God’s Still With Us

May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.

Psalm 72:17

In just two weeks, Christmas will be here. My husband has stolen away for a few well-deserved hours at the health club. I completed the tasks at hand and took full advantage of the quiet house. I settled myself in the living room at the feet of our Christmas Tree. Since childhood, this has been my favorite place to await Christmas Day.

I basked in the sparkling lights and inhaled the scent of pine. After a whimsical peek at the tree’s eclectic array of ornaments, my eyes rested upon the crèche below it. The tiny figurines huddled there give life to the greatest story ever told. I recalled childhood discussions with my mother regarding this amazing birth. I also recalled lessons offered by the good sisters which underscored all that my mother told me about that amazing baby boy. Heaven and earth came together the day Jesus was born! His story changed this world forever. As I sat beneath our Christmas Tree, I realized once again that his story has changed my own life forever as well.

No matter how some attempt to distort it, Jesus’ message regarding God’s unconditional love and God’s presence among us continues to instill hope.

Good and gracious God, I can never thank you enough for the gift of your love and your presence in my life. Gift all of your people with a tangible sense of your presence and hearts sensitive enough to respond.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Plug Away and Hope

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they shall have their fill.

Matthew 5:6

Though I’ve been working hard to inspire hope and to share a bit of peace along the way, I continue to be distracted from my efforts by this world’s troubles. Unrest here and overseas, ongoing injustice and the inability of our legislators to agree on much of anything give me little reason to rejoice. Once again, I admit that I’ve been cranky as well. Still, I persist with my Christmas preparations.

My husband the deacon works on his homily and I prepare an article for the early Christmas bulletin deadline. I breathe deeply every time I stop to water our Christmas Tree. I find the scent of pine to be truly life-giving! I have most of the gifts and stocking stuffers we need. I’m also glad that we’ve budgeted something for those who need a little boost just now. Happily, our parish gift-giving campaign characteristically reached beyond all of our expectations. In the midst of this all, my husband and I have spent a good deal of quality time with our grandchildren.

In spite of the troubles that beset me and my world, I find reason to hope and to carry on. When I do so wholeheartedly, I can’t help spreading a bit of peace as well.

Dear God, thank you for giving us the sense to embrace hope and the generosity to share your peace.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest Here

Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome,
and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

My husband and I were up north. As we discussed where we’d attend church that weekend, we wondered how the several small churches in the area would carry on in light of the priest-shortage. Though I had several suggestions for the powers-that-be, I tucked them away for another time. As our conversation trailed off, my thoughts returned to “church” and all that this affiliation has meant to me throughout the most critical times of my life. My dad must be hovering nearby because he comes to mind once again…

My childhood church stood just a block down and around the corner from our two-flat. My parents married there. My siblings and I were baptized there. We celebrated First Communions, Confirmations and funerals there. A priest walked down the block to visit my dad when he was very sick. The morning my dad passed away, I ran down the street to church. When our parish priest saw me, he knew that the inevitable had occurred. After listening patiently as I sobbed, he sat me in the pew next to him –a humble substitute for Daddy.

Father knelt and I looked through tear-filled eyes at this church which had become a second home to me. When I peered at the ceiling, I read the inscription over the altar: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” That day, I had come to find rest from the most terrible burden a child could bear. Over the months and years that followed, I realized that I’d gone to the right place –no, the right One– for rest. I’d turned to God that morning because it is in God that I found the hope which has been with me ever since…

When I returned my thoughts to those soon to be un-staffed churches, I prayed that we’d all realize that God will remain among us to offer us rest regardless of who leads us in prayer.

Comforting God, thank you for your ever-loving ongoing presence.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Celebrate Hope and Love

“Anyone who hears my words
and puts them into practice
is like the wise man who built his house on rock.”

Matthew 7:21

Christmas preparations always pique my nostalgia. I’d finished the day’s errands and allowed myself the time to reminisce a bit. My musing drew me back to Christmas 1959, just five months after my dad passed away. I was only eight years old and I wondered what Christmas would be like that year. That day, I recalled the efforts of so many around me who made that Christmas special. They all did their best to ease the sting of my dad’s absence.

My older sister Rita helped our Mom to prepare a special gift for each one of us. On Christmas Eve, our parish priests asked my brother to walk his wagon down to the rectory. Raoul returned with a full wagon carrying a beautifully wrapped package for each of the six of us children. After Christmas dinner with my mom’s side of the family, we went on to Aunt Claire’s and Uncle Steve’s home to celebrate with my dad’s family. My aunt and uncle ushered us to their Christmas Tree for more special gifts which were just for my siblings and me. Though all concerned knew that nothing would replace my dad, they did their best to emulate his love for us. You know, I can’t name most of the gifts I received that year. Nonetheless, I continue to feel the love that came with them. That love has sustained me for a lifetime.

What better way to is there to celebrate Christmas 2018 than to nurture hope and to love?

Generous God, you gifted me with loved ones who fulfilled my hope beyond my dreams and who loved me as you do. Help me to do the same for those I meet along the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

No Strings Attached, Honest!

Brothers and sisters,
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

I retired from my career in education with a county level job. This position allowed me access to people and opportunities I might otherwise have never encountered. I very much appreciated working with others at this level to benefit our area children.

One new friend had been elected to a position at the state level. This person understood the possibilities that came with this position and was anxious to add good will and good sense to the mix. Over time, frustration mounted. Her every attempt to transform a good idea into practice required her support of not-particularly-good ideas in return. In the end, my friend found that too many bad ideas became reality as a result of the “deals” which had to be made to gather support. In the end, my friend resigned her elected position and moved on to a place where there were no strings attached to anyone’s good deeds.

We all occasionally find ourselves holding things over the heads of others to get our way. In the end, I never feel very good about this arrangement. I would much prefer that the other person simply did the right thing because it was right. I’m quite certain that God prefers it when I do the same.

Dear God, you’ve given us the wisdom to discern what is right and to act accordingly. Help us not to hinder our own goodness or the goodness of others by attaching strings to our good deeds.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Stand By When It Rains

When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.

Psalm 34:7

I’m writing this reflection for Thanksgiving Eve a bit early as I have much Thanksgiving prepping to do.
On this particular day, it’s raining again. I decided that the time crunch wouldn’t keep me from some much-needed exercise, so I took a walk before sitting at my keyboard. I donned my hooded jacket and embarked upon my familiar trek through the neighborhood. As I walked, I enjoyed the blurry perspective which those persistent drops forced upon me. As I walked further, it occurred to me that the emotional rains which fall too often in our lives are not as enjoyable.

A teen I know and love is enduring some tough times. Though the storm brewing overhead is partially this young ones choice, those who care are doing their best to provide the right umbrella to keep this kid dry. In the mean time, I find myself discouraged. Just as I can’t do a thing about today’s rainy forecast, I feel at a loss in this young person’s case. What can I do to help?

As I consider the lifetime of storms I’ve endured, I must acknowledge that those who loved me through these things proved to be great blessings simply by being there. Perhaps I can be of help by doing the same.

Rain falls in all of our lives far too often. When it does, we do our best sometimes by simply standing by. When the time is right, we’ll know. It’s then that God will help us to determine which umbrella we can offer to keep our loved one dry.

Compassionate God, keep this teen and all concerned in your care. Give them the strength to face today and let them know that you are with them every step of the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved