My Little Faith

Jesus said to them,
“Why are you terrified,
O you of little faith?”

Matthew 8:24

I admit it. I become terrified, too.

When I was a little girl, I envied the disciples. I was convinced that if I’d had the opportunity to walk with Jesus every day, I would have made much better use of the time than Jesus’ contemporaries did. I would have had no doubt that God could and would take care of everything I needed.

Well, it seems to me that I have asserted again and again in my writing that this is precisely the case. God has generously revealed Divine Love to me and for me throughout my life. I know that God loves us and cares for us. I know that God knows us better than we know ourselves and that God knows our every need. Though I believe that I truly know these things, when the chips are down, I sometimes join the disciples in being terrified.

The good news in all of this is that, in spite of their shaky faith, the disciples never forgot where to turn. They always cried out to Jesus when they were in trouble. I’m happy to say that in spite of my sometimes shaky faith, I also never forget where to turn -and neither should you. Though we cannot see God as tangibly as the disciples saw Jesus, God is always with us!

Loving God, I know I’m repeating myself here, but thank you for listening and for remaining with me in everything!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Leave the Timing to God

“How does that concern of yours involve me?
My hour has not yet come.”

From John 2:4

“Timing is everything,” so they say…

I’ve often scratched my head while entering a particular place at a particular time wondering why I was there. Though uncertain of my purpose, I’ve continued on, full speed ahead. More often than not, as these encounters unfolded, I realized that I was precisely where I was meant to be. On a few occasions, I’ve met someone who became a friend. At other times, I’ve chatted with someone just long enough to be of help. I’ve even simply enjoyed myself unexpectedly only to leave fully rejuvenated as a result. Some of these encounters have transformed a fleeting interest into a long-term commitment.

A lifetime of such serendipitous adventures has convinced me there aren’t many coincidences. I simply can’t accept that our lives are lived at the mercy of chance. Now, when I find myself questioning my involvement with the people who cross my path or tasks which seem to demand my attention for no good reason, I don’t have to wait long for an explanation. God has made an art of providing me and all of us opportunities to serve and to be served. Somehow, we’re all given chance after chance to be our best in the ways we’re needed most. When we embrace those opportunities, we’ll make life better for someone else and for ourselves.

Dear God, thank you for this life. Though I am never quite sure of where I am headed, you always know what lies before me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifted with Heavenly Peace

A few weeks ago, Grandpa Mike and I spent the day with our grandsons. Big Brother Danny attended preschool that morning while Grandpa and I entertained little Ben. Though this five-month-old smiles perpetually, especially for Grandpa, he didn’t do so that morning. He was hungry and tired and simply wanted Mommy to feed him and rock him to sleep. Mommy had done this just before she left for the day. Afterward, poor Ben had to rely upon me and my meager resources to soothe him. Grandpa warmed a bottle while I rocked Ben and cooed my best. I sang a string of little songs which I habitually compose on the run for whichever grandchild is on hand. Though Ben normally smiles in return, that day, he howled all the louder. When I’d sapped my creativity, I walked Ben to the Christmas Tree with the hope that the lights would distract him from his woe. On the way, I sang Silent Night. By the time I voiced “all is calm, all is bright” Ben stopped crying and began to coo in response. Finally, Ben’s milk was warm. Though he normally guzzles these liquid feasts as quickly as possible, this time Ben slowly savored every drop. As for me, I continued to sing Silent Night until Ben finished that bottle and went to sleep. As I lay him in his crib, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for Ben’s willingness to “…sleep in heavenly peace.”

I tiptoed back to the family room where Grandpa was sitting in the quiet. Danny’s preschool bus wouldn’t bring him home for another hour, so we basked in “heavenly peace” as well. We chatted about the frenzy of the days ahead, finalized our Christmas lists and tweaked our shopping plans. In spite of the uneasiness in the world-at-large around us, we voiced our gratitude for the blessings of our family, our friends and one another. Throughout that brief reprieve, we savored every minute of the heavenly peace we’d found…

Not long after we celebrate this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we’ll hug our loved ones and greet those we meet with a joyful “Merry Christmas!” In spite of the imperfections of this life which will persist through December 24 and 25, we’ll embrace the heavenly peace we encounter. That peace will come in the company of our loved ones. That peace will come as our sometimes imperfect Christmas preparations evolve into perfect expressions of our affection for one another. Though our human quirks will punctuate our Christmas festivities far more often than our Hallmark expectations prefer, heavenly peace will remain intact. We will savor that peace just as Little Ben savors every drop of his milk because it is within this peace that we find true joy and it is within this peace that God dwells. I’ve insisted throughout Advent 2018 that we’ve had no need to wait for God’s coming because God has been with us all along. Christmas simply offers us another opportunity to celebrate God’s presence among us and within us.

Today, Luke’s gospel (Luke 1:39-45) encourages us to embrace heavenly peace in our lives in our joy and in our sorrow. Mary did this in spite of her frightening circumstances. Though with child herself, Mary made the three-day journey to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant. It’s unlikely that Mary’s family owned a donkey, so she probably walked the entire distance. Mary might have excused herself from tending to her cousin in light of her own predicament as an unwed mother-to-be. Her betrothed Joseph was home contemplating what to do about their impending marriage. Still, Mary reached deep within to embrace God’s peace. What’s more, she went on to share that peace with her cousin. Luke tells us that the moment Mary arrived, Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb. This tiny movement reassured Elizabeth. With absolute certainty that she was in God’s presence, Elizabeth asked, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? …Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Elizabeth’s remarks encouraged Mary’s certainty regarding God’s love for her. After this visit, both Mary and Elizabeth basked in heavenly peace. Though what lay ahead would be trying at best for both women, they embraced the things to come with God at their sides.

Grandpa Mike and I never miss an opportunity to spend time with our grandchildren and their parents. We simply can’t resist them. Whether we’ve gathered for a soccer game, a birthday party or at someone’s bedside in a hospital, we find peace in one another’s company. Our love for each other hints at God’s love for us and it is in God’s love that we experience heavenly peace at its best. As this Fourth Sunday of Advent gives way to Christmas, I encourage you to unwrap the peace in every encounter which comes your way. Whether in our families, in our friendships or in the unexpected acquaintances whom we meet along the way, there is heavenly peace to be discovered. Yes, God is present among us and God gifts us with that presence in surprising ways! Merry Christmas!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

They’re All Potentially Good Days

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

Psalm 90:14

I have only vague memories of rare “bad” days when I seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Though I never figured out which side of the bed was “wrong,” a dear friend showed me how to begin every day with a positive attitude.

Carol and I had known one another for only a year when her husband was transferred and their family relocated to a distant city. We’d become fast friends, so this loss was difficult for both of us. We kept in touch via the phone and email. I also kept Carol in the loop regarding our church by sending her our parish bulletin each week. When our first Christmas apart arrived, Carol sent me a daily devotional to thank me for my effort. Though this was a completely unnecessary gesture, it has had long-lasting and life-changing ramifications.

It took only a few weeks for that devotional to become part of my daily routine. I found that I remembered to read it every day if I did so first thing in the morning. Though every reflection wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, each author managed to cast a positive light on the new day. Ever since, regardless of what life brings my way, this attitude adjuster assists me in facing everything with hope and joy. That devotional also inspired me to do the same for others through my own books and these posts. One never knows just how powerful a single act of kindness can be.

Loving God, help us all to begin every new day with joyful anticipation of the things to come. May our example give others reason to do the same.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Monday, Seventh Week of Easter

“I have told you this so that you might have peace
in me. In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

From John 16:29-33

When life throws my husband a curve ball, he usually responds by observing, “God sure has a sense of humor!” I admit that my response differs a bit when I am the recipient of that curve ball. I tend to keep my initial reactions to trauma to myself. There is usually too much to do to allow myself the luxury of complaining aloud. So I converse with myself and then with the Lord God in silence until I reconcile myself to the situation at hand. When I have calmed myself down –or God has stepped in to do this for me- I finally respond with my own observation: “This is just a small reminder that we’re not in heaven yet.”

The curve balls have been flying furiously as of late. As a result, I find myself most grateful that Jesus has kept his promise to be with us always. Though havoc reigns around me, a gentle peace calms me from within.

Good Jesus, you did conquer the world with your words and your example. When doubt threatens, remind me to turn to your life for example upon example of your care.