Holy Is Your Name!

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

2 Timothy 1:2

The wonderful time I had celebrating our little grandson’s birthday remains with me as do the precious events which led us to this milestone. As we sang “Happy Birthday, dear Danny,” I recalled the phone call which announced Daniel’s birth. Tim happily announced, “He’s here! Daniel’s here!” I’ll never forget the thrill and worry which accompanied that news. When Tim continued with the assurance that all was well with our new grandson, I considered his name which was a complete surprise. I like “Daniel” and I made a mental note to ask his parents how they arrived at this selection.

As I wondered, I recalled an episode with Daniel’s dad when he was a child. At the time, my son expressed complete dissatisfaction with the name my husband and I had chosen for him. It was dinnertime and my husband, our son Mike and I talked as usual about the events of the day. Tim was uncharacteristically quiet. Suddenly, in the midst of the conversation, our red-faced seven-year-old son howled, “Why am I the only one in this family whose name doesn’t start with M?” My husband and I were taken aback. We had no idea that this bothered our younger son. Before we could respond, Tim tearfully added, “Mike, Mary and Michael. Why is my name Timothy?” I hoped my explanation would sooth Tim’s wounded spirit.

“Tim, Dad’s name was Mike and my name was Mary when we met. We didn’t have a choice about that. When we had your brother, Dad wanted to name him after himself and Grandpa. So his name is Mike, too. When you were on the way, I just knew you were going to be a boy. Dad and I talked a lot about your name. I didn’t like any of the M names. Why pick a name just because of the M? I loved Timothy and that’s why you have that name. Yours is the only name that this family really thought about.” With that, my beloved Timothy finished his dinner with a smile.

One day, Daniel will discover as well that his name is the product of his parents’ love.

Dear God, thank you for making each of our names holy just because we are yours.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Once Again, I Thank You, Dear God…

From the depths of my despair, I wept before you.
You heard my voice, dried my tears and responded.

Inspired by Psalm 130:1-2 and God’s Merciful Response to Me

Our little grandson recently celebrated his second birthday. What a celebration that was! It was with deep gratitude that I rejoiced with Daniel because…

Daniel’s mom had experienced productive contractions from Week 26 of this pregnancy. Week 32 marked a major milestone. Another two weeks would bring him close to typical newborn size and development. A day into that week, the telephone rang at 1:00 AM. I heard my husband repeat, “So your water broke?” Tears flowed as they spoke further. My prayers began.

That morning, we learned Baby could remain in utero for two weeks while his mom remained in the hospital. After praying the morning away, I called my son. I heard the concern in his voice as he reported that his wife was experiencing a lot of pain. Because my daughter-in-law is healthy, athletic and incapable of complaining, I took this news to heart. It was then that my prayer changed…

I wept until I found the courage to look heavenward. I wept bitterly as I spoke… “Dear God, I can feed the hungry and be there for the lonely. I can listen to those who need me and I can mourn with those in pain. But this, there is nothing I can do about this. I can’t stop the contractions. I can’t keep that baby in place until the time is right. Only you can fix this. So I beg you for a miracle. I beg you not to allow this baby to be born until he is ready enough. Please give them a miracle because I can’t. This is all up to you.” And on I wept.

Four hours later, our son called: “He’s here! Daniel is here!” All tests indicated that Daniel was behaving like a mini-full-term newborn. His color, weight and reflexes amazed all concerned. Though he remained in the hospital for three weeks, Daniel proved that he was indeed “ready enough”!

Loving God, I humbly thank you for allowing me to pray as I did and for responding with that miracle.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Indiscriminate Love

While waiting for an appointment, I tried several times to begin this reflection. Much to my dismay, distractions of every sort thwarted my progress. After vetoing my third attempt at an opening paragraph, I decided to close my eyes, contemplate life and offer a word of greetings to God. I’m usually quite good at blocking out the world around me. I thought I was succeeding until a conversation nearby became animated. The two women involved weren’t arguing. They were simply lamenting their grandchildren’s tough circumstances. Though I tried to return to my conversation with the Lord God, I couldn’t ignore the long list of troubles that these obviously dear friends shared. I closed my eyes to hide the tears which formed on their behalf. “Dear God,” I prayed, “please help them and those poor kids. Let them know that you’re with them in all of this.” My name was called before I could add an “amen” to my plea. Though I will likely never see those worried grandmothers again, their sadness remained with me.

When I sat at my keyboard later that afternoon, melancholy continued to overwhelm me. As difficult as those situations are, the same and worse exist throughout this world of ours. I wondered what any of us can do to help all of the suffering children and adults whose situations seem more hopeless than ever. I didn’t help those worried grandmas. How would I make a dent in the rest of the misery around me? With that query in mind, I returned to today’s scripture passages and to my initial attempts. At the bottom of a page-full of notes, I read, “Use the one-liners!” One-liners? It was then that I recalled the quotes from Isaiah, Paul’s Letter to the Romans and Matthew’s gospel which I’d written on my notepad. “Of course!” I said aloud. Before returning to the task at hand, I glanced upward and whispered my thanks for that well-timed bit of inspiration.

Though today’s readings are rich with meaning, I couldn’t turn my attention from those precious one-liners. In the passage from Isaiah (Isaiah 56:1, 6-7), the author quotes God’s insistence that foreigners who seek the Lord are as welcome to share God’s company as those born into their community and their faith. This discourse ends with, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” I couldn’t help surmising that God also adds, “And my heart shall be called a heart which loves all peoples.” Though I felt great empathy toward those heartbroken grandmas, God actually endures their pain with them. While I do my best to comfort the suffering around me, God remains at their sides for the duration. I acknowledged that simply knowing that Someone out there feels our pain is a huge consolation. I whispered, “Thank you for caring.”

In the passage from Romans (Romans 11:13-15, 29-32), Paul turns his attention to the Gentiles because his own people have rejected him. While he gives his all to the Gentiles, Paul reminds them that Israel remains in God’s radar as well. Paul insists that this is the case, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” The point for you and me is that regardless of the discouragement or anger which seemingly draws us away from God, God remains with us. I whispered again, “Thank you for your company.”

Today’s passage from Matthew’s Gospel (15:21-28) provides a somewhat puzzling example of God’s unshakable love for each one of us. I admit that at first reading Jesus seems a bit arrogant in his encounter with a Canaanite woman who seeks a cure for her tormented daughter. The woman has no intention of joining Jesus and his followers. Still, she approaches Jesus for a miracle. Jesus begins his response with his observation that as an outsider this woman has no business seeking the favor of the God of Israel. The woman pushes on and argues that even the dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table. Now, the men of Jesus’ day never engaged a woman in such intellectual banter. Though Jesus seems cruel in his remarks, he actually honors this woman’s wisdom and stature by arguing with her. Jesus honors the woman further when he rewards her profound faith with her daughter’s cure. Jesus tells her, “Oh woman, great its your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish!”

Though the cures for our ills and those of this world come far less dramatically, God remains with every man, woman and child who walks this earth whether or not we notice. In the mean time, it’s up to us to take those one-liners to heart and to live accordingly. As was the case with those worried grandmas, I cannot solve all of the problems which come my way. However, I can care and I can do something when the opportunity presents itself. In the process, I’ll make God’s precious presence evident to those who really need to know that God is with them.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always With Us

Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth.

From Isaiah 45:22

Recent celebrations of our wedding anniversary and our little grandson’s birthday elicited much reminiscing on my part. I’ve enjoyed fond memories especially of my mom. My mom was happiest when we were gathered as family under one roof enjoying one another. How she would have loved to participate in the many events which have occurred since her passing!

After what we expected to be uneventful surgery, my sisters and I were shocked by the news of our mom’s cancer, her four-month life expectancy and the possibility of pain that could darken her smile. When we told our mother the news, she shared our surprise at the diagnosis, but not at the outcome. “We all have to die from something. I’ve had a good long life. I wanted to leave an educated family that contributes and I have. I hope I can do what I want for a while. I hope I can be comfortable. I hope I go without too much trouble. I hope…” We all hoped with her.

In the end, the outcome was precisely what my mom had hoped for. The pain never came and she did everything she hoped to until her last two days when she remained in bed. On the day she left us, my mom’s eyes were closed, but her heart was wide open to the things to come. As for our family gatherings since then, I’m certain my mom has been perched nearby and that she hasn’t miss a thing!

Loving God, thank you for making us capable of loving one another so much that our losses hurt and thank you for filling us with just enough faith and hope to cope.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Treasure

God looked at everything he had made,
and he found it very good.

From Genesis 1:31

Though I’m currently immersed in my writing schedule, I stepped away from my keyboard long enough to address my to-do list. One item which has proven to be a perpetual part of that list is purging our home. This exercise never ceases to reveal treasures from our past which conjure memories of loved ones here and in the hereafter. During this particular episode, I focused on our kitchen counter.

Because we have ample counters, a few mementos have made their homes on them. One of these items is a tiny yellow school bus planter. Our very dear next door neighbor Ellie gifted me with that little bus at least thirty years ago. Ellie had been an auxiliary grandmother to both of our sons from the day each one was born. We saw Ellie every day. When she relaxed on her patio, we often joined Ellie to catch up on the day’s news or to solve the problems of the world both far away and close to home. Even during the winter months when we were confined indoors, we ventured through the snow to visit Ellie.

Though I cannot recall the reason Ellie gave me that bus, I think of her every time I see it. About ten years into that little bus’s usually peaceful life, I dropped it. When it cracked in half, I was beside myself. Ellie had passed away not long before this and I couldn’t bear being without my reminder of her presence in our lives. With that, I glued the bus as best I could and parked it on the counter. When I picked up my little bus in the midst of this attempt to purge, I determined that it will remain with us a while longer.

Dear God, you treasure us far more than I do my little bus and you never question the wisdom of keeping us close to you. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Attraction

They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:18

The other day, while sharing my joy over finally adhering to a reasonable writing schedule, a friend asked, “Where do you get all of those stories?” I laughed as I recalled my mom’s designation “Little Big Ears” in response to my uncanny ability to attend to everything the adults around me had to say. Much to my mom’s dismay, I filed this information away and too often repeated it at the wrong time. The good news is that I eventually developed some discretion. While my listening skills remained intact, my judgment regarding what to and not to repeat improved immensely. You will read none of our family secrets here!

Another bit of good news is that I’ve also attended to God’s story since childhood. I attribute this phenomenon to my parents who shared their faith freely. Their stories, a very engaging children’s bible and religion classes at school enriched my understanding of God who somehow has always seemed present to me.

When I consider how quickly the disciples walked away from their daily lives to follow Jesus, I understand what it was that drew them in. Simon and Andrew, strong, burly and hard-working men, left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Martha and Mary opened their home and their hearts to Jesus even when their brother Lazarus died. Though Mary Magdalene was a woman of means in her community, her devotion to Jesus was complete. Jesus could not contain the wonder within him and just being nearby was enough to draw people nearer. Yes, I understand the attraction.

Generous God, thank you for the gift of yourself and for the gift of Jesus. You have transformed my life from the moment I first heard your name.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved