Just Talk…

God looked down from the holy height,
from heaven God beheld the earth and God listened…

From Psalm 102:20-21

During these stay-in-place days, I’ve discovered that the conversation with which I begin every day is more helpful than ever. I’ve shared before that not being governed by an alarm clock has allowed me to enjoy somewhat leisurely mornings. When we wake, my husband or I offer the other a good morning kiss. Afterward, he goes off to enjoy his first cup of coffee and I remain. I open the blinds and take in the view. Regardless of the weather, birds flit about, trees continue to green and the sky reigns over it all. That sky reminds that God is nearby. Though I have a favorite prayer from Psalm 91 which I offer every morning, I begin this encounter by simply talking.

I haven’t yet watched the too often dismal news. I haven’t yet checked my most recent to-do list. I have only to turn to God. Even on rainy days, I acknowledge that the images beyond my window illustrate God’s finest work. It’s then that God urges me to look at the reflection in that window. “You are my finest work!” God seems to say. In an effort to acknowledge God’s kindness, I respond, “I know, we humans are all your finest work.”

With that, I talk on… I share my heartbreak over the hungry and over those who don’t know where to turn to save their small businesses. I ask God to take care of essential workers in hospitals and at the grocery store. I marvel over the creative minds who work tirelessly to develop a vaccine and who find ways to deliver crops that might have been wasted to needy populations. As terrible as all of this seems, God and I enjoy the good that some of God’s “finest work” has managed to accomplish.

Finally, I join my husband to make breakfast with a far more positive attitude than I might have had. Though I’m never certain of what the day will bring, taking the time to begin that day with God changes everything for me. It will do the same for you, too.

Dear God, thank you for being with us always.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Here…

Jesus said to them,
“Why are you terrified,
O you of little faith?”

Matthew 8:24

I admit it. I become terrified, too.

When I was a little girl, I envied the disciples. I felt certain that if I’d had the opportunity to walk with Jesus every day, I would have made much better use of the time than Jesus’ contemporaries did. I would have had no doubt that Jesus could and would take care of everything I needed.

If you read these posts regularly, you know that I’ve asserted often that this is precisely the case. God has generously revealed Divine Love to me and for me throughout my life. I know without a doubt that God loves and cares for me and for every one of us. I know that God knows us better than we know ourselves and that God knows our every need better than we do. Still, though I believe this with all of my heart, when the chips are down, I sometimes join the disciples in being terrified. I admit that “sometimes” has morphed into “much of the time” as we battle COVID-19 these days.

The good news is that, in spite of their shaky faith, the disciples never forgot where to turn. They cried out to Jesus whenever they were in trouble. I’m happy to say that, in spite of my sometimes shaky faith, I also never forget where to turn and neither should you. God’s ear is always only a prayer away.

Loving God, I know I’m repeating myself here, but thank you for listening and for loving us so completely! Help those suffering most in this pandemic to sense your love very tangibly today.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ask God…

But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah…
From 1 Kings 18:46

If you don’t recall the details, check 1 Kings 18 regarding Elijah…

I admit that I thought about Elijah’s wrath throughout our stay in the Holy Land and long after we left Mount Carmel. The good news is that Elijah’s fiery presence often gave way to his contemplative side. Elijah said that he was on fire with zeal for God. Before he did most of what he did, Elijah prayed. Elijah’s ability to withdraw into God’s presence empowered him to act with conviction on behalf of his fellow humans.

I admit that I sometimes avoid Old Testament texts because I don’t want to be reminded of the violence recorded there. Elijah’s encounter with the priests of Baal is no exception. Still, as I contemplated further, I realized that Elijah did the best he could in the time and place where God situated him. I wasn’t there and I don’t know the details of all that occurred among his people. In the end, it isn’t up to me to judge.

Each of us finds ourselves in particular times and places over which we have little control. Nonetheless, you and I are called to respond as best we can and as only we can. This is good reason to imitate Elijah’s contemplative side. When in doubt, Elijah always prayed. It seems to me that we should do the same.

Loving God, thank you for offering us your company and your counsel. Remind us to seek both often.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Pray… God Is Listening!

I’ve shared this often, I know… Throughout his time among us, Jesus offered countless revealing glimpses of our generously loving God. As amazing as each of these renderings is, my favorite is Jesus’ portrayal in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The image of that ever-patient and forgiving father who opened his arms to his terribly wayward child is something I’ve held dear all of my life. It is this image of God as my loving parent which encourages me to open my heart to God without reservation or fear. It is this image which encourages me to seek true intimacy in every utterance I send God’s way. I admit that this is a lifelong process which will likely continue well into my venture into the hereafter!

If you’ve been blessed with a close relationship, you understand the implications of intimacy. When we open our hearts to someone special, we hide nothing from him or her. We don’t allow pretenses or formalities or social norms to get in the way of the reality of who we are. When we share ourselves at this level, we put every flaw and every virtue in full view. When God is our partner in such a relationship, even the things we don’t know about ourselves are known to God. Far too frequently, I face the reality that I’m not perfect. When this occurs, I remind myself that God has been well aware of my glaring flaws all along. I know that, in spite of the pettiness or grandeur of my imperfections, God looks upon me with persistent and consistent love. Because God loves me and all of us so completely, I find the courage to approach God with the confidence Abraham exhibited in today’s passage from Genesis (18:20-32).

Did you notice that each time Abraham spoke he found God to be both approachable and compassionate? The author of Genesis carefully portrayed this encounter as a conversation during which God and Abraham walked side-by-side. In spite of being very much aware that he was in God’s presence, Abraham bargained with his Maker. He pleaded for the lives of the innocent inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s apparent anger was in response to the outcries of many righteous people regarding the evil that festered in the two cities. Still, God listened to Abraham. Initially, Abraham asked that the cities be spared if there were just fifty innocent inhabitants. Then, Abraham begged God to preserve forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty or even ten innocent lives. Each time, God responded sympathetically. The chapter which follows tells us that God answered Abraham’s plea as the lives of the innocents in those otherwise wretched cities were spared. At the same time, we must remember that God also knew the hearts of the evildoers in Sodom and Gomorrah better than they knew themselves. God knew the reasons they did what they did and God loved them as well. I write this with great confidence because Jesus assured us that God’s mercy is never lost on anyone!

In today’s gospel (Luke 11:1-13), Luke shares another occasion on which Jesus revealed to his disciples the God with whom Abraham was so familiar. Jesus had just finished praying himself when his followers asked him to teach them to pray. Jesus responded with this advice: “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” Afterward, Jesus went on to make this instruction regarding prayer perfectly clear. In the event that the disciples had forgotten the persistence of Abraham and God’s generous response to him, Jesus reminded them in no uncertain terms. Jesus spoke of a man who responded to his neighbor’s need in the middle of the night, not so much out of love as out of weariness at the neighbor’s persistence. Jesus added, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Jesus went on to point out the disciples’ concern for their own children: “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” I assure you that the God of Abraham continues to listen and to provide us all that we need as we journey through this life!

As I wrote today, it occurred to me that I’ve found a second image of God which I must treasure at least as much as that of the father who embraced his prodigal son. In today’s passage from Genesis, the author illustrated the possibilities when we open ourselves to God’s embrace just as that regretful son did. In this account, God and Abraham walk side-by-side. There is no question that Abraham is conversing with God as he would with a dear friend. Apparently, Abraham found this to be perfectly natural. It seems to me that God’s close proximity to Abraham was no accident. God’s close proximity to you and me is no accident either. Though that prodigal son was separated from his father for a while, we are never separated from God. God walks side-by-side with each one of us every step of the way. In our goodness and in our wrong-doing, God is with us. In our joy and in our sorrow, God is with us. So it is that we must take Jesus’ lesson regarding prayer to heart. We must ask and seek and knock because, even today, the God of Abraham listens and responds… Always!

©2019 Mary Penich-All Rights Reserved

Presume To Pray…

Abraham spoke again:
“See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord,
though I am but dust and ashes.”

Genesis 18:27

While waiting to get my hair cut, I overheard a mother and daughter steeped in conversation. The younger of the two was contemplating a tattoo to commemorate her ongoing health battle. She shared that others criticized this gesture as a gloomy reminder of her situation. The girl looked upon this as a banner of hope in recognition of her successful battle. I was seated too close to pretend I didn’t hear. I apologized and then asked the young woman about her health. She identified her disease and smiled at her success to date. A few minutes later, I wished her well as she and her mom went off with their stylists for a bit of TLC.

I was grateful regarding the timing of our parting because I could no longer keep my eyes from filling with tears. Though this young woman has every reason to believe that she will enjoy a long life, I worried. My brother suffered from the same disease decades ago. He didn’t follow his dietary and treatment regimens as well as he might have. Though he had much to live for, he didn’t appreciate his predicament until was too late.

So it was that I prayed… I asked God to be with this young woman as she embraces the days ahead, especially when she becomes discouraged. Then, I prayed for my brother whom I lost too soon. “Lord, give him a warm hug for me.” Then I turned my prayer to him. “You were never one to sit still. Watch over this girl and nudge her onto the right path. Okay?” Though I didn’t hear him say a word, I know my brother rolled up his heavenly sleeves to help!

Thank you, dear God, for listening and for dispensing that hug for me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Tell God About It

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1

Throughout my life, it’s been made quite clear to me that God listens. Numerous people far wiser than I have assured me that it’s always appropriate to bring our troubles to God. I’ve shared before that my family gathered in our living room to pray whenever a loved one experienced serious illness. At those times, we relied on The Rosary to express our sentiments. When other equally traumatic events were in the offing, my mom asked me to say a special prayer for the person involved who was “having some troubles”. At these times, my mom assured me that offering my own words on behalf of that loved one would suffice.

Those special prayers of my own creation encouraged my habitually familiar stance toward God. Ever since, I’ve spoken plainly and directly in my prayer. Though I’d like to think that I’ve refined my childhood approach a bit, I still find myself speaking with the Almighty as I would with my best friend. I never wonder if God is listening. Why question the obvious?

So it is that I turn my tearful eyes upward whenever necessary. I can’t get through a newscast these days without pointing out the obvious to God in spite of the fact that God sees the world’s misery firsthand. Oddly, simply acknowledging God’s attentive ear to me and to all of us lifts my spirit and solidifies my hope. Acknowledging God’s attentive ear also gives me the courage to do what I can to alleviate the troubles around me.

Dear God, you attend to each one of us every moment of every day. Thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved