Holding Out for a Miracle

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” 

—Matthew 7, 7-8

I was reading a very insightful reflection on prayer recently and was struck by something mentioned. It stood out because the author advised a practice I normally don’t adhere to.

“Pray boldly!” it stated in very clear black and white.

Hmmm… this shocked me to be quite honest. The writer’s directive for having a successful prayer life was essentially ‘to go big or go home.’ Huh.

What does praying BOLDLY even look like?

Do I humbly approach the Creator of the universe with all of my outlandish, insignificant and selfish desires? For heaven’s sake, He’s trying to provide each and every one of us with salvation. No small feat if you’ve read the news lately. And now I’m gonna let Him know I’d really love a new house equipped with a large pantry and a mudroom—and oh yeah, a successful book deal and speaking career while He’s at it? Hey, thanks, Big Guy! Obviously, the hamster wheel of my brain has been getting a serious work out on this one.

Maybe praying boldly is not very surprising to the majority of you holy rollers out there, but it sort of shook my foundation. Why? This simple suggestion to brazenly ask the Lord for my deepest desires, not just needs mind you, is foreign to me. To be frank, my prayers are much more staid, restricted and safe. I usually pray so as not to offend God by my overly presumptuous or burdensome demands. Praying boldly would make me feel like the spoiled brat who’s barely finished a huge hot fudge sundae and is already bargaining for a sugary dessert when they get home. Ungrateful! Or the space cadet kiddo who overlooks the fact that his family has a postage-stamp-size yard, yet begs for a pony. Out-of-touch!

But there was clearly something in it that got me to reexamine my meek, more practical—okay I’m gonna say it—boring prayers.

I began reflecting on an incident that happened a year ago. A friend had reached out to ask for our family’s prayers. Her elderly brother was dying of cancer and she asked specifically that we pray for a peaceful death for him. During family prayer, as is our custom, we offer up our personal intentions, one at a time. For my turn, I prayed for our friend’s brother, asking God to provide him peace in his final moments. When it was my oldest son’s turn, his words surprised me. Rather than following my example, he audaciously broke form and asked Jesus for a miracle for the dying man. I was a little indignant. “That’s not what she asked us to pray,” I admonished. “She specifically asked for us to pray for a peaceful death.”

“I know,” my son confidently responded. “But I’m holding out for a miracle.” It didn’t seem right to force him to change his prayer, so I just sighed and we moved on. I passed it off as youthful folly. Aaah to be ten years old again… 

Several days later, I was before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. I have a set pattern to my Holy Hour. The first 10 minutes or so I offer up my intentions and those of my friends and family. Petitions done, I had just started my rosary when I realized I had forgotten about my friend’s brother. I was frustrated for having let this urgent prayer request slip my mind. But I took a quick prayer detour and spent the next couple minutes pleading with God to help this man in his last days on Earth. I made special note of the time (12 minutes after the hour) since I was now slightly off my regular schedule. (Can you say O.C.D?!)

When I arrived home later, I saw an email pop up that announced the death of my friend’s brother. He had expired at twelve minutes past six that very morning—the precise time I had been praying for him.  I promptly responded letting the family know I had remembered him in my intentions before the Eucharist. I remarked how I had made note of the time in adoration and that it corresponded with the time of his death mentioned in the email. I also shared that we had been praying for him all week, even the kids, although our oldest was insistent that he was waiting for a miracle. I included that to point out his childish innocence and faith. I knew she’d find it endearing.

An email response came quickly thereafter. My friend concluded, “Let your son know he got his miracle!” At that moment it dawned on me that his daring prayer had been answered, not in the way he intended, but God had provided a miracle of sorts. My son prayed boldly and God heard him. 

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18, 1-3

I’m seeing prayer through a new set of eyes. Being in a truly loving relationship means we don’t tell someone what we think they want to hear. That’s a sham. We tell them all—our most outrageous dreams, hopes, and whimsies. We divulge our deepest yearnings and our seemingly unreachable goals. We share them and bond over them. My husband and I have always shared the faraway dream of packing up and moving to rural France where we will raise chickens and eat lots of amazing cheese. It’s certainly not a safe, practical dream. In fact, it’s rather unlikely, given our current financial situation. We have three kids we have to put through college for goodness sake. But that doesn’t stop us from talking about it or musing about what our life would be like. It’s something we share, just the two of us, even if it never actually happens.

I think God desires that same intimacy with me. So I’ve begun to pray in a new way. It hasn’t been the most natural transition, but I’m doing my best to set aside the awkwardness of feeling selfish about my desires. I’m beginning to pray boldly. To my mind, I have become the kid who compiles his Christmas list with gleeful delight with no regard for feasibility. I’m praying with reckless abandon. For the first time in a long time, at least since I was ten years old, I’m holding out for a miracle. It feels pretty great.

*If you’re interested in the article on prayer it can be found in chapter 4 of a book by Lisa Brenninkmeyer titled, “Opening Your Heart.” Go to walkingwithpurpose.com to learn more.

*Photo by Alain d’Alché on Unsplash

A Case for Daily Mass in Catholic Schools

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My kids are officially back in the swing of school. I know what you’re thinking: WooHoo! Carline drop-off must be the most absolutely magical part of the day! I must admit, watching my kids exit through the automatic sliding minivan doors with the exchange of a kiss, is pretty awesome. (What stay-at-home mom doesn’t crave a few hours of solitude to accomplish the endless household chores before they all frantically pile back in taking their seats in the constant carousel ride of family chaos?) But, believe it or not, the drop-off is not my absolute favorite part of the day. There’s another much more special moment that wins by a long shot!

It comes shortly after morning carline, and quite frankly, its significance kind of snuck up on me. Over time I’ve come to cherish it as the treasured gift from God that I know it to be.

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Filth & Faith Part 2: Weathering the Storm in the Church

A couple of weeks ago, a huge fall thunderstorm erupted in the middle of the otherwise quiet night.  It startled me from a dead sleep. I tried my absolute best to disregard the racket and the flashing light in order to remain blissfully slumbering.

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I was in that foggy quasi-sleep state in the midst of trying to self-soothe back to a deep unconsciousness, when one of my sons snuck into our room and boldly announced, “What is going on out there?!” If you’ve ever had a kiddo swoop in while you’re trying to rest, you’ll understand when I say my hair was now standing on end. Children are like nighttime ninja. You never hear their stealthy approach but are made frighteningly aware when they are hovering mere inches from your face. It’s straight out of a horror film.

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Filth & Faith: How My Husband and I are Talking to Our Kids About the Problems in Our Church

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Is it just me or have you noticed how every single reading from Mass over the last couple weeks seems to point to all of the unrest and scandal in the church of late? Not in that oblique, beating around the bush kind of way, but overtly, and in a way that seems to strike you to the core. It’s kind of how I remember feeling after a romantic heartbreak. No matter what station I tuned the radio dial to, I’d hear a song that eerily seemed to be speaking directly to me. But this a lot different. It’s not the voice of Tears for Fears. It’s God who is knocking on our collective foreheads, trying to break through so we might truly hear Him in the midst of such devastation.

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Radio-Active (my national radio interview!)

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Last week I was on the radio! And I didn’t even have to get out of my bathrobe. My recent post about the etiquette of speaking to those who are grieving got the attention of a national Catholic radio show. A producer from “Morning Air” on Relevant Radio contacted me via email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed about my essay, “I cried with Michael Jordan.” So, I peeled myself off the ceiling and quickly replied yes. A couple days later, after gravely bribing my children to remain silent in the background, I was live on the air with John Harper of the “Morning Air” show. I can’t help thinking my parents were smiling down on me since I finally got to use the Radio part of my Radio/TV/Film degree from the exorbitantly priced Northwestern University. Thanks, mom, and dad! (My mom used to urge me to apply wherever I wanted. “If you get in,” she’d remind me, “I’ll clean toilets to cover the cost if need be.”) Such parental sacrifice they modeled for me.

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Finding Christ in the Clutter

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Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. “For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.” —1670, Catechism of the Catholic Church

I have a 5”x7’’ picture of the face of Jesus on the dresser directly across from the bed. It’s a pretty popular characterization of Christ that I suspect can be found in many Catholic homes. What makes the rendering especially moving are His eyes. They follow me. Not in the menacing way I imagined portraits and pictures did when I was younger. It’s a non-threatening, loving stare. His eyes search for me, pleading, imploring.

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Seismic Shift

The word perspective derives from the Latin: per, meaning “through” and spectus, which translates to “look at.” So with a bit of word origin sleuthing, perspective means to look at something or someone through a particular vantage, viewpoint or lens. Simple enough. But not really.

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One summer morning, when I was roughly twelve years old, I was lazily sleeping away the day, when my mother uncharacteristically barged through my bedroom door, interrupting my peaceful slumber. She was crying. Hard. I was disoriented and deeply moved. She didn’t cry often. In the split second it took her to explain what was amiss, my brain instantly raced to the only possible conclusion. My dad was dead. My dad was a good 14 years my mother’s senior. Aging and death were subjects he never shied away from. In fact, in some ways he strangely celebrated them. He was the only person I ever knew who gleefully looked forward to turning 60, which meant a “Golden Buckeye” card that offered a discount at many Ohio stores. He regularly lamented how tired he was, allowing him a pass on many physical games or activities with my brothers and me. I was also very aware that he was the oldest dad among my friends’ fathers. Much to my horror, someone had once mistakenly called him my grandfather. My father, however, found it delightfully amusing. Looking back, a narrative took shape in my brain that my dad would go first. It was the natural order of things. No one ever spoke it, but the idea that my mom would outlive my aging father was sort of a morbid understanding.

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