Time To Act

A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

Ecclesiastes 3:6

The calendar on my desk must stay.
The yellowed notes from graduate school must go.
Greeting cards from our sons, their wives and our granddaughters must stay.
The unneeded clothing pile I created last month must finally go.

You get the idea, but not all of it. I need to go through the same sort of “checklist” when it comes to the things I do. Some activities, like spending time with my family, are non-negotiable. I engage in time with them whenever and wherever they present themselves. Other activities, like cooking and doing the laundry, must stay as well ad infinitum. Still others, however, need to be sorted and categorized and ranked. I need to determine what I will continue to do and what I will pass on.

In the end, it is up to me to determine what my life’s work will be.

Patient God, once again I turn to you for guidance. Fill me up with your Spirit and light my way. Help me to see the signs and to respond generously.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Time Alone

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

Ecclesiastes 3:5

My need for order makes it unlikely that I will ever embrace the opportunity to “scatter” stones. I am more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows -depending upon their size. I am even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important to us all, and I cannot imagine ever situating myself far enough away from my fellow humans to preclude hugging.

As I composed that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her passing came to mind. She had drifted into a coma the day before and we knew that her time left among us could be counted in hours. That night, I could not bring myself to leave her. It was forty minutes after my sisters had left when I realized the error of my ways. You see, when our mom received her terminal diagnosis, she was very specific regarding where she would spend her last days. The underlying message was that she had no intention of breathing her last in any of our homes. She could not bear to leave us with that memory. My presence at her bedside had obviously interfered with my mom’s intent. After kissing her one last time, I drove the thirty-minute ride home. About ten minutes after I arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave of this earth shortly after I left her.

Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces in order to deal with our most important work. There are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, I can be thick-headed when it comes to the lessons of this life. Help me to see your direction more clearly. Nudge me when it is time to embrace those you have given me to love. Nudge me a bit harder when it is time for me to step back and allow you to take care.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Dance!

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:4

Sometimes, time-allotment decisions are easy. Within the next two months, my husband and I will attend three weddings. Actually, he will witness two of these marriages and I will tag along. The third wedding is a family affair which promises ample opportunities to reconnect with cousins from near and far. Each one will include numerous well-wishers who have good reason to make merry.

Though my husband is never anxious to dance for any reason, I consider every wedding invitation to also be an invitation to dance the night away. This ritual usually begins with a slow dance or two in my husband’s arms. Afterward, he retreats to join anyone who is not dancing while I continue the fancy footwork with whoever else needs a partner. This “whoever else” is usually a female friend or relative whose spouse has also “retreated”. In the end, I spend an hour or more allowing the dancer within me to take over. Though she has a difficult time guiding my feet into the “right” steps, she always succeeds in freeing me to abandon my inhibitions and to rejoice in the music at hand.

It occurs to me that God intentionally created us with the ability to “party.” This is one of God’s most creative ways of reminding us to take the time to relax and not to take ourselves too seriously. There is no more effective way to do this than to dance with abandon… and so I will!

Gracious God, thank you for caring for all of us -our hearts, our bodies, our souls and our need to enjoy this life.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Bless You, Father Farrell

I have just received the news that my friend Father Farrell Kane is going home…

My husband and I met Father Farrell shortly after he was appointed pastor of our village’s first Catholic Church. My husband and I were thrilled with this news, and Mike contacted Father Farrell immediately to offer his services. I’m happy to share that we became fast friends. By February 1992, Father Farrell had gathered a handful of potential parishioners who assisted with the groundwork of building the parish. Father managed the preparations for our first Mass and then scrambled to assemble our first Sunday bulletin. After Father listed the standard parish information and described potential ministries, a good deal of white space remained. Because Father Farrell believed that teachers are masters of the spoken and written word, he relinquished his responsibility for that white space. Father knew that I was a teacher, so he simply suggested that I come up with “…something inspirational to fill a column or so.”

Since March 7, 1992, I have written Something To Think About for our parish bulletin each week. As the parish and the bulletin grew, Father Farrell asked that I increase my reflection from a single column to a full page. It has been with great pleasure and gratitude that I have continued this ministry for the past twenty-four years. The encouragement I received from Father Farrell nudged me further. I went on to write three seasonal devotionals and to create this blog. The faith Father Farrell invested in me back in 1992 is the source of everything that I have written since.

Father Farrell, on this day that you take your leave, I offer my heartfelt prayers that your expectations regarding God’s love for you are exceeded exponentially. I pray that the new life you embrace reaches far beyond anything you dared to hope for. I pray that those who mourn your loss as I do will also celebrate the many good things you have brought to each of us.

Thank you, Farrell! Once you are settled in, please pray for us!

Time To Change

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Change is difficult for me, especially when my established routines prove to be helpful to all concerned. “Why change what is working?” I ask myself.

The problem is that I don’t always evaluate what “working” actually means. Is the status quo simply maintaining my peace of mind or is something positive actually being accomplished? Is adhering to what I am used to adding to the quality of my life and life around me or is it allowing a musty fog to blur the wonder left to discover?

Change is difficult for me. Still, discarding a bit of what I am used to may bring new life to my sometimes stunted spirit.

Loving God, give me the courage to let go of my routines and to embrace the opportunities which lie ahead. Be with me as I muster the courage to take that first step.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Place For Everyone

I addressed this special event several days ago. Now that it is here, I am compelled to elaborate. It is simply too important not to…

Our granddaughter Ellie will receive First Communion this morning, and I find myself searching for appropriate words to share with her. I recall vivid details of my own First Communion Day more than fifty years ago. I don’t think I will ever forget these things. Many of my own parish children will join Ellie in receiving First Eucharist in a few weeks. What will Ellie and these little ones take from these special days into the years to come?

As I consider all that the Eucharist means to me, I look to our gatherings to pray each weekend. The cohesiveness that comes with our common walk to the altar touches me deeply. Regardless of the things which separate us beyond these wall -our politics, our tendencies to the left or to the right, our likes and our dislikes, our opinions regarding just about everything- when we approach God’s table, we are God’s children and God’s family in the truest sense. Indeed, we are one. How do I explain all of this to my seven-year-old granddaughter? How do we explain this to any of our children? When I serve as a Communion minister, I find a partial answer. Every time, I am amazed by the beauty in the unique faces who approach God’s table for sustenance. Not one of us is exactly like another. Even the identical twins among us cannot hide their individuality. Yet, regardless of our differences, we are welcome, each and every one, to break bread. How can we help God’s little children to understand that they are welcome as well? How do we convince them that there will always be a place for them at God’s table?

As I consider these children further, I long for the innocent simplicity with which they approach The Eucharist. Though most of us are touched by life’s troubles in one way or another, the children among us continuously regenerate our hope. They bring hope to the next moment, the next hour, the next year and the next decade. Some of them will carry that hope into the next century if only we equip them to do this. As I perused John’s gospel (John 10:11-18), I discovered more wisdom on this topic. John tells us that the one who keeps hope alive within our children and within us all is Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

To me, the Good Shepherd is among the most enduring and endearing images of God with which we have been gifted. What a perfect theme this is to guide our thoughts regarding our First Communicants. Little girls and boys donned in their best clothing will file into churches everywhere over the next few weeks. Parents will beam as they fluff veils and straighten ties one last time before entering. I see myself doing the same fifty years ago and with my own sons a few decades ago, and I am overwhelmed. “Where would I be today, Lord, if I had not been led by you and the many kindly shepherds who guided me throughout my life? Have I done this for my sons?” As I consider the complexities of life today, I go on to ask, “Where will Ellie and her peers be years from now if we fail to emulate the Good Shepherd who keeps hope alive for us all?”

As I ponder further, I realize that my granddaughter and the children in my own parish and in parishes everywhere are bright and amazing little people. They have prepared diligently for their First Communion Days. They have learned about their relationships with God. They understand that we make those relationships strong and enduring when we love God and love one another. They also understand that sometimes the love we offer is not our best. When this is the case, the children have learned just how wonderful it is to say we are sorry, to cast our guilt to the wind and to begin anew with God and our friends at our sides. Yes, our children will tell us that the day they receive First Eucharist is the day they come face to face and heart to heart with their Good Shepherd in a new and exciting way. They may even remember their First Communion Days fifty years from now, just as I do.

So it is that my search for the appropriate words to discuss First Communion with my granddaughter comes to an end. You see, when I find the opportunity to share these things with her, I will let my Good Shepherd lead the way. I am certain that Ellie will have a thing or two to teach me as well.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved