OOPS! Earth Day… Almost!

God looked at everything God made and found it to be very good…
From Genesis 1:31

Though I usually post one daily reflection, I’m compelled to add another today to correct myself…

This is the Eve of Earth Day, not Arbor Day. While these observances are equally important reminders to care for the wonders of creation, Earth Day has had special importance for me and my family since its inception in 1970 because it falls on my sister’s birthday. “All the more reason,” I tell myself, “that I shouldn’t have made this error!”

Like my husband who has great affection for everything green, my sister Cecele loved nature and the many creatures who make their homes in its midst. Though Cecele enjoys these things from the hereafter these days, I’m certain that she continues to find great joy in it all, especially in her favorites, deer and birds. Every time I see either, I know that Cecele is nearby smiling with me.

With that, I invite you to join me in celebrating the natural wonders of this amazing world of ours on this Earth Day Eve! I also invite you to continue your revelry through next Friday, April 27, when we celebrate Arbor Day 2018!

Generous God, thank you for the natural beauty which surrounds us in nature and in one another. Help us to nurture and to care deeply for both!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Arbor Day… Almost!

Then let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed and
every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit…

From Genesis 1:11

On this Arbor Day Eve, I celebrate my husband’s decades-long relationships with two plants. The first is a colorful, purplish-green Tradescantia Zebrina. His parents gave it to us as a housewarming gift when we purchased our first home. This plant is older than our sons! The second is a philodendron which Mike’s teachers gave him when he was named a “candidate” for the diaconate. This designation meant that he would indeed be ordained the following year. My husband’s staff realized that it had taken a good deal of effort for their principal to get to this point and they wanted to cheer him on. Needless to say, both plants are precious to him.

The amazing part of all of this is that these plants have survived decades of indoor-to-outdoor transitions from spring through summer to fall when frost came unexpectedly early on more than one occasion. They’ve also survived floods and dry spells when we were away and our kindly plant-caretakers were either overly-zealous or a bit too sparing with their watering. After each incident, Mike painstakingly nursed his beloved greenery back to health.

I think I’ll tell Mike that his plant-care adventures would make a great homily regarding God’s ongoing and merciful care of each one of us. Better yet, I’m taking the lead and sharing this lesson with you. Like Mike’s plants, we couldn’t be in better hands!

Gracious God, thank you for caring for us with such love and mercy. Thank you, also, for the generous many souls who imitate your caring ways in all that they do.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Like The Movies?

I believe I shall see the good things of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13

The other day, I allowed myself the luxury of an hour of television. I settled on an old movie which I knew would end happily. Because I didn’t recall many of the plot details, the time invested seemed worth it. Afterward, as the credits rolled down the screen, I wondered why life in the real world doesn’t unfold as neatly. Movie scripts allow heroes to arrive in the nick of time. Lonely widowers meet loving widows, organ donors are unexpectedly found, wayward children embrace family values and absentee fathers becomes stellar dads. I asked aloud, “Why can’t the woes of the real world be remedied as neatly?”

I looked upward for an answer though I knew that God has already responded. God provides for our needs with Creation. Though we too often forsake this gift, God stands by with great hope in our ingenuity. Jesus entered human history to reveal Divine Love even more tangibly. Jesus showed us that to lead, we must serve, to be first, we must be last, and to save our lives, we must live our lives for others. If this isn’t enough, God’s Spirit remains within us to nudge along the way.

I think that television’s optimistic stance has a place in reality, even if that “place” is simply to encourage us to make the best of our circumstances. If we truly get into character, it will eventually become natural to accentuate the positive in our interactions with those we’ve been given to love.

Dear God, help us to take direction from your love and to write happy endings for the stories which unfold around us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Grateful For The Opportunity…

Thus have you prepared the land:
drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.

Psalm 65:11

I looked at our calendar to find that neither my husband nor I had anything scheduled for the day. This was quite a shock since we were both in busy-mode due to the rigors of preparing for Holy Week and Easter. I quickly called to him to ask, “Do you have anything going today?” He replied, “Miraculously, not a thing!” Having said that, he appeared in his old jeans and jacket. Before I could ask what he was up to, Mike shared that he was headed outdoors to assess what will need to be done “once the weather cooperates.” I laughed as he escaped via the back door.

After taking care of a thing or two indoors, I checked on Mike. In spite of the lingering cold, he had cleaned the bird bath and filled it with fresh water. He’d repaired a bird feeder and provided our feathered friends with a few seeds to get them through this dreary and frigid-for-April day. When I caught up with him, Mike was adjusting a window well cover which he’d dislodged with his snow shovel a month ago. He also listed the annual flowers he plans to purchase “once the weather cooperates.” When I asked why he was devoting this uncommon free-day to so much manual labor, he replied, “Are you kidding? I love doing this stuff!”

“Lucky you!” I thought as Mike continued his beloved self-imposed chores. “Lucky me!” I added as I came inside and went directly to my computer to write. “I love doing this stuff!” I said aloud before positioning my fingers on my keyboard…

Loving God, I’m grateful for the many enjoyable ways I find to serve. Thank you for this opportunity!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always In God’s Company

When I started to think about this reflection, my dear husband was running the last of our errands while I fretted over our still-unwrapped gifts and the cookies I hoped to bake for Christmas Eve. I found little consolation in acknowledging that, by the time this reflection would be published, Mike’s errands and my worries would have faded into our memories of Christmas 2017. By the time I sat at my keyboard to put my thoughts into words, welcoming New Year 2018 demanded my attention. The best and worst of 2017 have added much to our collective history. I redirected my attention to the last days of the year with the hope that we’ll all embrace what lies ahead with a measure of the peace we celebrated on Christmas Day. Though I’d like to think that we all found joy and hope and love in the midst of our Christmas festivities, it is the peace found in God’s company which sustains me.

I think inner peace is key to embracing this life and all that it holds for us. Be it next year, next month, tomorrow or the moment at hand, it’s far easier to face what lies ahead when we’re in good company. As I consider the plight of the Holy Family whom we celebrate today, I think that their sense of God’s presence is the fuel which empowered them to carry on. Dealing with Mary’s unexpected pregnancy was challenge enough. Managing Jesus’ birth far from home where a cave served as their delivery room added to Mary’s and Joseph’s already complicated life. Not long afterward, they fulfilled Jewish Law by traveling to the temple in Jerusalem to consecrate their firstborn son to God. In today’s gospel (Luke 2:22-40), Luke tells us that the holy man Simeon was in the temple when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus there. Simeon had spent his life waiting for the Messiah and he begged God not to take him until he’d seen the promised one. When Jesus’ parents carried him in, Simeon immediately sensed that he was in the company of the one for whom he waited. He embraced Jesus with un-containable gratitude and exclaimed, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go… for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Simeon told Mary that Jesus would bring both wonder and sorrow into her life and that he would bring salvation to all of Israel.

Simeon’s welcome evidenced the peace God’s presence had brought into his life. Trustful as they were in God’s plans for them, poor Mary and poor Joseph didn’t expect the reception Simeon offered them. What a frightening sense of responsibility they must have felt! Even in his infancy, others recognized Jesus as the Messiah. How would they raise a child destined to change the world? Without revealing Mary’s and Joseph’s intentions, Luke closes this passage by sharing that “…they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” It occurs to me that Luke’s observations fail to acknowledge the difficulties Mary and Joseph faced when they left the temple that day. Were there whispers in the community regarding the timing of Jesus’ birth? Did Mary question her response to the angel, “May it be done to me according to your word”? Did fear tug at Joseph’s heart? Though another couple may have run for the hills, Mary and Joseph stayed the course. Of all of the things that mattered, nothing mattered more than caring for Jesus. In spite of their fear, Mary and Joseph knew God was with them and they proceeded accordingly.

If you love someone, you understand how Mary and Joseph were able to allow Jesus to turn their lives upside-down. You’ve encountered God within yourself and within the ones you love, so you stay the course as best you can. Parents work long hours to provide for their children and caregivers smile as they bathe their elderly loved ones. Grandparents lift that new grandchild and stack blocks with that toddler in spite of their aching backs. We dig into our pockets for our last ten-dollar bill and drop it into a bell-ringer’s bucket. Yes, we work at caring for those we’ve been given to love because God has worked at caring for us. On this Feast of the Holy Family, we celebrate the persistence of Mary and Joseph in raising Jesus and Jesus’ eventual persistence in loving all of us.

Together, we retrace the footsteps of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph who illustrated the power of God’s presence in our lives. Every step they took guides us to the wonder we can accomplish when we acknowledge that God is with us in everything. Though our only certainty is the unexpected, God invites us to use every opportunity which lies ahead to respond generously to those we’ve been given to love. This week, when you hang your 2018 Calendar, remember that the three hundred sixty-five days ahead promise possibilities and challenges which we’ll never face alone. The peace we find in God’s company will sustain us just as it sustained Mary and Joseph and their amazing son.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Safe

You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day.

Psalm 91:5

My family will gather in a few days to continue our holiday festivities with a New Year’s Day celebration. For generations before I arrived, my dad’s Canadian family preserved this tradition which includes a blessing. Every New Year’s Day, our family gathers before our eldest family member to request their intercession. This year, my sister Rita will ask God’s gifts of happiness, health and prosperity for each one of us during the coming year.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced a reassuring sense of peace as we kneel together for this annual prayer. Afterward, I feel oddly protected regardless of what life has in store for the next three hundred and sixty-four days. This was very important to me the year my dad passed away and for many years thereafter. Perhaps this is the reason I was always careful to help my own sons to feel safe. Perhaps this is the reason I hold my grandchildren so close these days. Perhaps this is the reason I’m compelled to remind all who will listen that God is always nearby, around us and within us, keeping us safe all the while.

Caring God, just as you lovingly remain with us, help us to treasure and nurture one another with equal devotion.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved