Loved Through It All…

You lowly ones, be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the God hears the poor,
and God loves them.

Psalm 69:33-35

Sometimes, when we hear or read about the poor, we assume that this term references those with dire material needs. Though this is often the case, God’s definition of “the poor” is all-inclusive. It references each and every one of us whenever our needs, material or otherwise, become too much to bear. Sometimes, when we find ourselves doing well in the world’s eyes, we also find ourselves in need deep within us where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing a secure life for themselves and their loved ones, those who seem to have the material things they need sometimes lose their grip on the things which truly matter.

There are times when we are all counted among God’s poor. This much-loved group includes us whenever life robs us of the things we need to continue on. Whether we are lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parent, God knows our suffering and shares our concern. Whether we are besought by the enemy before us or by the demons within us, God stands at our sides. Even when we’re completely lacking in compassion for our fellow humans, God looks upon us with everlasting compassion. We must remember that, in spite of our personal varieties of poverty, we will always have enough of God’s love to get by.

Loving and Caring God, thank you for recognizing our poverty in all of its forms and for easing us through it with your loving presence.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Beloved By God

Brothers and sisters:
You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God…

Ephesians 2:19

Life was tough for the contemporaries of Jesus. The Jewish people endured Roman rule which had little appreciation for the plight of the poor. The people also suffered under the temple hierarchy who valued The Law more than the people for whom The Law had been given. Jesus himself endured the Pharisees’ criticism because they couldn’t see past their own infatuation with rules, regulations and control. It was Jesus’ failure to adhere to ritual cleanliness and his association with outcasts which infuriated these adversaries most of all. The good news is that Jesus ignored the criticism and made room for whoever desired his company. He associated with perceived sinners of every sort. He touched lepers and the blind. He even saved a woman caught in adultery. He would have done the same for the man involved had he been threatened with stoning as well.

Though you and I are not always ostracized quite as dramatically as the people of Jesus’ day, we suffer our own varieties of exclusion, loneliness and despair just the same. The good news for us is that God responds in like manner to you and me. When the rest of the world pushes us away, God embraces us. When no one lifts a finger to help, God lays hands upon us and heals us.

Gracious God, thank you for calling each one of us your beloved.

©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

Care For One Another

You are more precious than gold,
more precious than a heap of purest gold…

From Psalm 19:11

Last night’s winds shook our trees just enough to fill the lawn with their branches. This afternoon, I grabbed a rake and headed outdoors. A light breeze provided optimum working conditions and I spent a pleasant hour tidying up the yard. Afterward, I headed back to the garage to rehang the rake. On my way, I stubbed my toe. I really stubbed my toe. The resultant pain was excruciating. I broke a toe a few years ago, so I feared the worst. On the way inside for some ice to soothe the pain, my mind drifted back to another toe injury…

Our granddaughters had joined us for a sleepover. I’d run upstairs to get colored pencils I’d purchased for them. On the way, I stubbed my toe on a heavy dresser. Like today, I really stubbed my toe. Immediately afterward, my youngest granddaughter came bouncing into the room. She saw the look on my face and asked, “Are you okay, Grandma?” Though I quickly wiped away a telltale tear and smiled, Claire knew that all was not well. “Oh, I just bumped my toe,” I said. With that, Claire ran downstairs to join her sisters. “Grandma hurt herself, so be quiet,” Claire ordered.

Now my older granddaughters preferred to be in charge back then. Still, they listened. They were especially quiet and cooperative when I joined them a few minutes later. All three girls did everything in their power to lighten my mood. I clearly remember how touched I was by their efforts. Just thinking about their sweet kindness distracted me from today’s injury.

When I finally sat with that ice pack in place, I felt much better in spite of my aching toe. My husband and I did our best to nurture loving and compassionate sons. Apparently, we’d succeeded at some level as illustrated by our granddaughters’ merciful response to my misery. It occurs to me that God created each one of us to be loving and compassionate. The best way to show our appreciation is to respond to one another in kind. Today, this is more important than ever…

Dear God, remind us often that your most pressing request is that we care for one another as you care for us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make It Right

Guide them as a shepherd guides his flock.
From Jeremiah 31:11

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, people here and all over the world have responded to this tragedy. A recent news clip indicated that Pope Francis is one of them. During an address on June 3, Francis made this observation in response to George Floyd’s murder: “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Francis’ point is clear. Many of us who claim to be pro-life unwittingly limit this support to the unborn. Day after day, we adhere to policies and practices which systematically deny large segments of our human family access to the basic necessities of life. Francis insists that being pro-life requires our respect and our support of human life from every persons conception to his or her last breath.

Francis’ observation reignited my heartache over all of this. If you have a family, you know how difficult it can be to repair relationships which have gone awry over the years. Sometimes, a bit of gentle urging is all that is needed to make things right again. Most often, however, strong and deliberate effort is required to repair the damage done. In the case of racism and exclusion, I’m afraid the “strong and deliberate” approach is required.

Then again… It occurs to me that while we make our feelings known to those who govern, we can also make our feelings known to those we meet along the way. We can plant seeds of acceptance and inclusion with a welcome, a smile or a well-timed helping hand. We can discourage attitudes and language which deepen divisions by offering positive alternatives. It seems to me that none of us need to look very far to find ways to make things right again as only we can.

Loving God, be with us as we open our hearts to all of our sisters and brothers.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Examples of Love

Set an example…
in speech, conduct, love, faith, and honesty.

From 1 Timothy 4:12

While walking outdoors the other day, fellow walkers and I carefully navigated around each other to maintain social distancing. Though some of us had masks dangling below our chins, none were needed as we allowed one another our space. Actually, this was the case until a family of four approached in the distance. We were nearing a narrow stretch which made social distancing difficult. When I realized the predicament, I pulled up my mask and then retraced my steps until I found a spot wide enough to allow us all to pass safely.

As that family walked by, the dad thanked me for the extra effort. He added, “I didn’t think we’d run into anyone so we left our masks at home. So sorry!” As we parted ways, one of the children commented, “So stupid, Dad. I hate wearing a mask.” I admit that I stopped to tie my shoe because I wanted to hear how Dad responded. How sweet it was to hear his reply. ” I don’t like wearing a mask either,” he said, “but I don’t like seeing anyone get sick, especially you guys. I wear my mask for you and Mom.”

I smiled as I stood to continue that walk. It occurred to me that parents everywhere are offering their children lessons which none of us ever imagined would be necessary. You know, the weeks and months ahead are going to be tough as we adjust to some type of normalcy. As for me, I’m going to try not to worry about this too much because of selfless people like that dad who are in this with me. When we care about one another, we have a chance.

Loving God, you are goodness and you are love. Be with us as we bring both to our efforts to heal this world by caring for one another.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved