Seeds of Peace

Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted.

Psalm 80:16

As this second week of Advent comes to an end, I continue my effort to bring God’s peace to my little corner of the world. Our Christmas shopping is nearly finished and I’m most grateful. Still, I’ve had a bit of trouble maintaining the peace within and around me. It’s so difficult these days!

My little family and I are generously blessed. I express my gratitude to the Lord God daily –sometimes several times a day- for this. I also cannot count how often I give thanks for the little things which compel me to smile so often. Still, others for whom I care deeply suffer greatly. Add to this the woes of our world and you see why I’m troubled. I wonder what I can do to alleviate any of this.

So it is that I pray for peace within those I know and in the rest of this world. When nothing seems to change, my impatience compels me to order the Almighty to take care of things. “I wouldn’t talk to you this way,” I say, “if you’d fix this!” It’s usually after such a conversation that I run into a loved one. He or she shares that, though all isn’t well, God is within and they’re at peace. The same is true with the rest of the world. When I’m most tempted to lose hope, a random peacemaker across the ocean makes the nightly news. It’s then that I kneel to apologize and to renew my promise to share God’s peace.

Patient God, thank you for trusting each of us with your peace.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Beloved King

In an effort to organize my thoughts for this writing, I decided to ignore the mist in the air and to head outdoors for a much-needed walk. I reread today’s scripture passages and then bundled up for my trek into autumn. Much to my surprise, I found that the threat of rain had retreated and the clouds had separated just enough to allow an occasional glimpse of blue. I whispered a prayer of thanks for my good fortune and then set my pace for the duration. In an effort to clear my head, I set aside today’s topic and concentrated on the fleeting color around me. Recent winds, my dear husband and our diligent neighbors had removed most of the leaves along the way. The few which remained on the sidewalk made no sound as I walked over them. The morning’s drizzle had robbed them of their crackling crunch. Still, I gave thanks for their once-brilliant color which had so generously gifted us all.

As I walked, I noticed a few stubborn leaves clinging with all of their might to otherwise barren branches. As I continued on, I saw that several more determined leaves held tightly to the trees they called home. Each one seemed unwilling to give in to the inevitable. I imagined these leaves mustering their strength in the face of the cold wind and giving thanks for every additional second during which they remained in place. Those determined leaves had lived life to the full as best they could and they weren’t about to let go before they absolutely had to do so. Those leaves which clung so tightly to their branches weren’t in alone their efforts. I also discovered a smattering of their counterparts nuzzled close to the bases of bushes and fences. I congratulated them for a job well done. I also reminded them that their work on this earth isn’t finished. They will swirl and settle and swirl in the air again until the first heavy snow forces them into a final resting place. While they will eventually lose their leaf-like appearance to decay, they will also enrich the soil. That soil will nourish the trees which will produce another season’s leaves. These new leaves will repeat their brave predecessors’ purposeful ritual.

In spite of my effort to clear my head, those leafy encounters filled my head with a renewed understanding of today’s feast day. For this I was also most grateful. Today, we observe the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year which is The Feast of Christ the King. This timing is intentional. We’ve spent the year reading and listening to scripture passages which recount Jesus’ life and his teachings. Jesus used both his word and his example to teach God’s ways. Jesus preached love, mercy and forgiveness, joy in the face of poverty and peace in the face of suffering. Jesus worked very hard at convincing those he met along the way that God loves us just as we are with all of our human frailties intact. This is the reason Jesus publicly referenced God as his Abba, his Daddy, and the reason Jesus invited us to do the same. While Jesus provided a lifetime of good example, he assured us again and again that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus spent his time with the seemingly unworthy, shunning the presumptuous ones who attempted to use his acquaintance to increase their stature. Jesus loved the poor in spirit and the materially poor and he always made time for them. In the end, Jesus hung on a tree with all of his might, determined not to let go until he had to let go. On this Feast of Christ the King, I imagine Jesus pondering the brave leaves who hold onto their trees as he once did. I imagine Jesus smiling because he knows that just as their work to enrich the soil continues season after season and year after year, his work continues in and through the lives of all of God’s children. Yes, through you and me.

As I considered the innumerable reasons I have to give thanks for Jesus’ impact upon my life, his presumed kingship never entered my mind. I researched the history of today’s feast because I wondered why we call attention to the one title which Jesus seemed least anxious to acquire. I discovered that in the grand scheme of church history this feast is relatively new. This observance was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Pius served during extremely difficult times when communism and fascist governments threatened many. Pius hoped that this feast would draw attention away from those political bullies and toward Jesus who ruled with the authentic power of God’s love. When I consider Jesus’ kingship in this light, I find good reason to celebrate.

On this Feast of Christ the King, I rejoice in the many lessons I found among this year’s crop of leaves. Their brave journeys through spring’s budding, summer’s lush exuberance and fall’s decay opened my eyes once again to the wonder to be found in Jesus’ life. So it is that today I celebrate Jesus, our Jesus who clung to a tree to complete his life and to let go of it, just as you and I will do. Even more so, I celebrate the life Jesus lived before letting go of that tree, for it is that life which teaches me how to live and how to love as God asks.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I Give Thanks

Give thanks to God;
bless God’s name for God is good:
the Lord whose kindness endures forever…

From Psalm 100:4-5

As I consider the things for which I’m grateful, I find that I have more time than usual to compile a list. My husband and I aren’t cooking today. Our older son and his wife have taken on our annual Thanksgiving feast. His younger brother and wife will do the same for Christmas Day. I admit that I’m quietly rejoicing in response to this turn of events. Thank you, God!

The next point on my list of blessings is my family. That I married was a huge surprise to me. That my husband and I have children is a miracle, literally, from what the doctors have told us. I’m grateful to my parents who shared their faith with me through their practical daily lives. They appreciated God’s love and their resulting ability to weather any storm taught me to do the same. My siblings each contributed to who I am today in so many ways. Thank you, God!

I appreciate God’s love, too. When in doubt, I turn to Jesus who insisted that God loves us as we are with all of our frailties intact. Though Jesus provided a lifetime of very good example, he also assured us that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more. Thank you for this, Dear God, because I sometimes forget that I’m good enough for you!

On this Thanksgiving Day, this reflection should be the longest I’ve ever written because my blessings are so numerous. Suffice to say that God knows them all and that I’m most grateful. I hope you find that the same is true for you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Generous God, thank you for everything!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Favorite Photos

Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Psalm 145:13

When our first grandchild was born, I began to organize our pictures of her and the rest of us from Day 1. Though I’d done the same for our own sons, it had been a while since I started new albums. Some family members and friends acknowledged our new roles as “Grandma and Grandpa” by gifting us with photo albums and I put each one to immediate use. As I completed each one, rather than storing them away, I displayed the albums on our coffee table for easy access. I didn’t want to forget a bit of this new adventure.

Three more grandchildren and a few memorable trips enticed me to keep this “album thing” going. Twelve volumes later, I find that my thinking in this regard is sound. When visiting, our grandchildren and their parents look through these albums often. Numerous conversations regarding the places we’ve been, the kids’ growth spurts and a variety of special occasions result. The smiles which accompany all of this indicate that my photo album collection is truly a celebration of who we are and where we have been.

I can’t help thinking that my family album experiences mirror God’s love for you and me. In spite of the world’s distractions and that challenging gift of our free will, we all manage to engage in good deeds far more often than we realize. Each one certainly elicits a smile from our Benevolent Creator. Though my photo albums don’t chronicle our difficult family times, God’s albums do. God looks upon these events with loving concern. More importantly, God remains with us most closely during these difficult times.

Generous God, thank you for making our memories your own.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hope-full Halloween!

Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.

Matthew 5:12

When I was in elementary school, the good sisters made it clear that there would be no Halloween without All Saints Day. Sister taught us that Halloween evolved from “The Eve of All Hallows” which is the day before the saints’ holy day. In centuries past, adults in some European countries paraded in costumes on the Eve of All Hallows. They depicted various stages of our lives and our positions in the human hierarchy. This was all to remind us that no one is exempt from death. Today, children dress up as princesses and super-heroes, witches and ghosts with the hope of gathering as much candy as possible. I’m quite certain that none of them will give a thought to their mortality today. Though the children who come to our doors aren’t thinking much about life after this life, they do come with their hope intact. Trick-or-treaters hope more than anything that we’ll drop their favorite treats into their bags.

As for me, I plan to embrace a bit of hope. Between doorbell rings, I’ll consider the hopeful lives of my loved ones who have passed away. I’ll pray to them and request their help in keeping hope alive in my own life. I’ll allow my trick-or-treaters to teach me to look beyond the masks we sometimes wear to the gifts buried deep within those around me. Each one will remind me to hope for the best for and within others. I’ll also look beneath the surface of the tricky situations which trouble me today with absolute hope in God’s ability to turn these troubles into treats of opportunity.

Yes, this Halloween and every day give us reason to hope!

Loving God, thank you for getting us through life’s tricky times by filling us up with the treats of your love and companionship.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

You’ll Always Be The Best!

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

Psalm 90:14

Bad days used to be a rarity for me. I was always surprised when I seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. I’ve never figured out which side of the bed is the wrong side. Still, in spite of my ignorance in this regard, for several weeks I’d managed to find that wrong side more often than not. In the midst of this string of cranky days, a much-loved voice called unexpectedly. If Katie* and I were engaged via FaceTime, she would have seen that I was doing a happy dance as we spoke.

As it happened, my little dance was short-lived because Katie had some scary news to share. A head injury from years ago has taken its toll and her memory will be affected. Katie has a loving family including a grandchild which adds to her concern. Still, Katie remained upbeat as she voiced her resolve to be the best she can for as long as she can. As she spoke, I whispered prayers for Divine Intervention regarding the duration of her ability to be the best she can. I’ve done the same ever since. Katie has always been 100% good enough for me. Still, I understand her worry.

Though Katie likely thinks that I’m doing her a favor by praying on her behalf, she’s the one who’s performed the good deed. Her call broke the spell those bad days had cast upon me. Katie has been my most consistent and vocal fan since I began writing in the public forum 25 years ago. As we spoke that day, Katie’s deep faith in God’s care for her reminded me that God cares just as deeply for me. Yes, Katie, you’ll always be the best you can be!

Loving God, give Katie a miraculously long string of “best she can be” days and months and years.

*I’ve changed Katie’s name to protect her privacy.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved