Be Kind To Everyone!

Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart,
and in my inmost being you teach me this wisdom.

Psalm 51:8

Quite recently, a celebrity drew criticism after sitting with a perceived political enemy at a public event. Some of her fans and followers took her to task because the person she’d associated with had been unsupportive of issues which directly effected them all. This celebrity responded candidly as she habitually does. She pointed out that she consistently encourages her audiences and friends to be kind to one another. She went on to explain that this means to be kind to everyone, not only those with whom we agree. I admit that I applauded her for standing by her principles. I also asked myself how often I’d allowed a difference of opinion to cause me to withhold my kindness from another of God’s children.

You know, I truly believe that God is alive and well among us and within us all. This celebrity may or may not acknowledge God in her life. However, she exhibited God’s attitude toward us through her example in this situation. The good news is that many of us do our best to live out what we call our faith or our consciences’ dictates or our humanity.

This story touched me because so much of the opposite is at play these days. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to pay closer attention to our parts in all of this. Whether we’re driven by faith or philosophy or a simple sense of our common humanity, we need to allow one another to do the best each of us can. When interventions are in order, we need to offer them constructively as best we can. It seems to me that this is all God asks.

Dear God, help us all to be ambassadors of your love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Did You Notice?

I’d just driven onto our block when I noticed our friend half-running down the sidewalk behind her dog. I would write that Cindy was walking Duke, but the truth is that Duke was walking her. I couldn’t help smiling because Duke was behaving exactly like my husband’s and my first and only dog. Now our friend Cindy is quite athletic and perfectly capable of managing that large Labrador Retriever. It was the end of their walk and they were headed home. I’m certain that by that time Cindy had allowed Duke the luxury of running ahead of her. As for Mike’s and my dog, though he was half the size of Duke, he managed to lead us everywhere. Our difficulties with Ernie began during the drive home from the pet shop. That sweet little cocker-beagle-poodle-terrier mix refused to stay put. He repeatedly crawled out of the box he was to occupy all the way home.

Mike and I were married only ten months when we met Ernie. We were both teachers who managed our students quite well. Unfortunately, we didn’t do the same for our dog. Ernie failed doggie kindergarten because his owners failed to practice commands and reward his successes with any consistency. Did I mention that we thought everything Ernie did was cute? Eventually, our poor dog was saved by a good friend who told us that we were terrible parents! She generously took Ernie for a single afternoon and taught him everything he needed to know. She taught his owners a few things as well. In the end, Ernie wasn’t a prefect dog, but he was far more well-behaved than Mike and I deserved him to be.

During our fourteen years with Ernie, he taught us far more than we taught him. More importantly, we didn’t make the same mistakes with our sons that we did with our pet. This is likely because we honed our parenting skills while dealing with our dog. Yet, in spite of sacrificing himself for our kids, Ernie loved us unconditionally and seemed content to be part of our family. Ernie’s greatest attribute was his ability to notice just about everything around him. Ernie knew the mail carrier would arrive shortly though he or she wasn’t on our block yet. Ernie growled quietly long before I noticed a stranger approaching. He also paced in anticipation of Mike’s arrival even before the garage door opened. Ernie always sensed when a crying baby had woken me once too often on a given night. As I sat nursing my little son, Ernie nuzzled at my feet. “You’re not alone,” he seemed to say. When the extended family visited, Ernie made a beeline to my stepdad the first time they met. How did Ernie know that Bill was a dog-lover? When Mike’s father passed away, did Ernie sense Mike’s sadness? He climbed onto the couch next to my dear husband seemingly because he somehow knew Mike needed him. When Mike was away for a late night meeting or out of town at a conference, Ernie plopped himself on the floor on my side of the bed to assure me that he was keeping watch. Sometimes, Ernie attended to the details of this life far more carefully than I did.

In today’s gospel (Luke 16:19-31), Luke shares Jesus’ story of a rich man who missed a bit too much of what transpired around him. This man spent his time and his wealth quite freely on himself. He gorged himself on spectacular food and drink while failing to notice Lazarus who lay dying on his doorstep. The rich man was so taken with the luxuries which surrounded him that he didn’t notice the many other people who might have graced his life, especially those in need. Sadly, only the neighborhood dogs noticed Lazarus. Only they stopped to tend to their suffering neighbor and to lick his wounds. Did Ernie’s canine counterparts somehow know that Lazarus might have recovered if he’d been given the scraps from his rich neighbor’s table? Jesus went on to share that both men eventually passed away and entered into eternal life. Lazarus rested contentedly in the embrace of Abraham, while the rich man wallowed in pain and was desperate with thirst. When the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a few drops of water, Abraham couldn’t comply. Lazarus couldn’t enter the netherworld and the rich man couldn’t enter heaven. The point of Jesus’ story was that if the rich man had noticed his suffering neighbor life would have been much better for both of them. If only the rich man had noticed! He would have found his way to Abraham’s embrace.

I admit that Ernie drove me crazy much of the time. However, I also admit that Ernie comforted Mike and me far more. That little dog showed us that a well-timed nuzzle, sufficient food, a safe place to lay his head and the encouraging love of those who cared for him were all he needed. All that any of us need to be happy is the same. Once again, we’re invited to take notice of the people we’ve been given to love and to care for them as only we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love, Even When It’s Dangerous

“If I do not perform God’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works.”

John 10:38

In spite of everything, I keep my propensity to trust in the goodness of humankind intact. Yes, I realize that there are evildoers among us. The recent bloodshed in El Paso and Dayton provided proof enough for a lifetime. At the same time, I also believe that unsuspecting heroes of every sort have and will continue to rise in the midst of these and multitudes of other tragedies. In similar circumstances, most of us would do the same. So it is that I persist in trusting those I meet along the way until they give me reason not to do so.

Jesus wasn’t at all gullible. He lived in times which rival our own when it comes to our inhumanity toward one another. Jesus knew that some who professed to be religious leaders questioned his motives and the authenticity of his message. Blinded by hatred, this threat to their power over the people was more than they could tolerate. When Jesus assisted the neediest and most marginalized of the people, these kindnesses only added to the angst of the temple hierarchy. They were more angry over Jesus’ association with these allegedly unclean souls than with Jesus’ claim to be God’s son.

In the end, Jesus continued to deliver God’s message of love, forgiveness, inclusion and mercy. Jesus knew that when his enemies saw to his demise, they also ensured his travel home to heaven. Whenever we stand up to the forces of evil in defense of others, we’re ensured of the same.

Loving God, help us to open our hearts generously on behalf of those you have given us to love even when it’s frightening to do so.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Are Family!

How great is the goodness, O Lord,
which you have in store…

From Psalm 31:20

A month or so ago, my husband and I attended Mass at church we’d never visited before. Though the building was much different from our own parish church, we felt most welcomed and very much at home. As we joined in to pray, we felt as though we’d been a part of this community forever…

I’m always inspired by our gatherings to pray together. Whether for a wedding, a funeral or weekend worship, I find cohesiveness in our common intent and in our shared meal. Regardless of what seems to separate us outside– our politics, our tendencies to the left or to the right, our likes and dislikes, our opinions regarding just about everything– when we gather at God’s table, we’re God’s children in the truest sense. Indeed, we are one.

Sometimes, I turn from my prayer or the hymn at hand to take in those around me. I never cease to be amazed by the beauty in the variety of faces who’ve gathered to pray together. Not one of us is exactly like another. Even identical twins cannot hide their uniqueness. Still, we are welcome. All of us are welcome to God’s house. The truth is, we are welcome, every one of us, into this world and into this life. Why? We’re God’s family -all of us!

Loving God, be with us as we open our arms and our hearts to each other. Help us to see those around us as family -your family- wherever we meet..

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

F… Faith!

God remembers forever this covenant
which God made for a thousand generations…

Psalm 105:8

F is for Faith. I discovered very early on that faith is a gift to be treasured. For me, faith is that sense deep within which keeps me ever-mindful of God’s presence in my life. Whether we view God as a distant entity, a constant and nearby companion or as someone quite different from either, it is our faith which tells us that God is.

For me, faith is life-giving and life-saving. Knowing that God is with me and within me sustains me in the best and the worst of times. Though I’m imperfect in numerous ways, God’s love for me urges me on. My faith is further nourished by the beauty of humanity-at-large, the wonders of nature, an amazing book, a heart-warming movie and lyrics or a melody which touches my heart. Everything and every person around me impacts my faith in one way or another.

My response to all of this is to reveal my faith in all that I say and do. My tenderness might bring life to faith that once lay dormant within another soul. My compassion might heal when medicine falls short. My presence might dispel persistent sadness. A card or phone call or visit might offer a reminder that we are deeply loved. Our efforts in this regard might just offer an experience of God which another person would otherwise not have.

My faith in God’s love for me is truly the most powerful catalyst in my life.

Loving God, help us always to remember that YOU ARE WITH US and that YOU LOVE US FOREVER!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

B… Blessed!

May God’s name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun, God’s name shall remain.
In God shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed…

From Psalm 72:17

B is for Blessed. You are blessed and so am I. We wouldn’t walk this earth if we were not intentionally breathed into existence by our creatively loving God. I use the adverb “creatively” intentionally. You see, God’s blessings often befuddle me. Most of the time, I don’t recognize them until long after a given person or circumstance has moved on. A lifetime of chance meetings, one-liners which lodge in my memory, unexpected friendships, opportunities, seeming setbacks and heart-breaking tragedies prove this over and over again. Though I don’t realize it much of the time, I am indeed blessed.

As I consider and offer thanks for the blessings in my life, I must acknowledge that these blessings include everyone around me. This is the challenging part because “everyone” includes those who occasionally give me a headache, a heartache, a soul-ache or worse. How can I look upon these people as blessings?

B is for Blessed. You are blessed and so I am. So it is that you and I must gently remove the wrapping which conceals the blessedness within ourselves and within others. It is then that we will discover the fullness of God’s precious gifts.

Loving God, help me to see my blessings and those of others with your perceptive eyes. Give me a grateful heart so I can appreciate both in their fullness.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved