Worry Not!

He makes me lie down in green pastures…
Psalm 23:2

I’ve shared often that my husband is the travel aficionado of our family. He takes great pleasure in exploring new places and getting to know the people who inhabit them. Each adventure leaves him refreshed and ready to tackle our daily routine once we return home. As for me, I used to waste away the days of anticipation leading to these treks with unnecessary worry. While my husband looked forward to our vacations with almost as much joy as he experienced while we’re away, I worried about the things I was leaving behind and the potential travel issues which rarely materialized. Today, I acknowledge that the dear man has patiently guided me along long enough to convince me that all will be well in the end.

As I reflect further on Psalm 23, I can’t help thinking that our persistent God has cooperated in my husband’s travel efforts with good reason. I’ve overcome my travel worries and learned to lie down in green pastures, traipse through them and even climb over them as a result. Every time, like my husband, I return ready to embrace life here at home once again. I’ve even begun to suggest destinations for next time!

Loving God, thank you for caring for us even when we are reluctant to care for ourselves. Thank you also for the dear souls who make your care for us tangible.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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All God’s Lambs

The Lord is my shepherd and there is nothing I shall want.
Psalm 23:1

The month of October proved to be challenging. Two amazing women completed their battles with cancer and moved on to the hereafter. A very young man in the neighborhood endured a tragic accident and moved on as well. The rainy weather mirrors my sentiments as I continue my prayers for those left behind.

I’ve walked with many loved ones through serious illnesses. I watched helplessly as they processed the scenario which lay before them. In every case, I was deeply moved by their bravery through transitions from anger to fear to sadness to practical concern for those left behind to joyful anticipation of the things to come. It was then that I offered frequent prayers of thanksgiving for the grace which allowed these amazing souls to manage their illnesses and to embrace their journeys home to God.

As is the case with most of us, my journey home to heaven lies ahead sometime beyond my knowing. In the mean time, I turn to a favorite Psalm where I find encouragement for the journey ahead. Psalm 23 elicits the image of a happy little lamb dancing through tall grass in a beautiful pasture. Within seconds, this lamb’s revelry becomes my own. “The Lord is my shepherd and there is nothing I shall want…”

With that, I resolve to do my best today regardless of all this day will bring. I do so with a smile because God is my shepherd and there really is nothing more for me to want.

Loving God, help us all to remember that you are always walking at our sides.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Poor

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Psalm 69:33-35

This is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis’s transition from a life of comfort to a life of poverty was absolute. I write “absolute” because, after leaving everything else behind, Francis stripped himself naked as he walked away from his family’s wealth. With that, Francis embraced the lot of the poorest of the poor who lacked even clothing enough to cover themselves. Though I won’t detail all that happened next, know that Francis remained true to his commitment to the poor for the rest of his life.

When I consider the poor, my thoughts turn to those with dire material needs. Francis’s lifelong generosity inspires my own efforts to assist them. As I reflect further, I remind myself that God’s definition of “the poor” is more inclusive. Some among us are materially rich, but also experience need deep within where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing secure lives, the rest of us sometimes lose our grip on the things which are most important. Francis of Assisi inspired many in this situation to turn their attention from their own treasures to wealth as God sees it.

We’re all counted among God’s poor at one time or another. This much-loved group includes us whenever this life robs us of the things we need. Whether we’re lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parents, we’re in need. Whether we’re besought by a stack of bills or by the demons within us, we’re in need. Francis of Assisi would respond by offering us what we need at the moment and by insisting that, in spite of our other needs, we always have enough of God’s love to get by. I wholeheartedly agree.

Loving God, you recognize our poverty in all of its forms. Thank you for your generous response.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Love

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126:5

I admit that I have shed some tears as of late. A recent gathering brought tears of joy over our grandson’s second birthday and the wonderful family with whom I celebrated. Unfortunately, the news on television that very evening was heartbreaking. I turned off the set before the newscast ended because I couldn’t listen to any more. A day later, an appeal for assistance to needy children arrived in our mailbox. If I multiplied the misery that packet chronicled one hundredfold, it would still be only a drop in the bucket of poverty which affects so many of our world’s children.

With each passing day, I worry, I rejoice in the blessings of my own family and I worry some more. And the tears continue to flow. Then, I passed a group of Scouts at the grocery store who were collecting school supplies for their needy classmates. After promising them I’d be back, I headed to another store which advertised an amazing back-to-school sale and I bought as much as I could. I know I shocked those kids when I returned with my bags.

Finally, it occurred to me to ask The Almighty how it is possible to watch over and attend to all of us twenty-four/seven for eternity. It was then that I imagined God smiling in response: “It’s love, Mary. It’s all about love. Just love!”

Loving God, of all of your gifts, our capacity to love is the greatest. Be with me and all of us as we try to love as completely as you do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Come To Me…

A few weeks ago, a friend appeared at our door unexpectedly. Bob is one of our favorite neighbors and I was pleased to see him. When I looked past his smile and saw the book in his hand, I guessed the reason for this visit. Bob’s first comment confirmed my suspicions. “Well, here it is, my second book!” My fellow author tried his best to be low-key, but failed miserably in his effort to hide his absolute joy. He didn’t have to do so on my account because my emotions mirrored his. I couldn’t have been more excited! The copy Bob shared with me was his very first uncorrected edition. This made no difference to me. I caressed the book almost as lovingly as I would a new grandchild. I’d read Bob’s first book and I headed back to my computer to order a copy of his second effort as soon as he left. On the way up the stairs, I couldn’t help smiling as I recalled my elation when the UPS driver dropped off the proof copy of my first book. For someone who enjoys writing, there is nothing better! My smile remained as I searched Amazon for my friend’s book and ordered my copy.

After placing the order, I ignored the new email and returned to my own writing. I’ve struggled over the past several weeks, not because the inspiration hasn’t come, but because so much of it has been required in a short period of time. My dear husband and I have certainly had a full calendar as of late. Add to this many unexpected demands on our time and two early deadlines imposed by my parish bulletin’s publisher and you get the picture. Though this was pressure enough, I added my own measure to the mix. My author-friend had completed two manuscripts and published both within the past year and a half. I wondered why my own 90-page effort hasn’t yet evolved into a publishable state. As you know, I post these reflections every day. I enjoy composing them because they focus my thinking toward the positive each day. Though I often crank out my parish bulletin reflections in a single afternoon, some editions evolve into a two or three-day project. It just depends. On what? I simply don’t know. Still, I enjoy the writing.

After having written all of that, I retreated to the swing on our porch. Since childhood, I’ve found great consolation on swings. As a little girl, when I needed a few minutes of comfort or peace, I retreated to our backyard swing-set. Though we didn’t have much when it came to material things, that battered structure of aged piping, bolts, chains and wooden seats was indeed precious. It brought me closer to heaven than any child could ever hope to be. There was something mystical about swaying back and forth under the vast sky. Whether I saw streaming rays of sunshine, billowing cumulus clouds or dusk’s slowly emerging stars, something from above always assured me that God was watching and that all would be well in the end. Though the problem at hand almost always remained intact when I returned to our second-floor flat, my ability to deal with it had grown exponentially. Now, in spite of the fact that there was still plenty to write to complete this reflection, I allowed myself a return trip to that backyard of old. Though the roof above blocked my view of the sky, the fruits of my husband’s gardening caught my eye from every direction. When a gentle breeze embraced me as I swayed back-and-forth on the swing, I found that decades-old heavenly place where comfort and peace flow freely.

I enjoyed that taste of heaven for fifteen minutes. Though my 90 pages remain untouched, my interlude on the porch provided just enough time to recapture my belief that I’ll finish my book at just the right time. Before returning to this writing, I reread today’s scripture passages with new eyes. It was in Matthew’s gospel (11:25-30) that I found one of Jesus’ most important promises, the same promise which has been kept faithfully to me all of my life: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus’ words echo God’s often repeated invitation to trust and to rest in the most comforting and peace-filled company we’ll ever know.

It seems to me that it’s up to us to accept God’s invitation just as I did so often as a child and as I did today. Whether we fret about ourselves or about those we’ve been given to love, we’re invited to hand our worries over to God. Simply knowing that someone else understands opens our hearts to the peace that only God’s embrace can bring. I’ve rested in this place often during the difficult moments of my life. Perhaps this is the reason I continue to plug away at my writing. Just as my author-friend can’t help cranking out his novels, I can’t help sharing this good news.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Walk With God

Teach me your paths, my God,
guide me in your truth.

Psalm 25:4

I’ve probably written more often than you care to read that my favorite solo leisure activity is walking outdoors. The weather matters little as I find these treks enjoyable regardless of the temperature. Odd as it may seem, a breeze of any velocity enhances these excursions exponentially for me.

Much to my dismay, my walks have been irregular as of late. I’ve had trouble juggling my schedule and making time to write as often as I would like to. A few days ago, I couldn’t deal with my restlessness and frustration any longer. I announced to my husband that I was going for a walk and that was that. The poor man responded with a puzzled look as I’d complained only a few minutes earlier regarding my current lack of time.

Not two minutes out of the house, a gentle breeze enveloped me. Two blocks later, the breeze’s strength increased and nudged me along the way. This was quite a feat as I was already walking briskly. Halfway into this adventure, my head cleared and our good and gracious God took residence there for the duration. Suddenly, my writing schedule -or lack thereof- seemed less of a problem and more of a blessing. Somehow, I knew I would find the time to do what needs to be done.

It seems to me that we sometimes learn God’s paths best when walk in search of them.

Merciful God, thank you for having pity on me when I lost sight of your presence. The moment I opened my heart, there you were!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved