God’s House

Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me, so that
they may be one just as we are one.

From John 17:11

This morning, my friend-since-kindergarten texted. A recent errand had placed my friend in close proximity to our old neighborhood. Because he’s as taken with that neighborhood as I am, my former classmate detoured through our former digs. This trek included a drive past his high school and mine. Of course, all of this ushered me back in time as well…

We grew up on the West Side of Chicago. Beside our church and school buildings, I was awed by the mysteriously awesome synagogue which stood a few blocks north of our parish church. I’d passed this building numerous times. Every time, I looked upon this stone-clad edifice with high regard. My mom had explained that this was a Jewish temple. She said that our doctor probably prayed there. As for me, I was convinced that the Lord God certainly lived in that holy place.

Years later, our neighborhood demographics and this building’s ownership changed. I remember exhaling a sigh of relief when I heard that it would remain God’s house. The synagogue was sold to a Christian church and it would serve as their place of worship. This thrilled me at the time because I knew that God would continue to live there.

You know, just as my friend and I continue to love our old neighborhood, God continues to love all of the places in which God dwells. I’m convinced that God loves that versatile place of worship as I do. Still, I’m even more convinced that God loves the spaces we make for God in our hearts even more!

Gracious God, thank you for residing in our houses of prayer and in our hearts.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Another Curve Ball?

“I have told you this so that you might have peace
in me. In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

John 16:33

He said it again. When life throws my husband a curve ball, Mike usually responds by observing, “God certainly has a sense of humor!” I admit that my response differs a bit when I am the recipient of that curve ball. I tend to keep my initial reactions to trauma to myself. If I didn’t, who knows what I might say? There’s usually too much to do to allow myself the luxury of complaining aloud. So it is that I converse with myself and the Lord God in silence. Eventually, I reconcile myself to the situation at hand. When I’ve calmed myself down (or God has stepped in to do this for me), I finally respond with my own observation: “This is just a small reminder that I’m not in heaven yet.”

I’m not certain of what’s happening in your ballpark, but the curve balls have been flying fast and furiously here as of late. As a result, I find myself most grateful that God’s keeps the promise to be with us always. Though havoc reigns around me, a gentle peace calms me from within. This occurs in spite of my failure to acknowledge that peace for far too long.

Consoling God, knowing that your care is a constant makes all of the difference in my little ballpark. I mean world. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hear The Cry of the Poor

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
…the lives of the poor he shall save.

From Psalm 72:12-13

One of my favorite images of Jesus is Jesus The Teacher. I found great joy in my own teaching career and I’m pleased that Jesus and I have this vocation in common. I suppose the similarities end there as Jesus’ curriculum extended far beyond my own. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to turn to what I know best to ease myself and hopefully a few of you into a productive Spring 2019. I know. Spring began in March and summer will be here in less than a month. Still, I’m easing into spring because the cold weather distracted me from getting serious about this seemingly elusive season. Regardless, it’s time for me to get serious…

When I taught, I began every day by reviewing my lesson plans. The teachers who are reading with you know that the lesson plans they prepare provide their daily agendas. They include relevant page numbers and activities for various school subjects and blocks of time. Lesson plans keep all concerned focused on the given day’s priorities. I’m thinking that I’ll make better use of my days if I focus upon Jesus-the-Teacher’s priorities for me.

The passage above from Psalm 72 seems to be a good place to start. Jesus ministered to the poor in all of their forms. The world around you and me is filled with people who suffer equivalent woes. Jesus-the-Teacher might suggest that we plan our days to do the things we must and to reach out to the poor we meet along the way.

Loving God, help us to reach out to the poor among us as Jesus would.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love’s Work

…love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

From John 15:12-13

I admit to lots of anger over the suffering of those I’ve been given to love. Whether they are my own family members or children starving to death half a world away, I find it difficult to accept that there actually is nothing I can do to help. My frustration is amplified by my conviction that our problems can be solved if we consider them from a loving perspective. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky impossibility. Years of work with some tough youngsters taught me otherwise. When I approached a troubled student with sincerity and genuine concern, he or she sensed this and responded in kind.

What a different world this would be if we set aside our own pride and our own agendas for the good of others. It seems to me that we amass a treasure trove of goodness for ourselves when we put others ahead of ourselves. What a different world this would be if we did lay down our lives for one another! What a different world this would be if we each accomplished one good deed -instead of the opposite- every day!

Loving God, you gift each of us with the ability to make this world a better place. Help us to realize our potential and to make our positive mark as only we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Move Past The Pits…

If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
From John 15:20

A friend’s recent encounter with hospice conjured up memories from my husband’s experience as a hospice chaplain. Though I didn’t know Mike’s patients because their contacts were confidential, one particularly remarkable woman was the exception. Mary frequently amazed Mike with her commentaries on this life of ours, so much so that he asked if he could share a bit of it with me…

Though a day of hospice visits often proved to be taxing, my husband always returned home with a smile on the days he saw Mary. This elderly woman shared the most amazing bits of wisdom during their visits. My husband’s favorite morsel came in these words: “They can say life is a bowl of cherries, but I say it’s a bowl of cherry pits!” Throughout all of their visits, this comment stood out most. Mike and Mary often laughed over the truth found in her observation!

When we behave ourselves and try to do the right thing, we sometimes feel entitled to carefree days and smooth sailing. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for any of us. As we’re reminded in the passage above, even Jesus didn’t have an easy time on this earth. Why then would this life be any different for you and me? Like Jesus, I think we’re supposed to embrace both those elusive cherries and their all too plentiful pits!

Dear God, thank you for the gift of Jesus. He lived a truly human life to show us that, in spite of everything, this life is worth the effort. In spite of everything, like Mary, we will move past our troubles here and make it home to you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Standing By…

“It was not you who chose me, but I who
chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…”

From John 15:16

A mutual friend was in the midst of a battle with cancer. Another dear friend called in anticipation of writing a note of encouragement to her. This friend wanted to confirm our ailing loved one’s address and to check on her condition. That particular day had been frustrating in terms of treatment plans and mixed messages from medical staff. I’d just returned home from a session with our friend and her doctors. This meeting left me with a headache. I didn’t know where all of this was going and I didn’t want my sick friend to suffer needlessly. The grueling traffic that lasted for the duration of my drive home didn’t help. So it was that my other friend had to endure twenty minutes of my ranting before we addressed the reason for his call.

With regret for wasting so much time with my complaints, I offered my apologies as we closed our conversation. Though he had his own troubles to deal with, this friend’s response was precisely what one would expect from a friend. He knew exactly what I was going through and dismissed my guilt with unqualified kindness. His effort enabled me to dig in and to support our ailing friend through the long days that followed. My friend’s effort also reminded me to do the same for those who looked to me for encouragement.

Loving God, thank you for the relationships in my life which mirror your love for me. Help me to return this love in kind at every opportunity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved