God’s Welcome

When a friend shared the highlights of his trip to New York City, I smiled knowingly at almost everything he said. I was impressed that he’d managed to take in as much during his adventure as my husband and I had done in two trips to the Big Apple. This conversation prompted me to unearth the photos which chronicle our New York stay. Though this writing awaited me, I allowed those photos to lead my reminiscing for a full half-hour. When I finally turned to today’s scripture passages, I realized that time had been very well-spent. Let me begin by telling you about those trips…

During our first stay, we lodged near Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. I recalled that I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found that we were able to see the Statue of Liberty from our hotel room. During our second visit, we stayed in Times Square. These locations gave us the opportunity to see the city from two completely different perspectives. Though tourists filled Battery Park, its lush green expanses and proximity to the harbor kept it from feeling crowded. Though Times Square can only be described as frenetic, it proved to be truly inviting in its own colorful way.

Times Square teems with people from dawn to dusk and into the wee hours of the morning. Bright lights and sidewalk vendors provide some of the color and scents unique to this amazing hub of activity. Before that trip, a friend had told me that her favorite Times Square activity had been people-watching. She traveled to New York fairly often. Whenever she was there, she made her way to the two-story McDonald’s where she sat by a second floor window. From that perch above the sidewalk, she enjoyed the wave of humankind which passed by. When my husband and I were there, we quickly understood my friend’s fascination. Mike remarked that he heard people speaking a number of different languages. As for me, I saw amazingly chiseled faces with long and short noses, high and mid-placed cheek bones and very full and very thin lips. Numerous shades of hair color topped my fellow humans as they made their way. I wonder what those passers-by saw as I passed them by.

Though we’d spent most of our stay in Time’s Square during that second trip, we ventured off to the World Trade Center site. We stopped to pray in St. Paul’s Chapel/Trinity Church which had miraculously survived the horror of September 11, 2001. Afterward, we went on to Battery Park to re-acquaint ourselves with Lady Liberty. I immediately walked to the base of the statue where Emma Lazarus’ poem is displayed. Its words speak Lady Liberty’s welcome to all who come her way: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Tears stung my eyes that day just as they do today. I stopped typing just long enough to whisper my thanks that I have a place to find solace when I’m feeling tired and tempest-tost and poor. There’s a space reserved for this purpose just for me in God’s heart.

Today’s readings from Numbers (11:25-29) and Mark’s gospel (9:38-43, 45, 47-48) underscore our welcome into God’s unconditional love for each one of us. Numbers tells us that Moses’ followers complained because two among them hadn’t blessed with the spirit of Moses, yet they received the gift of prophesy like the rest. Joshua told Moses to stop those who seemed to have no business doing God’s work. While Joshua questioned the authenticity of those interlopers, Moses declared that he wished all of the people exhibited those powers. In the gospel, this phenomenon repeated itself. John complained that an outsider had healed someone in Jesus’ name. John grumbled that he told the man to stop, but he didn’t. Jesus repeated Moses’ response. “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.” In other words, Jesus told John to leave the man alone!

It seems to me that the greatest gift which accompanies our humanity is the place you and I hold in God’s heart and the company we share with one another. God fashioned the differences which make us who we are. Who are we not to love what God has created? Perhaps Mike and I were so taken by the truly diverse population of Times Square because each person who passed us by illustrated the uniqueness of God’s best work. Perhaps I’m so taken with Lady Liberty’s words of welcome because they echo God’s invitation to you and me to seek refuge in God’s embrace when nothing else will do. How touched we should be that God trusts us to spread the good news of this welcome to everyone we meet along the way!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Faithful Guardian

A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where God sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to God,
and myriads upon myriads attended to God.

Daniel 7:10

Daniel’s imagery provides a fairly accurate picture of my earliest impressions of God. The adults around me did a very good job of convincing me of God’s love. Still, there was something about the Almighty’s powerful presence which gave me reason to pause. The earliest days of my relationship with God included some shyness and perhaps a bit of fear when it came to my own behavior and the things I dared and dared not to pray for.

The good news is that Daniel’s imagery also inspired my faith in God’s helpers, the archangels in particular. From the time I was a little child, I turned to Michael the Archangel when fearful people or fearful circumstances threatened. Though I was unsure of how all of this worked back then, I do recall finding great consolation under the Archangel’s watchful eye.

Though I have set aside the more cumbersome baggage from my childhood which stunted my growth faith-wise, I admit that I continue to turn to the Good Michael and his friends Raphael and Gabriel when those I love are in danger or ill or in need of guidance. Though I don’t expect any one of them to draw a sword to take down their adversaries, I do believe that these angels remain with them for the duration. Perhaps all that is required to make things right is a strong shoulder to lean on, even when we don’t realize that shoulder is there.

Loving God, thank you for all of those who guard us and guide us along the way. Most of all, thank you for being with us in everything.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

And So I Write On!

I have written this to make you realize
that you possess eternal life…

1 John 5:13

One of the most enjoyable things I do is write. This is an odd turn of events because it was extremely difficult for me to earn an “A” on writing assignments in high school. Whether creative endeavors or research papers, I usually just missed that coveted A. In college, I did slightly better only because most papers involved research and the recycling of established facts which involved little creativity on my part. Thirty years ago, my new pastor asked me to write “something inspirational that will fill a column or two” in our first parish bulletin. I surprised myself when I took this challenge. Somehow, I managed to bury my fear and to compose something acceptable in response.

Every week since, I’ve poured over the scriptures and my own life experiences to do the same. What began as a challenge has morphed into a welcome opportunity to spread the good news regarding what God has so generously revealed to me. Truly, I can’t help myself.

As I’ve shared numerous times, this writing adventure has inspired a book. One third of that manuscript rests in a file on my computer and in a “just in case” hard copy. The remaining two-thirds teeter between some sketchy notes and another file lodged in my memory. Today, I’ve reopened all of those files to continue this endeavor. I assume God will be involved with this book as well. It’s the story of our relationship, God’s with me and mine with God. Wish me luck!

Good and Gracious God, HELP!!!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Those Special Women

Her children rise up to praise her;
her husband, too, extols her.

Proverbs 31:28

My husband’s aunt passed away a year ago just prior to her 102nd birthday. Aunt Mary was a true matriarch who held her own until the very end of her life. The only exception was her one hundredth birthday party which she told her children not to have. When they insisted, Aunt Mary insisted as well. She would allow only a very small gathering. For once, her children didn’t listen to her! It was a grand celebration that even Aunt Mary enjoyed.

When my husband’s cousins recently sold Aunt Mary’s home, memories filled me up. Though I’m the in-law in all of this, the family who occupied that home welcomed me into their lives. Because of the distance between them, she and my husband’s mom spoke over the phone frequently. Afterward, my husband’s mom quickly called him to share the latest family news. Of course, he shared the same with me. And so it went for decades…

You know, there’s something to be said for the matriarchs in our families. My own clan boasts several who resemble Aunt Mary in their determination and their immeasurable capacities to love. They lead us in strong, but nurturing ways, each in her own way. Though not one of them is perfect, each one certainly leaves her indelible mark on us with loving precision. In the end, each of these women did the best she could and I am most grateful. After all, they’ve given me a peek at God’s feminine side which I might otherwise have missed.

Loving God, thank you for the special women who enrich our lives.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Attend To The Weather

This is the message you heard from the beginning:
we should love one another.

1 John 3:11

A storm is brewing just beyond my window. A recent string of dry days makes this a welcome omen. I failed to understand the explanation the meteorologist offered to explain this change in the weather. Still, I listened gratefully to her promise of rain.

It occurs to me that my knowledge of human nature exceeds my knowledge of the weather. Sadly, I sometimes ignore this wisdom and “push buttons” that would best be left alone. Though I know well what will come next if I attempt to have the last word, I speak in spite of myself. Though the thunder in my adversary threatens, I hold on to what I should have let go rather than letting love take care. When I reflect further, I realize that some of the aggravation and discontent in my life would be alleviated if I paid better attention to the “weather conditions” swirling about others. Truly, I’ve accomplished the most good when I’ve followed my heart and responded to that “weather” with love.

Though I may never fully understand meteorological phenomena, I can certainly improve my understanding of my fellow humans.

Patient God, help me to respond to those you give me to love as you do.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever-Evolving Gifts

“Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy
before the Lord.”

Psalm 98 1:7-8

The other day, a cold front transformed moderate temps into a taste of late fall. Though I enjoy the approach of each of the four seasons, this sudden change took me by surprise. I’ve recently enjoyed a string of wonderful gatherings with family and friends. Perhaps I fear that the change in temperature will somehow effect this joyful trend. As I head outdoors for a walk, I consider the miracles in nature which I will pass along my way.

As fall eases he way in, life around me will give way. Most of the living things I encounter will hide, lying dormant beneath the surface until next spring. The potential they hold reminds me of the potential to be found in so many unexpected places -and people. I realize that recent outings with family and friends revealed many amazing gifts which too often lurk beneath the surface. The transformation in nature around me is reminiscent of the new and forgotten gifts of those I have been given to love. These wonderful encounters fulfilled my hope, just as nature does, that life is everywhere and in everyone I meet along the way. I need only to take the time to enjoy it.

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts of nature and of those you have given me to love, whatever the season.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved