The Sea of Galilee

As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee he watched two brothers,
Simon now known as Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea.
They were fishermen.

From Matthew 4:18

On our second evening in Israel, we checked into a hotel which rests on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This was the same place we had stayed the year before which assured me that I’d hear the waves if I listened carefully. Though I’ve heard the surf in the darkness many times, this was special. I was within earshot of what I considered to be Jesus’ lake.

The following day, I would sail that lake. I would see the images Jesus saw from every vantage point. Beyond the buildings which occupy some of the shoreline and hillsides, the views would be the same as they were in Jesus’ day. I allowed the sounds of Jesus’ lake to coax me to sleep that night. In my slumber, I imagined the surprise in those fishermen whom Jesus called to his side. I imagined the courage it took to leave their fishing business to follow this young teacher into uncharted waters. I imagined myself sneaking alongside them in the shadow, waiting for the right moment to profess my willingness to follow, too.

Today, I find myself in the right moment to profess my willingness to follow. This second day of Lent 2018, I will open my eyes to see what Jesus sees from every vantage point. I will also open my heart to respond to what I find as Jesus would.

Dear God, be with us as we do our best to follow Jesus, to see what he sees and to respond with love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Traveling Light

“He instructed them to
take nothing on the journey
but a walking stick…”

Mark 6:8

Packing for this year’s trek to Israel was much less complicated than last year’s effort. This time, I weeded out all of those extra “what if” items which I never used. This time, I brought along only what I needed. In the end, my resolve to simplify paid off. I had less to carry and less to worry about. This freed me to concentrate on the people I met and places I had traveled to explore.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when he sent out his disciples with no luggage. Perhaps he didn’t want them to waste a moment of their time or a bit of their energy on the unimportant. Jesus hoped they would make the most of their travels among us at every opportunity.

It occurs to me that God invites us to travel lightly all of the time, not only when we’re embarking upon a vacation or an adventure of some sort. When we amble into the moment at hand with our hands free and our hearts free, we free ourselves to embrace the treasures which await us.

Generous God, thank you for this amazing world and the awesome people who fill it. Be with us as we explore the gifts we encounter every day along the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

What’s The Attraction?

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

Mark 1:17-18

Though we celebrated Christmas 2017 three weeks ago, I can’t help smiling when I recall my experience at church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Because this wasn’t a “business as usual” weekend, I left my post at our parish information desk to mingle with those arriving to attend the Christmas Mass. I chatted with more than one hundred people and wished a Merry Christmas to at least one thousand others. I felt as though I was in the midst of a grand family reunion. Indeed, I was!

I used to wonder why the disciples walked away from everything to follow Jesus. What was it that drew them in? Simon and Andrew were burly, hard-working men. Still, they left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Perhaps Jesus simply couldn’t contain the wonder within him. Perhaps just being nearby was enough to draw people in. The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely, Each one found the courage to approach Jesus. This was in spite of the fact that everyone else in the vicinity avoided them at all costs.

Though I’ve never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I can’t imagine my life without his influence. Perhaps this is the reason I enjoyed Christmas 2017 so fully. Every Merry Christmas and every smile drew me more deeply into the miracle at hand. God’s love and God’s presence took on human form that day. No wonder Jesus was so irresistible to the disciples. No wonder Jesus is so irresistible to me!

Loving God, thank you for abiding within us and for loving us. Thank you for sending Jesus who transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

To Serve With Love

Stephen was a man filled with grace and power,
who worked great wonders and signs among the people.

Acts of the Apostles 6:8

In the event that you were too busy to go online yesterday, CHRISTMAS BLESSINGS TO YOU! I hope that your Christmas preparations came to fruition with great love! Today, there’s nothing more to do than to continue to enjoy yesterday’s successes and to forget the rest. As I consider my own list of positives, I give thanks. I’ve been generously blessed. At the same time, I’m opting to forget the things which weren’t to my liking and are out of my control. I’ll work on my own contribution to those negatives in the new year!

With that, I turn my thoughts to today, December 26, The Feast of Stephen. Stephen is among the first chosen to serve as deacon to assist the apostles in carrying out Jesus’ work. While the apostles tended to preaching, Stephen and those like him tended to serving the corporal needs of the people. They saw to it that widows and orphans were fed and that those who needed care received it. Today, I hope to continue my Christmas observance by engaging in good deeds as well. The truth is that we’re all called to be good and just souls who live lives of service just as Stephen did.

On this feast of the first deacon, I offer my thanks to the many deacons among us for all they do for us and for those in need!

Dear God, thank you for the gifts of Christmas 2017, the Gift of the First Christmas and the gift of those who live the Christmas Spirit throughout the year.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Travel Lightly

He instructed them to
take nothing on the journey
but a walking stick…

Mark 6:8

Last week, my husband took a friend to a nearby brewery to celebrate his birthday. This friend shares his birthday with our grandson, so my husband had very good reason to partake of a bit of ale with him in celebration of them both! At the same time, my sisters and I gathered for one of their birthdays. Though we’d each had a good time, Mike was excited to share that our friend is as interested in travel as he is. As Mike elaborated on this revelation, it occurred to me that my dear husband was already making plans…

The truth is that during the planning stage of any of our earlier trips, I have bitten the bullet and allowed myself to be dragged along. The further truth is that my husband’s wanderlust guides his planning with such precision that the results have never disappointed. We both enjoy a wonderful time once we reach our destination regardless of where it is. The planning, packing and other preparations are what drove me crazy. I was our trip to Israel which changed all of that. Finally, I realized that I needed to focus less on the inconvenience of “getting there” and more on the treasure to be found when we arrive.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when he sent out his disciples with no luggage. Perhaps he didn’t want anything to keep them from making the most of their travels among us.

Dear God, thank you for my persistent husband who continues to plan much-needed times away for us. Bless him with more wonderful trips and bless me with the courage to enjoy this beautiful world and its wonderful people.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Attraction

They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:18

The other day, while sharing my joy over finally adhering to a reasonable writing schedule, a friend asked, “Where do you get all of those stories?” I laughed as I recalled my mom’s designation “Little Big Ears” in response to my uncanny ability to attend to everything the adults around me had to say. Much to my mom’s dismay, I filed this information away and too often repeated it at the wrong time. The good news is that I eventually developed some discretion. While my listening skills remained intact, my judgment regarding what to and not to repeat improved immensely. You will read none of our family secrets here!

Another bit of good news is that I’ve also attended to God’s story since childhood. I attribute this phenomenon to my parents who shared their faith freely. Their stories, a very engaging children’s bible and religion classes at school enriched my understanding of God who somehow has always seemed present to me.

When I consider how quickly the disciples walked away from their daily lives to follow Jesus, I understand what it was that drew them in. Simon and Andrew, strong, burly and hard-working men, left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Martha and Mary opened their home and their hearts to Jesus even when their brother Lazarus died. Though Mary Magdalene was a woman of means in her community, her devotion to Jesus was complete. Jesus could not contain the wonder within him and just being nearby was enough to draw people nearer. Yes, I understand the attraction.

Generous God, thank you for the gift of yourself and for the gift of Jesus. You have transformed my life from the moment I first heard your name.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved