P is for Peace

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of my heart’s desires, I think I long for and relish peace most of all. A recent internal bout (which wasn’t at all peaceful) intensified this longing. In the past, even during the most difficult of times, I’ve been at least faintly aware of a remnant of peace deep within me. In spite of my troubles, I’d remained convinced at some level that my circumstances would evolve for the best. This time, however, my ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer seemed not to help. After weeks of misery, I accepted that I couldn’t do much more to help myself. Finally, I directed my efforts upward and inched my way in God’s direction. I placed my troubles into God’s hands and eased myself into God’s embrace. When I let go of my sadness, I made room for God’s peace to enter in.

Though I’ll have to wait for heaven to enjoy the psalmist’s peaceful image which I cite above, I can find some level of peace in every moment I’m given. I need only to acknowledge God’s presence in the midst of it. Perhaps my New Year’s efforts should include taking a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to overwhelm me. Perhaps these efforts should include a glance upward and a glance inward before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. Perhaps I need to begin each day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to enter in. Perhaps I can bring a glimpse of the psalmist’s image into this world and into my own heart after all.

Compassionate God, help us to set aside our worries and to focus upon your peaceful presence as we embrace each new day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Independence Day

My dream is of a place and a time where
America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.

Abraham Lincoln

Though I normally cite a scripture passage to set the tone for these reflections, I couldn’t resist the quote above. While searching my desktop for something else, I found this amazing bit of wisdom from my favorite president…

On July 4, 1776, our forefathers (and fore-mothers!) saw this neophyte of a nation as just that: The last best hope of earth. Our collective history from that day forward has been punctuated with the very best humanity has to offer. It has also been tarnished by less-than-honorable behavior which has managed to soil us all a bit. Still, we carry on as one imperfect people who celebrate our freedom with every choice we make.

On occasion, I’ve looked upward to ask, “What were you thinking, Dear God, when you gave us free will?” God’s only response is the sound of Divine Laughter echoing throughout the heavens. As unhelpful… No, as terrible as some of our choices have been, God knows that someone somewhere always manages to draw good out of each one. It seems to me that this phenomenon is particularly important these days when so many of our seemingly cemented opinions of things clash at every turn.

On this wonderful day in our nation’s history, I invite you to embrace a bit of independence. Free yourself from your anger and discontent and embrace the good things that are in place around you. At the same time, consider this: Is there something you can do today in your little corner of this nation which will take this country a step closer to her place as the last best hope of this earth? If we can remember that not one of us is all bad, we may just catch a glimpse of the good lying within those with whom we disagree most. When we find that good, let’s all make the most if it!

Dear Patient God, make us good stewards of our freedom and of your love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thank you, Mom!

I have competed well;
I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

On this Mother’s Day Eve, I count my blessings. As I assemble my list, I write “Mom”. I learned many things from my mom. Still, the grace with which she lived her last days touched me and taught me most.

Three days before my mom passed away, fatigue confined her to bed. Her daytime attire had changed from street clothes to a nightgown to a hospital gown within seventy-two hours. On the first of those three days, I arrived just as Ruth, her nurse, spooned tiny dollops of ice cream into my mom’s mouth. After giving me my “Hi, Mary” smile, my mom turned to Ruth to whisper, “Thank you for the ice cream.” Afterward, Ruth helped her to the washroom. As Ruth nestled my mom into her wheelchair, my mom whispered again, “Thank you for your help.” Mom held on tightly when Ruth wrapped her arms around her to ease her back into bed. As she left, my mom’s eyes followed Ruth to the door. Ruth turned to wave and my mom smiled in gratitude. Later, when the activity director came to see how my mom was doing, Mom met her with another of those grateful smiles.

In spite of her physical decline and her impending passing, my mother concerned herself with the people around her. She never complained and was ever-grateful for even the smallest kindness, whether or not it was part of ones job or ones duty to her dying parent.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of my mom. She revealed your generosity, grace and love all the way to your embrace.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Let Go…

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

Ecclesiastes 3:5

My need for order makes it unlikely that I’ll ever embrace the opportunity to “scatter” stones. I’m more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows depending upon their size. I’m even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important to us all and I can’t imagine ever situating myself far enough away from my fellow humans to preclude hugging.

As I composed that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her passing came to mind. She’d drifted into a coma the day before. Her time among us could be counted in hours. That night, I couldn’t bring myself to leave her. It was forty minutes after my sisters had left when I realized the error of my ways. You see, when our mom received her terminal diagnosis, she was very specific regarding where she would spend her last days. The underlying message was that she had no intention of breathing her last in any of our homes. She couldn’t bear to leave us with that memory. My presence at her bedside had obviously interfered with my mom’s intent. After kissing her one last time, I drove the thirty-minute ride home. Ten minutes after I’d arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave.

Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces. There are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, nudge me when it’s time to embrace those you’ve given me to love. Nudge me a bit harder when it’s time for me to step back and allow you to take care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Soothing Love

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:5

Loss is tough. Loss occurs in relationships cut short by a misunderstanding or a move. Loss comes in the passing of our loved ones. Loss comes with divorce, even when this choice is mutual. The loss of a familiar workplace or neighborhood is unsettling at best. When we find ourselves at odds with an institution which once felt as comfortable as home, we find ourselves at a loss as well. Feelings of abandonment and loneliness, hopelessness and solitude consume us in the midst of our losses, and it seems no one and nothing can fill the emptiness within us.

I’m most grateful to acknowledge that when we face loss of any sort, we never face it alone. Rather, we find ourselves embraced in sacred moments of sharing. Sometimes, they come in human form through the voice of a knowing friend; in the song of a mother who will love her child forever; in an artist’s rendition of our weakest selves embraced by God’s all-loving arms; in the kindness of a colleague who takes over simply because she is needed; in the parents and grandparents, spouses and significant others, sisters, brothers and friends who teach us to hold onto one another in the best and worst of times. Sometimes, these sacred moments come in the reassurance we find in the depths of our own hearts. Always, God sees to it that we don’t experience loss alone. Always, God is with us to offer healing love.

Loving God, thank you for being with us in everything!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Never Fear…

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:5

While spending the day with our grandson, I inadvertently scared him. When I dropped a bottle into his parents’ recycle bin, it made a louder than expected crash. The poor little guy responded immediately with tears. Fortunately, he also responded to my embrace and my assurances that all would be well. This little episode brought to mind tender moments with my own sons.

Some of the most meaningful interactions between parents and their children result from uncertainty and fear. A parent’s embrace and a few well-chosen words bring the assurance that, indeed, everything will be all right. When parents’ words aren’t enough and their children continue to shiver and shake, they simply hold their children tightly for as long as it takes to bring them peace.

God’s children are not very different from our own. Sometimes, no matter how well-chosen God’s words are, we find it difficult to take them in. Uncertainty and fear overwhelm us. For these very reasons, God promises simply to be with us.

Though I’m old enough and wise enough not to be frightened by much, there are times when my circumstances or another of God’s children manages to fill me with fear. Since my parents’ laps are no longer available to me, I turn to God with the hope that God will make good on that promise to remain with me. Happily, God never disappoints in this regard.

Loving God, thank you for embracing us in our joy, in our fear and in everything.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved