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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G… God!

For this is our God,
and we are the people God shepherds,
the flock God guides.

Psalm 95:7

G is for God… and goodness, grace, generosity, gentleness, gift, gladness, glory, grandeur, gratitude, growth, gumption and a gaggle of other descriptors which apply to the God I’ve come to know and love.

Regardless of the name you prefer or the context in which you worship, God is all of these things and more for you, for me and for every soul blessed with the gift of life. Whether we were raised down the street from our place of worship or were never exposed to anything remotely similar, God is for us.

For me, the evidence lies deep within. I’ve been aware of God’s presence in my life for as long as I can remember. If you’re searching for more concrete evidence, consider this: Numerous published books and countless references have been cited regarding encounters with life after this life. Many people have crossed death’s threshold and returned to share their experiences. Whether a believer, an agnostic or an atheist beforehand, these travelers to the Hereafter consistently speak of the unconditional love, peace and acceptance which greeted them. Most conclude with great certainty that they have indeed met God.

Though most of us will never return from this journey, we encounter God’s loving presence every day. As for me, I cannot help cultivating my relationship with God. It is the source of my greatest joy. I show my appreciation best by cultivating my relationships with those God has given me to love. After all, the best gifts are those which we share.

Generous and Gracious God, you reveal yourself in so many ways. Help us all to appreciate your unending love for us and your persistent presence among us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thanks for…

“God knows
what you need before you ask…”

From Matthew 6:8

The other day, I woke after a particularly restful night’s sleep. I was so grateful that I felt a strong urge to thank someone. At that moment, I realized that I’d somehow lost sight of what I used to say every morning: “Thanks for the sleep!” I always directed this comment to God above with genuine gratitude. This had been the case because, regardless of any given day’s events, I’d always managed to sleep restfully. Now I admit that this pattern of sleep took hold only after my children were old enough not to need me or to cause me to worry during the wee hours of the night. Very early on, I’d become accustomed to thanking God accordingly. That morning, I looked upward a bit sheepishly to echo the thanks which I’d somehow lost sight of. “Thanks for the sleep, good and generous God. I’m so sorry it has been so long…”

I didn’t continue because the line of light sneaking in where the blind and window frame don’t quite meet distracted me. Without another word, I got out of bed and walked over to that window. When I raised the blind, the bright sun, blue sky and greening foliage took my breath away. Without an audible word, God had assured me that it was indeed a new day. I could renew my resolve to express my gratitude and to be my best in whatever ways I chose to. With that, I looked upward once again. “Thanks for the sleep, ” I repeated. Then I added, “Thanks for the reminder that you’re always nearby…”

I’m happy to share that I’m back in the habit of expressing my morning gratitude and so much more these days.

Dear God, thank you!.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Unappreciated Treasure

“When you lift me up,
then you will realize that I AM.”

From John 8:27

There is an adage which addresses our frequent failure to realize what we have until we lose it. At one time or another, we all experience this type of loss when it is too late. I remember how eagerly I awaited the start of high school, only to find that I missed the comfort of my junior high school friends when I got there. I was thrilled to change schools during my teaching career until the first day I walked into the teachers’ lounge and realized that I didn’t know a soul. Though our only dog drove me nuts most of the time, I missed Ernie terribly when he died.

Like the Pharisees who rejected Jesus, my list of lost and unappreciated treasures is far too long. Fortunately for me, one precious gift remains a constant in my life. I was born to parents of faith who relied on God in good times and in bad. My mom and dad shared their faith with me quite tangibly. As a result, my faith is a constant in my life, part and parcel of everything I do. When I lose something I should have appreciated more, I find great consolation in knowing that God will never do the same regarding me. Though I sometimes forsake God’s gifts, God will never ever forsake me.

Dear God, open my eyes to the treasures around me, especially to the people you have given me to love. Help me to appreciate these treasures and to share them and myself generously.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

T is for Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good,
for God’s mercy endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

T is for Thanksgiving. I think I’ve made it clear in one way or another that life isn’t always perfect for me. As I typed that sentence, I couldn’t help wondering if God would say the same. Maybe my circumstances have been fashioned perfectly for me. As I ponder that possibility, I acknowledge that I really do have much to be thankful for, far more than I ever expected or dared to hope for. Though many of these gifts aren’t tangible, they are very real to me just the same. The love of my husband, our sons, our daughters-in-law and our grandchildren tops the list of gifts I never expected to encounter in this life. Add to this the love of some very dear friends and you see that I’m a very blessed soul.

When this life presents unpleasant challenges, I face them most effectively with a grateful heart. I admit that the tough internal bout I mentioned a few days ago would have been far less painful if I’d remembered to count my blessings earlier on. In less trying times, I have remembered to look upward. I hope God never tires of hearing me pray, “God, I know you’ve been very good to me, but really? I don’t mean to complain, but how can I deal with this?” It usually takes me a few minutes to adjust my thinking and my prayer. I eventually end my list of complaints with, “Thank you, God, for being with me in everything. I know that all of this will end well.”

T is for Thanksgiving. Today and every day, I will do my best to face everything with a heart full of thanksgiving no matter what!

Generous and Loving God, thank you for everything!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

S is for Service

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit…

From Isaiah 42:1

S is for Service. As a child, I was always first to raise my hand when my teacher asked for a volunteer to assist her. At home, though I disliked my chores as much as any child, I happily volunteered when my mom requested help with the non-mandatory task at hand. This propensity to be helpful has remained with me. The truth is that, of all of the joy I’ve experienced, the best of it has been the result of being of service to others.

My service has taken many forms. I have been spouse, parent, teacher, colleague, daughter to an elderly mom, sister to a dying sibling, listener for a troubled soul and an all-purpose church volunteer. I’ve rescued a wayward can of soup which rolled out of a fellow shopper’s bag and a twenty-dollar bill which fell out of another’s wallet. I’ve even put out a burning head of hair when a wedding guest stood a bit too close to a lighted candle. I’m sure your own list of every-day and life-time service would fill this space in short order. It seems to me that if we respond at all to those God has given us to love, we are of service to them in some way.

S is for service because doing for others is the shortest road to true happiness. Whether or not we are thanked for our efforts, our good deeds fill us up with an amazing sense of joy. Our great and small acts of service make all of the difference, sometimes for a second and sometimes for a lifetime.

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

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved