Called To Do Something…

Happy are they who observe what is right
and who do what is just.

Psalm 106:3

Events in reaction to George Floyd’s death inspired a friend to adjust her career path in an attempt to bring about meaningful change. She wrestled with the notion because she will travel into seemingly unknown territory in the process. In the end, she embraced this opportunity because it will allow her to serve others in a hopefully significant way.

I can certainly relate to my friend’s initial ambivalence. I think we all can. I also share the notion that we’re meant to serve others in this life as best we can. God’s generous gift of free will and God’s absolute faith in our choices allow us to choose just how to go about these things. Nonetheless, we sometimes delay because we aren’t sure that we will make a difference after all…

When we spoke again, my friend bubbled with enthusiasm regarding her new position. The potential for her to contribute to meaningful change is far greater than she dared to hope. Her work with children will allow her to plant seeds which will grow into something much stronger than the ills which contributed to George Floyd’s death. With that, I prayed, Dear God, help those seeds to blossom into something amazing! After offering my silent prayer for my friend, I wondered what I will do to bring about meaningful change…

Loving God, be with all of those who are working to make this world a better place. Give each of us the courage to follow our hearts’ call to do good.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Hero Among Us

My dear husband and I had been overwhelmed by the tasks at hand for weeks. Then, Mike contracted the flu which evolved into bronchitis and an ear infection. I was medicated for preventative purposes. Still, I managed to catch a cold of my own. In a last-ditch effort to feel healthy again, we retreated to the north for a few days. We’d hoped to leave those pesky contagions behind and to breathe in some fresh Wisconsin air. As it happened, we did relax for most of those three days away. While Mike alternated between watching reruns and napping, I sought refuge in a thick worn paperback which has been with me since sophomore year of college. While Mike snoozed in the recliner across from me, I nuzzled into the corner of the couch. I didn’t turn to the beginning of my book because I didn’t have the time. Rather, I thumbed through hundreds of pages until I came to the section most familiar to me near the end of that book. I looked carefully until I found the passage I needed to read for this writing. Before I began, I turned my eyes and my thoughts heavenward. Though this would be a difficult interlude with the written word, it would also be a source of great peace for me if only I persisted…

A few paragraphs into the narrative, a chill ran down my spine. The passage I poured over hit a little too close to home. Without warning, difficult memories from my own life resurfaced. I looked away from the page to take a deep breath. Still, the tears flowed freely. This story’s hero is near and dear to me and I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that he approached the end of his life. He had maintained a positive and tough exterior while I lamented. I found him tying up loose ends in an attempt to leave those he loved with the best of his wisdom. Though his tone was hopeful, my hero suffered within. Worry regarding the path ahead threatened to shake his faith. His closest companions failed to sense this. When a few began to take notice, the events at hand distracted them from their concern. I had no doubt that my hero’s friends would be completely overwhelmed as the plot continued to unfold.

As I read on through those final pages with my hero, my own trials and tribulations resurfaced. I suppose this occurred because I identify with his story on many levels. He and I seem to approach the things that are most important to us in the same away. He loved his family just as I love my own. He was devoted to his parents whose most poignant lessons came through example rather than words. My parents taught me with their actions as well. My hero was very much at home in his faith because his parents introduced him to God when he was just a baby. My parents did the same. My hero lost his father early on, yet he grew into a devoted son who made his mother proud. Though my dad’s untimely death caused him to miss most of my childhood, I managed to make my mom proud once or twice as well. When those around him faced difficulties, this hero who seems more like a friend consistently stepped up to help. Though I often fail, I really do try to do the same.

When I turned back to my dog-eared text, I was struck by my hero’s persistence in the face of the worst this life had to offer him. Though he occasionally withdrew to regroup and to replenish his soul, he never abandoned his mission. Indeed, he returned every time more convinced than ever that he was walking the right path. I read on to find my hero as he left a holiday dinner. He had bared his soul to his friends regarding his love for them and he’d offered a final gesture of his devotion to each one. When he rose from their dinner table, my hero wondered if any of his friends had grasped his meaning. It was with a heavy heart that he led them out into the night. He left them to rest in a garden and then moved on to an isolated patch to consider what hours ahead would bring. He always turned to his dad on such occasions and that night is no exception. “Abba,” he prayed, “if you are willing, take this cup away from me…” Fear overwhelmed him and he sweated droplets of blood. Still, he turned to his father once again to add, “still, not my will but yours be done.”

With that, I set aside my tattered bible and closed the page on Luke’s passion account (Luke 22:14-23:56). As calamities from my own life flooded my memory, Jesus’ words filled my heart. I realized that I’d survived these things because I’d followed Jesus’ lead with absolute confidence. Every time, I had turned to the parent Jesus and I share, and, every time, God had accompanied me through what lay ahead. Every single time!

This Palm Sunday, as we listen to Jesus’ story, we acknowledge all that Jesus said and did. In Jesus’ life, we find the strength to endure. In his passion and death, we find the hope that urges us on. Jesus never promised that our lives will be easy, but Jesus did promise often that we will never be alone in our efforts. Today and throughout this Holy Week, we celebrate this hero who has shown us the way to live with courage, to die with hope and to rise into the reality of the resurrection which awaits us all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find The Courage

But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem,
do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Luke 23:28

The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets The Women of Jerusalem

Once again, it was the women who approached Jesus. In spite of the soldiers’ threat, they stepped up to offer their tears on Jesus’ behalf. Jesus responded by consoling them. Jesus had embraced the road which lay before him. So it was that he encouraged the women to do the same. Jesus made no empty promises regarding the difficulties of life on this earth. What Jesus did offer was his example of persistence and his certainty in the things to come.

It isn’t easy for any of us to live as Jesus did. Though we may not be called to carry a wooden cross beam that is twice our size, we’re often called to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. Sometimes, our choices seem small in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, our choices have far-reaching consequences. Always, what we choose to do makes a world of difference to us and to those we have been given to love both nearby and far away.

Today, I find courage in those brave women who approached Jesus. Today, I’ll respond as they did to everyone I meet along the way.

Loving God, you are with me in everything I do. Help me to be brave enough to behave accordingly.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Part in God’s Mission

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country,
to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene.

Mark 15:21

The Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus

I can’t be sure if Simon helped Jesus out of compassion for him or because he was forced to do so by the guards. I think the Roman soldiers frightened away many people of good will who might otherwise have stepped in to assist their beloved teacher. However it happened, Jesus willingly gave up his burden to Simon. Jesus willingly allowed him to help him to complete his mission.

There was a time when I didn’t think twice about rising in the face of “the establishment” to right the wrongs around me. I protested what I saw as an unjust war. Afterward, I supported veterans whom others spat upon. I marched in support of migrant workers whose employment conditions were deplorable. I even stepped in when a very large man threatened violence to a woman of my own size. Though it might have effected my own job security, I stood with a young teacher who suffered harassment. Then, times changed. The antics of “the establishment” lost my attention as the minutia of busy days drew more and more of my attention. Then, I began to think twice or three times before taking action… until today.

Whether Simon took that cross willingly or not, I will step up and I won’t think twice about it! After all, I have a part in accomplishing a mission as well. God calls each one of us to respond with love every time we encounter a soul who needs us.

Loving God, give me the courage and the love to step up in the face of injustices both large and small. Help me to do my part to transform this world of ours.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Zipping Along…

God has done great things for us.
From Psalm 126:2

Road construction surrounds us in every direction both nearby and faraway. As a result, my husband and I drove the “scenic route” when we returned home from Wisconsin a few weeks ago. Since Mike enjoys the drive, I contented myself with the beautiful autumn colors which graced the roadside. Along the way, we passed a zip-lining site. The lines and platforms stretched amidst a forest of trees for what seemed at least a mile. My view from the car indicated that those trees were the best of the scenery a rider would enjoy.

Though I don’t mean to be a “zip-lining snob”, I think I’ve become one. Five years ago, while visiting Alaska, my husband and I enjoyed an excursion in Icy Straight Point. It was there that we took advantage of the ingenuity of the Hoonah Tribe. These Native Alaskans operate the world’s longest zip-rider. For reasons unknown to me, Mike and I found the courage to take that zip-rider from the side of a mountain hundreds of feet above ground to enjoy the most amazing experience of our lives. For the entire duration of the ride, I repeated two phrases: “This is awesome!” and “Thank you, God, for giving me the courage to do this!” I recall that I smiled all the while.

When I looked back toward that roadside zip-line, I acknowledged that it paled in comparison to my Alaskan experience. Still, I wondered if I should give it a chance. After all, I’m the one who finds an adventure every time I walk my neighborhood. Every new day brings me a new perspective regarding the greenery I pass along the way. Perhaps those trees will provide their own wonderful soul-changing experience. With that, I turned to my husband to suggest that we may want to zip-line locally next time.

Generous God, thank you for showing yourself to me in all of the wonders of this world.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Okay…

“Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet…”

Mark 6:11

Though I’ve written about this before, a recent encounter with a troubled friend urged me to do so again. It isn’t easy for me to walk away. This propensity to stay connected is partially genetic and partially learned. My parents opened their door to everyone. I recall my mom saying, “I leave the door open. If people choose not to come in, it’s their loss.” Jesus also welcomed everyone who crossed his path. Since I subscribe to Jesus’ way of life, I try to welcome others as Jesus did. This is the reason it’s difficult for me to advise anyone to do precisely the opposite.

Still, at times, walking away is ones only reasonable option. We all know people who aren’t good for us. They may not render physical harm, but they certainly take a psychological or spiritual or emotional toll on us. I find that if my gut offers a strong reaction to someone, I need to pay attention. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I should never speak to that person again. However, it may mean that I need to limit our contact. If this doesn’t remedy the situation, I may have to walk away after all.

I acknowledge that this is an odd topic for a reflection, especially when I have much to rejoice about in my life these days. I’ve included it because my troubled friend was convinced that part of “being good” is allowing ourselves to be hurt unnecessarily. Our loving God couldn’t disagree more.

Dear God, stay with us, help us to recognize potential harm and guide us away from its source.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved