P… Peace

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of my heart’s desires, I think I long for and relish peace most of all. The truth is that during the most difficult times of my life, I’ve been at least faintly aware of a measure of peace deep within me. In spite of the troubles at hand, I feel convinced at some level that circumstances will evolve for the best. While I may make my own ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer in the process, peace eases its way to the surface. Eventually, I accept that I can only do what I can do and I leave the rest to God. Letting go is an extremely difficult, but liberating exercise. When I empty myself of my worry and angst, I make room for God’s peace to enter in.

Though I may have to wait for heaven to enjoy the psalmist’s peaceful image which I’ve cited above, I can infuse some level of peace into the moments I’m given here. Perhaps my New Year’s efforts to improve should include a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to flow from my lips. Perhaps these efforts should include a glance upward and a glance within before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. Perhaps I need to begin each day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to erupt. Perhaps I can bring a glimpse of the psalmist’s image to this world after all…

Compassionate God, you generously gift us with your peace. Help us to set aside our worries and to focus upon your peaceful presence as we embrace all that lies ahead.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

O… Original

For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be and favored.

Psalm 128:2

O is for Original. I had difficulty settling on today’s word. I was torn between “original” and “opus” because both words describe an extremely important aspect of our existence. You see, each of us is an original. Even my cousins who are identical twins are very different people. Still, I cannot dismiss the word “opus” because each of our lives is exactly that. You and I are unique and important works which God has contributed to our human family. Our part in all of this is to contribute our own unique and important work to the mix. Whether we compose or construct or cause things to happen, our opus is vital to the rest of humankind. Whether this work is a lifelong process, a singular effort at a particular moment in time or a combination of the two, our original opus will make an impact upon others as no one else’s work can.

My first reaction to all of this is to feel the weight of the world upon me. Then, I consider the great and small works of those I’ve met along the way. I realize that the grandeur or smallness of their actions means little to me. It is their presence and their delivery which changed everything. Each person’s original opus has impacted me in some way. The same is true of my own work. It’s up to me to make my contribution to this world. I must seize the opportunities before me and make the most of them as only I can. The same is true for you and for all of us!

Loving God, be with us as we bring our unique talents to fruition. Inspire our efforts to contribute our own original opus to impact this world as only we can.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

N… Name

At daybreak, he called his disciples and selected twelve of them
to be his apostles: Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter…

Luke 6:13-16

N is for Name. Some years ago, his name caused our younger son some serious heartache. One evening at dinner, when he could no longer contain his misery, Tim tearfully demanded, “Why does everyone in this family’s name start with an ‘M’ except for mine?” I’d never given Tim’s dilemma a thought, so I immediately and silently begged for guidance before I responded: “Tim, Dad’s name was Mike and my name was Mary when we met. We didn’t choose to have ‘M’ names. When Mike was born, Dad wanted to continue the family name, so we named him Michael. Yours is the only name that we really thought about. I love the name ‘Timothy’ and I love you. It was the perfect name for you.” This explanation was true. It was also enough to allow Tim to finish his dinner with a smile.

I believe that God gives us parents some latitude in naming our children. This is quite a gift since God knows the value of our names. God renamed Abram when God sent him off. This Abraham would father the Jewish people. Jesus gave Simon a new name. Simon Peter became the rock upon whom Jesus built his church. Later, when Saul vengefully persecuted the followers of Jesus, Jesus stepped in and renamed him. Paul became one of the greatest teachers of Christian living.

Though your name and mine were likely bestowed with a bit less fanfare than those of our biblical predecessors, God uses them with the same expectation. In every opportunity which comes our way, God calls our names with great love and with great hope in our responses.

Speak, Loving God, for we will listen as you call our names.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

M… Mercy

While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him and was deeply moved.
He ran out to meet him,
threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

M is for Mercy. Of all of the characteristics Jesus exhibited, I find mercy to be the most powerful. Though Jesus taught mercy masterfully in his interactions with others, he underscored these lessons with the unforgettable Parable of the Prodigal Son. If any of us question our ability to be lovingly and mercifully forgiven, this story dispels all doubt.

In Jesus’ community, a request for an early inheritance insulted a parent gravely. The offending child essentially demanded, “Behave as though you are dead so I can have my money.” According to the parable, in spite of his son’s selfishness and disregard for his feelings, that father gave his son what he asked. The son responded by leaving town and squandering every cent. When he was left to find work tending swine, the young man had reached rock bottom. In the end, he realized his wrong-doing and returned home to work for his father as a servant. As the above passage from Luke tells us, this father would have none of it. At the sight of his son, mercy and love filled up the man who embraced his child and welcomed him home.

Jesus revealed our loving God in everything he said an did. For me, Jesus revealed God’s essence in this simple story of mercy.

Merciful God, thank you for giving us reason to return from our wrongdoing. Your willingness to forgive us everything and to love us in spite of it all is more than we could ever hope for. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

L… Love

You shall love the Lord your God
with your whole heart,
with your whole soul,
and with your whole mind….
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

From Matthew 22:37-38

L is for Love. This is a tough one. I don’t have a bit of trouble loving God. Though I admit to having had words with our patient Lord, this is the result of my certainty of God’s love for me. God invited me into a relationship. When I accepted, I committed myself to being completely honest in this regard. This is my only choice. After all, if I don’t share my true feelings, God knows them nonetheless.

Early on, a wise teacher shared that there is something lovable about every one of us and that it is up to us to discover what this is. This observation has helped me a great deal over the years. Though I don’t have a flawless track record, I can honestly say that I don’t hate anyone. Still, though I love my neighbor in theory, putting that love into practice sometimes poses a challenge. The good news here is that I try.

The toughest part is loving my neighbor as I love myself. When this New Year 2020 became reality, I resolved to work at being less judgmental. What I must be clear about is that much of that judgment is directed toward myself. If I fail to love myself enough to allow myself the luxury of being a frail human, how can I love my neighbors enough to allow them to do the same? God loves me and God is amazingly patient with me. I must learn to do the same.

Love is a tricky endeavor at best. Still, it’s the best work we can do and the best source of true happiness. The passage from Matthew above isn’t a directive. It’s an invitation to heaven on earth.

Loving God, thank you for creating us in your image, especially when it comes to our ability love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

K… Kindness

People who are well do not need a doctor;
sick people do. I come to call upon sinners.

From Mark 2:17

K is for Kindness. Unexpected kindness is the most effective variety of this virtue. When I’m not at my best, a bit of TLC can salvage the moment for all concerned. I became a recipient of random kindnesses early on in my life. When I woke my mom in the middle of the night with a childhood woe, she responded with patience and love. She returned me to my room and tucked me into my bed with a second good-night kiss. Thoughtful teachers responded to my occasional transgressions with understanding rather than anger. Their mercy encouraged me to be my best. When life became more complicated through my teens and into adulthood, I responded far more positively to a kind word than to a less-than-civil reprimand. The good news in all of this is that I took these lessons in kindness to heart. When I became a teacher and a parent, I found that my students and my own children responded best when kindness set the tone of our interactions.

You know, it’s easy to extend kindness to the people we like and to those who offer the same courtesy to us. Unfortunately, those whose names aren’t on our “A List” likely need our kindness most. We need only to look Jesus’ way to find examples of kindness offered indiscriminately. That kindness changed lives and this world forever.

Gracious God, thank you for giving us the capacity to respond to one another with kindness. Inspire us to do so, especially when it’s most difficult and most needed.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved