don’t let go of being Truth-primarily…just know that even more rational minds as St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine have had the blessing of fervent moments in prayer that brought them to tears. There’s no shame in progressing in the spiritual life past Truth/rational to deeply felt heart/emotional.

  63. Allison

    Thank you so much for this. I think so many Catholics think of praise and worship as “such a Protestant thing”, but as a student at a Catholic college known for it’s role in the “charismatic renewal”, I can see the beauty of all kinds of worship. I agree 110% that, if it grows out of a genuine love of God and the Beauty of the Truth, P&W is just as valuable to the Church as chant.

  64. Bonnie

    As I was reading I was a little afraid you were going to say you were swayed by the event, and might actually move toward this type of thing. Too many Roman Catholics are pulled in by the emotionalism of some Protestant events, and are captivated by the emotional release and “fellowship”, and eventually leave the Church for this “something” that seems to be more “meaningful.” So I was relieved when you experienced it as a little emotionally manipulative. And glad you saw beauty in the love of God and Christian witness you found there.
    I know these sorts of events do whip up the emotions and energize participants, yet in my experience (with the Charismatic Renewal) I have found, by comparison, praying devoutly at Mass, and at Eucharistic Adoration in silence, has brought me more into worship of God than did loud vocalizations. I hope your friend was just trying to share what she finds to be a satisfying encounter with Jesus, and is not trying to convert you. I recall how in the story of your journey to the Church you mentioned your and Joe’s criteria for a church was “anything but Catholic!”, so I know you must have experienced some different forms of Christian worship. Having had those experiences maybe allows you to know you have already found the full expression of truth, and anything else is a little less.
    I think it’s good you accepted your friend’s invitation, and respect her true love of God, and her attempt to love and worship Him, and her wanting to share that with you. I also hope she accepts an invitation from you to go to Mass, so she can know what it is to be in the True Presence of the Risen Lord, and worship Him there. And I hope, maybe sometime in private, when worshiping God, you’ll raise your hands!

    • Kristen Bright

      Nice comment, Bonnie!

  65. Anne McD

    Reading through these comments from some of my favorite bloggers is absolutely hysterical. Its like when you bring your new best friend from college back to your hometown over break, and you meet up with your old friends from high school, and you hope they all like each other as much as you like them.

  66. Kelly @ Love Well

    I read this yesterday and I pretty much haven’t stopped smiling since. I love that Lisa-Jo invited you, I love even more that you went. I loved seeing the whole thing through new, virgin eyes. And I’m so glad we are part of the beautiful body, that we each add our own unique personalities, gifts, perspectives, views into this thing. This made me glad I know you, yet again.

  67. Lynn

    This was a thought provoking post. I love moving music of all types in the expression of faith! I think this is what Pope Francis is trying to tell us. He is leading his flock to a deeper encounter with Christ – the heart engaged as well as our minds. Popes John Paul II and Benedict both brought us back to our Christian roots out of the confusion of the 70’s – as far as deep theology and the teachings and traditions of our rich faith go. And now Pope Francis is leading us on to embrace those things in light of Gospel simplicity. All 3 have shown us that Beauty is the language in which Christians will reach the world.

  68. Lawana

    Thank you for posting this. I am a Pentecostal minister and I long to see a balance of truth and experience. Jesus said true worshippers would worship in spirit and in truth. Growing up in a Pentecostal environment I long for the liturgical to be combined with the experiential in our churches. Sadly yes, sometimes these events and even services can be manipulative or even just singing songs for the sake of singing and it shouldn’t be that way. I am glad that your experience was positive.

  69. Cara Strickland

    So glad to have your perspective! I was also at IF, and I’m also not the standard audience for a gathering like that. I’ve been hurt by the church in some ways. Reading this reminded me of the amazing power of God to use things in just the right way, not limited by my understanding or perspective. Thank you for sharing!

  70. Jeffrey Cruz

    That is why I love Pope Benedict Because of the Beauty he brought to the church. But many people who do not appreciate beauty hated him.

    I love you Pope Benedict. I miss you.

  71. Ashley

    I really enjoyed and related to this post. I grew up Baptist, and then Evangelical, and sang in a mostly African-American gospel choir in college, and found my way to the Catholic church after I got married. I was seeking an escape from all the “hand raising” and what I called “emotional manipulation”, and the Catholic Church was a breath of fresh air and truth. Now that I have been out of that environment for some time, it is easier for me to see the value in an emotional experience, as long as it doesn’t feel forced or contrived. Sometimes I miss the hoopla, and sometimes I very, very much don’t.

  72. Susan

    Hi Jen,

    Your post triggered lots of memories for me. I’ve been a born-again Christian for over almost 30 years. Baptised Catholic as an infant, I was raised in a family that picked and chose what suited them re Catholicism. For my folks the important thing was Catholic education. I loved so many things that I learned about the faith, but eventually I left the church and lived a secular life. After a time I found secular life lacking in the most fundamentally important ways and sought something more. In my early 30s I found myself attending a charismatic, evangelical Episcopal church. Not one to do anything by half measures, I eventually quit a very lucrative job to attend a Bible school located in the south. After graduation I came back to the Washington DC area and joined a non-denominational charismatic church.

    At the time I lived very near a Catholic parish and drove by it every day. The attraction to its building, Bingo etc seemed strange to me. Anyway, I wound up back in the Catholic church and I’m still here. I’m a teacher in a Catholic school, too.

    Your journey with the Lord is going to take you lots of places. Stay close to Him above all else. He has to be everything to you whether you’re singing somewhere with raised hands, consoling a faith-filled friend whose having doubts or experiencing unexpected personal loss (loss has lots of faces).

    Praying for you, Jen. And please pray for us, your readers. We need each other.


  73. Mary

    What is strange to me about some of these comments is that some people think expressive music and praise is less Catholic. Really a restrained approach is just more American. Some of the vibrant African and South American Catholics would be just as unsettled by our silent Sunday masses as we are by a person raising their hands in the air.

  74. Peg

    Jen, this particular blog post is why I am such a fan of yours. Great explanation!

  75. Jill

    Thanks for writing this post! I feel I could have written many of these thoughts after attending Created for Care, a Christian moms adoption retreat. It was so different than my normal worship style but I was inspired and felt loved and could not wait to attend this year! 11 days and counting for C4C! (And less than five months for Edel!)

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