So Generously Restored!

…he leads me beside still waters
and restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

I ran from the moment I woke that morning. Before thinking about a little volunteer pitch which I’d deliver at Mass that evening, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I did two loads of laundry while working on a few more of these daily reflections. Completing this little to-do list put me in the perfect frame of mind to ask others who are able to step up and occasionally help out with some fairly easy tasks at church.

After practicing my one-minute and fifteen-second speech, I noticed that the November rain had let up. Though the red line on my thermometer had not edged beyond forty-five that day, I couldn’t resist the oddly peaceful setting which lay beneath the cloudy sky. Though the beautiful fall colors which adorned my neighborhood were muted on that seemingly dismal day, the scene before me nudged me back to Psalm 23.

Though I had a bit more to do inside, I headed outdoors to walk. Every step of the way, God restored my soul. Even on that gray-hued day, God refreshed me.

Loving God, thank you for the many gifts with which you refresh us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Gifts Everywhere…

The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.

Psalm 24:1

The four seasons captivate me with their shows of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with only the slightest hint of renewed life-in-the-making. Summer brings hope-fulfilled in lush green carpets of grass and blossoms of every color. Though autumn’s sometimes gloomy days replace summer’s vibrancy too quickly, its own colors captivate as well. Yet, in spite of this beauty, I find myself most taken by the coldest season of the year.

The blustering winds outdoors hint at winter’s impending arrival. That frigid season will soon draw me in with its onslaught of snow and cold. I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow beneath my feet and I’m in outdoor heaven!

My revelry over our ever-changing seasons doesn’t dispel the twinge of frustration I experience as I peek out the window at the leaves I raked an hour ago. They’ve deserted their piles to flit and crackle in the wind. Are they laughing at my wasted effort? Mounds of snow will soon do the same. Still, I look forward to winter. Living things lying dormant beneath the snowy surface symbolize the potential to be found in so many unexpected people and places. These wonderful discoveries rekindle my hope just as winter does. You see, though they may be hidden for a while, the gifts of this life are everywhere!

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts to be found in others whatever the season.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Treats

Last week, I found myself alone on Trick-or-Treat detail. My dear husband had run over to church for an appointment and this was fine with me. Though I struggled to keep myself from feasting on the bowl of candy strategically perched at our front door, it took no effort at all to enjoy the amazing assortment of children and adults who came by for these annual freebies. Because only one urchin had knocked during the first twenty minutes of my stint, I ran to my desk for my copy of today’s scripture passages and a pad of paper. I’d decided to use the intervals of quiet to complete the reflection I’d begun a few days earlier. By three o’clock, I’d made amazing progress with my writing because only five additional kids had come by in the interim.

At five minutes after three, everything changed. The floodgates opened and I was deluged with well over one hundred festive beggars during the next ninety minutes. Though my first six visitors were cute as can be, the flood of humanity who followed took my breath away in the most amazing way. Whether they were adorned in elaborate costumes or eking by with only a grocery bag in hand, each one arrived with a smile and some semblance of a Halloween greeting. Each one also expressed gratitude with a variety of thanks or a few kind comments about our yard decor. In the midst of dealing with the lovable circus on parade at my door, I set aside the reflection I’d begun and started a new one. I must have been a victim of Divine Inspiration. Who else could have made an afternoon of ringing doorbells and haphazard candy distribution so inspiring?

I couldn’t shake the conviction that the people of Jesus’ day should have celebrated Halloween. Yes, I realize that this holiday was first observed centuries after Jesus lived as the Eve of All Hallows (The Eve of All Saints). Still, I felt certain that if the scribes and Pharisees had enjoyed the opportunity to dress up and to smile for free candy at their neighbors’ doors, they might have developed far different attitudes toward God, The Law and God’s intent regarding The Law. If these leaders of the temple had been on the other sides of those doors, doling out candy simply for the joy of it, they certainly would have revised their thinking regarding God and God’s people. As for me, I was about seventy-five kids into my candy distribution when I realized that I’d been given a glimpse of the joy God finds in loving us unconditionally. The trick-or-treaters’ varying levels of disguise made no difference to me. They all arrived with their hope intact regarding the things to come. They all showed up ready to reap the treasures promised by this extremely sweet day. No one and nothing would deter them, especially not me. I found great pleasure in handing over their treats with no strings attached.

It seems to me that the scribes and Pharisees simply couldn’t find it in their hearts to give freely and, more sadly, to receive freely. In today’s gospel (Matthew 23:1-12), Matthew tells us that, once again, Jesus experienced frustration with the temple hierarchy. The scribes and Pharisees had nurtured their arrogance so completely that they blinded themselves to the beauty which lay in the hearts of the people they were meant to serve. Rather than appreciating the parade of saints and sinners who came to the temple for reassurance, these alleged holy men busied themselves with holding those beneath them to the letter of The Law regardless of the cost to their spirits. At the same time, they positioned themselves to accumulate every fringe benefit and honor which their status in the temple afforded them. These alleged holy men could have chosen to serve their brothers and sisters as Jesus did. Still, they chose to embrace the world’s fleeting riches instead. This is the reason Jesus cautioned the people to follow the teachings of their leaders, but not their selfish example.

I’m completing this reflection the day after my Trick-or-Treat adventure. I admit to a sense of satisfaction when I stowed the few pieces of our leftover candy in the pantry. I actually counted those extras and calculated that one-hundred thirty-seven kids had graced our door. Did I write “graced”? Graced, indeed! Silly as it sounds, this is precisely how I felt. I’d experienced some sense of Jesus’ love for God’s people! Though the materially poor often caught his attention, the spiritually poor tugged at Jesus’ heartstrings as well. Did Jesus wonder, “How will I convince them of God’s all-accepting love?” Regardless, Jesus answered himself in everything he said and did. Poor scribes and Pharisees! Had no one ever given to you freely? Had you never given freely of yourselves? Were you too blind to see Jesus’ loving ways or had you already filled your bags with treats of your own design? I can’t answer for these poor men, but I can assure you and me of something: It’s up to us to open our bags and our hearts as we approach God’s door. It’s also up to us to freely accept what we receive and to share it.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Best Laid Plans…

Let the sea and what fills it resound…
Let the rivers clap their hands…

From Psalm 98:7-8

I have a dear friend who is truly a world traveler. When John plans a trip, it’s usually several weeks in duration and may involve not one cruise, but two. I admire his wandering spirit and I enjoy reliving his adventures with him when he returns home. For the past few days, however, I’ve been following John’s cruise on Facebook only to discover that it has unfolded quite unexpectedly. He’s actually spent three days in “canal limbo” because of a ship failure. After 48 hours of unsuccessful repair attempts, it was determined that the ship needs to be dry-docked. After another 24 hours in “traveler limbo”, John managed to book a few side trips which will fill the time until his second cruise begins. As I noted earlier, I truly admire John’s wandering spirit!

How often we find ourselves in the midst of unplanned scenarios which seem determined to keep us dry-docked for a while! How often we struggle to escape these circumstances only to find that we sink deeper into their mire! Finally, when we stop fighting our circumstances and start planning ways to deal with them do we find peace. Like my friend John, we sometimes have to re-plan, regroup and begin again. Like my friend John, sometimes we find ourselves in far better circumstances after all.

Life isn’t perfect for any of us. Still, when we keep ourselves attuned to the peace deep within, we focus on the things which matter most. In the end, we actually find a better way.

Loving God, thank you for being the peace which sustains us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Part of God’s Creation

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

I admit that I haven’t been as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d like. I can offer no worthy excuses for this because these adventures always leave me feeling wonderful. I’ll blame uncontrolled busyness rather than myself. Still, I’m ignoring the obvious: that this crazy schedule is of my own doing. Though I’m too often guilty as charged, this morning was different. I ignored my to-do list, grabbed my jacket and headed outdoors.

In spite of the cold, it struck me that, as soon as I established my pace, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. Though I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I have seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide a winter’s measure of nuts were the frosting on the cake. Though I always enjoy these walks, the joy I experienced this morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during these treks. The blue sky that so often beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in heaven’s direction as well. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude. Being part of God’s creation is very good reason to give thanks!

Generous God, help me to live every day with a grateful heart. Your gifts are more than any of us could ever have hoped for. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A God Day? Yes, Indeed!

You shall rejoice in every good thing
which the Lord your God has given you.

Deuteronomy 16:11

I know I’ve shared this before. I also know that I’d convinced myself that I’d eliminated this particular typo from my repertoire. Nonetheless, I repeated this error in every personal email I sent today. Duh! Let me explain… I normally close my emails by typing “Have a good day.” However, each time I reread a message today, I found that I’d actually typed, “Have a god day!” Though my typo did not begin with a capital letter, the meaning of my error didn’t escape me.

Some years ago, I caught myself making this particular error on almost every email I sent. I had wished others “God days” several times during a single week. The funniest part of this is that I didn’t catch my error for so long. It was only when I looked back at one week’s messages in my “Sent” box that I discovered the magnitude of my mistake.

After chiding myself over my carelessness, I realized that there was no error in my work after all. If I shared what I truly wished for those who are a part of my life, I would type “Have a God day!” intentionally. I wish everyone realized from morning til night that God loves them more than anything. I wish that this knowledge would ease their burdens and give them hope regardless of the trials and tribulations which befall them day in and day out. I wish that they understood that God’s loving hand wipes away our failings long before we have the sense to regret them. I wish that this life would become do-able for them simply because they know that wherever life’s path leads them, God is with them. The most unique gift God gives each of us in the opportunity awaiting us in each new day. Yes, indeed. I wish us all a God day every day!

Loving God, you make all of our day’s “God days” even when we fail to notice. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved