Something To Look Forward To

“I assure you, there is no one
born of woman greater than John.
Yet the least born into the kingdom of God
is greater than he.”

Luke 7:28

While working on our Christmas Cards, memories of Christmases Past filled me up. For decades year after year, our large family gathered to celebrate this favorite of all holy days. As I went through my addresses, I was struck hard by the number of family members we’ve lost, the most recent to COVID-19.

Oddly enough, these lost loved ones give me reason to celebrate the numerous wonderful memories I’ve shared with each one. I admit that I amused myself by imagining each of their current activities at home with God. Though I miss each one, I can’t in good conscience wish any of them back here and away from the wonder that they’ve found in their life after this life.

Apparently, the gift of our loved ones in heaven didn’t escape Jesus either. When Jesus acknowledged the greatness of his cousin John the Baptist, he acknowledged the greatness of anyone who makes it home to God. In the process, Jesus offered us more hope than we could ever have imagined.

Generous God, it is with great joy that I anticipate our celebration of the birth of Jesus. His coming revealed your unconditional love and your amazing plans for each one of us. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Fear No Evil

Though I walk through the valley of darkness,
I fear no evil; for God is with me…

From Psalm 23:4

When I was a little girl, I feared an encounter with the doctor more than much else. Our family physician was pleasant enough, but he administered inoculations which wasn’t pleasant at all…

The other day, when I finally got around to my annual physical, that childhood fear returned. Did I mention that I was a year late in scheduling this dreaded encounter? This omission on my part made me all the more apprehensive. So it was that I relaxed and engaged in deep breathing as best I could when the nurse approached to take my blood pressure. I was relieved when the result was only a few numbers higher than it should have been and that the nurse kindly attributed this to “white coat syndrome”. I quickly agreed with her diagnosis. By the time the doctor arrived, I’d composed myself enough to present as a somewhat healthy and sane individual. In the end, the doctor announced that I am actually more than somewhat healthy and sane.

While driving home, I wondered if God looks upon me as that doctor-fearing little girl from long ago. The truth is that I secretly hoped so. I happily imagined myself in God’s lap. God immediately wrapped those loving arms around me. When I thought this was all I could hope for, God pulled me closer and whispered, “You’re fine. You’ll always be fine, even when you’re sick, because I’m always with you.” By the time I arrived home, I realized that God wouldn’t keep me from all of the evils of this world. I also realized that God would love me through whatever the future holds.

Dear God, thank you for your persistent and loving presence among us and within us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Never Gives Up On Us

God leads me in right paths…
From Psalm 23:3

When I consider the state of the world around me and of my own heart, I sometimes wonder why God bothers. Though God gifts humankind in ways more numerous than the grains of sand which cover this earth’s beaches, we manage to misuse our gifts in equally bountiful ways.

Fortunately for me, God takes note of my discouragement long before it morphs into something unmanageable. In the midst of my laments, images of kindnesses great and small distract my thinking. Moments in nature, in the company of those I love, at prayer and at peace with the tasks at hand compel me to utter words of thanks without much thought. While I remain baffled at this transition from discouragement to contentment, God leans back and admires this bit of Divine Handiwork.

As I consider Psalm 23 once again, I understand. God will never cease to lead us in right paths because it is in God’s nature to do so. When one loves as completely as God does, one never EVER gives up on the objects of that love!

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing encouragement in things great and small. Remind me never to give up on this world because you will never give up on a single one of us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Choice Is Ours!

“God looked down from the holy height…
to soothe the groaning of prisoners and
to release those doomed to die.”

From Psalm 102:20-21

While organizing my desk -Again!- I found an email I’d sent to a friend some time ago. I’d printed a copy of our exchange because I’d offered him encouragement which I needed to heed myself…

My friend had retired and hoped to move on to something which would bring him joy. Though he felt he had worked hard to arrive a this place, he wrestled with the notion. It seemed selfish to him to want to do something which made him happy. Though the new direction he sought would actually allow him to serve others in a truly significant way, he struggled.

I felt a little uneasy offering advice because I understood my friend’s dilemma a little too well. I shared the notion that what we do in this life is meant to serve others regardless of how happy or unhappy it makes us. Like my friend, I’d lost sight of God’s generous gift of free will, God’s desire for our happiness and God’s absolute faith in our choices. It’s because of these things that God sent us out on our own in the first place.

According to that email, I did encourage my friend to heed his heart’s longing. The happiest people I knew and know do the things which bring them joy. In the process, they also bring joy to others. As I reread that email exchange, I realized that I need to abide the advice I offered my friend. Apparently, it’s time for me to heed my heart’s longing as well.

Loving God, you listen to the longings of our hearts and you know our needs before we voice them. Give us the courage to seek joy for others and for ourselves.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest and Rejoice

Sing joyfully to the Lord;
break into song and sing praise.

Psalm 98:4

A few weeks ago, my husband and I drove up north to our favorite getaway, a little log cabin in the woods. In spite of the fact that we would stay-in-place just as we have here at home, we gave in to this much-needed opportunity to enjoy a change of scenery. Mike doesn’t enjoy driving. However, he is always thrilled to be at the wheel when we’re headed north. Though I always volunteer to share the driving, he rarely takes me up on my offer. This time around, I was grateful. I happily lay back and enjoyed the view beyond the car windows. Nature didn’t disappoint as summer’s splendor generously revealed itself. As much as I love walking outdoors at home, I love the ever-changing view as we drove along even more. As it happened, we made excellent time and were surprisingly refreshed when we arrived.

Though we intended to relax, as soon as we settled in, we found small projects to tend to. The first was Mike’s fourth stay-in-place haircut. Though I haven’t cut anyone’s hair since our sons were babies, Mike observed that I’ve done a respectable job for him so far! Afterward, we replaced bulbs in our outdoor lights and wiped down the screened porch. Before we knew it, it was dinner time. Fortunately, we had food as we’d brought along enough for our stay.

When Mike and I finally sat at the table, we laughed at how little we had relaxed that day. Still, we felt much better than we had when we decided we needed this get-away. Mike wisely observed, “Maybe we don’t mind working at the cabin because we don’t have to do it. We do it because we want to.” How right he was…

Gracious God, thank you for this opportunity to revive our spirits. Now we’re ready to get back to the work at hand in full earnest.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always On My Mind…

From the day we heard about you,
we have not ceased praying for you…

From Colossians 1:9

I’m finalizing Father’s Day plans with my family. This sounds odd, I know, since planning any gathering is a skill we’re all relearning these days. Because my husband relishes his roles as “Dad” and “Grandpa”, we’re doing our best to ensure him a worthy celebration. In the midst of this, I clearly recall the day this all began…

After a years-long struggle to have children, my husband dreaded this doctor’s appointment. Those which preceded it had brought much disappointment. Because Doctor Wool was fully aware of this, he couldn’t refrain from smiling in the midst of my exam. “My God, you’re pregnant!” he announced. While, I giggled uncontrollably, he sent the nurse to the waiting room to get Mike. There was no reason to tell Mike anything as he’d already heard my response.

From that moment, we knew our baby. We had no idea of what he would look like or who this child would be. Still, we loved our precious offspring. On that day, I began to pray above all else that this child would be happy and that we would be worthy parents. When our baby arrived, he proved to be all we had hoped for and more. Still, I continued to pray for him.

The truth is that this is also my ritual regarding our second son, our daughters-in-law, our grandchildren and, of course, my husband. I do this for all whom I’ve been given to love. These days, I’ve added all of our world’s suffering to my list. Though I know this isn’t a necessary exercise because God wishes goodness for us all, I pray!

Loving God, be with us as we adjust to our new normal. Help all of your people to find happiness in their little corners of the world.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved