…take up your cross and follow me. Luke 9:23
At about 3 o’clock each afternoon everyone at St. Mary’s school will hear the voice of Melanie or Sue, the “angels in the office” say over the intercom, “Would the following students please report to the office.” That means there is a message for them; usually a change in after school routine or a note that needs to be delivered to a parent. A hush falls over the building as the names are read and the young ones listen with great anticipation. Earlier this week one of my students was nearly in tears as she proclaimed her great sadness about not yet being chosen as a FOLLOWING student. She announced that she had no idea who she’d follow but she was quite sure she could follow carefully. I giggled and then remembered a student a few years ago who was so excited to be a “following student” he wandered out into the hall and just started following a random group of boys walking down the hall. As I peeked out into the hallway, I noticed that he had wound up outside the 6th grade classroom so I asked him what he was doing and he just shrugged his shoulders and said “I’m just following I guess.” It made me realize how easy it is to wander off and just follow without a clear sense of direction!
I suppose every now and then it’s a good practice to stop and take a long hard look at who we’re following and just where they’re leading us. As we inch our way closer to the November elections, there certainly is no shortage of people inviting us to follow them! It’s easy to lose our way if our compass isn’t pointing straight up! Following the right path isn’t always the smooth and easy path for sure but the blessing at the end of the right path is a dandy one indeed!
The words from Luke’s Gospel remind us that Jesus didn’t just say follow me; He said pick up your cross and follow me. There is a duty assigned, not just some random wandering along behind. Sometimes that cross we need to drag along as we follow Him is one we’d just rather drop alongside the path and go on without! That’s not how it works is it!
In the last week, my husband Dave and I have gone to three wakes and visited with families as they mourned and celebrated the life of a loved one. As we listened to the stories of their lives; the struggles and ultimately their triumphs, I was very aware of the crosses they carried and the Lord they followed. One of the lives we celebrated this week was an absolutely lovely woman who was the mother of 15 children. She was a lady who knew who she needed to follow. One of her sons is a Catholic Priest. Another son is a Catholic Brother who serves as a missionary in Jamaica. Also among the 15 is a son who was born with Down’s Syndrome and is loved throughout the community and is hailed as our local high school’s biggest sports fan. The others are hard-working, cheerful, faithful, friendly loving men and women. I would imagine she bore her share of crosses through the years and her faithful following is evident in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.Her family all shared that she was so ready to“go be with Jesus.” That kind of peace and blessed assurance doesn’t come unless you’ve been following the right leader!
I’d love to be called to God’s office and recognized as a “following student” one of these days! When it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, I suppose what really matters is making sure those you follow are going to lead you closer to heaven. If their words and actions show you otherwise, they just might lead you somewhere you aren’t interested in going. It’s a choice, and yes, actually choosing who you’ll follow might be a cross to bear all in itself because we live in a society that seems to lead us in a direction contrary to the one Jesus pointed out. The last time I checked, popular opinion and majority rule didn’t dictate eternal life, picking up a cross and following Jesus did!
A seed to plant: Give some serious thought to who you’re following. Are there things in your life that might influence your ability to follow Jesus? Go ahead...pick up your cross and be one of Jesus' following students this week…I’ll bet He’s got a special place to lead you!
Blessings on your day!
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. Psalm 18:3
The first few weeks of a new school year are always an adjustment for everyone! Sometimes I feel a little sorry for the first graders because they have so much to get used to and remember those first days. The first all school mass is always memorable. The second grade teacher whose class sits behind mine at mass always has his eyes open ready to catch a stunt or two that makes him giggle. I’ve had dancers, acrobats and sleepers over the years, but nothing tops the boys with the flyin’ elbows!
When I assign the kids to their church seating order, I always remind them to "leave room between ya for Jesus. That is of course code for…if you’re not right beside each other, it’s harder to chat and touch! On one particular Friday, Jesus had obviously achieved enormous success on Weight Watchers because the two boys in the front pew had to leave practically NO room for Him at all! As they sat there quite close, one “accidentally” had his elbow land in the other little boy’s rib cage. So, the favor was promptly returned playfully…a few elbows later, they burst into an uncontrollable case of the giggles. I slipped out of my seat and made my way toward the ruckus. As the little boy on the right heard my footsteps approaching; he slid into his proper spot and sat silently with his arms tightly crossed in an attempt to control his elbow. I took a seat between these two handsome giggling boys and it soon became very clear to me that the little boy on my left had NO idea I had taken the spot beside him. My suspicion was confirmed when he threw the next elbow and it landed in MY rib cage…his loud gasp indicated that he indeed realized his elbow had landed in squishy new territory. It took ALL I had not to burst into giggles myself! I’m sure this little guy felt like his elbow had landed smack dab into a wall (a padded wall perhaps)! The shock of it was obvious in his gasp, his posture and his tightly closed eyes and bowed head.
I know that feeling! I’ve never gotten it from banging into a teachers rib cage, but I have had the feeling.
How about you? Have you ever been crusin’ through life, thinking everything is goin’ fine and then THUD…right into a wall or a dead end? I HATE it when that happens! If you’re anything like me, it usually happens just about the time I think I have everything all figured out and I try to do some of God’s work for Him. That wall is usually a signal that I’ve strayed which is because I haven’t prayed with a sincere, still heart! Being the strong, independent CHRISTIAN WOMAN I am…I usually charge right at that wall again…same result…and usually accompanied by a LARGE dent in my humility, several scratches to my pride and of course a bruised spirit!
Why would I charge into walls when I have been reminded a dozen times a week that my ONLY strength comes from God? The sin of pride I guess…but this simple verse from Psalm 18 holds such an important truth…God is my fortress…God is my deliverer…God is my rock! I don’t have to whack into walls and try to plow through situations that are not mine to experience.
When I came upon this verse, my mind pictured God as a mighty warrior with armor and a shield as bright as the blazing sun and He was poised to crash through a mighty wall just for me. I was in the image too…I was about as big as a mouse standing behind Him no taller than the heel of His boot. He was willing to take down that wall for me no matter how meek and tiny I was… just because He could! How many times do we get a quiet invitation from God to do something but we don’t answer the call because we think the task is too big? Not for God! He is after all a fortress…He can help us plow through anything if He’s invited us to! The challenge I guess is for us to keep our elbows to ourselves and listen for God to tell us which walls He’ll be crashing through with us today!
A seed to plant: Jot down something you’ve been trying again and again to accomplish without success. Fold up that piece of paper and lay it aside. This week the “wall” on that piece of paper is what you should pray constantly for, asking God to show you how to maneuver that wall!
Blessings on your day!
Joy is the net of love by which you can catch souls.
- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
What’s a three letter word that has the capacity to change the ENTIRE world….no it’s not PIE! My Dad might disagree with me though! In the 27 years he was married to my mom, he had fresh homemade pie in his lunch box nearly every day. That’s how much she loved him so pie can be powerful but that’s not the word I’m thinking of. The all-powerful three letter word I’m talking about is JOY!
Joy and happiness are different. Joy is bigger, deeper and much more contagious! Joy is something you choose. Joy doesn’t depend on things goin’ your way; it depends on your faithfulness and your trust in the Father. Joy is being content that things are going HIS way whether it’s easy or not.
The Father’s will is perfectly orchestrated to provide each and every experience we need to build us up for a life in heaven. I think most of us would agree that the world needs more people who are willing to live a strong Christian life. We are all called to “go forth and preach the Gospel” but how? We are called to evangelize but how? The answer boils down to that three letter word…JOY! If it is our mission to bring people to Christ, we have to make sure we are the kind of people others want to follow. There is no better “advertisement” for God than to be so in love with Him that His joy just leaks out all over.
Recently the famous Fr. Joe Krupp spoke to our school staff and encouraged each of us to wake up every day and ACT like we WISHED we FELT! Great advice! Each time we interact with another person, we have an opportunity to lift up or tear down. We have an opportunity to brighten their day and offer peace and support or to complain and be negative. If our goal is to get to heaven and bring a few others along with us if we can, how we act towards others can make a huge difference. The people around me don’t care how tired I am or how busy I am or how important I think I might be…they want to be lifted up by a smile or an encouraging word…they want a little “shot of joy” in their day. My friends…I’ve saved the best part for last…JOY is for all of us to have and share! We need to wake up each morning and invite God to be in charge of our day and lead us through it by the hand. Joy will be the feeling we get when we put Him in charge and all we have to do is hold His hand and follow along. It’s kind of like riding in
a fancy convertible in the Homecoming parade…all we have to do is ride along and smile and wave to everyone we pass by. Have you ever watched the faces of people at a Homecoming parade as the kids in the convertable or on the float smile and wave…they can’t help but smile back even bigger…that’s how joy works! Joy is like a magnet…spread some around and see what you attract!
A seed to plant: Post a sign in a spot where you will see it every day…on it write the words “I’m gonna ACT like I WISHED I FELT today!
Blessings on your day!
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