So Much To Be Grateful For…

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

Psalm 145:10

This morning, I went out to walk around our backyard. There isn’t much to see these days except for bare trees, empty flowers beds and a few small patches of snow. It was when I walked to the front of the house that our Thanksgiving display caught my eye. Peanuts characters Lucy, Snoopy and Charlie Brown happily enjoy pumpkin pie in our front yard. Since our grandchildren enjoyed our Halloween Peanuts display, we’ve added the Thanksgiving edition of my favorite cartoon characters. Though these three are the work of Charles Schultz’s imagination, they elicited very real feelings of gratitude from me. When I considered their elation over that pie, I couldn’t help feeling the same over so much more…

Suddenly, the blue of the sky and those leafless trees which I’ve seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Chirping birds who should be well on their way south elicited a smile as they enjoyed lunch at our bird-feeders. Even the chubby squirrels who made a meal of the birds’ leftovers gave me reason to feel grateful.

It seems I’ve received a lesson in Creation’s wisdom without leaving my own yard. The blue sky that beckoned my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward encourage me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. Those birds and squirrels who so happily enjoy their daily bread remind me that I’m blessed to do the same. Perhaps I’m on this earth to point others in heaven’s direction as well.

It seems to me that being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and honor and something for which to be especially thankful.

Generous God, I am grateful to be a part of your handiwork. Help me to express my gratitude by taking on your generous ways.

©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

Special, indeed!

Bless the Lord, all you his chosen ones…
From Tobit 13:8

During a recent overnight stay, our granddaughters asked to watch a Charlie Brown CD. Since we hadn’t yet had the television on, we all happily settled in to enjoy the show. Because I know every Peanuts offering by heart, my mind began to wander to similar viewings some years ago…

I fondly recalled watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood with my sons. It never ceased to amaze me that the mild-mannered Fred Rogers always captivated Mike and Tim for the duration of his show. The truth is that I enjoyed each episode as much as my sons did, perhaps more so.

I say this because when I became a parent I understood the importance of feeling special and important, wanted and cherished more than my sons did. I think their dad and I did a reasonably good job of making them feel loved. Sadly, regardless of the efforts of those around us, many of us feel devalued, unwanted and unimportant. In spite of my parents’ best efforts, I experienced my own childhood moments of dejection and loneliness. I vowed I then and there that my own children would know that they are loved no matter what!

When we feel rejected, unloved and are steeped in loneliness, we convince ourselves that no one really cares about us. So it is that I echo the words which inspired Fred Rogers in the first place: YOU are God’s chosen one. God loves YOU even more than I love my sons and more than you will ever know until you meet face to face. That day, God will clear up any doubt you have!

Loving God, thank you for calling each one of us your precious child.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Always Have Hope

While I considered what magic to work with the Thanksgiving leftovers that linger in our refrigerator, I wandered into the garage to see what my husband was up to. I found him surrounded by Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, Woodstock and a pathetic little Christmas Tree. I have been feeling overwhelmed and somewhat less-than-hopeful as of late. Since Charlie Brown has always been a symbol of hope to me, I was most grateful to see that my husband had unearthed him for another year.

The Peanuts Gang was born just a few years before I, and it didn’t take long for me develop great affection for each one of them, especially Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown’s misadventures reflect our human experience at its worst and at its best. In spite of his frailty and seemingly unending list of failures, Charlie Brown never abandons his hope. Though Lucy always drops the football before he kicks it, Charlie Brown embraces the opportunity to try to kick it every time. Maybe this time, he will succeed. Though the Pretty Little Red Haired Girl doesn’t even know Charlie Brown’s name, he waits with great anticipation for her first smile. Maybe this will be the day she notices him. When his friends need a tree for the annual Christmas pageant, Charlie Brown selects a thinly branched, minimally needled tree. He drags it to his school, certain that it will be just right. Though most of these ventures bring about Charlie Brown’s complete embarrassment, they also end with Charlie Brown’s renewed hope in the things to come. Charlie Brown remains ever faithful to his resolve to find joy in his life. Though the glare of Charlie Brown’s failures threatens to dissuade him, Charlie Brown never ever gives up.

It seems to me that the good Charlie Brown has much to teach us this Advent Season. Could it be that Charlie’s creator Charles Schultz referenced Isaiah when he conceived of Charlie Browns plight in this life? Both Charlie Brown and Isaiah suffer through their own cycles of troubles to triumph, back to troubles and on to triumph again and again. Poor Isaiah speaks from his own intense suffering in today’s first reading (Isaiah 63: 16-17, 19b; 64:2-7). Isaiah fumes at the Israelites over their continued unfaithfulness to God. He cannot stand to watch their evildoing any longer. Isaiah fumes even more vigorously at the Lord God who seems to allow the people to fall into evil repeatedly. Isaiah shouts at the heavens as he begs, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” As I read Isaiah’s words, echoes of similar quandaries from my own lips swirl in my memory. How many times have I looked up to our patient God to ask, “If you do not want things to be this way, why don’t YOU fix them?” Fortunately, there is good news in all of this. In the end, Isaiah reclaims his hope and renews his faith in the possibilities that lie ahead. My friend Charlie Brown may moan and wring his hands momentarily as well, but he follows Isaiah’s lead. It seems to me that you and I have no choice but to do the same. Isaiah prayed, “O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are the work of your hands,” because he was grateful to be God’s child. So am I.

Every day, you and I and our loved ones face difficult challenges. Whether it is the troubled economy or our troubled hearts, we face the moment at hand without the resources we need. Whether it is the discouraging job market or our own discouragement, we find ourselves lacking in productivity. Whether it is the miles between us and our loved ones or our inability to communicate with one another right here, we find ourselves feeling alone. There truly is no lack of blessings in our lives, yet we are sometimes blind to them. This Advent Season opens with an invitation to wait with joyful anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. Though Isaiah had only his faith to encourage him and Charlie Brown was at the mercy of Charles Schultz’s pen, we have everything we need to make the most of these days before Christmas. We know the Messiah firsthand in his Word and in every good deed he did for those around him. We know the Messiah through his life and through the death he endured for each one of us. We know the Messiah in the amazing moments of peace, joy and love which punctuate our lives. We know the Messiah in the people God has given us to love. So it is that we continue to kick that football and dream of the Pretty Little Red Haired Girl with Charlie Brown. So it is that we look with Isaiah to our God for all that we need. So it is that we live these days of waiting with great faith and great hope in the things to come.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved