God’s Treasure

God looked at everything he had made,
and he found it very good.

From Genesis 1:31

Though I’m currently immersed in my writing schedule, I stepped away from my keyboard long enough to address my to-do list. One item which has proven to be a perpetual part of that list is purging our home. This exercise never ceases to reveal treasures from our past which conjure memories of loved ones here and in the hereafter. During this particular episode, I focused on our kitchen counter.

Because we have ample counters, a few mementos have made their homes on them. One of these items is a tiny yellow school bus planter. Our very dear next door neighbor Ellie gifted me with that little bus at least thirty years ago. Ellie had been an auxiliary grandmother to both of our sons from the day each one was born. We saw Ellie every day. When she relaxed on her patio, we often joined Ellie to catch up on the day’s news or to solve the problems of the world both far away and close to home. Even during the winter months when we were confined indoors, we ventured through the snow to visit Ellie.

Though I cannot recall the reason Ellie gave me that bus, I think of her every time I see it. About ten years into that little bus’s usually peaceful life, I dropped it. When it cracked in half, I was beside myself. Ellie had passed away not long before this and I couldn’t bear being without my reminder of her presence in our lives. With that, I glued the bus as best I could and parked it on the counter. When I picked up my little bus in the midst of this attempt to purge, I determined that it will remain with us a while longer.

Dear God, you treasure us far more than I do my little bus and you never question the wisdom of keeping us close to you. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Goodness Finders

Now I have seen for myself and have testified,
“This is God’s chosen One.”

John 1:34

My husband and I recently attended an out-of-town wedding. The groom is the son of dear friends and we were happy to make the effort to celebrate with them. The better part of this is that many of the couple’s friends did the same. As a result, we enjoyed a long weekend in very good company. One of the couple’s who attended was Ellen and Ross. As I watched them dance at the wedding reception, I couldn’t help recalling the evening I first met Ross…

We were hosting our annual Christmas Party and our children and granddaughters were in attendance. This was the first time the girls met Ellen, a young woman whom I’ve known since she was a child. I love Ellen and my granddaughters immediately followed suit. That evening, Ellen brought along her boyfriend whom most of us were meeting for the first time. I couldn’t help liking Ross from the moment he offered his greeting and that sweet smile. I didn’t have the opportunity to confirm my first impression because I didn’t see much of Ross for the rest of the evening. My granddaughters managed to monopolize the poor man for most of the duration of the party. When my granddaughters told me how cool and wonderful and funny Ross is, what more did I need to know? I knew that Ross and Ellen had chosen one another wisely.

A very wise teacher once told me that if I ever wanted to know whether or not a person was a good soul simply to watch the way children react to him or her. Children somehow instinctively know who does and who does not have their best interest at heart. As I watched Ellen and Ross enjoy one another at that wedding, I knew my teacher and my granddaughters were absolutely right!

Loving God, thank you for the children among us who detect goodness with such precision and thank you for the wonderful people who bring that goodness to life.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Lead with Compassion

Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man,
and not man for the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

Though our neighborhood had been plagued by flooding, the water receded enough to allow the village to continue with plans to replace an old water main. We’d have no water for a few hours and no drinkable water for another day. I admit that I grumbled over this inconvenience. The flooding had put our neighborhood through enough and this water issue added insult to injury. As I reread the letter which announced this water-delivery improvement, I grumbled over the boiling directives. It occurred to me that I’ve been grumbling over directives for a lifetime…

Though far from perfect at home, I behaved at school. Still, there were occasions when I questioned “the law” laid down by a teacher or principal. I failed to see the value of classmates being driven to tears over minor infractions such as having no pencil or forgetting homework. It seemed easier to give that student a pencil or to allow homework to be returned the following day. This is likely the reason I preferred college to elementary and high school. Professors provided a syllabus and it was up to us students to fulfill their demands. There was no public demeaning of anyone. If a student didn’t keep up, there were opportunities to seek out the professor privately for guidance.

Throughout adulthood, my stance has remained the same. Rules, like having to boil water for five minutes to make it drinkable, are very important. This directive kept my neighbors and me from getting sick. Still, other requirements are handed down by a variety of “powers that be” which aren’t actually helpful. I can’t change these things, but I can see to it that I don’t place my own demands of others over their well-being.

Dear God, be with me as I try to care for those you have given me to love with more compassion and fewer demands.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Invest In Our Future

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man,
says the Lord, but rather in his conversion…

Ezekiel 33:11

A recent family gathering gave me reason to smile. Most of my nieces and nephews joined the party that day. It’s been a pleasure to watch them evolve into adulthood. In spite of some of their trying circumstances while growing up, they are all contributing members of society these days.

Today, many young people, including little children, have much to worry about. Distractions of every sort stunt their evolution into adulthood in numerous many ways. It’s no wonder that some kids don’t graduate from high school. Just getting there safely each day is more than they can manage. Some of the kids who do make it into the school building are reluctant to enter classrooms where they deal with failure on a daily basis. In my experience in education, the children involved were rarely at fault. The adults who were entrusted with their care failed them. This is the reason I often found myself at odds with those “in charge”. I couldn’t deal with allowing any of our students not to live up to their potentials.

I know that School Year 2016-2017 is over and that next year is almost two months away. Still, I worry. The smile I sported in celebration of my nieces and nephews has morphed into a frown. In my home state, legislators wasted precious time arguing about budget concerns. Now that this has been worked out, I hope that our children and many special-needs adults will receive the education and services they have a right to. Hopefully, all concerned will remember that an entire generation of future contributing members of society is in our care and deserving of our best.

Loving God, inspire those “in charge” with your foresight and your undiscriminating love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Love

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

We’ll celebrate two of our grandchildren’s birthdays this summer. A few years ago, Grandpa and I came up with a creative plan for these special occasions. 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 typically plan an overnight stay, a special dinner and an outing for each one. Our hope is that these efforts will underscore the love that we feel for them twenty-four/seven. To date, our plans have met the expectations of all concerned. So it is that the tradition continues.

You know, I recall very few of the gifts I received on my own childhood birthdays. Still, I do remember the celebrations with my mom, dad and siblings who sang “Happy Birthday” to me on those special days. I remember the story books and picnics shared, the reassurances at 3:00 AM when I couldn’t sleep and the “I love you!” that accompanied good-night kisses. I especially remember the forgiveness offered after a much-deserved scolding.

In the end, perhaps Grandpa and I will succeed in giving our granddaughters 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.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Abba Days

Our summer calendar seems to be filled beyond capacity! As a result, my husband, our children and I have juggled several family celebrations in an effort to allow all concerned to attend weddings, pool parties, swim meets and the many other events which have come with this busy summer. Part of this jockeying of dates included Father’s Day. To ease the pressure on all concerned, my patient husband suggested that we celebrate his Father’s Day this weekend. The rest of us breathed a grateful sigh of relief as we quickly agreed to this arrangement. With that, I turned my thoughts to the tasks at hand until I sat to begin this writing. I’d given little thought to Father’s Day until I selected Mike’s card and then turned to today’s scripture passages. Both ignited vivid images of three dads who’ve touched my life.

“Daddy” references my biological father. Time spent in his company was a precious commodity because the six of us children filled our flat and our parents’ days. My dad also worked nights which meant that moments alone with him were rare. When he passed away at age thirty-nine, I was eight years old. At the time, I knew Daddy had taken up residence in heaven with my grandfathers and uncle who had passed on not long before. My dad knelt with us often to assist us in praying these loved ones into heaven. He also assured us that these special people would be very happy. In the days before my dad’s passing, my family prayed him into heaven as well. In the end, I determined that he would also be just fine. Case closed.

Some years later, my mom married my step-father. He became “Daddy” as well. Twenty-five good years later, it became evident that he would leave us as well. Oddly, I found myself less comfortable with the circumstances than I had been when my dad died. I knew my step-dad was ready to move on. He’d became too tired and too weak to continue and my mom could no longer care for him at home. Both of their hearts broke over his potential move to a nursing home. When this seemed imminent, my second Daddy closed his eyes and stopped eating. I prayed diligently for his peaceful passing and a few weeks later, he was gone. Though alleluias echoed throughout my step-dad’s Mass of Resurrection, peace escaped me. While I had no doubt regarding my step-dad’s fate, I fretted about what might have been and the things which were not quite perfect. I also fretted about my mom. This time, there were no children for her to care for. This time, she would return to an empty apartment to go it alone. While my mom seemed to have assumed the faithful acceptance I had exhibited at age eight, I found myself quite anxious and afraid over what lay ahead for her.

Fortunately, I finally turned over my worry to third “Daddy” who graces my life. Jesus always chose his words carefully and when he taught us to pray, he invited us to call upon God as “Abba”. The little children of Jesus’ day and their present-day counterparts lovingly address their daddies as “Abba”. Jesus intentionally invited us to do the same. My certainty that our Abba cares for us allowed me the calm which enveloped me when my first daddy passed away. When I lost my second daddy, the worries of adulthood caused me to forget that, no matter what, I am always in Abba’s care. When I finally remembered this, I realized that my mom and the rest of us were in God’s hands after all. This is the reason I can’t resist revisiting my Father’s Day sentiments for this writing. Jesus made every day Abba’s Day and today’s scriptures invite us to do the same.

In the first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13), Jeremiah ends a lengthy and fearful lament with this realization: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion… he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” In the second reading (Romans 5:12-15), Paul assures us that “…the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” If we continue to doubt that we bask is God’s loving care, Jesus settles the matter in today’s gospel (Matthew 10:26-33): “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” There you have it! Though we may fail one another and fail ourselves in caring for those we’ve been given to love, our Abba remains steadfast in loving us through everything. Perhaps my family’s belated Father’s Day is well-timed after all. Every day really is Abba’s Day and it’s up to us to live accordingly with joy.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved