Z is for Zenith

Great is God and wholly to be praised
God’s holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.

From Psalm 48:2-3ab

Z is for Zenith. Zenith… the high point, the point directly overhead, the peak, the pinnacle, the summit, the fairest of heights. When good things happen to us we say that our spirits are high or that we’re uplifted. Though I don’t think there is actually a direction toward heaven, I turn my eyes upward to pray. I visualize God and the heavenly cohort looking from above upon me.

This is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent 2019 and the last day of this alphabet of reflections. I find this a meaningful coincidence. For most of my life, I’ve approached Lent with a sense of penitence, fully aware of my need to do better and to be better. For the past few years, I’ve taken a different stance. Rather than concentrating on repairing my own inadequacies, I’ve tried to celebrate God’s complete adequacy to me and to us all.

Zenith is my z-word because God is the high point of everything. This “above-ness” doesn’t imply in any way that God is unwilling to enter into the troubles of this world. God’s assigned position “above” never stops God from being with me in the worst of messes. God’s position “above” never stops God from responding to us. God loves us from the fairest of heights and in the deepest of trenches. God also loves us from that quiet place within us all where God also resides.

Today, I thank you for making your way through this alphabet of reflections with me. I also invite you to make your way through Lent 2019 with the God we’ve celebrated through all of this. As we walk through the lessons and passion of Jesus, remember the reason Jesus came: To show us firsthand that God is the joy of all the earth and the source of joy for each one of us. Let’s spend Lent getting to know our God more intimately.

Loving God, as we acknowledge your company this Lent, make it very clear that you are with us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Our Ever-Present Companion

“Are you the only resident of Jerusalem who does not know
the things that went on here these past few days?”

From Luke 24:17

When I finally shook my jet-lag, I began to appreciate this second life-changing experience in Israel. I was and continue to be very excited about this trip, It seemed only natural to share this year’s adventure just as I’d shared last year’s.

I began this effort in January, the week after we returned. Though I’ve cultivated my friendship with Jesus all of my life, this stay in his homeland added an entirely new dimension to our connection. As I reviewed our itinerary and the new photographs through which we chronicled this trip, I realized that my experience this time around was far more unique than I’d expected. While my fellow travelers carefully listened to our guide’s every word, I listened to the quiet voice within me. I couldn’t help talking to Jesus with the familiarity of Mary Magdalene, Peter and the rest.

It is Cleopas who poses the question above regarding the things that had happened over Passover. Poor Cleopas couldn’t imagine that anyone was unaware of Jesus’ death. Jesus, who disguised himself for the moment, urged Cleopas and his companion to delve deep within to make sense of these events.

Though my trip and Lent have come and gone and Easter is a memory today, I think we are urged to do the same. If we truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we know that we will do the same. The question is, “How do we respond to Jesus’ precious company until then?”

Loving God, when I keep in mind that you are with me, I do my best work. Please inspire my efforts.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Plan for Lent

Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord,
for gracious and merciful is God.

From Joel 2:13

Ash Wednesday has a way of sneaking up on me every year. Though I’m part of the team who prepares for the liturgical seasons at our parish, this activity often distracts me from making my own plans for this special time of year. This year, I’m happy to share that my trip to Israel helped me to get an early start in this regard.

While in Israel, I attended to the places which marked the milestones in Jesus’ life: Mary’s home and a neighbor’s home in Nazareth, the local synagogue and the Jordan River where John baptized Jesus, the excavated streets of Magdala where Jesus met his friend Mary, Capernaum where Jesus taught his friends, the Sea of Galilee where they fished and Jerusalem where everything ended and everything began. Because this was my second visit to these places, I often tuned out our wonderful guide so I could tune into my heart. In the process, I spoke often to this Jesus who has made all of the difference in the world to me. If he had done nothing more than to offer his word and his example regarding God’s love for us, this would have been enough for me.

On this first day of Lent 2018 and every day until Easter, I hope to return to one event from Jesus’ life and to find the lesson there which is intended for me. Just as Jesus took the time to teach his disciples all they needed to know, he does the same for me. Hopefully, I will take each lesson to heart and behave accordingly.

Loving God, thank you for Jesus who revealed your love for us in everything he said and did.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Memory To Cherish

“Are you the only resident of Jerusalem who does not know
the things that went on here these past few days?”

From Luke 24:17

A few days after we returned from Israel, I shook my jet-lag. Finally, I found myself able to appreciate this life-changing experience. It was then that I decided to reflect upon and share this amazing adventure through these daily posts. I was and continue to be very excited about this trip and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. In the process, I hoped to revisit each site and every encounter with Israel’s people. I hoped all of these memories would remain with me forever.

I began this effort on Ash Wednesday. I couldn’t think of a better way to observe Lent. Though I’ve cultivated my friendship with Jesus all of my life, spending time is his homeland added an entirely new dimension to our connection. As I reviewed our itinerary and the photographs through which my husband diligently chronicled our trip, I realized that I’d forgotten more than I remembered. While my husband searched for photo ops, I’d engaged in quite a bit of internalizing. I couldn’t help taking to heart the things that happened on that hallowed ground so long ago. I couldn’t help stepping into Mary Magdalene’s and Peter’s and Jesus’ sandals.

It is Cleopas who poses the question above regarding the things that had happened over Passover. Poor Cleopas couldn’t imagine that anyone was unaware of Jesus’ death. Jesus, who disguised himself for the moment, urged Cleopas and his companion to delve deep within to make sense of these events.

Though Lent has come and gone and Easter is a memory today, I think we are urged to do the same. If we truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we know that we will do the same. The question is, “How do we keep this precious memory with us until then?”

Loving God, when I keep in mind that I will rise as Jesus did, I do my best work. Please inspire my efforts.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Journey Begins

Know that the Lord is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.

Psalm 100:3

I admit that a trip to the Holy Land was never on my bucket list. My dislike of small places determined long ago that a ten-hour flight was out of the question. Still, when a friend in the travel business mentioned an upcoming trip to Israel, I felt compelled to hear more. At a subsequent gathering where she explained the itinerary, I nudged my husband and said, “I think we should go.” The poor man retained his composure in spite of his complete shock that it was I who was initiating this venture. Mike quickly agreed before I had the chance to change my mind.

As our friend listed the places we’d visit, a lifetime of images filled me up. Suddenly, the events which occurred in Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, Caesarea and Jerusalem and on the Sea of Galilee so long ago filled a void in my own family history. That long flight seemed a small price to pay for the treasure of memories I’d find in the end. Over the coming days, you’ll discover that I was not disappointed.

I invite you to journey through Lent 2017 with me. In the process, I hope you’ll discover as I did the significance of each of our individual stories. You and I are important members of God’s flock and every place we find ourselves has the potential to become holy land. It’s up to you and me to make it so.

Dear God, none of our stories are complete without you. Be with us this Lent and always as we strive to make every place we walk a bit of holy land.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Up To Us

The Pharisees came forward and began
to argue with Jesus. They were looking for
some heavenly sign from him as a test.

Mark 8:11

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. On these occasions, I become like the Pharisees who badgered Jesus for signs from above to legitimize his preaching. I find myself moaning, “If only you would penetrate the hearts of those in power as you have mine!” Of course, if Jesus had revealed himself as the Messiah to the Pharisees earlier on, they would have seen to his demise much sooner.

On this Eve of Ash Wednesday 2017, I find that I have my work cut out for me. God gifted the Pharisees and the rest of us with the ability to choose. Though I can’t speak for them or for anyone else, I can speak for me. I was thrilled when my own sons did the right thing on their own. In the same way, God is thrilled with us when we repair the world around us as only we can.

I think I’ve finalized my plans for Lent 2017. God has left it to me to do the best I can as I see it.

Patient God, forgive my impatience with others and with you. My only concern must be to do what I can to love those I have been given to love, here and everywhere.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved