Dance to The Spirit’s Music!

May and June have proven to be very busy. My husband and I have or will be involved with an assortment of baptisms, graduations, birthday celebrations and weddings. We celebrated Mother’s Day and we happily look forward to Father’s Day. In the end, an amazing assortment of God’s children will have gathered at each of these events. More importantly, an amazing exhibition of God’s Loving Spirit among us will have unfolded as well. Though taken alone these events may seem to be commonplace, each is extraordinary in some way. A few weeks ago, one particular happening proved extraordinary in the most unexpected and amazing ways…

When a good friend approached his fiftieth birthday, his wife and children decided that this milestone called for a party. Their dear husband and dad had recently completed some extremely demanding training and he’d had a bit of a health-scare. To celebrate his successful outcomes in both areas, our friend’s family organized a gathering in his honor. My dear husband and I had the good fortune to be included. When the day arrived, the weather was uncharacteristically cooperative, so Mike and I spent the entire morning and afternoon working outdoors. Tired as we were afterward, we set aside our work to join our friends for what proved to be a truly enjoyable evening. When we arrived, the entire family warmly welcomed us in. After greeting the other guests, we settled in for lots of pleasant conversation and a delicious meal. It was shortly afterward that another friend pulled me aside and pointed out the karaoke machine. “What?” I asked. “Are we going to use it?” My friend assured me that the machine wouldn’t have a moment’s rest that evening. As the party continued, nothing proved to be more true than that observation…

Before I continue, I assure you that I know what karaoke is, that I love to sing and that I love to dance. I also admit that I’ve never used a karaoke machine, I’m a mediocre singer and I’m a terrible dancer. Before your imaginations enter high gear, I assure you that I drank very little, if anything, which might have inspired my participation that evening. Having said all of that, I also admit to having joined in singing and dancing to almost every song that was played for three hours. The best part of all of this is that the other guests did the same. They assured me that participating with abandon was the best way to unwind, to rejoice and to celebrate the moments at hand; yes, each and every one of those moments at hand. All the while, we joined as one to cheer on the-holder-of-the-microphone, all who served as his or her chorus and all who danced. As for me, a sense of joy and belonging and the absolute freedom to be me filled me up. I determined in short order that this was the best party I’d attended in my entire life.

My revelry culminated in my dear husband’s willingness to lead the singing of Mr. Bojangles. This 1968 release (Jerry Jeff Walker, 1968, Atco Records) has been a favorite since I first heard it. As Mike sang, I couldn’t help dancing as the story of the drifter-turned-dancer unfolded. When Mike sang about the poor man’s dog dying, I shed a few tears and touched my heart. When Mike sang, “Whoa, he jumped so high, clicked his heels…”, I couldn’t help myself. Though I’d never ever dared to do this before, something compelled me to click my heels as well. And so I did. I honestly didn’t realize the amazement of my feat until this roomful of friends gasped and then cheered in delight. Much to my surprise, I did the same twice more before Mike finished that song…

I share this story on Pentecost Sunday with good reason. I admit that, in spite of my productive day, I went to that party with a heavy heart. Old worries had resurfaced and I wondered if I’d be able to set them aside long enough to celebrate our friend’s birthday. As you see, my fear was unfounded. The loving spirit of those gathered that evening not only dispelled the negativity which threatened, but also filled me with absolute joy! You know, Jesus’ friends awaited the first Pentecost with far greater trepidation than my own. They’d arrived at Jerusalem in triumph only to have Jesus arrested and condemned five days later. Most of Jesus’ friends deserted him as he hanged dying on the cross. Those who remained could do nothing to save him. When Jesus rose and appeared among them, he remained for forty days. All the while, hope eased its way back into the disciples’ hearts until Jesus left them once again. Jesus’ parting words included a call to proclaim the good news to every creature and a promise that Jesus would always be with them. Still, when Jesus left, hope escaped his friends once again and the disciples hid themselves away from the people. It was in the midst of wringing their hands and wondering how they might survive this second loss of Jesus that God’s Loving Spirit filled them up. Finally, the disciples understood. Finally, Jesus’ message made sense of this life and the next. With that, the disciples burst out of hiding to proclaim their good news to all who would listen. God’s Loving Spirit propelled them just as it propels us forward again and again.

You know, I’ll never forget that wonderful birthday gathering. The loving spirit which permeated my friend’s home gifted everyone present with a mini-Pentecost of sorts. I think each one of us had a part in sweetening the joy of that evening and in fueling all of our hope in the reality of good things to come. Though life isn’t perfect for any of us, God’s love for us is perfect. And this is all that matters. On this Pentecost and every day after, may each of us sense God’s Loving Spirit within us and find reason to click our heals and to dance once again.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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God Welcomes Us All

But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

A dear friend recently suffered a broken heart. While attending a worship service, her zealous pastor made it quite clear that there is only one true church and that those who do not belong to that true church will not enter heaven. Now my friend is a convert to her faith and her entire family is of a different faith. To complicate matters further, a family member is a minister in that “different” faith. The final blow came in the recent passing of someone dear to her who was also a member of that “different” faith.

As I responded to my friend, I admit that my heart vacillated between absolute empathy with her and complete anger with her pastor. In the end, I reassured my friend with everything I know about God’s indiscriminate love and I joined her praying for her pastor.

It seems to me that, just as God has sprinkled this earth with a variety of us humans, God has also revealed the Divine in a variety of ways. God leaves it to us to find what fits and to live accordingly. God also leaves it to us to allow one another the same courtesy.

Loving God, help us to emulate your inclusive and loving ways in our attitudes and actions toward all of your children.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

U is for Unity

These are my mother and brothers and sisters.
Whoever lives as God asks is family to me.

From Mark 3:34-35

U is for Unity. A few week’s ago, we gathered at my nephew’s home. His sister lives in California and was home for a visit. Ralph invited us over to see her. Our family is quite large. These days, it’s difficult to gather us in one place at any one time. Still, almost thirty of us came out to visit with Cece and one another that day. What fun! My own siblings and I have grown into very different people, yet we each manage to bring our own variety of joy to these gatherings. The same is true of my nieces and nephews and my own sons. Though they all set out to form friendships and families of their own, they find their way back to their roots to reconnect with the family which gave them their start. For me, the best part of these gatherings is watching familial interactions unfold. How nice it is that we still manage to get along!

It seems to me that this should also be true of our human family. God breathed life into every one of us with the hope that we’d live these lives to the fullest. We needn’t congregate in the same worship places or in any worship place at all to express our appreciation. It seems to me that we do need to respect one another and to see one another as God’s children. We need to love one another as we love ourselves. We need to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to better understand perspectives which sometimes differ from our own. Understanding our differences doesn’t mean that we have to embrace them. It does mean that we must learn to coexist amidst our varying points of view. I do this best when I set aside the non-essential details of these things and focus upon the most essential needs of this world.

God has breathed life into billions of unique children since time began and God loves each and every one. God’s only request is the same as that of any loving parent. God asks only that we learn to get along.

Loving God, you love each one of us. Help us to work together to transform the world we share into a fitting home for us all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

There’s Room for Everyone!

“For my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isaiah 56:7

I attended a meeting a few weeks ago where we attempted to finalize our parish’s Christmas preparations. In the process, we chuckled over our futile attempts each year to provide seating for everyone who will come to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Though such discussions sometimes include comments regarding the Christmas and Easter “Birds” whose only appearances for worship occur on these two holy days, this wasn’t the case. Rather, our head usher and others came up with more ingenious ways to squeeze in as many chairs as possible. Each one intends to make all of God’s children welcome as best he or she can.

All concerned work extremely hard to prepare our beautifully adorned church, amazing music and engaging liturgy. Everyone from our youngest parish children to our devoted seniors is involved. Our hope is that we’ll assist all of those who join us in feeling welcomed as they gather to pray together. After all, it’s Christmas!

Loving God, you open your house to all who come to your door. While some of us feel free to knock often, there are others who shy away. Please reveal yourself in our efforts as we prepare for Christmas so that all of your children realize that they are welcome to your home any time and always.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Hospitable

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd.
By now they have been with me for three days
and have nothing to eat.”

Mark 8:2

When I glanced at the calendar this morning, I saw that Thanksgiving is just two days away. Thanksgiving is also the feast of St. Cecilia. This is my sister’s feast day. Since she passed away six years ago, these little reminders of her always give me reason to celebrate her. This is a great way to spend these pre-Thanksgiving days.

Cecele is a lot like our mom who was a hospitable woman. She opened her door to whoever knocked, offering a chair, a cup of coffee and whatever else she had to her guest. Though our kitchen table was already crowded, my mom extended her welcome to our friends who occasionally stayed for dinner. After our mom passed away, Cecele led the effort in scheduling our family gatherings. She also elicited just enough guilt from the rest of us to ensure good attendance every time.

Today, our mom’s and Cecele’s welcoming ways live on in the rest of us. We continue to take turns hosting our family gatherings where food and laughter are plentiful. Though our attendance isn’t as complete as it used to be, we still enjoy good times in good company. I’ll remember to thank God for this as I prepare to partake of Thanksgiving Dinner!

Dear God, you bless us with our families. Help us to show our gratitude by extending our hospitality beyond our homes to those who need us most.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Wait

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

It’s Thanksgiving week… While standing in a linear mass of humanity at the checkout this morning, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for those retailers who’ve agreed not to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. Of all of the holidays we celebrate in this country, Thanksgiving Day is the one we can enjoy without regard for any of our religious affiliations or lack thereof. So it is that I said, “Blessed be those employers whose workers will enjoy the holiday with their families this year!”

With that, I returned to my grocery list to see that I had everything I needed. A voice from the front of the line distracted me from my work. This person remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As he hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. I had already found wealth in these seemingly wasted moments when nothing more than to wait was demanded of me. While the world rushed about me, I found the time to contemplate my blessings and their Generous Source.

Perhaps this is the reason Jesus often rose early and stole away for quiet time. The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were usually disrupted by those who needed him. The same is too often true of you and me. Still, as Jesus did, we find the time to respond and then to sneak away once again.

Dear God, this world of ours grows busier every day. Still, help us always to find the time to love one another as you do.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved