God’s DNA

The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7

After spending some very enjoyable time outdoors in God’s company, I had to laugh over my attempts at prayer. There are times when the tone and the topic of my prayers amaze me. I can only imagine what God must be thinking! More than once, I’ve stepped back from a monologue directed at the Lord God to ask myself what I’m thinking. Each time, after getting over the unmitigated gall with which I dared to approach The Almighty, I take a deep breath and begin again. It’s during these second beginnings that I apologize for my nerve in ordering God around, I give thanks for God’s unconditional love and I invite God into a real conversation with me. Though I never actually “hear” a single word from above, God communicates just the same in the peaceful assurance which fills me up and urges me on. The latter is the experience I enjoyed today.

It occurs to me that we humans are quite fortunate to be created in God’s image and likeness. God’s love is so great that it spilled out and took form in Creation. God tells us that you and I are God’s greatest handiwork. Part of that greatness comes in the traces of God’s love which remain entrenched in us. I can’t help thinking of this infusion of love as God’s DNA within us. As a result, we all know on some level that we are loved and therefore listened to. No wonder we’re not only compelled to pray, but also to assume that we’re heard.

Loving God, thank you for your loving care.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Just As You Are!

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:11-13

When I came across this passage from Luke’s gospel, a long-ago encounter with someone very dear to me came to mind…

I still recall my heartache as my friend sobbed that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow that filled her life. My friend ended this monologue with more tears. I waited some time for her tears to run out. When she had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad to be with her and that I loved her. After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thanks.”

I was extremely grateful when my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold anything against you. You lived through some tough times and I understand what drove you to do what you did. You know what else? My opinion doesn’t matter. God’s does. If I can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of this for you. God never ever gives up on you! God doesn’t give up on any of us!”

I think my friend believed me because I left her smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear that smile in her voice. That smile lasted for a very long time…

Thank you, loving and merciful God, for loving each one of us so completely.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Who Am I?

“But you -who do you say that I am?” he asked them.
Peter said in reply, “The Messiah of God.”

Luke 9:20

I wear many hats. These include daughter, sister, cousin, student, friend, adversary, aunt, teacher, wife, in-law, mom, mother-in-law, colleague, author, grandma, administrator, volunteer, retiree, encourage-er, listener, annoying one. The list goes on and on, as it does for us all. Some who know me might urge me to add a few more complimentary titles. Others might encourage me to add a role or an adjective of which I’m not particularly proud. I’m painfully honest when I also say that, in spite of this list, I sometimes don’t know who I am at all.

It is during life’s most confusing and most difficult times that I jump at the chance to answer the question Jesus posed to his followers so long ago: “Who do you say that I am?” My answer has made all of the difference in the world to me. You see, Jesus’ words convinced me of God’s love for me. Jesus’ example taught me to love my enemies as well as my friends. Jesus’ parables convinced me that I can never do anything which God will not forgive. Jesus is the one who assured me that, miserable as I can be at times, he would lay down his life for me alone. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the one through whom I have learned to live as best I can, not in spite of, but because of who I am.

Generous God, you have gifted me with Jesus -his words, his works, his life and his love. Thank you for offering us all this amazing glimpse of who you are and who we are meant to be.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Compassion

They are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb.

Psalm 19:11

While my granddaughters were here for an overnight stay, I stubbed my toe. As you likely suspect, the resultant pain was excruciating. I broke another toe a few years earlier as a result of similar clumsiness, so I feared the worst. Before I recovered from this present-day incident, my youngest granddaughter came bouncing into tho room. When she saw the look on my face, she asked, “Are you okay, Grandma?” Though I quickly wiped away a telltale tear and smiled my best, Claire knew that all was not well. “Oh, I just bumped my toe,” I said. With that, Claire ran to join her sisters in play. “Grandma hurt herself, so we have to be quiet,” Claire ordered.

Though my older granddaughters prefer to be in charge, they listened. They were especially quiet and extremely cooperative. When I joined them a few minutes later, they did everything in their power to lighten my mood. I admit that I was quite touched but the efforts of these three little girls.

My husband and I did our best to create a loving and compassionate home for our sons. Apparently, we succeeded at some level as illustrated by in granddaughters’ merciful management of my misery. God has worked to make this world of ours a loving and compassionate place as well. The best way to show our appreciation is to respond to one another in kind. This is more important today than ever…

Generous God, thank you for opening our hearts to your love. Remind us often that your most pressing request is that we love each other as you love us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Patience…

He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd guards his flock.

Jeremiah 31:11

A friend’s recent visit to Rome conjured thoughts of Pope Francis. Just as he stole my heart from the balcony over St. Peter’s Square after his election, he did the same to my friend when she caught a glimpse of him. Francis’ humble demeanor characterizes his efforts to lead God’s people as one of God’s people.

Francis stuns some while touching the hearts of others with his approachable demeanor and his openness to reform in the church and in the world. Francis seems keenly aware of Jesus’ propensity to embrace outcasts. This pope is also keenly aware of Jesus’ generous and indiscriminate rendering of healing and mercy upon all who require them.

If you have a family, you understand how difficult it can be to fix things which have gone awry over the years. Sometimes, delicate urging is all that is needed. Sometimes, strong and deliberate effort is required. In this family which I call “church”, it seems that Francis faces both. When I become impatient because change seems to come too slowly, I consider our dear pope’s smile and the considerable effort it must require of him at times.

While Francis sorts out what is and isn’t essential from his perspective, we must try do the same. Regardless of our religious affiliations or lack thereof, we all have relationships with God. It is up to us nurture these relationships lovingly, just as God does.

As for change… all in God’s time…

Loving God, give me patience with what is. Be with me as I make the best of it as best I can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Abba Days

Our summer calendar seems to be filled beyond capacity! As a result, my husband, our children and I have juggled several family celebrations in an effort to allow all concerned to attend weddings, pool parties, swim meets and the many other events which have come with this busy summer. Part of this jockeying of dates included Father’s Day. To ease the pressure on all concerned, my patient husband suggested that we celebrate his Father’s Day this weekend. The rest of us breathed a grateful sigh of relief as we quickly agreed to this arrangement. With that, I turned my thoughts to the tasks at hand until I sat to begin this writing. I’d given little thought to Father’s Day until I selected Mike’s card and then turned to today’s scripture passages. Both ignited vivid images of three dads who’ve touched my life.

“Daddy” references my biological father. Time spent in his company was a precious commodity because the six of us children filled our flat and our parents’ days. My dad also worked nights which meant that moments alone with him were rare. When he passed away at age thirty-nine, I was eight years old. At the time, I knew Daddy had taken up residence in heaven with my grandfathers and uncle who had passed on not long before. My dad knelt with us often to assist us in praying these loved ones into heaven. He also assured us that these special people would be very happy. In the days before my dad’s passing, my family prayed him into heaven as well. In the end, I determined that he would also be just fine. Case closed.

Some years later, my mom married my step-father. He became “Daddy” as well. Twenty-five good years later, it became evident that he would leave us as well. Oddly, I found myself less comfortable with the circumstances than I had been when my dad died. I knew my step-dad was ready to move on. He’d became too tired and too weak to continue and my mom could no longer care for him at home. Both of their hearts broke over his potential move to a nursing home. When this seemed imminent, my second Daddy closed his eyes and stopped eating. I prayed diligently for his peaceful passing and a few weeks later, he was gone. Though alleluias echoed throughout my step-dad’s Mass of Resurrection, peace escaped me. While I had no doubt regarding my step-dad’s fate, I fretted about what might have been and the things which were not quite perfect. I also fretted about my mom. This time, there were no children for her to care for. This time, she would return to an empty apartment to go it alone. While my mom seemed to have assumed the faithful acceptance I had exhibited at age eight, I found myself quite anxious and afraid over what lay ahead for her.

Fortunately, I finally turned over my worry to third “Daddy” who graces my life. Jesus always chose his words carefully and when he taught us to pray, he invited us to call upon God as “Abba”. The little children of Jesus’ day and their present-day counterparts lovingly address their daddies as “Abba”. Jesus intentionally invited us to do the same. My certainty that our Abba cares for us allowed me the calm which enveloped me when my first daddy passed away. When I lost my second daddy, the worries of adulthood caused me to forget that, no matter what, I am always in Abba’s care. When I finally remembered this, I realized that my mom and the rest of us were in God’s hands after all. This is the reason I can’t resist revisiting my Father’s Day sentiments for this writing. Jesus made every day Abba’s Day and today’s scriptures invite us to do the same.

In the first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13), Jeremiah ends a lengthy and fearful lament with this realization: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion… he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” In the second reading (Romans 5:12-15), Paul assures us that “…the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” If we continue to doubt that we bask is God’s loving care, Jesus settles the matter in today’s gospel (Matthew 10:26-33): “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” There you have it! Though we may fail one another and fail ourselves in caring for those we’ve been given to love, our Abba remains steadfast in loving us through everything. Perhaps my family’s belated Father’s Day is well-timed after all. Every day really is Abba’s Day and it’s up to us to live accordingly with joy.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved