Act Like Children… Really!

For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is greatest.

From Luke 9:48

A recent walk around a nearby lake reminded me of just how small I am. This particular lake is tiny itself and offers a very limited beach area. The remainder of its circumference is lined with trees and foliage. The greenery is interrupted only by a narrow path just wide enough for two or three people. Still, as I walked along, I felt like a little ant in the grand scheme of things.

There are other times when I feel very small as well. In spite of my best efforts, it seems that I cannot do much to solve the problems of this world. Though I try very hard to live up to the spirit of these daily reflections, I don’t seem to accomplish much. Our war with COVID-19 rages on, poverty in so many places ravages too many of us, and special interests continue to argue more and accomplish less. I wonder too often if there actually is anything I can do to make an important difference.

It’s in the midst of this lament that I recall Jesus’ words regarding our need to become like children. Little girls and boys don’t over-think things. They simply observe the situation at hand and respond accordingly. It occurs to me that I do my best work when I follow this lead. I do actually have the capacity to change the world. Through seemingly insignificant efforts, I bring something which is needed to one soul at a time. You know, so do you! Never underestimate the power of simply doing what needs to be done in the moment at hand.

Dear God, thank you for acknowledging that the small things we do for one another make a world of difference after all.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seeds of Hope

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.

From Mark 4:26-27

It was a month ago when we had three trees removed. Though this was done quite carefully, three gaping hols remained in their places. When our dedicated landscaper planted three much smaller trees in the area, those holes remained. He filled each small abyss with soil. After packing it into place, he seeded and watered. Daniel advised us not to worry about the grass. “Worry about everything else you have to do. The grass will take care if itself,” he said. Though we had plenty of time on our hands due to our stay-in-place status, we heeded Daniel’s advice. We actually accomplished a lot indoors and outdoors while we ignored that grass seed. A few weeks later, while my husband and I checked on the flowers he’d planted, we were pleasantly surprised. Amazingly lush growth had sprung from those one-time holes in our lawn. My husband smiled as he noted that Daniel’s and our faith in that grass seed was well placed.

You know, God places faith in the seeds you and I plant every day. Sometimes, our endeavors are long-term. Sometimes, we must do what we can in a given moment and move on. In either case, we do our best and hope for the best. In either case, God is pleased with the our efforts.

Trusting God, you have great faith in our ability to sow seeds of goodness wherever we are. Help us to do this as best we can as we return our world and one another to health.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Treasure

How shall I make a return to God
for all God has done for me?

Psalm 116:12

My husband and I have replaced three white pine trees. These once majestic trees had overrun our yard and our neighbor’s yard while also dangling precariously over our roofs. We’d delayed the inevitable until this spring because Mike and I have a difficult time parting with trees. Finally, we called in our friend Daniel-the-Gardener and his crew to take them down.

After a nerve-racking morning with menfolk perched far higher in trees than they should ever venture, the work was done. A few days later, Daniel planted three much smaller arbor vitae and one spruce in their place. A day after that, my husband filled in the empty spaces around those new little trees with grass seed and soil. While Mike planted, I raked the displaced landscape stones into place. In the process, I’d gathered lots of twigs and leaves as well. I knelt next to the piles I’d formed and separated the rocks from the dirt, twigs and leaves in which they were hiding.

Since I was on my knees, it seemed appropriate to offer a word or two to God as I worked. I could have finished this task in half the time, but I didn’t. Rather, I studied each stone, even the ones which were covered with mud. I brushed the mud away and added each rocky bit of treasure to my collection. As I worked, I shared, “Dear God, I’ll use every one of these rocks just as you use every one of us to share your love. Thank you for considering each of us a treasure.”

After acknowledging God’s graciousness in looking upon us as treasure, it occurred to me that I must do the same. I know that these are tough times. Still, as we learn to embrace our new normal, we must also embrace one another. Though our opinions may differ regarding how to proceed, our status as God’s treasure remains the same.

Dear God, inspire us to love as you do.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love In Action

Suppose someone is without clothes and daily food.
If you say, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,”
but do nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

From James 2:15-17

My recent commitment to exchange my worry for action has urged me into “do something” mode. The amazing people God has given me to love add to the mix as they are constant reminders that each of us is gifted in unique ways. As for me, I’m also a constant reminder to myself and to others that we’re also burdened with our personal varieties of frailties. Still, God has placed this world in our hands. It seems to me that this is no empty gesture on God’s part. God created us in God’s own image and likeness. God knows better than we do just how capable we are.

So it is that I’m challenging myself (and anyone who cares to join me) in setting aside our worry regarding the woes which trouble humankind these days, in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic. After praying with great fervor for our entire world, let’s look a bit closer to home. Is there something in our communities, our neighborhoods, our schools, our temples, our churches, our workplaces, our organizations or in our own homes which needs attention? If there is, please join me in asking, “Is there something I can do to help?” Don’t discount even the smallest opportunity to do good. I’m convinced that your efforts and mine will make a difference somewhere to someone every time.

Caring God, help us to love and to care for one another as you care for us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love One Another

Love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

From John 15:12-13

I admit to lots of anger over the suffering of so many around us. Whether they are my own family and friends nearby or children stricken by illness half a world away, I find it difficult to accept that there’s nothing I can do to help. You see, I’m convinced that we can alleviate some of this world’s suffering if we begin from an inclusive and loving perspective. This isn’t wishful thinking on my part. This is practical thinking.

When we support minimum-wage workers who’ve been laid-off due to the pandemic, we invest in a workforce who will be up and ready to help reopen our economy. When a local restaurant secures a loan to keep employees on the payroll to cook and do carry-outs, we secure one of the staples of our community. When the local barber receives a grant to cover the rent until he can reopen his shop, another neighborhood staple breathes in new life. When we support food pantries and other agencies who reach out to the least among us, we plant seeds of hope along the way.

What a different world this would be if we set aside our own agendas for the good of others! Truly, when we put the suffering ahead of ourselves, we amass goodness for ourselves as well. What a different world this would be if we did lay down our lives for one another. What a different world this would be…

Loving God, you gift us all with the ability to make this world a better place. Help us to realize our potential and to make a positive mark as only we can. And, please dear God, forgive my impatience as I hone my own positive mark-making skills.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share The Love

I recognize that there is nothing better than to be grateful…
From Ecclesiastes 3:12

Lucy had run to the store to do her bi-weekly shopping. She carefully made her way down each aisle to avoid other shoppers. The last thing she wanted to do was to bring “that virus” home with her groceries. She breathed a sigh of relief as she neared the checkout. Everyone had done well social distancing and Lucy would soon be safely out the door. It was then that a voice called, “Lucy, is that you?”

Before Lucy could reply, that voice announced to the clerk, “I’ll be paying for her groceries. Lucy, just keep your distance and let me take care of this.” Though Lucy protested, the other woman would have no part of it. “You helped me when I couldn’t feed my kids. I’m working now and we’re doing great, so please, let me do this for you!” Touched as Lucy was, she replied, “I helped you because you needed it. That’s what friends do. If you want to do something in return, just pay it forward.”

When my friend called to share this story, I told her that I hadn’t heard those words in years. Lucy’s insistence that she “pay it forward” elicited images from an amazing movie I’d seen more than a decade ago. Later that day, I did a search for Pay It Forward and spent a few minutes enjoying clips from this movie which so touched my heart.

It occurs to me that God is likely a big fan of paying it forward. Lucy never expected her generosity to be returned. She simply did what she did to help someone in need. When her friend finally agreed to pass on her gratitude, Lucy was thrilled. When we take the time to pay God’s blessings forward, I think God is thrilled as well!

Creative God, inspire our generosity and make us expert at paying forward your love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved