Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Teach Us To Pray

I love listening to son pray when we're in the car. I'll try to encourage him, and he kind of strings words and phrases together he's picked up in Mass in a very sweet and sincere way, going something like this:

"Lord of the God, is the blessing, and the Holy One of God to the blood and bless angels, and the bread, pray mommy and daddy and Monica and Suzy. Amen."

 I want to be like:

But does it really matter? God loves it! It's still a gift, especially the lack of pretention.

Do we need to be taught how to pray? An interesting question. Let's look at Luke's gospel, chapter 11:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation."

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: 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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  

What is it with Jesus and children, and why do we need to  'change and be like them' in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (Mt 18:3) To be 'treated like a child' is usually seen as a negative thing.

When I think of my kids, a few things come to mind:

-They love us and we love them.
-They don't have much of a filter.
-They ask a lot of us.
-Their minds are like sponges, and they have a lot to learn.
-They can't do much on their own apart from us.
-They are persistent.
-They need us (at least now)
-We would die for them (but I don't know if they would do the same for us).

At the feet of the Lord, are we as adults much different? Jesus' 'formula for prayer' in Luke 11:2-4 establishes the Father-child relationship, that we can pray to God in an intimate, familial manner. In v 5-8 he notes that this is the behavior of a friend, but this kind of 'shameless audacity' can be applied to any one of my little rascal children, who are so skilled in getting what they want. In verses 11-13 we see that parents only want what is best for their children.

So there is a clear relational, familial aspect here. Children know their parents. They know if someone were to come to pick them up from daycare wearing a Rob mask that that person would be an imposter. And likewise if someone handed me someone else's child from the room and said, "here is your son," I would instantly know they did not belong to me. This is why we are called "children of God"--because the Father knows us, that we are His and belong to Him, and imposters are theives who come to steal and destroy (Jn 10:10). As the Lord says, "I know my own and my own know me" (10:14).


I've been using Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap for more than a decade.  It's the bomb. I use it for shampoo, but you can also use it for body wash, mop floors, clean clothes, even brushing teeth. One drop and it lathers up like crazy, smells fresh and tingles.

And then of course there is that infamous label.

You start reading it and you're like, 'wow this is really wild stuff who is this guy?' It kind of sounds like profound moral/spiritual statements, you're squinting along but when you take a step back you wonder 'am I missing something? am I the unenlightened one here?' and when you take an even farther step back and you realize it's really just kind of ranting nonsense and you're deep in the rabbit hole. That's because Dr. Bronner makes awesome soap but he was a literal madman! People certainly aren't buying it for the message.

When I read some of the things I wrote when I was going through periods of mania, it is like reading a Dr. Bronner's soap label. The brain isn't firing on all cylinders, but you think you're a creative genius. You justify imbalance--not sleeping, unhealthy habits--because the ends will justify the means. It's nonsense, but you feel like you're just on the brink of something great. Something great that never comes. Thank God I never took anyone down with me.

When I was on campus at the library a few months back, I came across a book in the stacks about religious communities (nuns and monks) in the Middle Ages who had gone astray. A charismatic leader claiming some divine spiritual insight comes along and everyone gives it credence. It's attractive because it's new and gnostic, not old and traditional and stodgy, and promises something great. Sooner or later their community is in strife, not living in truth, and far off the mark. Think Catholic Waco, a la David Koresh.

Be careful who you listen to, because it's a fine line between heresy and truth. The Devil comes to divide and sow confusion, feeding us not just lies, but half-truths that sound right. I like what my friend said about understanding spiritual truths recently, "I just let the Church digest it and feed it back to me." Very un-sexy sounding, but I have more of an appreciation for that kind of cautious staying power then the Next Big Thing.

Monday, December 7, 2015

There Is Nothing New Under The Sun…Then Came This Post

Wow, has it really been five years since I've blogged? Is this going to be like Flava Flav trying to make a comeback with "Flavor of Love??"

As much as you try to smother them with a pillow, old habits die hard. It reminds me of a passage in the book of Jeremiah in which the prophet laments his dilemma:

"You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in,
I cannot endure it." (20:7; 9) 

I revisited Rob's Fobs, my old blog, this week when I was looking for a place to write again. I thought maybe I would just pick up where I left off five years ago. 587 posts. 16,000 visits. But it didn't feel right to build on that manic foundation, like putting new wine in old wineskins, or putting on old underwear after getting out of the shower.

So, as my friend Eric would say, "here we are." I hope to fill the void where Facebook used to be with posts about yelling at the dog, #marriageworks, faith, family, gardening, bikes, and bidets. Welcome!