More About Time

A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.

Ecclesiastes 3:2

A time to be born… I enjoy walking outdoors because of Nature’s ongoing evolution. The entire world seems to engage in rebirth during springtime. This growth continues through summer when flowerbeds and gardens flourish. Leafy trees respond to September’s mix early on with subtle changes in color. October brings those changes to fruition only to give way to November winds. Leaves crunching beneath my feet remind me that winter is near. Even then, barren trees hold the promise of new life. Yes, it seems to me that there is always time to be born.

A time to die… Just as Nature engages in rebirth around me, it also engages in dying all the while. Something old continually gives way to something new. Seeds fall from trees and dance in the wind until they find rest on the ground below. Though no longer part of a living tree, they hold all of the potential they need for life anew. These seeds nestle into the ground with great hope in the things to come.

A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant… If those seeds are lucky, a watchful gardener will see that they are covered with enough soil to survive. If they sprout too closely to one another, that gardener will gently relocate them so each will have room to take root and to receive its share of sunlight and water.

Compassionate God, you are the watchful gardener who places each of us precisely where we are meant to be. Help me to embrace my place with the certainly of those seeds who entrust their futures to your loving hands.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Arbor Day

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

From Psalm 118:1-2

On Arbor Day, I must tell you about my husband’s decades-long relationships with two plants. The first is a colorful, purplish-green Tradescantia Zebrina, more commonly known as a Wandering Jew. His parents gave it to us as a housewarming gift when we purchased our first home. The plant is older than our sons! The second is a philodendron which my husband’s teachers gave to him in 1987 when he was named a “candidate” for the diaconate. This designation meant that he would indeed be ordained the following year. My husband’s staff realized that it had taken a good deal of effort for their principal to get to this point and they wanted to cheer him on. Needless to say, both plants are very precious to him.

The amazing part of all of this is that these plants have survived outdoor transitions from spring through summer to fall when frost came unexpectedly early on more than one occasion. The plants have also survived floods and dry spells when we were away and our designated plant-waterers were either overly-zealous or stingy with their task. After each incident, my husband painstakingly nursed his beloved greenery back to health for another season.

I must tell my husband that his plant adventures would make a great homily regarding God’s ongoing and merciful care of each one of us. Better yet, I am taking the lead and sharing this lesson with you. Like my husband’s plants, we could not be in better hands!

Gracious God, thank you for caring for us and for all of creation with such love and mercy. Thank you, also, for the generous souls you have placed among us who imitate your caring ways in all that they do.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Timely Questions

There is an appointed time for everything
and a time for every affair under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have been troubled by time management as of late. The truth is that I am actually troubled by a lack of time management. Fortunately, one of my favorite scripture passages offers guidance in this regard.

The words I cite from Ecclesiastes indicate that there is time for everything. Still, in my entire life to date, I have never had time for everything. For me, time allotment has always involved difficult choices. At age sixteen, I determined that I would not be a “straight A” student because I had to devote time to the part-time job which would fund my college education. In the end, I juggled school and work as best I could. The resulting grades were just fine and I enrolled in college with a scholarship and savings enough to keep me there.

Today, timely decisions plague me once again. What can I continue to do and what must I let go? If I am going to finish the book stored partially in that computer file, partially in my head and partially in my heart, I must take the time to write it. Is this the appointed time to get the job done?

God of Love and Understanding, you know better than we how to proceed with everything. Still, you place our lives in our hands with absolute trust in us. While I thank you for this vote of confidence, I also beg you for guidance. Help me to find the appointed time for all that I am called to do.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Pray Like Abraham

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry,
but let me speak just once more…”

Genesis 18:32

The promise of springtime has also brought the promise of new life with the end of some lengthy illnesses and other unexpected departures from this life. Recent wakes and funerals bring to mind many of my own losses…

Twenty-seven years ago, I stood at my step-father’s bedside with an aching heart. Emphysema had transformed the muscular carpenter I once knew into a shadow of his former self. I prayed and asked the God of Abraham to watch with me for a while. Like Abraham, as soon as I had God’s attention, I began negotiating.

First, I asked for relief for my dad’s difficult breathing. When I felt assured of that much, I went on. I requested strength for my mom and for the rest of us to remain present to him for as long as needed. I knew God was listening as always, and so I continued. In the end, I dared to set limits on the “as long as needed” part. Indeed, I challenged God to hear and to respond to my prayer as Jesus promised God would do.

Just a week later, we walked with my step-dad through his passing. When all was said and done, I apologized to our patient God for my insolent and demanding prayer. I also thanked God for taking my father home. In spite of my tears, I smiled and promised to pray with the conviction of Abraham many more times before God and I meet face to face.

Loving and Patient God, thank you for listening and for responding with more than I could ever hope for.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Embrace

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:5

Some of the most tender moments parents share with their children are the result of uncertainty and fear. Through the worst of storms, a far too frightening film, or when someone actually promises to do them harm, children scramble to the laps of their parents to find safety. In their parents’ embrace, children find comfort in carefully chosen words which offer the assurance that, indeed, everything will be all right. When parents’ words are not enough and their children continue to shiver and shake, parents simply hold their children tightly for as long as it takes to bring them peace.

God’s children are not very different from our own, are they? Sometimes, no matter how well-chosen God’s words are, we also find it difficult to take them in. Our uncertainty and fear overwhelm us. These feelings preclude our understanding and they preclude our ability to find comfort. For these very reasons, God promises simply to be with us.

Though I am old enough and wise enough not to be frightened by much, there are times when my circumstances or another of God’s children manages to fill me with fear. Since my parents’ laps are no longer available to me, I immediately ask God to make good on that promise to remain with me, and so God does…

Loving God, thank you for embracing each of us in our joy, in our sorrow and in our fear.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hop In!

I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the Lord helped me.
My strength and my courage is in the Lord…
Psalm 118:13-14

As I finished the dishes, I gazed out the window. I noticed a little bird perched near a hole in our bird house. My feathered friend peered into that hole several times, but did not enter. I wondered if he was debating whether or not to move in. I didn’t question his uncertainty because that bird house isn’t in the best of shape. Recent rains have caused it to tilt a bit. Nosy squirrels have also gnawed at some of the holes, making them large enough to poke in their own heads for a look. Yes, that little bird seemed wise not to jump into this questionable living situation.

I stepped away from the window to dry the dishes I’d washed. When I returned, I looked to see if that bird persisted in his indecision. To my amazement, he was sitting in the bird house peeking out. I watched for several minutes as his head disappeared and reappeared over and over again. Apparently, he had found his new digs to be suitable after all.

Sometimes, I question new opportunities as well. I peek in to investigate, but my feet remain planted where I am. I am not as courageous as that little bird who took that leap of faith and found himself a new home. So it is that I look upward in my fear to find strength and courage. There I find our loving God who promises always to light our way.

Generous God, our lives are an amazing gift. Give me the courage to embrace every opportunity to make the most of my digs here until I occupy my perfect home with you.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved