Care and Be Cared For

Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

Matthew 5:42

Sometimes, it seems that those around us have read the gospel above and have decided to push us to fulfill Jesus’ words to the nth degree. Though we often feel great sympathy for those in need, we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by the numerous demands on our time and our resources.

It is when I’m overwhelmed in this way that someone always manages to come along to minister to me. Though my busyness and limited resources are the results of my own choices, this makes no difference to the kind soul who comes to my aid. He or she simply says just the right thing or spends just enough time listening to ease me through the moment’s rough spot. I always walk away from these encounters feeling replenished and revived, fully capable of responding to the next person who needs me. I can only hope that my benefactor is repaid in kind down the road.

Could this be what Jesus had in mind all along? Could it be that we are meant to care for one another and to be cared for by one another until we make it home? There, God will take over the loving and caring. What more can we ask for?

Thank you for caring for us, O God, and for sharing this skill with us. Help us to care for one another as only we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make It A God Day!

I much prefer face-to-face and telephone interactions to email and texts. Still, I use my handheld and desktop devices to communicate in one way or another every day. Over the years, I’ve developed adequate publishing skills and enough technical knowledge not to disrupt my computer’s functions too often. Still, I’ve experienced the occasional snafu usually through my own ineptitude. Much to my dismay, this occurred a few weeks ago. Somehow, I’d deleted my email account. After struggling to retrace my steps for hours, I realized that I needed far more expertise than I possess to retrieve it. What had I done? In desperation, I set aside my panic long enough to reach out to a friend.

Much to my good fortune, Andy generously agreed to rescue me. I think my tearful over-the-phone explanation encouraged him to come to my aid in person rather than trying to guide me from afar. While I waited for his arrival, more tears streamed down my face. When I deleted that email account, I’d lost my blog account and more than two thousand of my daily reflections. Once again, I asked myself, “What have I done?” I had no time to answer because the doorbell rang. A very calm Andy must have sensed my distress. Before he did a thing, Andy alleviated my worst fears by assuring me that everything I thought I’d lost was indeed somewhere. With that, he quickly and amazingly restored it all. Within minutes, I’d replaced my tears with a smile and returned to my work.

Because this technological frenzy had persisted for hours before Andy’s rescue, I was behind with my writing. Before returning to the reflection at hand, I tackled the thirty or so emails which had accumulated since the onset of my misery. Though I normally think far more quickly than I type, I did this even more so as I made my way through those messages. I proof-read often to see that I’d written what I’d intended to write. Oddly, though it hadn’t been that sort of a day for me, my most frequent error occurred at the close of almost every one of my replies. I’d intended to end with “Have a good day!” However, I actually typed, “Have a god day!” Why was I so consistent with this particular error? I had made this mistake before, but never with such consistency. Had I hit the “o” key so quickly that the second “o” didn’t register? It took me several minutes to acknowledge that “g-o-d” was far more than the misspelling of “good.” It’s the single most important word that I know. Was my error actually a subconscious or perhaps inspired effort to offer my email recipients much more than a good day? Perhaps my error wasn’t a spelling error at all, but rather an error in capitalization. Perhaps I should have been typing, “Have a God day!” all along. After all, Andy had certainly given me a God day when he saved my email and my writing.

I’m sharing all of this with you because “God days” seem to be at the core of Jesus’ message to his disciples this Ascension Day. When he bade them farewell, Jesus reminded his friends of the most important aspects of his teaching. God blessed each of us with the potential for a lifetime of God days. If Jesus’ friends took his words to heart, every day would be a “God day” for them. Though we hear different Ascension gospels each year, Jesus’ promise remains the same.

In today’s account from Luke (Luke 24:46-53), Jesus said, “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” Luke wrote to impress upon his readers Jesus’ promise that God would be with them in everything. Mark’s account (Mark 16:15-20) tells us that Jesus asked his disciples to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” By sharing the word, they would assure all who listened of God’s love for them. Every day would be a God day for all concerned. In Matthew’s account (Matthew 28:16-20), Jesus added this promise: “I will be with you always, until the end of the world.” Jesus promised to remain at their sides through everything. John’s gospel ends without a reference to the Ascension. When John’s gospel is read on Ascension Day, this reference to the Last Supper is cited: “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: ‘Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…’” Jesus’ prayer included not only the disciples who walked with him, but also all who would eventually be touched by their efforts. Indeed, “God days” are intended for everyone.

On this Feast of the Ascension, we are invited to join the disciples in making every day a “God day” for ourselves and for all whom we meet along the way. Through all that he said and did, Jesus assured those in his company that they were loved more than they could ever imagine and that God was with them in good times and in bad. It’s up to us to do the same. This likely won’t involve our preaching on street corners or mountainsides. However, if we follow Jesus’ lead, these efforts will involve sharing God’s love as best we can whenever we can. Every time we repeat this precious message through our interactions and our relationships with those we’ve been given to love, we make their days and our own “God days”. As for me, I’m most grateful that my friend Andy imitated Jesus’ generosity in transforming that potentially devastating day into a God day for me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

D… Depth!

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me and I will make you fishers of people!”

Mark 1:17

D is for Depth. I’ve often wondered if Jesus appreciated the irony of the situation when he called Simon and Andrew to follow him. They were already experts regarding what lay beneath the surface. After all, they were successful fishermen. Still, Jesus asked them to cast their nets into much deeper waters. Jesus asked them to set their sights upon fellow souls…

It seems to me that I deal best with the challenges before me when I look beneath the surface as well. Many things aren’t as they seem. Just as Simon and Andrew made a science of studying the waters to determine where best to cast their nets, I must study the circumstances and people around me before casting a word or deed in their direction. When a quick response is necessary, I rely on God to guide me just as Jesus guided his followers. However, when I’m blessed with the time to plan ahead, it’s up to me to use that time well.

Depth… Of all of God’s gifts, I think I truly appreciate the understanding of another soul. What a gift it is when someone delves beneath the surface to discover what actually makes me tick! What a gift it is when I care enough to allow another to share the depths of his or her spirit with me!

Dear God, you understand us to depths of our cores. Help us to cast our nets with care as we seek to discover the gifts deep within all of those you have given us to love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Answer That Call

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness…
From Psalm 90:14 1:38

I can’t remember being this busy! The phone has rung once too often with today’s allotment of roto-calls. Then there were the legitimate callers who needed something which only I could provide. I’m truly humbled that others depend upon me. Today, however, I wished to be depended upon just a bit less. I’m tired. I received two books as gifts which await my perusal and my own book needs to be written. Just a minute. There goes my phone again!

This time, I’m grateful for the call. Our grandsons needs a sitter. Of course, my husband and I are available. Of course, we’ll stay as long as needed. Of course, we’ll enjoy every minute we spend with Danny and Ben.

As I look to my calendar to clear the day, I notice the little bust of Charlie Brown which Danny’s and Ben’s dad sculpted in elementary school. The signature and date scrawled on its bottom indicate that Tim fashioned this replica of my favorite Peanuts character when he was 9 years old. I treasure it because of Charlie Brown’s endearing message to me. Though Charlie Brown’s outlook can sometimes be more dismal than I’d like, he always manages to pull himself together and to do his best no matter what. Though Charlie Brown doesn’t initially appreciate the fruits of his labor, in the end, his efforts always prove to be worthwhile.

My responses to those earlier phone calls and to many of this life’s demands didn’t emulate Charlie Brown’s efforts as much as they should have. It was that request for Grandpa’s and my services which adjusted my focus. You know, it truly is an amazing blessing to be needed! The next time the phone rings, I’ll answer with Charlie Brown’s enthusiasm and his good will.

Dear God, help me to respond with love whenever I’m needed, regardless of when I receive the call.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Healing… Always A Possibility!

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician,
but the sick do.”

Luke 5:31

The other day, my husband returned home as our most recent snowfall ended. He had a quick lunch and then headed outdoors. He’d had a rough time the day before as he’d presided at the funeral of a good man whose death came unexpectedly. In an effort to be helpful and perhaps ease his pain a bit, I pulled on my coat and boots and followed him. Mike started the snowblower while I grabbed my trusty shovel. Though the snowblower’s roar prevented any conversation between us, we were together. When the job was finished, Mike was feeling much better and so was I. Healing came as unexpectedly as the loss of our friend had.

You know, the same can occur wherever we find ourselves with another of God’s kids. We have partners, family and friends, neighbors, work colleagues and classmates at school. We belong to faith communities, social clubs, service organizations and sports teams. We also enjoy our friendships with God: Just God and you; just God and me. It seems to me that it is our relationships with God which fuel our efforts to bring healing to those we’ve been given to love.

It’s reasonably easy to bring healing to my husband. After decades together, I can read him and respond accordingly. This isn’t necessarily the case with others. Still, we can pull on our coats and grab our shovels to help a fellow soul to clear the path ahead. After all, healing may be unexpected, but it’s always a possibility!

Dear God, help us to be generous with our love and to share that love with those who need it most.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Truly Friended!

God Friended Me*… The title drew our attention the first time we heard it. My husband is the Facebook aficionado in our house. He knows all about being friended. Mike also posts messages and photos with ease on his Facebook page. He sends private messages on occasion as well. I, on the other hand, only briefly utilized a Facebook page which my friend set up and then took down for me. I’d planned to post my daily reflections via the popular site, but the process became more time-consuming than I’d hoped. So it is that I rely upon Mike to keep me apprised of current events from his Facebook page which involve our family and friends. Still, in spite of my Facebook inadequacy, I do know enough to realize that being friended is a good thing. Being friended by God is more than amazing! This is the reason Mike and I were enticed into watching at least the first episode of God Friended Me, a television series which debuted on CBS this past September. Though it’s rare for me to make the time to regularly view any show, I admit that I was committed to this one after that first episode.

The recipient of God’s apparent friend request is Miles Finer, a young man in his early twenties. Miles is a self-professed atheist who shares his disbelief through his daily podcast. Every day, he uses his computer to stream his message via the internet in the same way our favorite radio hosts broadcast their shows. Miles is an extremely likable young man with a good heart. It was the unfortunate loss of his mom to a drunk driver’s recklessness which assured him of God’s nonexistence. His dad, an Episcopal priest who drowned his sorrow in his work at the church, was far too distraught himself to comfort Miles or his sister. This only solidified Miles assertion that there really is no God. The series begins some years after this loss. It was during that first episode that Miles received a strange internet message which indicated that God had friended him. Good atheist that he is, Miles was intrigued by a sender who would disguise him or herself as God. He was even more intrigued when this God-person suggested a subsequent friend to Miles. When Miles pursued this potential friend, an amazing saga of being in the right place at the right time to help that potential friend began to unfold. By the end of that episode, Miles had made a significant difference to that person and he’d become more curious than ever about what he now called The God Account.

A good deal has occurred since Episode One. Miles still has no idea of who manages The God Account. He’s enlisted his friends to assist him with both God’s friend suggestions and the good deeds which result. This curious band of do-gooders search for the God-person during every minute of their spare time. It hasn’t occurred to them that God may actually be involved. Mike and I are fairly certain that God has literally stepped into Miles’ life. We’re perfectly comfortable with God’s unpredictable intervention via social media in each episode. How can we argue with the concept that God really is at work in our lives?

I’m sharing this viewing adventure because the scripture passages we hear today underscore God’s presence among us. They also acknowledge that our woes are most likely to get the best of us when we ignore our loving God who remains with us through everything. In the first reading from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:15), the prophet insisted that God truly was the only one worthy of the people’s trust. When they learned to bring God into their daily lives, they would find true peace and consolation. In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20), Paul addressed the people’s doubt that Jesus had actually risen. “If you don’t believe this,” Paul seemed to ask, “what is there to live for?” In the gospel (Luke 6:17, 20-26), Luke underscored these assertions through Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. Though he saw their suffering, Jesus called the lowly before him to look at the world through God’s eyes. Jesus asked the people to view the world of riches and indulgence, status and security in a new way. Jesus asked the people to see with eyes opened to the joy of true blessedness. The things of this world meant little if they didn’t lead those who possessed them back to God’s love. Though Jesus’ words were difficult to accept in the midst of their hunger, Jesus persisted in assuring all who would hear him that true happiness lay in God’s company.

It would have been much easier for the crowds to embrace Jesus’ message if they could have seen a happy ending without commercial breaks at the end the hour. If others who’d experienced the fruits of Jesus’ influence in their lives would have told their stories, the crowds might have found it easier to respond to Jesus’ words. I relate to their trepidation as I wrestle with the troubles of this life. Part of the pleasure of watching God Friended Me is that the characters’ struggles do end well when they pay attention to that persistent God-person. Like Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus, Miles and his friends remind me that I must do the same. You know, none of us needs a social media account to be friended by God. This occurred the moment God breathed life into us and nothing will ever change that.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

*GOD FRIENDED ME, Greg Berlanti, Producer, Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt, Writers; CBS; Sundays,7:00 PM Central Time