Wait With Joy!

May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.

Psalm 72:17

In just ten days, Christmas will be here. My husband has stolen away for a few well-deserved hours at the health club. I’ve completed the tasks at hand so I’m taking advantage of the quiet house. I settled myself in the living room where I had an unobstructed view of our Christmas Tree. Since childhood, this has been my favorite place to await Christmas Day.

I basked in the sparkling lights and inhaled the scent of pine. After a whimsical peek at the tree’s eclectic array of ornaments, my eyes rested upon the crèche below it. The tiny figurines huddled there give life to the greatest story ever told. I recalled childhood discussions with my mother regarding this amazing birth and the lessons offered by the good sisters and priests. They underscored all that my mother had told me about the baby boy in whom heaven and earth came together that first Christmas. His story changed the world forever. During those quiet moments before our Christmas Tree, I realized anew that his story changed my own life forever as well.

On my way to the study, I found myself humming Happy Birthday. Yes, Happy Birthday to Jesus! The gifts of his life and lessons continue to nudge us a bit closer to all that God hopes for us. Now there is reason to rejoice!

Gracious God, I can never thank you enough for the gift of your presence in my life. Gift each of your children with a tangible sense of your presence and a heart sensitive enough to respond.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Peace Patrol

O Lord, you have been our refuge through all generations.
Psalm 90:1 21:23

When I taught, I prided myself in remaining calm in the face of misbehavior. My students apparently agreed as indicated by their subsequent compliance. Still, I admit to allowing my anger to get the best of me the morning I heard that a student I’d taught a year earlier had died. The sting of his loss remains…

Though he had a very kind heart, Lee had also been taken in by the allure of the streets just like some of his older family members. This time, Lee drove a van that his friends had loaded with stolen bicycles. A police chase resulted in the accident which took Lee’s life. At school the following morning, I heard one of Lee’s classmates bragging that he had been in the van during that chase and that he flew out the door and ran away when the van tipped on its side. Before he could finish his yarn, I called him over. “Who do you think you are?” I wailed. “Lee died last night and you were nowhere near that van. Don’t you dare try to make yourself look cool because of Lee’s death!”

I didn’t realize the power of my words. Suddenly, one could literally hear a pin drop in the once noisy hallway. While the target of my ire crept into his classroom with his eyes cast to the floor, others who knew Lee stopped to offer their condolences over the friend we had all lost. These kindnesses returned some semblance of peace to our now incomplete world.

Dear God, Lee rests in your everlasting peace, I know. Be with us as we work to bring a hint of that peace to one another.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seeds of Peace

Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted.

Psalm 80:16

As this second week of Advent comes to an end, I continue my effort to bring God’s peace to my little corner of the world. Our Christmas shopping is nearly finished and I’m most grateful. Still, I’ve had a bit of trouble maintaining the peace within and around me. It’s so difficult these days!

My little family and I are generously blessed. I express my gratitude to the Lord God daily –sometimes several times a day- for this. I also cannot count how often I give thanks for the little things which compel me to smile so often. Still, others for whom I care deeply suffer greatly. Add to this the woes of our world and you see why I’m troubled. I wonder what I can do to alleviate any of this.

So it is that I pray for peace within those I know and in the rest of this world. When nothing seems to change, my impatience compels me to order the Almighty to take care of things. “I wouldn’t talk to you this way,” I say, “if you’d fix this!” It’s usually after such a conversation that I run into a loved one. He or she shares that, though all isn’t well, God is within and they’re at peace. The same is true with the rest of the world. When I’m most tempted to lose hope, a random peacemaker across the ocean makes the nightly news. It’s then that I kneel to apologize and to renew my promise to share God’s peace.

Patient God, thank you for trusting each of us with your peace.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share God’s Peace

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

Psalm 145:10

As I passed the calendar in our kitchen this morning, I was tempted to count the days until Christmas. Since my math skills allowed me to rely on subtraction rather than counting, I used the time saved to sit before our Christmas Tree.

Ornaments which mark our grandchildren’s births caught my eye. Our granddaughters celebrate the wait for Christmas by attending to their Advent Calendars. Each day, they take turns placing a little stuffed figure onto the calendar’s Nativity setting. On December 25, Baby Jesus will complete the scene. Our little grandson observes the season by sitting before his family Christmas Tree with great interest. Just as that tree transformed his living room, it is also transforming his heart.

As for you and me… The troubles of this world quickly distract us from the joyful anticipation of Advent. Whether these things affect our own families and communities or others far from us, they detract greatly from the sense of peace which should characterize our wait for Christmas. Though we cannot change these things alone, we can all do something to improve the state of those around us. It seems to me that the best way to make the most of Advent is to find a way to bring a measure of peace to every day that leads us to December 25.

Loving God, though we cannot make everything right, please help each of us to do something to bring peace to our own little corners of this world.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gift Them with Hope

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!

Isaiah 35:4

Something nudged me toward the obituary section of the paper. Much to my surprise, I encountered the name of one of my former students. “How can this be?” I asked myself. “Robert is only 51.”

As I recalled vivid memories of this young man as a third grader, noise outdoors drew me to the window. I looked past our lawn to the school across the street. A group of children had come out for recess. I smiled as I imagined Robert doing the same. Though he could sometimes be a handful, Robert had a very good heart. My thoughts turned to my own classroom and the Christmas celebrations I’d enjoyed there.

Like Robert, most of my students counted the days to Christmas with great relish. Robert enjoyed the holidays with his family. At the same time, a few of his classmates dreaded this departure from their daily routines. These children lived in poverty. School lunches were the best of their meals and our simple class parties were the best of their Christmases. Too often, the lack of material treasures in their lives paled in the shadow of their lack of love and security. The adults around them had their own troubles which made Christmas a low priority. As for Robert, he had a kind heart. How often he looked beyond his own mischief to extend kindness to his less fortunate friends. Robert never teased one of them!

As I continued to watch the carefree youngsters on the playground across the street, I prayed for Robert, that eternity will bring him a plethora of Christmas-like days. I also prayed for children in need, that somehow the rest of us find ways to provide for them.

Dear God, help us to bring hope to this in need as best we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Get Ready!

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse…

Isaiah 11:1

Advent 2017 begins this Sunday. Once again, we’re given four weeks to engage in joyful anticipation of Christmas. Most years, it’s extremely difficult for me to find the time to truly and joyfully anticipate this feast. There’s just so much to do! As I look ahead to the next twenty-six days, I’ve decided to try to recapture the simplified life-style of my youth. This year, I’m going to prioritize, organize and enjoy the wait for Christmas. Though I realize I addressed this very thing quite recently, it bears repeating. It is in all of our best interest to find a do-able, productive and happy path to Christmas Day.

Will you join me on this path by seeking a bit of simplification as well? Though none of us can shirk all of our responsibilities, we can all probably let a few things fall to the wayside. Trust me. Once you start, this will become far easier than you expect!

As for me, I’ve already urged my dear husband in this direction. We’re starting to decorate a few days earlier and we’re already assembling our shopping list. We’re simplifying menus and preparing our Christmas cards earlier as well. Yes, this business of simplifying life can become habitual! Enjoy!

Loving God, help us to take joyful steps to Christmas Day.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved