S is for…

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased…

From Isaiah 42:1

S is for Service. When I was a little girl, I was usually the first to raise my hand when a teacher asked for assistance. At home, though I disliked my own chores, I happily volunteered when my mom requested help with a non-mandatory task. I jumped at the opportunity to do something for her especially after my dad passed away. Young as I was, I quickly discovered that, of all of the joy I’d experienced, the best of it was the result of being of service to someone.

Our lives are filled with opportunities to serve. I’ve been a spouse, parent, teacher, colleague, daughter to an elderly mom and sister to dying siblings, an ear for a troubled soul and an all-purpose volunteer. I’ve rescued a wayward can of soup that rolled out of a fellow shopper’s bag and a twenty-dollar bill that fell out of another’s wallet. I’ve even extinguished the burning hair of a wedding guest who stood a bit too close to a lighted candle. Your list of everyday and life-time service would fill a space much larger than this. Whenever we respond to those God has given us to love, we serve.

The joy that resulted from my helpful efforts as a child has remained with me. Though it’s nice to be thanked on occasion, the joy comes either way. Perhaps this is God’s way of assuring us that God is indeed pleased with us and all that we do!

Thank you, Good and Gracious God, for giving us loving and caring hearts like your own.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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L is for…

His father caught sight if him and was deeply moved.
He ran out to meet his son, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.

From Luke 15:30

L is for Love. This is a tough one. I don’t have a bit of trouble loving God. Though I admit to having had words with our patient Lord, this is simply the result of my certainty of God’s love for me. God invited me into a relationship. When I accepted, I committed myself to being completely honest in our interactions. After all, if I choose not to share my true feelings, God knows them nonetheless.

Early on, a wise teacher shared that there is something lovable about every one of us and that it is up to us to discover what this is. This observation has helped me a great deal over the years. Though I don’t have a flawless track record, I can honestly say that I don’t hate anyone. Still, though I love my neighbor in theory, putting that love into practice sometimes poses a challenge. The good news is that I try and that joy is the result of these efforts.

The toughest part is loving my neighbor as I love myself. Sometimes, I’m judgmental toward myself. If I fail to love myself enough to allow myself to err on occasion, how can I love my neighbors enough to allow them the same luxury? The passage above from Luke is taken from the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s an invitation to stop judging one another and to stop judging ourselves. Like that son, we must allow ourselves to be forgiven and to move on.

As you see, love is a tricky endeavor. Still, it’s the best work we can do and the greatest source of joy available to us.

Loving God, thank you for creating us in your image, especially when it comes to our ability love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love As Jesus Did

“If I do not perform God’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works.”

John 10:37-38

Throughout my life, I’ve been told often that I’m naive. Still, I continue to trust in the goodness of my fellow humans. I’m not foolish enough to believe that there are no evildoers among us. Still, I do believe that in the right circumstances most of us would choose to do the right thing. So, I persist in trusting those I meet until they give me reason not to do so.

Jesus wasn’t naive at all. He knew that those who questioned his motives were blinded by hatred. Jesus’ threat to the status quo and to the power of his enemies was more than they could tolerate. Though Jesus’ works helped the neediest and most marginalized of his contemporaries, these kindnesses fueled the anger of the temple leaders. If acceptance and mercy soothed the people too much, their fear of the consequences of their alleged sins might dwindle. The scribes and Pharisees power over them might also dwindle. In the face of all of this, Jesus delivered God’s message of love, forgiveness, inclusion and mercy. In the mean time, Jesus’ enemies worked diligently to find a way to dispose of him. Jesus persisted anyway because every person he ecounterd absolutely worth the trouble.

You know, the people Jesus comforted had been looked upon as the drudges of society for much of their lives. Still, Jesus invested his time and his love in them. Though I don’t have Jesus’ capacity to love, I do have my own. So it is that I must persist as well.

Loving God, help us to open our hearts generously to those you have given us to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Don’t Fret…

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…
Hebrews 10:24

I’m certain my litany of complaints gave my friend a headache. I began with the observation that I think I’m getting old. I find myself full of impatience regarding the state of our world and of the many institutions which provide structure to our daily lives. I feel a great sense of urgency which demands that the powers that be do something to improve life on this planet. At the same time, I feel impelled to take action myself as well. But, where do I begin? While my friend shook his head, I wondered…

Has all of my fretting given the Lord God reason to laugh? God knows better than I that we humans have struggled with our use of free will since time began. God also knows better than I that in our brighter moments, when we allow the goodness within us to light our way, we’re capable of transforming the worst situations into amazing opportunities.

Perhaps God hasn’t been laughing at me after all. Rather, perhaps God has smiled in my direction and imparted a bit of Divine Wisdom in the process. It occurs to me that, though I may not be able to alleviate all of this world’s woes, I can certainly do something in my little corner of this world.

Dear God, as long as we care, we’re capable of great good. Help me and all of us to use our energy and resources to make that goodness a reality.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Remember The Good

Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us…

From Psalm 79:8

I know I’ve mentioned my selective memory before. Fortunately, I think, I’m usually hard-pressed to recall past events which might have devastated me. Somehow, I’ve managed to let these things go. Any scars left by them have faded into nothingness. I also have to admit that, occasionally, a select few unpleasant events from my past come to the surface. I don’t say “select” because I’ve chosen to remember them. Still, for reasons unknown to me, the slightest hint of these incidents induces goosebumps or a queasy stomach if I allow them my attention.

I truly believe that there is much joy to be found in the time we’re given on this earth. I also realize that the realities of this life include the good and the bad which we impart upon others and upon ourselves. It seems that the best we can do is to learn from our errors and the errors of others. When someone or something hurts us, we must resolve never to impose the same pain on another soul. When something brings us joy, we must find ways to bring similar joy to those around us.

Perhaps a selective memory can serve us all well. If we choose to let go of the negativity which comes our way, we free ourselves to forgive the perpetrator and to embrace the positive in our lives more fully. With arms full of joy, we can hardly help sharing that joy those we meet along the way.

Forgiving God, be with us as we share the goodness and dispel the evil which comes our way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Surrounded By Goodness!

Seek good and not evil,
that you may live.

Amos 5:14

I continued my efforts to purge the clutter from our home by tackling my desk. I admit that I didn’t quite finish the job. Rather, I tended to a stack of notes and clippings which I’d saved for months. A few were more than a year old! In the process, I unearthed a reflection my niece forwarded to me some time ago. Cece’s only comment was, “I thought you’d like this one.”

The reflection was actually a commitment on the part of the author to look for the best in everyone and everything she’d encounter that day. She would expect no proactive activity on the part of others. Rather, she’d seek out goodness, regardless of how well-disguised it might be. While acknowledging the trials and tribulations which might mute the goodness in others, she promised herself that she’s look for that goodness just the same.

I admit that I begin some days with far less optimism than this fellow writer. I also admit that I prefer her optimism to the pessimism which too often lurks beneath the surface in us all. With that admission, I’ve set that reflection on top of my neatly piled notes. This time, I won’t lose it in the piles on my desk. This time, I’ll read it often to remind me to seek out the best in everyone. Thank you, Cece!

Generous God, give us eyes to see and hearts to appreciate the goodness around us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved