Just Following God’s Lead

For the Lord loves the people…
From Psalm 149:4

We’re celebrating a our second grandchild’s birthday this week. Grandpa and I came up with a creative plan for our grandchildren’s birthdays a few years ago. Rather than purchasing numerous gifts which sometimes go by the wayside in short order, we decided to share the gift of our time with them. We planned overnight stays, special dinners and outings for each one. Our hope was that the special attention would underscore the love that we feel for each of them twenty-four/seven. This year, our four-year-old grandson will enjoy his first overnight birthday stay with us. So far, these special times together have been far more enjoyable than we ever expected. Hopefully, we’ll do the same for our youngest grandson in a few years!

Though I can recall very few of the gifts I received for my own childhood birthdays, I do remember the celebrations with my mom, dad and siblings who sang “Happy Birthday” and offered hugs in abundance on those special days. I also remember the story books and picnics shared, the reassurances at 3:00 AM, and the “I love you!” that accompanied a good-night kiss. I especially remember the forgiveness offered after a much-deserved scolding.

Hopefully, Grandpa and I will succeed in giving all of our grandchildren the best gift of all: the affection of a family who truly loves them.

Dearest God, we would not know how to gift one another with love if you had not shown us the way.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Still Celebrating Easter?

“My God, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me…”

From John 17:24

Last Wednesday was the first warm and sunny day we’d had in a while. Early on, my husband headed to the garage to begin his planting. Mike worked on his pots and planters while I trimmed a few boxwood bushes which had done serious battle with the frost. I swept the patio and arranged the furniture there while Mike ran to the garden shop for a few more plants. After lunch, my favorite gardener returned to his flowers and I reluctantly headed upstairs to begin this writing.

Since Memorial Day was only five days away, I had a difficult time returning my thoughts to Easter. After all, we’d sung our alleluias and enjoyed that wonderful lamb dinner almost five weeks earlier. Even those pesky remnants of Easter grass (Which continue to linger!) didn’t help much. It was the sunshine pouring through the study window which finally drew my thoughts to Easter’s joy. “How can I have lost sight of that?” I asked myself aloud…

At church, we actually celebrate Easter for eight weeks. On paper, the Easter Season closes on Pentecost Sunday. Still, the warm rays which caused the window and study floor to glow said otherwise. Regardless of the calendar’s date, the sun persisted in doing its job. Even through clouds and the worst of storms, the sun’s warmth makes its way to us. The sun is always there. It occurred to me that the same is true regarding Easter Joy. It’s always there, too.

Those who walked with Jesus celebrated Easter for what remained of their earthly lives. Their faith in the things to come inspired them to share what they knew with everyone they met along the way. The sun lingering overhead reminded me that you and I are invited to do the same.

Generous God, thank you for the gentle nudges which remind us to celebrate Easter Joy always.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Hospitable

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd.
By now they have been with me for three days
and have nothing to eat.”

Mark 8:2

When I glanced at the calendar this morning, I saw that Thanksgiving is just two days away. Thanksgiving is also the feast of St. Cecilia. This is my sister’s feast day. Since she passed away six years ago, these little reminders of her always give me reason to celebrate her. This is a great way to spend these pre-Thanksgiving days.

Cecele is a lot like our mom who was a hospitable woman. She opened her door to whoever knocked, offering a chair, a cup of coffee and whatever else she had to her guest. Though our kitchen table was already crowded, my mom extended her welcome to our friends who occasionally stayed for dinner. After our mom passed away, Cecele led the effort in scheduling our family gatherings. She also elicited just enough guilt from the rest of us to ensure good attendance every time.

Today, our mom’s and Cecele’s welcoming ways live on in the rest of us. We continue to take turns hosting our family gatherings where food and laughter are plentiful. Though our attendance isn’t as complete as it used to be, we still enjoy good times in good company. I’ll remember to thank God for this as I prepare to partake of Thanksgiving Dinner!

Dear God, you bless us with our families. Help us to show our gratitude by extending our hospitality beyond our homes to those who need us most.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Dance!

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:4

Sometimes, time-allotment decisions are easy. Within the next few months, my husband and I will attend three weddings. He will witness two of these marriages and I will observe all three with everyone else. All three weddings involve friends. They promise ample opportunities to reconnect and to enjoy lots of good company. All concerned will have good reason to make merry.

Though my husband is never anxious to dance for any reason, I consider every wedding invitation to also be an invitation to dance the night away. This ritual usually begins with a slow dance or two in Mike’s arms. Afterward, he retreats to join anyone who is not dancing while I continue the fancy footwork with whoever else needs a partner. This “whoever else” is usually a female friend or relative whose spouse has also “retreated”. In the end, I spend an hour or more allowing the dancer within me to take over. Though she has a difficult time guiding my feet into the “right” steps, she always succeeds in freeing me to abandon my inhibitions and to rejoice in the music at hand.

It occurs to me that God intentionally created us with the ability to “party”. This is one of God’s most creative ways of reminding us to take the time to relax and not to take ourselves too seriously. There is no more effective way to do this than to dance with abandon… and so I will!

Gracious God, thank you for caring for all of us: our hearts, our bodies, our souls and our need to enjoy this life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Like Us…

As he walked along the Sea of Galilee he watched two brothers,
Simon and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea. They were fishermen.

Matthew 4:18

Today is Friday. Tonight, my husband and I will enjoy a fish fry at our parish church. We’ll join our fellow parishioners and friends for this Lenten ritual.

While in Israel, we ate a lot of fish. Like Jesus and his disciples, we took advantage of the well-stocked Sea of Galilee. I enjoyed my favorite meal in a restaurant on the shore of Galilee which specializes in preparing St. Peter’s Fish also known as tilapia. We were offered the opportunity to enjoy this local delicacy, just as Jesus’ contemporaries did, with head and scales intact. I admit that the authenticity of that offer didn’t tempt me a bit. I happily ordered a scaled filet without the head!

While we waited for our food, I enjoyed the circus around us. The restaurant was filled to the gills. Pardon my pun! Still, guests and wait-staff alike were in good spirits. A gentle breeze off the sea carried me back two millenniums to Jesus and his friends who likely enjoyed several meals on this very shore. Perhaps these were the few times when they felt truly carefree as they enjoyed one another’s company. I don’t often think of Jesus in “care-free mode” and I found this mental image of him to be quite inspiring.

You know, Jesus-the-Miracle-Worker is also Jesus-the-Human Being. When I remember that Jesus experienced everything just as you and I do, I find myself far more appreciative of all that he did for us.

Dear Jesus, thank you for being just like we are.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Cub-full of Hope

“…and hope does not disappoint.”
From Romans 5:5

This commentary is a little late, I know… The day after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, I was stricken with a bit of illness which kept me from celebrating. Though I cried and cheered and wept and jumped for joy as I watched that last tag in the tenth inning, there was no more revelry for me as I was confined to my pajamas and my recliner shortly thereafter. The good news is that the situation did allow me to nap and to watch television. Though I lost numerous hours to sleep, I did watch as the post-World Series merrymaking unfolded. The City of Chicago provided a worthy tribute to the remarkable team who has changed baseball history forever.

As I watched, tears appeared on my cheeks more often than I’d expected. Though I was as pleased as every Cub Fan with the end of that 108-year drought, I was more pleased with the character the team exhibited. Their humility after all they’d accomplished and their gratitude to their fans touched my heart. Still, it was that precious rain delay which allowed the time for a team meeting which touched me ever more deeply. Though his teammates seemed to feel that all was lost, Jason Heyward seized the opportunity to rally them. Jason reminded his Cub’s family that at that point a score of 6-6 was the same as 0-0. All they needed to do was to play like the best team in baseball, for, indeed, this is who they are. This player who struggled himself during post-season play filled his teammates with hope, hope that was not disappointed!

As I dozed off for another nap, it occurred to me that Jason Heyward’s speech has something to say to all of us. Regardless of the score, every new moment brings a new opportunity to score one for the good. Go Cubs! Go us!

Loving God, thank you for giving us the wisdom to hope. Thank you also for the cheerleaders like Jason Heyward who remind us that it is up to us to make hope a reality.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved