The Important Thing is That We Ask

01/29/2015

When we pray, does God care if we are ultra-specific with our requests and our prayers?

Or is sincerity, passion, earnestness more of a factor?

I had a friend say “I’ll continue to pray for your mom, but now I can pray with more specificity.”

Friends make their needs known all the time. We hear stories on the news. People need our prayers.

All day, every day… people suffer. We suffer. We sin. We screw up. We make poor choices. We say the wrong thing. We think the wrong thought.

We don’t practice mercy.

Jesus said “I am giving you three ways of showing mercy toward your neighbor. The first is by deed. The second is by word. The third is by prayer.

How many times don’t we do any of these?

So we need prayer, too.

Does God demand specificity of prayer?

Or sincerity?

If we don’t pray with words, but instead with guttural groanings…

is that sufficient?

I have five kids. A wife. Seven grand kids. Mom and Dad. Sisters. Brothers-in-law. Their families. The in-laws’ families. Cousins, aunts, uncles, friends. Facebook acquaintances.

All have needs. Many specifically request prayers.

I promise to pray for them.

Does God demand my specificity?

My dear Aunt Bernie, one of the most beautiful women who has ever lived — in my mind — says, with a laugh, that she has a list on the refrigerator of people to pray for. She says “okay, God, you know who’s on my list. I can’t remember them all, but you’re God. You know who they are.”

Is that sufficient?

My prayers are often the same. I can’t recall every name. I can’t recall every intention.

I can’t get to every request in the finite time I have to pray, with the finite, imperfect limits of my feeble brain.

When I ask God to remember all those who have asked for prayers, who have asked for relief, who have asked for prayers and “healing energy” for loved ones,

and I can’t remember their names or the specific request or situation…

is that sufficient?

My son, Doug, shared a link the other day to a “story” that he said simultaneously fascinated and frightened him, about the vastness of the Universe and our place in it.

God has a lot to keep Him occupied.

How does He keep up with all the prayer requests?

Simple.

How does He order the Universe?

How do the planets hold their orbit? How do the stars maintain their energy?

It’s all part of The Plan.

(That’s not part of scripture, as far as I know.)

But we have come to understand His Plan a little more since the scriptures have been written. With the help of scientific method, developed by the way by those silly Catholics.

It’s a small part. Our understanding. But it’s a start. We’ll never have a complete understanding.

But to me, there’s some comfort in knowing a bit more of The Plan.

The vast Universe.

Yesterday, January 28, was the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, who was born on January 28, 1225 and died March 7, 1274.

Thomas wrote the “Summa Theologica,” probably his most famous work. Thomas intended it as a summary of the main theological teachings of the Church.

The Summa Theologica is not a completed work. It is said that Thomas was asked to resume writing it. Just months before Thomas died, however, he had a mystical experience while celebrating Mass. His response to being asked to resume writing was something like this:

All that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me.

Cannot the same be said of our prayer life? Our “sending good vibes” to our fellow travelers? Our “holding each other in love and light?”

How much straw are our prayers? Yes, they are real. Yes, they are important. Not only to us, but to God.

But how much straw?

How much more He is to us… how much more He can do for us… how much more He does for us… how much more He sees in us…

than we can possibly humanly express in our prayer life?

The important thing is that we express it.

Whether we use words or guttural groanings.

The important thing is that we ask.

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Can These Peeps Get a Break?

01/26/2015

#dadupdate

Can these peeps ever get a break?

Mom has been complaining about heart palpitations for the last week or so. Is it any wonder? Dad just got home from the hospital Thursday, just in time for Mom’s birthday on Friday. No sooner home than he immediately had a dizzy spell and a little trouble getting upright from a seated position. Mom had to call Butch for help. Thank God he was available to help.

Dad’s shoulder is sore from smacking into the wall in early December. He has physical therapy exercise homework daily, but it’s no picnic. Some of the movements hurt like heck.

Now at Lutheran General for an infusion, Dad gets sent to Radiology for a scan. Just a precaution, but it was ordered, so they go.

Ran into a “customer service” issue with the receptionist in the department. Without going into detail, it got both Mom and Dad’s blood up to the boiling point.

Maybe the receptionist isn’t familiar with #DavesTwoRulesOfCustomerService. Hmm… perhaps I should hold an in-service.

It was a year ago today that Dad coded and the angelic staff of SVTU (critical care unit) at Christ Medical Center saved his life.

It’s also my Uncle Bob’s birthday (Mom’s brother). Happy birthday, Uncle Bob. I love you!
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Please pray for Mom, that she can find a way to de-stress just a little.

Please pray for Dad, that he can gain enough strength to enjoy some quality time at home. And give Mom enough confidence that he’s “okay” enough that she can relax some.

Mom and Dad both appreciate all the prayers and kind words from all of you. They asked me to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of their hearts. They are sincerely in awe of all your support.

Thanks from me and my sisters and all the rest of us, too.


Dave’s Two Rules of Customer Service

01/26/2015

This isn’t actually my genius.  I stole it.  That being said, I have adopted it.

If you’re in business, you’d better heed #DavesTwoRulesofCustomerService.

Dave’s Two Rules of Customer Service

Rule #1 –

The customer is always right.

Rule #2 –

When the customer is wrong, refer to Rule #1.

Violate these rules at your own risk.

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Happy Birthday, Mom, Pick Up the New Car, and the Joke’s On Me

01/25/2015

Mom’s birthday was Friday.  I spent most of the afternoon with Mom and Dad, helping with a bunch of ‘odds and ends’ stuff. Putting away Christmas decorations. Going through a bunch of paperwork. Talking about stuff. About illness. About life.

Things settled down a little later in the afternoon and I was able to get a little work done while Dad sorted through mail (he had only come home from the hospital about 24 hours earlier) and Mom kept boxing up Christmas decorations (it may take her another week to get it all done; no joke) and fielding phone calls from all the birthday well-wishers. She was one popular gal!

Kathy’s work mate, Julie, lives near Mom and Dad. She drove Kathy to the house after work and we sent her home with a piece of Portillo’s chocolate cake. After singing to Mom, of course! After we sang and Mom blew out a candle, Julie surprised us by singing Sto Lat, the Polish version of Happy Birthday.

Martha, our youngest, joined us for dinner. We left around 10.

Saturday, we picked up the new car. I need a separate post about the car buying experience. We used TrueCar.com to get a buying certificate for the car, but that was only the starting point for assuring the lowest price. ‘Twas a very interesting experience. Suffice it to say, Momma’s happy with her nice new wheels. That means everybody’s happy!

Stopped at the grocery store afterward, spent a ton of money and of course forgot a handful of items. Made a bunch of phone calls to notify all interested parties of the new vehicle, then Kathy and I did what we do best.

Took off on one of our famous “just get in the car and drive” junkets. We had no idea where we were headed. Ended up along the Lake Michigan shoreline in southern Milwaukee, meandered into the downtown district, taking in the sights, finding some cool new neighborhoods, just enjoying each other’s company and discovering a bunch of cool things about the new car.

Got home to an empty house. Thought the kids were going to be there, but they made last minute plans. We thought we were making dinner for a crowd. Not the case. Which was fine.

And today… the joke’s on me. Kathy gets the new car. I get a new alternator.

Just… not today. Got my car to the mechanic. He says “don’t drive it anywhere!”

So I managed to limp back to the garage, but he’ll be picking it up to do the work when he can schedule it.

In the meantime, my early appointment tomorrow morning gets cancelled. Kathy gets an unexpected ride to work. And I have to arrange for an alternate set of wheels until the job gets done.

It will be a delicate operation. My 2003 Nissan Altima has 282,000 miles on it. But it still runs well, is still fun to drive, still looks like new (yeah; looks can be deceiving!), and I really don’t want another car payment.

Day began just fine. Martha and I were the Lectors for 7 AM Mass. Then out to Cracker Barrel for breakfast with Martha, Stephen, and Kathy. Had some laughs. Talked some business. Enjoyed being together. Then the inevitable bad news with my car. I knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty diagnosis.

These are First World problems. Not life altering. Not life threatening. Just pains in the tail. We have more important issues confronting us. Like keeping Dad at home, getting him stronger, giving Mom a little breathing room.

But it was fun to write about. Thanks for “listening” to my meandering thoughts.


Mass For Life and Cat Boxes

01/22/2015

Where do you find your inspiration? In the shower? Just before drifting off to Never Never Land? (“Where’s my pen????”) On the morning commute?

The older I get, the more ‘things’ happen to me and around me, the more I realize that if I prayed 24 hours a day, that wouldn’t be enough. But certainly not practical.

Also makes me contemplate the truth about Practicality.

So, being the practical sort of guy I am, I look for ways to fit more prayer into my daily routine.


Don’t pray enough? What times in your day lend themselves to prayer? Brushing teeth? Dishes? Cat boxes? Tinkling?


There are not many chores more humbling than cleaning pet excrement, whether it’s shovel and bucket in the back yard or scrubbing caked kitty clay off the tile floor.

The only dogs in my life are canine cousins and granddogs (is that a word? Caution! “Dave-ism!”)

This dog lover is now one cat short of becoming a crazy cat lady. With seven cats, cleanup is a real chore. And lends itself to extended prayer time.

Speaking of humbling, it doesn’t get much more so than kneeling on the cold basement floor, litter dust wafting amidst the oxygen molecules, beads of sweat dripping to the floor, hoping the clay doesn’t find its way underneath fingernails while scrubbing the floor.

It’s a perfect time to pray.

While I’m partial to spending that time listening to recorded versions of the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, today’s routine was unusual.

I’m normally up at 4 AM on weekdays, ready to leave the house by 5:30 to either see my first client or humiliate myself on the racquetball court at LA Fitness. Thursday is normally racquetball day.

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Today, one of our opponents was out of town and the other down with an injury, so my partner and I decided to cancel. I needed to catch up on sleep, so I took advantage, slept in until 6. Today was going to be an office day, all day.

I managed to stay out of Kathy’s way (mostly) as she prepared for work and left by 6:20. Got the cats fed listening to and saying the Rosary and Chaplet, feverishly trying to remember everyone I promised to pray for, leaving the rest in God’s hands.

Daily Mass is normally aired at 7 AM, so I planned to listen as I trudged downstairs to tackle the cat boxes.

I forgot that today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I forgot that today is the March for Life in Washington, DC. Mass broadcast began at 6:30. It was celebrated at the National Basilica in Washington in conjunction with prayers for Life and recognition of the day.

So I picked up the Mass in the middle of the homily.

My pro-life conviction has solidified as my prayer life has intensified. I heard the words of the Archbishop. I scooped and scrubbed and cleaned. I got lost in the words, the prayers…

When I think about our attitude toward abortion, I often think about the Jews rounded up by the Nazis and summarily murdered and tortured. Hundreds of thousands were fully capable adults. But age didn’t matter. Young and strong, old and frail, all were subject to their captors’ cruelty. The prisoners were helpless because of overwhelming force.

Who is more captive, more frail, more vulnerable, than an unborn child?

How can we treat them so callously? How can we not care? How can we not defend and protect them? How are they any different than any other abused infant? To the former, we (as a society) argue for choice and reason. To the latter, we act as prosecutor, judge, and jury, and our reaction to the abuse is often rage.

What’s the difference?

Mass ended. EWTN then began broadcast coverage of the March for Life.

On my hands and knees, I listened to stories of women who had experienced abortion. I heard how science now provides evidence that a 20-week fetus feels pain. I listened to young men and women share their reasons for attending, about their lack of sleep, and how the cause was so much larger than the inconvenience. I heard a report from the Chicago March for Life from Sunday, January 18.

I thought about the countless children who would never be born. Who were never permitted to breathe fresh air, hear and feel the crunch of snow, taste ice cream, smell fresh cut grass. I thought about the women who never became their mothers. The painful agony of regret that will plague them to the grave. Who will never hear their baby’s cry. Or laughter. Or first word. Or “Mama, I love you.”

I heard from three women who were born because their mothers were raped.

I heard from a doctor who was an abortionist until his young daughter was killed in an auto accident.

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I thought about my sister’s stillborn baby.

Why do we consider that beyond tragic, but we don’t believe it’s tragic when a woman (or man or parents or other “concerned loved ones” who influence her decision) chooses — willfully, knowingly — to “terminate” a life, but rather argue that she is making a rational and acceptable decision?

What are we doing? When will it stop?

I’m compelled to say a whole lot more about this. In the weeks and months ahead, you can count on it. And that may not to win me many friends. So be it.

20150122_195611[1]Sometimes, you have to embrace the excrement.

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If you’re considering an abortion:

pregnancyline.com

www.ewtn.com/prolife

http://hopeafterabortion.com/

http://rachelsvineyard.org/

 


I Hate Car Shopping. I Hate Coffee. Wait…

01/20/2015

Yes, it’s true.

Car shopping could actually be the bane of my existence.

Well, hold on.

Car shopping used to be the bane of my existence.

As I was formulating the brilliant words for this post, I was all set to recount some of the horror stories of Car Shopping Through the Years.

Like the time I went to the dealership when we desperately needed a van to fit us and the five kids. Our budget was tight and I needed to leave with a payment that was a certain amount and not a dollar more. I can’t remember what that number was. $150 a month maybe? $200? I don’t remember.

I do remember the salesman coming back from his manager’s office with a number that was not my number. It was significantly more than what I wanted to pay. I matter of factly told him that was too much and was ready to leave.

The guy went back to his manager and — lo and behold! — they met my price.  Exactly.

I was a terrible negotiator. I didn’t know how to do it. I just knew what I needed to happen.

Or the time when we were at Arlington Nissan, ready to buy our first brand new van. As part of the process, I was also talking by phone with the owner of the old Nissan dealership in Gurnee. Simply trying to exact the best deal. The guys at Arlington sweetened their offer. So I called the guy in Gurnee back.

“I know what you’re doing and I’m not playing your game any more.”

What game was I playing? What was I doing?

I stunk at negotiating. Or so I thought. All I thought I was doing was trying to get the best deal. The most vehicle for my money. Which was still a precious commodity.

In retrospect, I guess the Gurnee guy had gone as far as he could. He couldn’t match the Arlington offer.

Did that make me a good negotiator?

Heck if I know. I was just trying to get the best deal.

So, Arlington won. But then we had our encounter with the finance manager.

And that took, well, forever.

I remember stopping at the Burger King in Libertyville for dinner, with our three youngest kids. After 11 PM. Close to midnight.

Yeah, that was a late night.  Poor kids (he says, chuckling).

Even the last vehicle we bought. An all day affair. This dealership. That dealership. Test drives. Listen to the bull$@!&. Play the stupid game. Make the deal. Get surprised by another hidden charge.

Then dance with the finance manager.

I hate car shopping.

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Did I ever mention I hate coffee?

55 years of my life, I had no need for a jolt at the beginning of the day. As a kid, I woke up when my dad woke up to get ready for work. He worked an early shift. So he was up early. So was I.

Remember the test patterns on television? Before every channel was a 24-hour channel? When TV stations signed on and signed off the air? When WGN began and ended their day with The Star Spangled Banner and Five Minutes to Live By?

Yeah, I remember those days well. When I woke up, my brain was already stimulated. No need for coffee.

Then, last year happened. Dad went to the hospital. And it seemed like he was there for months. Oh yeah. That’s ’cause he was.

My body still hasn’t recovered.

My metabolism switch flipped (theme for another day). And averaging four to five hours of sleep every single night… day after day… week after week… finally caught up with me. The guy who never needed coffee to be fully awake suddenly needed a ton of coffee to get and stay awake and alert.

Haven’t recovered.

I still don’t need coffee first thing in the morning (still a dangerous thing), but I’ve become addicted to the caffeine and its effect on my neurotransmitters. No caffeine: tremendous, debilitating headaches. Caffeine: no headache, but too much of it and I bounce off the walls.

Today was one of those days. Way too much caffeine. Too early. Not enough food.

And it was a car shopping day.

Ugh.

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Kathy’s car needs work. Nothing major. But expensive. Four new tires. A brake job. Probably needs new rotors all the way around the vehicle. Car just turned 69,000 miles.

That got me to thinking. What would it take to get into a new vehicle? Same model. But new.

Momma gets the new car. That’s the way it’s always worked. I get the reliable used car. Definitely more grunt work to find the right animal there. So I guess I’m complaining a whole lot about this process, but her purchases are simpler.

But not easier. All I need do is recall with fondness all the anxiety attacks of dealing with car salesmen and finance guys.

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Kathy’s day off today. So here I was, all caffeined up, working the numbers, bouncing off the walls. Doing the nerdy thing recovering accountants/CPAs do. A spreadsheet, naturally.

Car Shopping and Coffee. Lovely.

Car Shopping and Coffee. Lovely.

What number makes sense? What can we afford to pay and how does that compare with what we have to do to her vehicle now?

And can I sit still long enough to figure it all out?

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I had paid a visit to the dealership last Thursday. Joe, the internet sales manager, offered a test drive, a quick look at our trade, and a quick number crunch. He promised to have me out the door in half an hour. It took closer to an hour. The numbers didn’t look promising. We parted company amicably. He thanked me for stopping in.

I did a little internet research Thursday and Friday to see what other dealers were offering for the same vehicle, similarly equipped. Was there enough wiggle room in the price to make it all work?

Saturday, on our way to my niece’s Sweet 16th, I got an e-mail from Joe.

The deal was suddenly much sweeter.

Yesterday, I sneaked onto the lot of another dealership, undetected by any salesmen, to spy on their inventory. Just wanted to see what was out there, on the lot. In case Joe’s numbers were too good to be true.

I’m a tire-kicker.

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After phone calls to two other dealers, Kathy and I headed over to see Joe. It was 1:00.

At 2:05, we were on our way home. Deal was done. New car, to be delivered from another dealership, on its way. 2015. Much nicer than our present model. Lots of high tech bells and whistles. And not much more per month than we’re paying now.

And no out of pocket for the tires, the brakes, an oil change, this month’s payment.

It was painless.

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I hate negotiating. I hate car shopping. I hate coffee.

But today, all three converged and created a surprisingly sweet experience.

Am I a good negotiator? I know what works for us. I didn’t persuade anybody to do something that wasn’t comfortable for them. I don’t think I changed anybody’s mind.

But I think we got a good deal.

For us, at least.

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On the ride home, I suggested to Kathy that I should start a car buying concierge service.

“Yeah. Why don’t you start something else?”

Okay, okay… I’ll temper my enthusiasm. I’ll stick with writing.

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I’d be remiss if I ended this without acknowledging Joe Matellanes at Ziegler Nissan in Lake Villa, Illinois. Joe, this was the most pleasant car buying experience I have ever had. I told Kathy on the way to the dealership that of all the folks I talked to, you were the guy I wanted to do business with. Thanks for making this painless.

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And now, if I get to sleep in 13 minutes, I get four hours of sleep.

Tonia, Melinda… I still owe you blog posts. I haven’t forgotten.


Would You Die For What You Believe In?

01/16/2015

Would you die for what you believed?

Could you?

I’ve told you before that I listen to at least a portion of the Mass on EWTN almost every day (TV when I can and radio when I’m on the road). Today, I listened on the radio as I drove to my next appointment.

Today is a feast day for the Franciscans, honoring five early followers of Saint Francis who martyred themselves instead of renouncing their faith.  Father Leonard Mary celebrated Mass today. He used his homily to give a brief history of the martyrs and how they were tempted by their captors before being killed. Father Leonard then mentioned something called White Martyrdom. White Martyrdom is not a physical death, he explained, but a dying to oneself.

The comparison was clear. How can we martyr ourselves in our everyday lives?

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Later this morning, sitting in Panera before my next personal training session, I overheard a gentleman telling his companion how Catholics had … oh… let’s call it, “a damaging way” of looking at sin, and how sharing that perspective with others is harmful to the way other people live their lives.

What?!?

I couldn’t get my headphones shoved into my ears fast enough. I needed music. Loud music. I didn’t want to listen to what this man was saying, kind and soft-spoken though he was. Despite his demeanor, his opinion — at least on this matter — didn’t strike me as kind and gentle, but rather reckless and damaging. I wasn’t angry, but I was upset at what I perceived as some egregious misconceptions.

I was trading text messages with my son, Stephen, at the time that I happened to overhear this conversation. I fired off a text message to him, expressing my exasperation over what I heard.

After I sent it, I decided that my words were so clever, I had to post them to Facebook.

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I’m a member of a small, Christian Facebook group whose purpose is to “uplift and encourage (others) through the Gospel of Christ” (that’s a paraphrase of the mission statement). Today, the founder of the group, Mariane, continued and concluded a series of reflections on moving “from darkness to light:”

“I wish that we were all full of light and love and good works always. But no, we’re still sinners, imperfect, we’re still influenced by our flesh, the world and the voice of Satan…

“… there is the aspect of free will. We need to say YES to Jesus and God’s will and say no to the devil and our flesh every day. We need to die in our flesh every day (1 Cor 15:31).”

I read Mariane’s words just after my “clever” text to Stephen. Before I almost posted my “clever” words to my Facebook page.

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I briefly thought about speaking up. But what would I have said? Would my “clever” words to the gentleman have been constructive? Or provocative? Would I have properly seized the moment, as Saint Paul preached, and attempted to “walk into the light?” Or would my response, in that awkward, uncomfortable moment, have demonstrated to the world that I have not — yet again — died to the flesh?

Shoving the earbuds against my skull proved to be the more prudent, if only merely accidental, course of action.

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Father Leonard is right. White Martyrdom is possible. Any day. Every day.

Consider how challenging it is to die to the flesh at any given moment.

Then contemplate the lives — and deaths — of those who make the ultimate Earthly sacrifice.


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