The God of Love

While enjoying various gatherings over the past few weeks, several family members and friends asked me to pray for them. In the midst of the revelry of the moment, those making these requests had apparently held on to their strong belief in the power of prayer. Each one seemed convinced that his or her request for prayers was the most sensible action to take at the moment. Each one also seemed to do so with the full expectation that any prayers offered on their behalf would certainly be heard. Since I share these convictions, I happily agreed to pray as best I could for each one. At the same time, I puzzled a bit over their timing. That these family members and friends were thinking about God in the midst of various festivities touched me deeply. I wondered what it is about this God of ours that inspires us to pray twenty-four seven regardless of where were are and whom we are with. Though I can’t be certain of anyone else’s experiences of God, I can share my own adventures in this regard…

As a child, I often puzzled over the things I learned about God. I imagined God to be the kindly and caring Creator who appeared in our children’s bible. I still remember the rendering of God looking lovingly upon Adam and Eve and the menagerie of animals provided to keep them company. My experiences within my family confirmed my impressions. I was only five when my uncle became ill. The 1950s offered no antibiotics to fight pneumonia. The curvature of my uncle’s spine further complicated his condition. As a very young child, Uncle Gee contracted polio which left his spine severely bent and compromised his breathing. When he first became ill, we gathered in the living room to say the rosary for our uncle’s recovery every night. When it became evident that he wouldn’t survive, my mom changed our intention from “a full recovery” to “a happy death.” Because this dear uncle lived with us, his looming loss was devastating. My dad responded by assuring us that all would be well. My dad held us close as he explained that Uncle Gee was going to heaven. My dad insisted that everything in heaven is perfect and that God would make our uncle perfect as well. The pneumonia would be gone and Uncle Gee’s back would be as straight as can be. When my uncle passed away a few days later, I cried because I would miss him. Still, I knew that all was well. God came through for my uncle and God would do the same for both of my grandpas and my dad who passed away just a few years later.

As I grew into a second grader, I continued to puzzle over the things I learned about God. Though I’d known about Jesus, I didn’t consider how Jesus fit into my image of God until the year I received First Communion. I listened carefully to all I was taught about Jesus. I found that my image of Jesus was quite tangible. I liked the things Jesus said. The parables Jesus told concurred with the image I had of my kindly and caring Creator. All that Jesus did illustrated the magnitude of God’s love for me and for everyone else. Young as I was, I found great joy and great consolation in the knowledge that, no matter what I did, God would always love me.

It was on or about my thirteenth birthday that the things which seemed so clear a year or month or day earlier became inexplicably murky. While I continued to puzzle over the things I’d learned about God, I realized that life in this world isn’t at all perfect. Sometimes the adults around me disappointed me. What was worse, when I looked in the mirror, the sweet little girl I used to see had morphed into someone I hardly recognized. Though the adults around me continued to share their wisdom regarding God, I puzzled over my impressions of God all the more. Fortunately, Confirmation approached and becoming an adult Christian became the topic of the year. I had plenty of opportunities to puzzle over every sort of “what if” scenario. “How would an adult Christian respond?” my teachers asked. In the end, my classmates and I learned that our choices would grow in difficulty and in importance as we grew older. In the end, we also understood that we didn’t have to make those difficult choices alone. God’s Holy Spirit would inspire and strengthen us, clarifying the situation every step of the way until we made our own ways home to heaven. Once again, I liked what I heard regarding the constancy of God’s love for me. Perhaps all of those who’ve asked me to pray for them in recent days have become convinced of the same. Perhaps this is what a lifetime of friendship with God does for us!

This is Trinity Sunday and we celebrate God in all of God’s wonderful glory! Though my childhood musings cannot begin to explain the Trinity, Jesus did so again and again. In everything he said and did, Jesus insisted that ours is the God of Love, the all-caring Creator who breathed life into each of us. Through his life among us, Jesus revealed that ours is the God of Love who became one of us to reveal the true happiness found in caring for one another and in opening our hearts to God’s love. When Jesus’ life among us neared its end, Jesus promised us all a lifetime of encounters with the God of Love whose Spirit comes in the raging winds and the gentle whispers which urge us on to do our best and to be our best. Yes, on this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate our lifelong friendships with God, the God of Love who remains with us and within us though everything. We celebrate God who hears our every prayerful request and who responds with perfect love!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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P… Peace!

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

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of God’s gifts, I savor God’s peace most of all. 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’ve felt convinced at some level that circumstances would evolve for the best. While I made my own ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer in the process, peace eventually eased its way to the surface. Eventually, I accepted that I could only do what I could do and that I had to leave the rest to God.

This had always been the case until some months ago when events beyond my control overwhelmed me. I’ve almost let go of my angst on many occasions and I’ve happily embraced God’s peace every time. Then, a seemingly inconsequential comment or encounter nudged me back in time. The good news is that these relapses are far less frequent. The rest of the good news is that I’ve realized once again that letting go of the past frees me to embrace God’s peace more fully.

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

Compassionate God, help us to let go of our worries and so we can embrace your peace at every opportunity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I… I Am!

“If they ask me, ‘What is God’s name?’ what am I to tell them?”
God replied to Moses: I am who I am.

From Exodus 3:13-14

I is for I AM. Regardless of the variety of names we humans assign to God, God chooses to be called “I AM.” I find great consolation in this name because God offers it in the active present tense. This name leaves no doubt that God is, God was and God 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 embarrassed to admit that in doing so I often monopolize this God of ours. Some days, God and I are in conversation from morning until night. I’m also embarrassed to admit that these conversations are often one-sided, not because God has nothing to say, but because I rarely give God the opportunity to speak. Still, God finds ways to get my attention. God’s efforts come most often in the beauty of nature, in an unexpected encounter, in a great idea or in encouraging words. They also come in those unmistakable inklings from deep within which insist that I am truly valued and truly loved. In spite of my numerous imperfections, God is with me.

I show my gratitude for the gift of God’s presence best by acknowledging to myself often that God is with me. When I do so on a regular basis, I find it impossible not to make that presence known. Rather than announcing that I AM has sent me their way, I reveal God’s presence to those I’ve been given to love simply by being lovingly present 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

F… Faith!

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

Psalm 105:8

F is for Faith. I discovered very early on that faith is a gift to be treasured. 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, faith is life-giving and life-saving. Knowing that God is with me and within me sustains me in the best and the worst of times. Though I’m imperfect in numerous ways, God’s love for me urges me on. My faith is further nourished by the beauty of humanity-at-large, the wonders of nature, an amazing book, a heart-warming movie and lyrics or a melody which touches my heart. Everything and every person around me impacts my faith in one way or another.

My response to all of this is to reveal my faith in all that I say and do. My tenderness might bring life to faith that once lay dormant within another soul. My compassion might heal when medicine falls short. My presence might dispel persistent sadness. A card or phone call or visit might offer a reminder that we are deeply loved. Our efforts in this regard might just offer an experience of God which another person would otherwise not have.

My faith in God’s love for me is truly the most powerful catalyst in my life.

Loving God, help us always to remember that YOU ARE WITH US and that YOU LOVE US FOREVER!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s With Me

The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear
the sound it makes, but you do not know
where it comes from or where it goes…

John 3:8

You’re probably tired of reading that I enjoy walking outdoors more than any other physical exercise. Please forgive my repetition. It helps me to renew my resolve and to walk as often as possible. You see, regardless of my mood, walking lifts my spirit. If a soft breeze caresses me along the way, I relish nature’s attention. If a blustery wind pushes me onward or threatens to push me back from where I’ve come, I welcome nature’s challenge to continue on my way. Whatever the conditions, except perhaps pouring rain or below-zero temperatures, the outdoors never cease to speak to me. Even then, they cause me to reflect from the comfort of home.

I think I enjoy these treks outdoors because I do my best praying when I walk, especially on breezy days. Though the trees and the pond that I pass are beautiful, it’s the wind that nudges me out the door every time. There’s something about the wind that assures me that God is attending to my praise, my gratitude, my remorse and my requests as I amble along. At the same time, I also feel most listened to when I walk in the midst of Creation. I imagine God swirling down, sometimes in a whirlwind and sometimes in the gentlest breeze, simply to let me know that I’m never alone. I always return home convinced that I’ve been heard and that I’m in very good company!

Dear God, I thank you for the creative ways in which you make your presence known.
I thank you even more for the inspiration which lets me know you are with me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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