Ask Big.

Every now and again one of my kids throws a fit. I know, I expected them to be perfect little saints all the time as well. Turns out they are normal kids, kind of a relief actually. 

The other night my son was in bed but kept calling and calling and calling for us. I pulled the short straw and went up to his room. 

When I asked him what we wanted, his huge, overwhelming demand was that I take is water bottle and put it on his night stand. He could have asked for the moon and I would have tried to get it for him. His ask was small in comparison.

In the spiritual life, I think we often ask too small for God. We think we should limit what we ask for in prayer because God will be more likely to answer our prayer. Or we don’t want to seem selfish or demanding so we go small. It could also be that we don’t want to be disappointed, so we only make little prayers. 

In the gospel this Sunday, The crowds ask for more bread. They want to be fed like they were when Jesus multiplied the loaves. The crowds want physical sustenance. They are asking small. 

Meanwhile Jesus is offering the bread of heaven. He is offering them something that will keep them fed forever. Jesus is offering them the Bread of Life. Jesus is offering himself. 

Too often I think we ask small. In our prayer we ask for just the worldly things when God is offering us something much, much larger. We ask for comfort while God offers us greatness. We ask for success and God offers us salvation. We ask for the world while God is offering us Heaven.

There is nothing wrong for praying for our daily bread, Jesus instructs us to pray those exact words. However, praying for our daily bread must not deter us from asking for the big stuff. When we pray, we can and should ask for a God sized miracle or request. The prayer life of the disciple of Jesus is one in which our prayers match our faith. Ask big. 

LIVE IT: Decide on something really, really big – a God sized ask – and then pray that prayer every day for a week. Go Big. Ask God something that is crazy and impossible and then see what happens. 

Go-To Guy

If my snowblower won’t start, I call Brandon. When I need to haul a bunch of stuff, I call my friend Jim. When I have a question about how the economy works (or which piece of scripture best suits a question), I text Todd. These are just some of my Go-To Guys. To be honest, my list of Go-To Guys is really quite long. 

A Go-To Guy is the someone you call when you need help with something for which you are not the expert. More than that, a Go-To Guy is someone you can 100% rely on and you know that they will are willing to help even when it isn’t convenient for them. When something goes wrong, you can lean on a Go-To Guy. When something goes right a Go-To Guy is someone you want to celebrate with. And of course, Go-To Guys aren’t just gentlemen. We have plenty of Go-To Gals as well. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus goes to Simon and Andrews house. Simon’s mother-in-law has a fever. This fever was life threatening. Mark’s gospel tells us, “They immediately told him about her.” When it comes to the sick, possessed, or ailing, Jesus is the disciples Go-To Guy. 

Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law and she gets up and starts making dinner. 

When word spreads the entire town starts bringing their possessed and sick to Jesus. He heals and frees one person after another. Later after spending the pre-dawn hours in prayer, Jesus explains to his disciples that preaching and healing is the purpose for which he has come. Jesus’ mission is to be the world’s Go-To Guy. 

The word that got me in this Sunday’s gospel is “immediately.” It wasn’t just that Jesus was the Go-To Guy for the disciples. They went to him immediately. 

What is our first instinct when it comes to going to Jesus? When do we go to him? Why do we go to him?

It seems to me that Jesus is our Go-To Guy for life and death. When it comes to eternal joy in the face of suffering and death, Jesus is our Go-To Guy. The key is that we turn to him immediately. He is the first call. Jesus is our primary healer. Don’t wait, run to him, immediately. 

Live It: For 1 week try a new way to pray – micro prayers. In addition to your normal prayer routine, go to Jesus with your prayers immediately and briefly. For Example: When you go to drive somewhere – Thank God your car started. Pray for someone you pass on the street. Pray for everyone inside a medical building you pass. Pray for the children when you pass by a school. Thank God for beauty when you see a snow covered tree. Make Jesus your Go-To Guy in the small stuff too. 

Sunday Readings for February 7th, 2021.

Overheard

Have you ever been in a crowded restaurant (not lately…), and overheard the conversation at the table next to you. One time my wife witnessed the breakup of a long term relationship. It was messy and horrible to be a part of. Another time we accidentally sat in on a business meeting of a local pro sports team, and heard that they weren’t planning on bring the coach back the follow year (can’t make it up).

Overhearing an intimate conversation or an intimate moment is a little cringy. Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to eavesdrop, but for me the more intimate the conversation or moment, the more I just want to run away or plug my ears. One of the reasons I don’t like is because that means there has probably been a time when some overheard an intimate conversation I was a part of. No one wants that. 

When a conversation is general or mundane, I don’t have the same reaction. Who cares if I overhear someone talking about trash day or the weather?

In the gospel this Sunday we overhear Jesus making an intimate prayer to God. Only three times in Matthew’s gospel does Jesus pray like this. One time is when he is suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Another is when he is dying on the cross. This Sunday we hear the third time Matthew records Jesus’ intimate prayer. 

Jesus is praying in thanksgiving to God for his disciples, in fact, for all people who believe in him. He calls them (us), the little ones. What do these little ones know that the wise and the learned don’t know? Him. The little ones know Jesus. If you know who and what and why Jesus is, Jesus says then you know the Father. If you have intimacy with Jesus, you have intimacy with God Almighty. Jesus reveals who God is. Wow. Awesome. 

I think overhearing someone’s prayer is a lot like overhearing someone’s conversation. When I am praying in a group, my prayers are more what you would expect me to say in front of other people. But when I am alone and really in need of my Lord, my prayer is intimate, personal, and not something I would love for someone else to overhear. 

Maybe this is why Jesus says “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6).

I think there is a time a place for all kinds of prayer (no wrong way to pray, honestly). Yet I do think our goal in life is intimacy with God (heaven) and that means our prayer needs to move in that direction too. Pray like Jesus – intimately. 

LIVE IT: Go somewhere totally alone – Car, a hike in nature, basement, bedroom, bathroom. Say to God a prayer from your deepest place. Tell him what is really going on. Ask the thing you can’t imagine asking him. Say the prayer to him you wouldn’t say in front of anyone else. 

Sunday Readings for July 5th, 2020.

Talking to Yourself

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Sunday Readings for Oct 27, 2019

One of my earliest memories is sitting in the backseat of the car and watching my dad talk to himself. I don’t mean in unsettling or mental health sort of way. Rather in the kind of way I think most of us do. I’ve been caught by my children rehearsing a conversation before it happens or working out a problem and not realizing how public I am being about it. I’ve even been known to win arguments with not so present adversaries. 

In the gospel tells a parable about a prideful Pharisee and a humble sinner. In the story, the Pharisee stands in his regular pew and offers up a prayer “to himself.” I used to think this meant he said it quietly, but more recently I think this means that was actually praying to himself. He wasn’t actually thanking God, but in fact thanking himself for his own self determined goodness. 

I think sometimes we do pray to ourselves. We think or speak prayers in such a way that glorifies us. We utter intentions that ask ourselves to make something happen or to be okay with a situation. We ask for our own favor so that we can do whatever we were going to do anyway.  

Jesus taught us so many lessons with this simple parable, but for me, I think the lesson this year is to make sure I am praying to God and not myself. That means I need to offer praise for what God has done, not me. I need to thank God for what he has given me. I must ask him for things only he can provide. If we actually learn to pray to God and not ourselves, I think we won’t have to worry about whether we are prideful or humble, self-righteous or justified by God alone. 

LIVE IT: Make tonight’s prayer the name of Jesus. Just pray the name of Jesus over and over as slowly and with as much meaning as you can muster. Do this for as long as you need to. 

 

3 Ways to NOT be Tired.

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Readings for Sunday Oct. 20th.

Life Hack: Never tell anyone that they look tired. 

Seriously, telling anyone that they look tired is only an accusation and judgement of appearance and no body likes that. Some people take it more personally that others, of course, but no one likes it. Some people respond better to “You seem tired,” but even that can go wrong. Maybe if we just all agree to not comment on how tired everyone is. 

Quick poll – raise your hand if you’re tired? Did you raise your hand? “Tired” seems to be the most common current mood. “Tiredness” has risen to epidemic levels. Is everyone just tired all the time now?

So in the gospel this Sunday when Luke writes “pray without becoming weary” and then Jesus tells us a parable about perseverance in prayer, it kinda feels like a trick. Who can possibly pray without becoming weary? Who can avoid becoming weary?

If the answer truly is no one, what should we do when we become weary? I think the first reading has an insight. The Israelites are fighting the Amalekites and as long as Moses has his arms raised, the Israelites are winning the battle. But his arms begin to sag and the Amalekites begin to win. So Moses sits down and Aaron and Hur support Moses’ arms.

The answer on what to do when we grow weary in prayer is to not do it alone! Prayer and, in fact, Christianity is always to be done in community. Even hermits have some sort of community. If we try and go alone, we will grow weary. Always practice our faith in groups and this goes for prayer too.

Here are three simple ways to pray when we grow weary:

  1. Parish prayer line – At my parish, Holy Name of Jesus, we have a group of people who pray for the intentions of the parish. A quick email to the directors of the prayer line and a whole host of people begin praying for any intention. Good chance your parish has one too. 
  2. Saintly Intercession – If we believe in everlasting life and we believe others can offer up our intentions for us, than why not ask the Saints to pray for our intentions. Pick a Saint of your choosing and ask them to pray for your intentions. 
  3. Phone a friend – Call or text someone and ask them to pray for your intention. I know that sounds kinds of obvious, but I’m writing it here to give you permission to do. 

Live It: Do one of the three suggestions above in order to pray without growing weary this week.

 

Scream at God.

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Readings for Sunday Oct 13th, 2019

I don’t remember the circumstances, but I remember the prayer. I was having a rough time in my college years. I was home for summer and I was frustrated and mad and not happy. I was driving home and I shut off the radio and I screamed – I screamed at God. 

No one would have called it reverent or pious. But it was real. I was really upset. I screamed and cried and let God have it. I was angry and blamed God at lease partially. Of course it wasn’t his fault, but I couldn’t see that at the time. Afterward I just sat in my car and cried for a while. Maybe it wasn’t the best way to handle my situation, but strangely, I felt like God heard me. I felt like he heard my cry. 

In the gospel on Sunday Oct 13th, Jesus heals 10 lepers. To get Jesus’ attention the lepers “raised their voices, saying ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’” Later when the one returned he glorified God “in a loud voice.” My point is this when we are in distress and need God it doesn’t do us any good to be quiet.

If you are in a tough spot, shout at God. If you are struggling or suffering or don’t see any end to your difficult situation, let God know about it. God is big and strong and can take it. Raise your voice to God. If you’re angry at God, be angry. Be authentic in your prayer.

(Obviously I’m not advocating irreverence or rudeness towards God, just loud voices.)

And…when healing occurs and joy is restored and we feel grateful and blessed, we can shout with that same force. We don’t have to hold back in some false piety when God blesses us, but be loud and strong with our praise of the God who loves us. 

Whether you are struggling or celebrating, shout it out!

Live It: Sometime today pray out loud to God. Whether it is in your car or your home, speak the words you mean to say to God, out loud. 

Mama Mama Mama Mama Mama Mama

Sunday Readings for July 28th, 2019.

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“Mama   Mama   Mama    Mama   Mama MamaMamamamamamamamama.” – my 19 month-old son. 

My poor wife. I mean honestly. My toddler son only knows a few words. Sometimes “yes” means “no.” Sometimes “no” means “if you say so.” When he says “dada,” it almost always means, “Yay! Look, it’s my dad over there.” But when my son wants something he says “Mama.”

Sometimes he does this to actually get her attention, but most of the time I think he chants this mantra as a reminder to us and himself that he is need of something. And he almost always needs something. If you are a mama or you live with a mama, who has a toddler constantly calling for mama, then you know what a burden this can feel like.

In my toddler’s defense, he’s learned this behavior. He’s learned that if he doesn’t get what he needs/wants when he points to it or screams or just tries in silence, he has learned that if he says mama again and again and again, something will happen. 

Needless to say, my wife doesn’t always give him what he wants. No, of course not. But she always turns to him and somehow responds “Yes” “No” or “Wait”.

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in this Sunday’s gospel. Jesus doesn’t just teach us what to say, but how to pray – with persistence. 

Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Midnight Caller (just made up that title ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), that the owner of the house will get up to help his friend just becasue his friend is annoying. While we might think this doesn’t make God sound very good, the core of this parable is about our action, our prayer. Jesus knows that persistence is more important to fruitful prayer than perfect diction. In other words, if we think we can craft the perfect prayer that will convince God to give us what we want, then who we believe in is ourselves. 

Praying with persistence reveals that we know we can’t attain what we are asking for. To pray with persistence demonstrates our need for God. Persistent prayer ultimately shows that we know that what we really need is God himself. If we keep calling God’s name, he hears and he answers. 

LIVE IT: Set a timer on your phone for 2 minutes. Start that timer and then begin saying the name of JESUS over and over. Say it slowly. Say it as a prayer. Pray the very name of Jesus. 

Unsatisfied? Really?!

Sunday Readings for June 23rd, 2019.

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Last week a friend of mine and I went to dinner at one of the top restaurants in the state of Minnesota. When this restaurant opened, it was heralded as the number one new restaurant that year. The chef is a James Beard award winner. The room is elegant and simple, as is the food. Our meal was spectacular. One of my finest dining experiences ever. 

Later, when asked about my meal, I raved. But then I made some small critique of one of the salads and one of the opening plates. The food and the restaurant were phenomenal, but my small criticisms seemed to indicate that I wasn’t exactly satisfied. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel a certain pressure to be critical. It’s as if to demonstrate my sophistication, I need to criticize everything I experience. If I enjoy something or I am too positive, it almost feels like I haven’t really examined it yet. If I don’t hold a negative opinion, I am base, lowbrow, and simple. Negativity is the sign of the cultured sophisticate. 

Unfortunately I think this attitude and disposition towards negativity can invade our faith. I can’t tell you how many times in a Bible study I’ve heard someone (sometimes myself) critique the author and fail to examine what the text is trying to teach about God. It’s almost like we are saying, my opinion about this author or program or situation is proof I am a discerning Christian who cares. But in reality we are often so busy critiquing that we miss being blessed by God.

If I can be so bold, I think this attitude and behavior is most often exhibited by us when we talk about the Mass. I know people who always seem to have something negative to say about the homily or the music or the worship space or the vestments whenever they walk out of Mass. In fact, I think judging Mass has reached an epidemic level. And in all honesty, I’m the number one offender.

At Mass, Heaven and Earth meet. Really. The God of the universe becomes bread and wine for us to consume and we are physically united with our Creator. Really. God invites us into the inner life of the Trinity. Really. With every single Saint who has ever lived, we worship Jesus who died on a cross to save us from death. Really. We are drawn into intimate communion with all of our brothers and sisters in faith. Really. And after all that, we leave unsatisfied? Really?!

We eat donuts and complain about the length of this or the music of that, but in reality we are missing God smack in our faces. 

Do we have things we could do better? Sure, no doubt. And we all have preferences when it comes to what helps us encounter God at Mass. But do we really think that our satisfaction is an indication of whether God was present to us or not at Mass? Really?!

The reality is that God is powerfully, intimately, and transcendently present to us in the Mass. God is in the proclaimed words of scripture and the Eucharist. If we can be humble enough to put aside our sophistication, we can experience the same satisfaction of the 5000+ plus who were fed multiplied loaves and fish. If we want to be satisfied, we have to come on Sunday ready to worship God and seeking to forget ourselves. 

LIVE IT: On your way to Mass this week or when you enter your pew before Mass, Ask God to help you forget yourself, fully enter into worship, and to become more aware of how God wants to satisfy you. 

Post Script – I recognize my rant above (mostly directed at myself), is not the whole conversation. Certainly we can desire to celebrate Mass in a way that more perfectly demonstrates Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Volumes of books have been written about the Mass and what constitutes good liturgy. Today, this was the message I needed to hear and my gut (and the last 10 years of donut conversations) says many of you needed to hear it too. Thanks for reading and reflecting. Ck

 

Poor.

November 11th Sunday Readings.

jordan-rowland-716475-unsplashA number of years ago my friend was lamenting his current faith practice. He shared that when he was in college and right after college, he would attend daily Mass. He started and ended his day with Liturgy of the Hours. He had a weekly holy hour in an Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. He would stop and pray the Angelus in the middle of the day. He read scripture and studied theology. He had intense, spiritual conversations late into the night with faithful friends. But at the time he was sharing, he said if he prayed in the morning and said goodnight to God that was a good prayer day. 

I asked him what changed and he said, “I got married and had kids.” 

He explained that for a while he beat himself up about this. He was frustrated and tired and no matter what he tried, it was difficult to practice his faith like he did when he was in his early 20s. 

That was until a priest friend explained that after giving himself away to his family all day, whatever my friend gave to God was a treasure. In the gospel, Jesus admires the poor widow who gave what little money she had to the treasury. My friend wasn’t financially poor, but his poverty had to do with how much time he had. My friend was time poor. 

So when it came to giving God time, even though he felt like he was praying so muchandrik-langfield-426760-unsplash less than he used to, God was receiving an even greater treasure. He was receiving what little time my friend had as a gift of prayer. 

Where is your poverty? What do you lack? Do you wish you had more time, money, friendships, joy, faith, or focus? Where in your life are you like the poor widow? What would it look like if you gave that thing to God? What would it look like if you gave God your poverty?

LIVE IT:
Take out a sheet of paper. Write down 3 things you feel you are lacking in your life. Then write down a way you can give each to God. Do one of those things this week. 

The Impossible, Please.

February 11th Sunday Readings.

One of my children’s favorite books when they were little was “Papa, Please Get the 27454Moon for Me.” It is a beautifully written and illustrated book by Eric Carle. The basic premise is a child asks their father for the moon and he gets it. My children loved this book because they realized that the request was unreasonable and impossible. Yet, they also delighted in the idea that the impossible, just might happen. I liked the book because the dad is a hero.
What is interesting about he book to me is that it speaks to some truth of childhood. Sometimes small children will ask, without irony, for something that is seemingly impossible. When they ask they don’t hesitate. Whether it is a pony, a 2nd trip to Disney the day you get home from the last trip, or a new sibling, little children don’t shy away from asking for something big.
In the gospel, the man with leprosy asks Jesus for something impossible. Yes, he asks Jesus to heal his untreatable disease. But more than that, he asks Jesus to restore his place in society. He asks to be welcomed back into a community from which he was excluded because of his disease.
Jesus’ first miracle isn’t curing the man. Before Jesus removes his leprosy, he reaches out and touches the man. In reality, I bet there was a gasp from the crowd. People may have been shocked that Jesus poke to the man, but that Jesus would touch him was, well, impossible.
The man with leprosy asked for something that no one could do. He asked for the impossible. And Jesus fulfilled that request.
When we pray, what do we ask God for? Often we temper our requests before we even ask. We often ask God for the reasonable and possible. I think we temper our request because we are scared of being let down by God. We are fearful that if we ask big, God won’t pull through and our faith will be shaken. So how do we ask God for a God-sized miracle without risk? We can’t. Asking for the impossible takes a risk on our part.
What we can do is put all of it God’s hands. We can, like the leprous man, ask first that God’s will be done. Just as he says, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” we can say, if it is your will, grant this request Lord. Whatever we ask for, whether it is the moon or something just as impossible, we must do so with God’s will in mind.
LIVE IT:
What is the impossible that you would like to ask God for? A miraculous healing? Healing a broken relationship? Forgiving the unforgiveable? Whatever it is, ask. Ask for that God sized thing. Say something like, “God, I know if you will it, you can……..and in all thing Your will be done!”