See With God’s Eyes

Throughout my life, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the array of sources which reveal God to me. The people I’ve been given to love top that list. My earliest memories include my parents’ heroic efforts. They were constant reminders of our God who I was assured loved me even more than they did. The affection of my family and friends helped me to see God even more clearly. I came closest to understanding God’s love for me the day I was told my dear husband and I were going to have a baby. Though I knew nothing of the little one who would change our lives forever, I loved him more than anything. This phenomenon recurred after we were told we’d never have another child and yet we did. Once again, unconditional love took root and I came to know God more intimately. As my writing often indicates, I’ve seen God in the wonder of creation. I’ve also discovered God in words both written and sung and in wordless musical compositions. Oddly, I’ve even found God in the dialogue between characters in a sitcom rerun. Did the screenplay writer know what I would find in those words decades later? In the end, I’ve found the most compelling evidence of God’s love for us in the words and works of Jesus.

During Lent, we share some of our richest scripture passages. Their writers skillfully wove together threads of temptation and triumph, suffering and healing, sin and forgiveness. The fabric which resulted offers an image of Jesus who brought peace, hope, acceptance and love to God’s people. Last week, we recalled Jesus’ encounter with the woman from Samaria at Jacob’s well. Jesus didn’t need the water he requested of her. It was the woman who thirsted for far more thirst-quenching waters. As always, Jesus responded by quenching the thirst he saw within the depths of that woman’s heart. Jesus revived her spirit that she might truly live anew. Today, we turn to Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind. Since birth, this man’s very existence had been tied to sin. In the eyes of the people, the man’s parents must have sinned terribly. To the people, it was their transgressions which prompted God to impose blindness upon their son. In the eyes of the people, this fruit of sinful parents was of little worth. It is no wonder that those who saw the man after his cure failed to recognize him. They’d passed him on the road often, but had never taken the time to look upon his face. It seems to me that they were the blind ones. They were blind to God’s presence within themselves and within one another. They were blind to God’s presence within the man who was born blind. It was Jesus whose vision was intact. Jesus saw every trial and tribulation which devastated the people and which ravaged their spirits almost beyond repair. What draws me to Jesus is his generous response to his contemporaries and to you and me.

I don’t think haphazard thoughts or my vivid imagination allow me to see God in the world around me. It is Jesus who inspires me to see God in everything. More importantly, it is Jesus who inspires me to see God in those I meet along the way. Jesus saw with God’s eyes and he taught his contemporaries just as he teaches us to do the same. When we look with God’s eyes, we see the pain of our coworkers and our neighbors, our friends and our own family members. We see unrest on the other side of the world as well as in our own backyards. Trauma in all of its forms tears at our spirits with marked precision. It also blurs our vision. Even when we attempt to proceed with the clearest of vision, it is sometimes very difficult to find God in the difficulties at hand.

Please don’t let my assessment of things-gone-awry discourage you. Scripture scholars and historians tell us that life was no better in Jesus’ day. Still, Jesus persisted in seeing the people and the situations around him with God’s eyes. Remember, Jesus came into this world as a helpless child, just as each of us does. Jesus grew up in a family much like our own with parents who rarely understood what he was up to. As an adult, Jesus stood out from the crowds around him because he saw things differently. Though many came to appreciate Jesus’ ability to see them with God’s eyes, others responded with contempt. While Jesus rolled up his sleeves to do everything he could to make the lives of those around him what they were meant to be, his adversaries rolled up their sleeves and planned his demise. Jesus’ circumstances were no better than our own, yet he persisted in seeing them with God’s hopeful and loving eyes.

As I consider the new vision the man born blind experienced at Jesus’ hands, I can’t help feeling gratitude for the same gift in my life. After all, it is when I step back to see things with God’s eyes that I find hope. So it is that I hope that I never stop seeing God in everything around me and I wish the same for each one of us. Jesus continues his work through me and through of all us and it’s up to us to roll up our sleeves and to make it so.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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B is for Blessed

May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.

Psalm 72:17

B is for Blessed. You are blessed and so am I. We wouldn’t walk this earth if we weren’t intentionally breathed into existence by our creatively loving God. I use the adverb “creatively” intentionally. You see, God’s blessings often befuddle me. Most of the time, I don’t recognize them until long after a given person or circumstance has moved on. A lifetime of chance meetings, one-liners which lodge in my memory, unexpected friendships, opportunities and seeming setbacks prove this over and over again. Though I don’t realize it much of the time, I am indeed blessed.

As I consider and offer thanks for the blessings in my life, I must acknowledge that these blessings include everyone around me. This is the challenging part because “everyone” includes those who occasionally give me a headache, a heartache, a soul-ache or worse. How can I look upon these people as blessings?

B is for Blessed. You are blessed and so I am. So it is that you and I must gently remove the wrapping which conceals the blessedness within ourselves and within others from the world. Only then will we discover the fullness of God’s precious gifts.

O Creatively Loving God, help us to see our own blessings and those of others with your perceptive eyes. Give us grateful hearts that we may appreciate both fully.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

See What God Sees

God looked at everything God made, and God found it very good.
Genesis 3:31

One of the treasures I recall from my childhood is our family bible. Actually, we had two. The first was a single tome, beautifully decorated and meant to serve as a family heirloom. The second was a massive binder made up of separate booklets which came in the mail every month. With each new arrival, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the new booklet and replaced the cover. Afterward, I poured over this newest edition’s colorful pictures and passages. My favorite was the Book of Genesis. The Creation Story conjured up wonderful images of our amazing God. Only when our first grandchild was born did I truly appreciate that image of God, the most loving Grandparent ever.

I cite the passage above with good reason. When I look at my own grandchildren, I’m certain that I see what God sees. I say this because no matter what they do, I love them. The truth is that I feel this way about my grown sons as well. I wouldn’t trade any one of them for anything else in all of creation. As God observed, they are very good indeed!

Every week or so, we spend an afternoon visiting our granddaughters. A few weeks ago, I resumed my one-day-a-week commitment to babysit for our grandsons while Mommy and Daddy are at work. Oddly, my thoughts return to that childhood bible and my awe over God’s creation. Today, I realize that a special part of that creation has been entrusted to me and I find it (Them all!) to be very good!

Loving God, thank you for this glimpse of what you see when you look upon each one of us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Always Responds… ALWAYS!

A few weeks ago, Grandpa and I visited the Chicago Botanic Garden with our daughter-in-law and grandsons. As soon as three-year-old Danny returned from preschool that day, we put on our warm coats, packed the car and drove off to Highland Park. When we arrived, Baby Ben nuzzled in the cuddly carrier which Kim had donned for the occasion. We made our way to the outdoor railroad exhibit, a quaint wonderland featuring eighteen model trains which chug along a maze of tracks. Each one snakes its way around beautifully carved wooden replicas of familiar sites such as The Lincoln Memorial and Wrigley Field, Mount St. Helen’s and a Napa Valley vineyard. Though we’d enjoyed the exhibit earlier this past summer, we returned to allow Danny another glimpse of his favorite things: TRAINS!

As we ambled into the exhibit, I noted Danny’s excitement and his extremely cooperative demeanor. Danny remembered our last visit and he seemed determined not to allow anything to prevent him from spending as much time as possible with his beloved trains that day. As it happened, we traced and retraced our steps through the exhibit for two wonderful hours. In the end, Danny’s hunger got the best of him and he happily joined us for the walk to the car. The promise of a hot dog from a favorite local eatery quickly sealed the deal!

As Mike drove to the restaurant, I listened to the chatter in the backseat between Kim and her little boys. Because Ben had awakened during the transfer from baby carrier to car seat, Kim attended to both simultaneously. I smiled as she cooed at Ben while also reading to Danny. Our grandsons seemed quite satisfied with Mommy’s ability to multi-task. When we arrived at the restaurant, Kim toted Ben in his car carrier and Grandpa took Danny’s hand. We ordered that precious hot dog for Danny, another for Grandpa and a salad and wrap for Kim and me. While we waited, Danny once again assumed his sweetest demeanor to coax Mommy into allowing Grandpa to show him the video games and candy machines hidden in a nearby nook. Don’t worry. No purchases were made. Just looking at that amazing array kept Danny’s attention until the smell of that hot dog drew him back to our table.

As we ate, I watched as Danny negotiated with Mommy regarding his lunch. Though he really wanted that wonderful hot dog, he seemed to want the French fries that accompanied it even more. So it was that Danny talked his way into being allowed two fries between each bite of hot dog until both were gone. In the mean time, Ben howled. While she explained the lunch rules to Danny, Kim nuzzled Ben under her cover-up and into position for his lunch. All the while, Kim also managed to enjoy her salad and to converse with Mike and me. I smiled to myself as I recalled similar days with our own sons. As hectic as life proved to be much of the time, Mike and I would do it all again for them. I’m certain Kim and our son Tim feel the same way.

I share this adventure with you because it seems to get the core of today’s passage from Mark’s gospel (Mark 10:46-52). Mark tells us that Jesus and his disciples had just left Jericho amidst a sizable crowd. In spite of the circus around Jesus, Bartimaeus who had been born blind called out, fully expecting Jesus to hear him. Those with Jesus seemed oblivious to the poor man’s plight. They told him to be quiet, perhaps in an effort to keep Jesus from being bothered. Still, Bartimaeus persisted. When Jesus heard him, he asked the others to bring him forward. When Jesus asked what he wanted, Bartimaeus responded, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus responded immediately.

Bartimaeus’ faith in Jesus’ love for him touches me. As I consider his story, my grandsons come to mind. Older brother Danny shares Bartimaeus’ faith. When something is really important to him, Danny knows he can turn to his Mommy and Daddy without risk of disappointment. Though Danny’s every whim isn’t fulfilled, his parents provide him all that is necessary and so much more, like that trip to the railroad exhibit. Ben is only three months old, yet he’s already learned the same. Though his requests often come through tears of hunger rather than sweetly engineered negotiations, Ben’s needs are also fulfilled in generously loving fashion.

God does the same for each of us. Recently, Meg prayed, seemingly without avail, for a measure of peace in a very important area of her life. I listened and I prayed with her, also seemingly without result. Meg’s cause was desperate and reached to the core of her being. Hopeless as her plight seemed, she prayed with all of her might. So did I. We prayed in unison and alone for some time. Then, in a single day, in the midst of seemingly mindless kindness at the hands of a few friends, everything changed. Joy replaced Meg’s despair; confidence replaced her uncertainty; a bright future replaced the dark days which threatened. In that cluster of what seemed to be unremarkable moments, God responded. Just as Jesus responded to Bartimaeus, just and Kim and Tim respond to Danny and Ben, just as Mike and I respond to our sons, God responds to you and me… ALWAYS!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

V is for…

See! I make all things new!
From Revelations 21:5

V is for Vision. The vision of which I write has nothing to do with my ability to see the world around me. The vision to which I refer is that internal sense of direction which guides us when all else fails. I’ve weathered some difficult storms and losses in my life. Still, these things pale in the shadow of the suffering others endure. I can’t help being amazed as those around me cope with circumstances I could never have imagined. Though situation after situation promises the same, these mighty souls endure. They proceed with hope and grace because of their vision of the God who oversees the grand scheme of things while remaining with each one of them.

My own experience tells me that the incidences of suffering in my life morphed into triumph because of my vision of God’s presence within me. Though I saw suffering on the surface, I looked further to see God’s loving presence through it all. Those who’ve shared their stories with me are absolutely convinced that they survived unscathed only because they knew that God remained with them all the while.

V is for Vision, our vision of our Ever-loving, Ever-merciful and Ever-caring God who walks with us through everything. Even when that vision is blurred by our tears, God remains at our sides.

Loving God, thank you for being with us. Enhance our vision that we may always be aware that you are here.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

As God Sees Us…

God looked at everything God made,
and God found it very good.

Genesis 3:31

As I walked through Nazareth and Capernaum and Magdala, images from my childhood bible filled me up. Though we had a lovely family bible, we also had a children’s bible. It was stored in a massive binder made up of separate booklets which came in the mail every month. With each new arrival, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the additional booklet and replaced the cover. Afterward, I poured over the newest edition’s colorful pictures and passages. While in Israel, I saw many of the places featured in that precious tome. While taking in each one, I came to realize the reason that my childhood favorite was the Book of Genesis. It takes us back to our roots!

While walking the streets and byways of the Holy Land, I glimpsed a bit of God’s handiwork. Every face drew me in. I wondered how many of these might trace their family trees back to the families of Joseph or Mary. Whether or not this was possible, I know that we can all trace our roots back to God. Whether it happened in seven days or as a result of The Big Bang, God started it all. God started us all. Seeing ancient ruins which date back to Jesus’ day and beforehand, I couldn’t help being awestruck. What amazed me even more is that God continues to look carefully enough upon us and to find even more which is very good.

Loving God, help me to realize how much you value each one of us and to respond with a grateful heart.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved