We Matter

A few weeks ago, we celebrated our eldest grandchild’s ninth birthday. In August, we’ll celebrate our youngest grandchild’s first birthday. All of this revelry nudged me into gratitude-mode. When the recent heat and humidity urged me indoors, I decided to relax by enjoying the things for which I’m most grateful. As you likely suspect, my family tops the list. On that particular day, however, my dear husband was otherwise engaged at Wrigley Field (Yes, the Cubs won!) and our kids and grandkids were busy with their Wednesday schedules. So it was that I settled in with the next best thing: our family photo albums.

I began my trek down Memory Lane with our sons’ baby albums. Afterward, I turned to the newer albums which I began nine years ago when we first became grandparents. I admit to tears of joy as I recalled our sons’ arrivals. Photos of our grandkids elicited the same response over which I had no control. I spent two hours flipping between those albums. In the process, I found myself amazed at how often I couldn’t tell the difference between our own sons and at how different each of our grandchildren looks. Even more amazing were my recollections of holding those sons and their offspring as they slept. For me, there is nothing more precious and peace-filled than holding a sleeping baby. Every time, I can’t help swaying as they breathe, back and forth and in sync with their every exhalation. Even today, I often absent-mindedly sway when I stand -a remnant from those loving encounters. As I finally set our albums aside, it occurred to me that I had found such joy in holding those little ones because it was then that I my love for them seemed most tangible. At least for the moments they spent in my arms, I could ensure that all was well in their little worlds.

When I returned to the tasks at hand, I remained in gratitude-mode because the reasons I have to give thanks have grown exponentially. As I cleared my desk to prepare for this writing, I noted another image of a babe in arms. We purchased this bit of artwork from the Sisters of St. Joseph at least a decade ago. It is a small paper sculpture which depicts Isaiah’s reference to our being held in the palm of God’s hand. I admit that this image is as precious to me as those which fill our family albums because I consider myself to be that baby and that hand to be God’s hand. Just as I couldn’t help being absorbed into the rhythm of all of my beloved babies’ breathing, God’s love impels our benevolent Creator to remain in sync with each one of us. It seems to me that this is the reason Jesus persisted in trying to convince us of God’s enduring love and best wishes for us all.

In his gospel (Luke 12:13-21), Luke shares another of Jesus’ parables in this regard. This time, Jesus speaks in great detail of a wealthy farmer: “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.’”

The poor rich man didn’t understand that he was what mattered to God. Though the man had likely worked very hard to accumulate his wealth, he seems not to have attended to more important things. Had he taken the time to care for those God had given him to love? Had he taken the time to attend to God? Though I don’t believe that God expects us to remain on bent knees twenty-four seven, I do think that God enjoys being with us. Though we always rest in God’s arms or palm, taking the time to be in sync with God makes the very best of those precious moments. Trust this grandma; I know.

You know, I’m not the only one who has albums of photos of the people I love. Though God may not display hard-copies of you and me somewhere on a heavenly coffee table, rest assured that our images are always before God just the same. God asks that we care about the things that matter because we are happiest when we do so, and nothing is more pleasing to God than seeing us happy. As I said, trust this grandma; I know.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Bit of Peace

If you act justly with one another,
God will dwell in the land.

From Jeremiah 7:5-7

Though I realize that war and unrest have plagued this world for all of human history, it is difficult for me to accept that this must remain the status quo. People, especially the children on all sides, can do nothing to keep one another safe in the worst of conditions. Sadly, this seems to be the case in our own country as well these days. So it is that I pray for immediate peace, for the safety of all who are in harm’s way and for changes of heart in all concerned, especially those with the power to stop this.

In the mean time, I find myself to be very sensitive to the injustices in my little corner of the world. I am impelled to do something to alleviate the suffering of those I meet along the way. If I somehow bring peace to another soul, I bring a measure more of peace into our world. Only God knows what will follow.

Patient God, you know better than we the peace which we long for. Give us the courage to bring peace to our circumstances at every opportunity, regardless of how futile our attempts may seem. Remind us that our efforts always make a difference.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Well Provided For…

What you own belongs to the Lord
and is given for the good of all.

Leviticus 25:23

When I was a little girl, I didn’t realize how little we had. In many ways, this was a very good thing. I was rich with family and others in my life who supplied me with everything that I actually needed. It was in high school that I questioned my circumstances. Many of my classmates went shopping with their mothers on a regular basis. They also went out for lunch or dinner just for the fun of it. These girls dressed in the latest clothing as well. I suddenly found myself feeling that I had somehow missed out on something important.

At age sixteen, I secured my first job. This opportunity provided the means for me to pay for my college education and minimal “extras” beforehand. Early into this venture, I set aside a few dollars from each paycheck until I had enough money to go shopping for myself. While I enjoyed selecting my own clothing, my joy was short-lived. I found the prices of some items I liked to be prohibitive. I also found a new appreciation for my parents’ ingenuity in managing to feed and clothe their six children on blue-collar incomes. In the process, I discovered that I hadn’t been deprived of anything that I actually needed after all.

Loving God, you gift us with all that we truly need. Thank you!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Keys

I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
From Matthew 16:19

I’m sure it was quite a surprise to Peter that he was chosen to lead the first Christian community. Peter had no idea of what being given the keys to the kingdom entailed. Still, Jesus entrusted him with this responsibility. Though Peter was thick-headed and a coward at times, in the end, Peter allowed his heart to direct him. He is the one who first said aloud what the other disciples feared to whisper even to themselves. In the end, after Jesus was crucified and risen, it is Peter who led the disciples to share the good news of God’s love for us with the world.

As a child, I told myself that I would have been much different from the disciples if I had walked with Jesus. I couldn’t understand how anyone could question a thing Jesus said or did. Today, I know better. In spite of the numerous and generous ways in which God has been revealed to me, I question and worry and despair with the best of them. For us humans, I guess seeing is believing.

The problem is that we fail to see the treasure lying before our eyes and within our hearts. Still, God entrusts us with the keys of the kingdom as well. Like Peter, we’re invited to follow our hearts and to reveal God’s love in all that we say and do. Today, this seems more important than ever.

Trusting God, you have made us the caretakers of your word and works. Help us to share these gifts generously.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

One and The Same

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Matthew 16:15

Though I have been involved with a faith community in one way or another all of my life, I taught in the public school system. When I graduated college, there were still enough nuns to staff the Catholic schools in my vicinity. As a result, I took a job in a public school. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was precisely where I belonged.

I taught in a small community which was Christian for the most part. My co-workers professed Catholicism and Christianity in many forms, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and atheism. Because I grew up in a solidly Catholic family, I’d had little on-going contact with people of other faiths until then. My education in this area grew tremendously as a result. While I found the array of belief systems around me to be very interesting and enlightening, I found our unity in the midst of trauma to be most compelling. When tragedy touched our little community, we all prayed, “Oh God!” in unison.

When life on this earth goes awry, something within each of us causes us to reach out to the One who cares for us all. Regardless of what we call our Creator, God listens to each and every one of us when we pray. Regardless of what we call our Creator, God remains with each one of us always.

Loving God, thank you for creating us with hearts which long for you. Help us to love one another as you do.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Breathe In The Beauty

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103:1-2

I had been walking indoors quite a bit, so I seized the opportunity to hike around a nearby lake with my husband. Though the scenery wasn’t really very different from that of our local park, I enjoyed the change. The breeze which urged us along caused leaves to rustle and tiny waves to form on the lake. Though we could easily see from one side of this body of water to the other, it looked mighty and strong in its own right.

As we walked, I found myself distracted from our conversation by unfamiliar flowers, an oddly shaped tree and a chubby chipmunk who dared to scamper across our path. A very large and unleashed dog gave me reason to pause, though my husband ambled toward it without fear. The dog’s master likely noted my alarm as she quickly attached a leash to her furry companion. I admit that I thanked her for this consideration after I complimented her admittedly cute canine. When we began our second trek around the lake, I hoped to see that dog again so I could exhibit my newfound bravery in its presence. I also hoped to notice even more of the treasures hidden in this beautiful place.

Creator God, I enjoyed that walk. Thank you for giving us the capacity to appreciate this beautiful world.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved