Loved, Always Loved…

This morning, I woke with a sense of gratitude in anticipation of Thanksgiving Day. Though I’d like to think that I’m a grateful person, this sentiment took me by surprise. Like so many of us, on Thanksgiving 2020, my husband and I won’t gather with our entire family to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal together. This year, Mike’s and our younger son’s birthdays fall during Thanksgiving week. Our observances in their honor will differ as well. Still, I must finally be adapting to our new normal because these realizations didn’t dispel the gratitude with which I woke. With that, I made a mental list of the gifts for which I’m most grateful. My family and the numerous others whom I’ve been given to love top that list. God has been extremely generous to me in this regard. As I contemplate further, I must acknowledge that God has been extremely generous to me in everything!

God… It occurs to me that it has always come naturally to me to include God in every aspect of my life. “When did this relationship begin?” I ask myself. While my dear husband tends to something in the garage, I’ll ponder this question in the chilly, but sunny outdoors. As I walk along, I recall the nighttime prayers of my childhood. I always asked forgiveness for the day’s misdeeds and blessings for those in need. Our family is large and at least one of us requires prayers much of the time. Back then, I relied upon our Creator God for everything. These nighttime litanies always began with, “Dear God…” Later, when First Communion Day approached and my catechism classes focused upon Jesus, things changed. While I held on to my awe for the God who made us and tends to all of our needs, I was also completely taken in by this Jesus who became one of us and who experienced all of our trials and tribulations firsthand.

Jesus, son of Mary, grew up in the small village of Nazareth. Jesus, cousin to John the Baptizer, worked as an apprentice stonemason with his father Joseph. Jesus, friend to the couple who married at Cana, helped out when their wine ran out. Jesus the Rabbi taught with authority in the temple. This made him a threat to the temple hierarchy and a source of inspiration to the people. Jesus the Storyteller used his parables to reveal God’s compassion, mercy and love. Jesus was hope personified to the hemorrhaging woman, the blind man, the lepers, the paralytic, Martha and Mary and the thief who hung on the cross next to him. Jesus was life itself to the woman caught in adultery, to Jairus’ daughter and to Lazarus. Jesus the Servant washed his friends’ feet at their last supper together. Jesus the Risen One made the promise of life everlasting a reality for us all.

As I continue this morning’s walk, it occurs to me that becoming better acquainted with Jesus was a game-changer in my life. Until then, I’d made many assumptions regarding God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. My faith assured me that God offered these things to me on an ongoing basis. When I encountered Jesus and learned all that he did for others, my assumptions about God became reality. I no longer needed to rely upon my faith because Jesus showed me that everything I believed about God’s love for me is absolutely true.

As I walk toward home, I return my thoughts to Thanksgiving 2020, to my unshakable gratitude and to God’s presence in my life. Something more occurs to me. I realize that both my awareness of God’s presence in my life and my sense of gratitude deepened as a the result of my acquaintance with Jesus. As I sit at my desk to begin this writing, I determine that today’s Feast of Christ the King is the perfect end to the Church Year, the perfect beginning to Thanksgiving Week and the perfect prelude to the Advent Season which will begin next Sunday. Who better than Jesus can inspire our hearts to be grateful in the face everything that lies ahead?

You know, Year 2020 has taught us that none of us can predict all that today, much less the coming week or month or year will bring. What we can be certain of is God’s affection for us. If you doubt God’s love for you, turn to the life of the beloved king whom we honor today. Though Jesus shied away from this title, Jesus embraced every opportunity to “reign” God’s love over the people in the midst of the wear and tear of their lives. Jesus shared God’s love so perfectly that he could never pass by a soul in need without stopping to help. The same is true today.

Meeting Jesus has helped me to experience God’s love quite tangibly in the joyful and the troubling times of my life. On this Feast of Christ the King, I celebrate Jesus with gratitude and I invite you to do the same. After all, Jesus’ words and works assure us all of how precious we are in God’s eyes. Even today in the midst of this sadly remarkable year, Jesus’ words and works assure us that all will be well in the end.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifted By Every Season

The earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it are all of God.

Psalm 24:1

The four seasons captivate me with their shows of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with only the slightest hint of renewed life-in-the-making. Summer brings hope-fulfilled in lush green carpets of grass and blossoms of every color. Though autumn’s sometimes gloomy days replace summer’s vibrancy too quickly, autumn’s colors captivate as well. Yet, in spite of this beauty, I find myself most taken by the coldest season of the year.

This morning’s blustering winds hinted at winter’s impending arrival. That frigid season will soon draw me in with its onslaught of snow and cold. I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow beneath my feet and I’m in outdoor heaven!

My revelry over our ever-changing seasons doesn’t dispel the twinge of frustration I experience as I peek out the window at the leaves I raked an hour ago. They’ve deserted their piles to flit and crackle in the wind. Are they laughing at my wasted effort? Mounds of snow will soon do the same. Still, I look forward to winter. Living things lying dormant beneath the snowy surface symbolize the potential to be found within each one of us. These wonderful discoveries rekindle my hope just as winter does. You see, though they may be hidden for a while, the gifts of this life are everywhere around us and within each one of us!

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts which lie within each one of us whatever the season.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Go In God’s Direction

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

I haven’t been as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d like. I can offer no worthy excuse for this because these adventures always leave me feeling better. I’ll blame my uncontrolled angst with life these days. Need I state the obvious? COVID-19 continues to threaten. Social injustice continues and non-productive politics is rampant. Much to my good fortune, something, no, Someone, nudged me toward my jacket and then out the door this morning.

In spite of the chill, as soon as I established my pace, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. This is quite miraculous considering the persistent issues I’ve listed above. Though I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I’ve seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide winter’s allotment of nuts forced me to laugh. Though I always enjoy these walks, the joy I experienced this morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting recipient of God’s generosity during these treks. The blue sky that so often beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points me in God’s direction. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in God’s direction as well. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude. Being part of God’s creation is very good reason to give thanks -even in the midst of this world’s troubles.

Generous God, help me to live every day with a grateful heart and to transform my gratitude into acts which make this world a better place for us all.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Promise of Peace

Suddenly, without warning, Jesus stood before them and said, “Peace!”
Matthew 28:9

Though autumn is a full four weeks away, I can’t help anticipating the approach of this new season. Though my absolute favorite meteorological phenomenon is snow, I’m anxious to see the colorful array of fall colors which promises to awe all who will take the time to look. Eventually, those colorful leaves will fade and give way to the wind and cold. They’ll find their places over the soil where they will lie in wait for their new work of fertilizing the fruits of springtime.

My autumn musing hints at my slowly emerging expectation of better things to come. The single sentence I cite above is from Matthew’s gospel. Two days after Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and a friend went to Jesus’ tomb. Since Passover and the Sabbath had passed, they were free to tend to Jesus’ body which was buried quickly due to the holy days. When the women arrived, they found that the stone which sealed the tomb had been rolled away and that Jesus’ body was gone. On their way to tell the other disciples what had occurred, they encountered someone who appeared to be a gardener. When that man uttered the single word “Peace!” Mary Magdalene knew exactly who he was.

It occurs to me that I must never forget the promise of that day. When Jesus greeted his two friends with “Peace!”, he intended this sentiment to echo through two millenniums and then some to you, to me and to all the world!

Dear God, help me always to remember that your peace is offered every day of every season to every one of us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Love… Always!

A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.

Ecclesiastes 3:2

A time to be born… I enjoy walking outdoors because of Nature’s ongoing evolution. The entire world seems to engage in rebirth during springtime. This growth continues through summer when flowerbeds and gardens flourish. Leafy trees respond to September’s mix early on with subtle changes in color. October brings those changes to fruition only to give way to November winds. Leaves crunching beneath my feet remind me that winter is near. Even then, barren trees hold the promise of new life. Especially now, I’m happy to celebrate that there is always time to be born and to be reborn.

A time to die… Just as Nature engages in rebirth, it also engages in dying all the while. Something old continually gives way to something new. Seeds fall from trees and dance in the wind until they find rest on the ground below. Though no longer part of a living plant, they hold all of the potential they need for life anew. These seeds nestle into the ground with great hope in the things to come. How I thank God for this hope today!

A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant… If those seeds are lucky, a watchful gardener will see that they are covered with enough soil to survive. If they sprout too closely to one another, that gardener will gently relocate them so each will have room to take root and to receive its share of sunlight and water. Perhaps God is seeing to it that we have the room to flourish during these tough times…

A time to love… Fortunately for us all, God feels it is always time to care for us. Especially now, I am truly grateful for God’s attention.

Caring God, thank you for your consistently timely love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Lights Our Way

Little children,
let us love in deed and in truth…

From 1 John 3:18

A storm is brewing just beyond my window. It was once an odd phenomenon to hear the local television meteorologist speak of the possibility of snow. After all, we’ve just turned our calendars to November! Unfortunately, the meteorological antics of Halloween 2019 seem to have changed that forever. Though she offers encouragement with a promise that sunshine will return tomorrow, this weather expert cannot dispel the gray which lurks beyond my window today. Though I do enjoy the cold, I enjoy sunshine as well.

It occurs to me that, on occasion, my knowledge of human nature fails me as much as the weather does. I sometimes ignore this wisdom and “push buttons” that would best be left alone. Though I know well what will come next if I attempt to have the last word, I speak in spite of myself. When the thunder in my adversary threatens, I push when I should let go. I forget to let love take care.

Like raking leaves after a windstorm or shoveling snow after a blizzard, I make feeble attempts to right the things I’ve done wrong. Sometimes, I succeed. Sometimes, the damage is too extensive to repair. As I reaffirm my resolve not to repeat these transgressions, the sun breaks through the clouds. God remains with me as I transform my good intentions into good deeds.

Patient God, help me respond to every storm with rays of love, just as you do.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved