Go Ahead; God’s Listening!

“Lord, if you will do so, you can cure me.”
Jesus stretched out his hand to touch him
and said, “Be cured.”

Luke 5:12-13

I learned very early on that it’s always appropriate to bring our troubles to God. Sometimes, my family did so en masse. We gathered in our living room to pray when illness struck a loved one or to pray for a happy death if a recovery wasn’t in the making. Through the years, I became so convinced that God is aware of my every need that I rarely prayed for myself (though I admit to adding a prayer for myself as of late!). Still, it’s when those around me are suffering that I blast the heavens mercilessly until I have some assurance that all will be well -at least in God’s eyes.

Over the past year, my often overly zealous demands have been offered on numerous occasions for those I’ve been given to love and, admittedly, for me. Sometimes, the results have been predictable. At other times, God has surprised me and all concerned. In every case, I found myself speaking with the Almighty as I would with my best friend. I never once wondered if God was listening. Why would I question the obvious?

Dear God, you attend to each one of us every moment of every day. Make us attentive and responsive to one another -just like you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Be God’s Hand

They carried to him all those afflicted…
and he cured them all.

Matthew 4:24

The realities of winter and my daily routines have returned in full force. The 2018 Christmas Season brought much joy, but it also brought sorrow to many who experience a variety of suffering these days. Though our routines bring comfort at some level, they also take their toll. Suffering has become routine for far too many of God’s people.

When the people we are given to love are burdened in any way, it’s difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. Whether they live in our own homes, down the street or on the other side of this world, our hearts go out to these poor souls who seem condemned to lives of misery. In the face of all of this, I’m reminded of my New Year commitment. (You’ll read about it next Sunday.) My intent is to bring joy into every moment of the New Year 2019. Though none of us can “see” God’s hand in anything, we can rest assured that God is nearby. It’s up to us to reveal God’s close proximity to those who need this most. We can bring comforting words or a listening ear. We can bring service by running errands or simply providing our company. We can cook a meal or make a phone call. We can all do something which will ease the suffering around us. As for our friends far away, we can help through relief efforts, activism in whatever venue works and prayer. Yes, we can bring God’s presence and be God’s hand in it all!

Faithful God, you trust us to bring your joy to one another. Be with us in our efforts and please lend us your hand when we falter.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Watchful and Trusting!

Was not the hand of the Lord upon that child?
From Luke 1:66

When I arrived home after a bit of Christmas shopping, I paused in the driveway to take in our Christmas decorations. Though we’ll never win a decorating contest, my husband and I do our best to acknowledge the season through our outdoor display. Five years ago, Mike stopped climbing onto the roof above the garage to string lights on our second floor eaves. We both agreed that it was more important for him to make in to Christmas Day unscathed. Lighting the first floor eaves is enough. One year later, I slipped on the ice at ground level while stringing lights on a tree which was shorter than I am. This resulted in a laceration to my scalp and twelve staples to close it.

As I drove into the garage, I shuddered at this memory. The truth is that my fall had caused me to feel uncharacteristically vulnerable. At the time, I wondered if I’d reached the age when this type of thing might occur more frequently. The possibility unnerved me as I plan to be a capable and independent Mom and Grandma for many more years.

As I retrieved my packages from the car, I did what I always do when I’m concerned. I turned my eyes upward, not to share my worry, but to express my gratitude. I thanked God that nothing particularly threatening has happened in recent history. Mike has stayed off of the roof and I’ve watched more carefully for ice patches and many other of this life’s obstacles.

Dearest God, thank you for giving us the wisdom to learn something new and helpful every day even from our falls!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always In Our Shepherd’s Care

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
forever and ever.

Psalm 23:6

I recently shared that my annual check-ups resulted in the news that I’m in very good health. This news was accompanied by the urging that I tweak my exercise regimen and diet a bit. I’m happy to report that I’ve worked somewhat diligently to do both. In the process, I’ve enjoyed longer treks outdoors and an uncharacteristically varied diet. Creature of habit that I am in all things, this is quite an accomplishment.

I admit that I can’t take full credit for this effort. The truth is that I reference Psalm 23 frequently as I plod along. The Good Shepherd who inspired the psalm watches over me every step of the way. The same shepherd cares for each one of us with the due diligence of the shepherds of old. Though God’s care is powerful whether we recognize it or not, there is great comfort to be found in acknowledging this Watchful One who cares for us so deeply.

Many people have troubles far more pressing than mine. With that in mind, I pray for all of my fellow sheep who face their troubles with far more courage than I. After all, we’re in this together. When one of us finds the way, we all get a bit closer to where God wants us to be.

Loving God, help me to take your example to heart and to lovingly shepherd those you have given me to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Fine Instrument, Indeed!

God looked at everything God made and found it to be very good.
Genesis 1:31

When I looked ahead to our November calendar, I noticed a note in the margin. Six months ago, I’d written “Call Jordan about the piano!”. Though I can’t call myself even a mediocre pianist, I love my piano. Since my husband and I purchased this precious instrument more than three decades ago, I’ve taken very good care of it. I have to admit that having the piano tuned is one of the nicest things I do for myself as well. I look forward to our tuner’s visits because they truly grace my day. Jordan is a gracious fellow who never begins his work without first inquiring about the family and life in general. Once he’s assured that all is well, he begins. In the realm of pianos, ours ranks among the blue-collar variety. It’s what we could afford at the time. Still, Jordan treats it like a fine instrument.

Jordan carefully removes the upper panel to expose the piano’s inner workings. With his head tilted just so, he pounds each key and adjusts each tuning pin accordingly. Every few keys, he plays a few chords to confirm that the sound is what it should be. As I listen, I wait expectantly. Jordan is a talented pianist and even a few bars are worth my attention. When he’s completely finished, he graces us with a medley of tunes. I suppose this is his own test of his work and an assurance to me that my piano is just as is should be.

Jordan doesn’t realize this, but his encounters with my piano are very special reminders to me of God’s work in my life. Though I may not be particularly special in the grand scheme of things, God treats me like a fine instrument as well. In the process, God sees to it that I, too, am just as I should be.

Creator God, thank you for tending so carefully to the things you’ve made, especially us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Put Love First

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

John 5:8-9

Though this conviction took root when I was a child, I continue to be convinced that Jesus couldn’t resist a troubled soul. On the occasion cited above, Jesus assisted a man whose at least partial paralysis confined him to a mat which lay on the ground. Though the man somehow found his way to the healing waters of Bethesda, he could find no one to help him into the pool. Every time he seemed close, someone else went in before him. Jesus noted the poor man’s predicament and offered him far more than could be found in that pool. The man accepted Jesus’ gesture with absolute faith.

Jesus’ good deed drew the attention of the Pharisees because it occurred on the Sabbath. When Jesus cured the man and then instructed him to pick up his mat and walk, he violated the Sabbath by causing the man to work by carrying his mat. When the Pharisees saw the man do this, they chastised him. When they discovered that Jesus was responsible, the Pharisees began to plot against this troublemaker who seemed oblivious to The Law. Jesus responded to the Pharisees in kind, pointing out their error in placing The Law above the basic needs of one of God’s people.

I admit that my greatest frustration with the Church and organized religion in general is our propensity to confine God, God’s goodness and God’s blessings to our limited understanding. We issue edicts and attempt to enforce rules which sometimes get in the way of our service to one another. It seems to me that, when in doubt, the best we can do is to make love and the well-being of those we’ve been given to love our top priorities.

Patient God, thank you for our capacity to love. When we’re motivated by love, we always get things right.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved