God’s Dwelling Place

When the poor one called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress, he saved him.

Psalm 34:7

My heart ached for this poor woman as she poured out her heart to me. She felt engulfed in darkness and found it difficult to look beyond herself for hope or consolation. I assured her that this is the reason that God dwells within each one of us. Regardless of the danger that threatens from the outside, God remains steadfast deep inside. She looked up from her tear-filled tissue as I assured her that true hope and consolation lie within us simply because God is there. After thinking about this for a few minutes, my friend considered her dilemma. “You know, in spite of everything, I somehow knew that I wasn’t alone in this. You’re telling me what I somehow already knew was true.” After voicing our gratitude, we went our separate ways armed to embrace what lay ahead.

Though it’s sometimes difficult to do so, we all need to turn our attention away from the external clamor which threatens and to sit quietly in the loving presence of God. Whether or not we acknowledge our heart’s Loving Tenant doesn’t matter to God. God cares for us either way. Still, when we do acknowledge the Loving Occupant within us, we find consolation in knowing that we’re simply not alone.

Dear God, thank you for making your home within each one of us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Grateful? Oh, Yes!

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones thank you.

Psalm 145:10

I usually wake with a “thank you” on my lips. Today, however, I woke with a mumble. In an effort to improve my mood, I took the time to peek out every window as I opened the blinds around the house. Thanks to my husband’s handiwork, colorful blossoms of every sort met my glance no matter where I looked. I whispered my thanks for Mike and his flowers. Still, that dull ache in my heart remained. We’ve been struggling a bit with a situation of importance to both of us. We and our kids and grandkids are fine. This is something outside of our family circle which needs to be remedied. The problem is that there isn’t much more we can do.

As I pondered this dilemma, I decided to distract myself with email. The first message was a lengthy update from a friend’s ailing husband. After a short greeting from my friend, her husband’s amazing litany of thanksgiving followed. This was unexpected and remarkable as the poor man has battled terrible illness for a very long time. Though hope in his case has been elusive at best, this grateful man wrote paragraph after paragraph to express his gratitude regarding his journey to date and the dear ones who’ve walked it with him. When he expressed his gratefulness for his faith in God, he touched my heart. By the time I reached the end of his remarks, I wondered why I’d allowed myself to forget all that I have to be grateful for.

After replying with gratitude to my friends, I looked upward and offered that “thank you” which I’d forgotten this morning. I also gave more thought to my own troubling situation. If my friend can see God at his side in the midst of months and months of suffering, I can certainly follow God’s lead as I work through the discomfort at hand.

Dear Sweet God, thank you for your good company!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Let Go…

A time to keep and a time to cast away.
From Ecclesiastes 3:6

I’ve persisted in my effort to purge our home of unneeded items. This is in spite of the fact that most of these items hide in closets, drawers and a storage room in our basement. The old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” certainly applied in this regard until recently. I’m committed! With that, I turned to some boxed books I’d retrieved from my study. Where would I begin?

I started with an assortment of inspirational books. Each one touched me the day I received it. Still, I hadn’t looked at most of them for years. I decided it was my turn to inspire and placed all but two of them in my give-away box. My collection of novels had renewed my empathy for my fellow humans in many ways. Still, though I’d reread a few of them, I likely never will again. I kept the autographed copies and added the remainder to that give-away box. There was no question regarding my books on death, dying and the hereafter. They sustain my hope, so I kept every one. My children’s books feed my imagination and strengthen my bond with our grandchildren. I decided to keep a few and to donate the rest to my favorite after-school program.

I’d spent over an hour on this task when I discovered an old catechism. A bookmark rested at the chapter entitled GRACE. I learned long ago that grace is God’s very life within us. I laughed as I noted that a bit of grace had flowed through almost every book I’ve ever read. Still, in spite of this joyful revelation, I hauled that box of give-away books to the garage with a promise that I’ll deliver it ASAP!

Loving God, thank you for the gift of inspiration I find in the written word and for my ability to let go of a few of those books.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

No Doubt About It!

“You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left
.
John 4:50

It has taken me a lifetime to imitate the man about whom John wrote the words above. I admit that I’ve succeeded only some of the time. This man was a royal official, likely quite used to having his every need met without question. At the time, the man’s child lay dying. He’d likely tapped every resource at his disposal to find a cure. Still, in spite of his position and perhaps out of desperation, the man went to Jesus for help. When Jesus instructed him to go home because his son was recovering, the man believed Jesus and did as he asked. The man wasn’t disappointed.

I’m not sure of what urged this royal official to turn to Jesus. I’m certain that he knew only a fraction of what we have come to know about him. Still, in the face of two thousand years’ proof of God’s love for us in more than a billion lifetimes, I sometimes doubt. I don’t doubt God’s love. What I sometimes doubt is my ability to participate in God’s loving ways by praying. I wonder if my prayers for healing or peace or a turn of events for someone who has asked me to pray make a difference. Then, someone thanks me for praying for his sick brother who has recovered. A friend calls to thank me for praying during her MRI. A neighbor thanks me for praying for her grandchild who will experience birth in a few short weeks. As my prayers continue and this list of thanks grows, I’m assured that every conversation in which God and I engage is worth the time. Whatever God’s response, I, too, will never be disappointed.

Compassionate God, thank you for assuring us that there is never any doubt about your love and the power of our prayers.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Bright Side

With me at your right hand,
you will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:8

My husband gingerly eased into his recliner, saying, “My shoulder really hurts.” Then he quickly added, “But if this is the worst that happens today, I’m a lucky person.”

Our life together hasn’t been trauma free. Still, my husband and I try to look at the brighter side of things when tragedy touches us. I was blessed with this mindset early on. My husband wasn’t. It’s taken years of nurturing his own faith as best he could for him to develop this positive stance toward life’s negatives. Though this transformation sometimes reverts to a “work in progress,” I admire Mike’s persistence.

You know, God has encouraged our faith from the beginning. When humankind failed to acknowledge the wisdom of the prophets, God sent Jesus of Nazareth to get our attention even more dramatically. Who but one from God could have conceived of the prodigal son’s forgiving father and the lost coin’s owner who turned everything upside down to find it? Who but one from God could have lived love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness with such perfection? Yet, in spite of his goodness, tragedy touched Jesus’ life as well.

It seems to me that the moral of the story is this: Because we are not yet in heaven, this life will never be perfect. Still, God loves us and remains with us in everything. This is all we need to know.

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing presence as we make our way home to you.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Holds Our Hands

I am your God
who takes hold of your right hand,
calming your fears.

Isaiah 41:13

While at the grocery store, I walked past a young woman who sported a far-too-familiar sling. It was black with lots of Velcro to hold it in place. When I looked more closely, I also saw the cushion which rested between her arm and torso. I knew that the cushion would remain in place for a few weeks. This reminder of my own once-aching shoulder caused me to shudder a bit. Years earlier, two visits to the doctor and an MRI indicated that my shoulder was in need of repair. A very short surgery, a very lengthy recovery and my fear of the unknown proved too much to bear. I survived only because my patient husband walked through my misery with me.

As I continued my shopping, I whispered a prayer for my anonymous friend. I knew firsthand what this poor woman was going through. At the same time, I acknowledged that my close encounter of the surgical kind paled considerably in light of far greater suffering in this world. Still, my pain was my pain and this woman’s pain is her own. The good news in all of this is that our pain is also God’s. When God breathed life into us, God also breathed a promise to each one of us to be with us in everything. Regardless of our position on the “pain scale”, God is with us through it all.

Even when no one else seems to understand or to care or to get it, God does.

Compassionate God, thank you for being with us in everything!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved