Another Curve Ball?

“I have told you this so that you might have peace
in me. In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

John 16:33

He said it again. When life throws my husband a curve ball, Mike usually responds by observing, “God certainly has a sense of humor!” I admit that my response differs a bit when I am the recipient of that curve ball. I tend to keep my initial reactions to trauma to myself. If I didn’t, who knows what I might say? There’s usually too much to do to allow myself the luxury of complaining aloud. So it is that I converse with myself and the Lord God in silence. Eventually, I reconcile myself to the situation at hand. When I’ve calmed myself down (or God has stepped in to do this for me), I finally respond with my own observation: “This is just a small reminder that I’m not in heaven yet.”

I’m not certain of what’s happening in your ballpark, but the curve balls have been flying fast and furiously here as of late. As a result, I find myself most grateful that God’s keeps the promise to be with us always. Though havoc reigns around me, a gentle peace calms me from within. This occurs in spite of my failure to acknowledge that peace for far too long.

Consoling God, knowing that your care is a constant makes all of the difference in my little ballpark. I mean world. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Thanks for…

“God knows
what you need before you ask…”

From Matthew 6:8

The other day, I woke after a particularly restful night’s sleep. I was so grateful that I felt a strong urge to thank someone. At that moment, I realized that I’d somehow lost sight of what I used to say every morning: “Thanks for the sleep!” I always directed this comment to God above with genuine gratitude. This had been the case because, regardless of any given day’s events, I’d always managed to sleep restfully. Now I admit that this pattern of sleep took hold only after my children were old enough not to need me or to cause me to worry during the wee hours of the night. Very early on, I’d become accustomed to thanking God accordingly. That morning, I looked upward a bit sheepishly to echo the thanks which I’d somehow lost sight of. “Thanks for the sleep, good and generous God. I’m so sorry it has been so long…”

I didn’t continue because the line of light sneaking in where the blind and window frame don’t quite meet distracted me. Without another word, I got out of bed and walked over to that window. When I raised the blind, the bright sun, blue sky and greening foliage took my breath away. Without an audible word, God had assured me that it was indeed a new day. I could renew my resolve to express my gratitude and to be my best in whatever ways I chose to. With that, I looked upward once again. “Thanks for the sleep, ” I repeated. Then I added, “Thanks for the reminder that you’re always nearby…”

I’m happy to share that I’m back in the habit of expressing my morning gratitude and so much more these days.

Dear God, thank you!.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s With Me

The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear
the sound it makes, but you do not know
where it comes from or where it goes…

John 3:8

You’re probably tired of reading that I enjoy walking outdoors more than any other physical exercise. Please forgive my repetition. It helps me to renew my resolve and to walk as often as possible. You see, regardless of my mood, walking lifts my spirit. If a soft breeze caresses me along the way, I relish nature’s attention. If a blustery wind pushes me onward or threatens to push me back from where I’ve come, I welcome nature’s challenge to continue on my way. Whatever the conditions, except perhaps pouring rain or below-zero temperatures, the outdoors never cease to speak to me. Even then, they cause me to reflect from the comfort of home.

I think I enjoy these treks outdoors because I do my best praying when I walk, especially on breezy days. Though the trees and the pond that I pass are beautiful, it’s the wind that nudges me out the door every time. There’s something about the wind that assures me that God is attending to my praise, my gratitude, my remorse and my requests as I amble along. At the same time, I also feel most listened to when I walk in the midst of Creation. I imagine God swirling down, sometimes in a whirlwind and sometimes in the gentlest breeze, simply to let me know that I’m never alone. I always return home convinced that I’ve been heard and that I’m in very good company!

Dear God, I thank you for the creative ways in which you make your presence known.
I thank you even more for the inspiration which lets me know you are with me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Hero Among Us

My dear husband and I had been overwhelmed by the tasks at hand for weeks. Then, Mike contracted the flu which evolved into bronchitis and an ear infection. I was medicated for preventative purposes. Still, I managed to catch a cold of my own. In a last-ditch effort to feel healthy again, we retreated to the north for a few days. We’d hoped to leave those pesky contagions behind and to breathe in some fresh Wisconsin air. As it happened, we did relax for most of those three days away. While Mike alternated between watching reruns and napping, I sought refuge in a thick worn paperback which has been with me since sophomore year of college. While Mike snoozed in the recliner across from me, I nuzzled into the corner of the couch. I didn’t turn to the beginning of my book because I didn’t have the time. Rather, I thumbed through hundreds of pages until I came to the section most familiar to me near the end of that book. I looked carefully until I found the passage I needed to read for this writing. Before I began, I turned my eyes and my thoughts heavenward. Though this would be a difficult interlude with the written word, it would also be a source of great peace for me if only I persisted…

A few paragraphs into the narrative, a chill ran down my spine. The passage I poured over hit a little too close to home. Without warning, difficult memories from my own life resurfaced. I looked away from the page to take a deep breath. Still, the tears flowed freely. This story’s hero is near and dear to me and I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that he approached the end of his life. He had maintained a positive and tough exterior while I lamented. I found him tying up loose ends in an attempt to leave those he loved with the best of his wisdom. Though his tone was hopeful, my hero suffered within. Worry regarding the path ahead threatened to shake his faith. His closest companions failed to sense this. When a few began to take notice, the events at hand distracted them from their concern. I had no doubt that my hero’s friends would be completely overwhelmed as the plot continued to unfold.

As I read on through those final pages with my hero, my own trials and tribulations resurfaced. I suppose this occurred because I identify with his story on many levels. He and I seem to approach the things that are most important to us in the same away. He loved his family just as I love my own. He was devoted to his parents whose most poignant lessons came through example rather than words. My parents taught me with their actions as well. My hero was very much at home in his faith because his parents introduced him to God when he was just a baby. My parents did the same. My hero lost his father early on, yet he grew into a devoted son who made his mother proud. Though my dad’s untimely death caused him to miss most of my childhood, I managed to make my mom proud once or twice as well. When those around him faced difficulties, this hero who seems more like a friend consistently stepped up to help. Though I often fail, I really do try to do the same.

When I turned back to my dog-eared text, I was struck by my hero’s persistence in the face of the worst this life had to offer him. Though he occasionally withdrew to regroup and to replenish his soul, he never abandoned his mission. Indeed, he returned every time more convinced than ever that he was walking the right path. I read on to find my hero as he left a holiday dinner. He had bared his soul to his friends regarding his love for them and he’d offered a final gesture of his devotion to each one. When he rose from their dinner table, my hero wondered if any of his friends had grasped his meaning. It was with a heavy heart that he led them out into the night. He left them to rest in a garden and then moved on to an isolated patch to consider what hours ahead would bring. He always turned to his dad on such occasions and that night is no exception. “Abba,” he prayed, “if you are willing, take this cup away from me…” Fear overwhelmed him and he sweated droplets of blood. Still, he turned to his father once again to add, “still, not my will but yours be done.”

With that, I set aside my tattered bible and closed the page on Luke’s passion account (Luke 22:14-23:56). As calamities from my own life flooded my memory, Jesus’ words filled my heart. I realized that I’d survived these things because I’d followed Jesus’ lead with absolute confidence. Every time, I had turned to the parent Jesus and I share, and, every time, God had accompanied me through what lay ahead. Every single time!

This Palm Sunday, as we listen to Jesus’ story, we acknowledge all that Jesus said and did. In Jesus’ life, we find the strength to endure. In his passion and death, we find the hope that urges us on. Jesus never promised that our lives will be easy, but Jesus did promise often that we will never be alone in our efforts. Today and throughout this Holy Week, we celebrate this hero who has shown us the way to live with courage, to die with hope and to rise into the reality of the resurrection which awaits us all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Never Ever Alone!

In my distress I called upon God
and I cried out to my God;
From above, God heard my voice,
and my cry reached God’s ears.

Psalm 18:7

Our three granddaughters and our two grandsons often share the little “bugs” they pick up outside of their homes. A few weeks ago, while the girls were well, the boys had generously shared their runny noses. Grandpa and I can’t help chuckling over how much differently I respond to these mini-epidemics than I did to our firstborn’s first serious illness decades ago…

Little Mike was just a few months old when he was stricken with a high fever. The drops meant to lower his body temperature hadn’t yet worked. Our doctor warned that we would have to take our baby to the hospital if this continued beyond another day. Mike was our first child and my experience in such matters was limited. When I tucked him into bed that night, I prayed for his recovery. “He can’t go to the hospital, Lord. He just can’t go.” As I lay in bed trying to sleep, I prayed further, “You can do this, Lord. I just know it.”

During the night, when I held my baby close to feed him, he felt as cool as a cucumber. As he nuzzled against me, I whispered my thanks to the God who I knew would not disappoint. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that even if we had taken Little Mike to the hospital, God would have been with us through it all. You see, God has walked with many of my loved ones to places most of us fear. God has stayed with some through their recoveries and with others through their journeys home.

Loving God, I had no doubt when I prayed to you that frightful night. Keep me always aware that you walk with me and all of us through everything.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

More Than A Statistic

There was an inscription over his head:
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS

From Luke 23:38

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls The Third Time

Jerusalem is an extremely busy place. It was the same in Jesus’ day. Though I can’t imagine ignoring the approach of a bloodied man carrying a cross beam, many who went about their business that dark Friday did just that. The ominous presence of Roman soldiers kept busy business people and shoppers on their own way and off Jesus’ path. If they noticed, none had the courage to respond when Jesus fell. No one cared that this one was far more than the King of the Jews.

When I walked the streets of Jerusalem the first time, I was taken by the narrowness of those busy byways. Oddly, the locals navigated between and around one another quite easily. I wondered if we tourists were simply a part of the landscape to which they’d become accustomed. When I turned my thoughts back to Jesus’ day, I wondered further. Was Jesus just a part of the landscape as well? Was Jesus just another statistic in the vast database of Roman cruelty?

As for you and me, whether we’re standing upright or crumpled under the weight of our troubles, God takes notice. We’re never a statistic in God’s database. We’re on God’s mind and in God’s heart… ALWAYS!

Dear God, you love us more than we realize. Help us to share that love with those we meet along the way.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved