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

Just As You Are!

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:11-13

When I came across this passage from Luke’s gospel, a long-ago encounter with someone very dear to me came to mind…

I still recall my heartache as my friend sobbed that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow that filled her life. My friend ended this monologue with more tears. I waited some time for her tears to run out. When she had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad to be with her and that I loved her. After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thanks.”

I was extremely grateful when my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold anything against you. You lived through some tough times and I understand what drove you to do what you did. You know what else? My opinion doesn’t matter. God’s does. If I can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of this for you. God never ever gives up on you! God doesn’t give up on any of us!”

I think my friend believed me because I left her smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear that smile in her voice. That smile lasted for a very long time…

Thank you, loving and merciful God, for loving each one of us so completely.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

L… Love, God’s Invitation to Joy

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
From Matthew 22:39

L is for Love. This is a tough one. I don’t have a bit of trouble loving God. Though I admit to having had words with our patient Lord, this is the result of my certainty of God’s love for me. God invited me into a relationship. When I accepted, I committed myself to being completely honest in this regard. This is my only choice. After all, if I don’t share my true feelings, God knows them nonetheless. It seems to me that thinking that we love God is the easy part. It’s also dangerous. If we say we love God and then treat others in ways God would never treat them, we’re fooling ourselves.

Early on, a wise teacher pointed out to my classmates and me that there is something lovable about every one of us and that it is up to us to discover what that is. If I love God, this is precisely what I must do when I encounter someone who seems less-than-lovable to me. When I succeed, both the object of my new-found affection and I come away with an unexpected measure of joy. We also come away having actually loved God in the process.

Love is a tricky endeavor at best. Still, it’s the best work we can do and the best source of joy. The passage from Matthew above isn’t a directive. It’s an invitation to a joyful heart..

Loving God, thank you for creating us in your image, especially when it comes to our ability love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

In God’s Eyes…

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

One of the treasures I recall from my childhood is our large 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 booklet and replaced the cover. Afterward, my sisters and I poured over the newest edition’s colorful pictures and passages. My favorite was the Book of Genesis. The Creation Story conjured up images of our amazing God. Only when our first grandchild was born did I truly appreciate that image of the most loving grandparent ever.

I cite the passage above with good reason. When I look at my grandchildren, I must see what God sees. I say this because no matter what they do, I love them. I wouldn’t trade any one of the four little imps for anything else in all of creation. As God observed, they are very good indeed!

Every week, we spend a day visiting our granddaughters. Though we did the same for our grandson, today, I begin my one-day-a-week commitment to babysit for him 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.

Loving God, help me to care for little Danny as you do.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Look with God’s Eyes

Last weekend, my parents would have celebrated their seventy-third wedding anniversary. For numerous reasons, I find myself anxious to celebrate on their behalf. After all, my life is what it is as a result of my parents’ influence…

My mom worked at the Sears catalog warehouse when I was a little girl. This began as an annual part-time arrangement several weeks before Christmas and a few weeks afterward. My mom did this to ensure her family a “nice” Christmas. My dad worked as an assistant railroad yardmaster year-round. He did so to provide his wife and children a “nice” life. Both of these efforts tested my parents’ stamina and creativity. While they met this challenge admirably, creating a loving home for my siblings and me was the best part of what they did together.

Our home was actually a modest three-bedroom flat which housed my uncle and grandfather as well. In spite of our cramped quarters, the door remained open to family and friends. When our household shrank due to our grandfather’s and then our uncle’s passing, Daddy consoled us with talk of heaven and their renewed health. We had no choice except to be happy about the newfound joy both men experienced. When Daddy passed away, our mom repeated his message with deep conviction. Though she went to work full-time and our tight family budget tightened a bit more, my mother preserved the love in our home in full earnest.

My life would be very different if my parents’ positive perspective had been the opposite. A few years into my own marriage, I wondered what inspired the great faith which empowered my parents to smile and to remain optimistic through even the greatest tragedies. I asked my mom what she and my dad did when they discovered his illness and his prognosis of only a year more to live. Without hesitation, Mom answered, “We lived it to the full!” My dad continued to work for as long as possible and my mom did everything else. She helped my dad to conserve his energy so he could enjoy as many of that year-full of days as possible. It was a few days into his last hospital stay when we almost lost him during the night. When our mom arrived the next morning, Daddy told her what had happened. In a gesture of generosity which I may never be able to repeat, my mom reminded my dad of the consolation he offered when our grandfather and uncle passed away. She went on to ask him why he worried. God would take care of us in his absence. Though the ache in her heart intensified with every word, Mom went on to give her thirty-nine-year-old husband permission to let go. During the night that followed, he did.

As I read today’s gospel (Mark 10:46-52), the perceptiveness of the blind man overwhelmed me. Though his eyes could not see, the man knew that Jesus was near. The blind man’s uncanny perspective reminds me of my parents’ vision. Though his physical vision was non-existent, this man saw more clearly than the rest of Jesus’ followers. This man who was blind clearly saw what Jesus offered. Mark wrote, “…he kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’” Hearing him, Jesus rewarded the blind man’s faith by asking him what he wanted. The blind man responded, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus sent the man off with his wish fulfilled. Yet, rather than leaving, the man followed Jesus. His choice to do so touches my heart. The blind man’s life had been terribly difficult. He could have allowed his circumstances to destroy his hope and to turn his heart to anger and self-pity. Man of hope that he was, he didn’t allow this to happen. Though unable to see the physical world around him, this man saw that life is worth living. When Jesus arrived, this man saw Jesus’ message unfold before him. The blind man saw Jesus so clearly that he was convinced Jesus would take care of everything. It was this hopeful vision and not his newfound sight which caused this man to follow his Lord.

My parents’ vision allowed them to be happy in spite of the many tragedies which touched their lives. Like the blind man in today’s gospel, they chose to see things as God sees them. As I worked through my worry over our little grandson’s premature birth, I came to understand and to appreciate my parents’ vision and that of the blind man more fully. Today, you and I are invited to do as my parents did: To see God’s gifts as the man born blind saw them; to seize every opportunity to embrace this life; to look beyond the fear, the sadness and the sorrow that threaten. Today, God invites us to adjust our vision in order to see the joy that is the center of everything. Today, we open our eyes to God’s persistent and unconditional love.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

B… 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 would not walk this earth if we were not 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.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved