L is for…

His father caught sight if him and was deeply moved.
He ran out to meet his son, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.

From Luke 15:30

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 simply 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 our interactions. After all, if I choose not to share my true feelings, God knows them nonetheless.

Early on, a wise teacher shared that there is something lovable about every one of us and that it is up to us to discover what this is. This observation has helped me a great deal over the years. Though I don’t have a flawless track record, I can honestly say that I don’t hate anyone. Still, though I love my neighbor in theory, putting that love into practice sometimes poses a challenge. The good news is that I try and that joy is the result of these efforts.

The toughest part is loving my neighbor as I love myself. Sometimes, I’m judgmental toward myself. If I fail to love myself enough to allow myself to err on occasion, how can I love my neighbors enough to allow them the same luxury? The passage above from Luke is taken from the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s an invitation to stop judging one another and to stop judging ourselves. Like that son, we must allow ourselves to be forgiven and to move on.

As you see, love is a tricky endeavor. Still, it’s the best work we can do and the greatest source of joy available to us.

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

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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My Dear Archangel

As I watched, thrones were set up
and the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was snow bright,
and the hair on his head as white as wool…

From Daniel 7:9

Daniel’s imagery provides a fairly accurate picture of my earliest impressions of God. The adults around me did a very good job of convincing me of God’s love. Still, there was something about the Almighty’s powerful presence which gave me reason to pause. The earliest days of my relationship with God included some shyness and perhaps a bit of fear when it came to my own behavior and the things I dared and dared not to pray for.

The good news is that Daniel’s imagery also inspired my faith in God’s helpers, the archangels in particular. From the time I was a little child, I turned to Michael the Archangel when fearful people or fearful circumstances threatened. Though I was unsure of how all of this worked back then, I do recall finding great consolation under the Archangel’s watchful eye.

Though I have set aside the more cumbersome baggage from my childhood which stunted my growth faith-wise, I admit that I continue to turn to the Good Archangel Michael when those I love are in danger. Though I don’t expect him to draw a sword to take down their adversaries, I do believe that Michael is present with just the same. Perhaps all that is required to make things right is a strong shoulder to lean on, even when we don’t realize that shoulder is there.

Loving God, thank you for all of the entities, here and above, who guard us and guide us along the way. Most of all, thank you for being with us in everything.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

L… for Love

You shall love the Lord your God…
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

From Matthew 22:37-38

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 our interactions. This is my only choice. After all, if I choose not to share my true feelings, God knows them nonetheless.

Early on, a wise teacher shared that there is something lovable about every one of us and that it is up to us to discover what this is. This observation has helped me a great deal over the years. Though I don’t have a flawless track record, I can honestly say that I don’t hate anyone. Still, though I love my neighbor in theory, putting that love into practice sometimes poses a challenge. The good news here is that I try. The better news is that joy is the result of these efforts.

The toughest part is loving my neighbor as I love myself. Sometimes, I am judgmental and much of that judgment is directed toward me. If I fail to love myself enough to allow myself the luxury of being a frail human, how can I love my neighbors enough to allow them to do the same?

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 heaven on earth.

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

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

In God We Trust

As I read Matthew’s gospel (22:15-21), I wondered what the Pharisees were thinking as the scene unfolded. Once again, they attempted to trick Jesus into saying something which would make Jesus appear to be a troublemaking insurgent. The Pharisees were prepared to do whatever was necessary to discredit Jesus before the people and before the governing Romans. They wanted to be rid of Jesus once and for all. On this occasion, they posed a question regarding taxes: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If Jesus advised them not to pay what the Romans demanded, he would place himself in political jeopardy. If Jesus told the people that they must pay their taxes, he counseled them to pay homage to a false god -the Roman emperor- by offering this monetary sacrifice. Once again, the not-so-crafty Pharisees underestimated Jesus. After he asked to see a Roman coin, Jesus posed his own question: “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” When the Pharisees answered, “Caesar’s,” Jesus told them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God…”

Some time ago, I visited an exhibit which featured ancient coins from more than a thousand years before Jesus’ time. In spite of the coins’ age, the images etched into them were still visible. I could certainly appreciate the workmanship of the artists who fashioned them. It amazed me that three millennia since their creation, the artists’ touch remained. This entire collection of ancient artifacts gave me reason to pause. Brothers and sisters unknown to me used these coins throughout their daily lives just as I use the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that linger at the bottom of my purse today. I wondered what museum patrons three millennia into the future might think of the coins we will leave behind. Unlike the ancient coins I observed at the museum that day, our coins display both images and the words, “In God we trust.” I wondered if the letters will be visible even a few hundred years into the future. I wondered if evidence of our faith in those words would remain intact as well.

We humans are an irascible lot. We continually find ways to dull the images which give us direction in this life, especially when those images lead us to destinations not of our own choosing. The Pharisees offered Caesar’s coin to Jesus in spite of the fact that they resented Caesar’s tyrannical rule. The Pharisee’s preferred being in league with Caesar’s pagan regime to aligning themselves with Jesus. Following Jesus’ teaching would have turned their world and the temple hierarchy upside down, and the Pharisees simply weren’t ready for this. Because they wanted to remain “in charge” and in power, they let go of the very God who had once inspired them to pursue their life’s work. When things don’t go as I hope, I find myself impatiently wringing my hands and fretting as well. Because I want to make things right when things go amiss, I struggle as the Pharisees did. I can’t to let go of my need to be in charge, so I fail to align myself with the words etched into my coins: “In God we trust.”

As I consider the events of today’s gospel, I recall another reference to an “image” in the Old Testament. Genesis 1:27 tells us, “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” If only the Pharisees had remembered that the God of Jesus is the very God who created them in the Divine Image and who inspired them to serve in that image just as Jesus did. If only I would remember the same when I find myself entrenched in worry, fear or sadness. These troubles and more will touch all of our lives at one time or another. It is at those times that we must remember that we, too, are created in God’s image. It is the image of God etched upon us and within us which gives us reason to trust.

Loving God, the image you impressed upon us so long ago is worn and hard to recognize these days. So it is that we ask you to renew your handiwork and to impress yourself once again onto our hearts and our souls. Make each of us a shining image of you. In God we trust, Lord. In everything, we trust in you.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved