U… Unity

If a kingdom is divided against itself,
that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.

Mark 3:24-25

U is for Unity. I’ve just returned from a wake for a dear friend’s mom. My friend’s family is quite large, so I joined numerous others in offering my support. The many photos and memorabilia displayed paid homage to Trudy’s life. Trudy had served as fire commissioner and she handled personnel and related issues for years. This gave her access to the entire department. When Trudy passed away, these firefighters lost a member of their extended family. They not only attended this event, but also served as honor guards the entire time. As I waited to greet Trudy’s family, I watched the changing of the guard. I was touched by the reverence of these public servants as they honored their lost friend. While studying her family photos, it occurred to me that these firefighters are as much Trudy’s family as her relatives.

The unity within Trudy’s family and among the ranks of her firefighting family was tangible. It seems to me that this should also be true of God’s family. Though we need not congregate in the same worship places or in any worship place at all, we do need to respect one another and to see one another as God’s children. We need to love one another as we love ourselves. We need to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to better understand perspectives which sometimes differ from our own. We need to set aside the non-essential details of our dogmas and rites and focus upon the most essential needs of this world.

My friend’s mom raised twelve very different children, and I know she loved them all. God breathed life into billions of children, and God loves each one us even more so. God’s only request is the same as that of any loving parent. God asks only that we learn to get along.

Loving God, you show no favoritism. You love each one of us. Help us to work together to transform the world we share into a fitting home for us all.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

T… Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

T is for Thanksgiving. I hope I have made it clear in one way or another that life is not always perfect for me. Still, I have much to be thankful for -far more than I ever expected or dared to hope for. The most precious of these gifts aren’t tangible, but they are very real to me just the same. Yes, I am a very blessed soul.

When this life presents unpleasant challenges, I face them most effectively with a grateful heart. I hope our dear Lord never tires of hearing me pray, “God, I know you have been very good to me, but really? I don’t mean to complain, but how can I deal with this?” It usually takes me a few minutes to adjust my thinking and my prayer. I continue, “Thank you, God, for being with me in everything. I know that all of this will end well. In the mean time, help me to respond as you would.”

T is for Thanksgiving. Today and every day, I will do my best to face everything with a heart full of thanksgiving.

Generous God, thank you for everything!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

S… Service

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit…

From Isaiah 42:1

S is for Service. As a child, I was always first to raise my hand when my teacher asked for a volunteer to assist her. At home, though I disliked my chores as much as any child, I happily volunteered when my mom requested help with the non-mandatory task at hand. This propensity to be helpful has remained with me. The truth is that, of all of the joy I have experienced, the best of it has been the result of being of service to others.

My service has taken many forms. I have been spouse, parent, teacher, colleague, daughter to an elderly mom, sister to a dying sibling, listener for a troubled soul and an all-purpose church volunteer. I’ve rescued a wayward can of soup which rolled out of a fellow shopper’s bag and a twenty-dollar bill which fell out of another’s wallet. I’ve even put out a burning hair fire when a wedding guest stood a bit too close to a lighted candle. I’m sure your own list of every-day and life-time service would fill this space in short order. It seems that if we respond at all to those God has given us to love, we are of service to them in some way.

S is for service because doing for others is the shortest road to true happiness. Whether or not we are thanked for our efforts, our good deeds fill us up with an amazing sense of joy. Our great and small acts of service make all of the difference, sometimes for a second and sometimes for a lifetime.

Thank you, Good and Gracious God, for giving us loving and caring hearts like your own.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

R… Rejoice

This is the day the Lord has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Psalm 118:24

R is for Rejoice. Before I continue, I must share that I considered using “resignation” as my R word. It had come to my attention, once again, that life on this earth is imperfect at best. It seemed, once again, that the only way to deal with this reality is to accept that some things are what they are and to move on. Unfortunately, when I choose to move on, I do so reluctantly. Somehow, I’m convinced that the situation I’ve abandoned actually could be improved for the better.

This other day, when one such situation presented itself, I decided that I could not accept that it is what it is. Rather than adding more negativity to the mix, I decided to be a positive catalyst who might actually give all concerned a bit of hope. In the end, my effort paid off. Though I didn’t change much, I did help those concerned to adjust their attitudes regarding the mess which temporarily overwhelmed us. Turning our resignation into an opportunity to rejoice that things weren’t any worse helped. Perhaps the most important aspects of all of this were the decisions of those concerned to be positive. I “decided” not to add to the negativity and my friends “decided” to jump onto my bandwagon. Together, we infused joy into tough circumstances.

The Psalmist who offered the wonderful suggestion cited above asks us to be glad and to rejoice. This is a choice we can make anytime and anywhere. Today, I’m deciding to abandon my resignation about this less-than-perfect world. Today, I’m going to rejoice and be glad.

Dear God, thank you for giving us the capacity to rejoice and the free will to choose to do so. May our efforts transform the imperfections of this world into opportunities to reveal your goodness.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Q… Quiet

Be still, and know that I am God…
From Psalm 46:10

Q is for Quiet. I cannot take credit for this theme. The other day, a friend from church stopped to tell me that she is enjoying my “alphabet.” I told that I’d hoped this approach would help me to focus for at least twenty-six days of writing. I added that I didn’t know what I was thinking when I undertook this endeavor. “Some letters are tough,” I moaned. “What am I going to write for O and Q?” Before she could speak, I added, “I’ve been thinking about “opus” for O. Maybe I can do something with that. But Q?” With that, I saw the bulb light up over her head. “Quiet,” she almost whispered. “You know… quiet.” With that, I hugged Carol and thanked her for the inspiration. Q is for Quiet… Of course!

As I write today, I cannot help laughing at myself because I relish the quiet around me. Why didn’t I think of that? When I’m home alone, the television set is off and other noisy distractions are scarce. I’m a master at creating a quiet environment. But, this is not the quiet which Carol suggested. It is the internal quiet where we encounter God which Carol brought to my attention. This is the quiet that often comes in unexpected places at unexpected times. I find this inner quiet most often when I venture outdoors. Because the near-zero temperatures keep me inside much of the time, I’ve had to look elsewhere. Though I’ve found this inner quiet here at home and in both a full and empty church, I’ve also found it at the mall. There was something about the faces I passed and the interactions between parents and children, spouses and groups of teens which revealed the Almighty to me. I didn’t pray a word as these quiet revelations spoke to me.

Yes, I must be still, for it is in the quiet stillness that I come to know God.

Dear God, thank you for filling the quiet with your loving presence.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

P… Peace

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Psalm 85:11-12

P is for Peace. Of all of my heart’s desires, I think I long for and relish peace most of all. The truth is that during the most difficult times of my life, I have been at least faintly aware of a measure of peace deep within me. In spite of the troubles at hand, I feel convinced at some level that circumstances will evolve for the best. While I may make my own ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer in the process, peace eases its way to the surface. Eventually, I accept that I can only do what I can do and I leave the rest to God. Letting go is an extremely difficult, but liberating exercise. When I empty myself of my worry and angst, I make room for God’s peace to enter in.

Though I may have to wait for heaven to enjoy the psalmist’s peaceful image which I’ve cited above, I can infuse some level of peace into every moment I’m given. Perhaps my New Year’s efforts to improve should include a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to flow from my lips. Perhaps these efforts should include a glance upward and a glance within before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. Perhaps I need to begin each day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to erupt. Perhaps I can bring a glimpse of the psalmist’s image to this world after all.

Compassionate God, you generously gift us with your peace. Help us to set aside our worries and to focus upon your peaceful presence as we embrace all that lies ahead.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved