Our Best Friend Forever

God is near to all who call…
From Psalm 145:18

While de-cluttering my bookshelves for the umpteenth time, I came across a stack of prayer cards. One caught my attention because it is a homemade creation I picked up at a craft sale some time ago. The anonymous prayer featured on the card expresses the sentiments of someone who wishes each of us to experience God as powerfully as he or she does. This prayer doesn’t ask that others are blessed with a keen knowledge of church teaching or of the scriptures or of theology. Though these are all good places to seek some understanding of God, this prayer asks that we sense God’s presence not only with our minds, but with our hearts as well. It occurred to me that this prayer’s author knows God in the same way that he or she knows the best of friends. What is more amazing is that God seems to reciprocate this relationship in very tangible ways.

I’ve taken that prayer card and given it a new home on my desk. Every day when I check my calendar, it reminds me to talk to God with the open and loving heart of this prayer’s author. I can think of nothing better for any of us than to truly understand with our heads and our hearts that God loves us passionately and remains with us always. Indeed, God is a best friend to us all.

Dear God, thank you for showing yourself to us in so many ways. Please, reveal your friendship so unmistakably that we can’t miss your presence around us and within us.

©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

Friends For Always

“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
Luke 4:24

A recent email exchange with a childhood friend turned my thoughts to the old neighborhood and someone I’ll never forget. I’ve told you about Glenda before, nonetheless, I can’t resist…

Glenda and I had been classmates from first through sixth grade. We played together whenever we could. During sixth grade, we endured some troubles. Glenda began to blossom into a young woman quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher on a daily basis regardless of my genuine effort to do just the opposite.

One day, Sister announced that we must read the essays we’d just written to the entire class. Since Glenda and I were shy, we trembled in unison at the thought. When it was my turn, I managed not to fumble. When Sister called Glenda, I closed my eyes and prayed that she would do the same. A giggle from the back of the classroom interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I focused on Glenda, everyone in class was laughing, except for me. When I noticed that Glenda’s blouse had unbuttoned, I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway.

While I explained what had happened to Glenda, Sister mercilessly reprimanded the rest of the class. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones because the rest of the class was in trouble. In the end, our classmates ostracized us for a bit because we “got them into trouble”. Never mind their cruel laughter which caused Glenda’s tears. As for Glenda and me, our friendship grew stronger and Sister managed to muster a bit more patience when it came to judging my behavior.

Dear God, thank you for helping me to put my friendship with Glenda ahead of my standing among my classmates. Help me to put my friendship with you ahead of everything.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Time To Be Free

God has made everyone appropriate to their time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Though I enjoy the revelry with which we begin the month of July, this page of the calendar also reminds me of significant losses in my life. The first is my dad who left us on July 4 six decades ago. We gathered at his sister’s wake on July 4 some years later. As I prepared to write a July 4 reflection during another year, a dear friend battled cancer.

It was June that year when news of John’s impending recovery spread among his family and friends. He was a good man and a good priest and his life made all of the difference in the world to each of us. This news elicited a collective sigh of relief from all concerned.

With this good news to inspire me, I headed to my computer to write that reflection and a letter to John. Poor John was a captive fan to whom I sent my reflections and a letter each week. We would observe July 4th in a few days and the holiday set my tone. I wished John a generous measure freedom. My litany began with “…freedom from illness, freedom to breathe in as deeply as you want to –with no pain! I wish you freedom from chemotherapy and I wish you hair! I wish you the freedom to get back to the people and the work you love and the freedom to come and go as you please.”

It’s unlikely that John read that letter because he returned to the hospital a day after its writing. His struggle to breathe had become too much. When pneumonia set in, John lacked the stamina to fight it. It was twenty years ago today that John embraced the ultimate freedom which we’ll all enjoy one day.

Loving God, as I remember John and all of those I’ve lost, touch the hearts of all who mourn with your peace.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Forgive and Heal…

His father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

Forgiveness is a tough topic. Forgiveness is multifaceted. It includes giving and receiving forgiveness from others and giving and receiving forgiveness from ourselves. Though I once thought forgiving others is the tough part, I’ve discovered that receiving the forgiveness of others is difficult as well. Most difficult I think is accepting forgiveness from myself. When I accept forgiveness from anyone, I acknowledge that I’ve done wrong. This isn’t easy…

I’ve wrestled with forgiveness since childhood. As a child, I judged myself. This judgment was harsh and final. Because I viewed myself this way, it was difficult to accept that anyone else would view me more lovingly. It was only when I looked to Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son that I finally understood. That young man’s father echoed what God has spoken to each one of us since we took our first breaths: Silly child! I canceled your entire debt long before you turned my way for forgiveness. Dear child, deal as mercifully with yourself as I deal with you. Deal as mercifully with your sisters and brothers as I deal with you! Forgive and be healed!

Jesus’ parable says it all. We are a much-loved and generously forgiven people. With that knowledge in hand, God invites us to for give when necessary and to heal one another and this world as only we can!

Loving God, thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Listening!

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in conversation with God.

Luke 6:12

The other day, I ran into a friend who’d been part of my husband’s and my last RCIA class. Paul had decided to become a Catholic in order to share the same faith with his wife and children. He told me that he was grateful that he’d journeyed through RCIA with Mike and me. I admit that I walked away with a smile as memories from that year together filled me up.

My favorite topic was prayer. Though we introduced commonly known prayers first, we also shared our own preferences. Mike and I agree that we do our best praying when we simply talk to God. Jesus spent his life among us convincing us of God’s unconditional love, acceptance, mercy and concern for each one of us. If we take these teachings to heart, we realize just how intimately God wishes to be connected with us. In my case, I share my deepest concerns only with those by whom I feel accepted and with whom I feel comfortable. It seems to me that God tops this list of my most precious friends.

You know, talking to God is as natural as talking to one another. So is listening. When I share my deepest thoughts or worries with a friend, I fully expect a response. Sometimes, this comes in a knowing smile, a pat on the back or a similar story from his or her experience. Sometimes, we simply sit together, knowing that each of us understands the other. The same is true in our conversations with God. Though I’ve never heard a word spoken from God’s lips, I have received God’s message in the quiet of the moment, in an unexpected remark from someone I know or a forgotten line in a favorite book. Sometimes, God speaks in the autumn breeze and sometimes I simply know what God is telling me.

Whenever we take the time to talk with God, God finds a way to respond.

Loving God, once again I say, “THANK YOU!”

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved