Everywhere Prayer

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

Matthew 11:28

A friend recently reached out in sadness. She’s maintained her stay-at-home status in an effort to stay healthy and to allow for minimal visits with nearby family. Though my friend is grateful for time spent with her own family, she misses her parish family. Attending Mass hasn’t been an option as she’s considered a part of our most vulnerable population.

I understand my friend’s sense of loss. I shared the other day that I lived down the block from our parish church. This allowed me to drop in whenever I felt the need. I took the term “God’s House” literally. Whenever I went inside, I knew I was in God’s company and I always felt welcomed there.

Later, when my family moved to a new neighborhood and a new parish church. I was at a terrible loss because I didn’t feel at home in that new building. When I complained to my mom, she assured me that God not only abided in our new church, but also deep inside of me. My mom insisted that I could talk to God wherever I was, not only in church. I told my friend that the same is true for her. Just as God remains in our churches, God remains within her and within all of our parishioners. Truly, God abides within each one of us.

The moral of the story is this: Wherever we are, God is also there and it’s the perfect place to pray.

Loving God, thank you for inviting us into your company wherever we happen to be.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

Fear No Evil

Though I walk through the valley of darkness,
I fear no evil; for God is with me…

From Psalm 23:4

When I was a little girl, I feared an encounter with the doctor more than much else. Our family physician was pleasant enough, but he administered inoculations which wasn’t pleasant at all…

The other day, when I finally got around to my annual physical, that childhood fear returned. Did I mention that I was a year late in scheduling this dreaded encounter? This omission on my part made me all the more apprehensive. So it was that I relaxed and engaged in deep breathing as best I could when the nurse approached to take my blood pressure. I was relieved when the result was only a few numbers higher than it should have been and that the nurse kindly attributed this to “white coat syndrome”. I quickly agreed with her diagnosis. By the time the doctor arrived, I’d composed myself enough to present as a somewhat healthy and sane individual. In the end, the doctor announced that I am actually more than somewhat healthy and sane.

While driving home, I wondered if God looks upon me as that doctor-fearing little girl from long ago. The truth is that I secretly hoped so. I happily imagined myself in God’s lap. God immediately wrapped those loving arms around me. When I thought this was all I could hope for, God pulled me closer and whispered, “You’re fine. You’ll always be fine, even when you’re sick, because I’m always with you.” By the time I arrived home, I realized that God wouldn’t keep me from all of the evils of this world. I also realized that God would love me through whatever the future holds.

Dear God, thank you for your persistent and loving presence among us and within us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Remote Blessings

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

Before the pandemic, a day didn’t go by that my husband failed to reveal another destination to which he hoped to travel “one day”. These days, Mike’s travel bucket list sits patiently on the sidelines until COVID-19 can be controlled. The truth is that Mike had been uncharacteristically quiet in this regard for some time until the other day. While making his way through the television channels, Mike passed on the Star Trek, Superman and Adam 12 reruns. Rather, he settled on a travel show which featured Egypt. My sister ventured there years ago when this was a safer endeavor. Mike had hoped we’d follow her lead one day. So it was with great pleasure that he settled in to watch…

An hour later, I was amazed to find my invigorated husband smiling as that program ended. Mike has always taken great pleasure in exploring new places and getting to know the people who inhabit them. Though this particular adventure was completely remote, it left him refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of the day. It occurred to me that Mike needs to make a habit of watching those travel shows. Whether they feature sandy expanses, vast oceans or green pastures, these remote adventures are life-giving just the same.

As I reflect further on Psalm 23, I can’t help thinking that our persistent God has blessed my dear husband with this desire to travel with good reason. Over the years, our adventures have allowed Mike to lie down in green pastures, to traipse through every sort to terrain and even to climb a small mountain or two. Every time, Mike returned ready to embrace life here at home with renewed eagerness. Even when God provides adventures in video form, they give Mike and all of us a bit of what we need to carry on.

Loving God, thank you for caring for us though the wonders of this world even when we have to enjoy them remotely!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved