Seek Timely Help

Repent, therefore, and be converted,
that your sins may be wiped away, and that
the Lord may grant you times of refreshment…

From Acts 3:11-26

Though it is only a week since Lent ended and four days since Easter, I find myself falling into some old habits that I had thought I left behind. When I choose something to do or to give up for Lent, my intent is to work diligently at my cause for the forty days we are given and then to carry this through long after Easter. This is not the case this time around.

If we truly wish to make changes in our lives, we have to commit ourselves for the long haul. If we lapse and repeat our banned behaviors or omissions, we must pick ourselves up and begin again. Sometimes, we need to seek out help. When I find myself in this predicament, I turn my eyes upward, admit my weakness, and ask Jesus to carry my cross with me. Always, my burden lightens as we walk together.

Compassionate Lord, thank you for your offers of hope and help as I make my way in this world. Give me the wisdom and the humility to seek your help in a timely manner.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Hope Fulfilled

Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you: in the name of
Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”

From Acts 3:1-10

I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders -okay, shoulder. It was the day of my twelve week check-up after shoulder surgery. I expected to be fully relieved of my sling. I also expected to be told that I no longer had to fear being bumped into because I had healed enough to prevent tears in the doctor’s “repair work.” Unfortunately, I heard the opposite. I was advised to wear my sling in large crowds because a hard blow to my shoulder could cause damage. I left the doctor’s office with tears in my eyes.

In the midst of this seeming setback, I ran into a friend who had survived her own far more hopeless ordeal. Though that topic never entered into conversation, the joy with which she embraces every new day did make itself known. Still, in spite of her miraculous outcome, my friend has not forgotten the pain of her grim journey. So it was that, after allowing me to bask in her truly happy smile, she hugged me. “Mary, what you’re going through is awful. The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You will be fully healed one day!”

I walked away from that conversation feeling a lot better and a little silly. My dear friend had survived cancer though she was not expected to live. I was surviving shoulder surgery with every expectation that I would live quite healthfully afterward. Today, my friend is better than ever and I am almost there!

Risen Jesus, you are the steward of all hope. Give me a generous measure to share with all of those I meet along the way, especially with those who need it most.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Good News

Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,” and then
reported what he had told her.

From John 20:11-18

Good news is hard to keep to oneself, especially when the information will be helpful to others. We share a good book and diet tips that really work. We tell our colleagues about inroads we have made with the new payroll technology or the new boss. We cannot keep the news of a long-awaited pregnancy or a cancer remission to ourselves for longer than it takes to scroll down to a number on our cell phones. It seems that good news is a far too limited commodity in this Twenty-first Century world of ours.

The truth is that since Adam and Eve left the garden, good news has been in short supply. Only when Jesus arrived in Bethlehem did anything or anyone offer a glimpse of true hope. When Jesus made it up the hill to Calvary, hope took on new life. When Jesus embraced death, he presented hope-fulfilled to the world. A few days later, the rumbling in the tomb sealed the deal. Good news took on a whole new meaning –forever!

Risen Jesus, the trials I face every day are no match for your promise of eternal life. Help me to bring Easter joy to everything I do and to everyone I meet along the way.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Eastertime

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way…

From Matthew 28:8-15

This Monday after Easter, I find myself smiling over the approach of springtime. Though my absolute favorite meteorological phenomenon is snow, today, I am anxious for the last bit of the white stuff to melt. Somewhere beneath winter’s worn out blanket lie bulbs and seedlings just waiting to nudge their way upward. I am ready to welcome them into the sunshine.

My springtime musing only hints at the expectations of the two Marys who went to Jesus’ tomb that first Easter morning. Since Passover and the Sabbath had passed, they were free to tend to Jesus’ body which was buried quickly due to the holy days. I wish I had been there when they arrived to find that the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus was gone. Did either Mary say, “I knew it! I just knew it! He rose as he said he would!”?

Risen Lord, today I bask in the springtime of new life that your resurrection promises me. I also honor the brave women who followed you so closely and who absorbed your every word.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Easter’s Promise

“On Easter morning we can still feel the pains of the world, the pains of our family and friends, the pains of our hearts. Still, all is different because we have met Jesus and He has spoken to us. There is a simple, quiet joy among us and a deep sense of being loved by a love that is stronger, much stronger, than death…”
Henri J. M. Nouwen, in Embraced by God’s Love*

I savor Henri Nouwen’s words regarding Easter because they speak to the essence of my Easter experience. Like Nouwen, I understand that life in this world will never be perfect. In spite of more than two thousand years of faith in Jesus, we find ourselves in the disciples’ mindset. Like the disciples, our futures remain uncertain. Though we believe that Jesus is risen from the dead, we join the disciples in wondering what impact this event will have upon us. Though we share the disciples’ relief that Jesus is among us once again, we wonder with Peter and the rest what we will do when Jesus is not in the room with us. The scriptures tell us that in spite of Jesus’ appearances, the disciples kept themselves locked up, fearing that they might be the next to hang on a cross. Like the disciples, we do what we must to keep ourselves safe as well. We continue to concern ourselves with the things of this world. What is worse is that we keep our concerns to ourselves rather than sharing them with the One who truly understands.

The good news on this Easter Sunday is that Jesus appreciated what the disciples had been through just as he understands our troubles today. Jesus knows our fear. Do you remember the beads of blood that dripped from his forehead as he prayed in the garden after his last supper? Jesus knew that the disciples longed for forgiveness, and he recognizes our need to make things right. Remember the father of the prodigal son? Jesus assured the people that this father forgave everything, a perfect example of God’s forgiveness. Jesus knew that when he lost his life his friends lost their hope. Jesus also knows that when life devastates us, it is difficult for us to hold on. So it was that Jesus arrived that first Easter with the words his friends needed to hear most, “Peace be with you!” So it is that Jesus repeats this greeting in the alleluias that greet us today.

If we could see into the hearts of those gathered in our beautifully decorated churches this Easter Sunday, we would find unimaginable joy and unimaginable suffering. While joy is tangible in smiles and dancing eyes, suffering hides in quiet comings and goings. Some have joined us today without a wife or a husband, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter or a dear friend who left this world too soon. Some have joined us this Easter Sunday in the face of a failing marriage or without a paycheck. Some are so lonely that they will try to ignore Easter after they leave church today in order to avoid the pain. Some will listen to the alleluias ring out. Some will sing “alleluia” again and again for you and me in spite of their conviction that God cannot possibly intend Easter Joy to be theirs. Some struggle with worry over their children. Some battle illnesses that seem to be winning the war. Some sit among us in sadness, unable to explain even to themselves why they feel the way they do. Jesus, who refuses to leave us alone in good times and in bad, repeats once again the words we most need to hear. “Peace be with you!” Jesus tells us as he nestles beside us in whatever our circumstances happen to be at the moment.

Henri Nouwen spent a lifetime in search of the quiet joy and the love of which he often wrote. You and I are here today because we seek the same. We have come because Jesus offers us hope greater than those who came before him could ever have imagined. When Jesus rose from the dead, everything changed. Jesus transformed our hope in the things to come into the knowledge that eternal happiness awaits us all.

When we leave church this Easter Sunday, our circumstances will remain the same. What changes is the manner in which we deal with the realities of life; we have been reminded that we no longer face these things alone. When we leave church this Easter Sunday, we are encouraged and strengthened by the peace that comes in the loving and compassionate presence of Jesus. Yes, in spite of the fact that everything is not perfect today, I am joyful and loved by God. May God bless you abundantly with the same!

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

*Nouwen, Henri J.M., Embraced by God’s Love (Calendar), Garborg’s, Bloomington, MN, 1998, p. 97

Easter’s Eve

But when they looked up,
they saw that the stone,
which was very large,
had been rolled away.

From Mark 16:1-7

My husband spends every Holy Saturday morning with a small crew of dedicated souls who clean and decorate our parish church for Easter. By this time, I am completely drained by the events of Holy Week. I drive over to church in the midst of these preparations to welcome the lilies, tulips and daffodils which speak resurrection with their splendor.

As I engage in my own tasks at hand, I consider that Saturday when Jesus’ body lay in the tomb. Sorrowful as I was on Good Friday night, I cannot shake the giddiness within me today. “You didn’t lie dormant, did you?” I ask Jesus. “By this time, you had already rejoiced with your Father and all of heaven!” Though Easter observances at our parish church will not begin until this evening, my heart is already singing “Alleluia!”

Living Jesus, I won’t wait to wish you a Happy Easter. Your victory over sin and death is more than any human heart could ever have hoped for, and it is everything to me! Alleluia!

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved