Worry Less and Enjoy More

“Martha, Martha, you worry about many things, but only
one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it
will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

It’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate my need to prioritize. One would think that the past 100+ days of staying-in-place have given the opportunity to become an expert at this. I’m embarrassed to say that this isn’t the case. Though I’ve spent few of those days away from home, I still find myself with too little time to accomplish all that I hope to on any given day.

As I contemplate my need to better manage my time, I look up from my keyboard to respond to the tree outside my window. It seems to be waving to me. It could be the wind, but nothing else is moving beside a small cluster of that tree’s branches. Is that tree waving or is Someone else trying to get my attention?

Jesus once told his friend Martha that she worried too much. Martha needed to be more like her sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the love that came with them. Never mind that Martha was seeing to Jesus’ next meal! It occurs to me that the things we consider to be most important are sometimes of little importance in the grand scheme of things. Though Martha, Mary and Jesus certainly needed to eat that day, that meal could wait until after they’d had the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company.

Perhaps it’s time for me to ask Mary and Martha to move over a bit so I can sit with them. Perhaps they’ll teach me to stop worrying, to enjoy the moment at hand and then to get back to my work -in organized fashion, of course!

Generous God, as I set aside my worries, help me to enjoy the gift of every moment and to use each one well.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Still Dancing To Christmas?

The hectic pace of Advent 2019 has increased exponentially. Though I mused at length during the past few weeks regarding finding a bit of Christmas in every day and dancing our way through Advent, I’m not sure that we’ve all had much opportunity to do so. Indeed, grocery lists, gift lists, to-do lists and the other responsibilities which simply don’t fit on lists have too often denied us the few leisurely moments we’ve hoped for each day. It’s difficult to free our hearts to dance the dance of joy when we’re distracted by the numerous tasks at hand. As I’ve checked off the items on my own lists, I’ve looked heavenward often. “Lord, what was I thinking when I suggested that these Advent days are anything like Christmas? What was I thinking when I invited everyone to dance through this crazy time with me?” I imagine God smiling knowingly in response…

As I write, I realize that I’m in good company as I question all of this. In today’s gospel (Matthew 11:2-11), Matthew chronicles John the Baptist’s stay in prison. Staring at the ceiling above, poor John wondered about the reports circulating among the prisoners. Each time the guards walked away, hushed voices recounted the works of Jesus. John had spent his entire adult life proclaiming the coming of the Messiah and his only reward to date was confinement in a cell. Finally, John raised his head and signaled a fellow inmate. He had to get a message to Jesus and this man had opportunity to do this. The man repeated John’s question because John insisted that the message be delivered precisely: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” John’s eyes followed his messenger as he left for as long as he could see him. “I must know…” he whispered.

John the Baptist did all he did to prepare the world for the Messiah in spite of his uncertainty. Jesus rewarded John with an unexpected gift of encouragement when he replied to John’s question. Jesus told the man, “Go back and tell John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” When John heard this response from his dear cousin, his heart danced. John realized his work in this world was complete. As a result, he was prepared for whatever else might come his way. It is no wonder that Jesus observed, “Amen I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist…”

As I consider all that my dear husband and I have accomplished this Advent, I find myself inspired as well. Mike has resisted numerous opportunities to enjoy some much needed rest to join me in tending to our family Christmas preparations as well as those of our parish family. In spite of his fatigue, Mike actually found joy in these favors fulfilled. When he finally relaxed in his recliner, these tasks accomplished encouraged him to consider what he’ll do next. I’ve found inspiration in the good deacon’s service and that of so many others. After all, setting ourselves aside to care for others is the point of the Advent Season.

This coming week, when you find yourself discouraged along with the rest of us because you cannot seem to get everything done, remember John the Baptist lying in that prison cell wondering if his preaching and teaching accomplished anything. Remember, as well, what Jesus said about the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf hearing and the dead being raised. What John did made all of the difference in the world to those who met him because John opened their hearts to Jesus. When you and I set aside our own needs to do our best for those around us, we do the same. The people we’ve been given to love in our homes and in this church, on cold street corners and in crowded malls, at work and at school, nearby and far away adjust their responses to Jesus’ message in tandem with our responses to them. Our patience, generosity and good will speak as eloquently of the Messiah’s coming as did the preaching of John the Baptist himself. Perhaps offering glimpses of God’s love to those around us is all the reason we need to dance after all. Though our aching feet and backs and heads may fail us, our hearts dance their way one step closer to Christmas with every good deed done!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Time For Love

He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

From Mark 7:24

It’s Black Friday. Though early cyber sales and sneak previews drew much attention, crowds in stores and malls everywhere swell exponentially with every passing minute today. As I considered the mass of humanity of which I was a part this morning, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for those retailers who agreed not to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. Of all of the holidays we celebrate in this country, Thanksgiving Day is the one we all enjoy without regard for our religious affiliations or lack thereof. I thanked God for the generosity of these employers whose workers enjoyed the holiday with their families yesterday.

After uttering a mental “amen” I returned to my list to determine where to go next. A voice near a cashier distracted me. This person remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As the man hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. I’d found my own wealth in the few seemingly wasted moments which allowed me to get my bearings. While the world rushed about me, I also found the time to pray.

Perhaps this is the reason Jesus rose early and stole away for quiet time as often as he could. The scriptures also tell us that these moments were usually disrupted by those who desperately needed Jesus. The same is true of you and me. Today, will you join me in trying to respond as Jesus would? Let’s bring a bit of Jesus’ patience, concern and love to the mass of humanity out there!

Dear God, our world grows busier every day. Help me to respond to those caught in the midst this busyness as you would. Remind me to pray a bit, too.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Okay To Rest

Teach us to use our days aright…
From Psalm 90:12

I was babysitting for our grandson and heard the mail carrier. I was out of breath when I opened the front door. When he handed me the mail, I wished the smiling man a good day. “Same to you! Now take a minute to relax, young lady. You’re out of breath!” he said. I laughed as my younger grandson joined me in greeting him. “Thanks for the advice!” I replied. “I’ll do that as soon as this little guy takes his nap.” As he headed down the walk, the mail carrier added, “Just pace yourself. That’s how I get through every day!” I waved my thanks, put the mail on the counter and returned to play with my grandson.

As the little guy and I built another tower of blocks, I considered the mail carrier’s suggestion. “Pace yourself!” I repeated. This advice was precisely what I needed to hear that day. When my little grandson succumbed to his fatigue, I nestled him into his crib. Afterward, I eased myself into the recliner. A crazy-busy week lay ahead and I was determined to pace myself through it all. With that in mind, I made a mental schedule of what I had to do each day. That schedule included daily walks. Then I closed my eyes to enjoy a daydream or two. Did I nap as well? When my grandson awoke, I headed to his room with a prayer on my lips: “Thank you for the mail carrier’s advice and for letting me know that, though we all need to use our time well, we also have the right to rest in between.”

Dear God, your timing is always perfect. Thank you for the messengers who remind us to heed your timepieces rather than our own.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always In Good Company

Give thanks to God, for God is good
and God’s mercy endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

I was a little “off” when I woke the other day. I’d enjoyed a string of busy and happily peaceful days. Still, I found myself immersed in sadness. For unknown reasons, my first thoughts that morning were steeped in relatively ancient history. I asked myself, “Why did I wake up with that on my mind?” Though I did my best to focus on happier things, nothing seemed to help. So it was that after breakfast, I bid my dear husband farewell and headed out for a walk.

As soon as I reached the front of our house, I looked back at the ever-present greenery and the colorful annuals Mike had planted this year. They’re prettier than ever and, for a few minutes, they took my mind off of those pesky old memories. As I walked further, I couldn’t miss the flowers which grace so many of our neighbors’ homes. “Thank you, Dear God, for these perfectly placed distractions!!” I prayed.

As I walked on, an uncommonly cool breeze nudged me along the way. “I love the wind, Dear God, because it reminds me that you’re with me.” As I continued on, those bothersome worries faded in the shadow of the beauty around me. Green trees seemed greener than ever. Lush lawns seemed even more beautiful. Every blossom I passed seemed to be in its prime. As I basked in all of this, that breeze continued to nudge me along the way. Finally, I realized that God was with me. Finally, I remembered that God is always with me. Finally, I knew that all would be well. Should those memories emerge once again, God will handle them with me.

Dear God, thank you for your patience, your company and your love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

W… Write!

In the beginning was the Word;
the Word was in God’s presence,
and the Word was God.

John 1:1

W is for Write. Many more meaningful words begin with “w”. I’ve cited one above! Still, I chose “write” because this is what I’ve been called to do. In addition to these daily reflections, I’m writing a book. This project is very important to me because it chronicles my relationship with God throughout my life. Perhaps a reader or two will find that this topic has meaning for them as well.

Unfortunately, the writing process has proven to be grueling. I’m grateful that the inspiration has been plentiful and that the words flow freely. The WORD cited in the scripture verse above has been very generous in providing these things. However, I’ve been able to be productive for only an hour or two or three before being interrupted by what I call real life.

These incidences of real life occur with diligent frequency. Each is a worthy cause which certainly deserves my attention. Still, as I respond as best I can, I wonder about my book. I habitually look upward to ask, “Will I ever finish it?” Though I never hear a response, I somehow know that all will unfold in good time.

It occurs to me that I’m always writing something with my attitudes, with the things I say and with my actions. Though I’d like to leave something significant in written form, the truths I share through my daily life will be far more lasting. Just as no book store owner or librarian can predict which books patrons will pick up, I can’t predict who will read the things I write with every breath I take.

So it is that I write my life’s next chapter by tending to the tasks at hand with patience and love. I’ll get back to my manuscript later, too.

Loving God, mold us into words who write of your love as Jesus did.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved