God Always Listens

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 quite certain that if I 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 have read my writing before, you know that I have asserted again and again 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 also 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.

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 whisper away.

Loving God, I know I’m repeating myself here, but thank you for listening and for loving us so completely!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Only A While Longer?

“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”
John 13:33

While we were in Israel, I overheard two travelers from another group consoling one another over a friend who was unable to join them for their trip. The person who couldn’t travel with them had been ill and didn’t recover as quickly as they’d hoped. Because these three considered this trip to Israel to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, this turn of events anguished them all. The two who had made it consoled own another with their promise to pray at every holy place they visited for the person they’d unwillingly left behind. Their tone indicated that this illness might be their fellow traveler’s last.

As Holy Week approaches, I imagine conversations regarding Jesus’ situation among his friends. I suppose none of them were anxious to return to Jerusalem with so much uncertainty regarding Jesus’ work. Where would Jesus’ teaching take him? Where would it take them? Was Judas already expressing concern regarding all of this? Were the others happy to follow their teacher or were they struggling with worry as well?

Those fellow travelers found consolation in praying for their sick friend. She would be with them in spirit as they expressed their concern for her to God. The poor disciples weren’t as adept as we are at prayer. Though they had Jesus in their midst, they weren’t certain of what to make of his presence in their lives. Though they’d witnessed so much, they’re weren’t privy to The Big Picture which inspires us along the way.

Loving God, help me to be patient with others and with myself when we puzzle over this life. Help us to remember that you are with us though it all.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It Truly Is Well…

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.
My spirit rejoices in God, for God has looked with favor
upon this lowly servant…

From Luke 1:46-48

In the midst of one of his commentaries, our guide Yossi shared an amazing insight. I write “amazing” because Yossi is a self-proclaimed secular Jew who allegedly doesn’t believe in God. Still, he offered this faith-filled observation: “You see, when bad things happen, good always seems to come out of it.” Yossi followed this observation with a visit to the American Colony in Jerusalem. He led us to a hotel there which houses a framed original written by Horatio G. Spafford.

Mr. Spafford and his family lived in Chicago in the late 1800s. A successful lawyer with a loving family, his young son contracted pneumonia and died not long before the Chicago Fire destroyed his business. Afterward, he and his wife nursed their family through their mourning. He also rebuilt his business. Two years later, his wife and four daughters began an ocean cruise to Europe. Mr. Spafford would join them on a subsequent ship because a business issue had delayed his departure. During their voyage, his family’s ship collided with another vessel. Though his wife was saved, their daughters were lost. When Anna was brought to shore, she sent her husband a telegram which read, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Anna waited for her husband who immediately set sail to meet her.

Decades later, a daughter born after this tragedy shared that her father wrote the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul” while journeying to meet his grieving wife. Some of the lyrics are…

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford and his family eventually moved to Israel where he founded the Jerusalem’s American Colony. In that hotel lobby, Yossi played his flute while my husband and our tour-mate Marion sang Horatio Stafford’s hymn. It seems to me that Yossi was making an important point: No matter what befalls any of us, God takes care to see that all truly is well with our souls.

Dearest God, thank you!.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Golden Rule

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Several years ago, when my husband and I visited New York City, we included the United Nations complex on our “must see” list of sites. Our visit to the Conference Building at UN Headquarters did not disappoint. Regardless of ones politics, the concept of world leaders gathered in one place to care for this one world seems beyond our human expectations. Still, our world’s leaders continue to meet. Through the numerous disagreements which plague their discussions, they continue to talk. This is a notable accomplishment!

While all of this filled me with hope, a beautiful mosaic in the conference building took my breath away. This piece by Normal Rockwell was presented to the UN as a gift from The United States by First Lady Nancy Reagan. The eight-foot mosaic features a montage of adults and children of every race and color. In the midst of this gathering of humankind are the words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When the mosaic was refurbished and rededicated in 2014, the Secretary General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, remarked, “…it also reflects the very essence of our mission as set out in our charter.” Before my husband and I left the UN that day, we purchased a small copy of that mosaic. I needed it (Yes, I needed it!) to be a constant reminder of the standard by which I must live.

This will likely be the last reflection in which I reference that terrible shooting in Las Vegas. While I’m quite certain that the shooter wasn’t much concerned with either The Prayer of St. Francis or The Golden Rule, I hope both assisted you as much as they did me in processing your grief. Though I’ll focus my writing on other things, those effected and those who can do something about such incidents will remain in my prayers. I guess that means I’ll be praying for us all!

Compassionate God, be with us in our efforts to mirror your love in all that we say and do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Understand?

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Before my students arrived to begin each school year, I reviewed their records which included report cards and other pertinent information from their previous years in school. I wanted to understand the history which accompanied my new students into our classroom.

When I noticed that prior behaviors were “troublesome”, I watched carefully. These are the children with whom I made eye contact and conversation often. I also seated them near my desk. Those with poor grades also found their desks upfront. This close proximity helped them to absorb the wisdom of the day. Previous teachers’ notes regarding family losses or other trauma were also taken into consideration as was the new information I gathered throughout the year. All of this increased my understanding and impacted the quality of our interactions on an ongoing basis.

We all need to be understood, to have a voice, to be heard and to be valued. We all also need to allow these essentials to one another. If I feel I’ve been discounted in some may, I have good reason not discount the feelings, opinions and attitudes of others because I know how devastating this can be. At this writing, I don’t know what motivated the violence in Las Vegas twelve days ago. In this instance, the shooter seemed not to have cared about being understood. Still, his actions didn’t speak for the rest of us. Those victimized by his evil-doing and all of us who witnessed it do wish to be understood. We want it to be very clear that this must never happen again. How we communicate this and make ourselves understood on this issue is up to each of us.

Dear God, help us to understand one another and to make ourselves understood, especially by those whose voices can bring about meaningful change.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Consolers All

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

When my husband worked as a hospice chaplain, he never ceased to be amazed by his patients and their loved ones. Though their days were numbered in double or single digits, Mike’s patients often spent them easing the burdens of those they’d soon leave behind. When these losses came to pass, many of those loved ones eased their pain by reaching out to others in some way. Parents who’ve lost children often deal with their experiences by offering support to others who are preparing to do the same. Though none of us can ever truly prepare for these things, the consolation offered by others who’ve “been there” somehow gets us through these unbearable circumstances. How amazing it is that the worst of our pain can result in such generous acts of love!

I think the efforts of those hospice patients and their loved ones offer worthy inspiration to all who’ve been left reeling in the aftermath of the Las Vegas tragedy. Though most of us were hundreds of miles away during that shooting, we felt its horror just the same. The challenge before each of us is to find ways to use this experience to better this world for ourselves and one another. The best consolation we can offer will come through our efforts to replace sadness with joy, despair with hope and hatred with love.

Dear God, be with us as we do all we can to console this world by becoming instruments of your peace and your love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved