Respond and Rest

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

My husband serves as our “family grocery shopper” most of the time. When I joined him in retirement, I tried to retrieve what had once been my responsibility. After my first few trips to the store, my husband finally asked, “What takes you so long? I can find the stuff on a list twice as long in half the time. What are you doing there?” When I thought about what had transpired on these outings, I realized that, each time, I had run into a neighbor, a someone from church, a former colleague or a friend. Of course, I took the time to chat. Why not? I had all of the time in the world.

I admit that I eventually relinquished my hold on our shopping lists much of the time. As visits to our grandchildren and my writing schedule have increased, I realize that efficient shopping trips are sometimes in order. I also realize that these grocery-store encounters are sometimes unexpectedly important to me or to the person I’ve met along the way.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were often disrupted by those who needed him. The same is true of you and me. All that is asked is that we respond as best we can. By the way, we’re also allowed to rest on occasion just a Jesus did.

Dear God, I am grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to respond with kindness to them and to my own fatigue as needed.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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God Delights Us

Great are the works of the Lord,
exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:2

A few weeks ago, I admitted that I was as tired as my poor husband was that day. My admittedly self-imposed to-do list had overwhelmed me and I needed a break. So it was that I joined my husband in the family room to relax. It didn’t take long for us to be drawn in by the travel channel. We discovered a series of shows which featured Alaska. The week before, friends had shared that they’re planning a cruise to the 49th State. Ever since, I couldn’t help relishing flashbacks to the wonder we’d encountered there. Though cloudy weather had prevented us from viewing the Aurora Borealis, we encouraged our friends take every opportunity for a potential sighting. Much to my absolute joy, the program my husband and I watched that day featured the Aurora in all its glory.

Though I’m certain that these images didn’t do justice to God’s handiwork, they took our breath away. They gave my husband and me a most welcome distraction from our fatigue. Perhaps they’ve also given us reason to take the time to explore God’s other treasures as well.

Loving God, thank you for the beauty with which you surround us. Thank you also for these little interludes which nudge us to enjoy that beauty as often as we can!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ignite Hope and Find Joy

Large crowds of people came to him bringing with them cripples,
the deformed, the blind, the mute, and many others besides.
They laid them at his feet and he cured them.

Matthew 15:30

My husband and I sometimes grow weary of our full schedules. It was in the midst of one such bout of fatigue that I suggested that we curtail our Christmas decorating this year. After giving this urging a bit of thought, my husband responded with a suggestion of his own. “Why don’t we just get a head start on it?” he asked. The truth is that we both enjoy this tradition. Preparing our home -both inside and out- for our family and friends is symbolic of our love for each one of them. Giving up any of this would dampen our experience of Christmas. Advent 2015 would have lost its luster as well. Somehow, our busyness these days before Christmas keeps us focused on poor Mary and Joseph as they scrambled to prepare for Jesus’ birth so long ago. It also keeps us focused on the reasons we do what we do for others.

In the end, I agreed with my husband. We started our decorating and shopping early. Amazingly enough, this timing has energized us enough to attend to those “full schedules” with joy rather than angst. Though the phone has continued to ring, our good will remains intact. Perhaps this is the reason Jesus ministered so generously to the needy souls who came his way. In offering others hope, Jesus found joy.

Loving God, thank you for the moments of giving in which we ignite hope in others and find the joy you intend for us all.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Peace Be With You!

I smiled as I recalled Holy Week and Easter. Though our Paschal preparations kept many of us at my parish church extremely busy, these days also filled us with heartfelt inspiration. The Easter Vigil gave me reason to walk on air, and I could not help smiling my way through Easter Sunday. It was not until the week after Easter that my fatigue caught up with me. Though I had hoped for a day or two to relax, the realities of life dictated otherwise. I had no choice but to roll up my sleeves and address the tasks at hand.

In the midst of my efforts, I realized that I had a good deal of writing to attend to. I needed two editions of my Sunday reflections for our parish bulletin as a result of my Easter weekend hiatus. I also needed a week of daily reflections for this site. I panicked as I grasped for ideas. While picking up the house and starting the laundry, I tried to recapture the Easter joy which had uplifted me so completely. Stray strands of Easter grass, spots on the kitchen floor and the clothes dryer’s buzz distracted me throughout the morning. By noon, I decided to set aside my domestic to-do list. After a quick lunch, I headed to my computer to write.

I admit that I sat in a wordless stupor for some time. I reread the Sunday scriptures and then perused the notes on my desk. Though these things usually ignite ideas which send my fingers dancing across my keyboard, they inspired nothing at the time. I realized I had forgotten to begin my writing with a prayer and whispered, “I need a little help here. What shall I write?” For no particular reason, I got up to walk. I peered out every window in our house, upstairs and down. Whenever I am troubled or at a loss for written words, I turn to the outdoors. Since I did not have the time to go for a walk, my trek around the house had to do. Oddly, when I peeked through each pane of glass, I looked beyond the trees which flank our yard toward my neighbors’ homes. These structures house lifetimes of joys and sorrows. Suddenly, images of July 4th block parties, weddings, weed-pulling and snow shoveling filled me up. “Snow shoveling?” I asked myself. It occurred to me that we neighbors have shared the best times when helping one another to tackle problems large and small together. “Of course!” I shouted as I returned to my writing. With that, my thoughts returned to the Road to Emmaus…

Luke’s gospel (24:35-48) tells us that two disciples, distraught over Jesus’ crucifixion, walked home to Emmaus together. There was no reason to remain in Jerusalem. All seemed to be lost for the not-so-faithful band who had followed Jesus. As they commiserated along the way, the two friends met a stranger who asked many questions about what had happened in Jerusalem. The two were amazed that there was anyone in the vicinity who did not know what had become of Jesus. They recounted the past week as best they could, but this stranger pressed on. Finally, this man took the lead and began to cite scripture passages for them. He explained that the events which led to Jesus’ demise fulfilled the prophets’ predictions from generations past. Intrigued, the disciples begged the stranger to remain with them through the night so they could continue their exchange the following day. The man agreed to have supper with them. As they ate, the stranger took bread and broke it, finally revealing himself as Jesus. Today’s gospel begins with the two back in Jerusalem. They had returned to their friends to share the good news of their encounter with the Lord. They had not yet finished their story when Jesus appeared in their midst. Jesus opened the conversation with the now-familiar words: “Peace be with you.”

I think it was no accident that this duo traveled together to Emmaus. After all, there is nothing more consoling than to share hard times with a friend who understands. It was no accident that they hurried back to Jerusalem to share the good news of their encounter with Jesus with the rest of their friends. I recalled the many times the kindness of my own neighbors helped me through an illness, a loss or an insurmountable mound of snow. It was also no accident that Jesus appeared once again when the disciples were together. Life was difficult for Jesus’ friends after his crucifixion. Still, Jesus asked, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see…” Like the disciples, when our worries are great and when they are small, we also succumb to our troubles. This is precisely when we must respond to Jesus’ invitation: “Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see…” Whether we are on our way to Emmaus, to a funeral or to tackle another mound of snow, indeed, Jesus is here himself and in the friendship of those friends with whom we walk every day. Now this is good reason to hold onto our Easter Joy. Peace be with you!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved