God’s Best Work

God looked at everything God made,
and God found it to be very good.

Genesis 3:31

While flipping through the stations on our TV, I saw that I’d just missed a travel show which featured Israel. “What a bummer!” I told myself. Rather than allowing disappointment to set in, I pulled out the photo album which chronicles my husband’s and my visit there.

I still can’t get over the emotions which welled up within me as I walked through Nazareth and Capernaum and Magdala. Jerusalem took my breath away once again as I poured over those photographs. While in Israel, I walked through so many precious places. While taking in each one, I came to realize that I’d returned to my roots, actually, to all of our roots! In the Holy Land, I caught a glimpse of God’s handiwork. Every building and hillside, desert and mountainside drew me in. Every face invited me to wonder how many of those I met could trace their family trees back to the families of Joseph or Mary. Whether or not that was possible, I know that we can all trace our roots back to God.

Whether creation occurred within seven days or as a result of The Big Bang, God started it all. God started us all. Seeing ancient ruins which date back to Jesus’ day and beforehand, I couldn’t help being awestruck. What amazed me even more is that God continues to look carefully upon us, each and every one of us. With every glance in our directions, God finds even more which is very good.

Loving God, help me to realize how much you value each one of us and help me to love my neighbors as you do.

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Salt and Light

“You are the salt of the earth…
You are the light of the world.”

From Matthew 5:13-16

A compilation of the people who have influenced my life for the better would hold its own against Santa’s list. I’m most grateful for the long-term and minute-long encounters which have opened my eyes to one aspect or another of myself, this life, this world and God. You know, we never really know whom we’re helping along the way. The briefest encounter can be life-changing for those involved.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that, whatever our named occupation or standing or relationship to others is, we are all called to be our best and to bring our best to whatever the situation may be. Whether our influence is world-wide or confined to a single room, that influence will change everything for those within this realm. As we begin New Year 2021, our response to this call is more important than ever!

You know, Jesus didn’t target the temple hierarchy, government officials, local celebrities or the wealthy when he proclaimed that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. God holds each of us in such esteem that God calls us all to be the salt and the light that only we can be.

Creator God, thank you for trusting us to make this world a better place. Help us to use this power with wisdom, generosity and love.

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share It All

O God, let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

Perhaps I feel this way because I was recently thinking about how different Thanksgiving Day will be this year…

This morning, as soon as I established my pace as I walked, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. Now I admit that I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route almost every single time I venture out. Still, the blue of the sky or changes in the trees which I’ve seen a hundred times fill me with awe. The familiar barren branches looming overhead reveal new knots and gnarls every time I pass beneath them. Chirping birds who should be well on their way south are the frosting on the cake. Even drizzling rain gives me reason to feel grateful.

In spite of these worrisome days, I’ve been an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during my treks outdoors. The clouded blue sky that beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. Perhaps my existence on this earth is meant to point others in heaven’s direction as well. Like Nature around me, perhaps I’m meant to do this with a spirit of gratitude. Even as I stumble through this pandemic, our nation’s unrest and the numerous ills which hurt so many, God calls me to show others the way. Being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and an honor, something for which to be extremely thankful and something to share.

Generous God, help me to share your gifts with all of those I meet along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Restored Once Again

…God leads me beside still waters
and restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

It was a new morning, but the same old routine. Once again, I ran from the moment I woke. Before thinking about another of my Sunday reflections, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I did two loads of laundry while picking up the house and then read the coming weekend’s scripture passages. Though I’d decided not to mention COVID-19 and our other current sources of misery by name, I also realized that each of these afflictions weigh heavily upon us all these days.

After getting a positive start on that reflection, I noticed that the rain had let up. I wasn’t certain how long this would last. However, I was certain that the red line on my thermometer had not edged beyond forty-five that day. Still, I couldn’t resist the oddly peaceful setting which lay beneath the cloudy sky. Though the beautiful fall colors which adorned my neighborhood were muted on that seemingly dismal day, the scene before me nudged me back to Psalm 23.

Though I had plenty more to do inside, I headed outdoors to walk. Every step of the way, autumn’s beauty urged me on. It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized God had restored my soul. Even on that gray-hued day, God had refreshed me.

Loving God, thank you for the many beautiful ways in which you refresh us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifted By Every Season

The earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it are all of God.

Psalm 24:1

The four seasons captivate me with their shows of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with only the slightest hint of renewed life-in-the-making. Summer brings hope-fulfilled in lush green carpets of grass and blossoms of every color. Though autumn’s sometimes gloomy days replace summer’s vibrancy too quickly, autumn’s colors captivate as well. Yet, in spite of this beauty, I find myself most taken by the coldest season of the year.

This morning’s blustering winds hinted at winter’s impending arrival. That frigid season will soon draw me in with its onslaught of snow and cold. I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow beneath my feet and I’m in outdoor heaven!

My revelry over our ever-changing seasons doesn’t dispel the twinge of frustration I experience as I peek out the window at the leaves I raked an hour ago. They’ve deserted their piles to flit and crackle in the wind. Are they laughing at my wasted effort? Mounds of snow will soon do the same. Still, I look forward to winter. Living things lying dormant beneath the snowy surface symbolize the potential to be found within each one of us. These wonderful discoveries rekindle my hope just as winter does. You see, though they may be hidden for a while, the gifts of this life are everywhere around us and within each one of us!

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts which lie within each one of us whatever the season.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Go In God’s Direction

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

I haven’t been as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d like. I can offer no worthy excuse for this because these adventures always leave me feeling better. I’ll blame my uncontrolled angst with life these days. Need I state the obvious? COVID-19 continues to threaten. Social injustice continues and non-productive politics is rampant. Much to my good fortune, something, no, Someone, nudged me toward my jacket and then out the door this morning.

In spite of the chill, as soon as I established my pace, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. This is quite miraculous considering the persistent issues I’ve listed above. Though I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I’ve seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide winter’s allotment of nuts forced me to laugh. Though I always enjoy these walks, the joy I experienced this morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting recipient of God’s generosity during these treks. The blue sky that so often beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points me in God’s direction. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in God’s direction as well. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude. Being part of God’s creation is very good reason to give thanks -even in the midst of this world’s troubles.

Generous God, help me to live every day with a grateful heart and to transform my gratitude into acts which make this world a better place for us all.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved