Grateful, in Spite of It All

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:11

I’m usually tired on Wednesday. This is a good thing as it’s the result of spending Tuesday with my grandson. This week, I found it particularly therapeutic to run with Danny for the day. I’ve been in a dark mood due to circumstances all over this world of ours. Though things have deteriorated closer to home these days, some of our sisters and brothers across whichever ocean you chose have suffered the equivalent for lifetimes. The worst part of all of this is that much of the suffering is long-term. I can donate to relief efforts, which I will, but I can’t do much more from here. What’s worse is that I can’t seem to make much difference regarding suffering which is closer to home…

I consoled myself with a walk. As I headed down the block, I saw our neighbor’s car. They’ve returned from a weekend away. I smiled as I congratulated myself for remembering to bring their baby bottle to church. We filled them with spare change to support a program which assists women in difficult pregnancies. That same weekend, a doctor and nurse from the Mission Doctors Association also made an appeal. The outpouring of support for both causes amazed everyone. In spite of my dour mood, I felt a twinge of gratitude.

For the first time in several days, I noticed the blue sky, an assortment of wispy clouds and the lush trees which line our neighborhood. For the first time in several days, I took notice of the goodness which surrounds me. Though a day with our grandchildren is always a treat, so is a day touched by the goodness of the people who grace my life. Though floods and poverty and injustice won’t be wiped away in an instant, every effort to respond will make a difference every time!

Dear God, help me to live with a loving and grateful heart by responding to those you have given me to love, both near and far away.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved


Good Reason To Love

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider
that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:50

This is not my favorite scripture passage. Caiaphas sends a chill down my spine. He’s speaking about Jesus, the Good Shepherd who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. He’s speaking about the Father of the Prodigal Son who gave that young man half his wealth, watched him squander it and then welcomed him home. Caiaphas mustn’t have heard the parable about the pearl of great price for which a man sold everything. He must have missed the tale of the woman who swept up and dusted her house again and again until she found her precious coin. Poor Caiaphas seems to have missed everything of importance that Jesus said because he’s blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his own stature and to remain in power.

You know, there are many people near and far who are distracted by their troubles as well. Though some have lost their perspective through selfishness much like Caiaphas, most suffer distractions wielded upon them by the unexplained and/or deliberate injustices of our human existence. Perhaps Caiaphas’ callousness serves as a reminder that many of our fellow humans have little about which to rejoice today. Perhaps Caiaphas’ hatred of Jesus encourages us to love as Caiaphas could not love. Perhaps Caiaphas’ influence finally changes its direction because it inspires us to care for those who need us most.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for using even our weaknesses to teach us to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loving Memories

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 once 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 losses which began when I was four years old, I realized the reason I so miss these loved ones. In one way or another, they all enriched my life. Even when some of them were not at their best, they touched me in extremely important ways. Perhaps the most powerful trait which these good people shared was 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.

As I stood there, a plethora of memories recounted their good deeds. Though I cried the first time I stood at their gravesites, I couldn’t help smiling on this particular day. I looked up as if to find 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 will 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.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love Thy Neighbor

He pitied them for they were like sheep without a shepherd…
From Mark 6:34

As we drove into the driveway, my husband noticed an odd twinkle coming from a small bush at the corner of our garage. With that, he announced, “There’s still a string of lights on that bush!” When we dismantled our Christmas decorations weeks earlier, we missed those lights. As I made a mental note to retrieve that light string, I couldn’t help reflecting upon another unexpected twinkle from de-decoration day…

After doing most of the dismantling together, Mike finished up while I ran an errand. His last task was to store a huge bale of hay which had served as a base for our Christmas figures. Though working out has benefited his biceps, dragging that bale was a challenge. After pulling it a few feet, Mike stepped back to analyse the situation further. As he pondered, our neighbor strolled over with a suggestion. “If we both pick up an end, I think we can do this!”

Though my husband would have eventually moved that hay, our neighbor’s help saved him the trouble. Though this gestures may be small in the grand scheme of things, it preserved my husband’s ailing back. It also touched my heart in a big way.

You know, we’re all pulled from every direction from time to time. Still, we make an effort to respond to those who need us. In matters great and small, unexpected acts of kindness can make all of the difference in the world. It’s up to us to find the time to do just that.

Loving God, thank you for the many caring people whose kindnesses speak love in simple, yet inspiring ways.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I… I AM, Now and Forever

God replied to Moses: I am who I am.
From Exodus 3:14

I is for I AM. In spite of all of the names we humans assign to God, God chooses to be called “I AM”. I find great consolation in God’s chosen name because it is offered in the active present tense. This name leaves no doubt that God is, was and forever will be. Though our lives pass more quickly than we care to acknowledge, I AM will never pass from the moment at hand. It seems to me that since I AM is the only constant of which we can be certain it makes sense to acknowledge God’s presence with regularity and with gratitude.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I tend to monopolize God. Some days, it is as though we are in conversation from morning until night. I’m also embarrassed to admit that these “conversations” are sometimes one-sided, not because God has nothing to say, but because I rarely give God the opportunity to speak. God responds with creative attempts to get my attention. These nudges come in the beauty of nature, an unexpected encounter, a great idea or encouraging words. Fortunately for me, God always finds a way to let me know that God is indeed with me.

Perhaps I can show my gratitude by making God’s presence known. Though I attempt to do this through these daily posts, I need also to do so through my daily life. I need to reveal God’s presence through my presence to those I’ve been given to love.

Loving God, help me to make your presence tangible to everyone I meet along the way.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

G… God Who Is Love

For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds,
the flock he guides.

Psalm 95:7

G is for God… and goodness, graciousness, generosity, genuineness, genius, gentleness, gladness, glory, grandeur, growth, gumption and a gaggle of other nouns. In preparation for this writing, I perused my thesaurus in search of a word for “love” which begins with “g”. When I failed to find one, I searched synonyms for “love” with the same result. In the midst of my effort, it occurred to me that the single “g” word which defines love is “God”. No other term or label aptly describes God’s most precious gift to us.

I’ve been aware of God’s love for me for as long as I can remember. Deep within, as miserable or as elated as I may be at a given moment, I somehow know that I’m not alone. I’m convinced that God is present outside of me as well. In spite of the negative forces which sometimes lurk nearby, God remains in the air I breathe and in all of creation. I admit that even my most threatening nemesis houses God deep within. God created everything. As a result, God’s DNA, more precisely God’s love, remains in everything and everyone.

Some early church thinkers believed that God’s love is so perfect that it is irresistible. They also believed that a soul who doesn’t accept God’s love in this life has the opportunity to do so in the next. This Twenty-first Century thinker is convinced of the same.

G is for God and God is Love. Love for you. Love for me. Love for everyone and love for everything.

Generous and Gracious God, thank you for your love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved