Roses In God’s Eyes

They whom God plants shall flourish…”
From Psalm 92:14

As I write, the scent of roses makes its way up to the study where I write. This is the first time I’ve noticed the flowers’ fragrance since my husband placed them on the kitchen table a few days ago. “You’re strong flowers,” I tell them, fully expecting a satisfied nod in return. I hope those roses somehow realize how grateful I am that they made it through winter. As I return to my writing, I whisper, “Thank you!”

We’re much like those roses whose survival remained in question this spring. Fortunately, we join our thorny friends in finding the strength to carry on. We focus on the things that matter, like God’s companionship and love. If we remember that God looks upon each one of us with great expectation before we set out on our own, we find the confidence to proceed.

Though the roses on my table will likely last only another day, their unmistakable fragrance will remain with me. This final gift is a lingering reminder that God’s presence in my life transforms everything. Just as my dear husband selected those particular roses to adorn our table, God singles out you and me to enhance life on this earth as only we can.

Dear God, thank you for your love and for your presence in our lives. What would life be without your fragrance? What would life be like without these ever-creative reminders of your love?

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserve

Advertisements

Embrace The Journey and Ride On!

It was early Friday morning when I checked email before tending to this writing. I didn’t know at the time that a light-hearted message from a childhood friend would guide my efforts. Since we’re both products of the West Side of Chicago, Trino sent a link to a recent tidbit regarding electric scooter rentals now available in some areas of the city. He asked if I’d ever dare to ride one, but quickly added that he assumed he already knew my response. How I surprised my dear friend! After acknowledging that I’d heard about the city’s scooter experiment, I added that I have indeed ridden one!  Though it wasn’t the model available in our home town, it was both electric and fast. Our eldest grandchild has had an adult-scale e-scooter for some time. Last summer, after watching our granddaughter, our sons and my dear husband ride it, something urged me to do the same. Happily, I responded to that nudge without incident and with great pleasure. I resolved that I’d ride that scooter again at every opportunity.

After recounting this accomplishment in my reply to Trino, my thoughts turned to similar adventures from years past. It was 1968. A co-worker at the grocery store where I worked owned a motorcycle and offered to give me a ride. This very responsible twenty-year-old insisted that I exchange my work uniform for jeans and a jacket and that I wear a helmet.  After complying, he biked me through our Austin area neighborhood for 20 minutes. What an awesome experience! Decades later, probably 1992, my husband’s nephew used a motor scooter to get around his local habitat. During a visit, Jimmy offered me the opportunity to ride it. With a bit of hesitation, I climbed on. For 10 glorious minutes, I rode. My last adventure in this vein occurred a decade ago. Mike’s cousin Connie is married to a former state trooper. Connie and Lou took lots of road trips on Lou’s motorcycle after he retired. Eventually, Lou traded in his two-wheeler for a three-wheeler. Though a three-wheeler may sound a bit tame, I assure you that the extra wheel only adds to the fun! When they were in for a visit, Lou offered me a ride. Once again, I happily donned a helmet and climbed on behind him.  Once again, I enjoyed the ride of my life! I guess there’s something special to be said about riding out in the open air. There’s something special to be said regarding every adventure with which God blesses us…

Today, four good men I know are embracing new adventures. Though they won’t travel on motorized scooters or cycles, they will be energized by their amazing journeys. After all, God’s love for them, their faith in God’s wisdom and the love and support of those nearby will urge each one on. On July 1, my pastor Father Greg will hand over the keys to our parish to Father Chris, our new pastor. I’m not worrying too much about the new guy trying to navigate the parish. Father Greg will stay for two additional weeks. He’ll see to it that Father Chris wears his helmet (or the appropriate jogging shoes) as he makes his way among us. At the same time, Father Greg will fine tune his own vehicle. He’ll trade in his censor for a book bag and ease from his role as pastor to that of student. Perhaps he’ll inspire his Loyola classmates by riding one of those motorized scooters around the university! I’m certain he’ll inspire his teachers with his wisdom and depth. As for Father Chris, he’s far more athletic than I’ll ever be. Whether he’s riding a scooter, a motor bike, a motorcycle or jogging through the parish as Father Greg did, he’ll embrace his new adventure with a generous heart and great gifts. If the homily he offered at his previous parish (when my husband and I sneaked in for Mass there) is any indication, Father Chris is an expert regarding God’s mercy and love. No. I’m not worrying about the new guy because it is God who welcomes this kind and humble priest to guide our parish throughout the journey ahead.  

Though I’m uncertain of their affinities to motorized cycles of any sort, I do know that our associate pastor Father Dave and our new associate pastor Father Joe also embrace the adventures ahead. Father Dave has shared his amazing artwork, his tech skills and his gentle heart with us. Now, he’ll take these gifts on the road where he’ll enrich the new friends he meets along the way. Father Joe will do the same for us here. While his experience as pastor and his openness to God’s plans for him will sustain him, Father Joe’s kind and generous spirit will sustain those he meets here.

I admit that my scooter and cycle-riding experiences seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Still, I’ve come to realize that every journey we undertake is of significance to someone. The uncharted roadways ahead are among God’s greatest gifts to us. Jesus acknowledged often that, in spite of our current locations or our vehicles of choice, we accomplish the amazing when we respond to the opportunities at hand. In Luke’s gospel (9:51-62), Jesus appeared harsh when he rebuked those who delayed embracing his call. Apparently, they had things to do beforehand. Jesus scolded them because they didn’t realize what they were missing by not coming forward to take that first step. Though these four priests have truly embraced God’s call, I’m fairly certain that they’ve committed to their journeys with a bit of uncertainty as well. So it is that I ask my parish family -And all of you!- to join me in praying for each one. To Fathers Greg and Dave to whom we’ll soon bid farewell, we promise our prayers for your safe journeys and for happiness on the road ahead! To Fathers Chris and Joe who join us at St. Paul’s, we say, “Welcome and Godspeed! We’ll be here for you every step of the way.”

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Another Chance

When they heard the sound of God moving about in the garden,
the man and his wife hid themselves…

From Genesis 3:8

When I was a child, we had a kid-friendly family bible. This large book consisted of cardboard front and back covers which held together several separate booklets. These booklets were held in place by extremely long laces. The seventy-two booklets which eventually completed this bible arrived in the mail periodically. With each delivery, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard covers, undid the laces, inserted the new booklet, re-tied the laces and replaced the covers. Afterward, I poured over the new arrival. Every page included colorful illustrations and reasonably understandable text. When I finished perusing each new edition, I habitually returned to the first book’s story of Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. The Garden of Eden amazed me almost as much as heaven. “Why,” I often wondered, “did Adam and Eve eat that stupid apple when God had given them so much else?”

As the years passed and I accumulated some measure of maturity and wisdom, I found that life in this world poses similar questions every day. I also discovered that it’s up to us to answer as wisely as possible and then to act accordingly. Is Option A really worth it or is it as foolhardy as eating that apple? It’s up to us to figure it out as only we can and to act accordingly. In the mean time, God watches with great love and with great hope for the best.

Generous God, you bless us with second and third and twenty-ninth chances day in and day out. Be with is as we accept every chance you give us to start anew.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Roses

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall grow.”

Psalm 92:13

As I write, the scent of roses makes its way to the study. This is the first time I’ve noticed the flowers’ fragrance since I placed them on the kitchen table a few days ago. “You’re strong flowers,” I say, fully expecting a satisfied nod in return. I hope those roses somehow realize how grateful I am that they made it through winter. As I return to my writing, I whisper, “Thank you!”

We’re much like those roses whose survival remained in question this spring. Fortunately, we join our thorny friends in finding the strength to carry on. We focus on the things that matter, like God’s companionship and love. If we remember that God looks upon each one of us with great expectation before we set out on our own, we find the confidence to proceed.

Though the roses on my table will likely last only another day, their unmistakable fragrance will remain with me. This final gift is a lingering reminder that God’s presence in my life transforms everything. Just as I selected those particular roses to adorn our table, God singles out you and me to enhance life on this earth as only we can.

Dear God, thank you for your love and for your presence in my life. What would life be without your fragrance? What would life be like without these ever-creative reminders of your love?

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserve

Plant Where You Can

This is how it is with the reign of God. A man scatters seed on the ground.
He goes to bed and gets up day after day. Through it all, the seed sprouts
and grows without his knowing how it happens.

Mark 4:26-27

Our younger son and his wife recently left their condo in the city for a home in the burbs. Though the house is in very good condition, they are engaged in multiple cosmetic projects to make this home their own. The front lawn suffered a major blemish when the former owners lost an old tree to a storm. Though the tree was carefully removed, it left a gaping hole in its place. My husband and son filled this small abyss with twice the soil they originally thought they needed. After packing it into place, they seeded and watered. My husband advised my son not to worry about the grass. “Worry about everything else you have to do. The grass will take care if itself,” he said. My son heeded his dad’s advice. With so much to do, he had no choice. A few weeks later, when my husband and I arrived for a cookout, we were pleasantly surprised. Amazingly, new lush growth had sprung from that one-time hole. My husband smiled as he noted that his faith in that grass seed was well placed.

You know, God places the same faith in the seeds you and I plant every day. Sometimes, our efforts are long-term. Sometimes, we must do what we can in a given moment and then move on. In either case, we do our best and hope for the best. God will see to the rest.

Trusting God, you have great faith in our ability to sow seeds of goodness wherever we are. Help us to do just that as best we can.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All Mighty Cedars

While waiting in line at the grocery store the other day, I watched as the young man at the opposite end of the counter bagged groceries. Having done that job myself throughout high school and college, I appreciated his careful approach. Before I realized what had happened, my thoughts returned to a similar scene from a few decades earlier. At the time, I had focused upon the young man bagging groceries because he looked familiar. When I made my way through the line, I realized that he was a former student. I had taught him at least ten years earlier in third grade. My heart leapt as I observed his precision while doing his job. I smiled at his professional appearance and demeanor. When he looked up from the task at hand, he greeted me without hesitation. “Mrs. Penich, hi! Do you remember me? I’m…” Before he could finish, I announced, “Of course I remember you, Joshua!” With that, this one-time nine-year-old went on to explain that he was working to save for college which would begin the following fall. He also thanked me for being such a great teacher– one whom he would never forget.

I left the grocery store with mixed emotions. You see, Joshua had been one of the students about whom I worried a great deal. He rarely obeyed our classroom rules and was one of the few students whom I sent to the principal’s office. On one such occasion, Joshua actually sassed the principal. I was shocked at the time because he was never disrespectful toward me. He simply didn’t listen. By the end of the year, I had elicited just enough work from Joshua to promote him to fourth grade. Still, when I handed Joshua his final report card, I wasn’t proud of his or my accomplishments. I felt that he was one of those students whom I simply couldn’t reach. When Joshua remarked that I was a great teacher, I felt extremely undeserving of this judgment. I was proud of who Joshua had become, but I also felt that I had done little to help in the process. I asked myself what Joshua could possibly have remembered from our year together…

As I read through today’s first reading, I realized that I had missed a very important element of my relationship with Joshua. It was certainly my responsibility to create an orderly classroom which supported my students’ learning. However, I could not control my students’ responses. Still, I tried. My charges’ parents had sent me the best child they had to offer that year. I taught, disciplined and interacted on many levels with this in mind. This is the reason that I hoped never to give up on any of my students. Though Joshua had challenged my resolve, he apparently didn’t prevent my efforts from taking root. Something else was at work within us both. Ezekiel (17:22-24) tells us, “Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar.” For some reason, the Lord God had planted Joshua in my classroom that year. For some reason, in spite of my seemingly ineffective efforts, God saw to it that Joshua became a majestic cedar in his own right, just as God had done for me. Though neither of us was aware at the time, Joshua and I had actually spent quite a productive year together.

It seems to me that God intends to make a majestic cedar of each of one of us. Just as God takes that tender shoot from the crest of the cedar tree and plants it on the mountaintop to flourish, God plants you and me precisely where we are meant to be. God knows well that our circumstances and those with whom we share them will sometimes test God’s loving resolve. Still, God persists just the same. God provides all of the sunshine, rain and nutrients we need to grow into mighty trees and God trusts that you and I will thrive as a result. It seems appropriate to return God’s generosity by offering the same care to one another.

If you question the value of your life, take it from this teacher who is also a daughter, sister, wife, mom, aunt, grandma and friend, that the time we share with others means the world to them and to us. Whether we have an hour, a day, a year or a lifetime with those we have been given to love, it is just enough time to do for one another what God intends. Just ask Joshua and his third grade teacher!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved