Yesterday at our Secular Franciscans meeting we had a guest speaker: a Sister who works at a local retreat house. She gave a presentation about practical ways to pray constantly.
Here’s one of the recommendations she gave us:
What is the one sentence I’d like to say to God right now?
I just used that technique, and I have to say, there’s comfort in it.
I’m in the middle of some red tape on the medical-provider end of Little Brother’s diabetes care, and the idea of the confrontation I’ll probably have to have in order to untangle this mess has ratcheted my anxiety level into the stratosphere. Suddenly I just stopped what I was doing while waiting for the phone call I’m dreading and said, out loud,
“I’m hitting the wall right now, God.”
(Fortunately no one else is home right now.)
It helped a little, though, just to get that out there. I can kind of feel my jaw unclenching and my fists opening up–just a bit.
And then, the tears. Not tears of despair, but instead that almost-relief when you know in your heart that God’s got this.
I spent Monday as a substitute teacher in second grade at the parish school. As my training is in secondary education, I’m used to students trying to derail any discussion in order to avoid doing work. Seven-year-olds don’t generally display that level of guile, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stray off the subject during our school day.
Children that young just want to share. As soon as you mention anything, they make a connection and need to tell you–and the whole rest of the class–about it. Every once in a while, that can be a good thing, if you can manage to capture the moment.
We were in the middle of a language-arts lesson based on the story of an injured child riding to the hospital in an ambulance. Up goes a hand. “My mommy says that when you see an ambulance you should say a Hail Mary.”
Me: “Yes, a lot of families do that. It’s a really good thing to do. When you see an ambulance, you can pray for the person who is sick or hurt and for the people who are helping.”
Student: “And police cars too.”
Me: “Right. That’s another good time to say a prayer.”
Other student: “But just for the police. Not for the bad people.”
Me: “We should definitely say a prayer for the bad people. Do you remember that Jesus told us we should do that?”
Me: “Jesus said that we should pray for people who hurt us, not just for our friends and family. Maybe the people who hurt us need even more prayers.”
Moments like this are why I love Catholic school. Our faith isn’t confined to the schedule block reserved for religion. It can (and should) pop up at any point in the day. I love that the children in this class feel free enough and comfortable enough to bring up the subject of prayer when the thought enters their mind–even during a story about a fictional ambulance ride. I pray that these lessons will be put into practice during a real emergency.
We went out to dinner tonight to celebrate TheDad’s birthday. At his choice of restaurant, many walls were decorated with Old West portraits–except for the ones by the bar, which held large TVs featuring SEC football.
Middle Sister mused aloud about whether, in 150 years, our portraits would be hanging on some restaurant wall somewhere. “Would we even know? I wonder if those people know we’re looking at their pictures right now.”
I didn’t think that we’d know about it if this happened. “How would we be able to keep track of all the places where our digital images wind up?”
Little Brother disagreed. “We’d know about it in heaven!”
Last week at the writing conference I had the privilege to listen to a presentation by Randy Hain on integrating faith and work. Since most of the writing I do is for secular venues, this topic was particularly interesting to me.
Today, as I approached the Chick-Fil-A drive-through with Little Brother and his friend in the car, I was reminded that some things are easier for kids than they are for grownups. Kids who are raised in the Faith have no problem integrating faith and life. It’s just what they do.
Here’s what happened: Little Brother’s friend wanted to order a mint milkshake, and I had to tell him that mint was not available because it’s a seasonal flavor.
He replied, “Oh, yeah! It’s Ordinary Time now.”
“Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3-4)
Remember that prayer that was on all those posters in the 70s: “Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen today that you and I together can’t handle”?
I’ve been letting anxiety get the better of me a little (a lot?) more than usual recently. And really, this has got to stop. When I was talking about this with a good friend, she mentioned that, lately, she has been making an effort to pray when anxiety starts to overcome her. She asks God to help her hand over the situation, to guide her words and actions.
But I don’t want to pray that prayer from the 70s posters. To be honest, I find that prayer a little arrogant.
As Father Cavanagh says in the movie Rudy, “I have come up with only two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not him.”
Better to pray that God will guide me through a situation. I prefer this prayer, attributed to Father Mychal Judge, OFM, who perished in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center:
Lord, take me where you want me to go; Let me meet who you want me to meet; Tell me what you want me to say, and Keep me out of your way.
There’s only one thing I may need to add to that: “Keep my foot out of my mouth.”
Sometimes you just never know where some wisdom is going to pop up.
I’ve been reading this book, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. Overall, this book is rather anti-religious, and certainly the author is opposed to many things that I believe in and hold dear. But the book is funny, and I’m inclined to read it until I get to the end–just for the laughs.
Who knew that today I’d run into this bit of truth:
“virtue isn’t a condition of character. It’s an elected action. It’s a choice we keep making, over and over, hoping that someday we’ll create a habit so strong it will carry us through our bouts of pettiness and meanness.” (Rhoda Janzen, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. New York: Henry Holt, 2009, p. 175)
I try not to bug my husband with the Little Stuff, because he really does deal with most of the Big Stuff. But a lot of the Little Stuff sure does come with Big Guilt. I really appreciate what Sheila has to say on this subject.
A member of my family sent around this email today. She said to pass it on–so I thought I’d share it here. Some great advice!
An Angel says, ‘Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn’t happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice..’
1. Pray 2. Go to bed on time. 3. Get up on time so you can start the day unrushed. 4. Say No to projects that won’t fit into your time schedule, or that will compromise your mental health. 5. Delegate tasks to capable others. 6. Simplify and unclutter your life. 7. Less is more. (Although one is often not enough, two are often too many.) 8. Allow extra time to do things and to get to places. 9. Pace yourself. Spread out big changes and difficult projects over time; don’t lump the hard things all together.. 10. Take one day at a time. 11. Separate worries from concerns . If a situation is a concern, find out what God would have you do and let go of the anxiety . If you can’t do anything about a situation, forget it.. 12. Live within your budget; don’t use credit cards for ordinary purchases. 13. Have backups; an extra car key in your wallet, an extra house key buried in the garden, extra stamps, etc. 14. K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut). This single piece of advice can prevent an enormous amount of trouble. 15. Do something for the Kid in You everyday. 16. Carry a Bible with you to read while waiting in line. 17. Get enough rest 18. Eat right. 19 Get organized so everything has its place. 20. Listen to a tape while driving that can help improve your quality of life.. 21. Write down thoughts and inspirations. 22. Every day, find time to be alone. 23. Having problems? Talk to God on the spot. Try to nip small problems in the bud. Don’t wait until it’s time to go to bed to try and pray. 24. Make friends with Godly people. 25. Keep a folder of favorite scriptures on hand. 26. Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is often a good ‘Thank you Jesus .’ 27. Laugh. 28. Laugh some more! 29. Take your work seriously, but not yourself at all. 30. Develop a forgiving attitude (most people are doing the best they can). 31. Be kind to unkind people (they probably need it the most). 32. Sit on your ego 33 Talk less; listen more.. 34. Slow down. 35. Remind yourself that you are not the general manager of the universe. 36 Every night before bed, think of one thing you’re grateful for that you’ve never been grateful for before. GOD HAS A WAY OF TURNING THINGS AROUND FOR YOU.
‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans8:31)