Suffering In Peace

They took his clothes and divided them
into four parts, one for each soldier.

From John 19:23

The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

It should have been enough to crucify Jesus, but not so for his captors. They seemed anxious to make use of every opportunity to beat him and to humiliate him as best they could. What was worse was that curious and mean-spirited onlookers joined in the fun. Those who loved Jesus most could only watch in horror…

I admit that I find it much easier to deal with my own suffering than that of others. When loved ones and even people I don’t know endure hardship, I want to fix things and to make them right. These are the times when I find it impossible to place things in God’s hands. These are the times when I provide God an insistent to-do list which I fully expect to be fulfilled in short order. Of course, not long after issuing my demands to The Almighty, I look back upon those for whom I prayed. I see their resolve, their acceptance and their willingness to endure for as long as they must. I also sense an unexpected measure of peace in their demeanors. Somehow, they have found the strength to endure. So it is that I turn back to my prayer. First, I offer an apology for expecting my plans to direct God’s interactions with us. Then, I offer a prayer of gratitude for God’s constant companionship and unconditional love.

Jesus wasn’t alone in his suffering. You and I are never alone either.

Loving God, help me never to do to another what was done to you, not even in the smallest seemingly inconsequential way.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Begin At Home…

Love God with your whole heart,
your whole mind, and your whole soul.
Love your neighbor as yourself.

From Mark 12:30-31

“You know, charity begins at home!” My mom spoke these words often to me, not so much to nag me as to teach me an important lesson. Apparently, I was more interested in demonstrating my love for God at school and church than I was in demonstrating my love for my own family at home. My mom’s remark often referenced my tardy arrival because I’d stopped at church to pray or stayed after school to help Sister while leaving my chores at home undone. My mom was correct in her assessment at the time. I hadn’t yet realized that chores done with love at home are at least as honorable as those performed at church or school.

If you are a person who’s involved, you’ve likely stepped up to the plate once too often, just as I have. Worse yet, you’re probably quite good at the things you do. It’s difficult to walk away from something we enjoy doing or that we feel will be left undone if we fail to take it on. To help remedy this situation, read the scripture I’ve cited once again. If you love God with your whole heart, you will care for the things God loves. If you love your neighbors as yourself, you will take care of them as only you can. No one else can be the spouse, parent, child, sister, brother, grandparent or friend that you can be. So feel no guilt in opting to care for them before you step up to the plate to take on those other worthy causes outside of your home.

Loving God, I will love those you have given me to love as only I can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hold on!

The child grew in size and strength,
filled with wisdom,
and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40

The New Year is just thirty-six hours away and my thoughts turn to my hopes and dreams for 2019. For much of my life, I’ve been blessed with an inner calm which I really cannot explain. Though I’ve fretted with the best of them, especially when a loved one faced peril which I could do nothing about, I’ve managed to be a source of steady support. If worry threatened to get the best of me, I headed outdoors to walk. When close encounters with slippery walks were imminent, I sought solace indoors by walking the mall.

In recent months, my inner calm has been somewhat elusive. Circumstances in several corners of my little world have been disrupted unexpectedly and undesirably. These situations have collided in a perfect storm of worry and heartache. Too often, I’ve been uncertain of what the next day or hour or second might bring. I thought I’d be through this storm by the time New Year 2019 chimed in. With only two days to go, I wonder…

Perhaps it’s time for me to take a walk inside, not around my house, but around my heart. I use this space often to insist that God is with us and within us in everything. Even when we ignore God’s company, God remains. As I type, Someone seems to ask, “Did you read that?” That Someone wonders why I insist to my readers that these things are true while not insisting the same to myself. I stopped writing to say aloud, “Yes, God, I know you’re here!”

With that, I refer you and me to Luke’s observation cited above. Like Jesus, you and I have the grace of God upon us. Jesus couldn’t have said or done more to convince us of God’s enduring love for us. Even in the midst of perfect storms, we’re safe because God is with us. It’s up to us to hold on and to move on. And so I will…

Loving God, thank you for your presence and your love which sustain us no matter what.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thank You, Daddy!

God is light; in God there is no darkness.
From 1 John 1:5

On this third day of Christmas, I’m thinking about my dad. Today is his birthday and I hope he is celebrating with great gusto. My dad passed away many years ago at age 39. He has celebrated far more birthdays in the afterlife than he celebrated here.

In spite of my dad’s early departure from this life, he remains with me in many ways. It is my father who walked me through the difficult losses of my uncle and grandfather who lived with us. Daddy gave me reason to smile when he assured me that my polio-stricken uncle would certainly be walking straight and tall in heaven. Later, Daddy assured me that Grandpa wouldn’t need his cane to get around in his heavenly home. My dad’s conviction in this regard eased me through his own death not many years later. Daddy also wisely told me that I was harder on myself than anyone else would ever be and that I was a very good girl. Most importantly, my dad repeated these lessons often in the things he said and did.

On this third day of Christmas, I’m renewing my commitment to take my Dad’s lessons to heart. I’ll deal with the disappointments and losses of this life knowing that God has many good things in store in our heavenly home. I’ll also try to be a little easier on myself and on those around me. After all, in God’s eyes, we’re all good girls and boys!

Generous God, thank you for my dad who did a great job of revealing your love to me.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Nurture Hope

God will be gracious to you when you cry out;
as soon as God hears, God will answer you.

Isaiah 30:19

While I walked the mall with my husband, a long line of children waited to see Santa Claus. We chuckled about our sons’ first visits with the jolly old elf. As we continued our shopping, I recalled a decades earlier visit with Santa which almost ended badly for one of my students…

The week after Thanksgiving, Ronnie shared that he was going to prove to his older brother that Santa Claus is real. Ronnie planned to tell no one what he wanted for Christmas except Santa. When Ronnie visited Santa during his family’s annual day-after-Thanksgiving trek to the mall, he whispered into Santa’s ear so his gift would remain a secret. I’d hoped to catch Ronnie’s older brother in the hallway to let him in on Ronnie’s plan. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten this plan until winter break had begun. Though I normally set aside school concerns during the holidays to enjoy Christmas with my own family, that year I wondered often if Ronnie’s experiment had ended well. Happily, Ronnie returned to school in January with a bigger-than-ever smile.

Not long afterward, Ronnie’s mom shared that her older son had discovered Ronnie’s plan. As a result, the entire family went into detective-mode and they eventually discovered Ronnie’s Christmas wishes. So it was that Ronnie’s hope in Santa Claus remained intact for another year.

Loving God, when I see doubt in others, I sometimes wring my hands in despair because I don’t know how to convince them of your loving ways. Rather than fretting, help me to plant seeds of hope through everything I do.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Humble Servant

Whoever wishes to be first among you shall serve.
Matthew 20:27

The memories which filled me up at the cemetery the other day remain with me. My loved ones in the hereafter certainly taught me a lot before they took their leave. One of those lessons came at the hands of my dear Aunt Lucille…

Aunt Lucille cared for elderly people throughout her own post-retirement years. She had a way with her “ladies” as she would call them. Her work was truly a pleasure for all concerned. Over time, one of Aunt Lucille’s clients had become rather difficult. The poor woman’s memory no longer served her. This exacerbated her demanding personality. This lady was unkind and demanding, at best (my words, not Aunt Lucille’s). Because Aunt Lucille was always one to find the upside in a situation, she devised a plan. Aunt Lucille made a point of discovering this woman’s favorite things and her pet peeves. My aunt-the-caretaker said and did just the right things to focus her patient on the positive. During the year Aunt Lucille cared for her, this woman became one of my aunt’s most beloved clients.

When the woman passed away, Aunt Lucille went to her funeral. The woman’s family was quite renowned and many notable people attended the service. Aunt Lucille arrived early to insure herself a seat. She chose the last row to leave room for more important attendees. Just before the service began, the woman’s son noticed Aunt Lucille in the back of the church. He immediately walked back to her and escorted her to the family’s pew. “My mother loved you, Lucille. You’ve been a blessing to her and to us. Your place is here!”

We love you, too, Aunt Lucille! Thank you for showing us how it’s done.

Loving God, help me to love with Aunt Lucille’s humility and compassion.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved