52 Churches 52 Weeks

Worship Exploration Journey

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Church 55 – Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church

My sister and her husband recently move to San Bernardino, California for his job with the City. She had been there about a month and this was their first time to attend the neighborhood church. My kids and a boyfriend were in tow so there were seven attendees in our group. The church a chapel feeling. It reminded me of a Swiss Chalet with the big mountain in the background and was very charming.

The moment we sat down one of the ushers asked my brother-in-law if his family would present the gifts. OMG! It’s our first time here. The pressure mounts. We have never done this before and there was no way to wiggle out of it graciously. Two days later I couldn’t stop laughing at the bumbling gift-givers that we must have looked like as we stumbled over one another and I begged my BIL to hold the book and go first. Our reverent bow at the altar was anything but. Our timing was off. My sister wants a do-over at a later date.

My favorite part was when the prayers were read. With deep sincerity the congregation prayed for the leadership and financial well-being of the city of San Bernardino in the midst of its recent bankruptcy. The mismanagement of money affects so many people and the can has been kicked as far as it will go. People in the congregation are directly or indirectly impacted; including my sister and her husband who recently relocated there.

May God smile upon the people and families of San Bernardino.



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Church 54 – Redemption Church Gilbert – Christian

At Tess’ request we attended Redemption Church in Gilbert. For the most part I feel finished blogging about my experiences but if I don’t have to worry about my writing style I am still happy to share.

In a Nutshell:

Failure and Pain are great teachers.
God disciplines up like a loving father.
Pride is our greatest sin.
It’s not about us, it’s about God.
God is the most powerful.
We struggle to keep our goals, vows, plans – let it go – God will liberate us.
God does everything through us.
The goals are all God’s goals.
God will discipline us as long as it takes for us to learn the lesson.

God gives grace to the humble.
God always wins the battle. We cannot win in a battle against God.
Pride blinds us and is a lie.
God takes his relationships with us very seriously.
Rebellion = pain.
We learned about Daniel and his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and ensuing humiliation as God brought him to his knees and humbled him.

It was actually fascinating and see a little of this knee bringing thing being played out in my own life. I feel a 12 step program coming on – We admitted we were powerless and that our lives had become unmanageable.

Ah, the joys of the journey!

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Church 53 – Lakeside Christian Church – Montana

Attended Lakeside Christian Church this Father’s Day with my children while my Buddhist husband installed the tile around our Amish wood stove. Church was amazing and really helped my children finally feel part of the community. They finally bought in to the whole Montana thing and it was because of the people.

We heard that a man should be strong for his family and that young people who cannot take care of themselves or get out of bed in the morning are not ready to look for a wife. We heard that a man should earnestly determine if he was a weakling or not. Children should listen to mother and mother should not ever have to beg twice for a chore. I was loving this and was seriously hoping my children would listen. It was awesome. He was on fire! One of his favorite movies is Courageous. It’s a Christian movie about the importance of fathers in our lives. The neighbors lent us this movie and it is so good. Two thumbs up! The interesting thing about this service was that we talked about the Pastor’s message for days. It validated me as a parent and possibly made my job a little easier. I was happy that I could share the experience with my children and then ever so sweetly remind them that mother should not have to beg for chores to be completed. Now that is true joy!

After the service we attended the pot luck and the girls made so many new friends. Later in the day the kids attended an Open House while I frantically finished painting my house. They met the neighbors and played in the rain in their long prairie girl type dresses. They returned with a borrowed chainsaw and happy faces.

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Week 52 – Church of Our Lady of the Angels at the Franciscan Renewal Center – Roman Catholic

Four weeks ago I completed my 52 Churches in 52 Weeks journey. It was a crazy big day for me followed by a trip to Montana. We are now back in our summer routine and I felt as if there wasn’t any closure because after all that I never completed my final post. So here it is. Finally. Candace and I attended the Church where it all began – The Church of Our Lady of the Angels at the Franciscan Renewal Center. I could be completely wrong but I think last year it was simply The Franciscan Renewal Center. We attended the 7pm Sunday evening mass. I’ve probably said it plenty but I love that there are so many chances to go to church within the Catholic community.

The Priest spoke about relationships and community. He stated that there is no reality outside of relationships. We could live alone in the wilderness and still have a relationship with nature. Our lives are a web of deep and interconnected relationships. He asked us to reflect on all the potential relationships that existed for us to just attend church that evening. The auto worker who built our car; the gas delivery guy who dumped the fuel in the hole at Circle K; the debit card swipe machine and the electricity to run the machine. A lot of people had to show up and do their job so that we could be present in church that evening. The network that allows for our lives to flow and function really is intricate and complicated.

He explained that the Trinity is also a relationship. A community yearns to be together. He asked us to be willing to abandon ourselves to one another, be willing to love who God loves. He shared that the universe will come alive for us and be meaningful and sacred and that God is the author of love. It makes me wonder about my own communities – family, work, kids, neighborhood, the boy sitting on my sofa hanging out with my daughter. Am I completely satisfied with the life I’ve built? Are you?

I really needed meaningful and sacred because sometimes I just have to wonder what the heck is going on. I was so happy that Candace was with me. She is such an adorable church buddy. We left after dark, took a few final photos and then I cried all the way to Ahwatukee. I just had this feeling like it wasn’t supposed to be over, that I was supposed to keep going but in all reality I was exhausted by plotting and driving and always being a voyeur. It’s really kind of rude to write about unsuspecting people who are so nice. I kept wondering – am I supposed to pick a church? There are several that I want to take my family back to. They were dynamic, motivating, inspiring places filled with Godly people. I want my girls to experience what I experienced.

I have attended church once since the end of the 52 weeks and loved the experience. I took the kids on Father’s Day while in Montana to the neighborhood church. It is a small community of mostly former Amish. They are so wonderfully devout that it makes me feel like there could actually be hope for someone like me. Candace and I drive by so many churches every day that we never made it to. She always says, “Mom there’s a church we haven’t been to yet. We have to go there.” She encourages me. Maybe I will continue on because now I know that God wants our hearts and minds for more than just 52 weeks.

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Week 51 – Desert Hills Presbyterian Church

Have you ever noticed General Tso’s Chicken listed on the menu of your favorite Chinese restaurant? I swear, it’s on every Chinese menu. I see it there and occasionally wonder who is that guy? It’s a short-lived, passing and soon forgotten thought as I move through my egg drop soup straight to my Kung Pao Chicken. For me it’s the same with so much of the religious language that I know nothing about.

I will never forget this service. I am drawing to a close of my committment and the Church Goers at Desert Hills Presbyterian all wore Red today. It was quite a sight and I just had to ask the greeter. Pentecost Sunday. Darn it! There is another thing I just have no clue about! It’s always been words with no explanation, no research, no digging deeper, no asking questions. Just keep moving through the day to whatever happens to be next. The congregation looked like dedicated sports fans showing up for their favorite team. God. Today is Pentecost Sunday and my brain draws a parallel between the words Pentecost Sunday and General Tso’s Chicken. I probably need a Bible for Dummies book at this point.

Desert Hills is a beautiful church located on the corner of Scottsdale Road and Carefree Highway and sits at the base of the amazing Boulders that we all know so well. The church literally has rocks built right into its structure. The view from the pews is incredible.

Couple of interesting things from the service. The Minister speaks the Prayers of the People. He covered so much ground in an open prayer spoken from the heart. It was fascinating. He hit all the concerns, fears, hopes and dreams that swirl around most of us on a daily basis. Loved that!

The man who gave the sermon mentioned that he and his wife traveled to Israel several years ago and throughout their visit experienced a number of feasts and celebrations. He asked his guide about the feasts and was informed that this particular day’s feast was found in Leviticus chapter something, verse something. The feast was tied to Passover which was tied to Moses and the 10 Commandments and so on and so forth. The feasts were the result of harvest times and given as an offering to God with the understanding that all things come from God. And somehow this is all tied to Pentecost Sunday.

Today was a reminder for me. All things come from God. We are able to do what we do and hang on and move forward through Him. We are not alone, not ever. I am grateful for today, for this moment, and for the thought that Our Lord and His Son might some day be as popular in China as General Tso Chicken is in America.





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Week 50 – St. Francis Xavier – Catholic

For week 50 and almost at the finish line I was cutting it so close. It was 2:30 on Sunday afternoon and I still hadn’t committed to a church! That’s one great thing about the Catholic church – so many chances to get to Mass. Saturday afternoon before any possible sinning on Saturday night, three times Sunday morning after any sinning has occurred, a Sunday lunch Mass and finally, if you were really naughty and couldn’t drag yourself from bed, a Sunday evening Mass.

I picked St. Francis Xavier on Central and Highland in Phoenix next to the Brophy/Xavier campuses. I had not been to this church since I was a freshman in high school. It was so much bigger than I remember. St. Francis Xavier is in a great location and is a very beautiful church – which is something I just love. I see the expression of man’s love for God in architecture and art. I love the rich detail, columns, colors, flowers, alters, crosses and art. Beautiful.

I have mental checklist of churches I have categorized and for me, if you could cross devout Catholic architecture with a Rock ‘N Roll Christian church you would have something that would seriously hold my interest. I always feel like the Rock ‘N Roll churches are more of an entertainment venue with stage. I like to see Jesus and the Virgin Mary in church. It’s just me:).

The priest was an energetic, happy-go-lucky type of guy. Maybe it’s just a Jesuit Thing? He spoke about how we are not very good listeners and challenged us to live in this world as if we were already living in heaven. That is an interesting thought. Who will you be once you reach heaven? He cautioned us against being caught up in the world and asked us to make sacrifices to avoid the sin that is our free will. God could bring us into perfect order but that would limit our freedom. The spirit of God is the breath of life.

He closed with mention that we could all join him in the parking lot to see the eclipse and he was thrilled that God had created such a perfect universe that gave us these unique gifts every so often.

A beautiful church and a good evening.


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Week 49 – Satellite Religions TV – Breakfast & Church in Bed!

I was saving “Church in Bed” for a time when I might be ill and that just never happened on a Sunday so I used it on Mother’s Day instead! What an awesome option for people who just can’t get there due to age, health, circumstance. I woke up early to get church done before the big family brunch at my parents home. Worried that my day might spin out of control, as it usually does, I hid in my bedroom so that I could focus and hear. I found the perfect channel somewhere on the dish between the Brazilian Butt Lift and the Chinese International News Channel. Ahhh Modern Technology.

The first religious show I came upon was the Jewish Voice Ministries International on the Angel Channel featuring author Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. He wrote a biblical explanation of our trying times called The Harbinger. It was frightening and fascinating. He was so compelling that I ordered his book. The Amazon synopsis of his book describes the following: “Before its destruction as a nation, ancient Israel received nine harbingers, prophetic omens of warning. The same nine harbingers are now manifesting in America with immediate ramifications for end-time prophecy. Hidden in an ancient biblical prophecy from Isaiah, the mysteries revealed in The Harbinger are so precise that they foretold recent American events down to the exact days. The revelations are so specific that even the most hardened skeptics will find it hard to dismiss or put down. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller with one exception… IT’S REAL.”

The host of the show, Jonathan Bernis, sees that the cloth is falling off the eyes of Jews with respect to the second coming of Jesus. There was talk of famines, pestilence, rise of natural disasters, wars and rumors of war – at this point I was starting to question the wisdom of Church in Bed. What a way to start a beautiful day. The Rabbis spoke of our “last days” and that we must occupy a place for Jesus until his return. His organization will go anywhere in the world where Jews need their help. He was not attached to a Mayan collapse in 2012 as so many are – whew! I am a big believer that the Mayans just need to get a new calendar. Barnes and Nobel has an amazing year-end selection. Still, I was riveted and I am going to read the book.

Link to his book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Harbinger-ancient-mystery-Americas/dp/161638610X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336921383&sr=8-1

The TV Show’s Website – http://www.jewishvoice.org/site/PageServer

Shalom and God Bless.

For my second 30 minute segment I watched Dr. David Jeremiah on Turning Point. The discussion was on Changing Your Mind to Change Your Life. God doesn’t want us waiting around to figure out what his will for us is. He wants us to take action right now to do his will right now with what we have and who we are. He asks us to make a radical decision right now, to avoid being conformed to the world, and to fight the battle of TV, Internet, and the World on behalf of our young children. We must conform our lives to God and he will transform us. God will renew our minds. We need to fill our lives with the Word of God. The Pastors whole life is dedicated to sharing the Word of God through ministry, cds, books, sermons, classes, etc. A sharp contrast to my own life where I my time is spent jumping pond rocks day-to-day to get to the other side. He asks us to become submissive to the Word of God and we will become New in Him.

If we listen to our Creator he will give us the most exciting, thrilling lives on the planet. We must be strong examples of Christians. No one drifts toward holiness. We drift toward sin and must be proactive in life for God. It is a conscious choice. I have to admit I was no longer afraid by the 7:00 a.m. segment, although I have ordered that scary doomsday book to add to my growing collection!

I was inspired and wanting to make big changes in my life. I will start by cancelling my extra 200 channels. No more Disney and Cartoon channels with snotty, overly cute characters setting the example of how to act for my impressionable 5-year-old. Do these shows make your kids feel like their lives just aren’t good enough or what? We need less drama and way more rock solid real.

Turning Point TV Show: http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/default.aspx

It’s so interesting to see the contrast between last weeks start-up church in Ahwatukee and churches that have made it to satellite tv. There is so much variety in pace, personality, scope and mission. It’s another way that God reaches out for us using his sales force of rabbis, pastors, ministers, nuns and priests. Love it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mother’s in your life.