A Lifetime of Second Chances

God created us in God’s image…
God looked at everything God created and found it to be very good.”

From Genesis 1

The treasures I recall from my childhood include our children’s bible. This huge book consisted of cardboard front and back covers which held together several small booklets. A new booklet arrived in the mail every month. Each time, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the new booklet and then replaced the cover. Afterward, my sisters and I poured over this newest addition where colorful pictures adorned every page. When we were finished, I always returned to the first booklet’s story of Creation, Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. Eden looked amazing to me, at least as grand as heaven. “Why,” I often asked myself, “would Adam and Eve turn away from God who gave them so much?”

Life in this troubled world of ours answers that question every day. It’s lucky for us that God never returns the favor when we walk away. God simply watches with great expectations as we feebly do our best to make things right again. God also waits with arms outstretched for our return.

A friend recently shared a story from his childhood which illustrates this point. My friend was about twelve years old when he’d made a mess of a small chore. His ever-patient mom offered him the opportunity to try it again. My friend was so encouraged by his mother’s faith in him that, the second time around, he completed the task perfectly. My friend shared this story to make a point. “You know,” he said, “God gives us all a lifetime of second chances just like my mom!” I couldn’t agree more.

Generous God, thank you for the second and third and twenty-ninth chances which you offer us day in and day out. Give us the wisdom to embrace every opportunity to begin anew.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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There’s Always Another Chance

The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband…

Genesis 3:6

When I was a child, my parents didn’t have money to spare. Still, they invested in books. One of these treasures was a children’s bible. It consisted of cardboard front and back covers, several separate booklets and extremely long laces which held the entire thing together. The seventy-two booklets which eventually completed this bible came in the mail periodically. When each one arrived, my mom carefully untied those laces, removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the new booklet, replaced the cover and retired those laces. Afterward, I poured over every page. The colorful pictures and reasonably understandable text held my attention for some time.

When I finished perusing each new edition, I habitually returned to the first book’s story of Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. Eden amazed me almost as much as heaven did. “Why,” I often wondered, “would Adam and Eve turn away from God who gave them so much?”

Life in this world answers that question every day. It’s difficult to read the headlines and listen to the daily news without wondering where we are headed these days. It’s fortunate for us all that God never strays from our company. God simply waits with arms outstretched for our return.

Dear God, thank you for the second and third and twenty-ninth chances your offer us day in and day out. Grant us the wisdom to start anew whenever we need to.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Extraordinary Reality

As I sat at my keyboard to begin this reflection, I remembered that I needed to return a phone call to a long-distance friend. I dialed her number with the hope of offering her and her seriously ill husband some support and consolation. Though I’m not certain that I helped either of them, I assure you that my friend helped me. She calmly shared her conviction that things will unfold as best they can and as they are meant to be. This elicited a few tears on my end of the conversation. My friend has no idea that her efforts to be compassionate, wise and strong while easing her family through this difficult time also brought comfort to me. Her practical approach to dealing with her possibly life-changing circumstances gave me reason to pause. There isn’t much that is earth-shattering in my life, yet I’ve recently found myself in panic-mode. As I set down the phone after that conversation, it occurred to me that my friend had embraced two extraordinary realities. Though I’ve shared both in recent reflections, I seemed to have loosened my own grip on these encouraging truths.

When I returned to my keyboard, I lamented the fact that my friend and her husband aren’t alone in their suffering. Each of us can list loved ones near and far who are plagued with difficulties. When we consider our own struggles and those of many of this world’s people, it’s difficult to see the point of it all. In an effort to open my eyes to what my friend seems to see so clearly, I’m taking another look at those encouraging truths which make all of the difference in everything. The first is God’s presence within us. Wherever we are, God is as well. Whether or not we acknowledge God, God remains. The second truth is that a peace-filled eternity awaits each of us. When we complete our earthly journeys, we will share an everlasting home with God. The Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time offers a timely opportunity to celebrate these gifts because they can transform our ordinary lives into so much more. When I remind myself of these things, the obstacles in my path become manageable and the joy in my life grows.

The scripture readings for the next several Sundays in Ordinary Time focus upon the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary trials and tribulations of earthly life. This week’s selections are no exception. In the passage from Genesis (3:9-15), God approached Adam and Eve after the two had eaten from the one tree in the Garden of Eden which they were told to avoid. Adam provided a classic example of our human frailty when he blamed Eve for his disobedience. Eve did the same when she blamed the serpent for her sin. Though God first turned to the serpent to deal with his wrongdoing, God dealt with Adam and Eve as well. God sent them off with the clothes on their backs and the stubborn pride they’d harbored in their hearts. “If you think you know best,” God seemed to say, “get by on your own.” In the gospel (Mark 3:20-35), Jesus exhibited a similar mindset. Some of the people questioned Jesus and suggested that he was possessed. Jesus responded by pointing out that one possessed by a demon cannot also cast out a demon because he would be fighting against himself. Jesus observed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The people’s comments so disturbed Jesus that he added, though all sins would be forgiven, blasphemy against God’s Spirit would never be forgiven.

Fortunately, in the second reading from 2 Corinthians (4:13-5:1) Paul put the apparent harshness of both our Creator and of Jesus into perspective. In the end, God didn’t leave Adam and Eve on their own and Jesus went on to remind the people that God’s love is absolute and that God’s capacity to forgive is unlimited. 2 Corinthians is a compilation of five letters in which Paul responded to the internal and external suffering around him and within himself. Paul reminded his followers that, regardless of the suffering we endure, God continues to renew us within. Paul added that, even when we find no inner peace here, the peace found in the hereafter is worth all of our effort.

I admit that my initial reaction to these passages was frustration. I have great difficulty with images of a vindictive and unforgiving God. In the face of these descriptors, I had to remind myself that these stern portrayals were offered to a specific audience at a specific time. Perhaps they resulted from frustration with a thick-headed people who had forgotten that God was in their midst. I also have great difficulty with the suffering of both loved ones and of all people for whom relief seems improbable. So it is that in the midst of my difficulty, I turn to the lesson which my friend taught me during that phone call earlier today: Though none of us knows what the next week or day or hour will bring, we do know that God is with us in everything. Though none of us is certain that we will find even a morsel of joy in the moment at hand or in the moments awaiting us down the road, we do know that God will shower us with eternal joy at the end of this life’s journey.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s DNA

The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7

After spending some very enjoyable time outdoors in God’s company, I had to laugh over my attempts at prayer. There are times when the tone and the topic of my prayers amaze me. I can only imagine what God must be thinking! More than once, I’ve stepped back from a monologue directed at the Lord God to ask myself what I’m thinking. Each time, after getting over the unmitigated gall with which I dared to approach The Almighty, I take a deep breath and begin again. It’s during these second beginnings that I apologize for my nerve in ordering God around, I give thanks for God’s unconditional love and I invite God into a real conversation with me. Though I never actually “hear” a single word from above, God communicates just the same in the peaceful assurance which fills me up and urges me on. The latter is the experience I enjoyed today.

It occurs to me that we humans are quite fortunate to be created in God’s image and likeness. God’s love is so great that it spilled out and took form in Creation. God tells us that you and I are God’s greatest handiwork. Part of that greatness comes in the traces of God’s love which remain entrenched in us. I can’t help thinking of this infusion of love as God’s DNA within us. As a result, we all know on some level that we are loved and therefore listened to. No wonder we’re not only compelled to pray, but also to assume that we’re heard.

Loving God, thank you for your loving care.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Another Chance

When they heard the sound of God moving about in the garden,
the man and his wife hid themselves…

From Genesis 3:8

When I was a child, we had a kid-friendly family bible. This large book consisted of cardboard front and back covers which held together several separate booklets. These booklets were held in place by extremely long laces. The seventy-two booklets which eventually completed this bible arrived in the mail periodically. With each delivery, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard covers, undid the laces, inserted the new booklet, re-tied the laces and replaced the covers. Afterward, I poured over the new arrival. Every page included colorful illustrations and reasonably understandable text. When I finished perusing each new edition, I habitually returned to the first book’s story of Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. The Garden of Eden amazed me almost as much as heaven. “Why,” I often wondered, “did Adam and Eve eat that stupid apple when God had given them so much else?”

As the years passed and I accumulated some measure of maturity and wisdom, I found that life in this world poses similar questions every day. I also discovered that it’s up to us to answer as wisely as possible and then to act accordingly. Is Option A really worth it or is it as foolhardy as eating that apple? It’s up to us to figure it out as only we can and to act accordingly. In the mean time, God watches with great love and with great hope for the best.

Generous God, you bless us with second and third and twenty-ninth chances day in and day out. Be with is as we accept every chance you give us to start anew.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

There’s Always One More Chance

She took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband,
who was with her, and he ate it.

Genesis 3:6

The treasures I recall from my childhood include two family bibles. The first is a single volume in which our family tree and significant events were recorded. The second consisted of cardboard front and back covers which held together several separate booklets that arrived in the mail periodically. With each new arrival, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the new booklet, and replaced the cover. Afterward, my sisters and I poured over this newest addition where colorful pictures adorned every page. When we were finished, I always returned to the first book’s story of Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. Eden looked amazing to me, at least as grand as heaven. “Why,” I often asked myself, “would Adam and Eve turn away from God who gave them so much?”

Life in this confused world of ours answers that question every day, doesn’t it? It’s lucky for us that God never returns the favor when we walk away. God simply waits with arms outstretched for our return.

Generous God, thank you for the blessing of second and third and twenty-ninth chances which you offer us day in and day out. Give us the wisdom to accept every chance you give us to start anew.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved