The Gift of Family

Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Psalm 145:13

My sister recently emailed regarding an upcoming family reunion of sorts. Though the event isn’t scheduled until December, Rita sent her note early so the date can be etched in stone on each of our calendars. This gathering will include all of us first cousins and our spouses for an afternoon of reminiscing and catching up. This event never disappoints because of the welcoming setting which draws the best of our family lore from those present.

Over the years, tears have threatened often during these gatherings. As we share our common memories, we can’t help acknowledging our many loved ones who have passed on from this life. These include not only all of our parents, but several cousins as well. I habitually smile my tears away as I consider the significant impact each of these special people has had on my life. “We’re definitely a unique family,” I tell myself, “mostly because of the love which binds us together no matter what.”

As I consider the guest-list to whom Rita sent her email, I must acknowledge that my cousins and I are the first to admit that not one of us is perfect. Still, we wouldn’t trade our family ties for anything. Though the December weather promises cold temperatures outdoors, the atmosphere inside will keep all of us warm. Yes, my dear cousins and I have been deeply blessed. We’ve been given a taste of God’s intent for us all. We’ve experienced unconditional love firsthand.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for revealing your affection in the people you have given me to love and in those who so generously love me in return.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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All God’s Poor

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Psalm 69:33-35

This is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis’s transition from a life of comfort to a life of poverty was absolute. I write “absolute” because, after leaving everything else behind, Francis stripped himself naked as he walked away from his family’s wealth. With that, Francis embraced the lot of the poorest of the poor who lacked even clothing enough to cover themselves. Though I won’t detail all that happened next, know that Francis remained true to his commitment to the poor for the rest of his life.

When I consider the poor, my thoughts turn to those with dire material needs. Francis’s lifelong generosity inspires my own efforts to assist them. As I reflect further, I remind myself that God’s definition of “the poor” is more inclusive. Some among us are materially rich, but also experience need deep within where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing secure lives, the rest of us sometimes lose our grip on the things which are most important. Francis of Assisi inspired many in this situation to turn their attention from their own treasures to wealth as God sees it.

We’re all counted among God’s poor at one time or another. This much-loved group includes us whenever this life robs us of the things we need. Whether we’re lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parents, we’re in need. Whether we’re besought by a stack of bills or by the demons within us, we’re in need. Francis of Assisi would respond by offering us what we need at the moment and by insisting that, in spite of our other needs, we always have enough of God’s love to get by. I wholeheartedly agree.

Loving God, you recognize our poverty in all of its forms. Thank you for your generous response.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loosening My Grip

See what love God has bestowed on us…
From 1 John 3:1

A storm is brewing just beyond my window. In spite of this past summer’s flooding, a recent string of dry days makes this a welcome occurrence. The meteorologist who offered an explanation of this change in the weather made little sense to me. Still, I listened gratefully to his promise of rain.

It occurs to me that my knowledge of human nature exceeds my knowledge of the weather. Sadly, I sometimes set aside my wisdom in this regard by inserting myself into situations over which I have little or no control. Though my intentions are pure at the onset, my ineffective efforts eventually get the best of me. Even when the signs are crystal clear, I push when I should let go and let God take care.

In an effort to do better in this regard, I’m taking a lesson from the storm brewing overhead and I’m taking a walk. Without any involvement on my part, its rains will fall and provide new life to the grass and the other greenery I enjoy along the way. As I walk, I realize that, without any involvement on my part, God will oversee the troubling situation at hand. Because the urge to do something remains, I’ll pray.

Patient God, give me the wisdom to let go and to let you when necessary.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Promise Fulfilled

“Amen, amen, I say to you… the dead will hear the voice of God.”
From John 5:28

I believe I make peace with he passing of my loved ones for good reason. From very early on, my parents assured me that those who neared death were destined for absolute happiness and health in heaven. As I grew older and came to appreciate the suffering of those left behind, I held on to my parents’ promises and my own conviction that heaven is indeed worth the pain of this temporary separation. Over the years, I’ve found further consolation in my faith and in the wonderful accounts offered by those gifted with Near Death Experiences. These people who have tasted life after this life assure us all that my parents’ promises from long ago are well-founded.

A close encounter with this phenomenon came at the hands of my mom. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a prognosis of four more months. After acknowledging that she had lived a good and long life, my mother’s only wish was to be independent for as long as possible. As it happened, she remained miraculously pain-free and medication-free, except for her insulin, until the end. It was during her final week among us that my mom mentioned the beautiful voices. She also remarked that her sisters were waiting for her. The morning of the day she passed, I asked my mom if she was afraid. Her face glowed when she answered, “Oh no, Mary. It’s beautiful over there!”

Loving God, thank you for these amazing glimpses of the wonder which lies ahead.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Peace!

Suddenly, without warning, Jesus stood before them and said, “Peace!”
Matthew 28:9

The official first day of autumn is less than two weeks away. I can’t help smiling over the approach of this new season. Though my absolute favorite meteorological phenomenon is snow, I’m anxious to see the colorful array of fall colors which promises to awe all who will take the time to look. Eventually, those leaves will give way to the wind and cold. They’ll find their places over the soil. There they will lie in wait for their new work of fertilizing the fruits of springtime.

My autumn musing hints at my slowly emerging expectation of better things to come. The single sentence I cite above is from Matthew’s gospel. Two days after Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and a friend went to Jesus’ tomb. Since Passover and the Sabbath had passed, they were free to tend to Jesus’ body which was buried quickly due to the holy days. When the women arrived, they found that the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus’ body was gone. On their way to tell the disciples what had occurred, they encountered someone who appeared to be a gardener. When that man uttered the single word “Peace!” Mary Magdalene knew exactly who he was.

It occurs to me that I must never forget the promise of that day. When Jesus greeted his two friends with “Peace!”, he intended this sentiment to echo through two millenniums and then some to you, to me and to all the world!

Dear God, help me always to remember that your peace is offered every day of every season to us all.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Jump In!

He drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick.”
From Matthew 8:17

I sat mindlessly tapping my fingers on the table. I turned my attention to some troubling circumstances for which I see no end in sight. As I considered my options, I realized that there is little I can do to alleviate much of anything in this regard.

Just outside my window, a large robin plopped himself into our bird bath. He fluttered his wings for several seconds, splashing water every which way. Though I knew he couldn’t hear me, I remarked to my feathered friend, “It certainly doesn’t take much to make you happy!” Even before I finished this sentence, I realized that the same is true for all of us. Just as that water stands, available for my robin friend whenever he chooses to enjoy it, all that we need awaits us as well.

You know, being loved and cared for is the best any of us can hope for. Being loved and cared for makes everything we encounter doable. Though branches and boulders clutter the road before us, we manage to climb over them or to plod around them because we’re not alone. Though we may only occasionally choose to bathe in the waters of God’s loving care, God remains twenty-four/seven to offer them just the same.

Dear God, give us the wisdom of my robin friend that we may also bathe in the waters of your care.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved