Who Made Me Do What?

“…the Holy Spirit whom God
will send… will tell you everything.”

From John 14:26

I admit that some of today’s television offerings are a bit too much for me. Daily newscasts frequently dishearten me. This reality makes me reluctant to tune into fictional versions of the same. So it is that when I find myself in need of a departure from reality and am too tired to read, I turn to reruns. One station offers an amazingly endless selection of my long-ago favorites.

The other day, in the midst of such a retreat, I dozed off. I awoke to someone saying, “Why did I do that? What made me do it?” Though I had no idea of what I was watching, my groggy thoughts turned to Flip Wilson. I was in college (Yes, a long time ago!) when his comedy show aired. At the time, most people were aware of his classic assertion, “The devil made me do it.” The comedian had coined this line while portraying Geraldine in one of his most beloved character skits. Though Flip Wilson was popular, this line became even more so. At the time, regardless of what one was accused of, announcing “The devil made me do it!” was expected to absolve us of any responsibility for our wrongdoing. Though this didn’t actually work in most instances, a similar phenomenon seems to work every time.

Whenever I’ve found myself faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, something has nudged me in the direction of a solution. In these instances, there was never a logical reason for me to do what I did. Still, I did it because something from within nudged me. When I look back upon these events, I realize that I managed to survive what could have been devastating circumstances. When asked to explain, I can only respond, “The Spirit made me do it!”

Loving God, thank you for your presence which guides us through our troubles and opens us to your joy.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Holy Idols

“Do the works that I do,
even greater ones than these…”

Inspired by John 14:12

Recently, I ran into a young man who’d sought my advice some years ago. He was going to be confirmed and he wanted to be certain about the saint’s name which he’d selected for the occasion. He looked to this holy idol for inspiration which he hoped would remain with him as he approached adulthood and beyond. I tried not to smile too broadly when he announced that it was Mother Teresa of Calcutta who’d drawn his attention. “Is Teresa as a viable option?” he asked. When I assured him that gender needn’t be a factor in his choice, he was elated. Fortunately, his parents and teacher agreed.

Years ago, a dear friend introduced me to Mother Teresa long before she’d become known worldwide. John was a young priest who deeply respected this Albanian woman who’d joined the convent very early on. As a sister, she was assigned to a high school in Calcutta. While teaching, she couldn’t ignore the extreme poverty beyond the windows of her classroom. She was so moved that she asked to devote herself to the poor. Mother Teresa eventually founded her own religious order dedicated to serving the poorest among us. Truly, her mark upon our world is undeniable.

My young friend chose Teresa for his Confirmation name with the hope of emulating her in his own life. My friend John did just that. He never drove a new car or owned a tailored suit. When he eventually held an important position in the archdiocese, he continued to live a simple life. When John passed away, all who knew him agreed that he was a truly good soul, perhaps our own saint-in-the-making. That young man who sports Teresa’s name may be on his way to doing the same.

Dear God, thank you for filling my life with holy idols like these!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love Them, No Matter What!

“Let us move on to the neighboring villages
so that I may proclaim the good news of God’s love there also.”

Mark 1:38

While sorting through receipts, I happily discarded the ones which represented good Christmas gift choices. I was especially pleased that our growing granddaughters were pleased with Grandpa’s and my selections for them. As I continued, I recalled the unhappy little boy I’d encountered during one of those successful shopping trips.

The little guy had reached his shopping limit. I realized that his mother’s promise to head to the checkout in five minutes made no impression when he announced, “I hate you!” This mom couldn’t reply because she would have produced more than the single tear which trailed down her cheek. She simply pushed her cart with her son in tow toward the front of the store.

Though I still had things to purchase, I couldn’t let this poor woman leave without helping her. I took my own cart to the checkout line and waited behind her. I made a bit of small talk and then shared that my own son had spoken the same words to me more than three decades earlier. I admitted that I’d responded with tears as well. Fortunately, my wonderful neighbor helped me to deal with the situation. When I asked if her kids had ever said that, my neighbor responded, “Sure they did. They’re kids. And you know what I did? I pulled them close and said, ‘Well, that’s okay because I still love you!’”

I shared that I repeated my neighbor’s words to my own son and that this was the last time my son ever spoke those words to me. After thanking me for this bit of wisdom, the young mom kissed her little boy on the top of his head and headed back to pick up that last item she needed. As for me, I finished my shopping, too.

Loving God, your loving ways make good sense. Thank you for giving us the sense to share them.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

They Couldn’t Resist Him!

Jesus said to them, “Come after me;
I will make you fishers of men.”
They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:17-18

In a few days, several friends will fly off to Israel. I’m feeling a bit melancholy regarding their departure as I was supposed to join them for this adventure. Unfortunately for me, circumstances arose which caused me to delay this return trip for another time. Still, as quickly as I wrote about my disappointment, I couldn’t help smiling. I’ve been to Israel twice before and both trips left me filled with awe. Though I know Jesus’ story well, walking where he walked and meeting his modern-day countrymen and women firsthand touched me in amazingly unexpected ways.

It was in Israel that I finally began to understand what caused the disciples to walk away from everything to follow Jesus. Simon and Andrew were hard-working men who left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Perhaps Jesus couldn’t contain the wonder within him. Perhaps just being nearby was enough to draw people to him. The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely, all of whom found the courage to approach Jesus.

Though I’ve never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I did walk where he walked. I breathed the air he breathed and I sailed on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus so often found solace. The truth is that I can’t imagine my life without his influence. When I consider the Jesus I’ve come to know, I understand the attraction. It must have been overwhelmingly amazing to walk with a visible Jesus because simply being where he was proved completely overwhelming to me.

With that, I wish my Israel-bound friends an equally amazing encounter!

Loving God, thank you for the gift of Jesus who transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be A Grateful Soul

I give voice to my thanks,
and recount all your wondrous deeds…

Psalm 26:7

I cannot tell you whose voice it was that I heard. I was in the other room during the telecast. Still, those words echoed in my mind throughout the day. Even today, I can hear, “A grateful soul is a happy soul!” Though I was too busy to run into the family room to see who was speaking from our television set, I wasn’t so busy that I ignored the message. As is usually the case when I hear or read something which gets to what I consider to be the heart of the matter, I mulled over this observation for several days.

My parents and other influential adults taught me the value of gratitude very early on. I learned to begin my prayers by saying “thank you” for blessings received, even at those times when I wasn’t feeling particularly grateful. I soon discovered that these initial expressions of gratitude changed the tone of the rest of what I had to say. What might have been a litany of requests became a conversation during which I spoke and then listened regarding the needs of others. Though I didn’t “hear” a voice in response, I certainly felt the presence of our Benevolent Caregiver. It is no wonder that I wake up every morning saying, “Thank you for the sleep!” I simply can’t help myself for which I am also most grateful!

Gracious God, help us always to be grateful heralds of your love for us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share The News

Let’s move on to the neighboring villages
so I can proclaim the good news there also.

From Mark 1:38

When I gave our sons their childhood photo albums, I thumbed through them in search of a picture of our next-door neighbor. Ellie had become an auxiliary grandma to both of our sons from the day each one was born. Her impression on our elder son was so great that Mike named his eldest daughter after Ellie. As for me, Ellie proved to be a source of parenting wisdom especially with regard to Mike.

We saw Ellie almost every day. When she relaxed on her patio, we joined her to catch up on the day’s news or to solve the problems of the world both far away and close to home. One such visit was the result of one of those problems in my own home…

Mike was just seven years old and he wasn’t at all happy with what I’d asked him to do. Rather than comply, he shouted “I hate you!” and stomped off to his room. I never used that word and it broke my heart to hear it from my little boy. Still, I remained calm until Mike’s bedroom door slammed. It was then that the tears flowed. When I went outside to our backyard to recover, Ellie saw the tears and called me over. After I reported the incident, I asked, “Did your kids ever say that to you?” Ellie smiled. “Sure they did. They were kids. And you know what I did? I pulled them close and said, ‘That’s okay. I still love you!’” I hurried home to tell the same to Little Mike. As was the case with Ellie’s children, Mike never used those hurtful words toward me again.

Oddly, Mike doesn’t recall that incident. What he does recall are Ellie’s nurturing manner and kindness which he’s passing along to his own children.

Dear God, thank you for Ellie and the many good people who share your love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved