Lasting Goodness

Give him the reward of his labors,
and let his works praise him at the city gates.

Proverbs 31:31

Several weeks ago, I attended a picnic in recognition of The Special Olympics and my dear cousin who supported them with all of his heart and much of his effort. I found the picnic area easily. I simply followed the sound of happy chatter and the enticing aromas which filled the air. They led me to my sister and my cousins who stood in amazement at the lively circus before them. The teacher in me was thrilled to see so many “special” kids in the middle of every activity. The cousin in me had to hold back tears as I envisioned Jon looking down at all of this with his habitually broad smile.

Jon is one of five cousins who lost their parents at ages 49 and 50. Jon and his younger sister, only in their twenties themselves, each took in one of the younger children who were just eleven and fifteen. While dealing with the loss of their parents, these cousins of mine supported one another and became closer than ever. They also maintained amazingly positive attitudes through it all. Jon’s commitment to The Special Olympics and his other charitable endeavors is clear evidence of that.

Jon organized this picnic years ago as an annual fundraisers for special athletes. This year, we gathered to rename the picnic in Jon’s honor. This honor was bittersweet because it came about as a result of Jon’s passing. At the same time, it gave all concerned great joy to see that the good work Jon started will continue for many years to come.

When I left the picnic that day, I whispered a prayer that we all might touch this world with Jon’s generosity.

Loving God, be with us as we do our best to improve this world as only we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Inner Peace

When the poor one called out, God heard,
and from all her distress, God saved her.

Psalm 34:7

My heart ached for this poor woman as she poured out her heart to me. She felt engulfed in darkness and found it difficult to look beyond herself for hope or consolation. I assured her that this is the reason that God dwells within each one of us. Regardless of the danger which threatens from the outside, God remains steadfast deep inside. She looked up from her tear-filled tissue with a partial smile. After thinking about this for a few minutes, my friend considered her dilemma. “You know, in spite of everything, I somehow knew that I wasn’t alone in this. You’re telling me what I somehow already knew was true.”

After voicing her gratitude, this woman left me to my own thoughts. As I watched her walk away, it occurred to me that I’ve sounded much like her as of late. As was the case with this woman, the darkness around me distorted my perspective. I, too, have failed to see who has been with me all the while.

Though it’s sometimes difficult to do so, we all need to turn our attention away from the external clamor which threatens and to sit quietly in the loving presence of God. Whether or not we acknowledge our heart’s Loving Tenant doesn’t matter to God. God cares for us either way. Still, when we do acknowledge God within us, we find consolation in simply knowing that we aren’t alone.

Dear God, thank you for making your home within each one of us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Remains

He drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick.
From Matthew 8:16

I sat mindlessly tapping my fingers on the table. As I considered the realities of this life, I realized that there is often little I can do to alleviate the troubles which unfold around me. Just beyond the window, a large robin plopped himself into our bird bath. I was pleased with the robin’s arrival as my husband and I had cleaned and refilled both of our bird baths the night before. My feathered friend seemed most appreciative as he fluttered his wings for several seconds splashing water every which way. Though I knew he couldn’t hear me, I remarked, “It certainly doesn’t take much to make you happy!” Even before I finished this sentence, I realized that the same is true for all of us. Just as that water waited, available for my robin friend when he chose to enjoy it, all that we need awaits us.

Being loved and cared for is the best any of us can hope for. Being loved and cared for makes everything we encounter do-able. Though branches and boulders clutter the road which lies ahead, we manage to climb over them or to plod around them because we aren’t alone. God remains every step of the way. Though we may only occasionally choose to bathe in the waters of God’s love and care, God remains to offer them just the same.

Loving God, thank you for your ever-present love and concern. Today, I place myself and all who need you into your loving hands.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Abba Days

Our summer calendar seems to be filled beyond capacity! As a result, my husband, our children and I have juggled several family celebrations in an effort to allow all concerned to attend weddings, pool parties, swim meets and the many other events which have come with this busy summer. Part of this jockeying of dates included Father’s Day. To ease the pressure on all concerned, my patient husband suggested that we celebrate his Father’s Day this weekend. The rest of us breathed a grateful sigh of relief as we quickly agreed to this arrangement. With that, I turned my thoughts to the tasks at hand until I sat to begin this writing. I’d given little thought to Father’s Day until I selected Mike’s card and then turned to today’s scripture passages. Both ignited vivid images of three dads who’ve touched my life.

“Daddy” references my biological father. Time spent in his company was a precious commodity because the six of us children filled our flat and our parents’ days. My dad also worked nights which meant that moments alone with him were rare. When he passed away at age thirty-nine, I was eight years old. At the time, I knew Daddy had taken up residence in heaven with my grandfathers and uncle who had passed on not long before. My dad knelt with us often to assist us in praying these loved ones into heaven. He also assured us that these special people would be very happy. In the days before my dad’s passing, my family prayed him into heaven as well. In the end, I determined that he would also be just fine. Case closed.

Some years later, my mom married my step-father. He became “Daddy” as well. Twenty-five good years later, it became evident that he would leave us as well. Oddly, I found myself less comfortable with the circumstances than I had been when my dad died. I knew my step-dad was ready to move on. He’d became too tired and too weak to continue and my mom could no longer care for him at home. Both of their hearts broke over his potential move to a nursing home. When this seemed imminent, my second Daddy closed his eyes and stopped eating. I prayed diligently for his peaceful passing and a few weeks later, he was gone. Though alleluias echoed throughout my step-dad’s Mass of Resurrection, peace escaped me. While I had no doubt regarding my step-dad’s fate, I fretted about what might have been and the things which were not quite perfect. I also fretted about my mom. This time, there were no children for her to care for. This time, she would return to an empty apartment to go it alone. While my mom seemed to have assumed the faithful acceptance I had exhibited at age eight, I found myself quite anxious and afraid over what lay ahead for her.

Fortunately, I finally turned over my worry to third “Daddy” who graces my life. Jesus always chose his words carefully and when he taught us to pray, he invited us to call upon God as “Abba”. The little children of Jesus’ day and their present-day counterparts lovingly address their daddies as “Abba”. Jesus intentionally invited us to do the same. My certainty that our Abba cares for us allowed me the calm which enveloped me when my first daddy passed away. When I lost my second daddy, the worries of adulthood caused me to forget that, no matter what, I am always in Abba’s care. When I finally remembered this, I realized that my mom and the rest of us were in God’s hands after all. This is the reason I can’t resist revisiting my Father’s Day sentiments for this writing. Jesus made every day Abba’s Day and today’s scriptures invite us to do the same.

In the first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13), Jeremiah ends a lengthy and fearful lament with this realization: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion… he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” In the second reading (Romans 5:12-15), Paul assures us that “…the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” If we continue to doubt that we bask is God’s loving care, Jesus settles the matter in today’s gospel (Matthew 10:26-33): “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” There you have it! Though we may fail one another and fail ourselves in caring for those we’ve been given to love, our Abba remains steadfast in loving us through everything. Perhaps my family’s belated Father’s Day is well-timed after all. Every day really is Abba’s Day and it’s up to us to live accordingly with joy.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Take a Peek and Jump!

I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the Lord helped me.

Psalm 118:13

As I gazed out the kitchen window, I noticed a little bird perched near a hole in our bird house. My feathered friend peered into that hole several times, but didn’t enter. I wondered if he was debating whether or not to move in. I didn’t question his uncertainty because this bird house is a new addition to our backyard since the squirrels made a mess of the last one. The man who built this replica for us had added a few squirrel-deterrents which will hopefully keep it safe for the birds. Still, that little bird seemed wise not to jump into a questionable living situation.

A while later, I returned to the window to see if that bird persisted in his indecision. To my amazement, he was sitting in the bird house peeking out. I watched for several minutes as his head disappeared and reappeared over and over again. Apparently, he had found his new digs to be suitable after all.

Sometimes, I question new opportunities as well. I take a peek and investigate, but my feet remain planted where I am. I’m not as courageous as that little bird who took that leap of faith and found himself a new home. So it is that I look upward in my fear to find strength and courage. There I find our loving God who promises always to light the way.

Generous God, our lives are an amazing gift. Give me the courage to embrace every opportunity to make the most of my digs here until I occupy my perfect home with you.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Nurtured By God

In their panic and fright
they thought they were seeing a ghost.

Luke 24:37

Five sturdy blossoms beckon me. While decorating our church for Easter, a branch fell from a pot of daisies. Brian who was helping us placed this seemingly lost cause in a small hole in the floor. There it stood as we completed the task at hand. Afterward, Brian presented the tiny bouquet to my husband in feigned gratitude for his efforts. My husband who loves plants of every sort brought home his gift and placed it in a bud vase. A full week later, I say, “You’re strong and amazing,” fully expecting a satisfied nod in return. Though the blossoms stand motionless, I hope they somehow realize my gratitude for their beautiful and enduring presence.

Though my reflections regarding our trip to Israel are coming to a close, the impact of that wonderful experience remains with me. Just as my husband’s care preserved his precious flowers for the week, God has nurtured me though my experience in Israel and through every moment with which I’m blessed.

You and I are much like my husband’s daisies in God’s eyes. Though they will likely last only a few more days, their remarkable stamina will remain with me. Their presence so long after Easter is a lingering reminder of God’s presence in my life. Just as my husband singled out that flower to bring a bit of Easter joy into our house, God singles out you and me to enhance life on this earth, especially the lives of those God has given us to love.

Dear God, thank you for the many surprising ways you remind me that I am loved. Help me to love all of your children as you do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved