Naked Prayer

I was just so tired.  Normally I try to pray before I get out of bed because I know I am just so selfish that if I make it to my feet, I will be all about my crap and ignore God.  But I was just so tired, I couldn’t think straight. I decided a nice cool shower would wake me up.  After I stepped in and my head cleared, I was reminded of all the people I promised I would pray for.  I turned my attention from soap and scrubbies, and turned my mind to God in prayer.
I brought to mind my friend who I said I would pray for.  Immediately I was aware that I was naked and praying/thinking about my friend.

Super awkward.

My friend wasn’t standing there. I hadn’t really even brought to mind my friend’s face, but just praying for my friend while I was in a “natural” state was way, way strange. I was overcome with weirdness and quickly turned my attention to a more general intention.

Why was this so weird? Two answers come to mind. First, I don’t normally think about other people when I am naked. Usually, I think about becoming un-naked.  Second, prayer isn’t the same thing as just thinking about someone.  There is a certain intimacy that comes with prayer. When we offer up a friend in prayer, we aren’t just bringing them to our own mind, but we are bringing them to God.  Sharing in God is sharing in the total communion of

Hey, if dancing in his birthday suit was good enough for King David… (2 Sam 6:14-22)

the Trinity. If God himself is relationship, when we bring our friends into that relationship, we too get closer to them through God.

Near the end of my shower I realized I probably shouldn’t be so self-conscious about praying naked. God has seen me naked enumerable times. He loves me even when I am drenched and in the buck. Maybe it wasn’t the deepest, most contemplative prayer of my life, but as Peter Kreeft likes to say, “Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.” (Read more from Dr. Kreeft here)  If we are going to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), then sometimes prayer is going to be awkward and maybe even naked.

Routines

I do it every night.  Not because it affects my night, but because it affects my next morning.  (I hope I’m using affect & effect right. If not, KBird will undoubtedly correct me.)  Oh, I forget sometimes, or I just can’t manage to make myself spend that 90 seconds late on a Saturday night occassionally, but I sure want to do it every day.

Actual photo of me in the am. Plus, Goofy is the bomb diggity.

I set my coffee maker.  Clean it out from that day, prep it for the next morning’s brew, and put the timer on.  When I know that coffee is ready and waiting for me when I wake up, I am exactly 78% more likely to not mind getting out of bed.  It’s scientific fact.

I’ve written a few times (for you, it probably feels ad naseum, for me, it feels like it’s barely been brought up) about my running.  When I don’t get my daily run in, my wife doesn’t really want me around.  I’m sort of wacky-hyper-abrasive-irritated.  I’ve got all that pent-up energy – I haven’t worked through things how I do every since day – I haven’t pushed myself to exhaustion – I haven’t stimulated myself. Read More

Hope Floats

“Always be prepared to give a reason for your hope.” 1 Peter 3:15

I recently found myself in a conversation with a friend who is struggling with depression and feeling overwhelmed. At work, with his family, in his marriage, keeping up at home…he has been sinking under the weight of all of his struggles and responsibilities. At one point in the conversation I encouraged him to have hope that things were going to be okay.

He got instantly angry.

“What do you mean? How do you know it’s going to be ok? Are you going to get me a new job? Can you fix the broken relationships in my life? I cannot just ignore the problems and hope they’ll just go away. You may live your life that way, but I can’t function like that.”

In that moment, I had an opportunity to share the reason for my hope…to explain how my faith gives me patience to wait for God’s timing in my life. To witness to the ultimate hope in Christ and the promise of eternal life that keeps me going through the hard times. To connect with the Paschal Mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Christ that we just celebrated a few weeks ago. To show him how my Christian faith has totally transformed my life.

But I didn’t do any of those things.

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Case of the Mondays

Beating the crap out of the fax machine (or maybe phone) sometimes feels like the right option...

Some days just get you.

Today is one of those days for me.  As I type, I can hear my son, who has been laid down for a nap (due to his non-stop fussiness this ENTIRE.FREAKIN’.DAY), throwing various items out of his crib and across the room.  And, I continue to type.

The phone hasn’t stopped ringing.  E-mails haven’t stopped coming in.  The list of things I need to get done this week keeps growing.  The stress of upcoming life-changes seems to be sitting directly on top of my eyebrows.  Deadlines are bearing down on me.  And, I can’t get the doggone blog homepage to look right. Read More

Good Coffee won’t save your soul – Part 3

What do we do when we go to Mass and we “don’t get anything out of it?”Coffee Cup

I think at some point in the Mass as our boredom or frustration mount, we have to make a decision.  Are we going to let something as insignificant as bad coffee get in the way of encountering God?

Sometimes going to Mass is like getting great coffee in a bad cup.

The other day I bought a coffee and didn’t realize that the seal on the bottom of the cup was imperfect. The leaking coffee made huge stains over the front my sweater.  I was hacked off to the point of not being able to enjoy the coffee. Then I considered that there was nothing I could do to change the cup at that moment, so either I could be angry and not enjoy my coffee or I could drink it and enjoy every drop that wasn’t on my shirt.

Even when everything seems to be going wrong at Mass, God is still present. And if God is present, we have an opportunity to find Him. The path to finding God in the midst of the messiness of imperfect Church is a shift in focus from our needs or wants to God’s outpouring of love.  When we move our focus from us to God, the bad coffee matters less and less.  In other words we have to name the coffee as bad, and then get over it.

This is hard.

It is hard to experience God in the midst of poorly done Church. So what do we do? I don’t have a great answer. I wish I did. What I do have are two suggestions for making sure every time we walk out of Mass we know God moved in us. Read More

Jesus Beat the Devil with a Big Ugly Stick

This middle part of Lent is always the hardest for me.  The strong convictions with which I started on Ash Wednesday have begun to wane.  The new routine of prayer that I’ve tried to establish has been interrupted and intruded upon by my family, my work and my life; I’ve slipped up at least once in my fasting.  I start to wonder if it’s worth it—whether or not I should stick with the resolutions I made at the beginning of the season.  I feel guilty for the ways in which I’ve failed to answer the call to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and I try to convince myself that it’s okay.  After all, I’m a good person, I’m loving to my family (most of the time), I give what I can when I remember to, and I’ve already prayed more than most other people have.

The Scripture reading for today (Thursday for the 3rd Week of Lent) seems perfectly tailored for my Lenten halftime slump.  It’s a reminder of an uncomfortable reality—one that is disturbing for many of us today.

We are often not comfortable with talk about demons or the devil.  Many Catholics believe that the devil is a sort of cosmic balancing power or a theoretical being.  The devil has the advantage over us in that he is an invisible powerful spirit.  One of his greatest tricks is convincing so many of us that he doesn’t even exist, a truly clever tactic. The incident with the demon in today’s gospel prompts a debate between Jesus and the crowd that discusses the forces of evil with disturbing levels of detail: naming demons and even discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the devil’s plan of attack against humanity.

Today’s gospel reading helps me acknowledge where my fading desire and conviction at this point in the Lenten season come from.  Jesus’ reminder that the devil and his demons are very real beings that pose a very real threat help me to recognize my temptations to laziness, de-motivation, and lowering of standards for what they are: attacks from evil against the strides toward holiness that my Lenten resolutions are gaining.  The devil is real—and he certainly does not want me to unite myself with the passion and suffering of the Cross, to improve my relationship with God through increased prayer, to weed out my tendencies toward sin through fasting, or to magnify God’s Love in almsgiving.

I know who is going to win this fight...but what about when Jesus tags me in?

The gospel for today also brings me comfort with Jesus’ reminder that he is stronger than the devil and that if I stand with him, I can overcome any attack.  So, instead of lowering my standards and accepting less, I’m going to try to step up my prayer an extra notch during this time of weakness and ask Christ who still has power over demons (and his angels) to help me be strong in the face of temptation so that I can continue to grow in holiness this Lent.

How well have you been living your Lenten commitment?  In what ways have you been tempted to abandon or modify the challenges you set at the beginning of Lent?  How do you recognize the attack of demons, the devil, or evil in your journey to holiness?

What moves you, and what makes you be moved?

We’ve all heard the cliches about hard work.  You get out of something what you put into it.  Pray like it all depends on God, work like it all depends on you.  Hard work equals success.  Talent only gets you so far.   Luck is the residue of design.  Let me know of others – I’m sure there’s lots more out there.

Yes, this is more about my running.  But more than about my running.  When I run, I am praying.  Every morning, within my first few steps, I am giving God that run, that morning, that day… my life.

The view at my 10-mile race last Saturday (from Checkers AC pictures of the race)

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LENT: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

When we sacrifice many things

And forgo the chicken wings

And maybe give up beeeeeer!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!



The majority of Catholics don’t exactly share my sentiments about Lent.  We generally have childhood memories of cheese pizzas and mac & cheese on Friday nights (or, as with our house, orange roughey or tuna).  We remember somber days, going to Stations of the Cross, venerating the Cross and extra long Palm Sunday Masses.

My most vivid Lent memory from childhood was the hardcore parental move of NO TV for all 6 weeks of Lent.  Yup, all of it, including Sundays.  I don’t know how my parents didn’t go nuts with us 5 kids and all our “boredom.”
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Hell hath frosted over

Hell must have frozen over because I have seen some things lately that probably indicate Frost Covered Treesthe end times are near. Let me explain.

I was running a retreat at a neighboring parish this weekend. It was one of those required one day confirmation retreats that try to give a retreat experience to those last 10% of kids who haven’t done a retreat yet. Nothing wrong with these teens, we love them, and it seems like church may not be the most important thing in their life. I think you get what I am saying.

At the end of the retreat we did a reconciliation service in the beautiful side chapel of the parish. At this parish, the tabernacle was kept in this side chapel, which was great for us; we got to pray before the Blessed Sacrament while preparing or praying through our penances.  About 40 minutes into our prayer time, this little old lady comes into the chapel and walks before the tabernacle. She genuflects, takes the tabernacle key from its hiding spot and begins to open the tabernacle.

Honestly, it was a bit of a shock. We had just spent all this time praying to Jesus who was stuck inside his tent, and all of a sudden, the tent flaps were opening and Jesus was coming out.  A crazy thing happened next. As I went to kneel, the entire room started moving from their various positions of repose (laying, sitting, leaning), and knelt while Jesus in the Eucharist was removed and moved into the main church in preparation for Mass.  It was a moment.  There was a palpable change in the room. The whispering teens stopped chatting. The sleeping teens awoke.  The teens reading a Bible out of boredom paid attention.  Seriously, it was miracle akin to Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection.

I was moved. Read More

The Miraculous Desk Plant of Chris Kostelc

This is my desk plant.  My wife bought me this plant while on a visit to Ikea almost 3 years My Office Plantago, and it has sat in that place on my desk since.  For the most part, it is green and lush and happy, which makes me happy.  Also, this is a miracle plant. It is a miracle it is still alive because I am a notorious plant killer.  This is plant number 3 for me, and so, everyday it remains more than a brown husk is a win.  Honestly, I rarely remember to water, and then when I do, I go on a bender and water with a fire hose till I have drowned the thing (okay slight exaggeration).

Needless to say, I proud of my little plant that could.  I have brought it back from the edge of death so many times, I have thought about naming it Lazarus. (Then I remember it is a plant and come to my senses; talking to plants is foolish.)  The little leafy beast has come back from death so many times that honestly it has become a mini reminder of life in the face of death.  I live in Minnesota where I don’t see a green leaf or blade of grass for about 5 months out of the year. The little green thing in my office reminds me that soon the world will be resurrected in springtime and life will return to this barren tundra.  As silly as it sounds, my office plant reminds me of the paschal mystery, resurrection, my salvation, and the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Really? Yes really. Read More