Why Not Now?

They carried to him all those afflicted
with various diseases and racked with pain…
He cured them all.

From Matthew 4:24

My sister and I attended a family baby shower last weekend. Seeing our extended family elicited fond memories of our parents, grandparents and siblings who’ve passed. Though I’m certain of their current bliss, the sting of these losses remains with me. I can still recall the details of their last days among us.

When the people we love are sick, it’s difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. When depression, addiction or a misguided heart brings them pain, we wonder why this occurs. When their days are numbered, the inevitable isn’t easy to accept. When we recall the healing powers of Jesus, we’re tempted to ask “Why not now?”

When I ponder this and similar questions, I consider Jesus’ experience as one of us. He struggled with trials and tribulations just as we do. If that wasn’t enough, he was nailed to a cross as well. Was Jesus capable of doing all of this because he knew what was coming afterward? I admit that I also know of the things to come. If I’m honest with myself, I must admit that this should be enough to see me through. Our loved ones in the hereafter tell us again and again that this is so. It’s time I listen!

Dear God, when the going gets rough, nudge us along with reminders of the things to come.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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The Magdalene

Mary called the Magdalene…
and many others who were assisting them out of their means.

From Luke 8:2-3

I’ve been a fan of Mary Magdalene since childhood. I’m the offspring of a strong woman who endured her share of troubles, yet embraced this life as only she could. In spite of the uncertainties which lay before her much of the time, my mother consistently put her best foot forward and carried on. When I first learned of Mary Magdalene, I imagined her with my mother’s strength and seeming fearlessness.

Though I was very young, I understood the difficulties faced by women who go it alone. Mary Magdalene was a woman of means, but she suffered from a serious malady. First Century Jews considered such conditions to be the result of possession by demons or serious sinfulness. Either way, there wasn’t much sympathy to be had from others. Still, Mary managed to maintain her position and her wealth. When she and Jesus met, Mary’s cure resulted. Eternally grateful for this turn of events and smitten by Jesus message, Mary soon began to support Jesus in his ministry.

I recall my mother in “provider mode” as she eked out grocery money, fashioned much of our clothing by sewing new things or re-styling the old and searched for our shoes on sale. I see Mary Magdalene in “provider mode” as well. She skillfully tended to the food and lodging needs of Jesus and his disciples while carefully attending to his every word. Perhaps this is the reason Mary Magdalene loved Jesus so.

Dear God, you entrusted your message to Jesus and he shared it through everything he said and did. Help me to bring your message to those you have given me to love, just as Jesus did.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Faithful Attraction

Jesus said to them, “Come after me;
I will make you fishers of men.”
They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:17-18

When I consider how quickly the disciples walked away from everything to follow Jesus, I wonder what it was that drew them in. Simon and Andrew seemed to be strong, burly, hard-working men. Still, they left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Perhaps this God-made-man simply could not contain the wonder within him. Perhaps just being nearby was enough to draw people to Jesus. The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with the most unexpected people. Lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely all found the courage to approach Jesus. This was in spite of the fact that everyone else in the vicinity avoided these outcasts like the plague.

Though I have never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I cannot imagine my life without his influence. The things Jesus shared about God’s love for us, God’s mercy and God’s forgiveness drew me in very early on. That Jesus demonstrated these things in everything he said and did keeps me convinced. When I consider the Jesus I have come to know, I understand the attraction of the poor souls who sought him out. It must have been overwhelmingly amazing to walk with a visible Jesus because it is at least that for me.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of Jesus. He transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Hears Us

“Lord, if you will do so, you can cure me.”
Jesus stretched out his hand to touch him
and said, “I will do it. Be cured.”

Luke 5:12-13

I learned very early on that it is always appropriate to bring our troubles to God. Sometimes, my family did so en masse. We gathered in our living room to pray when illness struck a loved one or to pray for a happy death if a recovery was not in the making. Through the years, I have become so convinced that God is aware of my every need that I rarely pray for myself. It is when those around me are suffering that I blast the heavens mercilessly until I have some assurance that all will be well -at least in God’s eyes.

Over the past year, my often overly zealous demands have been offered on numerous occasions for those I have been given to love. Sometimes, the results have been predictable. At other times, God has surprised me and all concerned. In every case, I found myself speaking with the Almighty as I would with my best friend. I never wondered if God was listening. Why would I question the obvious?

Dear God, you attend to each one of us every moment of every day. Make us attentive and responsive to one another -just like you!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hope Today and Always

The persistent sunshine pierced the darkness in our bedroom to announce the beautiful morning. Though our shades normally prevent such intrusions, the sun made its way in to invite us to embrace the new day. While my dear husband headed to the kitchen for his coffee, I raised the shades to admire the crisp November morning. I told myself, “Today, I will walk!” I try to walk at least three times each week, though my recent efforts have been sketchy at best. I do this because I enjoy walking and because I want to remain in shape enough to play with our grandchildren. Though our granddaughters do most of their playing upright these days, our little grandson’s tummy time requires my presence at floor level. In the interest of remaining somewhat limber, I ate a quick breakfast, grabbed my jacket and headed outdoors. I retraced my customary route through the neighborhood, past the post office and into the next subdivision. As I walked on, it occurred do me that less than fifty days remain in Year 2015. Where has the time has gone, Lord?

The past several months have brought change. Our younger son and his wife became parents in August when Little Daniel was born. Danny’s early arrival resulted in numerous trips to the hospital where we worried and waited until he was big enough to come home. In the meantime, our older son and his wife sent all of their daughters to school. Though the youngest is still in preschool, she now attends five days per week like her older sisters. Soccer, dance and religious ed are part of their family schedule as well. Fortunately, visits with Grandpa and Grandma are also included. On that peaceful mid-November day, I gave thanks that life for us has been joyful for the most part these days. At the same time, I admitted that I felt somewhat out-of-place in the peacefulness of it all. In the midst of that thought, a crisp breeze made its way up my sleeves and sent a chill down my spine. Are you trying to tell me something, Lord?

As I ambled further, I gazed at the bright blue sky. I acknowledged that this sky takes on a different hue when it reigns ominously over the troubled days which beset us all. I considered those who aren’t feeling very much at peace these days. A friend’s brother endures terminal illness. Another’s dad does the same. A husband battles medical complications which should never have taken root. A woman battles with less tangible, but equally painful demons. A new arrival in the Mideast adjusts to the sound of gunfire. A lonely friend continues to hope for love, though with less fervor these days. One of the working poor wonders how long her struggle with daily expenses will persist. A newlywed asks, “Is this all there is?” That chill took hold once again. Are you telling me something, Lord?

As I rounded the corner toward home, I remembered that scriptures waited to inspire and this reflection waited to be written. Still, I stopped to admire the blue sky once more. Generations had come and gone under that sky. More will do the same in the years and centuries to come. Joyful and sweet days will continue to punctuate human history, just as days of despair and sadness will leave their marks. As I considered the tough times in my own life and the lives of those I have been given to love, I realized that even in my sorrow I have been blessed. As I considered this, a strong breeze disrupted my neighbor’s neatly piled leaves. They swirled high in the air and then nestled on the sidewalk as though that was precisely where they were meant to be. The trying times in our lives swirl us high into the air as well. Like those leaves, we recover to live on. Like those leaves, we find ourselves precisely where we’re meant to be. I finally got it. You are telling me something, Lord!

When I sat at my keyboard to write, it occurred to me that this life often brings reason to fret, to question and to mourn. To add to our suffering, the difficulties which shake our world seem never to be well-timed. When we think we cannot bear the weight of another burden, something more occurs which threatens our collapse. It is within these moments that something –or is it Someone?– from within takes over. We find ourselves on autopilot, we persist and we endure. Jesus understood these difficulties well. It is no wonder that he couldn’t pass an outcast without offering his help. Jesus forgave sins, mended broken hearts and cured maladies of every sort. Jesus offered hope where there was none. The scriptures (Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 and Mark 13:24-32) assure us that God offers the same hope to you and to me. God’s constant companionship and God’s promise of the things to come make this life more than doable. Lord, you make this life worth living!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Worth It All

They carried to him all those afflicted
with various diseases and racked with pain:
the possessed, the lunatics, the paralyzed.
He cured them all.

Matthew 4:24

A recent baby shower and planning for our new grandchild has been accompanied by poignant memories of my loved ones passed. Though I am certain of their current bliss, the sting of their departures remains with me. My parents’ and my sister’s and brother’s absence is tangible today. I cannot help recalling the details of their last days among us.

When the people we love are sick, it is difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. When depression, addiction or a misguided heart brings them pain, we wonder why this occurs. When their days are numbered, the inevitable is difficult to accept. We recall the healing powers of Jesus and ask “Why not now?”

When I find myself struggling with such questions, I consider Jesus’ experience as one of us. He struggled with trials and tribulations just as we do. If that wasn’t enough, he hung on a cross as well. Was Jesus capable of doing all of this because he knew what was coming afterward? I admit that I also know of the things to come. If I am honest with myself, I must admit that this is enough to see me through. Our loved ones in the hereafter tell us again and again that this is so!

Dear God, when they going gets rough, nudge us along with reminders of the things to come.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved