No Strings Attached, Honest!

Brothers and sisters,
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

I retired from my career in education with a county level job. This position allowed me access to people and opportunities I might otherwise have never encountered. I very much appreciated working with others at this level to benefit our area children.

One new friend had been elected to a position at the state level. This person understood the possibilities that came with this position and was anxious to add good will and good sense to the mix. Over time, frustration mounted. Her every attempt to transform a good idea into practice required her support of not-particularly-good ideas in return. In the end, my friend found that too many bad ideas became reality as a result of the “deals” which had to be made to gather support. In the end, my friend resigned her elected position and moved on to a place where there were no strings attached to anyone’s good deeds.

We all occasionally find ourselves holding things over the heads of others to get our way. In the end, I never feel very good about this arrangement. I would much prefer that the other person simply did the right thing because it was right. I’m quite certain that God prefers it when I do the same.

Dear God, you’ve given us the wisdom to discern what is right and to act accordingly. Help us not to hinder our own goodness or the goodness of others by attaching strings to our good deeds.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Time To Wait

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

It’s Thanksgiving week… While standing in a linear mass of humanity at the checkout this morning, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for those retailers who’ve agreed not to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. Of all of the holidays we celebrate in this country, Thanksgiving Day is the one we can enjoy without regard for any of our religious affiliations or lack thereof. So it is that I said, “Blessed be those employers whose workers will enjoy the holiday with their families this year!”

With that, I returned to my grocery list to see that I had everything I needed. A voice from the front of the line distracted me from my work. This person remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As he hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. I had already found wealth in these seemingly wasted moments when nothing more than to wait was demanded of me. While the world rushed about me, I found the time to contemplate my blessings and their Generous Source.

Perhaps this is the reason Jesus often rose early and stole away for quiet time. The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were usually disrupted by those who needed him. The same is too often true of you and me. Still, as Jesus did, we find the time to respond and then to sneak away once again.

Dear God, this world of ours grows busier every day. Still, help us always to find the time to love one another as you do.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always In Our Shepherd’s Care

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
forever and ever.

Psalm 23:6

I recently shared that my annual check-ups resulted in the news that I’m in very good health. This news was accompanied by the urging that I tweak my exercise regimen and diet a bit. I’m happy to report that I’ve worked somewhat diligently to do both. In the process, I’ve enjoyed longer treks outdoors and an uncharacteristically varied diet. Creature of habit that I am in all things, this is quite an accomplishment.

I admit that I can’t take full credit for this effort. The truth is that I reference Psalm 23 frequently as I plod along. The Good Shepherd who inspired the psalm watches over me every step of the way. The same shepherd cares for each one of us with the due diligence of the shepherds of old. Though God’s care is powerful whether we recognize it or not, there is great comfort to be found in acknowledging this Watchful One who cares for us so deeply.

Many people have troubles far more pressing than mine. With that in mind, I pray for all of my fellow sheep who face their troubles with far more courage than I. After all, we’re in this together. When one of us finds the way, we all get a bit closer to where God wants us to be.

Loving God, help me to take your example to heart and to lovingly shepherd those you have given me to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifts Everywhere!

Let rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy
before the Lord.”

Psalm 98 III:7-9

The four seasons captivate me, each one with its own variety of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with only the slightest hints of renewed life-in-the-making. Summer brings hope-fulfilled in lush green carpets of grass and blossoms of every color. Though fall’s sometimes gloomy days replace summer’s vibrancy too quickly, its own colors renew my fascination with the outdoors. Yet, in spite of all of this beauty, I find myself most taken in by the coldest season of the year. The other day, blustering winds hinted at winter’s impending arrival. I realized that winter will soon draw me in with its onslaught of snow and cold perhaps a bit sooner than I’d hoped. Still, I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow under my feet and a chilling wind around me and I am in outdoor heaven!

Having written that, I see that the piles of leaves I raked this morning now flutter about in the wind. They crackle as they fly and I wonder if they’re actually laughing at my wasted effort. Mounds of snow will require similar and perhaps equally futile attention when they arrive in not too many weeks. Still, I look forward to winter.

You see, it is during winter that most living things lie dormant beneath the surface. To me, they symbolize the potential to be found in so many unexpected places and people. Recent gatherings with family and friends revealed gifts which too often lurk beneath the surface. Finding these treasures in those I’ve been given to love elicited pure joy. These wonderful encounters rekindled my hope, just as winter does. Though it may be hidden for a while, life is everywhere!

Creator God, help me to appreciate your gifts whatever the season.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make The Best of This Journey

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.

Wisdom 3:1

While in college, I enrolled in a class entitled “Death and Dying” where I encountered the work of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. She was a physician engaged in groundbreaking work regarding the stages of death. In the process, she stumbled upon patients’ accounts of “visits” from loved ones who’d passed away and the experiences of resuscitated patients who claimed to have “seen” doctors working on their bodies while they were “dead”. Some claimed to have visited “heaven” during the same time frame.

By that time, I’d lost many loved ones to serious illnesses. I dealt with these losses by relying on my faith. In my heart, I believed that each one had gone off to heaven to enjoy his or her eternal reward. Though I never questioned my belief in the afterlife, I was intrigued by Kübler-Ross’s findings. How amazing it was that the line between faith and science had blurred a bit! I admit to having read every book I’ve encountered on these topics ever since. Today, medical doctors and scientists continue to add to this body of knowledge.

On this All Souls Day, I’m pleased that the secular world is taking a peek at what people of faith have known all along: God created humankind out of great love. God gifted us with this world and with one another. God invites to make the best of our journeys from this life to the next. Today, we celebrate all of the souls who’ve done this, each in his or her own way. Though none was perfect, all did the best they could with the moments they were given. This is all God asks of any of us poor souls.

Creator God, thank you for the gift of our lives. Be with us as we live every day as best we can.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Precious Time With God’s Gifts

You fill us at daybreak with your kindness
and we shout for joy and gladness at what we see.

Psalm 90:14

I’ve recently shared memories from some recent travel. Though I’m always pleased with the sites we see, it’s my husband who keeps a bucket list of sorts of all of the places he hopes to visit. Oddly, in spite of our recent trek to Italy, I feel the need to get away these days.

Just as I expected, my husband read my lamentations. He seems to be waiting for me to hint at where I might like to go. When he reads this, he’ll discover that I’d like to get away with as little trouble as possible. This means that I prefer not to involve planes or trains or buses in our travel. Today, I’ll ask him to join me in selecting a destination we can drive to and enjoy for a few days. Regardless of our choice, I am certain I’ll find precisely what I need along the way.

This is the case every time my husband convinces me to venture away with him. In each new place and new person I meet, I discover an uplifting morsel of Creation and of the God who gifted us with this world and with one another. With each new encounter, I find good reason to shout for joy over what I see.

Generous God, thank you for giving me the sense to enjoy your gifts on occasion.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved