D… Depth!

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me and I will make you fishers of people!”

Mark 1:17

D is for Depth. I’ve often wondered if Jesus appreciated the irony of the situation when he called Simon and Andrew to follow him. They were already experts regarding what lay beneath the surface. After all, they were successful fishermen. Still, Jesus asked them to cast their nets into much deeper waters. Jesus asked them to set their sights upon fellow souls…

It seems to me that I deal best with the challenges before me when I look beneath the surface as well. Many things aren’t as they seem. Just as Simon and Andrew made a science of studying the waters to determine where best to cast their nets, I must study the circumstances and people around me before casting a word or deed in their direction. When a quick response is necessary, I rely on God to guide me just as Jesus guided his followers. However, when I’m blessed with the time to plan ahead, it’s up to me to use that time well.

Depth… Of all of God’s gifts, I think I truly appreciate the understanding of another soul. What a gift it is when someone delves beneath the surface to discover what actually makes me tick! What a gift it is when I care enough to allow another to share the depths of his or her spirit with me!

Dear God, you understand us to depths of our cores. Help us to cast our nets with care as we seek to discover the gifts deep within all of those you have given us to love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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We’re All In The Same Boat!

Two Sundays ago, I rose early and headed off to church. I hoped to offer a “welcome home” to friends from St. Paul’s who’d returned from Israel a few days earlier. Though I was unable to physically join them on this trip, I traveled with them in spirit. The tour director and fellow tourists had shared this adventure via photo and video posts on Facebook. They’d allowed me to be with them, at least virtually, every step of the way. Though these images indicated that all concerned had enjoyed an amazing trip, I wanted to confirm this for myself. As it happened, the smiles and comments of the six friends I met that morning indicated that they’d experienced the same once-in-a-lifetime adventure I’d enjoyed in Israel. When I returned home, I pulled out the albums which chronicle our trips there. Within minutes, that unexpected sense of peace which greeted me in the Holy Land returned…

For reasons unknown to me, the time I spent in Israel felt very much like a family reunion. Several years earlier, Mike and I had traveled to Croatia to meet his cousins there. Two years ago, we flew to Quebec to meet my dad’s family. Last summer, we traveled to Sicily to visit Mike’s grandparents’ hometown. Each of these encounters left us with a heartwarming sense of belonging. I’d experienced precisely the same in Israel. When I pondered this phenomenon, it occurred to me that going to the Holy Land was a family reunion as well. My own story began there long ago when the one whom they called “Teacher” laid the foundation for everything of importance to me. Jesus revealed the essence of God’s love and our capacity to love one another. I wouldn’t be the person, child, sibling, wife, mom, aunt, grandma and friend I am today if I hadn’t taken these lessons to heart. Though our family trees may not indicate that we share our genealogy, Jesus and I are family just the same. Every encounter with Jesus’ history in the Holy Land proved to be an encounter with my own history as well. When I revisited our photos of The Jesus Boat, I understood why I take today’s passage from Luke’s gospel (Luke 5:1-11) to heart.

We read a great deal about fishermen and boats in the gospels. Though some of his followers abandoned their fishing businesses to follow Jesus, he went back to their boats often to get from place to place, to preach and to rest. Though no one can say with any certainty that Jesus set foot on The Jesus Boat, this vessel is definitely a relic from Jesus’ day. Because it was discovered just north of Magdala and just south of Tabgha, Jesus may have looked upon this boat as he lingered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The boat is displayed in a museum in Kibbutz Ginosar. There I learned of Moshe and Yuval Lufan, brothers and fellow fishermen like Peter and Andrew. They discovered the ancient boat buried in mud near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I was struck by the excitement of these two who couldn’t hide their amazement over this discovery. Their treasure shook both the archaeological world and the spiritual world to their cores. No one had ever before unearthed such an old vessel in such complete condition. This bit of Jesus’ history is particularly special to me because it gives life to Luke’s telling of Jesus’ adventure with Peter and Andrew, James and John.

As Luke tells it, Jesus had been preaching among a crowd near the Lake of Gennesaret (also called The Sea of Galilee) when he saw Simon washing his nets. Jesus boarded Simon’s boat and asked the fisherman to pull his boat into the water just a short distance from the shore. Simon must have been taken with Jesus because he obliged immediately. After preaching from Simon’s boat for some time, Jesus asked his unsuspecting friend to sail into the deep water and to cast his nets once again. Practical man that he was, Simon pointed out that he’d worked all night in the same area and had caught nothing. Still, Simon did as Jesus asked. Almost immediately, the poor man’s nets became so full that they threatened to tear. Simon’s fellow fishermen came to the rescue as his boat might have sunk under the weight of those fish. Having seen The Jesus Boat first hand, I understand Simon’s fear! Still, small as that boat was, Luke tells us that Simon seemed to fear something else far more than his sinking boat. Witnessing this miracle filled him with absolute awe and trepidation. Simon seemed to wonder, “Who am I to be in the company of this Jesus who can work such wonders?” Indeed, Simon followed this thought with a command to Jesus: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

Jesus’ response to the fearful Simon is the reason I take Luke’s account to heart. Though Simon doubted what part he could possibly play in Jesus’ plan, Jesus remained steadfast in his confidence in Simon. Though one day Jesus would rename his humble friend Peter, it was the essence of the old Simon which compelled Jesus to ask him to follow him and to work at his side. Whenever I doubt myself, I must open my ears as Simon did to God’s call. Incapable and unworthy as I may seem to me, I must never doubt my place in God’s world and God’s plan. Nor should you!
©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

D is for Depth

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Mark 1:17

D is for Depth. I wonder if Jesus appreciated the irony when he called Simon and Andrew to follow him. They were already experts regarding what lay beneath the surface. After all, they were successful fishermen. Still, Jesus asked them to cast their nets into much deeper waters. Jesus asked them to set their sights upon fellow souls…

It seems to me that I deal best with the challenges before me when I look beneath the surface as well. Most things aren’t as they seem. Just as Simon and Andrew made a science of studying the waters to determine where best to cast their nets, I must study the circumstances and people around me before casting a word or deed in their direction. This means I must withhold my judgment as well.

Depth… Of all of life’s gifts, I think I appreciate most the understanding of another soul. What a gift it is when someone delves beneath the surface to discover what actually makes me tick! What a gift it is when I care enough to allow another to share the depths of his or her spirit with me!

Dear God, you reside within the depths of each one of us. Teach us to cast our nets with care as we seek to find you within one another.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

D is for…

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.”

Mark 1:17

D is for Depth. I’ve often wondered if Jesus appreciated the irony when he called Simon and Andrew to follow him. They were already experts regarding what lay beneath the surface. After all, they were successful fishermen. I shouldn’t wonder any longer. Jesus knew what he was doing when he asked Peter and the rest to cast their nets into much deeper waters. Jesus asked them to set their sights upon fellow souls…

It seems to me that I best manage the challenges before me when I look beneath the surface as well. Most things aren’t as they seem. Just as Simon and Andrew made a science of studying the waters to determine where to cast their nets, I must study the circumstances and people around me before casting a word or look or deed in their direction.

Depth… Of all of God’s gifts, I think I most appreciate the understanding of a fellow soul. What a gift it is when someone delves beneath the surface to discover what actually makes me tick! What a gift it is when I care enough to allow another to share the depths of his or her spirit with me!

Dear God, you reside within the depths of each one of us. Be with us as we cast our nets with care to love one another.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gone Fishing!

He said to them, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Matthew 4:19

One of the most beautiful sites in Magdala is The Boat Chapel. The chapel features a large semicircular window behind the altar which allows those present to view the Sea of Galilee as they pray. Even more striking is the altar itself which is shaped like a boat. When I entered the chapel for the first time, the “boat” in the sanctuary took my breath away. It did the same on this second visit.

In Jesus’ day the Sea of Galilee teemed with fish just as it does today. Magdala enjoyed an excellent economic standing as a result of the fishing industry which thrived there. One wonders why Peter and Andrew left their boats and their livelihoods to follow Jesus. One wonders what they were thinking when Jesus asked them to apply their fishing skills to gathering the rest of us into their company.

We know well that Peter and Andrew weren’t the only ones to leave their jobs to follow Jesus. Nor was Mary Magdalene alone in her admiration and support of this amazing man who’d called each one of them by name. This phenomenon has continued throughout the ages in spite of our often mediocre fishing skills. Just as Jesus placed his work in the hands of Peter, Mary and the others, he entrusts it to us.
It seems best to proceed as Jesus did, one loving interaction at a time…

Loving God, help me to improve my fishing skills so I can cast your love everywhere toward everyone. Perhaps I’ll catch a heart or two along the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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