I Am Me…

“But you, who do you say that I am?” he asked them.
From Luke 9:20

I have worn many hats. These include daughter, sister, cousin, student, friend, adversary, aunt, great-aunt, teacher, wife, in-law, mom, mother-in-law, colleague, author, grandma, administrator, volunteer, retiree, encourage-er, listener, annoying one. The list goes on and on, as it does for us all. Some who know me might urge me to add a few more complimentary titles. Others might encourage me to add a role or an adjective of which I’m not particularly proud. I’m painfully honest when I also say that, in spite of this list, I sometimes don’t know who I am at all.

It is during life’s most confusing and most difficult times that I jump at the chance to answer the question Jesus posed to his followers so long ago: “Who do you say that I am?” My answer has made all of the difference in the world to me. You see, Jesus’ words convinced me of God’s love for me. Jesus’ example taught me to love my enemies as well as my friends. Jesus’ parables convinced me that I can never do anything which God will not forgive. Jesus is the one who assured me that, miserable as I can be at times, he would lay down his life for me alone. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the one from whom I’ve learned to live as best I can, not in spite of, but because of who I am.

Generous God, I’ve been generously blessed by the teachings of Jesus. His words, his works, his life and his love have shown me the way. Thank you for this amazing glimpse of who you are and who I am meant to be.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Smile!

Love kindness and walk humbly with God.
From Micah 6:8

I smile. When I pass anyone anywhere, I smile. I smile even when I’m outdoors walking. Neither drizzle nor cloudy skies dampen my fascination with the beauty around me. These days, I smile throughout our daily walks. After all, they offer a precious opportunity not to stay-in-place for an hour.

My husband and I begin our walks with a discussion regarding the day’s route. Afterward, we go on to more interesting topics such as our children and grandchildren. We plan the rest of our meals for the day and discuss the possibility of tackling a project in the house or the yard when we return home. I usually end the conversation by moaning about my lack of progress on my book and the posts I need to complete for the coming week.

Throughout this conversation, Mike and I often pass two or three people along the way. As soon as we spot each other, we begin planning our social distancing strategy. If the person approaching doesn’t move, we reroute enough to leave at least twelve feet between us. Far apart as we are, Mike says “Hello” and I smile and add, “Stay safe!” When we began these walks several weeks ago, those we passed rarely responded. In time, however, these fellow walkers began to respond in kind.

You know, all of our lives have been rerouted by the COVID-19 pandemic. So it seems the perfect time to smile at every opportunity. If our efforts catch on, we might find ourselves in a far better place sooner ever!

Loving God, smile on us and be with us as we do the same for one another.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

W… Write

God is good and upright
and God shows us the way.
God guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble goodness.

Psalm 25:8-9

W is for Write. Though I do most of my writing at my keyboard, I was recently reminded that I write perhaps more effectively with my attitudes, words and actions. Though I would like to leave something significant to posterity in written form, the truths I share through my life will be far more long-lasting. A wise priest once shared that perhaps the point of all of our lives is to write a gospel by the way we live. Though he made this comment years ago, I can’t seem to let go of this gospel-writing challenge. Just as no book store owner can predict who will pick up and browse through the best sellers, travel books and bibles in stock, I cannot predict who will read my attitudes, my next word or the things I do at any given moment. Whether I opt to or not, I’m writing my gospel with every breath I take. Since I can’t choose who will “read” what I produce at any given moment, it makes sense to me to take this project to heart.

I find this all a bit frightening as I’ve uttered some things which I hope will be forgotten and I’ve done some things that I wish I could undo. Unfortunately, I cannot edit these things out of my life. I find some consolation in the knowledge that my fellow humans share a bit of this regret with me at one time or another. So it is that we must all proceed with writing our lives’ gospels and we must do so with heartfelt determination. May we encourage one another when the results are positive and may we edit one another mercifully when we haven’t done our best. Yes, W is for Write. May we all write with care.

Loving God, be with us as we write the pages of our lives. Help us to reveal your wonder in everything we say and do.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Favorite Teacher

Jesus saw a vast crowd. He pitied them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them…

From Mark 6:34

My favorite image of Jesus is “Jesus the Teacher”. He saw the need in every face before him and couldn’t help responding. Jesus used his lessons and stories to make his point. Of course, Jesus followed every one with tangible examples of his meaning through his own behavior. Powerful as Jesus’ words were, his actions were even more so.

During this New Year, I’m trying hard not to judge -others or myself. Though I’ve avoided speaking my sentiments aloud, I’ve felt them just the same. It seems to me that if I wish to succeed I need to attend to Jesus the Teacher. When I pay attention, I find that I’m most deeply taken with Jesus’ focus. Jesus focused upon those around him. We find the truest representation of our endearing, loving, merciful, welcoming and forgiving Lord in his encounters with others. This is also where I will find my best self: in my concern for others.

Jesus also taught us to be concerned about ourselves. When Jesus stole away to be alone or to pray, he showed us that we are allowed and encouraged to do the same. Sometimes, we simply need to stop and to think and to look above to assess our own well-being. When I take an honest look at my feelings and the reasons for them, I replace my judgment of those around me with compassion. I also do the same for myself. Suddenly, everything changes for the better!

Loving God, thank you for our teacher Jesus who offers us the best lessons of all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

More On Friendship

Be merciful as God is merciful.
Stop judging, stop condemning and forgive.

From Luke 6:36-37

Some weeks ago, I shared fond memories a high school teacher. Sister Imelda was the first of many high school teachers who left an impression upon me. Though Sister was always pleasant to be around, she made her greatest impact during religion class.

It was during religion class that Sister addressed the value of friendship and our need to be open to unexpected friendships along the way. I eventually realized the wisdom in Sister’s observation. I remember observing classmates whom I considered “cool”. Because I didn’t count myself among them, I sometimes misjudged them. After closer observation and engaging with them on projects, at lunch and after school, I discovered that they suffered from the same insecurities and worries that I suffered from.

Eventually, I understood that we all have the power to make and to break others. We can enhance one another’s best qualities with our acceptance and love. We can also smooth each other’s rough spots with patience and understanding. This is the good news. The not-so-good news is that we can also accomplish the opposite with our judgment, ridicule and unkindness.

You and I will walk in the company of our fellow humans for a lifetime. Some will be friends and some won’t. Sometimes, we’ll bring out the best in one another. Sometimes, not so much. Whether or not we’re among friends, we can do something about those “not so much” scenarios. If we don’t like what we see, it’s up to us to say or do something to improve things. Maybe our kindness and understanding will be enough.

Dear God, help us to bring out the best in one another as best we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

They’re Always Watching!

Beloved:Let no one have contempt for your youth,
but set an example for those who believe,
in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

The other day at the grocery store, a young man “slipped” and said a word that wasn’t suitable for the ears of some nearby children. Before he could apologize, the older woman with him responded, “You know, kids are always watching and it’s up to us to show them what’s right.” The woman added another line or two about how she and his dad were very careful of their language when he was within earshot. The young man took his mother’s comments well. The pair smiled at one another and then continued their shopping. As for the kids, I’m grateful to say that they didn’t react to any of this as they were distracted by the shelves of breakfast cereal before them. Neither they nor their mom seemed to have heard a word.

That wise parent’s comment echoed sentiments repeated frequently throughout my teaching career and my second career as a grandparent. Grandchildren repeat just about everything they hear. They also mimic our actions and our attitudes far more accurately than we might think possible.

What does all of this mean for us allegedly mature adults? Apparently, we need to be on our best behavior as often as possible. None of us knows when an impressionable child of any age may be watching. It’s up to us to provide them with the best lessons we’re capable of offering as often as we can.

Easy, huh?

Loving God, help us to offer only glimpses of your goodness to the young souls you place in our care.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved