B is for…

Come! Behold God’s deeds,
the astounding things God has done!.

Psalm 46:9

B is for Blessed. You are blessed and so am I. We wouldn’t walk this earth if we weren’t breathed into existence by our creatively loving God. I use the adverb “creatively” intentionally. You see, God’s blessings sometimes befuddle me. Often, I don’t recognize them until long after a given person or circumstance has moved on. A lifetime of chance meetings, one-liners which lodge in my memory, unexpected friendships, opportunities and seeming setbacks prove this over and over again. Though I don’t always realize it, I am indeed blessed.

As I consider and offer thanks for the blessings in my life, I must acknowledge that these blessings include everyone around me. This is the challenging part because “everyone” includes those who occasionally give me a headache, a heartache, a soul-ache or worse. How can I look upon these people as blessings?

B is for Blessed. You are blessed and so I am. So it is that you and I must gently remove the wrapping which conceals the blessedness within ourselves and within others. It is then that we’ll discover the fullness of God’s blessings.

Loving God, thank you for my blessings, especially the blessing of those around me. I will try to find reason to be grateful in each one.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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A is for…

God is with us;
God is our strength.

Psalm 46:8

A is for Abundance. Each of us is a treasure-trove to ourselves and to one another. We’re filled with abundant gifts which no one possesses in the same configuration as we do. It is up to us to look within for our own abundance and to share it generously with those we’ve been given to love. It is also up to us to find and to acknowledge the abundance in others that they may do the same.

Unfortunately, as abundant as our gifts may be, we sometimes misuse them or fail to use them as best we can. Sometimes, we’re simply too tired or too distraught to help those around us. We’re even unable to help ourselves. This is when we must turn to God’s abundance which is always a prayer away: God’s abundant love, God’s abundant understanding and God’s abundant faith in our ability to pull ourselves together and begin anew. Yes, we even have an abundance of second chances!

Loving God, thank you for the abundance which enriches our lives.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Back To The Basics

God shall rescue the poor when they cry out,
and the afflicted when they have no one to help them.

Psalm 72:12

I enjoyed teaching in spite of those occasional days when both my students and I were not at our best. On such days, I learned not to become angry. Rather, I acknowledged all of our humanity and the troubles which sometimes accompany it. With that, the kids and I took deep breaths and moved on. Near the end of the school year, these days threatened to increase in frequency because all concerned where in dire need of summer break. It was then that I found a creative and productive way to lighten our collective mood.

It was late May when I challenged my second graders to list an alphabet’s worth of things which they hoped to do during the coming summer. Afterward, they wrote short paragraphs and drew illustrations for each entry. In the end, I stapled these into each child’s “My Summer Wishes” book. This effort provided ample subject matter which carried over into most of our lessons during those last days of school. It also netted a precious memento of each child’s hope for better things to come.

Not long afterward, I remembered this alphabetic effort. To ease myself through a trying time, I used one letter per day to designate one of God’s gifts to me. This little exercise changed my attitude and truly led me to a much better result than I expected. Tomorrow, I’m going to return to the basics. It will be the first of twenty-six days of reflections inspired by the ABCs.

Loving God, regardless of the troubles which beset us, from A to Z, you face them with us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Celebrate Each and Every One…

For the Lord loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149:4

We first observed Memorial Day to remember the sacrifices made by service people who’d given their lives for this country. Whether they were drafted into service or enlisted by choice, each one fulfilled an obligation which he or she accepted to the end. Though some may have wrestled with doubt, wondering if anything is worth dying for, we know the final outcome. Today, tens of thousands of flags decorate the graves of those who completed, as best they could, what they set out to do.

Our Memorial Day remembrances have grown to include all who’ve passed from this life to the next. Though they didn’t don military uniforms to endure the trials of battle, those whom we mourn assumed roles of great importance to us. Whether our parent or spouse, our child, another family member or friend, those we mourn responded to their roles in this life and they fulfilled those roles as best they could. Sometimes, our loved ones achieved great success and their impact upon us was a source of great joy or growth or satisfaction. Sometimes, they failed miserably and their impact was precisely the opposite. Still, we mourn our loved ones because of their humanity and in spite of it.

There is something Christ-like in the way we remember those who have passed. After we bid them our final farewells, our memories focus less upon their failures. When we reminisce, we tend to recall the happy or amusing or glorious times we shared. In our family, my father died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his death, the man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. Years later, when our mother married a wonderful, but very different man, I marveled at his bravery. Following in my father’s footsteps was an impossible task. Yet, upon my step-dad’s death many years later, the same phenomenon occurred. A second father-turned-saint occupied our memories. Need I tell you that my mother-turned-saint resides above in all of her glory as well?

Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate heaven’s joy in memory of those who know that joy firsthand. When our selective memories bestow sainthood upon our very human loved ones, we see with the selective vision of God. Today, as we remember our military personnel and all of the loved ones who have lived their lives for us, let’s smile between the tears. God assures us that we have good reason to rejoice for them and for ourselves!

Thank you, Dear God, for the promise of heaven and for the loved ones with whom we will share it!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Celebrate God!

Last week, my husband and I drove north to our cabin to take care of a bit of upkeep. Before you invest any sympathy on our behalf, let me assure you that we find such tasks at our get-away to be therapeutic and relaxing. This time, Mike planted a few pots of flowers while I cleaned the kitchen. Mike went on to repair an outdoor light while I went through the linens to determine what needs to be replaced. At the end of that day, we happily cooked and ate dinner, cleaned up and headed to the couch and recliner. I picked up a book I’d begun a few weeks earlier and Mike grabbed the remote. When he scrolled through that evening’s offerings, Mike weighed his options. Would he watch an episode of one of his favorite dramas or settle for a few reruns from the 60s? Because the poor guy was tired and fighting a lingering cold, I encouraged Mike to settle for those vintage offerings. This allowed him the luxury of dozing off at will and it allowed me to read without distraction. As it happened, the dialogue from the lighthearted comedies he selected provided a soothing background as I read. The subject matter of the volume in my hand brought comfort as well. Another expert had scripted a summary of his findings regarding life after this life and his every word immersed me more deeply into an ocean of peace.

This is Trinity Sunday and I’m sharing my Wisconsin adventure because it offered me a glimpse of the essence of today’s celebration. Trinity Sunday differs from the other major feasts of the liturgical year. Christmas, Easter and Pentecost mark events which continue to shape our relationships with God. On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate God’s wonder. Just as Mike and I found ourselves relaxed and at peace in our little cabin, we all find ourselves most at peace when we nestle in close proximity to God. Still, though we try to embrace this peace as often as possible, we sometimes imitate the clumsy efforts of those who came long before us when we do so.

The Old Testament tells us that Moses’ contemporaries viewed God as Creator, Ruler and Judge. They approached God with tempered hope and a good deal of trepidation. Today’s reading from Deuteronomy (4:32-34. 39-40) offers an example of Moses’ responses to God’s often impatient people. Moses pointed out that though they repeatedly doubted God’s concern for them, God responded every time to their needs. God fed them with morning meals of manna and suppers of quail. God quenched their thirst with a fountain of water in the midst of the desert. Still, in spite of God’s ongoing presence to them, fear overwhelmed the Israelites even as they approached the Promised Land. It was then that God made God’s presence more visible than ever to them.

Today’s reading from Romans (8:14-17) reminds us that Jesus revealed God’s presence and God’s love quite tangibly. When Jesus embraced his life among the people, he underscored the value of even the most ordinary aspects of our lives. Jesus learned to love and to respect his parents, neighbors and friends. He grew into adulthood with useful skills and a deep faith in God. Jesus used his public ministry to reveal the nature of God’s love for us. The One whom the Israelites saw as Creator, Ruler and Judge became “Abba” to Jesus’ followers. Through his own acts of kindness, mercy and love, his preaching and parables (Do you remember the Prodigal Son?), Jesus made one thing clear: That, above all else, God is the most loving parent any of us will ever know. Sadly, the disciples returned to the fearfulness of the Israelites when Jesus ascended into heaven. Fortunately, it wasn’t long afterward that God’s presence among us became undeniable. God’s Spirit arrived in a stormy flurry and filled up the disciples so completely that they couldn’t contain themselves. They burst out of hiding from that upper room and filled the streets of Jerusalem with the good news of God’s love for us all.

I mentioned earlier that I began with Mike’s and my Wisconsin adventure because it offered us a glimpse of the gift we celebrate today. Mike and I enjoy the cabin because it rests in the midst of the best of creation. The interior is simple, but truly comfortable. The phone seldom rings and our internet activity is limited to a minute or two on our iPhones. When I use our offline laptop to write, the words flow more freely than ever. Our isolation from our hectic lives at home frees us to inhale the fresh country air and to tune in to our briefly unencumbered hearts. These interludes free us to experience God’s presence more fully. On this Trinity Sunday, God assures us that we’re in very good company wherever we are. Whether we’re worried and impatient as the Israelites were or uncertain and feeling abandoned as the disciples were, God is with us. Though we can’t always drive north to quieter environs, we can find quiet moments to spend with our Abba wherever we are. It is during these quiet times that the God we celebrate this Trinity Sunday assures us once again that we’re never alone.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Worth The Effort

As for you, every hair of your head has been counted;
so do not be afraid of anything.

Matthew 10:30

A recent gathering with extended family allowed me to watch as my nieces and nephews interacted. Their good-hearted banter brought to mind my sister and brother who celebrate with us from the hereafter these days. Before it could be detected, I dabbed an unexpected tear from my cheek. Perhaps my recent reflections regarding the things to come have come full circle. When I returned home afterward, I strolled to our wall of family photos. I smiled at the images of my brother and sister, my parents, grandparents and many others. All the while, I consoled myself with the certainty that they’re all just fine in their new home with God.

My certainty regarding the things to come began with my mom and dad. Later in college, I encountered the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who pioneered near-death experience studies. Her research regarding life after this life underscored what my faith had already convinced me was true. Throughout the decades since, many medical professionals have added to her research. More recently, two physicians (Dr. Eben Alexander and Dr. Mary C. Neal) who’ve had near-death experiences themselves have added to this wisdom.

I don’t mean to repeat myself in these daily posts. However, sometimes a topic is so important to me and to all of us that I’m compelled to do so. With that, I encourage you to do the best you can to live a happy, generous and productive life. I also encourage you to remember that you are never ever alone and that all you do is worth the effort.

Loving God, help us to remember that you are with us in everything always.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved