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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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

For Me?

The one who sent me is with me.
God has not left me alone…

John 8:29

I’ve been a little frustrated over being needed a bit too often as of late. This past Sunday morning, I set out for church with a weary heart. Indeed, I felt completely overwhelmed. As I drove, I decided to listen to a favorite CD which always lifts my spirits. When I attempted to sing along, I found that an irritated throat left me without my voice. “Great,” I moaned.

I like to sing. I can lift myself out of the dumps with just a line or two of the right song. When I arrived at church, I checked the music selections for that morning’s Mass. I quickly discovered that I didn’t know most of the hymns which we’d sing that day. Though my raspy throat kept me from joining in aloud, I was frustrated over not being able to mentally sing along. Much to my surprise, someone sat nearby who has a wonderful voice. With every new song, this fellow seemed to be singing just for me. Though I know this impression is inaccurate, this gentleman’s singing lifted me up just the same.

As Lent 2019 continues to unfold, I’ll listen carefully for those unexpected lyrics of encouragement which God sends for me in so many creative ways. At the same time, I’ll try to do this for those who rely upon me. Hopefully, I will let them know somehow that I’m singing, listening or simply being there just for them.

Loving God, Jesus couldn’t help stopping for the needy souls he met along the way. Help me to do the same.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hold on!

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

Luke 2:40

The New Year is just thirty-six hours away and my thoughts turn to my hopes and dreams for 2019. For much of my life, I’ve been blessed with an inner calm which I really cannot explain. Though I’ve fretted with the best of them, especially when a loved one faced peril which I could do nothing about, I’ve managed to be a source of steady support. If worry threatened to get the best of me, I headed outdoors to walk. When close encounters with slippery walks were imminent, I sought solace indoors by walking the mall.

In recent months, my inner calm has been somewhat elusive. Circumstances in several corners of my little world have been disrupted unexpectedly and undesirably. These situations have collided in a perfect storm of worry and heartache. Too often, I’ve been uncertain of what the next day or hour or second might bring. I thought I’d be through this storm by the time New Year 2019 chimed in. With only two days to go, I wonder…

Perhaps it’s time for me to take a walk inside, not around my house, but around my heart. I use this space often to insist that God is with us and within us in everything. Even when we ignore God’s company, God remains. As I type, Someone seems to ask, “Did you read that?” That Someone wonders why I insist to my readers that these things are true while not insisting the same to myself. I stopped writing to say aloud, “Yes, God, I know you’re here!”

With that, I refer you and me to Luke’s observation cited above. Like Jesus, you and I have the grace of God upon us. Jesus couldn’t have said or done more to convince us of God’s enduring love for us. Even in the midst of perfect storms, we’re safe because God is with us. It’s up to us to hold on and to move on. And so I will…

Loving God, thank you for your presence and your love which sustain us no matter what.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Safe In God’s Company

The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream
and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother,
flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you.”

Matthew 2:13

For decades and decades, my family gathered to continue our Christmas festivities on New Year’s Day. My dad’s Canadian family lovingly preserved this traditional gathering which always included a blessing. At the appointed time, we gathered before our eldest family member to request his or her intercession. He or she responded by asking God’s gifts of happiness, health and prosperity for those present and for all of our loved ones during the coming year.

For as long as I can remember, I experienced a sense of comforting peace while kneeling in the company of my extended and extensive family. Each time, I couldn’t help feeling protected somehow regardless of what life had in store for the next three hundred and sixty-four days. This was especially important to me the year my dad passed away and for many years thereafter. Perhaps this is the reason I was always careful to help my own sons to feel safe. Perhaps this is the reason I hold my grandchildren so close to my heart. Perhaps this is the reason I’m compelled to remind all who will listen that God is always nearby, around us and within us to keep us safe along the way.

Loving God, even Jesus had reason to fear from very early on in his life. Still, Mary and Joseph remained steadfast in their loving care for him. Help us to treasure and to nurture one another with equal devotion. Help us always to remember that you are at our sides in everything.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

More On God’s Gifts…

Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.

Psalm 98:8

When friends of ours expressed doubts about taking a cruise, I promised to convince them otherwise. In an effort to do so, I showed them our album from an Alaskan Cruise we’d enjoyed some years ago. Though mere mention of the 49th State conjures up mental images of this trip, our album brought these beautiful memories to life…

Every morning, the majestic outdoors waited outside our window to welcome us to the new day. Mountains peered from above inviting me to gaze their way before the inevitable approach of cloud-cover. Gulls, salmon and whales gifted me with appearances as well and then quickly continued on their way. Even before breakfast, Creation filled me with reason to rejoice and be glad.

The people we met added to our treasure. I remember the Tlingit Tribe Member, the fifth generation Alaskan migrant, the Alaskan newcomer and fellow travelers who shared their stories with us. Each one embraced the simple life dictated by Alaska’s geography and climate only to find much more. Though it was impossible to understand each of their journeys completely, the peace within them was unmistakable. Life is not perfect for my Alaskan friends. Still, the beauty and simplicity around them lightens their burdens and frees them to focus more fully on the things that matter most.

Though I didn’t say much about the ship as I shared that album, the beauty we discovered on that cruise convinced our friends to give it a try.

Loving God, thank you for the wonderful gifts which urge us to expand our horizons and to appreciate your handiwork.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved