P… Peace!

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of God’s gifts, I savor God’s peace most of all. During the most difficult times of my life, I’ve been at least faintly aware of a measure of peace deep within me. In spite of the troubles at hand, I’ve felt convinced at some level that circumstances would evolve for the best. While I made my own ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer in the process, peace eventually eased its way to the surface. Eventually, I accepted that I could only do what I could do and that I had to leave the rest to God.

This had always been the case until some months ago when events beyond my control overwhelmed me. I’ve almost let go of my angst on many occasions and I’ve happily embraced God’s peace every time. Then, a seemingly inconsequential comment or encounter nudged me back in time. The good news is that these relapses are far less frequent. The rest of the good news is that I’ve realized once again that letting go of the past frees me to embrace God’s peace more fully.

You know, I can infuse some level of peace into every moment I’m given. I can begin by taking a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to flow from my lips. I can glance upward and within before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. I can begin every day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to erupt. Yes, I can bring God’s peace to this world with a bit of well-placed effort.

Compassionate God, help us to let go of our worries and so we can embrace your peace at every opportunity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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J… Joy!

God has sent me to bring
glad tidings to the poor…

From Luke 4:18

J is for Joy. Joy can be illusive. A recent off-the-cuff remark opened an old wound. Normally, I let go of hurtful events, burying them deep within. As of late, however, these things have resurfaced. As a result, this seemingly harmless remark sent me into a tailspin. In an effort not to succumb to my sadness, I distracted myself. I began by perusing the newspaper. This only increased my melancholy. I set aside the paper and picked up the remote. I surfed the channels until a news report caught my attention. The update confirmed that recent violence had been accomplished to “honor” God’s name. I sank into my recliner, looked out the window and asked, “Dear God, what are we doing?”

We humans have hurt one another in God’s name since the beginning of time. Before I could repeat my question, a lone dove perched on our bird bath. Almost on cue, she turned my way, seemingly to peer into my aching heart. Though a large blue jay joined her to dance on the rim of that bird bath, the dove continued to look at me. Finally, I prayed aloud, “Thank you, Lord!” Though that dove didn’t change the news that afternoon, she filled me with joy. When she eventually flew away, perhaps to spread joy elsewhere, God’s joy remained with me.

As long as we continue to nurture God’s joy within us and around us, there will be joy in this world. Rather than allowing myself to be overwhelmed by wounds old and new, I will allow God’s joy to overwhelm me. My joy-filled revelry will compel me to share that joy at every opportunity!

God of Joy, help us to focus on your joy in spite of this world’s continuing attempts to distort and disfigure it. Be with us as we bring your joy into every moment every day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Carry On… God’s Counting On You!

…be converted …that the Lord
may grant you times of refreshment…

From Acts 3:19

It’s only a week since Lent ended and four days since Easter. Still, I find myself falling into some old habits that I thought I’d left behind. When I choose something to do for Lent, my intent is to work diligently at my cause for the forty days we’re given and then to carry this through long after Easter. This was especially important to me this year as I truly hoped to bring healing to this world of ours through my efforts on behalf of loved ones both near and far, loved ones both known and unknown to me. Unfortunately, though my intent was on my mind day in and day out, I don’t feel that I was particularly productive. I spent two weeks of Lent fighting a cold which derailed my efforts a bit. This isn’t an excuse. It’s just an explanation of what happened.

The good news is that, though Lent 2019 is behind me, I can renew my efforts. Whenever I truly intend to do something that is important to me, I need to commit myself for the long haul and to make this commitment a priority. My efforts shouldn’t be limited to forty days. When it comes to improving this world or myself, my circumstances or the situations around me, it’s up to me to see to it every chance I get. So it is that I’m renewing my Lenten commitment today. I’m beginning by turning my eyes upward to ask the Lord God to be with me all the while. In the process, I find that I am indeed loved and that my efforts are much appreciated. I’ve also been assured that the same is true for every single one of us!

Dear God, thank you for your ample gifts of love and encouragement. Open my eyes just a bit more, that I may recognize these gifts whenever I need them.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

On A Mission To Heal

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a perfect storm? I’m not certain of how this evolves meteorologically. However, I can tell you that life’s circumstances sometimes collide just creatively enough to turn everything in their path topsy-turvy. Though it’s been some months since I experienced this phenomenon, I assure you that I’m annoyingly aware of the details of this encounter. At the time, I felt that I’d been wounded irreparably both spiritually and mentally. These circumstances took a physical toll as well as I actually lost my appetite! Though storms had threatened my peace of mind numerous times in the past, this was the first time they paralyzed me. I floated in limbo and functioned on autopilot. I didn’t hear people talking to me and I misplaced things I never lose. I forgot an important appointment and I almost ran out of gas. I held so tightly to my misery that I had no energy left to reach our for the healing opportunities which lingered around me.

Before you start to pray on my behalf (Though your prayers are always welcome!), please know that my perfect storm wasn’t strong enough to cause significant damage. It also failed to wash away the Persistent Presence which remained deep within me. Every time I let go of my misery to take a deep breath, that Presence whispered a thought or offered a nudge just strong enough to get my attention. Eventually, I heeded these overtures and took the hint to look beyond my pain. I turned to my favorite prayer (The Prayer of St. Francis, to be precise) for consolation. After repeating it for several days, I changed the first line from, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” to “Lord, I am an instrument of your peace.” I went on to assure God and myself that: Where there is hatred, I will sow love; where there is injury, I will pardon; when in doubt, I will have faith.” You get the idea. After making the most of my new prayer, I moved on to a musical favorite. Matt Wessel’s arrangement of Be With Me* never fails to inspire. For several days, I sang the lyrics as Matt wrote them: Be with me when I am in trouble. Be with me when I am afraid. Be with me when I am alone. Be with me Lord, I pray. Apparently, my persistence was well-placed because I eventually felt creative and energetic enough to take liberties with Matt’s lyrics as well. I sang my revised version often and loudly: You’re with me when I am in trouble. You’re with me when I am afraid. You’re with me when I am alone. You’re with me, Lord. You always stay! Finally, I embraced God’s loving presence within me and the healing which had patiently lingered around me took root.

I share all of this on the First Sunday of Lent because perfect storms threaten too often throughout each of our lives. For me, Lent 2019 provides an opportunity to reassess, regroup and refocus my efforts. This year in particular, I’m on a mission to dispel the storms around me and to bring healing to those effected as best I can. Each one of us is invited to do the same. God’s enduring presence within us will nudge us along and ignite that store of energy which we may have forgotten is there. With renewed spirits, we can look outside of ourselves to those who need healing most. We can turn to whatever resource we find inspiring to fuel us along the way. As for me, Jesus’ life among us does the trick. Before Jesus began his public ministry, he retreated to the desert for forty days. When he emerged from that time of intimacy with God, Jesus was ready to embrace whatever lay ahead. During the three years which followed, Jesus revealed God’s love and God’s concern though his healing efforts at every opportunity. Jesus invited all who would hear him, just as he invites you and me, to do the same. Don’t underestimate your healing abilities in this regard. My poor husband was certainty discouraged as he tried to help me to navigate that perfect storm a few months ago. Still, he hung in there all the while. When Mike let go of his uncertainty, he freed his arms to embrace me when I needed him most.

As Lent 2019 begins, my perfect storm has subsided and healing has taken root. Sadly, at the same time, loved ones near and far continue to cry out for God’s healing touch. Lonely hearts flirt with despair, while families endure economic uncertainty and unrest at their dinner tables. Addiction and intolerance overwhelm, while our political system succumbs to a desire for power rather than to its civic responsibilities. We who are God’s family continue to suffer the effects of abuse and cover-ups by a church hierarchy which was charged with healing this world as Jesus did. This is the reason it is so important that you and I bring healing wherever we find ourselves. The smallest effort in seemingly insignificant circumstances will make an important difference to someone. As I wrote above, don’t underestimate your healing abilities in this regard. You do make a difference to those around you as only you can. Just ask Mike! Don’t underestimate God’s healing abilities either. Whatever storms are brewing within you and around you, God remains to dispel the clouds, to still the waters and to comfort you. Trust me. When you let go of the pain and embrace God’s presence, healing will come!

*Copyright 2003 MWM; cited with Matt Wessel’s permission

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

P is for Peace

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of my heart’s desires, I think I long for and relish peace most of all. A recent internal bout (which wasn’t at all peaceful) intensified this longing. In the past, even during the most difficult of times, I’ve been at least faintly aware of a remnant of peace deep within me. In spite of my troubles, I’d remained convinced at some level that my circumstances would evolve for the best. This time, however, my ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer seemed not to help. After weeks of misery, I accepted that I couldn’t do much more to help myself. Finally, I directed my efforts upward and inched my way in God’s direction. I placed my troubles into God’s hands and eased myself into God’s embrace. When I let go of my sadness, I made room for God’s peace to enter in.

Though I’ll have to wait for heaven to enjoy the psalmist’s peaceful image which I cite above, I can find some level of peace in every moment I’m given. I need only to acknowledge God’s presence in the midst of it. Perhaps my New Year’s efforts should include taking a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to overwhelm me. Perhaps these efforts should include a glance upward and a glance inward before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. Perhaps I need to begin each day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to enter in. Perhaps I can bring a glimpse of the psalmist’s image into this world and into my own heart after all.

Compassionate God, help us to set aside our worries and to focus upon your peaceful presence as we embrace each new day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Healing Love

“I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in my name.”

Zephaniah 3:13

The other day, I was impatient and on edge. Nothing in particular had gone wrong at the time. Still, I felt as though the entire world was in trouble and that it was up to me to fix it all. Sadly, I felt as though I was in trouble as well. It’s odd that these feelings overwhelmed me on a Sunday morning at church. Just a week earlier, at the same time and in the same place, I’d found a smile for everyone I encountered and I’d felt very much at peace.

On that seemingly peace-less day, I tried to cheer myself by voicing my gratitude for the many encouraging and inspiring people around me. They always manage to raise me up when I seem destined to sink into the depths of despair. Fortunately for me, two of them appeared when I needed them most. The first thanked me for writing for our parish bulletin each week. He told me that my words never fail to touch his heart. The second told me that she didn’t know what our parish would do without my husband and me. I admit that she brought a tear to my eye as I wasn’t feeling particularly helpful at the time.

During the drive home, I acknowledged that my misery was minimal in the grand scheme of things. I also acknowledged that this world has been in misery throughout human history. No one will ever fix it all! All any of us can do is to place our trust in God’s love and do our best to share that love wherever we are.

Loving God,be with us as we transform our little corners of this world with love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved