V is for…

See! I make all things new!
From Revelations 21:5

V is for Vision. The vision of which I write has nothing to do with my ability to see the world around me. The vision to which I refer is that internal sense of direction which guides us when all else fails. I’ve weathered some difficult storms and losses in my life. Still, these things pale in the shadow of the suffering others endure. I can’t help being amazed as those around me cope with circumstances I could never have imagined. Though situation after situation promises the same, these mighty souls endure. They proceed with hope and grace because of their vision of the God who oversees the grand scheme of things while remaining with each one of them.

My own experience tells me that the incidences of suffering in my life morphed into triumph because of my vision of God’s presence within me. Though I saw suffering on the surface, I looked further to see God’s loving presence through it all. Those who’ve shared their stories with me are absolutely convinced that they survived unscathed only because they knew that God remained with them all the while.

V is for Vision, our vision of our Ever-loving, Ever-merciful and Ever-caring God who walks with us through everything. Even when that vision is blurred by our tears, God remains at our sides.

Loving God, thank you for being with us. Enhance our vision that we may always be aware that you are here.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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P is for…

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of God’s gifts, I think I relish peace most of all. The truth is that during the most difficult times of my life, I’ve been at least faintly aware of a measure of peace deep within me. In spite of the troubles at hand, I feel convinced at some level that circumstances will evolve for the best. While I make my own ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer in the process, peace eases its way to the surface. Eventually, I accept that I can only do what I can do and I leave the rest to God. Though letting go is extremely difficult for me, it is also very liberating. When I empty myself of my worry, I make room for God’s peace to enter in.

It seems to me that each of us can infuse some level of peace into every moment we’re given. I can begin by taking a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to flow from my lips. I can also glance upward and within before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. Perhaps I need to begin every day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to erupt. Yes, I can bring a measure of peace to this world with a bit of well-placed effort.

Compassionate God, help us to set aside our worries and to focus upon your peaceful presence as we embrace what lies ahead.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I is for…

God replied to Moses: I am who I am.
From Exodus 3:14

I is for I AM. We humans assign numerous names to God. Those who reference the Torah or Bible are familiar with the passage I’ve cited in which God chooses to be called “I AM.” I find great consolation in this name because it is offered in the active present tense. This name leaves no doubt that God is, was and forever will be. Though our lives pass more quickly than we care to acknowledge, I AM will never pass from the moment at hand. It seems to me that, since I AM is the only constant of which we can be certain, it makes sense to acknowledge God’s presence with regularity and with gratitude.

Some days, God and I are in conversation from morning until night. This is a good thing, except for my propensity to monopolize the exchange which means that it’s one-sided. This isn’t because God has nothing to say, but because I rarely give God the opportunity to speak. Still, God finds ways to get my attention. These efforts come most often in the beauty of nature, in an unexpected encounter with a fellow human, in a great idea or in encouraging words. Yes, just as God is always with us, God always finds ways to get our attention.

It seems to me that I best show my gratitude for God’s ongoing presence by making that presence known. Rather than announcing that I AM has sent me their way, I can reveal God’s presence to others through my own loving presence to them.

Loving God, please be as tangible as ever in our efforts to love for one another.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

F is for…

God remembers forever the covenant
which God made for a thousand generations…

Psalm 105:8

F is for Faith. I learned early on that faith is a precious gift. For me, faith is that sense deep within which keeps me ever-mindful of God’s presence in my life. Whether we view God as a distant entity, a constant and nearby companion or as someone quite different from either, it is our faith which tells us that God is.

For me, my faith has been life-giving and life-saving. I’m not referencing my religious affiliation here. I’m writing about my conviction that God is. It seems to me that it is often the faith deep within -or our search for faith- which urges many of us in the direction of our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. My faith community includes precious people and other treasures which nourish my soul. They sustain me in the best and the worst of times. Still, my faith is also strengthened by the beauty of humanity-at-large, the wonder of nature, an amazing book, music which touches my heart and soul and the breath-taking goodness in a fellow human.

I think I best exhibit my faith when I live out my appreciation for God’s presence in my life by revealing it in my attitudes and actions. Whether or not I’ve attended a religious service any given week seems less important than the manner in which I conduct myself the other six days. I’ve been deeply touched and inspired by many people who have no religious affiliation at all, but who exhibit God’s greatness in most of what they do. It seems to me that when we live with love, generosity and concern for our fellow humans, we are most faithful.

Faithful God, because I know you, I do my best to live accordingly.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Back To The Basics

God shall rescue the poor when they cry out,
and the afflicted when they have no one to help them.

Psalm 72:12

I enjoyed teaching in spite of those occasional days when both my students and I were not at our best. On such days, I learned not to become angry. Rather, I acknowledged all of our humanity and the troubles which sometimes accompany it. With that, the kids and I took deep breaths and moved on. Near the end of the school year, these days threatened to increase in frequency because all concerned where in dire need of summer break. It was then that I found a creative and productive way to lighten our collective mood.

It was late May when I challenged my second graders to list an alphabet’s worth of things which they hoped to do during the coming summer. Afterward, they wrote short paragraphs and drew illustrations for each entry. In the end, I stapled these into each child’s “My Summer Wishes” book. This effort provided ample subject matter which carried over into most of our lessons during those last days of school. It also netted a precious memento of each child’s hope for better things to come.

Not long afterward, I remembered this alphabetic effort. To ease myself through a trying time, I used one letter per day to designate one of God’s gifts to me. This little exercise changed my attitude and truly led me to a much better result than I expected. Tomorrow, I’m going to return to the basics. It will be the first of twenty-six days of reflections inspired by the ABCs.

Loving God, regardless of the troubles which beset us, from A to Z, you face them with us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Celebrate God!

Last week, my husband and I drove north to our cabin to take care of a bit of upkeep. Before you invest any sympathy on our behalf, let me assure you that we find such tasks at our get-away to be therapeutic and relaxing. This time, Mike planted a few pots of flowers while I cleaned the kitchen. Mike went on to repair an outdoor light while I went through the linens to determine what needs to be replaced. At the end of that day, we happily cooked and ate dinner, cleaned up and headed to the couch and recliner. I picked up a book I’d begun a few weeks earlier and Mike grabbed the remote. When he scrolled through that evening’s offerings, Mike weighed his options. Would he watch an episode of one of his favorite dramas or settle for a few reruns from the 60s? Because the poor guy was tired and fighting a lingering cold, I encouraged Mike to settle for those vintage offerings. This allowed him the luxury of dozing off at will and it allowed me to read without distraction. As it happened, the dialogue from the lighthearted comedies he selected provided a soothing background as I read. The subject matter of the volume in my hand brought comfort as well. Another expert had scripted a summary of his findings regarding life after this life and his every word immersed me more deeply into an ocean of peace.

This is Trinity Sunday and I’m sharing my Wisconsin adventure because it offered me a glimpse of the essence of today’s celebration. Trinity Sunday differs from the other major feasts of the liturgical year. Christmas, Easter and Pentecost mark events which continue to shape our relationships with God. On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate God’s wonder. Just as Mike and I found ourselves relaxed and at peace in our little cabin, we all find ourselves most at peace when we nestle in close proximity to God. Still, though we try to embrace this peace as often as possible, we sometimes imitate the clumsy efforts of those who came long before us when we do so.

The Old Testament tells us that Moses’ contemporaries viewed God as Creator, Ruler and Judge. They approached God with tempered hope and a good deal of trepidation. Today’s reading from Deuteronomy (4:32-34. 39-40) offers an example of Moses’ responses to God’s often impatient people. Moses pointed out that though they repeatedly doubted God’s concern for them, God responded every time to their needs. God fed them with morning meals of manna and suppers of quail. God quenched their thirst with a fountain of water in the midst of the desert. Still, in spite of God’s ongoing presence to them, fear overwhelmed the Israelites even as they approached the Promised Land. It was then that God made God’s presence more visible than ever to them.

Today’s reading from Romans (8:14-17) reminds us that Jesus revealed God’s presence and God’s love quite tangibly. When Jesus embraced his life among the people, he underscored the value of even the most ordinary aspects of our lives. Jesus learned to love and to respect his parents, neighbors and friends. He grew into adulthood with useful skills and a deep faith in God. Jesus used his public ministry to reveal the nature of God’s love for us. The One whom the Israelites saw as Creator, Ruler and Judge became “Abba” to Jesus’ followers. Through his own acts of kindness, mercy and love, his preaching and parables (Do you remember the Prodigal Son?), Jesus made one thing clear: That, above all else, God is the most loving parent any of us will ever know. Sadly, the disciples returned to the fearfulness of the Israelites when Jesus ascended into heaven. Fortunately, it wasn’t long afterward that God’s presence among us became undeniable. God’s Spirit arrived in a stormy flurry and filled up the disciples so completely that they couldn’t contain themselves. They burst out of hiding from that upper room and filled the streets of Jerusalem with the good news of God’s love for us all.

I mentioned earlier that I began with Mike’s and my Wisconsin adventure because it offered us a glimpse of the gift we celebrate today. Mike and I enjoy the cabin because it rests in the midst of the best of creation. The interior is simple, but truly comfortable. The phone seldom rings and our internet activity is limited to a minute or two on our iPhones. When I use our offline laptop to write, the words flow more freely than ever. Our isolation from our hectic lives at home frees us to inhale the fresh country air and to tune in to our briefly unencumbered hearts. These interludes free us to experience God’s presence more fully. On this Trinity Sunday, God assures us that we’re in very good company wherever we are. Whether we’re worried and impatient as the Israelites were or uncertain and feeling abandoned as the disciples were, God is with us. Though we can’t always drive north to quieter environs, we can find quiet moments to spend with our Abba wherever we are. It is during these quiet times that the God we celebrate this Trinity Sunday assures us once again that we’re never alone.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved