Loved Just As We Are!

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.
From Psalm 51:17

My husband and I had a “discussion” regarding nothing of serious importance. Nonetheless, I pressed my point until he acknowledged that he understood. Though this was a calm exchange, his tone indicated to me that he was bothered. Afterward, I went back to doing the dishes and he headed outdoors to see if his hanging plants needed water. While scrubbing the last pan, it occurred to me that I’d upset my poor spouse. So I left that pan and went outdoors to apologize. When I began, Mike asked,”What are you talking about? You didn’t say anything wrong.” Huh?

When I returned to the kitchen, my dad’s words from long ago echoed in my memory: “You’re much harder on yourself than anyone else would ever be!” When my dad said that, I knew he was right. I’ve been convinced of God’s love for me since I was a little girl. Still, whenever I was in error and did something which I deemed unforgivable, though the rest of the world viewed this otherwise, I was inconsolable.

The good news is that God has intervened in my foolishness. God used the wisdom of the psalmist cited above, my forgiving parents, a perceptive priest, a kind teacher, an understanding sibling, my aunt, a friend, my husband, our children, our grandchildren and many of my students and colleagues to reach me. Each of these helpful souls reminded me that I’m not expected to be perfect, but only to be my best as best I can. I can’t thank these kind souls enough!

In the event that you’re buying into your own variety of guilt, DON’T! You are loved and forgiven always as well!

Patient God, thank you for the numerous reminders of your ever-merciful love which come my way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Fear Not…

I sought God, and God answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:5

While wheeling our recyclables to the street, a glass bottle re-positioned itself and crashed to the bottom of the cart. It made a loud unexpected crash which startled me. When I realized what had happened, I had to laugh at my response. Just a few weeks earlier, I’d dropped my Snapple bottle into our son’s recycle bin which resulted in a similar crash which brought our younger grandson to tears. Fortunately, Ben responded to my embrace and my assurances that all would be well. This little episode brought to mind tender moments with our own sons long ago.

Some of the most meaningful interactions between parents and children result from uncertainty and fear. A parent’s embrace and a few well-chosen words bring the assurance that, indeed, everything will be all right. When parents’ words aren’t enough and their children continue to shiver and shake, they simply hold their little ones tightly for as long as it takes to bring them peace.

During these difficult times, we who are God’s children aren’t very different from our own. Sometimes, no matter how well-chosen God’s words are, we find it difficult to take them in. Uncertainty and fear overwhelm us. For these very reasons, God promises simply to be with us.

I thought I was old enough and wise enough not to be frightened by much. Nonetheless, the devastation COVID-19 has imposed upon our world threatens to do just that. Since my parents’ laps aren’t available, I turn to God for consolation. It is in God’s embrace that I’m reminded of the terrible events which have shaped human history since time began. Throughout these episodes, we supported one another as best we could and as only we could. Today, God asks that we simply do our best to do as much. In the mean time, God will make good on that promise to remain with us all the while.

Loving God, thank you for embracing us in our joy, in our fear and in everything.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Chosen and Loved!

Bless the Lord, all you God’s chosen ones…
From Tobit 13:8

During a recent visit, Grandpa and I watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with our grandson. This program is an outgrowth of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I fondly recall introducing our sons to Fred Rogers. It never ceased to amaze me that the mild-mannered Mr. Rogers managed to captivate the boys for the duration of every show. The truth is that I enjoyed each episode as much as my sons did, perhaps more so.

I say this because when we became parents, I think my husband and I understood the importance of feeling special and important, wanted and cherished far more than our sons understood these things. As a result, I think their dad and I did a reasonably good job of making them feel loved. Sadly, regardless of the efforts of those around us, many of us feel devalued, unwanted and unimportant. In spite of my parents’ best efforts, I experienced my own childhood moments of dejection and loneliness. I vowed then and there that, should I ever have children of my own, they would know that they are loved no matter what!

When we feel rejected, unloved and lonely, we convince ourselves that no one really cares about us. So it is that I echo the words which inspired Fred Rogers in the first place: YOU are God’s chosen one. God loves YOU even more than I love my sons and far more than you will ever know until you meet God face to face. On that day, God will clear up any doubt you have!

Loving God, thank you for loving each one of us as your precious child. Please give us the wisdom to never forget just how loved we are!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

That Loving Fragrance!

And a voice came from the heavens saying,
“This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:17

While dropping off something at church, I couldn’t help noticing the scent of lilies. This was the first time I’d noticed the Easter lilies’ fragrance though they’ve filled the church for weeks. “You are amazing flowers,” I said, fully expecting a few nods in return. Though the blossoms stood motionless, I hoped they sensed my gratitude for the gift they were to me that day. I whispered, “Thank you!” on my way out the door.

We are much like each of those lilies in God’s eyes. If only we’d remember that God treasures each one of us just as we are before we set out on our own. If only we’d hold on to those words, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” Though they may not echo from the clouds above, God speaks those words just the same in the depths of our hearts. They come to life every time we make the difficult, selfless choices which make all of the difference in the world to those around us. These words also come to life when we need God most.

Though those lilies which fill my parish church will likely last only a few more days, their unmistakable fragrance will remain with me. It is a lingering reminder of God’s presence in my life. Just as those lilies adorn church, God singles out you and me to enhance life on this earth, especially the lives of those God has given us to love.

Dear God, what would my life be like if I was not enveloped in your fragrance? What would my life be like without your ever-creative reminders of your love?

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Caregivers

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 23:1

An unexpected conversation left my heart heavy with compassion for a friend. A friend is dealing with some health complications within his family and the only consolation I could offer was my promise to pray for him. As I walked away, I began my prayer. “Dear God, give him strength,” I begged. Though my own sons, their wives and our grandchildren are happy and well these days, I’ve experienced enough health scares in their regard for me to understand this my friend’s pain too well. So it was that I reached for the image of our loving God which consoles me most when I am in asking mode: The Good Shepherd.

I prayed, “Where would I be today, Lord, if I had not been in your loving care? Sometimes, you seemed to come out of nowhere to assure me of your presence. Sometimes, you have come in your servant-shepherds who managed to keep hope alive for me. Please, do the same for my friend and his family.”

I believe that none of us would be where we are today if not for God’s relentless love and concern. Sometimes, they come in our own awareness of God’s presence. Mostly, they come in the successes and failures of the shepherds God has placed in our lives. Every instance of nurturing feeds our hope and empowers us to carry on. What an awesome responsibility and privilege we have to do the same for one another!

Good Shepherd, your loving care fills our hearts with hope. Be with us as we care for one another as you would.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Contract or Covenant?

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,”
declares the Lord. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God and they will be my people.”

Hebrews 8:10-11

While in Israel, we ventured to Jericho. Along the way, we saw the Plains of Moab where Mount Nebo rests. Mount Nebo is one of three places where Moses is said to be buried. Neither Torah nor biblical scholars can determine which of three sites, if any, is actually Moses’ final resting place. Three distinct scripture passages each cite the specific location of Moses’ burial. Even today, no one knows for sure.

As we drove along, I considered poor Moses and all he’d endured as he guided the Israelites from slavery to The Promised Land. This was a forty-year journey during which the people lost their patience with Moses and with God quite frequently. Again and again, Moses turned to God to beg for mercy and assistance as he tried to calm his fellow Israelites. Though Moses grew weary, God persisted in delivering the people to a better place.

It occurs to me that the Israelites were fortunate that God looked upon the relationship they shared as a covenant rather than a contract. God takes Divine Love quite seriously. It is offered unconditionally to every soul into whom God breathes life. Regardless of the response, God’s love for that soul endures. Contracts are another matter. If one or the other party fails to fulfill the conditions of the agreement, that agreement is deemed null and void. There is no recourse.

How grateful I am that there is nothing I can do which will nullify God’s covenant with me. The same is true for you. For this, I am grateful!

Dear God, I am awed by and grateful for your faithful love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved