Find God In Them All

Whatever you have done
to the very least of my people,
you have done to me.

Matthew 25:40

I have shared often that I spent most of my teaching career with very reluctant readers. Some of these children suffered from a complete lack of confidence. Some lacked exposure to books early on. Poor test-taking skills and the negative behavior that came with failure added to the completely mistaken impression that these children could not learn.

I think each of us can offer examples of the far-too-quick learning of the children around us, especially when they hear once and repeat verbatim something which we wish we had never said. Since my students were no exception in this regard, I was certain that they could learn. They proved me right every time one of them picked up a book and read fluently for the first time. Every time, my heart soared with theirs. This is the good news.

The not-so-good news presented itself in those rare students who were extremely difficult to love. These were the children who somehow learned to bully very early on, who knew precisely what to say to disarm any adult within earshot and who insisted that they could not care less that no one in the school looked upon them as a friend. These are the children with whom I worked hardest for years on end and whose whispered “thank you” was my greatest reward.

Loving God, thank you for allowing me to see your face in my most difficult children. Today, help me to see the same in the difficult adults I encounter. I like your face and I want to see you often in everyone!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Heal With Love

Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.

Luke 5:31-32

Like you, I usually find it easy enough to do the right thing. Perhaps it’s a relatively a perfect day and I’m full of energy. Unexpected good news may have brightened my horizons. Perhaps I stepped onto the scale and discovered that I finally shed those stubborn pounds that simply would not let go. I am at my best on such days, and I meet the day’s challenges accordingly. Still, some mornings, it is a challenge to open my eyes, much less to greet the new day with a smile. On those days, I am tempted to ignore the ringing telephone, to avoid email at all costs and to erase everything on my calendar.

In the midst of this dysfunctional state, it occurs to me that some people live their entire lives this way. Some of us who seem to have perfect lives fight depression twenty-four/seven. Some of us who seem to have all of the money in the world cannot afford the time to enjoy life and the people they have been given to love. Some of us who seem to “have it all” have managed to lose themselves in the process of “arriving.” Before contemplating further, I whisper a prayer of petition for those caught in difficult lives and a prayer of thanksgiving for my life. I also whisper a promise to use the gift of my circumstances well.

Generous God, the circumstances of my life offer continued opportunities for me to do good. Help me to celebrate your presence with those who see you, and help me to bring your presence to those who cannot.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Loved Ones

Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?

Matthew 9:15

Thoughts of Christmas during Lent? I recently looked through our most recent photo album with my granddaughters. Pictures from Christmas 2014 eased me back in time…

It was more than a dozen years ago that our family gathered around our Christmas Tree to open gifts. To provide some semblance of order among this gathering of siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, parents, offspring, aunts, uncles and Grandma, the youngest child opened gifts first. The intent was to end with my mother who was the eldest adult among us. We were half way through the process when my mom’s tearful voice interjected, “I’m so happy to have you all together here. This is Christmas for me!” Though my mom had not yet opened a single gift, she had found all that she needed in the people she had been given to love in this life.

When Jesus walked among us, some people complained that he and his followers failed to fast and to follow other rituals set down in The Law. Jesus replied that there would be plenty of time for that later. That particular day, however, Jesus’ disciples walked with him and absorbing all that Jesus had to offer was their current priority. Jesus invites you and me to enjoy his company as well in our work and our worship, in our family lives and in all whom we meet along the way. As we continue our Lenten journeys, we will sometimes have to choose between God’s loved ones and the rules imposed upon us by ourselves and by whoever the powers-may-be at the moment. As Jesus indicates, the choice is clear.

Dear God, please awaken me to your presence in those around me. Help me to see the people I have been given to love with your eyes and help to respond to them with your acceptance and love.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Live To Do Good

Whoever loses his life for my sake, will save it.
Luke 9:24

I’ve lost enough loved ones to know that losing one’s life is serious business. Still, Jesus asks that I set aside all that I live for to save my life. When I consider my recent worry over some rather small issues, I see that Jesus isn’t actually asking all that much of me. When I look closely at Jesus’ teaching and the way Jesus himself lived, I find all that Jesus offers in return. When he asks me to lose “my” life, Jesus offers me the best of “all” life. As I wrote, in light of my minor worries, this is quite a good opportunity. If I accept Jesus’ challenge to take away the “my” and “I” and “me” that qualify so much of what I do and say, I open myself to others and, ultimately, to God.

So, as I continue my journey this Lent, I resolve to think about Jesus before I begin each task that lies before me. Rather than gauging what I might receive in return for my efforts, I will calculate how I might help others most through what I do. In my good works, I will discover real joy and glimpses of God.
Loving God, as I strive to follow Jesus’ example, help me to follow his heart as well. As I give more of myself to others, please reveal more of yourself to me.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Choose Well

You are my shelter; from distress
you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom
you will deliver me.

Psalm 32:7

I tossed and turned last night. I pride myself in being able to set aside my worries in order replenish myself with a good night’s sleep. Still, I failed miserably during the wee hours of this morning. This occurred in spite of the fact that no overwhelming troubles beset me at the moment. Indeed, most of the demands placed upon me these days are the result of my own choices. I enjoy far more freedom than most of the people I know. Still, I tossed and turned to no avail.

It was 4:30 A.M. when I finally looked heavenward for comfort. “Why am I worrying? Why do I feel that I’ll never accomplish anything? Will I ever finish that book? Am I supposed to write or not?” I continued my litany until I felt completely exhausted. As I inhaled deeply to calm myself, I noticed the slit of light at the edge of our blind. “Hmm. Are our days finally getting longer? Maybe that light is just the moon’s reflection on the snow. Maybe not.” I crept out of bed and went to our spare room to see the sky more clearly. “Nice,” I told God who continued to listen patiently. “It is lighter this morning.”

Finally, I closed my mouth and gazed at the moon and stars which would soon disappear in the dawn. As I watched the birth of the new day, I marveled at God’s generosity in providing us this miracle every twenty-four hours. God comforted me with a reminder of the second miracle which comes every twenty-four hours as well: Our ability to use the new day as we wish. With that, I decided to let go of the stress and to embrace this amazing opportunity.

Loving God, you deliver us from all evil and you empower us to live with joy. Please gift me with the wisdom to choose well as I plan this new day and every day I am given.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find Peace

In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law!

Galatians 5:22

A life-long friend and I have shared a series of nostalgic emails over the past few weeks. I have thoroughly enjoyed these strolls down Memory Lane. Life was so much simpler when we were children. When things went awry, I had a variety of people to whom I could turn to restore my peace. I also knew back then that, when all else fails, God listens carefully when we whisper our troubles heavenward.

Earlier today, a bit of mischief- actually, outright unkindness- on the part of someone who knows better sent me teetering to the edge. The edge of what, I’m not sure. Still, this person’s behavior soured my mood. The good news is that I sulked only briefly before I decided to distract myself with email. In the midst of this self-imposed therapy, I discovered another of my friend’s nostalgic messages. This reminder of the comforts of my youth prompted me to enjoy one of those comforts by spending a few moments with God. With that, I left my keyboard for the windows which overlook our yard. I gazed at the mountains of snow which herald our recent snowfall. The beauty before me dispelled my sour feelings in short order. With this attitude adjustment came the realization that this person’s mean-spirited behavior is her problem, not mine.

I returned to the day’s work with a smile, a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s peace, and a prayer of intercession for my cranky acquaintance.

Comforter God, help me to see the unkindness of others with your eyes. Teach me to respond with your kindness, forgiveness and love.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved