A group of elementary school students got off a school bus at the rest stop. They instinctually gathered in formation and started a choreographed routine welcoming their classmates in the next bus that pulled up. Their joy spilled forth in rhythm as they stepped in time.
A student from our group prompted one of his classmates to join the children. The children embraced our student as he joined their circle; our students snapped the photos for Instagram. The freeze frame suggested a meaningful encounter that our student initiated and embraced. Seeing the setup, though, contradicted the reality. Perhaps, contradicted is too strong a word. At the very least, it expanded the reality beyond the portrayal and sentimentality.
Sometimes, we read situations through a lens of what we assume to be reality without ever questioning the set-up. Other times, we orchestrate and edit to crop situations to what we desire to portray or what we think is desired of us. Watching the scene unfold, compared to the still frame, it was the elementary students joy that was magnetic – not the forced participation of one of our students. This is not a call to be cynical of what we view; however, it is an invitation to question if we see through the lens of reality or our assumptions.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day
Many of us are blessed with a mother, or mother figure, who has encouraged us to pursue our dreams – especially in the midst of obstacles. Despite our initial enthusiasm, situations that seemingly stonewall momentum might cause us, in our blindness, to question if the dream’s worth the frustration and disappointment. Our original crystal clear vision of both our destination and our motive are obscured by the obstacles in the way. Perhaps, though, what we assume to be in the way is merely on the way.
As Mary walked alongside her Son, she did not remove Pontius Pilate’s judgment, which crowned Him with thorns and nailed Him to a tree. She watched and waited and stood. By her presence, she reminded her Son that His hopes and dreams were worth it. Though appearing to be the stone to the tomb of His death, she trusted it would be rolled away as the stone of His resurrection. As she demonstrated at His cross, and as she instructed the waiters at the wedding feast, when we “do whatever He tells (us),” He will save the best for last.
Mama said, “Don’t give up!”
There’d be days like this
They said it would come. It did.
They said it would leave. I’m waiting.
As the radar predicts at least two more weeks, the permacloud lingers over South Bend. There are stretches when it is conceivable to forget the sun exists as the grey backdrop cloaks the town in this seeming soul sucking reality. However, just because I do not see the sun it does not mean that the sun fails to exist.
Even when He seems silent and far, He is near. What do you believe when all feels lost? What do you see when all appears grey? How do you respond to the clouds and the rain? Even in the darkness, we can shine a light.
You got to let your soul shine, shine till the break of day
Life is short; make it sweet.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
We usually associate standing on the sidelines with sitting out as the highlight reel hardly pans to those standing beyond the boundaries of play. Yet, an argument could be made for the importance of those on the side. Often 11 guys take the field but there are 99 others who push those 11 to the top. From the marvelous to the mundane, those on the field often know they do not stand alone.
As Christ bowed His head on the cross, His eyes gazed upon those who stood beside Him. Mary and John were actively present along the Way of the Cross to the moment when He “commended up HIs Spirit.” Their consoling presence was not intended to change the outcome of His fateful finish. Rather, they stood as loyal friends who trusted that what appeared to be a great defeat would indeed be the final Victory. They stood in Hope knowing that the cross was not, and does not, have the final word. As a result, what they offered paled in comparison to what they received – His vulnerability, as He shared His wounds, and the gift of one another as He commended them to behold one another.
Though we can not fight one another’s battle, we can actively stand on the sidelines, like Mary and John, so that those who fight know they don’t do so alone. Who’s on your sideline? Who makes you better and supports you in all seasons? How are you called to stand with, and for, others – especially when you can’t change circumstances or outcomes? When we stand on the sidelines, may we stand in Hope believing that the cross always leads to new life.
I remember who I was and I learned to dance with the fear that I’d been running from
When the moon is the only light we’ll see, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand by me
No place I would rather be than here in your Love
“You’re a natural,” he said with a smile. Though he never explained what location each number corresponded with, I intuitively threw each punch squarely onto his moving mitts. We worked around the ring as I threw a flurry of punches. Breathless and grateful, the timer buzzed.
It’s hard not to love boxing, an artistic and athletic display of grace and strength. However, I’m biased. I’m an Irish Catholic New Yorker and on top of that I’m a red-head. I earned the title of Fighting Irish practically at birth. When backed into a corner, proverbial or literal, my synapses fire so quickly that I’m swinging before I’ve even had time to formulate my animated verbal response. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a Spirit of power.” 2 Tim. 1:7
Then there’s that part where the Gospel mentions to turn the other cheek – an unnatural response in my book to say the least. However, the verse from the second letter of Timothy does not end with the reminder of our strength found in Christ. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self control.” Power is not ultimately found in fighting for its own sake. Rather, as we fight with strength, may we be directed by the good, guided by love, and harnessed by self-control.
This beckons the question – what’s worth fighting for? How can we spend our time and energy using our talents for that which is good? In order to fight well, we need to first recognize what arena we are called into and which one we need to step out from? Wherever you are called, may you dare boldly to fight the good fight, remembering “it’s not the critic who counts.”
So I can face my giants with confidence
This is what I’m talking about
There’s a magic in the sound of her name
I wish this was an analogy of Ian handing the ball to Dex, who then found a 92 yard hole that ended in the end zone. However, if you watched the ND-Clemson Semi-Final, you know most Irish attempts were blocked by the opponent’s stalwart D-line. Since the purpose of a hand-off is to move the chains towards the goal, it’s worth asking what are you holding onto, what can you hand off, and who are you going to pass? Perhaps you are clinging to fear, regret, bitterness, or hopelessness. Maybe, you are clutching anxiety, worry, or control.
On campus, there is a statue where Joseph is kneeling at Mary’s feet and the Christ child is between them. It is unclear whether Mary is handing Christ over or receiving Him. Either way, “The Holy Hand-off,” as it is affectionately dubbed, is a reminder to hand-off our cares, faults, failures, joys, and successes and to entrust our desires to the Sacred Heart of Jesus so that like Mary and Joseph we an present the Christ child to one another.