God Calms and Heals

I am the Lord, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand,
calming your fears.

Isaiah 41:13

It was just a year ago when I discovered that my shoulder was in need of repair. A very short surgery, a very lengthy recovery and my fear of the unknown loomed overhead. I survived only because of the many amazing people with whom I have walked through far greater health concerns. Some have since moved on to new life. Others continue to face each new day with the resolve to return to good health. Still others prepare to embrace heaven in the very near future with faith and dignity.

My close encounter of the surgical kind paled considerably in light of all of this. In the end, my recovery outlasted the earthly lives of some of these loved ones. On this odd aniversary, I once again embrace God’s promise to be with us in everything. With this conviction, I pray with and for those who suffer in any way today.

Compassionate God, make your presence known tangibly today. Allow those who are suffering to recognize that you at their sides. Strengthen their bodies, minds and hearts so they may embrace all that lies ahead.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Friend, The Archangel

A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended to him.

From Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Daniel’s imagery provides a fairly accurate picture of my earliest impressions of God. The adults around me did a very good job of convincing me of God’s love. Still, there was something about the Almighty’s powerful presence which gave me reason to pause. The earliest days of my relationship with God included some shyness and perhaps a bit of fear when it came to my own behavior and the things I dared and dared not to pray for.

The good news is that Daniel’s imagery also inspired my faith in God’s helpers, the archangels in particular. From the time I was a little child, I turned to Michael the Archangel when fearful people or fearful circumstances threatened. Though I was unsure of how all of this worked back then, I do recall finding great consolation under the Archangel’s watchful eye.

Though I have set aside the more cumbersome baggage from my childhood which stunted my growth faith-wise, I admit that I continue to turn to the Good Michael when those I love are in danger. Though I don’t expect him to draw a sword to take down their adversaries, I do believe that Michael is present with them for the duration. Perhaps all that is required to make things right is a strong shoulder to lean on, even when we don’t realize that shoulder is there.

Loving God, thank you for all of the entities, here and above, who guard us and guide us along the way. Most of all, thank you for being with us in everything.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Try and Try Again

For the past few months, my husband has referred to our home as Wedding Central. Though, as a deacon, he normally witnesses only two or three weddings per year, by the end of this year, he will have witnessed twelve. The good news is that he has enjoyed working with the couples involved who seem happy and prepared to take on this commitment. The better news is that several of the couples are personal friends, so both Mike and I have or will be present at their nuptials.

Whenever I attend a wedding, tears fall in tiny trails down my cheeks. Some of the tears come with memories of our own wedding. My thoughts just before I walked down the aisle and throughout the ceremony remain a vivid memory. When I witness another couple exchanging their promises to love, honor and cherish, the successes of our marriage bring tears of joy. Unfortunately, these happy tears are tempered by tears of sadness over our failures in this regard. Each time, I end these melancholy bouts with three prayers. I pray that the newlywed couple of the day will not be discouraged by the failures that are a part of all of our relationships. I pray that the two will hold on to the love which brought them together and that they will continue to nurture it. Finally, I pray that they discover the art of keeping joy alive in their relationship. My husband and I have managed to stay together for four decades, mostly due to our feeble attempts at all of these.

I share these wedding reflections because we have much to learn from our experiences within marriage and within all of our important relationships. Even when a marriage fails, it mirrors the journeys on this earth which will take us home to God. We fall in love with our seemingly ideal partner with the expectation of a successful relationship. Because we are human, we meet many obstacles along the way. When we encounter rocks on our paths, forks in the road and washed away bridges, we recalculate our route and carry on. We will never get anywhere in our relationships or on our journeys if we fail to reassess, regroup and try again along the way. Even when our renewed efforts require us to walk away from a relationship, they contribute to our progress. It seems to me that this is the point of most of what Jesus has to say about life on this earth and about God’s love for us.

Matthew’s gospel (21:28-32) reports another of Jesus’ parables. On this occasion, Jesus spoke of a vineyard owner with two sons. One day, the man asked the first to work his vineyard. This son refused, but later had a change of heart. He went out to the vineyard and did as his father asked. When the man asked his second son to work, the young man immediately agreed to do so. However, this son never lifted a finger. Jesus asked those listening which young man did his father’s will. All who were present agreed that the son who worked was the righteous one, in spite of his initial response. Ah, “in spite of his initial response!” Jesus recognized that failure at one time or another is inevitable. Jesus also recognized that our opportunity to turn things around is also inevitable. When Jesus remarked that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the kingdom of heaven, he was not condoning their sinfulness. Rather, he condoned what they did after they engaged in this wrong-doing. In spite of their sketchy pasts, the tax collectors and prostitutes took Jesus’ message to heart. They reassessed, regrouped and tried again. Jesus promised that similar effort by the rest of us will be rewarded as well.

I admit that I haven’t minded being a part of Wedding Central 2014. Though the good deacon bears the brunt of the paperwork, marriage prep and wedding rehearsals, we share the joy and the hope which come with witnessing the commitments of these couples. When they promise their love for a lifetime, they also pledge to reassess, regroup and try again when they fail. Like Jesus’ parable, these couples remind us that this is all any of us can hope for: To do our best, to acknowledge our errors, to make amends when we fail, and to know, regardless of how often we repeat this process, that God loves us. Yes, even when we fail, God loves us.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest With Mary

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42

It has taken me a lifetime to appreciate our very human need to slow down and to relax a bit. I truly enjoy the natural beauty around me. Still, I sometimes use more energy listing the reasons that I cannot head outdoors to walk on a particular day than I would have expended by actually walking. In the end, I accomplish far less than I might have if I had been energized by that trek outdoors.

As I contemplate the early onset of autumn this year, I realize that my opportunities to walk outdoors will soon be limited to those days when I can tolerate the temperature. Though I truly enjoy winter’s beauty, I will have to enjoy that beauty firsthand for only a few minutes at a time. I looked away from my keyboard for a moment to respond to the tree outside of my window which seems to be waving to me. As I watch, it occurs to me that I must listen to the Wise One who once told Martha that she worried far too much. Then, I must watch carefully as Mary sits peacefully at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the affection that comes with each one.

It occurs to me that I must ask Mary to move over a bit so I can take my place at the Lord’s feet as well. It is there that I will learn to stop worrying about the cold that may or may not come my way and enjoy the warmth of this particular moment. I’m going to sign off now and go for a walk. I want to wave to that tree outside my window in person.

Generous God, as I set aside my own worries, help me to assist others in doing the same. Open each of our hearts to your infinite love and peace.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Love

The Lord loves the people…
From Psalm 149

My husband and I have come up with a creative plan for our granddaughters’ birthdays this year. Rather than purchasing numerous gifts which sometimes go by the wayside in short order, we’ve decided to share the gift of time with them. We’ve planned an overnight stay, a special dinner and an outing for each one. Our hope is that the special attention will underscore the love that we feel for them twenty-four/seven.

Though I can recall very few of the gifts I received for my own childhood birthdays I do remember the celebrations with my mom, dad and siblings who sang “Happy Birthday” and offered hugs in abundance on those special days and always. I remember the story books and picnics shared, the reassurances at 3:00 AM, and the “I love you!” that accompanied every good-night kiss. I especially remember the forgiveness offered after a much-deserved scolding.

I hope that Grandpa and I succeed in giving our granddaughters the best gift of all -the affection of a family who truly loves them.

Dearest God, we would not know how to gift one another with love if you had not shown us the way.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Why We Pray

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 86:3-4

I admit that there are times when the tone and the topic of my prayers amaze me. More than once, I have stepped back from a monologue directed at the Lord God to ask myself what I am thinking. Each time, after getting over the unmitigated gall with which I dared to approach The Almighty One, I take a deep breath and begin again. It is during these second beginnings that I apologize for my nerve in ordering God around, I give thanks for God’s unconditional love, and I invite God into a real conversation with me. Though I never actually “hear” a single word from above, God communicates just the same in the peaceful assurance which fills me up and urges me on.

It occurs to me that we humans are quite fortunate that we are created in God’s image and likeness. God’s love is so great that it spilled out and took form in Creation. God tells us that you and I are God’s greatest handiwork. Part of that greatness comes in the traces of God’s love which remain entrenched in our DNA -a constant reminder that we are loved and therefore listened to. No wonder we are not only compelled to pray but also to assume that we will always be heard.

Loving God, thank you for caring.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved