Make Time for God

All who touched him got well.
From Mark 6:56

On this last day of January, I realize that this first month of New Year 2019 has eased me into winter. The warm temps earlier on allowed me to stay as busy as ever both indoors and out. As I shared the other day, I was rather grateful when the snow finally came. It forced me to plan my errands around safe travel and, therefore, to budget my time better. This has allowed my husband and me the opportunity to retreat, to regroup and to nurture our love for one another. It has also allowed me to do the same regarding my relationship with God.

I hope that my affection for the Lord God is obvious in my efforts to fill this space every day. I hope that most of what I do speaks the same. Still, the monotony of daily life and unexpected demands sometimes distract me. I don’t always take the time to speak my affection to God or to simply sit or walk in God’s good company. Winter 2019 is providing the perfect opportunity for me to do just that. Will you join me?

Gracious God, thank you for being with us in everything. I’ll try to show my appreciation by acknowledging your presence by talking with you at least once a day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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See What God Sees

God looked at everything God made, and God found it very good.
Genesis 3:31

One of the treasures I recall from my childhood is our family bible. Actually, we had two. The first was a single tome, beautifully decorated and meant to serve as a family heirloom. The second was a massive binder made up of separate booklets which came in the mail every month. With each new arrival, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the new booklet and replaced the cover. Afterward, I poured over this newest edition’s colorful pictures and passages. My favorite was the Book of Genesis. The Creation Story conjured up wonderful images of our amazing God. Only when our first grandchild was born did I truly appreciate that image of God, the most loving Grandparent ever.

I cite the passage above with good reason. When I look at my own grandchildren, I’m certain that I see what God sees. I say this because no matter what they do, I love them. The truth is that I feel this way about my grown sons as well. I wouldn’t trade any one of them for anything else in all of creation. As God observed, they are very good indeed!

Every week or so, we spend an afternoon visiting our granddaughters. A few weeks ago, I resumed my one-day-a-week commitment to babysit for our grandsons while Mommy and Daddy are at work. Oddly, my thoughts return to that childhood bible and my awe over God’s creation. Today, I realize that a special part of that creation has been entrusted to me and I find it (Them all!) to be very good!

Loving God, thank you for this glimpse of what you see when you look upon each one of us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest! It’s Okay!

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

I’d been running errands all morning and I was grateful for the long line ahead of me. Oddly enough, I truly appreciated the opportunity to lean on my grocery cart and to stand still for a few minutes. While enjoying this bit of peace, a person ahead of me in line remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As this man hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. I had found wealth in these seemingly wasted moments.

It seems to me that all of us are too busy far too often. This is nothing new, as Jesus experienced the same. Though Jesus longed for a bit of peace, there was always someone who needed him more than he needed his rest. This is the reason Jesus rose very early and stole away for quiet time as often as possible. Jesus made it his business to care for others, and, once in a while, to care for himself.

The moral of the story is this: It is perfectly fine and truly necessary to acknowledge our fatigue because we find the energy and the will to care for others in our own rested spirits. The moral of the story is: Rest when you need to!

Dear God, I’m grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to remember that I occasionally need me as well.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Bring Love to The Moment at Hand

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me…

From Mark 7:6

The past few days’ reflections give me reason to pause. I’ve been extremely blessed with the many good people who have shared God’s love with me. It occurs to me that I must be diligent in doing the same for those I meet along the way. Though I may not be able to counter all of the loveless ways of this world, I can do something to bring God’s love to the moments at hand.

I’m not going to stand on street corners quoting scripture, preaching or reading my posts to those who happen by. However, I can offer a smile as I pass my fellow humans. I can be patient as I wait in line at the store, using my time to pray rather than to fume. I can smile at that noisy toddler in church so her parents realize that their presence is appreciated. I can listen to the elderly man who seeks out a willing ear every time I look in his direction. I can phone a lonely friend and visit a parishioner at the nursing home. I can take the grandkids while my son and daughter-in-law enjoy an evening out. I can also donate groceries to the food pantries my parish supports. Whenever I encounter an opportunity, I need to embrace it! This is the best way for me to share God’s love.

Dear God, be with me as I try to share your love with others every moment of every day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Attentive To God’s Voice

It’s been two weeks since village employees picked up our discarded Christmas Tree and delivered it to The Land of Mulch. The good news is that this relocation will allow that tree to be transformed and to continue to be of very good use. Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried to transform some of our no-longer-needed possessions into useful commodities as well. In the process, I’ve filled one box for the St. Vincent De Paul Store and I’ve started to fill another. Those extra dishes, cookware and flatware were easy to part with. I happily packed up the clothing I no longer need as well. It’s my book collection which encourages me to hold on with all of my might!

If a book has remained in my possession after a single reading, it’s something special. If a book remains after a second reading, it is counted among my lifelong friends. I have a set of mystery novels whose plots unfold in familiar Chicago neighborhoods. I met their author a few times at various book signings and when he visited a nearby parish. Because I share his perspective regarding God’s love for us, those encounters merited my effort. Yes, I’m keeping this collection. My Christmas-themed books and the story behind my favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, are all keepers as well. I know I’ve mentioned my books regarding near-death experiences and the afterlife in previous reflections. Of course, they will remain on my bookshelf. Though my faith tells me what I need to know in this regard, those who have ventured into the hereafter and then returned to tell us what they encountered there never cease to amaze me. Who and what they encountered there provide additional evidence that God is indeed our most loving caretaker. I’ve also kept a few past copies of a daily devotional which I’ve read for almost thirty years. Several authors contribute to these annuals and I like to see how their thinking evolves over time. I also have copies of my own Advent and Lent devotionals. After all, I have to check up on my own evolving thoughts as well. Sometimes, I surprise myself!

I celebrate these written treasures today because each one brings good news into my life. Sometimes, the words these writers have strung together open me up to ideas I’ve never considered. Sometimes, their words give me reason to revisit the truths lying deep within me. Sometimes, they simply underscore the things I already know. Whatever the case, I find inspiration, grace and love in their work. On this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, the scriptures invite us to celebrate the good news to be found in the written word on an even greater scale.

In the first reading (Nehemiah 8:2-6; 8-10), Nehemiah announces to Israel that the long-awaited end to the Babylonian exile has finally come. The people gather before their priest Ezra as he reads from the Book of The Law. This encounter with the written word is particularly moving to those present as they prepare themselves to live outside of the bonds of slavery. Finally, they reside on their own soil and enjoy the freedom to worship as they choose to. The words Ezra reads provide sustenance to their once starving souls. Paul shares good news as well through his prolific writing. In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:12-30), Paul reminds the people that they haven’t been estranged from God’s word by an external enemy. Rather, the Corinthians have estranged themselves from one another through their jealousy regarding one another’s gifts. With carefully crafted words, Paul reminds his followers that each one of them is cherished by God, uniquely gifted by God, and called by God to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as only they can. Luke’s gospel (1:1-4; 4:14-21) underscores the power of the written word as well. Luke shares that Jesus revealed his mission through a deeply moving passage which he read from the Prophet Isaiah. Jesus used the prophet’s writing to assure the people that it is he who has come to bring comfort to all, even the most lowly among them. Though the people to whom Ezra, Paul and Jesus addressed had experienced seemingly insurmountable difficulties, they drew near to these three to find the nourishment God provided through the written word.

I contemplate the written word at every opportunity because it is one of the special places where God’s voice whispers to me. Today, as we celebrate the gift of God’s voice in scripture, we open ourselves to God’s inspiration, grace and love wherever we encounter them. You know, God speaks to us in many beautiful and unexpected ways. If your soul is hungry for a bit of peace or consolation, a taste of joy or comfort, open yourself up to God’s presence. Whether you turn to scripture writers or the written words of the many other wonderful people who reveal God through their insights and experiences, you will find what you need. Indeed, God uses all of creation, including my shelf full of books and us imperfect humans, to nurture us and to love us as only God can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I Love Timothy!

“…to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God…”

2 Timothy 1:2

On this Feast of St. Timothy, I share once again my affiliation with the good saint’s name. It began when I convinced my husband that the entire family did NOT have to share the first letter of their names. Though Mike, our older son Mike and I all begin our names with M, I wasn’t going to select an “M-name” for our second child which I didn’t like. The results of that conversation came to fruition during dinner one night…

Our younger son was in first grade. The meal had progressed with our typical conversation regarding the day except that Tim seemed especially quiet. In the midst of the conversation, our red-faced seven-year-old suddenly howled, “Why am I the only one in this family whose name doesn’t start with M?” My husband and I were taken aback because we had no idea that this so bothered our younger son. Before we could respond, Tim tearfully added, “Mike, Mary and Michael. Why is my name Timothy?” It occurred to me that this was a good question from our little apparent outcast and I responded.

I explained that his dad and I didn’t choose each other because our names began with M. I added that when our first baby was a boy, his Dad wanted to keep the name Michael in the family. When our second baby was on the way, I felt certain that he was a boy. We talked at length about his name because my husband was committed to another M-name. I told Tim that I didn’t like any of the M-names his dad suggested. Why pick a name just because of the M? I loved “Timothy” and that’s why I selected that name. Tim’s is the only name in the family which we really had to think about. With that, our smiling Timothy finished his dinner.

Dear God, regardless of what we are called, you know us and love us. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved