Beauty in Everything and Everyone

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
and forget not all of God’s benefits.

Psalm 103:2

That afternoon, while my husband headed to the gym, I abandoned my writing and headed outdoors. Rather than walking the neighborhood, I drove to a little lake just a mile away. I seized the opportunity to hike the path around this tiny body of water. Though the scenery there isn’t very different from that of our local park, it took my breath away. A brisk breeze urged me along. It also caused leaves to rustle and tiny waves to form on the lake. Though I could easily see from one edge of this pond to the other, those ripples of water made it look strong in its own right.

Along the way, I encountered numerous unfamiliar flowers, an oddly shaped tree and a chipmunk who dared to scamper inches from my toes. A very large and unleashed dog gave me reason to pause until the canine’s owner noted my alarm and quickly attached a leash to her furry companion. I thanked her for this consideration after I complimented her admittedly cute canine. When I began my second trek around the lake, I hoped to see that dog again so I could exhibit my newfound bravery in its presence. I also looked forward to discovering even more of the treasures hidden in this beautiful place.

Afterward, I strolled back to my car filled with gratitude for this amazing interlude with nature. While pulling away, it occurred to me that my fellow humans are filled with hidden treasures as well. That day, I promised to take a closer look at every opportunity…

Creator God, thank you for giving me the capacity to appreciate this beautiful world. Help me to appreciate my fellow humans as well.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Just Like The Movies?

I believe I shall see the good things of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13

The other day, I allowed myself the luxury of an hour of television. I settled on an old movie which I knew would end happily. Because I didn’t recall many of the plot details, the time invested seemed worth it. Afterward, as the credits rolled down the screen, I wondered why life in the real world doesn’t unfold as neatly. Movie scripts allow heroes to arrive in the nick of time. Lonely widowers meet loving widows, organ donors are unexpectedly found, wayward children embrace family values and absentee fathers becomes stellar dads. I asked aloud, “Why can’t the woes of the real world be remedied as neatly?”

I looked upward for an answer though I knew that God has already responded. God provides for our needs with Creation. Though we too often forsake this gift, God stands by with great hope in our ingenuity. Jesus entered human history to reveal Divine Love even more tangibly. Jesus showed us that to lead, we must serve, to be first, we must be last, and to save our lives, we must live our lives for others. If this isn’t enough, God’s Spirit remains within us to nudge along the way.

I think that television’s optimistic stance has a place in reality, even if that “place” is simply to encourage us to make the best of our circumstances. If we truly get into character, it will eventually become natural to accentuate the positive in our interactions with those we’ve been given to love.

Dear God, help us to take direction from your love and to write happy endings for the stories which unfold around us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Caregivers

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 23:1

An unexpected conversation left my heart heavy with compassion for a friend. A friend is dealing with some health complications within his family and the only consolation I could offer was my promise to pray for him. As I walked away, I began my prayer. “Dear God, give him strength,” I begged. Though my own sons, their wives and our grandchildren are happy and well these days, I’ve experienced enough health scares in their regard for me to understand this my friend’s pain too well. So it was that I reached for the image of our loving God which consoles me most when I am in asking mode: The Good Shepherd.

I prayed, “Where would I be today, Lord, if I had not been in your loving care? Sometimes, you seemed to come out of nowhere to assure me of your presence. Sometimes, you have come in your servant-shepherds who managed to keep hope alive for me. Please, do the same for my friend and his family.”

I believe that none of us would be where we are today if not for God’s relentless love and concern. Sometimes, they come in our own awareness of God’s presence. Mostly, they come in the successes and failures of the shepherds God has placed in our lives. Every instance of nurturing feeds our hope and empowers us to carry on. What an awesome responsibility and privilege we have to do the same for one another!

Good Shepherd, your loving care fills our hearts with hope. Be with us as we care for one another as you would.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Whispers of Peace

After the earthquake there was fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound…
God’s voice…

From 1 Kings 19:12

On our first day of touring, after visiting Caesarea, we went on to the Baha’i Gardens on Mount Carmel. I was anxious to see them because rainy weather had kept us from exploring the gardens during our first trip to Israel. The intricately tiled pathways were off-limits as they were too slippery for walking. This time, the weather cooperated and we explored the grounds freely. This worldwide home of the Baha’i Faith hosts thousands of pilgrims annually. Though the gardens before me were breathtaking, my thoughts turned to another temple I’d encountered decades earlier…

I attended college in the north-easternmost part of Chicago just south of Evanston. When venturing north, I caught glimpses of the Baha’i Temple there. This was one of the most peaceful places I’d ever encountered. I knew nothing of the Baha’i Faith, its rituals and prayer and I really had no desire to learn more. Still, I found that the space they’d created near the shores of Lake Michigan provided the perfect setting in which to empty myself of my concerns and to focus upon God. Though the structure’s huge dome was architecturally impressive, its furnishings were sparse. Perhaps this environment provided me a tangible to nudge to empty myself of the minutia which cluttered my psyche and my heart. That place proved to be quite conducive to prayer.

As I walked the Baha’i grounds in Israel, I marveled at their loveliness. I also marveled at the plethora of ways we humans have found to relate to God. I hoped that my own efforts to build “church” among God’s people induced a measure of the peace I’d found in that temple and deep within myself. I hoped and I prayed that this is, or soon will be, what I’ve done…

Faithful God, we need only to listen to hear your peace-filled breath. Help me to nudge others your way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Real Love

O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the
secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet and lovely.

Song of Songs 2:14

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Because it is also a “regular” Sunday at church, I’m arranging for our Christmas Eve dinner today. The gifts are already piled strategically around the Christmas Tree. In the process of arranging them, I realized one was missing. It’s something I couldn’t disguise very well, so I hid it under my son’s bed. In the midst of retrieving it, I bumped a plastic container which was also under his bed. I began to tell myself that I would ask him to take it home with him until I realized it was mine. Busy as I was, I opened the bin to examine its contents. I smiled as I retrieved one of the treasures inside. It was my husband’s and my wedding program. I recognized it immediately because the cover bears the scripture passage from The Song of Songs which I cite above. It seems fitting that I reflect on it today.

My husband and I selected this passage because we were taken in by the painful longing this lover expressed for his beloved. This lover who spoke so passionately is the God of Israel who desperately sought to be reunited with the Jewish People. This Divine longing persisted for centuries as evidenced in the gift of Jesus. On the first Christmas, God expressed this insatiable love face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the most tangible way possible. God expressed this love in the gentle cooing of the newborn baby who would spend his life convincing us all that God’s love for us is very, very real.

Loving God, how can we thank you?

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Faithful Guardian

He leads me in right paths…
From Psalm 23:3

When I consider the state of the world around me and of my own heart, I sometimes wonder why God bothers. Though God gifts humankind in ways more numerous than the grains of sand which cover this earth’s beaches, we manage to misuse our gifts in equally bountiful ways.

Fortunately for me, God takes note of my discouragement long before it morphs into something unmanageable. In the midst of my laments, images of kindnesses great and small distract my thinking. Moments in nature, in the company of those I love, at prayer and at peace with the tasks at hand compel me to utter words of thanks without much thought. While I remain baffled at this transition from discouragement to contentment, God leans back and admires this bit of Divine Handiwork.

As I consider Psalm 23 once again, I understand. God will never cease to lead us in right paths because it is in God’s nature to do so. When one loves as completely as God does, one never EVER gives up on the objects of that love!

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing encouragement in things great and small. Remind me never to give up on this world because you will never give up on a single one of us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved