Time To Be Creative!

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 in my life makes it unlikely that I’ll ever embrace the opportunity to scatter stones. I’m far more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows. I’m even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important and I cannot imagine ever situating myself far enough from my fellow humans to preclude hugging. Little did I know that COVID-19 would completely undermine this resolve. I don’t know how those who’ve had to leave their loved ones at a hospital’s door have managed to find the courage. I know from experience that I could not…

As I wrote that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her death came to mind. When she drifted into a coma, we knew that her time left could be counted in hours. Though my sisters and I had agreed to leave our mom for the night, I couldn’t bring myself to comply. I’d stayed another forty minutes after my sisters left when I finally realized the error of my ways.

You see, when our mom received her diagnosis, she was quite specific regarding where she would spend her last days. 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. About ten minutes after I arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave of this earth shortly after I left her.

Our experience with this pandemic has provide a review of this important lesson. Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces in order to deal with our most important work. In the end, there are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, be with us as we learn to be creative about loving one another without those all-important embraces.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Time To Love…

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

Ecclesiastes 3:8

In spite of the absence of fireworks displays this Independence Day, this beloved holiday conjures recurring memories which will always be with me…

My husband and I have enjoyed celebrating July 4 since our first summer together as husband and wife. When our sons came along, they added exponentially to these observances. We live very near the center of our community on a cul-de-sac that was once filled with children. As a result, we all enjoyed our local fireworks displays from the comforts of our front yards. This amazing circus added to my affection for this holiday.

My earliest Independence Day memories include my own family’s quest for the nearest and best fireworks displays. This was particularly important July 4, 1959. My dad passed away early that morning and helpful relatives who whisked us away for the annual family picnic no doubt wondered if any sort of celebration was appropriate that night. Though I saw no fireworks that night, I find great solace in the displays I’ve observed every year since. Colorful lights bursting in the black sky above suggest resurrection to me. As I watch, I imagine that my dad’s passing into eternal life must have been a million times more glorious. While the sparkling displays above me consistently dissolve into smoke and ash, my dad’s transformation continues on in eternity.

This year, I’m asking my dad to take advantage of this 61st Anniversary of his first day in heaven. I’m asking him to rally all of the good will at his disposal and to shower it over this country and our entire world. Perhaps his effort will be enough to nudge each of us to do our parts in working toward world peace, especially within our own borders. What a miracle it would be to celebrate July 4, 2020, without a gun being fired or a harsh word spoken anywhere.

Loving God, inspire us to use the gift of our freedom to free this world of conflict and discord wherever we find ourselves.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share The Love

I recognize that there is nothing better than to be grateful…
From Ecclesiastes 3:12

Lucy had run to the store to do her bi-weekly shopping. She carefully made her way down each aisle to avoid other shoppers. The last thing she wanted to do was to bring “that virus” home with her groceries. She breathed a sigh of relief as she neared the checkout. Everyone had done well social distancing and Lucy would soon be safely out the door. It was then that a voice called, “Lucy, is that you?”

Before Lucy could reply, that voice announced to the clerk, “I’ll be paying for her groceries. Lucy, just keep your distance and let me take care of this.” Though Lucy protested, the other woman would have no part of it. “You helped me when I couldn’t feed my kids. I’m working now and we’re doing great, so please, let me do this for you!” Touched as Lucy was, she replied, “I helped you because you needed it. That’s what friends do. If you want to do something in return, just pay it forward.”

When my friend called to share this story, I told her that I hadn’t heard those words in years. Lucy’s insistence that she “pay it forward” elicited images from an amazing movie I’d seen more than a decade ago. Later that day, I did a search for Pay It Forward and spent a few minutes enjoying clips from this movie which so touched my heart.

It occurs to me that God is likely a big fan of paying it forward. Lucy never expected her generosity to be returned. She simply did what she did to help someone in need. When her friend finally agreed to pass on her gratitude, Lucy was thrilled. When we take the time to pay God’s blessings forward, I think God is thrilled as well!

Creative God, inspire our generosity and make us expert at paying forward your love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Choose Wisely

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

Ecclesiastes 3:7

Though I cannot recall a time when my mom tore anything apart, she always made the time to sew. She was a talented seamstress who sewed her own clothing from her high school days throughout most of her life. She clothed my sisters and me 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 sewed some of our wedding dressings and the bridesmaid gowns which accompanied them.

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 a daunting challenge. The arthritis in her hands added to the difficulty. So it was that she set aside her sewing machine and purchased the clothing she needed.

As I move on to the next line of that passage from Ecclesiastes, thoughts of myself resurface… There was a time when I always found the time to speak. This prompted my dad to ask, “Who put the nickel in you?” This also prompted my husband to note more than once, “What others can say in a sentence, you say in two paragraphs.” I admit that, on occasion, I’ve found my words to be tedious as well. Though I haven’t set aside every word that comes to me, I am more selective regarding which words to use and when. Though I know perhaps too well that there is a time to speak, I’ve also learned that there are also many times when being silent is the better choice.

Dear God, being good stewards of our gifts requires that we make the best use of them. Once again, I ask for guidance, especially when it comes to my words.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Keep and Time To Let Go

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

Ecclesiastes 3:6

A few days ago, my sister happily texted that she’s made notable progress purging her home of the unneeded items she’d held onto for too long. She began this process early into our stay-at-home mandate. Though I started to do the same weeks ago, I lost my resolve about three days into my effort. I really did begin with good intentions. As I sat at my desk, I determined that my calendar would stay and the yellowed brochures from last year’s vacation would go. Greeting cards from our sons, their wives and our grandchildren would stay. Old inspirational calendars which I’ve never revisited had to go.

You get the idea, but not all of it. I also needed to go through the same sort of checklist when it came to the things I do. Though, like you, I have lots of stay-at-home time on my hands these days, I hadn’t been using that time particularly well. Maintaining communication with our family and friends is a priority. Cooking, laundry, cleaning house and exercising a bit are also musts. Watching TV and doing crossword puzzles aren’t. As I pondered my schedule, I remembered the not-quite-half-written book on my flash drive.

I recently texted my sister to let her know that I’ve resumed work on my book. Now I fully understand her satisfaction over keeping just what she wants and casting away the rest. I really, really, really want to finish my book and my newly disciplined schedule proves it!

Generous God, help us all to make the most of our stay-at-home opportunities.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Dance?

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:4

My husband and I planned to attend three weddings this summer. At the moment, the two earlier weddings have been cancelled while the third dangles in uncertainty on our calendar. We looked forward to celebrating with each couple. I would have found it encouraging and, yes, a bit romantic, to wish these hopeful spouses all of the best for their futures together.

I admit that I also looked forward to dancing at their receptions. I usually begin with a slow dance in my husband’s arms. Afterward, he retreats to join anyone else who isn’t dancing while I continue on with a friend or family member whose spouse has also retreated from the dance floor. In the end, the dancer within me takes over for as long as I can move. Though she sometimes has a difficult time guiding my feet into the prescribed steps for a given dance, she always succeeds in freeing me to abandon my inhibitions and to rejoice in the music at hand.

Needless to say, there will be no such dancing for us in the foreseeable future. Still, the words I cited above from Ecclesiastes nudge me to try. I truly believe that God intentionally created us with the ability to party. This is one of God’s most creative ways of reminding us to take the time to relax and not to take ourselves or this life too seriously. Like you, I know we’re immersed in one of the most serious times of our lives. Still…

…Our grandchildren amuse us with three-way FaceTime calls. Friends resend emails and Facebook posts which force us to laugh aloud. We walk outdoors and shout cheerful greetings to those we see while social distancing at twice the prescribed footage. We telephone those we love, but cannot see and we pray for everyone. Yes, we are in this together and we are called to turn our mourning into dancing whenever we can!

Gracious God, thank you for our ability to transform our tears into laughter and our mourning into at least an attempt to dance.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved