The Mighty Jordan

Later, Jesus coming from Galilee, appeared
before John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

Matthew 3:13

We visited the Jordan River in the midst of terrible flooding. We’d had to reroute a few times because floodwater had blocked the roadway ahead. The Jordan flows freely along Israel’s western border. The Jordan is referenced often in the scriptures and our guide was anxious to lead us to its shore. However, when we arrived, we discovered that the tourist area where many modern-day pilgrims come to be baptized was closed off due to the flooding upstream. Those who’d hoped to step into the Jordan to engage in this ritual were ushered to a platform high above the river’s edge. Never daunted by a challenge, Yossi led us around that platform to a narrow gate several yards away. “Come quickly,” he ordered, “because we don’t want to be followed.” With that, Yossi led us to a deserted bit of shoreline which very much resembled what Jesus saw the day of his own baptism. Though I’d seen this place twice before, it’s significance overwhelmed me.

When Moses looked toward the Promised Land, he saw the Jordan River flowing down from Mount Hermon into the Jordan Valley. When Elijah the Prophet grew old and Elisha prepared to take his place, the two traveled to the Jordan Valley where Elijah’s days among us ended. Hundreds of years later, John the Baptist, last of the prophets of old, called people to repentance on the shores of the Jordan. They sealed their commitments with John’s baptism. The baptizer’s most significant baptism was that of Jesus.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus took his baptism seriously. Afterward, he spent forty days in the desert preparing for his public life among us. When Jesus emerged, he returned to John and to that river where the first five of his disciples joined him. As I knelt at that river’s edge, I dipped my fingers into the water. I left it to God to renew me as God sees fit.

Though getting to the shore of the Jordan proved challenging this time around, the result was an amazing encounter. These days, getting through the moments at hand prove challenging as well. It seems that there is a lesson in our Israeli guide’s approach. When our expectations are disrupted, all we need to do is to adjust accordingly. Just as God renewed me at the River Jordan’s edge, God will renew us all if we have the courage to proceed as best we can.

Dear God, as we respond to the challenges as hand, remind us often that you are with us all the while.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Glimpse Ahead

“…the hour is coming
and is now here when the dead will hear
the voice of…God.”

From John 5:25

This past weekend, we gathered to celebrate our granddaughter’s First Reconciliation. Claire will receive her First Communion in May. This prequel allowed her to take stock of her little heart and to acknowledge that perhaps she isn’t as perfect as Grandma and Grandpa think she is. I admit to being amazed that our youngest granddaughter has reached this milestone. In the midst of this musing, I realized that I’ve become my mom. Now I’m Grandma who shows up with Grandpa in tow for these special occasions. The truth is that I believe my mom was with us as well. It was her passing more than a dozen years ago which convinced me…

My mom had undergone surgery which ended with the discovery of a rare cancer which was irreparably advanced. Her only treatment option was hospice care. While this news devastated us, our mother took it extremely well. “I’ve had a good long life,” she said. “I just hope I can do what I want for as long as I can.” My mom went on to fulfill the doctor’s prognosis to the day. She remained miraculously pain-free and medication-free, except for her insulin, for the duration. She was up and about until three days before she left us.

During those final days, my mom mentioned the beautiful voices. She added that her sisters were waiting for her. The morning of the day she passed, I asked if she was afraid. My mom’s face glowed as she answered, “Oh no, Mary. It’s beautiful over there!” Though I’d read much of what has been written by those who’ve been to heaven and back, it was my mother’s testimony which put it all into perspective. Yes, Mom had made it home. She was also with Claire and the rest of us as we celebrated the other day.

Loving God, thank you for the glimpses of heaven which ease us home to you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share Your Treasure

When they fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord, they returned
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong,
filled with wisdom,
and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:39-40

When each of our sons was born, we planned his baptism shortly afterward. No discussion was necessary, except regarding who the godparents would be. In our minds, it was only natural to share our faith with our children. This endeavor went far beyond the day the priests poured water over our sons’ heads. We weren’t sharing membership in the church as much as we were sharing our relationships with God.

I discovered very early on that my parents did a good job of this. Though times were often tough, they always saw the silver lining in their circumstances. Perhaps what they actually saw was God watching over them. Even when my young dad faced his own passing, he referenced this God who would see to everything for us and for him. As for me, knowing that God understands even when others don’t has sustained me through many a trial and tribulation.

You know, when Mary and Joseph first took Jesus to the temple, they planted the seeds of Jesus lifelong relationship with his faith community and with God. When we introduce our children to God, our efforts are no less important. However we relate to our Maker, let’s share this with our kids.

Dear God, thank you for reaching out to us in such a variety of ways. Help us to share the treasure of knowing you with our children.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Special, Indeed!

“…to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God…”

2 Timothy 1:2

This past weekend, we gathered to celebrate our newest grandchild’s baptism. I admit that this gave me reason to pause. It wasn’t all that long ago that I had held his dad in my arms. How is it that my baby is blessed with a wonderful wife and two sons of his own these days? Of course, this musing filled me with joy. I completely overlooked the fact that my son’s evolution into a father was proof positive of my own evolution into a grandma!

Throughout our gathering, I kept myself in close proximity to our newest grandchild as often as possible. Eventually, after my husband, his other grandparents and aunts and uncles stopped doting over him, I held Benjamin for a while. I took this opportunity to ask that tiny baby, “Do you know how loved you are? Are you happy with your name?” Though he closed his eyes to nap, I continued. “Your dad wasn’t at all happy with his name. He felt very badly that his was the only name in our family which didn’t begin with an M. It was only when I explained just how special Timothy was to me that your dad realized that he is special to me, too. Never forget that you’re special, Benjamin.”

With that, I relinquished that squirming little boy to his mom. As she nursed her content little son, I smiled. What better evidence of our being loved is there then our mom’s embrace? With that, I looked upward and prayed that Ben and all of my family will remember just how loved and special they are.

Loving God, each of us is special in your eyes. Help us to remind one another of this in all we say and do.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Mighty Little Jordan

Later, Jesus coming from Galilee, appeared
before John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

Matthew 3:13

On this second trip to Israel, we viewed the Jordan River from a different vantage point. Last year, we stood on the shore of one of the river’s narrowest segments. Though it seemed a humble setting for Jesus’ baptism, it also typified the Jesus’ unassuming life. This small segment which I could have easily waded across was as important as the rest of this renowned river. The same was true of Jesus’ life. Even his seemingly insignificant interactions changed lives forever.

This year, we viewed the river nearer the tourist center. As a result, we encountered several groups who had assembled to be baptized or to reenact the baptisms they’d celebrated previously. It was difficult to miss the reverence and enthusiasm of each one as he or she entered the water. I couldn’t help acknowledging that Jesus’ simple baptism continues to impact humankind in amazing ways.

As for me, I knelt at the river’s edge and dipped my fingers into the water. Rather than immersing myself into the river’s bounty, I left it to God to renew me as God saw fit. To date, I haven’t been disappointed.

Dear God, you renew us day in and day out. Help us to take notice of your handiwork and to imitate your goodness humbly, just as Jesus did.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share God

When they fulfilled the prescriptions
of the law, they returned to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom,
and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:39-40

When our sons were born, we planned for their baptisms shortly afterward. No discussion was necessary. In our minds, it was only natural to share our faith with them. This endeavor went far beyond the day the priests poured water over their heads. Their dad and I weren’t simply sharing membership in the church. We were sharing our relationships with God.

I discovered early on that my parents did a good job of this. Though times were often tough, they never missed the silver lining in their circumstances. They had no doubt that God watched over them. Even when my young dad faced his own passing, he referenced this God who would see to everything for us and for him. My mom shared this conviction which saw her through the tough years which lay ahead. As for me, knowing that God understands has sustained me through many trials and tribulations throughout my life.

When Mary and Joseph first took Jesus to the temple, they planted the seeds of faith in him. It was up to him to make the most of this gift. When we introduce our children to God, our efforts are no less important. However we relate to our Maker, let’s share this with our kids.

Dear God, thank you for reaching out to us in such a variety of ways. Help us to share the treasure of knowing you with those you place in our care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved