Lovingly Redundant!

My people hear my teaching,
listen to the words of my mouth…

From Psalm 78:1-2

Very early in my career, I came to understand some very important aspects of teaching. I had to get the attention of my students. I had to keep their attention by making what I had to say interesting and understandable> Finally, I had to give them reason to remember what I shared with them.

As a reading teacher, I became very good at convincing my most reluctant students to read just about anything. The greater challenge came in convincing them to approach their textbooks with the same enthusiasm. I sympathized with them because I know that actually applying what we learn can be extremely difficult in this world of ours.

When I write these reflections, I suppose I’m teaching in a way. I sometimes wonder if I’m being too redundant. Do I touch upon the topic of God’s love too often? The answer to this question came before I finished typing it. I don’t think any of us can hear too much regarding God’s love. When I doubt that I’m loved by those around me, I remember that God is also around me and my doubt is dispelled. Regardless of who else is in the crowd, God watches over me. When I doubt that I can possibly be forgiven, the world’s response to my guilt doesn’t matter. God always looks beyond what I’ve done to embrace me and to encourage me to be begin anew. No, I don’t think any of us can hear -or read- too much about God’s love. God’s love is what makes this life do-able.

Loving God, thank you for loving us so completely, no matter what!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Just As You Are

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God in heaven give to those who ask!”
Luke 11:11-13

When I came across this passage from Luke’s gospel, a long-ago encounter with someone very dear to me came to mind…

I still recall my heartache as my friend sobbed that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow that had filled her life. My friend ended this monologue with more tears. I waited some time for her tears to run out. When she had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad to be with her and that I loved her. After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thanks.”

I was extremely grateful when my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold anything against you. You lived through some tough times and I understand what drove you to do what you did. You know what else? My opinion doesn’t matter. God’s does. If I can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of this for you. God never ever gives up on you! God doesn’t give up on any of us!”

I think my friend believed me because I left her smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear that smile in her voice. That smile lasted for a very long time…

Thank you, loving and merciful God, for loving each one of us so completely.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Just As We Are!

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.
From Psalm 51:17

My husband and I had a “discussion” regarding nothing of serious importance. Nonetheless, I pressed my point until he acknowledged that he understood. Though this was a calm exchange, his tone indicated to me that he was bothered. Afterward, I went back to doing the dishes and he headed outdoors to see if his hanging plants needed water. While scrubbing the last pan, it occurred to me that I’d upset my poor spouse. So I left that pan and went outdoors to apologize. When I began, Mike asked,”What are you talking about? You didn’t say anything wrong.” Huh?

When I returned to the kitchen, my dad’s words from long ago echoed in my memory: “You’re much harder on yourself than anyone else would ever be!” When my dad said that, I knew he was right. I’ve been convinced of God’s love for me since I was a little girl. Still, whenever I was in error and did something which I deemed unforgivable, though the rest of the world viewed this otherwise, I was inconsolable.

The good news is that God has intervened in my foolishness. God used the wisdom of the psalmist cited above, my forgiving parents, a perceptive priest, a kind teacher, an understanding sibling, my aunt, a friend, my husband, our children, our grandchildren and many of my students and colleagues to reach me. Each of these helpful souls reminded me that I’m not expected to be perfect, but only to be my best as best I can. I can’t thank these kind souls enough!

In the event that you’re buying into your own variety of guilt, DON’T! You are loved and forgiven always as well!

Patient God, thank you for the numerous reminders of your ever-merciful love which come my way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Forgiven and Always Loved

God says, “From the least to the greatest, you know me.
I forgive your evildoing and remember your sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:34

My husband spent the afternoon searching for flowers to plant around our yard. Armed with mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and the resolve to social distance, he enjoyed a safe and productive afternoon. I took advantage of the quiet house by sitting at my keyboard to write. Sadly, I wasn’t as productive as Mike. Before beginning, I glanced at photos from my childhood which rest inches above my keyboard. Rather than offering my usual reminiscent smile and then getting to work, a recent bit of self-doubt turned my thoughts to a painful aspect of that childhood.

When I was little, I was a bit too sensitive. I was no less innocent than most children, yet I took even the smallest reprimand to heart. Though the adult involved quickly forgot whatever I’d done, my guilt remained with me. All of this was my own doing. My parents never belittled my siblings or me. Though a teacher may have given me reason to question my ability to be forgiven on occasion, this wasn’t the norm. I eventually came to understand, at least mentally, that those who love us don’t hold grudges. It was my own propensity to retain guilt which caused my angst. These decades later, this tendency remains to some extent. So it was that my self-doubt prevailed until I remembered the words from Jeremiah which I cite today.

This and numerous other passages reference God’s forgiveness. Each one assures us of God’s absolute love and God’s absolute inability to be separated from any one of us. Though we try to run away, God remains with us and within us. Neither we nor anyone else can impose enough guilt upon us to repel God. For this, I’m most grateful!

Loving God, help us to let go of our guilt as quickly as you do. Only then will we be free to embrace your love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Promise of Hope

You love me, O God, in your goodness…
From Psalm 51:3

I’m grateful for the signs of spring which renew my hope with every new sprout-sighting. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to be able to walk outdoors every day since our stay-at-home life has been in place. We who venture out have become expert at social distancing and at appreciating the fresh air and the natural beauty around us, rain or shine! The best part of this is that the expanse of the outdoors, from the sky above to the earth beneath our feet, puts our current situation in perspective.

You see, I’ve learned something from my walk through Lent and Easter 2020 and our battle with COVID-19. I’ve also learned something from Spring 2020. Each of these experiences promises life after winter, life after the trauma which besets us just now and life after death. Regardless of my success or failure to use the moment at hand optimally, another opportunity awaits me in the moment after that. This doesn’t mean that I’ll intentionally waste even a second of the time I’m given. What it does mean is that, when I make a mistake, I’ll be as patient with myself as God is.

Merciful God, help me to do my best. When I don’t, help me to acknowledge this setback honestly, to assess my regret sincerely, to seek your guidance once again and then to move on.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

For Me?

O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion,
wipe out my offense…
wash me from my guilt…

From Psalm 51:3-4

I’m often told that I have a selective memory. The worst of my personal history lies very deep within me. The best of it glows in a rose-colored aura that attests to the many blessings -mostly in the form of people- which have made me who I am today. Occasionally, something unexpected jars one of those dark recollections which would be best left forgotten. Though the transgression which comes to mind has long since been forgiven and forgotten by both my victim and my God, I dwell on it until my guilt peaks and I can’t bear it any longer. Only then do I bury this reminiscence once again with the hope that I’ve buried it deep enough this time…

There is some good news here. Since I began writing these daily reflections, I’ve felt increasingly obliged to practice what I preach. If I write of God’s merciful love for others, I’d better believe that this love is meant for me as well. If I write that the transgressions of others are forgiven and forgotten in a millisecond, I’d better believe that forgiveness is also mine.

Dear God, I know that these wonderful gifts are meant for me, too. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved