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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Serena Williams Doesn’t Speak for My Daughter or Me

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I’m not a serious tennis fan, but over the years, I’ve followed the amazing career of Serena Williams. In fact, she’s hard not to watch, such a force of sheer athleticism and drive, not to mention all the spellbinding, gutsy grunts that accompany each swing of the racket. In addition, her striking, glamorous face has covered countless magazines over the years from fitness to fashion. She’s got the world’s attention, including mine. That’s why her recent rant at the US Open truly disappointed this mom.

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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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Aiming to Please Him

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I experienced a mini victory recently. No one else would ever perceive it as such, but God knows. For the better part of my life, I have tried my darndest to not disappoint or displease those I encounter. Please note the word, “tried.” Those of you close to me will have something to say about whether or not I achieved those goals. With the gift of hindsight, I’ve come to realize that trying to please others or going out of my way to not let people down is actually a fruitless goal in of itself and undoubtedly destined for failure. Often, the complete opposite of my intention is accomplished. But that realization didn’t dawn on me with such clarity until recently.

I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the mini virtue victory.

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Holy Homerun

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Recently, a friend candidly shared with me her worries about the amount of faith her son was getting in our Catholic school. It concerned her that every single subject was neatly tied to Catholicism. She expressed frustration that it all funnels back to the faith.

“Religion in Phys. Ed.?! I mean, are they just peddling the Catholic kool-aid?”

This was my chance. Very rarely in life do you get lobbed the absolute perfect pitch, just standing at the ready, anticipating the moment you are about to connect with the sweet spot. While I didn’t share this mom’s concern AT ALL,  I understood it completely. More than understood it, I had lived it. Growing up, I picked up on the mistaken and misguided message that our Catholic faith was something that we trotted out for religion class and at Sunday mass, but once you entered the parking lot, AKA real life, all bets were off. You hopefully lived life as a decent human being—read: good enough, but not aiming all too high, making sure not to murder or maim, intentionally anyway. Under this pervasive philosophy of Catholic-lite Christianity, the faith never truly informs the ins and outs of day-to-day-life. People whose lives were always guided by faith, we called priests, nuns or just plain cuh-razy.

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