A Glimpse of God’s Peace

So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead…”

Mark 5:39

The funeral director called to request a favor. A woman’s remains would be brought in from out-of-state for her committal and burial. Since her family had no local church affiliation, the funeral director called to ask my husband to do the service. As he prepared, Mike asked about the person who had passed and her family. He discovered that this fifty-eight year old person was disabled and had been cared for by her elderly parents all of her life. By this time, her parents’ ages prevented them from traveling. Still, they wanted their child’s remains to lie near their other departed family members. One day, these parents will do the same.

In spite of their own advanced ages and their daughter’s difficult life, these parents deeply grieved her loss. At the same time, they couldn’t help sharing the bit of joy their daughter had offered them at the end of her life. “Just before Ella passed away, she told us that she was going with Jesus and she smiled. How can we cry after hearing that?” Mike responded by sharing the homily he would offer at Ella’s service with her parents. This time, he knew there was no need to persuade mourners that their loved one had embraced eternal life. He simply smiled with them over what they now knew to be true.

When Mike presides over a burial with only himself and the funeral director in attendance, he is often struck by sadness. Not this time, however. Mike knew that Ella couldn’t be happier and that the same was true for her parents.

Gentle God, touch the hearts of everyone who experiences loss with a glimpse of the peace which Ella shared with her mom and dad.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Promise of Peace

Suddenly, without warning, Jesus stood before them and said, “Peace!”
Matthew 28:9

Though autumn is a full four weeks away, I can’t help anticipating the approach of this new season. Though my absolute favorite meteorological phenomenon is snow, I’m anxious to see the colorful array of fall colors which promises to awe all who will take the time to look. Eventually, those colorful leaves will fade and give way to the wind and cold. They’ll find their places over the soil where they will lie in wait for their new work of fertilizing the fruits of springtime.

My autumn musing hints at my slowly emerging expectation of better things to come. The single sentence I cite above is from Matthew’s gospel. Two days after Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and a friend went to Jesus’ tomb. Since Passover and the Sabbath had passed, they were free to tend to Jesus’ body which was buried quickly due to the holy days. When the women arrived, they found that the stone which sealed the tomb had been rolled away and that Jesus’ body was gone. On their way to tell the other disciples what had occurred, they encountered someone who appeared to be a gardener. When that man uttered the single word “Peace!” Mary Magdalene knew exactly who he was.

It occurs to me that I must never forget the promise of that day. When Jesus greeted his two friends with “Peace!”, he intended this sentiment to echo through two millenniums and then some to you, to me and to all the world!

Dear God, help me always to remember that your peace is offered every day of every season to every one of us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Enjoy The Water!

…by a word, he cured all the sick.”
From Matthew 8:17

I sat mindlessly tapping my fingers on the table. Dare I write again that the pandemic and all of its fallout had my attention once again? As I considered my options, I realized that there is little I can do to alleviate much of anything in regard to these things.

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 stands available for my robin friend whenever he chooses to enjoy it, all that we need awaits us.

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. Branches and boulders and viruses and social unrest clutter the road before us. Still, we manage to do what we can about these things and then to climb over or to plod around what we must leave in others hands. All the while, we’re not alone. Though we may only occasionally choose to bathe in the waters of God’s loving care, God remains twenty-four/seven to offer that care just the same.

Dear God, give us the wisdom of my robin friend, that we may also bathe in the waters of your love at every opportunity.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s With Us… Always!

When the poor one called out, God heard,
and from all her distress, God saved her.

Psalm 34:7

When I walk alone, I take along a mask. Occasionally, I cross paths in spaces where social distancing is difficult. The other day, my mask came in handy when a fellow walker offered greetings from across the street. When I realized that the “Hello” she uttered from behind her mask was tearful, I invited her to a nearby patch of green where we could talk. She sweetly maintained a six-foot distance as she poured out her heart to me.

My own heart immediately ached for this her. She felt engulfed in sadness and found it difficult to look beyond herself for hope. I assured her that this is the very reason that God dwells within each one of us. Regardless of the danger which threatens from the outside, God remains steadfast deep inside. She looked up with blinking eyes. After considering this for a few minutes, my friend considered her dilemma. “You know, in spite of everything, I somehow knew that I wasn’t alone. You’re telling me what I already knew was true.”

After voicing her gratitude, my friend continued on her way. As I walked on, it occurred to me that I’ve too often sounded like her. Darkness has distorted my perspective as well. I also failed to see who has been with me all the while.

Though it’s often difficult, we all need to turn our attention away from the clamor which threatens and to sit quietly in God’s loving presence. Whether or not we acknowledge our heart’s Loving Tenant doesn’t matter to God. God cares for us either way. Still, when we do acknowledge God within us, we find consolation in simply knowing that we aren’t alone.

Dear God, thank you for making your home within each one of us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Remains

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.

1 John 4:16

While walking yesterday, I stepped over the remains of a burned sparkler. I wondered what it was doing on the sidewalk. This year, there are no fireworks displays in the area. Though I’ve heard lots of activity in the neighborhood over the past week, none of those crackles and booms were “official” displays. I can only assume that this sparkler is the result of similar revelry. As I continued my walk, my thoughts turned to our typical July 4th rituals…

How I loved dragging folding chairs out to our driveway. We live just near enough to an amusement park to enjoy their annual fireworks. Ours is a relatively new neighborhood and our newly planted trees didn’t grow tall enough to block our view for quite a few years. We and our neighbors gathered in the center of our cul-de-sac street to watch the always-breath-taking display. Eventually, those trees grew and our wonderful view was diminished. Since then, the fireworks have seemed a little too far away. In recent years, though we and some of our neighbors have dragged those chairs a few blocks closer, the view and our camaraderie simply isn’t the same.

As I ponder this disappointment, I can’t help considering other occasions when I wished I’d been a little closer. When life’s struggles threaten, I sometimes feel quite alone as try to focus on what needs to be done. Finally, in the midst of my misery, I give in to my propensity to look upward for assistance. Why does it take me so long to remember that I’m never really alone in anything?

Regardless of the joys and sorrows I encounter, God’s love is the constant which never changes. Though there were no fireworks displays this year, God remained deep within me.

Loving God, too many of us are struggling these days. Today, please touch each one with tangible reminders that you’re always nearby.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Beloved By God

Brothers and sisters:
You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God…

Ephesians 2:19

Life was tough for the contemporaries of Jesus. The Jewish people endured Roman rule which had little appreciation for the plight of the poor. The people also suffered under the temple hierarchy who valued The Law more than the people for whom The Law had been given. Jesus himself endured the Pharisees’ criticism because they couldn’t see past their own infatuation with rules, regulations and control. It was Jesus’ failure to adhere to ritual cleanliness and his association with outcasts which infuriated these adversaries most of all. The good news is that Jesus ignored the criticism and made room for whoever desired his company. He associated with perceived sinners of every sort. He touched lepers and the blind. He even saved a woman caught in adultery. He would have done the same for the man involved had he been threatened with stoning as well.

Though you and I are not always ostracized quite as dramatically as the people of Jesus’ day, we suffer our own varieties of exclusion, loneliness and despair just the same. The good news for us is that God responds in like manner to you and me. When the rest of the world pushes us away, God embraces us. When no one lifts a finger to help, God lays hands upon us and heals us.

Gracious God, thank you for calling each one of us your beloved.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved