Time Enough…

While listening to our favorite oldies station in the car, I was thrilled when The Byrds 1965 hit Turn! Turn! Turn! began to play. Some time ago, my friend who shares my nostalgic tendencies sent me a link to a YouTube video of this beloved song. Though I rarely click email links, I was thrilled to do so at the time. When my husband and I returned home after our errands, I searched for that link with hope for a replay. Happily, I found that treasure and then sat back to listen. I wasn’t disappointed. The Byrds had put the text from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to music almost verbatim. When they released their potential hit, this American Folk Rock Band did so in an effort to promote world peace. Throughout the years since, I’ve listened intently to both this melody and the original passage from Ecclesiastes which was often read at funerals I’d attended. Every time, whether spoken or sung, those amazingly simple words filled me with inexplicable peace.

For those not familiar with The Byrds’ rendition, every verse begins, “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under heaven.” If you read through the song’s lyrics or the scripture passage, you’ll find that there is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, to reap, to kill, to heal, to laugh and to weep. There is also a time to build up and to take down, to dance and to mourn. According to both sources, there is a time for every purpose under heaven. The song and the scripture passage end with the assertion that there is also a time for peace. Insisting that this was the case even in the tumultuous 60s, the Byrds added, “I swear it’s not too late.” I admit to my own very strong inclination to insist the same. Even today, it’s not too late for peace among us here at home and around the world. This passage from Ecclesiastes isn’t among the scripture readings we’ll hear at Mass this weekend. Still, it seems to me that the Ordinary Time scripture readings from recent weeks and today indicate that Jesus was very much aware of the timing of the events of his life. Jesus was also very much aware of our need to infuse peace into each and every one of those events.

After much prayer and reflection, Jesus went to his cousin John to be baptized. It was time for Jesus to begin his public life. Not long afterward, Jesus attended the wedding in Cana with his friends. Very much aware of timing herself, Mary sought Jesus’ help when the couple involved ran out of wine. If she acted quickly, they would suffer no embarrassment over this turn of events. Jesus initially seemed unhappy with Mary’s timing. Still, on second thought, he abided by his mother’s wishes and provided the wine that was needed. At the same time, Jesus’ friends realized it was time to allow their belief in Jesus’ friendship to grow into belief in his ministry. In today’s gospel (Luke 4:21-30), Luke tells us that Jesus found himself in the midst of seemingly poor timing when he preached for the first time in his home town of Nazareth.

It was in the synagogue where he grew up that Jesus read this passage from the Prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor.” When he finished, Jesus set aside the scroll and told the people that this saying had come to fruition before them. While his neighbors marveled at his knowledge of the scriptures, they also wondered why Jesus performed no good works among them. After all, those closest to Jesus certainly deserved a miracle or two. Apparently, Jesus felt that the timing wasn’t right or perhaps that his neighbors’ hearts weren’t ready. Rather than offering a miracle, Jesus responded with a lesson. Jesus insisted that ones proximity to a temple or preacher, priest or prophet, bible or scroll had little to do with ones relationship with God. It was the generosity of a person’s spirit which spoke volumes. When one reached beyond the peaceful confines of his or her own comfort zones and time zones to those in need, one demonstrated his or her proximity to God most clearly. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right for Jesus’ neighbors. They weren’t ready to recognize the peace to be found in aligning themselves with God’s timing and with God’s love. They didn’t understand that, whether the opportunity was a one-minute encounter with a homeless person or a lifelong relationship, it was always the right time to love as God loves. It was always the right time to find true peace.

I admit that I sometimes join Jesus’ neighbors in failing to take advantage of God’s timing and God’s peace. When I look back upon the happiest and the most trying episodes of my life, I realize that there truly is a time for every purpose under heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die. Between those two events, God sees to it that there is also time enough to plant, to reap, to heal, to laugh and to weep, to build up and to take down, to dance, to mourn and to love. God sees to it that there is always time enough to transform our little corners of the world with peace by loving just as Jesus loved and as only we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Time To Let Go…

A time to keep and a time to cast away.
From Ecclesiastes 3:6

I’ve persisted in my effort to purge our home of unneeded items. This is in spite of the fact that most of these items hide in closets, drawers and a storage room in our basement. The old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” certainly applied in this regard until recently. I’m committed! With that, I turned to some boxed books I’d retrieved from my study. Where would I begin?

I started with an assortment of inspirational books. Each one touched me the day I received it. Still, I hadn’t looked at most of them for years. I decided it was my turn to inspire and placed all but two of them in my give-away box. My collection of novels had renewed my empathy for my fellow humans in many ways. Still, though I’d reread a few of them, I likely never will again. I kept the autographed copies and added the remainder to that give-away box. There was no question regarding my books on death, dying and the hereafter. They sustain my hope, so I kept every one. My children’s books feed my imagination and strengthen my bond with our grandchildren. I decided to keep a few and to donate the rest to my favorite after-school program.

I’d spent over an hour on this task when I discovered an old catechism. A bookmark rested at the chapter entitled GRACE. I learned long ago that grace is God’s very life within us. I laughed as I noted that a bit of grace had flowed through almost every book I’ve ever read. Still, in spite of this joyful revelation, I hauled that box of give-away books to the garage with a promise that I’ll deliver it ASAP!

Loving God, thank you for the gift of inspiration I find in the written word and for my ability to let go of a few of those books.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Love… Time to Be Loved…

A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:8

Sometimes, circumstances around us and circumstances within hearts evoke feelings far removed from love. When violence and hatred touch those we care for or those who cannot defend themselves, it’s difficult not to feel hatred toward those responsible. At the same time, we are frequently amazed and inspired by victims who have been ravaged by the evil deeds of others and yet find it in their hearts to forgive.

There is something deep within each of us which urges us to find God’s love in the moments of our lives and to share that love with others. Though I cannot explain why some of us experience God’s love more tangibly than others, I am convinced that God’s love is present within us just the same.

It’s quite clear to me that the predominant reason I write is to spread the word regarding God’s love for us. I’m convinced that God’s love has carried me through the best and the worst times of my life. When no one else understood my pain, God did. If you take nothing else away from these writings, take God’s love.

God of Love, you dwell within each of us. Please rumble a bit more noisily within those of us who doubt.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Edit…

A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.

Ecclesiastes 3:7

There was a time when my mom insisted that there is always time to sew. She was a talented seamstress who made her own clothing from high school throughout most of her life. My mom clothed her six children beautifully because she could transform the plainest fabric into the cutest outfits for us. She often fashioned our winter coats from adult coats which others had cast aside. Our mom made some of our wedding dressings and the bridesmaid gowns which accompanied them. Though she loved to sew, it was an extremely tight budget which urged her on.

There was a time when I would have said that there is always a time to speak. Still, my dad often asked, “Who put the nickel in you?” when I monopolized a conversation. My husband has noted more than once, “What others can say in a sentence, you say in two paragraphs.” Though I haven’t heard complaints regarding my written words, I can’t say the same about those I’ve spoken.

Late in her life, my mom found sewing to be more tedious than creative. Her eyesight had diminished just enough to make threading a needle impossible. The arthritis in her hands added to the difficulty. So it was that she set her sewing machine aside and purchased her clothing.

Though I truly enjoy writing, on occasion, I’ve found speaking to be tedious as well. Though I haven’t resorted to silence, I’m trying very hard to be far more selective regarding what I say.

Dear God, help me to make the best use of my ability to speak and to write. Once again, I ask for guidance.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Time…

A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

Ecclesiastes 3:6

The calendar on my desk must stay.
The yellowed notes from graduate school must go.
Greeting cards from our sons, their wives and our granddaughters must stay.
The unneeded clothing pile I created last month must finally go.

You get the idea, but not all of it. I need to go through the same sort of “checklist” when it comes to the things I do. Some activities, like spending time with my family, are non-negotiable. I engage in time with them whenever and wherever they present themselves and as often as possible. Other activities, like cooking and doing the laundry, must stay as well ad infinitum. Still others, however, need to be sorted and categorized and ranked. I need to determine what I will continue to do and what I will pass on.

Do you remember that book I mentioned a few posts ago? It still sits partially in a computer file, partially in my head and mostly in my heart. In the end, it’s up to me to determine what my life’s work will be. Of one thing I’m certain: That book is part of my life’s work.

What’s your life’s work? A peek deep within will give you a hint, a very helpful hint…

Patient God, once again I turn to you for guidance. Light my way so I can see the signs and respond generously.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Let Go…

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

Ecclesiastes 3:5

My need for order makes it unlikely that I’ll ever embrace the opportunity to “scatter” stones. I’m more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows depending upon their size. I’m even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important to us all and I can’t imagine ever situating myself far enough away from my fellow humans to preclude hugging.

As I composed that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her passing came to mind. She’d drifted into a coma the day before. Her time among us could be counted in hours. That night, I couldn’t bring myself to leave her. It was forty minutes after my sisters had left when I realized the error of my ways. You see, when our mom received her terminal diagnosis, she was very specific regarding where she would spend her last days. The underlying message was that she had no intention of breathing her last in any of our homes. She couldn’t bear to leave us with that memory. My presence at her bedside had obviously interfered with my mom’s intent. After kissing her one last time, I drove the thirty-minute ride home. Ten minutes after I’d arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave.

Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces. There are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, nudge me when it’s time to embrace those you’ve given me to love. Nudge me a bit harder when it’s time for me to step back and allow you to take care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved