God’s Bountiful Love

A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;
you restored the land when it languished;
your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

Psalm 68:10-11

The weather proved to be an extremely consistent aspect of the ten days I spent in Alaska. Every day, the temperatures remained in the 50s. Gray clouds filled the sky, offering periodic mist and rain. I am most grateful to report that the rain actually fell only during the night or when we were indoors. The truth is that I would have gladly endured a soaking here and there if it meant that I would not miss any of Alaska’s natural beauty. The gray weather could in no way keep me from enjoying this prime parcel of God’s Creation.

An even more consistent aspect of this trip revealed itself in the people we met along the way. Though Alaska’s local inhabitants realistically described their short summers and long winters, they also exhibited a sense of peace about their lives in this seemingly unforgiving climate. They make the best of the warmth and daylight with which they are blessed. They also make the best of those long winters, most of which are spent indoors. Native Alaskans and those who have migrated to this place which they now call home seem quite content -yes, content.

It seems to me that the demands of Alaskan living simplify life in many surprisingly helpful ways. I am certain that my Alaskan friends would agree that everything is not perfect for them. Still, I am certain that they would readily add that their lives are perfect enough to keep them where they feel they belong for the duration.

Generous God, you place each one of us precisely where we need to be. Sometimes our assignments are long-term and sometimes you invite us to move on. Wherever we find ourselves, help us to remember that we always reside beneath the bountiful rain of your love.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Celebrate With Creation

Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.

Psalm 98:7-8

Since my return from Alaska, my awe regarding the people I met and the sights I saw remains with me. Every morning, whether on the ship or in a rustic inn, the beauty of the outdoors waited just outside my window to welcome me to the new day. Mountains peered from above inviting me to gaze their way before the inevitable approach of cloud-cover. I always complied quickly because the water rippling around me also beckoned. The gulls and salmon and whales gifted me with appearances as well though they had much to do on their way. Yes, even before breakfast, Creation filled me up with reason after reason to rejoice and be glad.

Though by eight o’clock each morning I felt I had been graced beyond each day’s measure, the people whom I met added to my treasure. Whether a Tlingit Tribe Member, a fifth generation Alaskan migrant, a relative newcomer or a fellow traveler, those I met along the way had stories to share. Each one embraced the simple life dictated by Alaska’s geography and climate only to find much more. Though it is impossible to understand each of their journeys completely, the peace that accompanies them is unmistakable. Though this life is not perfect for my new Alaskan friends, it seems that the beauty and simplicity around them lightens their burdens and frees them to focus more fully upon the things that matter most. Every day, Creation fills them up with reason to rejoice and be glad. Every day, they do just that.

Understanding God, you know that it will not take long for the routine of “Life after Alaska” to dull my senses and my soul to the wonder with which you surround me. Help me and all of us to begin every day in awe of your gifts. Let our gratitude clear our vision and give us eyes for the things that matter to you.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Venture Toward God

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

From Psalm 90

When left on my own, I am not much of a traveler. My husband, on the other hand, keeps a bucket list of sorts of all of the places he hopes to visit before -well, you know. This is his bucket list after all…

In celebration of our wedding anniversary, I accompanied him on an Alaskan land and sea tour. Though I find packing and prepping for travel to be traumatic at best, I admit that I shared a bit of my husband’s excitement as we walked the ramp to our plane for Anchorage. I pulled out our itinerary several times during the flight in anticipation of all of the things we would see and do over the next ten days. In spite of having spent more than six hours in the air, I felt amazingly energized when we landed. As this trip unfolded, I realized that the energy I felt at the onset of our journey hinted at the grace that eventually filled me on each of the days that followed.

This is the case every time my husband convinces me to venture away with him. In each new place and new person I meet, I discover a nourishing and uplifting morsel of Creation and of the God who gifted us with this world and with one another. With each new encounter, I find good reason to shout for joy and gladness then and on every day with which I am blessed.

Generous God, thank you for gifting me with my adventurous husband. It is he who leads me to the wonder of your faraway children and the amazing places which they call home. It is he who leads me to discover you in people and places I would never have found on my own.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

St. Augustine

…in receiving the word of God from hearing us,
you received it not as the word of men, but as truly is,
the word of God…

From 1 Thessalonianians 2:9-13

This is the feast of Saint Augustine. I recall from my grade school religion classes that Augustine engaged in a plethora of sinful behavior as a young man. I also recall that his mother, Saint Monica, prayed every day for her son’s conversion. One of my teachers shared that Augustine at times prayed for himself, saying something like, “Yes, save me, Lord. But, please, not today.”

My childhood recollections fail to give justice to the man who became a saint and who bears the designations of Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church and Patron Saint of Theologians. These musings do give justice to the insight Augustine offers regarding my own sinfulness. How often I see the correct path and discern what must be done only to delay action for another day! Then, I continue on the wrong path only to rediscover my sinfulness and guilt -both of which would have been avoided if I had done the right thing in the first place.

The moral of the story seems to be to respond to our heart’s nudges toward goodness as soon as they are offered. We will save ourselves and those around us a lot of trouble in the process.

Forgiving God, help us to look beyond this life’s temptations toward the true joy which You offer. For all of my prior wrongdoing, I am truly sorry. Thank you for you for your ongoing mercy and for the many good souls who pray for their wayward sisters and brothers.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Parent’s Love

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers…

From 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5

On this date more than six decades ago, a perfectly beautiful baby boy emerged from his mother’s womb -her first child. Childbirth in the 1940s differed greatly from our experience today. Mothers often received anesthesia before giving birth and as a result did not see their newborns until hours later. In this case, the umbilical cord wrapped around this little ones neck caused irreparable damage which took his life within three hours. This young mother never saw her living child. Her husband arranged for his little son’s burial while his heartbroken wife recuperated in the hospital.

I met this couple when their son would have been twenty-six years old. Though time had dulled their initial heartbreak, the sting of this loss remained with them. Though their two younger sons had brought them much joy, they continued to long for the joy of watching their eldest son grow into manhood.

Such are the hearts of parents. They are fashioned to love their children no matter what. Did you know that God’s heart works the same way?

Loving God, bring comfort today to all parents who struggle with the loss of a child. You understand their pain better than they understand it themselves. Let them know that they are loved, Dear God. Let them and all of us know.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Shelter

Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.

From Psalm 139

The humidity peeked this morning as I walked. Oddly, I failed to realize this until a row of trees covered me with shade for several seconds. As I ambled along beneath their leafy boughs, I felt notably cooler. When I walked on into the sun, I felt the fullness of the day’s heat again until I reached another row of trees. I plodded along in and out of the heat for several minutes.

Eventually, I traveled beneath a half-block row of trees and embraced the coolness I found there with deep gratitude. I could not help voicing my thanks with a short prayer: “Thank you, Generous God. This feels so good!” God responded with a most consoling thought. “Just as those trees offer you shelter from the oppressive heat,” God seemed to say, “I offer you shelter whenever it is needed.”

For the rest of that walk, I thanked our Loving God for the shelter that has come during countless difficult episodes in my life and the lives of those around me.

Comforting God, You are with us in our joys and in our sorrows. I could not deny Your Presence with me today. Please reveal Yourself to others just as tangibly. So many of us need you!

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved