God’s Great Timing

Timing is everything, you know? I went for a walk the other day hoping to find some measure of peace along the way. Though a gentle breeze nudged me forward beneath the beautiful blue sky, I remained restless. When I arrived home I went into the house via our garage. Inside, I passed cardboard boxes I’d accumulated from online purchases. Though I’d never been a fan of internet shopping, COVID-19 has changed that. Because it was a reasonably cool day, I decided to put my nervous energy to good use. Perhaps my delay in recycling those boxes was providential. I’d reaffirm my commitment to purge by purging! I realize that I’ve written about this before and I admit that I haven’t made much progress. This is the reason I told myself, “There’s no time like the present!” I grabbed a box and headed upstairs to tackle my bookcases once again. Though their shelves are no longer overflowing, they are filled to capacity. After making that acknowledgment, I told myself, “Just one more shelf…”

My mood changed as I perused my novels, books on death, dying and the afterlife, inspirational books Mike and our sons have given me over the years, scripture resource books, my high school yearbook, favorite children’s books and an old catechism. I scanned the inspirational books first. Each touched me just as it had the day I received it. Tears formed as I tucked them back onto their shelf. As I picked up my high school yearbook, I wondered how long it had been since I’d read the scrawled messages on its pages: “Stay as great and sincere as you are… Y.C.S. was special because of you, but remember to slow down once in a while… Thanks for handling Sister Syra so well. You got us through Special Chorus… To a great kid… May your positive social deviance continue to change the world…” Of course, I slid my yearbook back onto its shelf.

I’d already decided to keep everything until I picked up that catechism. I might have disposed of it if a holy card stuck between it’s pages hadn’t piqued my interest. That card marked the chapter titled GRACE. I was taught that grace is God’s very life within us. I looked at those shelves full of my books and then upward. I whispered, “Dear God, I’ve met you in every one of them.” My novels renew my empathy for my fellow humans. My books on death, dying and the hereafter sustain my hope. Those children’s books feed my imagination and strengthen my bonds with our grandchildren. The inspirational books from Mike and our sons insist that I’m loved. That yearbook filled with my classmates’ and teachers’ messages testify to the encouragement I’ve received throughout my life. I had to ask, “Dear God, have I thanked you recently for the amazing people who’ve supported me along the way?” I placed that catechism on the shelf with the rest of my books. I looked upward again because I had a few words to add to my prayer: “I didn’t put any books into that box because you continue to touch me through them, especially today. Dear God, your timing is impeccable.”

Though that cardboard box remains empty, my heart is full. I didn’t part with a single book, but I did find what I needed to sooth my spirit and to fill this page. You see, Matthew’s gospel (14:22-33) speaks of God’s impeccable timing and God’s grace as well. God’s grace (God’s very presence!) is always with us and especially when we need God most. This passage begins just after the disciples fed the crowd with the bread and fish Jesus had blessed. Afterward, Jesus went off to be alone. John the Baptist had been murdered and Jesus hadn’t yet had the time to mourn him. Jesus hoped for a few minutes of peace while the disciples set out on their boat. Without warning, a terrible storm engulfed that boat. They’d just experienced another of Jesus’ miracles, yet Jesus was the farthest thing from his friends’ minds. As that perilous storm continued, Jesus set aside his own needs once again to come to their rescue. Jesus walked across those raging waters. Sadly, rather than celebrating Jesus’ intervention, the disciples screamed in fear. They thought Jesus was a ghost! Only Peter, who often relied on his heart more than his head, recognized Jesus. Peter immediately asked Jesus to help him walk through those waves to meet him. Peter stepped off the boat and almost made until he realized what he was doing. Suddenly, Peter focused upon the roaring wind and water rather than upon Jesus and he began to sink. Only when Peter turned back to Jesus and reached for Jesus’ hand was he finally safe.

God’s response to Peter is much like God’s response to us whenever we’re in trouble. Throughout this pandemic and all of the worry which accompanies it, God has been here. As was the case for the disciples in the midst of that storm, God offers a hand with impeccable timing to you and me. Throughout this pandemic and always, God provides moments of safety and moments of grace precisely when they’re needed. Like Peter, all we need to do is to reach for God’s hand along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just A Reminder… God Is With Us!

“Lord, if you will do so, you can cure me.”
Jesus stretched out his hand to touch him
and said, “I will do it. Be cured.”

Luke 5:12-13

When I was a little girl, my parents assured me that it is always appropriate to bring our troubles to God. We often did so en masse. When my uncle suffered a bout with pneumonia, our family prayed together for his recovery every night. When it became clear that this was not in the offing, we prayed for his happy death. We offered prayers together whenever a family member was seriously ill or an issue of importance presented itself.

Those prayerful gatherings and my parents’ familiar stance toward the Lord God gave me the courage to speak plainly and directly in my own prayer. Though I’d like to think that I’ve refined my approach, I still find myself speaking with God as I would with my best friend. I never wonder if God is listening. Why question the obvious?

I admit that during our almost 140 days of staying-in-place, I’ve turned tearful eyes upward often. My worry over things which I cannot control often gets the best of me. This pandemic is no exception. My only consolation is that I don’t question God’s attentiveness to my prayers. Whether I’m unreasonable or shamefully demanding or shaky in my faith, God always listens. Oddly, simply acknowledging this lifts my spirit. Acknowledging God’s attention solidifies my certainty of the perfect outcome, perhaps not in my humble opinion, but certainly in God’s.

I’ve written about this before, I know. But, now more than ever, we need to remember that God listens to us and that God is fully aware of everything we’re going through. The best part is that God remains with us through it all.

Dear God, you attend to us every moment of every day. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Celebrate the God of Love

When I was a little girl, I was surrounded by people who had a very strong sense of God’s presence in our lives. Each one seemed convinced that voicing ones concerns to God was the most sensible action to take when the circumstances of this life went awry. Each one did so with the full expectation that all requests sent God’s way would be heard. When she tucked me into bed at night, my mom often asked me to pray for family members who were ill or who had special intentions which needed attention. I happily agreed to do so as I was honored that my mom thought that even my prayers mattered. The truth is that I was convinced that God agreed.

From early on, my parents indicated that God is a kind and caring Creator. I remember our children’s bible’s rendering of God looking lovingly upon Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I was certain that God looks at all of us the same way. Several family experiences confirmed this impression. I was five when we gathered in the living room evening after evening to say the rosary for my hospitalized uncle. When it became evident that his recovery wasn’t possible, my mom led us in praying for his happy death. Because this dear uncle lived with us, his looming loss was devastating. When my dad sensed our fear, he assured us that all would be well. My dad explained that our dear uncle was going to heaven. He added that everything in heaven is perfect and that God would make our uncle perfect as well. He would be happy and healthy in his new home. When my uncle passed away, I cried because I would miss him. Still, I knew that all really was well. God came through for my uncle. Within the three years that followed, God did the same for my grandpas and my dad who also passed away.
 
In second grade, I expanded my knowledge of this God of ours. Though I’d known about Jesus, I didn’t consider how Jesus fit into my image of God until my teacher began to prepare us for First Communion. I listened carefully to the things Sister said about him. My image of Jesus soon became quite tangible. I liked the things Jesus said. The stories Jesus told concurred with the image I had of my kind and caring Creator. The things 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 Jesus’ promise that, no matter what I did, God would always love me.
 
I was in sixth grade when the things which seemed so clear a year or month or day earlier became inexplicably murky. While I continued to value God’s presence in my life, I also realized that life in this world isn’t at all perfect. What was worse, when I looked in the mirror, the sweet little girl I used to see had morphed into someone I hardly recognized. Fortunately, I would soon be confirmed and my teacher made becoming an adult Christian the focus of every catechism class. Sister assured me and my classmates that we were no longer little girls and boys. Each one of us was morphing into something much more. Sister informed us sixth graders that this change was well-timed. The choices that lay ahead for each of us would only grow in difficulty as we grew older. More importantly, Sister assured us that we didn’t have to make those difficult choices alone. God’s Holy Spirit would inspire us and strengthen us every step of the way. We needed only to listen and to do the best we could. Sister reassured us all that the constancy of God’s love would be a given for the rest of our lives.
 
I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two more about God since sixth grade. Still, on this Trinity Sunday, I’m happy to focus on Sister’s assurance regarding the constancy of God’s love. Though our lives have been anything but celebratory throughout this pandemic, God’s presence in the midst of it all has made all of the difference in the world to me. While I missed our sons, our daughters-in-law and grandchildren, God missed them with me. Images of overworked healthcare workers and their suffering patients tore at my heartstrings and God felt their pain. When the number of those lost increased by thousands and then tens of thousands, God welcomed each one home while loving their families through their mourning. When protesters demanded only to matter as much as their fellow citizens do, tears streamed down my face. God remained nearby, perhaps wondering what our human family is coming to. Truly, God has been with us throughout every bit of this suffering.

Though I cannot begin to explain the Trinity, I can assure you that ours is the God of Love, the all-caring Creator who breathed life into all of creation and into each of us. Ours is the God of Love, this Jesus who became one of us to show us that the best way to open our hearts to God’s love is by loving one another. Ours is the God of Love, God’s Spirit which remains among us in raging winds and gentle whispers. On this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the God of Love who remains with us and within us though everything.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

 
 
 
 
 
 

Filled With Grace… Always!

The child grew in size and strength,
filled with wisdom,
and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40

As 2019 eases into its final days, I’m preparing to hang my 2020 Calendar. In the process, I wonder aloud what the coming year will bring. As I flip back through this year’s calendar, I give thanks for the many blessings which have come my way. Though trauma and tragedy touched a day here and a week there, it was always accompanied by unexpected blessings. In spite of the condition of this world of ours, I’m impelled to acknowledge these past gifts and the ever-present love which surrounds me.

That love encourages an inner calm which I really cannot explain. Yes, I listen to the news, read the paper and check online stories with you. Still, I find myself engulfed by goodness. When life is trying, this invisible shield keeps me focused on the things to come. I consider Jesus. Luke tells us that he grew in strength and wisdom and had God’s grace upon him. Though I sometimes question my own strength and wisdom, I do feel the grace of God upon me and around me as well. Jesus himself has convinced me that this impression is accurate. His lessons regarding God’s love assure me in every circumstance that my loved ones and I will be fine in the end. Indeed, as Jesus tells it, God’s grace is upon us all.

Gracious God, thank you for your presence among us. Your love enhances the best and worst of our days. It enriches our best efforts and softens our failures. You draw goodness even from our imperfections. In truth, your grace works wonders among us all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

Mom

When one becomes a mother, her new life is valued far beyond pearls.
Her children entrust their hearts to her. They are an unfailing prize.

Inspired by Proverbs 31:10-11

On this Mother’s Day Eve, I can’t help thinking about the most important work of my life. Thoughts of my own mom and the other amazing moms who’ve touched my life swirl about in my head. Still, I can’t escape the overwhelming joy which fills me up as I consider my own good fortune in this regard.

I’ve shared before that I didn’t grow up with an ambition to get married or to have children. I was quite certain that I would please God most and reach the fullness of my potential by entering the convent. This resolve remained under the surface through college until, amazingly enough, I fell in love and married. Because I’d embraced a new husband and a new career simultaneously, my potential to be a mom escaped me for a while. It was only after a few successful years in the classroom and the purchase of our first home that I realized the opportunity before me.

Though our hope for a little one took some time to come to fruition, I’ll never forget the day I heard the news. During what seemed to be our millionth visit to his office, Dr. Wool finally announced, “Mary, you’re pregnant!” Apparently, I didn’t hide my excitement because my husband heard my response all the way out in the waiting room. At that moment, my life changed forever. Suddenly, I knew God’s love firsthand because, sight unseen, I loved that baby more than anything. The truth is, I continue to love him and his brother just that much! Though the rest is history, I’d relive every moment as their mom in a heartbeat -a joyful heartbeat.

Dear God, thank you for entrusting me with the two amazing people who call me “Mom”.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved