Never Ever Alone!

In my distress I called upon God
and I cried out to my God;
From above, God heard my voice,
and my cry reached God’s ears.

Psalm 18:7

Our three granddaughters and our two grandsons often share the little “bugs” they pick up outside of their homes. A few weeks ago, while the girls were well, the boys had generously shared their runny noses. Grandpa and I can’t help chuckling over how much differently I respond to these mini-epidemics than I did to our firstborn’s first serious illness decades ago…

Little Mike was just a few months old when he was stricken with a high fever. The drops meant to lower his body temperature hadn’t yet worked. Our doctor warned that we would have to take our baby to the hospital if this continued beyond another day. Mike was our first child and my experience in such matters was limited. When I tucked him into bed that night, I prayed for his recovery. “He can’t go to the hospital, Lord. He just can’t go.” As I lay in bed trying to sleep, I prayed further, “You can do this, Lord. I just know it.”

During the night, when I held my baby close to feed him, he felt as cool as a cucumber. As he nuzzled against me, I whispered my thanks to the God who I knew would not disappoint. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that even if we had taken Little Mike to the hospital, God would have been with us through it all. You see, God has walked with many of my loved ones to places most of us fear. God has stayed with some through their recoveries and with others through their journeys home.

Loving God, I had no doubt when I prayed to you that frightful night. Keep me always aware that you walk with me and all of us through everything.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Healers Are We…

You are refuge for the poor,
a refuge to the needy in distress;
shelter from the rain and
shelter from the desert heat.

Isaiah 25:4

On this second day of Lent, I’m determined to keep my promise to bring healing to this world. My loved ones nearby and those God asks me to love on the other side of this world are in need of healing in some way. So it is that I’ll do my best to embrace every opportunity to heal.

This morning, I set aside a few minutes to consider how to proceed. Though I won’t be traveling to the suffering across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, I can do without a few things to contribute to our annual Lenten Rice Bowl effort for them. It’s my effort closer to home which causes me to be fidgety and uncomfortable. How can I heal the aching hearts around me? How can I heal myself? Like a shy child, I look upward in spite of my certainty that God resides within me. Like a shy child, I’m afraid to ask what God might expect of me. I’m making my simple commitment far too complicated.

After sitting for some minutes, fumbling for the courage to proceed, I finally settled down. As it happened, God nudged me into action as God always does. Encouragement came in the sunshine beyond my window which rested its warmth on me. God seemed to say, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. Just be yourself and be there for others. That’s good enough for me and it will be good enough for them. Healing will come!”

Dear God, who am I to question your faith in me? I will be there for others as only I can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Z is for Zenith

Great is God and wholly to be praised
God’s holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.

From Psalm 48:2-3ab

Z is for Zenith. Zenith… the high point, the point directly overhead, the peak, the pinnacle, the summit, the fairest of heights. When good things happen to us we say that our spirits are high or that we’re uplifted. Though I don’t think there is actually a direction toward heaven, I turn my eyes upward to pray. I visualize God and the heavenly cohort looking from above upon me.

This is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent 2019 and the last day of this alphabet of reflections. I find this a meaningful coincidence. For most of my life, I’ve approached Lent with a sense of penitence, fully aware of my need to do better and to be better. For the past few years, I’ve taken a different stance. Rather than concentrating on repairing my own inadequacies, I’ve tried to celebrate God’s complete adequacy to me and to us all.

Zenith is my z-word because God is the high point of everything. This “above-ness” doesn’t imply in any way that God is unwilling to enter into the troubles of this world. God’s assigned position “above” never stops God from being with me in the worst of messes. God’s position “above” never stops God from responding to us. God loves us from the fairest of heights and in the deepest of trenches. God also loves us from that quiet place within us all where God also resides.

Today, I thank you for making your way through this alphabet of reflections with me. I also invite you to make your way through Lent 2019 with the God we’ve celebrated through all of this. As we walk through the lessons and passion of Jesus, remember the reason Jesus came: To show us firsthand that God is the joy of all the earth and the source of joy for each one of us. Let’s spend Lent getting to know our God more intimately.

Loving God, as we acknowledge your company this Lent, make it very clear that you are with us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Y is for Yearning

My soul yearns and pines for God.
My heart and my soul
cry out for the living God.

From Psalm 84:3

Y is for Yearning. Sometimes, only God will do.

After retiring from his first career as a school principal, my husband worked as a hospice chaplain. This work touched him deeply. Though we consider ourselves to be “God-aware” people, this experience brought new depth in this regard to both of us. Mike observed often that when a patient seemed to have lost every means of communication he or she somehow managed to acknowledge prayer. Whether by squeezing a hand, blinking an eye, smiling ever so slightly or whispering an “amen”, each one became present when it was time to pray. Even some patients who endured comas seemed to breathe more calmly when those around them prayed. When all else was said and done, God seemed to remain present to each one.

Though most of us aren’t in need of hospice care at the moment, we are all in need of God. When no one else can comprehend our suffering, God does. God experiences every bit of it with us. When we cannot mouth a single word and cannot breathe without shedding more tears, God is with us.

In times of suffering when I feel that no one understands my heartbreak, I feel completely alone for only a millisecond. I discover within that instant that God is with me and that, sometimes, only God will do.

Merciful and loving God, thank you for satisfying my yearning for your presence. Thank you for truly being God With Us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I is for I Am

Before I begin today’s reflection, I want to acknowledge that today is my mom’s birthday. I wouldn’t find it as easy as I do to recognize God’s love in my life is my mom hadn’t loved me first. It is with deep gratitude and great love that I write HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

God replied to Moses: I am who I am.
Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites:
I AM has sent me to you.

Exodus 3:14

I is for I AM. In spite of all of the names we humans have assigned to God, God chooses to be called “I AM.” I find great consolation in God’s chosen 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.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I tend to monopolize this God of ours much of the time. Some days, it is as though we are in conversation from morning until night. I’m also embarrassed to admit that these conversations are sometimes one-sided, not because God has nothing to say, but because I rarely give God the opportunity to speak. This is when God takes things into God’s own hands to get my attention. These nudges come most often in the beauty of nature, an unexpected encounter, a great idea or encouraging words. Fortunately for me, God always finds a way to let me know that God hears everything I say.

Perhaps I can best show my gratitude for the gift of God’s presence by making God’s invitation to Moses my own. Rather than standing before the people to announce that I AM has sent me their way, I can simply reveal God’s presence through my own presence to them.

Loving God, help me to make your presence tangible, especially to those who consider themselves less-than-lovable today.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hold on!

The child grew in size and strength,
filled with wisdom,
and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40

The New Year is just thirty-six hours away and my thoughts turn to my hopes and dreams for 2019. For much of my life, I’ve been blessed with an inner calm which I really cannot explain. Though I’ve fretted with the best of them, especially when a loved one faced peril which I could do nothing about, I’ve managed to be a source of steady support. If worry threatened to get the best of me, I headed outdoors to walk. When close encounters with slippery walks were imminent, I sought solace indoors by walking the mall.

In recent months, my inner calm has been somewhat elusive. Circumstances in several corners of my little world have been disrupted unexpectedly and undesirably. These situations have collided in a perfect storm of worry and heartache. Too often, I’ve been uncertain of what the next day or hour or second might bring. I thought I’d be through this storm by the time New Year 2019 chimed in. With only two days to go, I wonder…

Perhaps it’s time for me to take a walk inside, not around my house, but around my heart. I use this space often to insist that God is with us and within us in everything. Even when we ignore God’s company, God remains. As I type, Someone seems to ask, “Did you read that?” That Someone wonders why I insist to my readers that these things are true while not insisting the same to myself. I stopped writing to say aloud, “Yes, God, I know you’re here!”

With that, I refer you and me to Luke’s observation cited above. Like Jesus, you and I have the grace of God upon us. Jesus couldn’t have said or done more to convince us of God’s enduring love for us. Even in the midst of perfect storms, we’re safe because God is with us. It’s up to us to hold on and to move on. And so I will…

Loving God, thank you for your presence and your love which sustain us no matter what.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved