2019… A Year of ???

Only three days of Year 2018 remained when I looked up from my keyboard to discover large flakes of snow falling just beyond the window. I smiled broadly. Because we’d enjoyed spring-like temperatures for a while, this snow took me completely by surprise. Though I noted that there was no accumulation, those flitting flakes were enough to brighten my mood. In spite of the mid-afternoon hour that Friday, I decided to set aside this writing and to run a few errands. Unlike the commuters who’d soon be headed home, I wanted to enjoy the white stuff firsthand. As it happened, the snow fell only ten minutes into my travels. Still, much to my good fortune, that ten-minute interlude was enough to maintain my joyful mood and to fortify me for the long lines which greeted me at each of the stores I visited. Though I waited for twenty-five minutes in one line, I hummed happily all the while. Who would have thought that a bit of snow and running errands would be so uplifting?

While driving home, I was gifted with another surprise. I’d tuned in to the news in spite of the fact that it might darken my mood. In the midst of stock reports and the world and national news, a familiar voice shared an amazing human-interest tidbit. Though this snippet lasted less than a minute, it remained with me all the way home and as I made my way back to my keyboard. With New Year’s Eve and New Year 2019 just 72 hours away, this report focused on New Year’s resolutions. The news anchor explained that one resolution in particular had made an unexpected impact throughout 2018. Apparently, someone had decided to make New Year 2018 the Year of Love. A young woman had resolved to use social media to do this. She’d planned to write a post every day which described someone who meant something special to her. She’d even titled her effort #Year of Love. When asked about her success, the woman shared that it wasn’t difficult to find people to write about. Every day, someone graced her life. She added that 2018 hadn’t provided enough days for her to acknowledge all of the people who’d touched her with their love. As a result, she’s decided to continue these daily acknowledgements throughout New Year 2019. As Ms. Year of Love went on to describe the remarkably varied people she’d featured, I began to recount my own treasure in this regard. I also began to consider how I might make 2019 my own year of something…

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The scriptures tell us that Jesus was about thirty years of age when he spent forty days alone in the desert to consider what lay ahead for him. In spite of encounters with evil during what Jesus hoped would be a reflective interlude, Jesus chose to embrace the path ahead as best he could. Luke’s gospel (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22) tells us that the people were certainly ready for someone to grace their lives. Many wondered if John the Baptizer might be the messiah for whom they waited. John responded by assuring the crowds that one far greater than he was coming. When Jesus approached John for baptism, poor John did as Jesus asked in spite of feeling completely unworthy to do so. Perhaps to reassure both men and the rest of us, God declared from above, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” After that day, a relieved John continued his preaching. With every word, John pointed his followers in Jesus’ direction while Jesus embraced his mission as only he could. If social media had been available, perhaps Jesus would have dubbed his effort Life of Love.

As I’ve written often, I repeat that there was nothing easy about Jesus’ life among us. Still, Jesus persisted in using his very human circumstances to reveal God’s love and God’s faith in each one of us. Though he was given thirty-three years, Jesus used only the last three to teach and to preach. Until then, he’d invested himself in his life at home with Mary and Joseph, in the neighborhood with this neighbors and in working as an itinerant mason and an itinerant rabbi. It was in those places that Jesus came to fully appreciate those he’d been given to love. When Jesus invested himself in others, Jesus also invested himself in spreading God’s love. Long before Jesus asked John to baptize him, Jesus had made Life of Love his way of doing things. No wonder God was so pleased!

I’m most grateful for the bit of snow which distracted me from this writing and for that well-timed report about the woman who transformed 2018 through her #Year of Love efforts. Most of all, I’m grateful for that much-needed reminder to refine my own plans for New Year 2019. When I consider my too-frequent surrenders to the darkness around me this past year, something –no Someone– urges me to make Year of Joy this year’s effort. If ten minutes of snow succeeded in cheering me up and that twenty-five minute wait in line failed to elicit a groan, finding the joy around me seems doable. Like Jesus, I need to do this as only I can. The truth is that we’re all called to do what only we can throughout these lives of ours. Whatever we choose to be our new year efforts, God asks only that we stick to them as only we can. After all, like Jesus, each one of us is God’s beloved child!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Let’s Change The World!

I am “a voice in the desert, crying out:
Make straight the way of the Lord!”

John 1:23

I begin New Year 2019 with great expectations for myself, for my loved ones and for this world of ours. I took a few minutes here and there for some pre-New Year reflection. I prioritized and then selected a few things which I can actually do something about. After devising my own self-improvement plan, I considered those I’ve been given to love. My assessment of their needs is far less critical and far more nurturing than my own. I simply consider each one and wish him or her a New Year filled with the grace, wisdom and strength to do their best as best they can.

This world of ours is another story. I’m torn between heartbreak for our brothers and sisters whose suffering seems endless and anger toward those in power who can’t seem to get it right when it comes to creating peace on this earth. The divide between bondage and liberty, poverty and wealth, sorrow and genuine joy seems to grow exponentially with every passing day. What can I do to make a difference in any of this?

Though my sphere of influence is minimal in the grand scheme of things, it’s still mine. Every moment of every day that I’m given is mine. If I respond to the situations at hand lovingly and productively, I change the world in a positive way. When I respond with anger and hatred or even thoughtless impatience, I do the opposite. It seems that the best New Year’s resolution I can make is to promise myself and God who inspires me to do everything I can to bring some measure of peace and love with me wherever I am. Sometimes, these efforts will be life-changing. Sometimes, they will be only moment-changing. Always, they will change this world for the better.

Loving God, be with us all as we bring you peace and love to this world, one moment at a time.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Return The Love With Love

Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant…
Matthew 20:27

Though I don’t often visit cemeteries, I recently did so to celebrate memories of my loved ones. I know I can do this anywhere. Still, I find tangible peace in these places where I expressed my grief through my tears and spoke my final farewells. Though the remains of all of the people whom I’ve lost weren’t buried in this particular place, each one came to mind as I gazed over rows of monuments which seemed to go on for infinity.

As I considered these loved ones, I realized the reason I miss them so. In one way or another, each one enriched my life. Even when some of them weren’t at their best, they touched me in extremely important ways. Perhaps the most powerful trait which these good souls share is their consistent willingness to put others before themselves. Even when circumstances forced them into acts of generosity and selflessness, they rose to these occasions with grace and kindness.

As I recounted their good deeds, I couldn’t help smiling. I looked up to my loved ones in their afterlife abodes and whispered, “How can I thank you for doing all that you did for me?” Though I “heard” nothing in response, I had the distinct feeling that doing the same for those I have been given to love would be quite enough.

Generous God, thank you for the amazing people who have enriched my life. Help me to do the same for those I meet along the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

X is for…

I rock with grief and am troubled…
From Psalm 55:3

X is for X-ray. Sometimes, it takes x-ray vision to get to the heart of things.

One weekend, a friend at church asked if he could speak with me. I agreed with a smile though I was slightly worried as his tone and demeanor indicated that he was troubled. When we were alone, this dear man poured out his heart. Current events both nearby and faraway had cut him to the quick. He simply couldn’t reconcile the suffering of this life with his shaky conviction that God loves us. “How can this evil exist side-by-side with God?” he asked through his tears.

You know, I would never have known about this man’s dilemma if he hadn’t shared it with me. I couldn’t peek into his aching heart because, unlike God, I don’t have x-ray vision. After we spoke, this brave fellow shared that he knew I’d understand because I’m such an expert on God’s love. I could only respond with, “Who? Me?” Didn’t he realize that though I was the one standing before him, it is God who had convinced me of all I know? Didn’t he realize that I’m no more perceptive than the next guy? I’ve just learned to let God step in to show me what to do or say.

I absolutely do not have x-ray vision, but God does. Whether we’re in need of help ourselves or in the midst of helping someone else, it is God who sees the troubles lying deep within us. It is God who shows us the way.

Compassionate God, use your x-ray vision to see our troubles and be with us as we respond to those in need.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

W is for…

Let integrity and uprightness preserve me…
From Psalm 25:21

W is for Write. I realize that there are many more meaningful words which begin with “w”. I chose “write” because this is what I need to be doing at the moment. I’m in the midst of writing a book which is very important to me. Perhaps a reader or two will find it has meaning for them as well. The process, however, is grueling at best. I get on a role for a day or two or three only to be interrupted by what I call “real life”.

For some time now, a “real life” situation has sapped my energy and my creativity. I attribute this to my genuine concern for those involved. I think that we all need to invest our time in the concerns which matter to us and to those we love. Because I needed to clear my head regarding all this, I retreated to the outdoors. In the midst of that much-needed walk, I recalled several people who’ve approached me over the past few months to thank me for these posts and for my Sunday reflections which appear in our parish bulletin. I told myself, “My writing seems to be important to a lot of people including myself.” As soon as I said that, I had to wonder if the energy and worry I’d invested in that bit of “real life” was equally important. As I walked on, I admitted that I’ve already done everything within my power to help. Aside from praying for those concerned, there truly is no more for me to do.

With that, I returned home. I whispered a prayer regarding that situation and then sat at my keyboard to write this post and to begin the next chapter of my book.

Loving God, thank you for the inspiration and for the faithful readers who join me in taking it to heart.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Blanket of Opportunity

Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow…

Isaiah 60:5

It was December 9. After offering my usual “Thanks for the sleep and this new day” to the Almighty, I crawled out of bed and opened the shades in our room. As soon as I’d drawn the first one a quarter of the way up the window, I saw it. An amazing full-sized heart-warming blanket of white covered the entire world, at least as far as I could see! The beauty before me took my breath away. It was a full minute before I could shout downstairs to my husband, “It snowed!” When I did, Mike seemed surprised by my announcement. He responded with an “I know” which seemed to indicate “What did you expect?” In spite of his lack of enthusiasm, I couldn’t get over my elation over this wonderfully inspiring surprise.

I love snow, especially the first snowfall of the year. That morning’s treasure couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. I’d been exhausted for several days by unexpected though worthy tasks which added to my own pre-Christmas frenzy. The world-at-large continued to suffer as did too many good souls nearby. Though I truly did all that I could to infuse peace and a bit of joy into the moments at hand, I felt that I was in the midst of a losing battle. Then I opened the shade and discovered a new world and a new day and a new opportunity to begin again.

As it happened, I began that day by clearing the lovely blanket from our driveway and walk. With every shovel of that glittering white stuff, I exposed another opportunity to see my world with new eyes. Nothing would be the same that day and nothing will be the same today.

This is the first day of New Year 2018 and God blesses each one of us with an amazing full-sized heart-warming blanket of opportunity. Let’s make the most of it. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Generous God, than you for a lifetime of opportunities to begin anew!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved