Families Love

Only goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life;
I shall dwell in the house of the Lord.

Psalm 23:6

I’ll attend a family wedding in a few weeks. I always look forward to these events which bring together cousins both near and far. We don’t see one another as often as we used to. Still, my siblings, these cousins and I always manage to pick up our conversations from where we left off the last time we gathered.

A good deal has happened since we were children playing together at family picnics and parties. We’ve gathered for numerous weddings and funerals over the years. One of the blessings through all of this has been our willingness to be there for one another through everything. The in-laws and out-laws and those in between are family and that says it all.

It occurs to me that my own brother and sisters have always been “people” people. My cousins have been the same. They enjoy the company of others and it shows in their relationships at home, in their neighborhoods and at their jobs. I think this is God’s intent for each one of us. You and I are the result of God’s desire to share Divine Love. God has spread the joy by giving us the capacity to share our own variety of love. After all, this is what family is about.

Loving God, my cousins learned early on to look in the right places for what matters most: You and those You have given us to love. Bless us all with their wisdom.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Ambassadors of Love

Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart,
and in my inmost being you teach me wisdom.

Psalm 51:8

While organizing my desk for the umpteenth time, I came across an article about church. Recent reflection regarding my own role within the church prompted me to reread this lost treasure. Afterward, I acknowledged that the negative impact of some have distracted me from the amazing good that the church has brought to my life and to the lives of many others. These “others” include both believers and non-believers who have been served by those good souls who do their best to live out their love for God.

I truly believe that God lives among us and within us both inside and outside of our institutional religious affiliations. Whether we worship in a synagogue, mosque, temple, church or elsewhere, within a faith community or alone, our most important God-related responsibility is the same: To live out our relationships with God in our relationships with one another. The technicalities which separate our various denominations must never separate us from one another.

Loving God, open our hearts to your wisdom. Make us all good ambassadors of your love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Treasures

Each one speaks from his or her heart’s abundance.
From Luke 6:45

While helping our granddaughters to pack their suitcases after an overnight stay, I checked under their beds for stray socks and flip-flops. In the process, I discovered a storage bin which I’d hidden years earlier. I’d left it untouched because I thought it was filled with one of our sons’ memorabilia. After we drove the girls home, I returned to that bin to determine which of our sons I’d hand it over to during their next visit. When I pulled that bin from under the bed, I saw that the label on top read “Mary’s Childhood and Teens”… What a surprise!

There I found my high school yearbook with handwritten messages from friends and teachers. Familiar faces filled my memory. The message written near Sister Imelda’s picture took me back to freshman year religion class. Sister had observed that we can get a good picture of ourselves by looking at our friends. I took this to mean that our friends mirror who we are. When I taught, I often noted that the “good” kids gravitated toward one another, while their less cooperative peers did the same. Still, good kids were sometimes conned by the allure of unsavory acquaintances. At the same time, placing a troubled child in good company resulted in unexpected liaisons that widened the horizons of all concerned. These amazing friendships changed everything for the children involved. Perhaps I missed the meaning of Sister Imelda’s observation. It isn’t that our friends mirror us, but that their company is witness to our openness to one another regardless of our similarities and differences.

As I considered the variety of friends and teachers who filled my yearbook with their kind words, I saw that our openness to one another is key to a rich life. What a treasure God has made of each of us!

Dear God, help us to appreciate one another more fully.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Co-Exist

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

After stopping for a quick lunch, I continued our gardening efforts. Though this was my first attempt at this task, I trimmed a row bushes which had begun to grow together. As I swept up afterward, I admit to smiling over the finished product. My husband would be happily relieved not to have to repair my handiwork! On my way to put the clippers away, I noticed sprinkles of soil next to two planters on the patio. As I swept the soil, I saw a squirrel watching me from afar. “You little stinker!” I whispered. After all, I didn’t want to scare the poor thing.

As I continued to sweep, it occurred to me that I should have scared my furry friend. He was likely the culprit who had displaced that dirt while digging around the begonias. So it was that I decided to engage that squirrel in conversation. “You know,” I said loudly enough to scare him away, “You can dig up the entire yard if you want to. Just leave the flowers alone!” Afterward, I went on to wash the bird bath. When I finally went into the house, that squirrel or his twin brother scampered up to the planters. I knocked on the patio door glass to remind him of my offer. I couldn’t help laughing as he scampered off with record speed.

My husband and I will figure out a way to keep our squirrel friends our of our planters. In the mean time, we’ll continue to welcome them into the rest of the yard because they really are fun to watch.

God of Love, help us humans to find better ways to co-exist. When we do, we’ll also be so much more fun to watch.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Precious Are We

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.

Psalm 118:22

While my husband went off to run and errand, I took advantage of the 60 degree temperatures by weeding our patio. Though the pavers are beautiful, they do allow an occasional weed to crop up between them. While I was on my knees, I noticed that the nearby flowerbeds also needed a bit of care. We had spread volcanic rock between the plants. Still, weeds had poked their way through. I weeded there as well. In the process, I saw that some of those rocks had made their way onto the lawn. After weeding, I retrieved our rake and gathered those wayward stones as best I could. When I finished raking, I realized that I’d collected twigs and leaves as well. I knelt down once again to pick through the rubble and retrieve every bit of volcanic rock.

Since I was on my knees, it seemed appropriate to offer a word or two to God above as I worked. You know, I could have finished in half the time. Rather, I took the time to look at each stone, even the ones which were covered with mud and other unmentionables. I got the hose and rinsed them all. Then I put each rock wherever it seemed to belong. When Mike returned home, he asked why I was smiling so contentedly…

Dear God, you place us wherever we belong as well. Thank you for your faith in our ability to improve our surroundings and ourselves.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

U is for…

“Which of these was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers?”
They answered, “The one who treated him with compassion.”.

From Luke 10:36-37

U is for Unity. I recently attended my cousin’s 80th birthday party. Yvette is the eldest cousin on my dad’s side of the family. She’s also one of the nicest people I know. It was truly my pleasure to gather with our extended family to honor her. I’ve always been particularly touched by my dear cousin’s devotion to her loved ones. While her husband and their five children top this list, Yvette has been a loving and supportive presence for her own parents, siblings and the rest of us as well. During all of the years since I came along, I’ve observed Yvette’s positive presence among us. Her own family’s relationships indicate that Yvette’s children have picked up on this as well.

You know, the unity within Yvette’s family is tangible. It seems to me that this should be true of God’s family as well. We need not congregate in the same worship spaces or in any places of worship at all. We do need to respect one another and to see each other as God’s children. We need to love one another as we love ourselves and our own families. We need to set aside the non-essential details of our differences and to focus upon the most essential needs of all of humankind.

My cousin raised five children who in turn are raising children of their own. Unique as each one is, I know Yvette loves them all. God has breathed life into billions of children and God loves each of us even more so. God’s only request is the same as that of any loving parent: That we love another and learn to get along. Yes, U is for Unity. You and I are meant to be for Unity, too!

Loving God, help us to love one another and to work together to transform this world into a fitting home for us all.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved