Wash Away The Guilt

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.

From Psalm 51:3-4

While recovering from last November’s shoulder surgery, I have developed a new habit of “crowd avoidance”. I venture out to the mall and grocery store during low traffic times which reduces the possibility of others’ unintentional collisions with my shoulder. The good news is the time spent running errands has decreased. The better news is that this change has allowed me more time for reflection. This is a much appreciated luxury except for those times when I reflect unproductively…

I am often told that I have a selective memory. The worst of my personal history lies deep within me. The best of it glows in a rose-colored aura that attests to the many blessings -mostly in the form of people- which have made me who I am today. Occasionally, something unexpected jars one of those dark and sinful recollections which would be best left forgotten. Usually, the transgression which comes to mind has long since been forgiven and forgotten by both my victim and my God. Still, I dwell on it until my guilt peaks and I cannot bear it any longer. Only then do I bury this reminiscence once again with the hope that I have buried it deep enough this time…

Forgiving God, of all of the lessons in scripture, the most poignant are those which reveal the depth of your love, mercy and forgiveness. Please, open my heart to these gifts. Help me to acknowledge my guilt honestly, to express my sorrow sincerely and to accept your forgiveness fully. Only then will I be truly free to take on the work of loving those you have given me to love just as you do.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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The Gift of Life

Return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness…

Joel 2:12-13

A dear friend recently lost her eighty-eight year old father. This parting was painful, for the longer we have our parents, the more difficult it is to let them go. As I wrote a note to her, I stopped to listen to the voice of a newscaster which echoed from the television downstairs. He reported that a seven year old boy had lost his life in a senseless shooting. This parting is painful as well. No parent should ever have to bury a child.

Though the God of Love knows full well that every life will end with a parting which pains other souls, God gives us life just the same. Short or long, each of our lives impacts this world in a unique and lasting way. Even Jesus was not spared the loss of others and the loss of his own life. Still, though Jesus knew full well what was in store, he came to live and die as one of us.

Loving God, these losses bring to mind the fragility and the importance of my own journey on this earth. Today, I promise to make the most of this and every day of my life, your most precious gift to me.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Time

If you then, who are wicked, know how
to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father
give good things to those who ask him.

From Matthew 7:7-11

My son and daughter-in-law have three beautiful daughters who truly grace our lives. Grandpa Mike and I could not have asked for more. I admit that both of us have to work at not spoiling our granddaughters. Though I am not much of a shopper, I find something that the girls would like whenever I venture out. Most of the time, I restrain myself. I love these little girls and I enjoy their company. I don’t want my overindulgence to change this. While I lay on the floor playing with them this afternoon, it occurred to me that the best gift Grandpa and I give our granddaughters is our time.

Dear God, as I reflect on Jesus’ life among us, I find that Jesus was most generous with his time. He stopped to speak with everyone whom he met along the way. Though Jesus offered healing and forgiveness, those precious moments in his company were the greatest of his gifts. Thank you for gifting me with the same.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Suffering

Cast your care upon the Lord
and he will support you.

Psalm 55:23

I admit that I have felt some discouragement over the past few weeks regarding my recovery from shoulder surgery. Though both my doctor and my physical therapist tell me that I am progressing very well, I am disappointed regarding the length of my convalescence. Apparently, when I was told, “This is a big commitment!” I didn’t appreciate just how “big” it actually is.

Early this morning, I engaged in my daily routine which begins with shoulder exercises. Midway, I positioned myself in front of a door where I use a pulley to lift my affected arm. As I eased into these stretches a familiar smile caught my attention. My sister Cecele’s picture hangs on the wall across from where I stand. This particular picture was taken in the midst of the chemotherapy regimen which we hoped would destroy the cancer in her lungs. Only a bit of fuzz served as Cecele’s hair that day, but it’s difficult to notice because ones eyes are immediately drawn to her dancing eyes and grand smile. This morning, those eyes twinkled and I am sure that smile grew even larger.

Yes, Cecele, I get the point. I will stop complaining and I will start being grateful for the road to recovery which you never had the opportunity to walk. I will also look expectantly to the day when we will accompany our smiles with a hug.

Loving God, thank you for the warm welcome home which you offered my sister. Thank you also for allowing heaven’s inhabitants to continue to help the rest of us here. Today, please bless those among us who are suffering with a generous measure of your peace.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Different?

“But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father…”

From Matthew 5:38-48

A dear friend recently sent me a frantic email. She had just returned from church with a broken heart. Apparently, her zealous pastor made it quite clear that there is only one true church and that those who do not belong to that true church will not enter heaven. Now my friend is a convert to her faith and her entire family is of a different faith. To complicate matters further, her brother is a minister in that “different” faith. The final blow came in the recent passing of my friend’s mom. When her mom moved on to embrace eternal life, she did so as a member of that “different” faith.

I don’t think I have ever typed as quickly as I did in responding to my friend. My heart vacillated between absolute empathy with her and complete anger with her pastor. In the end, I reassured my friend with everything I know about God’s love and I joined her praying for her pastor.

After I sent off that email, I remembered Jesus’ stance toward those who were “different.” He shared a meal and his love with each one. It seems to me that we must do the same at church, in our neighborhoods and homes. Everywhere!

Loving God, you revealed your affection for each one of us through the life of Jesus. Help us to emulate all that Jesus taught us in our attitudes and actions toward one another. May we grow into the loving family you long for.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Perfect In God’s Eyes

Writing is a challenge at the moment. After deleting four attempts at this reflection, I deserted my keyboard. Each time I reread Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 5:38-48), I hoped for inspiration. Unfortunately, I stunted the process by fixating upon the last line of this passage. After telling his disciples how they must rise above the expectations of those around them, Jesus added, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” While I am not certain of the disciples’ feelings, Jesus’ seems to challenge me beyond my capabilities. For the past few weeks, I have felt painfully flawed which adds to my frustration. Though I have been well aware of my imperfections all of my life, their burden weighs me down just now.

My discouragement is fueled by an ongoing project to which I recently returned. I am writing a book. Many who read Something To Think About which I write for my parish bulletin have remarked that they look forward to this weekly encounter. Many who read this blog have said the same. I take these kind words to heart every time I hear them. As a result, I decided a while ago to reveal the source of my inspiration.

Though my lifetime to date is as flawed as I am, it provides many of the stories which fill this space. While I am uncertain of the Almighty’s motives, I am quite certain that God has been extremely generous in using my life’s circumstances to inspire me. Almost everyone and everything I experience sheds some light on God’s love and God’s presence among us. I cannot walk around my cul-de-sac without being reminded of God along the way. My book tells the story of this phenomenon’s evolution throughout my life. The problem is that when I return to my manuscript, I edit everything I have written to date. Every time I complete a chapter, I second-guess my effort. Regardless of my attention to detail, I question every memory and my interpretation of these events. While this book is certainly minor in the grand scheme of things, it has taken on great importance to me. As a result, I have become more and more agitated as my confidence slips away. When I returned to my book the other day, I wondered if I was ever meant to write. After reading Jesus’ challenge to be “perfect” in today’s gospel, I was tempted to give up on the book all together. I had convinced myself that perfection is an absolutely unattainable goal for me.

When I prepare for these writings, I read the scriptures from a source which includes commentaries on each of the passages. These notes provide explanations regarding vocabulary or other background information that is likely unfamiliar to those of us who are not scripture scholars. When I returned to Matthew’s gospel one last time, I reread the commentary which accompanies it.

“How could I have missed this?” I asked myself. These notes explain that the word “perfect” which Jesus used comes from the Latin word for entire, complete and full-grown. As I considered this, it occurred to me that apple seeds grow into apple trees, tomato seeds grow into tomato plants, and acorns grow into mighty oaks. Though my granddaughters share the same parents, each one has unique features which distinguish her completely from her sisters. Even my identical twin cousins exhibit subtle differences which make their identities apparent to the rest of us. Just as a tomato seed will never produce an apple tree, none of us will evolve into anything other than an entire, complete and full-grown version of ourselves. Apparently, our loving Creator feels that this is precisely as it should be.

Whenever you and I put our best efforts into the things we do, we work toward becoming entire, complete and full-grown. Jesus asked his disciples to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” in the unique manner of which each one was capable. This is all God asks of you and me.

It was with this perfectly timed inspiration that I returned to this writing. In the midst of the discouragement which plagued me for the past few weeks, I failed to recognize God in my surroundings and in myself. Fortunately, God never stopped recognizing the potential in me -and in you. God simply cannot ignore our capacity to be entire, complete and full-grown; nor should we. So it is that God invites us to embrace our circumstances and to make the best of them as only we can. With every attempt, we emerge a bit more entire, complete and full-grown. In the end, we are perfect in God’s eyes.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved