Be Peace-Sharers

“I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly
who shall teach you to take refuge in God’s peace.”

Inspired by Zephaniah 3:13

Once again, I’ve been blessed by a perceptive and empathetic soul. The truth is that I can’t begin to tell you how often others have made all of the difference in the world to me. Their kindness is always particularly helpful at just the right moments on particularly tough days. The past 273 days of Year 2020 have been just such days! Still, more often that I dared ever to have expected, someone has responded to my misery with the perfect antidote.

As I prepare for Christmas and look with hope to New Year 2021, I’m going to try to emulate the kind souls who’ve helped me by bringing a bit of peace to those I meet along the way. Though I won’t be mingling with crowds of any size anywhere, I do meet others over the phone, via email, while hurrying in and out of the grocery store and down the block. I hear daily pleas on behalf of those in need of so many things. I’m going to respond as often as I can however I can. As you make your way through these trying days, I hope you’ll join me in doing the same.

I can tell you from personal experience that we humans are quite adept at sharing bits of peace on earth when we put our minds and our hearts to it!

Loving God, as we prepare for Christmas and the coming year, help us to bring your peace to everyone we meet along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserve

God’s Always Listening

Jesus went up to the mountain and
he spent the night in prayer with God.

Luke 6:12

As my husband and I walked along a nearby trail, Mike interrupted the quiet by yelling, “Look at that deer!” Not ten feet away, an amazingly agile buck leapt over fallen trees and browning shrubs. He stopped just a second to look back at us and then continued on his way. When poor Mike looked back at me, he couldn’t figure out why I was responding to this amazing sight with tears. I had to explain that these were tears of joy because that deer was truly an answer to my prayer…

When Mike and I set out for our walk that day, we talked about our kids and grandkids, how we’re all surviving this pandemic and what was next on our stay-at-home agenda. Afterward, we each settled into our own quiet. I admit to talking God’s ear off that morning. I’d been clumsily voicing a concern which is near and dear to me. Just before we encountered that deer, I’d told our patient God that I know that I’m always heard, but that, this time, I needed a little sign. “I haven’t seen a deer in a while,” I dared to say. It was seconds afterward that the buck ran past Mike and me.

When I share my thoughts and worries with God, I know God understands. Though I’ve never heard a word spoken from God’s lips, I have received God’s response in the quiet of the moment, in an unexpected remark from someone nearby or in a suddenly remembered line from a favorite book or hymn. Sometimes, God speaks in the autumn breeze and sometimes God speaks through a galloping buck. Trust me. When we pray and even when we don’t, God finds a way to reach out to us. It’s up to us to take notice.

Good and generous God, let’s talk every day. When I forget, nudge me into conversation as only you can.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Talk…

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night talking to God.

Luke 6:12

For several years, my husband and I taught a class for those interested in learning more about our faith. Though we covered a myriad of topics, my favorite was prayer. We began with commonly known prayers and then shared our own preferences. Mike and I agree that we do our best praying when we simply talk to God. Jesus spent his public life convincing us of God’s unconditional love, acceptance, mercy and concern for each of us. When we take these things 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. Honestly, God tops this list of these precious friends.

I find that talking to God is as natural as talking to a good friend. A friend’s responses come 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 response in the quiet of the moment, in an unexpected remark from a fellow human or in a forgotten line from a favorite book. Sometimes, God speaks in the autumn breeze and sometimes God speaks deep within me. Whenever we take the time to talk with God, God finds a way to respond.

Dear God, let’s talk. I know that you always listen. I’ll do my best to listen, too.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved and Comforted

Come to me all of you who labor and
are burdened and I will refresh you.

Matthew 11:28

A good friend recently reached out to request my prayers. He’s struggling to be productive and to maintain a bit of peace while plugging away each day. I’m sure most of you join me in understanding his predicament. The pandemic and so much more continues to threaten to push us to the edge. If we have underlying issues to deal with, they’re exacerbated to the nth degree. Though I’m no expert in this regard, Someone is urging me to share these easy responses which help me when stress threatens to derail my efforts. I’m no practitioner in this regard. However, I do find that these efforts help me to refocus, to energize and to carry on. I hope they do the same for you…

• When stress threatens to overwhelm you, stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath. Take 4 or 5 slow and deep breaths. Sit up straight so you can get the maximum amount of air in and out.

• Take a walk outdoors. Cold as it is, it’s worth the fresh air and the change of scenery. Just 10 minutes in nature helps me.

• Think about the happiest time of your life. Imagine what you see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Who’s there? Allow yourself to laugh or to cry aloud.

• Read something that lifts your spirits… A favorite poem or passage or prayer or an old letter or greeting card.

• Imagine what you wish to accomplish today. SEE it happening and then get back to work on it.

• Pray… This isn’t a last resort. It’s usually the first thing I do. I tell God that, though others may not be aware of my misery, I know that God feels it with me and understands completely. I imagine God at my side and within me for within me is where God dwells. God dwells within all of us. How can I not feel better when I acknowledge that God understands and that I’m not alone after all.

Loving God, we know that you remain with us in everything. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Up To Us

“We find ourselves in the peaceful possession
of the fairest portion of the earth…”
.
Abraham Lincoln, January 1838, Springfield, Illinois

Though I normally begin with scripture, I find Abraham Lincoln’s words to be particularly poignant as Election 2020 unfolds. This country has been “the fairest portion of the earth” for us Americans since our birth as a nation…

I’m writing early Election Day with no idea of who will be elected when the votes are tallied. I admit to an unsettled state of mind. I grew up in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, the War On Poverty and the Vietnam War. I witnessed the anguish of fellow citizens persecuted because of their color, their status as veterans and their status as protestors. I remember too many poor neighbors for whom things never seemed to change. I remember the day Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I remember demonstrations during the 1968 convention in Chicago and at Kent State where protesting students were shot. I remember many events which I never expected to be repeated, yet have been echoed in recent history.

After voicing his appreciation for these United States, Abraham Lincoln pointed out our responsibility to safeguard this gift: “…This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform… How then shall we perform it?… At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us… it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher…”

It was 182 years ago when Lincoln warned us against abusing the gift of this democracy. It occurs to me that it’s time to take Lincoln’s words to heart. It’s time to set aside political differences and to work together to return this nation to “the fairest portion of the earth” which Lincoln so loved. So great are we, Lincoln thought, that our demise could come only at our own hands. We mustn’t cause that to happen. So, regardless of whom you and I voted for and regardless of who wins or has won this election, let’s repair our relationships with one another from our tiniest citizen to the president and everyone we meet in between. Let’s return to the goodness which Abraham Lincoln envisioned.

Dear God, please stay with us as we strengthen our relationships with one another and with this precious country of ours.

©2020 Mary Penich-All Rights Reserved

There’s Always Room for You

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

When I was a little girl, dinner time was the best part of my day. Though I enjoyed the meals which were typical of a blue-collar family of the era, I enjoyed the family which gathered to partake of them far more. Because my dad worked nights, dinner time was our first opportunity to spend quality time with him most days. This was “morning” to him and my dad almost always exhibited his sense of humor as he started his new day. We often laughed as much as we chewed throughout these shared meals.

Happily, my parents’ welcoming spirits remain with their children. We all do our share of opening our homes and our hearts to others. I’m particularly grateful that my parents’ example taught me to extend hospitality even to those who are less than friendly toward me. At my parents’ table, I found the tools and the willingness to invite in any of God’s children who want to take a seat and “chew” on whatever is on their minds. These tools have served me well all of my life.

It seems to me that we have no better example of welcoming others than we find in God. Jesus did an amazing job of revealing God’s loving ways toward all of humankind. In our goodness and in our failures, God finds us worthy of the present moment and of the things to come. If we can remember to be welcoming of others as we tackle this pandemic, the division which has also plagued this country and the tough days ahead, everything that lies ahead will be manageable because we’re face it together.

Welcoming God, your heart is open to each one of us. Help us to open our hearts as you have.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved