God’s Good Company!

Sing to God a new song
for God has done wondrous deeds.

Psalm 98:1

Friends of our recently traveled to The Amalfi Coast for a much anticipated vacation. My hope on the day they boarded their plane was a safe and enjoyable journey. Fortunately, they are joyful fliers who fully look forward to the adventure at hand. As for me…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every trip my husband and have taken once we’ve arrived at our destinations. My issue has been getting there. I have no fear of flying. However, I am an unofficial claustrophobic. Spending hours cooped up in an airplane sends chills up and down my spine. This phenomenon begins days before a flight and continues until I walk off that plane at my final destination.

Fortunately, after our first few trips, things changed. I asked God to be a bit more tangibly present as I prepared. Apparently, my prayer was answered because I began packing with anticipation rather than worry. I woke early on the days of our departures looking forward to these trip. Every time, we breezed through security and happily nestled into our seats on the plane. Most often, the thoughtful passengers seated in front of me didn’t push their seats back into “my space” which added to my peace. (I prayed a long time for each one with a grateful heart!) When we arrived at each destination, I prayed again to thank God who had traveled with me through everything.

Though my travel angst was a minimal problem in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t to minimal for God to help me through it. Nothing is too minimal -or too great- for God!

Loving God, thank you for being with us in our troubles, even when they are as inconsequential as mine. Knowing you are with me changes everything!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Mary Magdalene

The Twelve accompanied him, and also some women who had been cured…
Mary called the Magdalene…

From Luke 8:1-2

Last year, when our friend Nancy invited us to hear more about her tour to Israel, neither my husband nor I had decided to sign-up. Still, we listened attentively as Nancy presented the itinerary. As soon as I heard mention of Magdala, I made up my mind to go. For reasons unclear to me, my fear of small places, especially confining airline seats, suddenly diminished. I’d determined that I was willing to endure whatever it took to walk where Mary Magdalene walked two millenniums ago. This year, when the opportunity to return to Israel arose, no discussion was necessary. Of course I would return to the hometown of my most beloved of Jesus’ friends!

Magdala is one of several tiny towns nestled near the Sea of Galilee. Since Jesus called his first disciples from the shores of this lake, he certainly frequented the area early on in his ministry. Jesus taught in the synagogue there often. This building’s remains are one of the many treasures I looked forward to returning to on our second trip.

As I gazed upon the stones which formed the synagogue’s foundation and walls, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Jesus’ presence and that of his followers was undeniable. Images of numerous Israelis I’d passed in the markets and holy places we’d already visited reappeared in first century garb. Truly, this place was alive with Jesus and the many friends he’d made there. I couldn’t help feeling that Mary Magdalene had welcomed me back…

Dear God, you remain present in everyone and everything around us. Thank you for the brave souls like Mary Magdalene who embrace your love and share it so fervently.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Transforming Experiences

A recent Facebook post from overseas reminded me that it has been twelve years since my dear husband located his family in Croatia. Back then, when there were no replies to numerous letters Mike had sent to the only family address he knew, he did what any good Catholic would do. He wrote to the parish priest in Krasić, his family’s village. Some weeks later, Mike received a response which included names, addresses and some family history. I encouraged Mike throughout this pursuit until I realized that he actually intended to travel to this foreign land. Though I shared Mike’s interest in his newly discovered family, my intolerance for flying had drained my desire to board a plane in order to meet them.

Fortunately for me, throughout the interim I was completely taken with the communication between Mike and his Croatian cousins. When we eventually prepared to visit them, I was able to put that long flight out of my mind until I boarded the plane. I concentrated on the people and places which would await us when we arrived and I was not disappointed. When I boarded the plane for our trip home, my fear of tiny airplane seats and hours of confinement had diminished a bit. It was eased into the shadows by memories of the beautiful people who had become my family, too. Our adventure in this once foreign place transformed my spirit in truly unexpected ways.

This transformation has continued throughout the years since. When we returned to Croatia with Mike’s American cousins, I found it a little easier to set aside my fear. Later, while preparing for flights to Germany and then to Italy, my anticipation of the things to come overpowered my fear even more so. Last year, when Mike and I traveled to Israel, my transformation seemed to near completion. I was anxious to begin this journey so I could walk where Jesus and Mary of Magdala walked and sail the Sea of Galilee where Jesus engaged in so much of his ministry. Rather than being a source of discomfort and fear, the flight to the Holy Land provided the opportunity to reflect on the treasure which awaited me. When I boarded that plane to Tel Aviv, I bore little resemblance to the woman who first traveled to Croatia more than a decade earlier. When I boarded the plane home, I knew I would never be the same.

Our visit to Jesus’ homeland transformed me to my core. Though I’ve always enjoyed the ability to conjure up reasonably realistic images from Jesus’ life, his time among us took on new meaning in the dusty streets of Magdala, the ruins of Nazareth and the busy byways of Jerusalem. During those eight days, I was very much aware that I was walking among Jesus’ people. The most peculiar aspect of this was that I felt completely at home among them. Not long after this trip, Mike was invited to assist in guiding a tour in Israel this coming year. It took no transformation to make Mike-the-Traveler jump at this opportunity. As for me, because my transformation has taken a dozen years, Mike was completely surprised when I announced, “I’m going, too!”

I share all of this because today is Transfiguration Sunday. Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 17:1-9) takes us to a mountainside where hope comes alive in the glimpse of eternity which Jesus, Moses and Elijah provide the disciples. Never before have Peter, James and John seen anyone in the dazzling forms Jesus, Moses and Elijah assume. Though those heavenly entities appear to be completely comfortable in their states, poor Peter, James and John stand agape in their wonder and their confusion. Jesus’ only response is to order them to say nothing “…until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” A transfiguration of their own was certainly in the making!

You know, my fear of tiny airplane spaces was debilitating at best. It threatened to rob me of many life-changing experiences. Fortunately, the persistence of my dear husband and the treasure I discovered at the end of each flight nudged me along. Every time I responded to these urgings, I changed a bit more until the day I truly looked forward to flying. Though this isn’t the most significant transformation which has occurred in my life, I share it to illustrate the sometimes lengthy process which leads to meaningful change. Peter, James and John persisted as best they could. Though they saw Jesus in all of his glory, they ran away when Jesus needed them most. It took each one a lifetime to realize who Jesus is and who they had become. Today, we celebrate our opportunity to do the same, one small, but important step at a time.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Magdala

The Twelve accompanied him, and also some women who had been cured…
Mary called the Magdalene…

From Luke 8:1-2

When our friend Nancy invited us to hear more about her proposed tour to Israel, neither my husband nor I were certain we wanted to participate. We listened carefully as Nancy presented the itinerary. As soon as I heard mention of Magdala, I made up my mind to go. For reasons unclear to me, my fear of small places, especially confining airline seats, became of minimal concern. I found myself quite willing to endure whatever it took to walk where Mary Magdalene walked two millenniums ago…

Magdala is one of several tiny towns nestled near the Sea of Galilee. Since Jesus called his first disciples from the shores of this lake, he certainly frequented the area early on in his ministry. Jesus taught in the synagogue there often. This building’s remains are one of the many treasures I encountered there.

As I gazed upon the stones which formed the synagogue’s foundation and walls, I listened carefully. Though Jesus’ words were no longer audible in this holy place, his presence and that of his followers was undeniable. Images of numerous Israelis I’d passed in the markets and holy places we’d already visited reappeared in first century garb. Suddenly, this place was alive with Jesus and the many friends he’d made there. Though I didn’t see Mary Magdalene among them, I knew she must be nearby.

Dear God, you remain present in everyone and everything around us. Today, I will be certain to open my eyes and my heart to you.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always In Good Company

Sing to the Lord a new song
for he has done wondrous deeds.

Psalm 98:1

My husband recently joined our son for a business trip to London. I realized that my absence was significant when Mike returned home with more than a hundred photos stored on his camera. Since we’re purging our home of unneeded memorabilia and anything else we can do without, I would have encouraged him to photograph only what was essential to our memories. As I perused the photos, I surmised that it was my absence which brought them about. He wanted me to fully appreciate what I’d missed. Then, I would be less reluctant to travel the next time the opportunity presented itself.

Actually, I have thoroughly enjoyed every trip we’ve taken once we’ve arrived. My issue is getting there. I have no fear of flying. However, I’m an unofficial claustrophobic. Spending hours cooped up in an airplane sends chills up and down my spine. This phenomenon begins days before my flight and continues until I walk off the plane at my final destination.

Still, the last time we flew things were different. I asked God to be a bit more tangibly present as I prepared. Apparently, my prayer was answered because I packed with anticipation rather than worry. I woke early the day of our departure looking forward to our trip. We breezed through security and nestled into our seats on the plane. The thoughtful gentleman in front of me didn’t push his seat back into “my space” which added to my peace. (I prayed a long time for him with a grateful heart.) When we arrived in Sicily, I prayed again to thank God who had traveled with me through everything.

Perhaps I should tell my poor husband that all of those pictures weren’t necessary. Now that I know I’m not alone in those cramped spaces, I’m happy to pack my bags once again.

Loving God, thank you for being with us in our troubles, even when they are as inconsequential as mine. Knowing you are with me changes everything!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Constant Companion

Sing to the Lord a new song
for he has done wondrous deeds.

Psalm 98:1

While watching a slide show of the photos we took during our recent trip to Sicily, I smiled. This trip provided much-needed rest and welcome inspiration to both my husband and me. It was also the first time I arrived at the airport without my usual pre-flight jitters.

I have no fear of flying. However, I am a serious claustrophobic. Knowing that I will spend hours cooped up in an airplane sends chills up and down my spine. This phenomenon usually begins days before my flight and continues until I walk off the plane at my final destination. This time, things were different. I decided to practice what I preach and to ask our Dear Lord to remain with me in my trauma.

As it happened, I packed with anticipation rather than worry. I woke early the day of our departure looking forward to our flight. We breezed through security and nestled restfully into our assigned seats on the plane. The thoughtful gentleman seated in front of me did not push his seat back into “my space” which added to my enjoyment. (I prayed a long time for him with a grateful heart.)

When we arrived in Sicily, I prayed again. This time, I offered a prayer of thanksgiving to our gracious God who remains with us everything.

Loving God, thank you for being with us in our troubles, even when they are as inconsequential as my own. Just knowing that you are with me changes everything!

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved