One By One…

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

Proverbs 31:20

I know I’ve shared my lofty childhood aspirations with you before… I had visions of grandeur regarding what I would do with my life. I wanted to solve the problems of the world. I wanted to end wars. I wanted to fight against prejudice and injustice. I wanted to end poverty. I wanted to work with special needs children. I wanted to teach. I wanted to become a nun. I wanted to…

Eventually, things fell into place and the path before me became less cluttered. I learned to value the seemingly mundane callings which in reality make all of the difference in the world. Where would we be today if our essential workers has chosen different paths? I realized that a good person who deals fairly and kindly with those around her brings peace to our world. Generous couples who allow their love to spill over onto to those around them bring love to the world. Parents who nurture their children with their time and attention bring hope to this world. Caring for those we’ve been given to love is the most important work we can do.

Recent events have assured me that I still want to solve the problems of the world. This time, however, I’m tackling all of this one loving act at a time.

Dear God, when I wonder if I’m doing my loved ones or this world any good, you dispel my doubt with encouragement. Thank you!

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

No One Has To Wait…

Comfort, give Comfort to my people, says your God.
From Isaiah 40:1

Last week, a friend emailed to say hello and to catch-up with what was new. She shared her relief over the announcements that viable vaccines have been developed to protect us from COVID-19. A few sentences later, however, my friend admitted that many questions regarding the vaccine’s availability and possible side effects made her head spin. “So little vaccine available for so many people,” she wrote. As I read, I acknowledged to myself that it will be months before either of us is invited to stand in line to be inoculated.

Before I went on to the next paragraph of that email, I tried to think of something encouraging to say to my friend in response. When the inspiration failed to come, I read on. A few words in, I realized that inspiration had come after all. It took form in the wisdom my friend went on to share…

“I suddenly realized, after feeling not so excited, since it will be months before I can receive the vaccine, that God is available to me at all times. I don’t have to wait. No one has to wait. No need to be put in a line to see where we stand to receive God’s grace. This thought calmed me and reminded me to do what I’ve been doing all along…pray!

This extremely wise woman went on to share that God had remained with her through a yearlong battle with Stage 4 Cancer and that God would do the same throughout our battle with COVID-19 and always! What more can I say?

Dear God, thank you for your ongoing presence among us and within us. You really are the best!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Really Is Everywhere!

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

While growing up, I lived around the corner and down the block from our parish church. This close proximity allowed me the opportunity to drop in whenever I felt the need. I took the term “God’s House” both seriously and literally. I knew in my heart that when I went into church I was in the company of the Almighty. I also knew that I was always welcomed there. I felt quite assured of this because high above the sanctuary in the domed ceiling the words above from Matthew 11:28 were written in gold. What more assurance did I need?

As I grew older, I discovered that God also abides everywhere, most importantly, within each one of us. Regardless of how pressing an issue might be, I learned to talk to God wherever I was, not only in church. Though I still popped into church for impromptu visits, I prayed in earnest wherever I was when circumstances merited this. I’m happy to share that it has become a lifelong habit to converse with God in good times and in bad wherever I am and whenever I’m not talking to someone else. I enjoy sharing these special moments with God whether I’m visiting at the church I call God’s House or in God’s home within me.

Loving God, thank you for inviting me into your consoling company wherever I am.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Poor

God hears the poor,
and those who are in bonds God spurns not.

Psalm 69:34

Sometimes, when the poor are mentioned in the scriptures or media or conversations, we assume that the term references those with dire material needs. Though this is often the case, God’s definition of the poor is more inclusive. God attends to each one of us when we are poor, whether our needs are material or otherwise.

Sometimes, when we find ourselves doing well in the world’s eyes, we also find ourselves in need, deep within us where it matters most. Just as the materially poor struggle to establish a secure life for themselves and their loved ones, the materially rich sometimes invest so much energy holding on to what they have that they lose their grip on the things that matter most to them.

The truth is that we all take turns being counted among God’s poor. This much-loved group includes you and me and all of our sisters and brothers whenever this life robs us of the things we need to continue on. Whether we are lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for someone in need, God knows our suffering. Whether we are besought by the enemy before us or by the demons within us, God stands at our sides. In spite of our needs and regardless of how poor we are, we will always have enough of God’s love to get by.

Loving God, thank you for recognizing our poverty in all of its forms and for providing for us with your generous love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Knows Our Poverty

God hears the poor,
and all who are in bonds God spurns not.

Psalm 69:33-35

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis transitioned from a life of comfort to a life of poverty. He did so quite dramatically when he left his wealth behind and then stripped himself naked as he walked away. With that, Francis embraced the poorest of the poor who lacked even clothing enough to cover themselves. Though I don’t have room to 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 most often turn to those with dire material needs. 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, those who live with plenty sometimes lose their grip on the things which truly bring them joy. Francis of Assisi inspired many in this situation to turn their attention away from their own riches and to focus upon God’s treasure.

You know, 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 families, we’re in need. Whether we’re besought by a stack of unpaid bills or by the demons within us, we’re in need. Francis of Assisi would respond by offering us whatever we lack at the given moment. At the same time, he would insist 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.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Treasures

God looked at everything God had made,
and God found it to be very good.

From Genesis 1:31

Because the hot weather urged me to stay inside, I turned to my to-do list. The next task was to de-clutter our kitchen counter. Because we have ample counter space, some currently unneeded items remain. One of these is a yellow Big Bird cookie jar. Though Big Bird is in sitting position, he’s about a foot tall. He holds a large cookie jar in his lap. He became a much-loved and well-used part of the decor when our older son was just three years old. From the onset and for two decades thereafter, we stored our favorite cookies in Big Bird.

About ten years into Big Bird’s usually peaceful life, I moved him onto another part of the counter where I was unpacking groceries. While searching for the cookies, I dropped a jar of pasta sauce. It hit Big Bird’s beak and then the rim of his cookie jar. Though that sauce jar remained intact, an assortment of chips flew from poor Big Bird. Needless to say, I was beside myself. In the end, those chips were large enough for me to notice their absence, but too small to glue back into place. So I cleaned up the mess, filled Big Bird with cookies and put him back where he belonged, bruises and all.

When I looked at Big Bird that day, I knew that my efforts to de-clutter the kitchen counter would NOT involve him. Though he hasn’t stored cookies for us for some time, he is full of memories. Yes, Big Bird will remain with us a while longer.

If I can find so much to treasure in a worn out cookie jar, imagine all that God finds to treasure in you and me!

Dear God, you love us far more than I do Big Bird and you keep us around you forever. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved