Part of God’s Creation

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

I admit that I haven’t been as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d like. I can offer no worthy excuses for this because these adventures always leave me feeling wonderful. I’ll blame uncontrolled busyness rather than myself. Still, I’m ignoring the obvious: that this crazy schedule is of my own doing. Though I’m too often guilty as charged, this morning was different. I ignored my to-do list, grabbed my jacket and headed outdoors.

In spite of the cold, it struck me that, as soon as I established my pace, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. Though I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I have seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide a winter’s measure of nuts were the frosting on the cake. Though I always enjoy these walks, the joy I experienced this morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during these treks. The blue sky that so often beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in heaven’s direction as well. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude. Being part of God’s creation is very good reason to give thanks!

Generous God, help me to live every day with a grateful heart. Your gifts are more than any of us could ever have hoped for. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Good Enough in God’s Eyes

The other day, I turned our house upside-down because I’d lost my widow’s mite. When my dear husband and I traveled to Israel last February, this was the only souvenir I purchased. My two thousand-year-old coin is preserved in a simple locket which I wear often. Though it was worth less than a penny in its day, it is very precious to me. The scriptures tell us that while visiting the temple one day Jesus observed a widow making an offering. Though others gave riches far beyond her means, Jesus considered this poor woman’s offering to be far more generous because it was all that she had. In spite of her coin’s minimal value in the grand scheme of things, Jesus found it to be most precious. This woman had given from her want, not from her surplus. In Jesus’ eyes, her offering was far more than good enough.

This woman’s story spoke to me because I often wonder if my efforts are good enough. My little coin has been a constant reminder that, if I’ve done my best, it is absolutely good enough in God’s eyes. This is the reason I was completely crestfallen when I realized the locket was missing. This is the reason I searched for over an hour until I finally located the necklace. It was lying on the clothing in my top dresser drawer. I must have knocked it in there while grabbing my watch and wedding ring that morning. I admit that the prospect of having lost this coin elicited some tears. I also admit to doing a bit of a happy dance when I found it.

In his gospel (Matthew 22:15-21), Matthew tells us that the Pharisees attempted to test Jesus with a coin of the same era as my widow’s mite. Their hope was to trick Jesus into saying something which would make him appear to be a trouble-making insurgent. The Pharisees were prepared to do whatever was necessary to discredit Jesus before the people and before the governing Romans. They wanted to be rid of Jesus once and for all. On this occasion, they posed a question regarding taxes: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If Jesus advised them not to pay what the Romans demanded, he would place himself in political jeopardy. If Jesus told the people that they must pay their taxes, he counseled them to offer homage to the Roman emperor who considered himself a god. Once again, the not-so-crafty Pharisees underestimated Jesus. Jesus requested a Roman coin of them and then asked: “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” When the Pharisees answered, “Caesar’s!” Jesus told them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God…”

You and I “repay to Caesar” every day. We go to work and tend to the tasks at hand. We file our taxes, vote and serve as jurors. We obey traffic laws and adhere to the tenets of common courtesy. We buy groceries, gasoline, clothing and homes. We manage the nitty-gritty of life as required by the order of things. At the same time, we pursue the things which matter to us: our significant others, our families and the things we love to do. In the process, we tend to the task of repaying “…to God what belongs to God.”

As crazy-busy as life can be at times, our circumstances sometimes force us into reflection. There are times when we must stop long enough to make sense of the world around us and the world within us. The loss of a loved one is a prime example of such an opportunity. Those left behind wonder how they’ll function without these special people at their sides. The same occurs at varying levels whenever unforeseen tragedy, violence or change touches us. I can only imagine what those who’ve been affected by the hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires continue to endure. Those touched by the shooting in Las Vegas mirror what so many victims of violence must overcome. Even Jesus stole away when he was overly pained. Jesus reflected in order to reconnect with who he was and we must do the same. The good news for us all is that these moments of reflection often morph into prayer.

As I consider the events of today’s gospel, I wonder when the Pharisees lost sight of rendering to God. When was it that they sacrificed their efforts to be good for the assurance that they would keep their wealth and their power over the people? When did they decide that being good simply wasn’t enough for them? At the same time, I wonder about my own efforts. When I was a little girl, my parents, teachers and favorite adults smiled in response to my doing my best. As we mature, these reassurances seem to lessen with each passing year and we learn quickly to question our efforts. This is the reason my widow’s mite is precious to me. Every time I look at it I hear, “It’s good enough, Mary. You’re good enough!” You know, God offers the same message to each one of us. Though we or those around us sometimes question are efforts, God smiles and urges us on. Perhaps rendering to God isn’t as difficult as we sometimes think. After all, whenever we do our best, God says, “It’s good enough!”

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Family

Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Psalm 145:13

My sister recently emailed regarding an upcoming family reunion of sorts. Though the event isn’t scheduled until December, Rita sent her note early so the date can be etched in stone on each of our calendars. This gathering will include all of us first cousins and our spouses for an afternoon of reminiscing and catching up. This event never disappoints because of the welcoming setting which draws the best of our family lore from those present.

Over the years, tears have threatened often during these gatherings. As we share our common memories, we can’t help acknowledging our many loved ones who have passed on from this life. These include not only all of our parents, but several cousins as well. I habitually smile my tears away as I consider the significant impact each of these special people has had on my life. “We’re definitely a unique family,” I tell myself, “mostly because of the love which binds us together no matter what.”

As I consider the guest-list to whom Rita sent her email, I must acknowledge that my cousins and I are the first to admit that not one of us is perfect. Still, we wouldn’t trade our family ties for anything. Though the December weather promises cold temperatures outdoors, the atmosphere inside will keep all of us warm. Yes, my dear cousins and I have been deeply blessed. We’ve been given a taste of God’s intent for us all. We’ve experienced unconditional love firsthand.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for revealing your affection in the people you have given me to love and in those who so generously love me in return.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A God Day? Yes, Indeed!

You shall rejoice in every good thing
which the Lord your God has given you.

Deuteronomy 16:11

I know I’ve shared this before. I also know that I’d convinced myself that I’d eliminated this particular typo from my repertoire. Nonetheless, I repeated this error in every personal email I sent today. Duh! Let me explain… I normally close my emails by typing “Have a good day.” However, each time I reread a message today, I found that I’d actually typed, “Have a god day!” Though my typo did not begin with a capital letter, the meaning of my error didn’t escape me.

Some years ago, I caught myself making this particular error on almost every email I sent. I had wished others “God days” several times during a single week. The funniest part of this is that I didn’t catch my error for so long. It was only when I looked back at one week’s messages in my “Sent” box that I discovered the magnitude of my mistake.

After chiding myself over my carelessness, I realized that there was no error in my work after all. If I shared what I truly wished for those who are a part of my life, I would type “Have a God day!” intentionally. I wish everyone realized from morning til night that God loves them more than anything. I wish that this knowledge would ease their burdens and give them hope regardless of the trials and tribulations which befall them day in and day out. I wish that they understood that God’s loving hand wipes away our failings long before we have the sense to regret them. I wish that this life would become do-able for them simply because they know that wherever life’s path leads them, God is with them. The most unique gift God gives each of us in the opportunity awaiting us in each new day. Yes, indeed. I wish us all a God day every day!

Loving God, you make all of our day’s “God days” even when we fail to notice. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Do You Know How Much…?

“…to you, my dear child whom I love,
grace, mercy, and peace…”

From 2 Timothy 1:2

Our kids recently visited to celebrate our middle granddaughter’s birthday. Our granddaughters are now ten, nine and six years of age. Our little grandson is two. How did this happen? I admit that this question gives me reason to pause. It wasn’t all that long ago that I had held my older son in my arms. It wasn’t all that long ago that I held my younger son in my arms. How is it that they appeared at our home with wives and their own children in tow? Of course, this musing fills me with joy. I’m completely overlooking the fact that my sons’ evolution into dads is proof positive of my own evolution into a grandma four times over!

Throughout our gathering, I circulated just enough to enjoy quality time with each of my sons, their wonderful wives and my grandchildren. Throughout these encounters, I wondered if any of them realize just how special they are to me. Though I try to express these sentiments in numerous ways, I wondered if I’ve been successful. The best job I’ve ever had is my job as a mom. The next best job is being a grandma. I hope that I’m a good mother-in-law. I work hard at this. Still, I wonder. Do they know how special they are and how much I love them?

Just in case… I love you, dear family of mine. (That includes you, dear husband!) I love you all very much!

Dear and generous God, thank you for my family and for the joy they bring to me.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Respond and Rest

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

My husband serves as our “family grocery shopper” most of the time. When I joined him in retirement, I tried to retrieve what had once been my responsibility. After my first few trips to the store, my husband finally asked, “What takes you so long? I can find the stuff on a list twice as long in half the time. What are you doing there?” When I thought about what had transpired on these outings, I realized that, each time, I had run into a neighbor, a someone from church, a former colleague or a friend. Of course, I took the time to chat. Why not? I had all of the time in the world.

I admit that I eventually relinquished my hold on our shopping lists much of the time. As visits to our grandchildren and my writing schedule have increased, I realize that efficient shopping trips are sometimes in order. I also realize that these grocery-store encounters are sometimes unexpectedly important to me or to the person I’ve met along the way.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were often disrupted by those who needed him. The same is true of you and me. All that is asked is that we respond as best we can. By the way, we’re also allowed to rest on occasion just a Jesus did.

Dear God, I am grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to respond with kindness to them and to my own fatigue as needed.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved