God’s Characters

“I have found you and
with my holy oil I anoint you…”

From Psalm 89:21

A few days ago, I referenced a childhood photograph which conjured up a regretful memory. Today, a second look at that photo brought a smile to my face. My brother, my four sisters and I are posed on the steps of our front porch. We’re dressed in our Easter finery. On such occasions, a family gathering of some magnitude followed. Such celebrations usually spilled out onto that porch if the weather was at all bearable. Since my parents had eighteen siblings between them, our extended family included an amazing variety of characters. I write “characters” with appreciative thoughts of each one!

Characters of every sort enrich my life. Family, neighbors, schoolmates and church friends account for many. By the time I was sixteen and took my first job at a grocery store, I was quite adept at interacting with others. This came to good use in college, when I eventually married and began my teaching career. All the while, I enjoyed the characters whom I met along the way.

Most precious are the moments I’ve shared individually. These encounters allowed glimpses of others which I might have missed in a crowd. It’s likely that many of these special people have no idea of their contribution to my humble existence. Still, each one reminds me in one way or another that we are all God’s anointed ones. Each of us is a unique gift to those around us and to this world. Yes, we are all God’s characters, sent to enrich others along the way. As we ease back into our new normal, may we all share the best of our characters as only we can!

Dear God, stay with us as we renew our appreciation of ourselves, of one another and of our world.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Another Curve Ball

“I have told you this so that you might have peace
in me. In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

John 16:33

He said it again. When life throws my husband a curve ball, Mike usually responds by observing, “God sure has a sense of humor!” I admit that my response differs a bit from Mike’s when I’m the recipient of that curve ball. Though I tend to keep my initial reactions to trauma to myself, I’m sorry to admit that the tone of my recent posts indicates otherwise. You see, there is usually too much to do for me to allow myself the luxury of complaining aloud. However, during this stay-in-place era, I’ve had plenty of time to do just that.

Fortunately, something -or Someone- drew my attention elsewhere. I finally responded by turning my eyes upward to converse with the Lord God. After having my say with the One who I know always listens, I began to reconcile myself to the situation at hand. I actually calmed myself enough to discuss the current curve ball in our midst with a bit of calm. I closed that conversation with my own observation: “This is just a small reminder that we’re not in heaven yet.”

Though curve balls continue to fly fast and furiously, God is even more persistent in lingering around us. Though havoc reigns outside of us, God’s gentle peace calms us from within. Even when we fail to notice God’s presence for far too long, God remains…

Consoling God, knowing that your care is a constant makes all of the difference in our suffering world.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Home Again!

When he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

Every morning while we toured Israel, I checked our itinerary before we set out for the day. This helped me to retrieve what I knew about each site. In addition to historical and geographical tidbits regarding these places, events related to Jesus of Nazareth came to mind. As a result, I arrived at each destination with a heart open to the gifts of the new day.

I clearly recall the day we were headed toward the Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Magdala. A sense of homecoming quickly enveloped me as I considered scripture passages related to these places. The events I recalled made me feel as though I was returning to revive ancient memories. Oddly, I felt expectantly anxious to get to the heart of what had occurred at each one.

Though I’ll supply details later, today, it is enough to say that I was never disappointed. I may not have stood on the precise patch of ground where Jesus spoke the beatitudes or multiplied loaves and fishes. I may not have stepped in Mary Magdalene’s footprints. I may not have sailed Jesus’ course on the Sea of Galilee. Still, I felt that I walked where I was meant to walk in order to rekindle important relationships from long ago. I wouldn’t have felt more at home if I had been the prodigal son whose father kissed him and embraced him to welcome him home after a far too long absence.

Loving God, thank you for being present to me and for welcoming me into every moment.
With you, the time is always right.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Welcome Home!

Peace and mercy on all who follow this rule of life
and on the Israel of God.

From Galatians 6:15-16

As our plane made its descent toward Ben Gurion International Airport, I experienced a palpable sense of peace. I felt as though I was on my way to a family reunion…

Several years earlier, my husband and I traveled to Croatia to meet his cousins there. Later, we traveled to Sicily to find his grandparents’ hometown. Still later, we flew to Quebec to meet my father’s family. On each of these occasions, we experienced a heartwarming sense of belonging. As we gathered our luggage in the airport in Tel Aviv, I experienced the same in Israel -even more so than I had before.

When we boarded the bus for our hotel, our driver welcomed us. She explained that she was with us only for this first bus ride. Our new driver and the guide I’d come to know so well during our previous trips would see to it that we were warmly welcomed once again on the following day.

As I listened, I realized I didn’t necessarily need to be welcomed after all. My own story had begun in Israel long ago. The one whom they called “Teacher” had laid the foundation for everything of importance to me. When he revealed the essence of God’s love, Jesus also revealed our capacity to love one another. I wouldn’t be the woman, child, sibling, wife, mom, grandma and friend I am today if I hadn’t taken those lessons to heart. Though we may not be blood relatives, Jesus and I are family just the same. Though I wasn’t born in the area as Jesus was, he was part of me. What a homecoming this trip to Israel would be!

Loving God, thank you for the many homecomings I’ve experience along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always At Home

May you be glad on the
same score and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:18

The first leg of trip to Israel (pardon the pun) “flew” by without incident. Our layover provided another opportunity to get to know our fellow travelers. The security staff who oversaw our international boarding were kind and reassuring, perhaps in response to our cooperative adherence to the necessary protocol. In the midst of locating our seats and stowing our carry-on bag, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for the good people around me. After a quick meal, I nuzzled into my seat with another prayer, this time for a nap.

Sleep never came. Some excited passengers chatted the entire time. I wrote “excited” because their pitch and their comments indicated that they were especially happy about their impending return to their home in Tel Aviv. Because I knew what awaited our group there, I began to feel excited, too. Tired as I was, I pulled out our itinerary to scan the list of the special places we’d visit. Each one was now familiar to me. This trip would truly be a homecoming for me as well.

You and I experience homecomings more often that we are aware. We belong to families and neighborhoods, faith communities, social clubs, service organizations and sports teams. We have workplaces and favorite gathering places where we feel very much at home. As I consider them all, I see their common thread. Each one reminds me that I don’t live alone on this earth. Every place where I encounter my fellow humans gives me reason to feel at home. Over the coming days, the Holy Land would be home to me once again.

As I continue my journey through Lent, perhaps I can find ways to make those around me to feel at home as well, especially those who are lonely.

Loving God, thank you for our capacities to be at home with one another and with you.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Truly Anointed

I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him.

Psalm 89:21

I know I’m repeating myself here, but I can’t help it…

While perusing the Psalms the other day, I stopped at Psalm 89. A few verses down the page, I found the reference to David which I cite above. What a nice reminder it is of God’s esteem for each one of us…

I’ve been surrounded by unique and amazing people all of my life. I come from a large family. My earliest memories include a plethora of family gatherings filled with good times and lots of love. I grew up down the block from our church and I attended our parish school. Those I met there became a sort of extended family to me. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college. During my shifts, people of every sort made their way past my cash register. Their familiar faces added much to those long days. After college, I married, began my teaching career, became involved in my new parish church and enjoyed more friendships. These and all of the people I’ve met since have enriched my life’s journey in unique ways. Hopefully, I’ve done the same for a few of them.

It seems to me that King David isn’t God’s only anointed one. Because we are all God’s children, we are all anointed, too. Each of us is sent to bless those around us and to bless this world with the gift of our unique selves.

I know I’m repeating myself, but I can’t help it. The gift of you is worth another invitation to share yourself with those you’ve been given to love!

Thank you, Dear God, for empowering us to enrich the lives of those who share this earthly path with us!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved