I Can Do Something…

“Teach them to carry out everything…
and know that I am with you always…”

From Matthew 28:20

While going through boxes of mementos, I found a tiny plate just 5 inches in diameter. This antiquated bit of porcelain features a sketch of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Though it isn’t fine artwork, it elicited a smile. I quickly recalled the enthusiasm of the early 1960s. Though I was only 9 years old and I didn’t know much about him, I cheered when JFK was elected. When Mr. Kennedy offered his inaugural speech, I learned something about his hope for the future. Our new president told us, “…ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country.” I wondered what I could do.

Though in elementary school during JFK’s presidency, I clearly recall Khrushchev’s rants and our fear of communism. I remember the worry surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis and our relief over its resolution. Though we fretted and prayed about such things, I felt safe. Then, on November 22, 1963, everything changed. 1036 days into his term, President Kennedy was killed by an assassin.

I think the eve of this sorrowful anniversary offers the perfect opportunity to respond to President Kennedy’s request. Regardless of our religious and political affiliations, we all have good reason to do something because our collective future truly depends on it. So it is that, today, I’m going to stop wondering what I can do. Today, I’m going to do my part to make this country one nation again.

Dear God, you know our imperfections better than we know them ourselves. Still, you place your trust in us to care for this nation, for this world and for one another. Be with us as we do something which illustrates that your trust is well-placed.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Identity Crisis?

Don’t be afraid! I will save you.
I have called you by name and you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1b9

With all that has occurred as of late, especially with regard to the differences in our observable identities, I find myself most at peace when I return to the basics. The grandma and mom and teacher in me wishes this process was as easy as reciting the ABCs with my grandchildren. The spirit within me understands that this isn’t at all easy. Truly returning to the basics when it comes to our humanity means returning to our shared common denominator…

When we set aside our religious denominations, our political affiliations, our occupations, our ages, our gender, our color, our ethnicity and any of the other physical and communal attributes by which we’re identified, we’re left with our humanity. More precisely, we’re left with our humanity and our membership in God’s family. Whether or not we acknowledge God, God acknowledges each one of us as a beloved child. When I have the sense to appreciate this reality, I can almost hear God say, “You are my beloved…”

Wow! Oh, no! Now what shall I do? What about…? This is when the things I yelled at my television set during those tense pre-election days echo in my mind. This is when I see the faces of people who’ve hurt me over the years. This is when tears form because I also see the faces of those I’ve hurt. “You are my beloved…” God says, not only to me, but to every other human being God has created.

Apparently, our physical attributes, our personal preferences and our chosen and accidental affiliations don’t mean a thing to God. What matters to our dear Creator is what we do about who we are. God identifies each one of us as God’s beloved and as God’s child. It seems to me that it’s time for me to recognize and to behave as though we’re God’s family because we are!

Ever-patient God, help me to work with all of my sisters and brothers to make our human family the happy family you created us to be.

©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

What Can I Do? Something…

“Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.
And know that I am with you always…”

Matthew 28:20

While purging a kitchen drawer, I found a tiny plate which can’t be more than 5 inches in diameter. This antiquated memento features a sketch of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Though this chipped bit of porcelain isn’t fine artwork, it elicited a smile. I quickly recalled the enthusiasm surrounding his candidacy. I followed the news to learn more about him and I cheered when he was elected. When Mr. Kennedy offered his inaugural speech, I learned about this man’s hope for the future. Our new president told us, “…ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country.” At the time, I wondered. What could I do?

Though I was only in elementary school during this presidency, I recall Khrushchev’s rants and our fear of communism. I recall the worry surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis and the relief over its resolution. Though we fretted and prayed about such things, I felt safe. It was November 22, 1963, when everything changed. 1036 days into his term, President Kennedy was killed by an assassin.

On this difficult anniversary, regardless of our religious and political affiliations, I think we all have good reason to respond to Mr. Kennedy’s request. Today, I’m going to stop wondering. Today, I’m going to do something to make my little corner of this country a better place.

Patient and merciful God, you place your trust in us to care for this world and for one another. Today, inspire us all to do something to ensure that your trust is well-placed.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest! It’s Okay!

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

I’d been running errands all morning and I was grateful for the long line ahead of me. Oddly enough, I truly appreciated the opportunity to lean on my grocery cart and to stand still for a few minutes. While enjoying this bit of peace, a person ahead of me in line remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As this man hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. I had found wealth in these seemingly wasted moments.

It seems to me that all of us are too busy far too often. This is nothing new, as Jesus experienced the same. Though Jesus longed for a bit of peace, there was always someone who needed him more than he needed his rest. This is the reason Jesus rose very early and stole away for quiet time as often as possible. Jesus made it his business to care for others, and, once in a while, to care for himself.

The moral of the story is this: It is perfectly fine and truly necessary to acknowledge our fatigue because we find the energy and the will to care for others in our own rested spirits. The moral of the story is: Rest when you need to!

Dear God, I’m grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to remember that I occasionally need me as well.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Children

Never act our of rivalry or conceit;
rather let all parties think humbly of others
as superior to themselves, each of you looking to
others’ interests rather than to your own.

Philippians 2:3-4

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 a little better. The TSA 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 to the Almighty for the good people around me. After a quick meal, I nuzzled into my seat with another prayer, this time for sleep.

A few hours later, hushed movements roused me from my sleep. Several Hasidic Jewish families had joined us on this flight. It was around 4:00 AM when the men among them moved toward the back of the plane to gather. I learned later that they pray together at given intervals every day. I admit that my first reaction to this disruption was annoyance. The gentleman behind me woke me when he grabbed my seat-back to help himself up. The gentleman across from me unwittingly hit me several times with his prayer shawl while trying to position it over his shoulders. It was only when I realized that they were heading off to pray that my attitude softened. With that, I whispered another prayer, this time to ask forgiveness for my impatience with these fellows who were likely as sleepy as I was.

You and I are surrounded by God’s other children much of the time. We belong to families and neighborhoods, faith communities, social clubs, service organizations and sports teams. As I consider them all, I see their common thread. Each one reminds me that I live not only for myself, but also for many others. My middle-of-the-night prayerful friends do the same.

Loving God, help me to appreciate your other children as you do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved