Fill The Void

On that day,
a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

Isaiah 11:1

Though the cold has set in, a squirrel appeared this morning to eat from beneath our bird feeders. The birds who feast high above drop a generous measure of seed onto the grass below. As a result, this determined squirrel has learned to scavenge plenty of food. His success is evidenced by his waistline. This particular squirrel is the chubbiest I’ve ever seen. Still, I don’t fault him a bit. The winter weather is here and Mr. Squirrel must prepare for the long haul.

As I consider that squirrel, I realize that his creativity in preparing for the enduring cold should inspire my own efforts as I prepare for Christmas. My lengthy to-do list, decorating and shopping make it difficult to find the time to reflect upon the reason we celebrate this season every year. Just as Mr. Squirrel has found a way to feed his chubby little body, I must find a way to nourish my soul. So it is that I will indulge in the generous measure of inspiration around me. The efforts of so many who care for those in need renew my faith in the goodness of humankind. Though my own efforts seem small, I guess they do add up after all -just like the birdseed that continues to fill up Mr. Squirrel!

Today and every day this Advent, may we all be encouraged by the goodness around us and may we all become a part of it. Wherever we find a need, let’s fill the void.

Loving God, thank you for the wonders of nature and the creativity of my fellow souls. They constantly remind me to do good wherever I can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

J… Joy!

God has sent me to bring
glad tidings to the poor…

From Luke 4:18

J is for Joy. Joy can be illusive. A recent off-the-cuff remark opened an old wound. Normally, I let go of hurtful events, burying them deep within. As of late, however, these things have resurfaced. As a result, this seemingly harmless remark sent me into a tailspin. In an effort not to succumb to my sadness, I distracted myself. I began by perusing the newspaper. This only increased my melancholy. I set aside the paper and picked up the remote. I surfed the channels until a news report caught my attention. The update confirmed that recent violence had been accomplished to “honor” God’s name. I sank into my recliner, looked out the window and asked, “Dear God, what are we doing?”

We humans have hurt one another in God’s name since the beginning of time. Before I could repeat my question, a lone dove perched on our bird bath. Almost on cue, she turned my way, seemingly to peer into my aching heart. Though a large blue jay joined her to dance on the rim of that bird bath, the dove continued to look at me. Finally, I prayed aloud, “Thank you, Lord!” Though that dove didn’t change the news that afternoon, she filled me with joy. When she eventually flew away, perhaps to spread joy elsewhere, God’s joy remained with me.

As long as we continue to nurture God’s joy within us and around us, there will be joy in this world. Rather than allowing myself to be overwhelmed by wounds old and new, I will allow God’s joy to overwhelm me. My joy-filled revelry will compel me to share that joy at every opportunity!

God of Joy, help us to focus on your joy in spite of this world’s continuing attempts to distort and disfigure it. Be with us as we bring your joy into every moment every day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Loves You!

Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your love.

Psalm 145:4

This past summer, I wasn’t as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d hoped to be. Fortunately, our time in Italy re-acclimated me to the rigors of serious effort in this regard. I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten back “on track” so to speak…

The other day, in spite of the cold, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me as I walked. Though I’m a creature of habit who takes the same route almost every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I’ve seen a hundred times before filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide a winter’s measure of nuts were the frosting on the cake. Though I always enjoy walking, the joy I experienced that morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during these treks. The autumn sky that beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s enduring love. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in the same direction. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude that day. Being able to share God’s love is very good reason to give thanks!

Generous God, help me to remind everyone I meet along the way of just how much you love them.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved… Cared For…

“He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
From Matthew 8:16-17

While I sat, I mindlessly tapped my fingers on the table. As I considered the realities of this life, I realized that there is often little I can do to alleviate the troubles which unfold around me. Just beyond the window, a large robin plopped himself into our bird bath. I was pleased with the robin’s arrival as my husband habitually cleans and fills our bird baths with the hope that our feathered friends will make use of them. This robin seemed most appreciative as he fluttered his wings for several seconds splashing water every which way. Though I knew he couldn’t hear me, I remarked, “It certainly doesn’t take much to make you happy!” Even before I finished this sentence, I realized that the same is true for all of us. Just as that water waited, available for my robin friend when he chose to enjoy it, all that we need awaits us.

Being loved and cared for is the best any of us can hope for. Being loved and cared for makes everything we encounter do-able. Though branches and boulders clutter the road that lies before us, we manage to climb over them or to plod around them because we aren’t alone. God remains every step of the way. Though we may only occasionally choose to bathe in the waters of God’s love and care, God remains to offer them just the same.

Loving God, thank you for your ever-present love and concern.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

J is for…

The Lord has sent me to bring
glad tidings to the poor…

From Luke 4:18

J is for Joy. I would be completely dishonest if I didn’t admit that joy eludes me at times. A recent off-the-cuff remark opened an old wound. Though I tend to let go of hurtful memories, this recollection surfaced immediately. Rather than giving in to my slowly simmering anger, I picked up the newspaper to distract myself. Unfortunately, the headlines only increased my melancholy. I swapped the paper for the remote. I surfed the channels until a news report caught my attention. The update confirmed that violence continues to plague my old neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. I sank into my recliner, looked out the window and asked, “Dear God, what are we doing?”

We humans have hurt one another since the beginning of time. Before I could repeat my question to the Almighty, a lone bird perched on our bird bath. Though the bird may have been a pigeon, she was a dove to me. Almost on cue, she turned my way seemingly to peer into my aching heart. When a large blue jay joined her to dance on the rim of that bird bath, the dove continued to look at me. That sweet bird didn’t change the news that afternoon. Still, she filled me with joy just the same. When she eventually flew away, I imagined that she’d gone to spread joy elsewhere.

As long as we can appreciate the joy within us and around us, there will be joy in this world of ours. Rather than allowing myself to be overwhelmed by wounds old and new, that wonderful dove reminded me to revel in joy and to share that joy at every opportunity.

God of Joy, you send me to bring your joy everywhere I go.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Jump In!

I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the Lord helped me.
My strength and my courage is in the Lord…

Psalm 118:13-14

As I finished the dishes, I gazed out the window. I noticed a little bird perched at a hole in our bird house. My feathered friend peered through that hole several times, but didn’t enter. I wondered if he was debating whether or not to move in. This bird house is a welcomed replacement to our old one which the squirrels had transformed into a tenement. isn’t in the best of shape. They’d gnawed at some of the holes and made them large enough to poke in and takeover our alleged avian haven. That little bird seemed wise not to jump in until he was certain that the squirrels hadn’t once again demonstrated their handiwork.

I stepped away from the window to dry the dishes I’d washed. When I returned, I looked to see if that bird persisted in his indecision. To my amazement, he was sitting in the bird house peeking out. I watched for several minutes as his head disappeared and reappeared over and over again. Apparently, he’d found his new digs to be suitable after all.

Sometimes, I question new opportunities as well. I peek in to investigate, but my feet stay planted in place. I’m not as courageous as that little bird who took that leap of faith and found himself a new home. So it is that I look upward in my uncertainty. There I find our loving God who promises always to light my way.

Generous God, give me the courage to embrace the opportunity at hand. Help me to make the most of my digs here until I occupy my perfect home with you.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved