Bathed In Love

He drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick
to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:
“He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Matthew 8:17

I sat, mindlessly tapping my fingers on the table. Life has taken on a bit of normalcy as our grandchildren have returned to school and our newest grandchild follows a bit of a schedule these days. So it is that I turned my attention to some troubling circumstances for which I see no end in sight. As I considered my options, I realized that there was little I could do to alleviate much of anything.

Just outside my window, a large robin plopped himself into our bird bath. He fluttered his wings for several seconds, splashing water every which way. Though I knew he couldn’t hear me, I remarked to my feathered friend, “It certainly doesn’t take much to make you happy!” Even before I finished this sentence, I realized that the same is true for all of us. Just as that water waits, available for my robin friend whenever he chooses to enjoy it, all that we need awaits us as well.

You know, being loved and cared for is the best any of us can hope for. Being loved and cared for makes everything we encounter doable. Though branches and boulders clutter the road before us, we manage to climb over them or to plod around them because we’re not alone. Though we may only occasionally choose to bathe in the waters of God’s loving care, God remains to offer them just the same.

Dear God, give us the wisdom of my robin friend so that we too will know when to bathe in your care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Our Journeys Home

My husband and I are planning a return trip to Italy. Since our 2009 visit, I’ve managed to overcome my dislike for long flights and small places. As a result, I’m looking forward to this adventure with great expectation. Though we’ll visit unfamiliar territory, I’ve been reacquainting myself with all that we experienced during our first visit. Our photo album and my journal have guided me on an amazing walk down Memory Lane. As I perused the pictures, I stopped at the one which announces the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. I didn’t have to refer to my journal to refresh my memory regarding that place. It was one of the most memorable encounters of that trip and of my life. I shivered as I recalled that I almost allowed this opportunity to slip by me. With that realization, I turned to my journal. I didn’t want to forget a single detail of this inspiring encounter…

We were outside Rome’s city walls when our guide Oresto led us toward the catacombs. Though I’d anticipated this visit for some time, my fear of small spaces was getting the best of me. When we arrived, our guide promised an unforgettable and moving encounter. In spite of his palpable devotion to this holy place, I was more anxious than ever. As we waited for our catacomb guide, I explained to Oresto that I might not be able to manage the tour. He assured me that I wasn’t alone as he showed me the gift shop and grounds that I could enjoy while the others went on. As we continued our wait, I peered down the stairway where tourists exit the catacombs. The thirty-plus stairs that emerged from the darkness below convinced me that I couldn’t take the tour. Still, when Oresto introduced us to our catacomb guide, I followed along. The tiny woman ushered us to a small, ground-level room where she opened the tour with a short lecture. I’d planned to leave the tour when the group headed down the path to the crypts. Three minutes into her talk, Giovanne Maria had me. Five minutes after that, I followed her into the depths of perhaps the holiest place I’ve ever visited.

Giovanne’s words revealed the depth of her faith. The earth around us revealed the deep faith of those who once rested there. Giovanne explained that catacomb has a far different meaning than the word the pagans used to describe their graveyards. Catacomb describes a dormitory or sleeping place. The Christians who committed the bodies of their loved ones to this place firmly believed that they were only resting until they were called to eternal life. Giovanne left no doubt that she fully agreed. I found myself eager to step onto the same earth, touch the same walls and breathe in the same air that these brothers and sisters breathed before me. Though many of the bodies once buried there had been moved to churches, the sacredness, joy and serenity they had brought to this place remained. As we made our way through numerous tunnels and vaults, Giovanne continued her lessons in history and faith and I continued to absorb it all. When Giovanni lead us to the foot of the exit stairs, she thanked us for sharing this journey with her. Giovanne told us that the catacombs are the embodiment of all of that it means to be a part of God’s family. Giovanne’s words, her grace and her passionate faith indicated that God’s work continued in all of those who find joy and contentment in God’s ways.

Afterward the tour, I caught up with our guide to thank her and to tell her that it was her obvious love for this holy place that coaxed me underground. Though she had only a minute to spare, Giovanne asked me to wait while she ran off to the catacomb office. She returned with a medal, a brochure and a warm embrace to help me to remember this visit. Even without these mementos, I took a bit of the catacombs home with me that day.

Today’s gospel (John 6:60-69) urged me to share this memory. Jesus had been living and teaching among the people for quite some time when he referenced himself as living bread. The passages prior to this excerpt indicate the people had become uneasy with this concept. When Jesus explained again that he had come to reveal God to those who needed God most, the people balked. Did they finally realize that free bread and cures weren’t the heart of Jesus’ work? Anyone who intended to follow Jesus needed to be prepared to live as Jesus lived and to be whatever was needed to care for those less fortunate. When the skeptics slipped away, Jesus turned to his closest friends and asked, “Do you want to leave me too?” Outspoken Peter responded for them all: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” With that, the disciples embraced the difficult, but simple path before them.

When Giovanne guided me though the catacombs, she guided me down the same path. She helped me to set aside my fear and to embrace the opportunities to be found in the moment at hand. Like those who celebrated the new life of their loved ones in the catacombs, we celebrate the new life Jesus offers each one of us whenever we make the most of our own journeys home.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Relax and Enjoy!

Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

I’ve been on a roll with my writing. I’ve been on a roll with everything for that matter as I need to be caught up. We’re happily awaiting the birth of our newest grandchild and Grandpa and I want to be ready. We’ll take care of big brother when Mommy and Daddy leave for the hospital. The name of the game these days is “Hurry Up and Be Ready”. While I celebrate these happy circumstances, I admit that I’m a little tired…

I abandoned this writing for just a minute to get a drink of water. While in the kitchen, a tap on the window drew my attention. It was far too windy for her to rest out in the open, so a lovely white dove nestled into the large flowerpot outside our patio door. Such visitors usually fly off when I draw near, but she remained to stare back at me and to tap again. A ray of sunlight caused her feathers to take on a heavenly aura. I scratched my head as I wonder what she was up to. That dove’s contented look indicated that she wasn’t wondering a thing about me. When our gazes met, I realized that I haven’t relaxed at all today. Did this lovely dove know that she reminded me to slow down and to do just that?

When I left that sweet bird to her rest, I returned to my keyboard to share her story with you. As soon as I proof this writing, I’m going to grab a book I’m reading. That book and I will retreat to our screened porch where I’ll read until it’s time to start dinner. For this, I thank you, Ms. Dove!

Loving God, thank you for your well-timed reminders to set aside my work, to relax and to enjoy life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Do Something!

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on the one in need.

Matthew 5:41-42

I know I’ve shared this before. I’ve been having difficulty picking up the newspaper and listening to the news. Though our ability to receive information from all over the world in a nanosecond is remarkable, it’s also overwhelming. I’ve been aware of this world’s suffering since childhood. Still, today’s readily available images of all of this is almost too much to bear. How must those who endure this suffering feel? When I consider that human beings in power see these terrible circumstances firsthand, I’m even more hard-pressed to understand why nothing is done to help. Though our compassion for the suffering inspires much prayer, effort and sharing of resources on many of our parts, the suffering which persists continues to overwhelm all concerned.

Today is different. I turned to the television news and newspaper as soon as I awoke. I searched for any information regarding the coach and young hikers in Thailand who’ve been trapped in a deep mountainside cave. Locating them alive was the first of a list of seemingly impossible hurdles which has driven a worldwide effort to get them to safety. The key here is “worldwide”. Capable people from this country and six other nations have joined Thailand in this effort. At this writing, they continue to work together to save these boys and their coach. Their single concern is to bring each one to safety as quickly as possible.

Today, my hope in our ability to respond to this world’s suffering is renewed. While you and I do what we can individually in this regard, our nations are working together to do the same. Though this effort may seem small in the grand scheme of things, it means everything to those boys and their coach!

Loving God, thank you for caring for us and for sharing this skill with us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

S is for…

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased…

From Isaiah 42:1

S is for Service. When I was a little girl, I was usually the first to raise my hand when a teacher asked for assistance. At home, though I disliked my own chores, I happily volunteered when my mom requested help with a non-mandatory task. I jumped at the opportunity to do something for her especially after my dad passed away. Young as I was, I quickly discovered that, of all of the joy I’d experienced, the best of it was the result of being of service to someone.

Our lives are filled with opportunities to serve. I’ve been a spouse, parent, teacher, colleague, daughter to an elderly mom and sister to dying siblings, an ear for a troubled soul and an all-purpose volunteer. I’ve rescued a wayward can of soup that rolled out of a fellow shopper’s bag and a twenty-dollar bill that fell out of another’s wallet. I’ve even extinguished the burning hair of a wedding guest who stood a bit too close to a lighted candle. Your list of everyday and life-time service would fill a space much larger than this. Whenever we respond to those God has given us to love, we serve.

The joy that resulted from my helpful efforts as a child has remained with me. Though it’s nice to be thanked on occasion, the joy comes either way. Perhaps this is God’s way of assuring us that God is indeed pleased with us and all that we do!

Thank you, Good and Gracious God, for giving us loving and caring hearts like your own.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

K is for…

People who are well do not need a doctor;
sick people do. I did not come to heal the righteous,
but the lowly.

Mark 2:17

K is for Kindness. Unexpected kindness is the greatest variety of this virtue. When I’m not at my best, a bit of TLC can salvage a given moment for all concerned. I became a recipient of random kindnesses early on in my life. Whenever I woke my mom in the middle of the night with a childhood woe, she responded with patience. She consoled me, walked me to my room and tucked me into my bed with a second good-night kiss. Thoughtful teachers responded to my occasional transgressions with understanding rather than anger. Their mercy encouraged me to be my best. When life became more complicated through my teens and into adulthood, I responded far more positively to a kind word than to a less-than-civil reprimand. The good news in all of this is that I took these lessons in kindness to heart. When I became a teacher and a parent, I found that my students and my own children responded best when kindness set the tone of our interactions.

You know, it’s easy to extend kindness to the people we like and to those who offer us the same courtesy. Unfortunately, those whose names aren’t on our “A List” likely need our kindness more than anyone else. Kindness offered indiscriminately changes lives and this world in amazing ways.

Gracious God, thank you for giving us the capacity to respond to one another with kindness. Inspire us to do so, especially when it is most difficult and most needed.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved