One of Baseball’s Stars

“…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”

From Luke 18:14

The World Series will begin next week. I share disappointment with fellow Cub Fans because our beloved North-siders won’t be playing. At the same time, I can’t think of the Cubs, without recalling a close encounter of the amazing kind with my my mom’s favorite player…

It was almost two decades ago when my sisters and I took our mom to Santo’s, a local restaurant owned by the Cubs’ famed third baseman. While we were there, Ron Santo made one of his frequent appearances to mingle with his patrons. When Mom saw him, she flew out of her chair to greet him. Mr. Santo graciously shook her hand. Unfortunately for him, Mom didn’t let go. She pulled the poor man to our table, saying, “You have to meet my five daughters!”

Mr. Santo never stopped smiling as Mom dragged him across the room. When he arrived at our table, we tried to apologize for our mom’s enthusiasm, but he would have none of it. Ron Santo looked around at each of us and said, “Well, you sure have beautiful daughters, just like their mother!” He chatted with us for several minutes, gave Mom a hug and then went on his way. When we left the restaurant, Mr. Santo made a point of saying good-bye to his seemingly greatest fan.

Though this beloved Cubby is remembered for so much more, I’ll never forget the kindness he showed to Mom that day. Since his arrival in the hereafter, I’m quite certain that my mom has renewed their acquaintance and that she’s told him the same.

Loving God, thank you for good people everywhere who do what they can for others regardless of how busy they are.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Another Curve Ball?

“I have told you this so that you might have peace
in me. In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

John 16:33

He said it again. When life throws my husband a curve ball, Mike usually responds by observing, “God certainly has a sense of humor!” I admit that my response differs a bit when I am the recipient of that curve ball. I tend to keep my initial reactions to trauma to myself. If I didn’t, who knows what I might say? There’s usually too much to do to allow myself the luxury of complaining aloud. So it is that I converse with myself and the Lord God in silence. Eventually, I reconcile myself to the situation at hand. When I’ve calmed myself down (or God has stepped in to do this for me), I finally respond with my own observation: “This is just a small reminder that I’m not in heaven yet.”

I’m not certain of what’s happening in your ballpark, but the curve balls have been flying fast and furiously here as of late. As a result, I find myself most grateful that God’s keeps the promise to be with us always. Though havoc reigns around me, a gentle peace calms me from within. This occurs in spite of my failure to acknowledge that peace for far too long.

Consoling God, knowing that your care is a constant makes all of the difference in my little ballpark. I mean world. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Dear Sweet Cubby

…the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
From Luke 18:14

At a recent gathering with my sisters, I lamented the closing of a once favorite restaurant. Though the food was wonderful and the atmosphere was welcoming, the owner was even more so. We chose this eatery often, especially when we had our mom with us. You see, that owner was Ron Santo and our mom was a fan.

It was around 5:00 when we arrived that evening so long ago. On the way into the restaurant, our mom wondered aloud if Ron Santo would be there. As it happened, the Cubs’ famed third baseman made one of his frequent appearances to mingle with his patrons that night. When Mom saw him, she flew out of her chair to greet him. Ron Santo graciously shook her hand. Unfortunately for him, our mom didn’t let go. She pulled the poor man to our table. “You have to meet my five daughters,” she insisted.

Mr. Santo never stopped smiling as our mom dragged him along. When they arrived at our table, we apologized for our mom’s enthusiasm, but he would have none of it. Ron Santo looked at us and said, “Well, you sure have beautiful daughters, just like their mother!” He chatted with us for several minutes, gave our mom a hug and then went on his way. When we left the restaurant, Mr. Santo made a point of saying good-bye to Mom. Though this beloved Cubby is remembered for so much more, I’ll never forget his kindness to our mom.

Loving God, help me always to appreciate the good people who grace my life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Greatest Fan

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe… This is the title of today’s feast. If I could have voiced an opinion during the discussion which led to this designation, I would have suggested that Jesus might prefer to be acknowledged as a sports fan. I admit that this opinion is influenced by my fresh memories of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory. However, I think that everyone who has supported a team through thick and thin can appreciate my logic. We fans cheer with all of our hearts when the game goes well. Though we moan through bad plays and rub our heads through questionable strategy or execution, we remain behind the team or the athlete whom we love. In my experience, no one has done this better than Cub Fans -except Jesus.

Everything Jesus said and did indicates that he is far more loyal and dedicated than even the best of fandom. When he walked among us, Jesus knew the stats on his home team and on those he met along the way. His mother was just a teen and his dad didn’t quite know how to handle his unexpected arrival. Still, Jesus entrusted himself to Mary and Joseph with absolute faith that they would perform well when the chips were down. When he was twelve years old, Jesus tested his parents’ skills when he lingered at the temple to scout out the priests and teachers. These men seemed to think they knew the score regarding God. Jesus’ parents found him only after he stayed long enough to convince these experts that he knew a thing or two about God’s game plan as well. As a young man, Jesus attended the wedding reception of a young couple who ran out of wine. Though he disagreed with his mother’s proposed play, Jesus did as she asked and solved the couple’s problem. When Jesus left his home in Nazareth, he remained attuned to the local talent wherever he was. He saw hidden abilities in his disciples which others had ignored season after season. In the end, Jesus assembled a team of twelve and a following of thousands of minor leaguers. Each one played his or her position in unexpectedly amazing ways which only Jesus could have anticipated. Even when they erred, Jesus used the talents of others to further illustrate God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and compassion.

You know, there was no off-season for Jesus. He cheered for every player whether he or she was training, in preseason or in the midst of the biggest game of the year. Unlike us, Jesus cheered for the other teams’ players as well. He simply couldn’t resist the best efforts of anyone. Even when Jesus hanged dying on the cross, he cheered on the man beside him. When this man made a pitch for his place in Paradise, Jesus responded with his promise that they would both experience victory in heaven very soon.

Even if you’re growing weary of my sports metaphor, please bear with me for another inning. If you’re not a Cub Fan, insert the name of your favorite team into the following commentary. Change the championship if your sport of choice isn’t baseball. Now imagine that your team has waited 108 years for this win. The Chicago Cubs’ World Series Victory literally made sports history. Pure devotion carried me through the bottom of the tenth of Game 7. I admit that I couldn’t cheer because I was in tearful speechless awe after that final tag at first base. While those lovable Cubs jumped for joy, I whispered, “This is what heaven is like.” When the Cubs basked in the glory of victory, I basked in being a part of the Cubs Family and I embraced every minute of it!

You and I and our entire human family have been through things far worse than an uphill battle through a 1-3 standing. The terrible fighting which continues in the Middle East echoes the suffering of Jesus’ own people. Though they don’t make the news, similar wars rage between drug lords, separatists and more in South America, Africa and our own neighborhoods. The deplorable tone which too often dominates the news mimics the worst of what occurs among us when we give in to hatred and mistrust. Human suffering isn’t new to our human family at large and to each one of us. It’s no wonder that I so thoroughly enjoyed reveling with the Cubs. It felt good to belong and to be loved, to appreciate the efforts of others and to have my efforts appreciated. It felt very good!

This is the twenty-fifth reflection I’ve written for the Feast of Christ the King and it has been the most difficult. Though Jesus deserves more accolades than any king, I cannot simply call him “king” when he’s been so much more to me. Jesus is my greatest fan. Jesus is your greatest fan, too. He always has been and always will be. Even when no one else is around to celebrate our big wins, Jesus is with us to enjoy the ride. The best part is that Jesus stays with us through the losses, too. Though you may not see him through the tears, Jesus is there. Christ the King? Sure. Christ the Fan? Absolutely!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Are Family

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1

I admit that I can’t quite let go of the Chicago Cubs’ recent World Series win. No matter where I went before the Series and where I’ve been since, I encountered Cub Fans. It didn’t matter that we’d never met before. None of us could resist making a comment about the possibilities at hand. Since the Cubs secured that win, the talk continues. Hope-fulfilled is a beautiful thing!

Living together in unity is also a beautiful thing! It seems providential that the World Series played out in the heat of the pre-election day frenzy. For a little while, ones political party meant far less than ones sports affiliation. Since Cubby Blue was visible everywhere, there was nothing to argue except the number of games it might take to pull off a World Series victory. Even these discussions were less arguments than litanies of hope in the things to come.

Though I suffered with everyone else during Game 7, I watched through that final tag at the bottom of the tenth. I cried and cheered in unison with the rest of Cub Fandom for the team, the fans, the city, baseball -for everyone and everything! Being a part of the Cubs Family is indeed a taste of heaven.

As I consider just how wonderful this sense of family is, I wonder what I can do in the greater scheme of things to bring about unity among the rest of us. If the Cubs can do this after 108 years, I can certainly do something…

Patient God, we find so many reasons not to get along. Light our way with your loving ways and help to love one another a little more.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Cub-full of Hope

“…and hope does not disappoint.”
From Romans 5:5

This commentary is a little late, I know… The day after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, I was stricken with a bit of illness which kept me from celebrating. Though I cried and cheered and wept and jumped for joy as I watched that last tag in the tenth inning, there was no more revelry for me as I was confined to my pajamas and my recliner shortly thereafter. The good news is that the situation did allow me to nap and to watch television. Though I lost numerous hours to sleep, I did watch as the post-World Series merrymaking unfolded. The City of Chicago provided a worthy tribute to the remarkable team who has changed baseball history forever.

As I watched, tears appeared on my cheeks more often than I’d expected. Though I was as pleased as every Cub Fan with the end of that 108-year drought, I was more pleased with the character the team exhibited. Their humility after all they’d accomplished and their gratitude to their fans touched my heart. Still, it was that precious rain delay which allowed the time for a team meeting which touched me ever more deeply. Though his teammates seemed to feel that all was lost, Jason Heyward seized the opportunity to rally them. Jason reminded his Cub’s family that at that point a score of 6-6 was the same as 0-0. All they needed to do was to play like the best team in baseball, for, indeed, this is who they are. This player who struggled himself during post-season play filled his teammates with hope, hope that was not disappointed!

As I dozed off for another nap, it occurred to me that Jason Heyward’s speech has something to say to all of us. Regardless of the score, every new moment brings a new opportunity to score one for the good. Go Cubs! Go us!

Loving God, thank you for giving us the wisdom to hope. Thank you also for the cheerleaders like Jason Heyward who remind us that it is up to us to make hope a reality.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved