God Listens, Always!

“Lord, if you will do so, you can cure me.”
Jesus stretched out his hand to touch him
and said, “I will do it. Be cured.”

Luke 5:12-13

I learned very early on that it is always appropriate to bring our troubles to God. Sometimes, my family did so in unison. We gathered in our living room to pray when illness struck a loved one or to pray for a happy death if a recovery was not in the making. Through the years, I’ve become so convinced that God is aware of my every need that I rarely pray for myself. It is when those around me are suffering that I blast the heavens mercilessly until I have some assurance that all will be well, at least in God’s eyes.

Throughout this pandemic (perhaps far more often than usual), I’ve looked upward to express my often overly zealous demands on behalf of those I’ve been given to love on numerous occasions. Sometimes, the results have been predictable. At other times, God has surprised me and all concerned. In every case, I found myself speaking with the Almighty as I would with my best friend. I never wondered if God was listening. Why would I question the obvious?

Dear God, you attend to each one of us every moment of every day. Help us to be as attentive and responsive to one another as you are!

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Believe…

God is gracious to you always. When you cry out,
God hears and God answers you.

Isaiah 30:19

While finalizing our online Christmas shopping, I wondered about our grandchildren’s expectations of Santa Claus. Our older granddaughters have become Santa’s elves for their younger sister who awaits Santa’s arrival. Our older grandson works on his wish-list while his little brother frequently announces, “Santa Claus coming!” The younger kids seem to accept Santa’s and their own absence from the mall because it will keep all concerned safe and healthy for Christmas. This Santa talk took me back a few years to one student’s important visit with Santa…

My third graders and I anxiously awaited Christmas. The topic found its way into most of our lessons. In the midst of one discussion, Ronnie announced that he was going to prove to his sixth grade brother that Santa Claus is real. Ronnie planned to keep what he wanted for Christmas a secret from everyone except Santa. When Ronnie saw Santa during his family’s annual day-after-Thanksgiving trek to the mall, he whispered into Santa’s ear so his gifts remained a secret. I’d hoped to catch Ronnie’s brother in the hallway to let him in on Ronnie’s plan. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten. A few days after Christmas, I wondered if Ronnie’s experiment ended well.

Happily, Ronnie returned to school in January with a bigger-than-ever smile. Not long afterward, his mom shared that her older son had discovered Ronnie’s plan. The entire family paid close enough attention to Ronnie to eventually discover his Christmas wishes. Their efforts allowed Ronnie’s hope in Santa Claus to remain for another year.

This year, my hope is that Christmas renews all of our hope, not so much in Santa’s efforts as in God’s. May we all place our wish-lists in the hands of God who has only our best interests at heart. May we also imitate the children around us who will do their best to be their best until Christmas Day. Maybe we adults can behave a little longer, perhaps until this pandemic is under control.

Loving God, you are our hope. We’ll try to behave while you persist in caring for us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Understood? Completely!

Trust in God at all times, O my people!
Poor out your hearts to God;
God is our refuge!

Psalm 62:9

After a FaceTime call with our granddaughters, I experienced a bit of deja vu. Our middle granddaughter had shared a bit of wisdom which she’d drawn from a book she’s reading. The depth of her insight took me back a few years when Lauren shared something she’d just learned about the sun… “Grandma, did you know that the sun is a very large star? We can see it because it’s so close to the earth. We can’t see the other stars now, but they’re still up there. The sun is too bright for us to see them…”

Lauren went on with that explanation for some time. When they were little, her dad and Uncle Tim exhibited the same exhilaration over the new bits of knowledge they’d acquired. Like our granddaughter, our sons soaked up all kinds of information like a sponge. When such treasures are shared, especially by the children in my life, I give my full attention to the speaker. There is nothing more encouraging and comforting than really being understood.

As I write, it occurs to me that God does the same for each one of us. Whether or not we are understood by those around us, God understands our meaning even better than we understand it ourselves. In my joys and in my sorrows, I find that there is nothing more encouraging and comforting than really being understood.

Dear God, thank you for always understanding our meaning. Help us to do the same as best we can for all of those you have given us to love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Walk Into God’s Presence

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

Psalm 25:4

By now, you know that my favorite solo activity is walking outdoors. The weather matters little to me as I find these treks enjoyable regardless of the temperature. A breeze of any velocity enhances these excursions exponentially. I do admit that my walks have been irregular as I’ve late. In spite of my efforts to stay-in-place as much as possible, I’ve had trouble juggling my housebound schedule and making time to write as often as I’d 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. 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. In the mean time, I would walk.

It seems to me that we sometimes learn God’s path best when we head out in search of it.

Loving God, thank you for having pity on me as I fretted. The moment I opened the door, you came to me.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Heard and Always Understood…

But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to God in secret.

Matthew 6:6

I’ve learned something more about prayer these days. I know I’ve used this space, perhaps too often, to bemoan my sense that there seems to be little I can do to dispel the trauma which unfolds around me both near and far. Though I try to do my part to fix things, many troubling situations remain intact. In the face of my helplessness, I’ve heeded the suggestion above from Matthew’s gospel.

Though I haven’t always gone to my room, I have retreated to spaces where I can be alone. I’ve walked the neighborhood and around our yard. I’ve sat on our screened porch and on the patio. In this solitude, I’ve talked to the only one who truly understands the things which weigh so heavily upon my heart. In this quiet, though I know that God is fully aware of my misery, I list my troubles one by one. Just telling God and knowing that God understands brings reassurance.

In the end, these trips into solitude remind me that sometimes I need to steal away from the distractions of this life, whether they bring me peace or worry, to be alone with God. Though our world’s troubles persist, I face them far more peacefully, practically and productively when I acknowledge that God faces them with me.

Loving God, we offer our prayers in quiet and in the midst of this life’s chaos, always certain that you are with us in it all. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Talk…

“You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed and he went home.
.
John 4:50

It’s taken me a lifetime to imitate the man about whom John wrote the words above. I admit that I’ve succeeded only some of the time. This man was a royal official who was quite used to having his every need met without question. At the time, the man’s child lay dying. He had likely tapped every resource at his disposal to find a cure. Still, in spite of his position and power, the man looked to Jesus for help. When Jesus instructed him to go home because his son was recovering, the man believed Jesus and went home. That man was not disappointed.

I don’t know what compelled that royal official to turn to Jesus. I’m certain that he knew only a fraction of what we know about all Jesus taught about God’s love for us. Still, in the face of two thousand years of proof of God’s love in more than a billion lifetimes, I sometimes doubt. I don’t doubt God’s love. What I sometimes doubt is my ability to participate in God’s love by praying.

I wonder if my prayers for healing or peace or a positive turn of events for someone who has asked me to pray make a difference. Then, someone thanks me for praying for his sick wife who has recovered. Another thanks me for praying during his dad’s successful cancer surgery. A neighbor thanks me for praying for her grandchild who will experience birth in a few short weeks. As my prayers continue and this list of thanks grows, I’m assured that every conversation with God makes a difference after all.

The outcomes I hope for aren’t always forthcoming. Still, knowing that God is aware of our troubles and that God is with us through it all is amazingly comforting.

Compassionate God, talking with you is always worth the effort.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved