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

Always With Us!

“Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked
to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?”

From Luke 24:32

Because my husband diligently chronicled our trip to Israel with wonderful photographs, we purchased two albums for his handiwork. We realize that in this the digital age we can enjoy our memories in full color on our laptop. Still, having them in hand where we can linger over each one is a luxury we’re not ready to give up. We keep our photo albums on display in our family room. This prompts visitors and us to enjoy them often.

While looking through those albums one stay-at-home day, I came across photos of the church and monastery we visited in Emmaus. I also revisited Luke’s gospel which tells us about Cleopas and his companion who had just left Jerusalem and traveled along a road to Emmaus. It wasn’t long after Jesus’ death and they were discussing all that had happened during those dark days. As they walked, they encountered a stranger. Though everyone they’d met in Jerusalem was affected in some way by Jesus’ death, this man seemed to know nothing of it. After explaining along the way, this man offered his sense of those events. When trio eventually stopped to eat together, this stranger broke bread just as the disciples said Jesus had done. Cleopas and his friend immediately realized who this stranger was. Jesus had been with them all the while!

Throughout what remains of this COVID-19 era and for a long time afterward, we will have ample opportunity to discuss all that is and has occurred. Between those conversations, we’ll do our best to keep ourselves and our loved ones safely at home. Hopefully, we’ll also find the time to pray. It seems to me that every time we take the time to talk to God, we become more certain, like Cleopas and his friend, that God is with us all the while!

Loving God, help us never to forget that you are with us in everything!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

One People, One Family

Blessed too are the sorrowing;
they shall be consoled.

Matthew 5:4

When my husband and I left for Israel, I carried some baggage in addition to that mid-sized suitcase in which I’d managed to pack everything I needed for the trip. As I typed “everything I needed”, I realized that the other baggage which weighed me down wasn’t necessary after all.

I shared earlier that this trip included much more than visits to Israel’s numerous holy places. For me, every encounter with Israel’s people and my increasing understanding of their present-day life and struggles added to the holiness of Jesus’ long ago home. In every direction I looked, I found remnants of the lives of Jesus and his contemporaries. Israel had changed beyond recognition in some ways, yet it remained the same in many others. Perhaps this was the case for me as well. With every passing moment, I remained while a bit more of that unnecessary baggage disappeared.

This freed me to respond to our guide Yossi’s ongoing requests for prayers. “Pray for peace among us,” Yossi repeated. At the same time, Yossi did his part to build relationships among his countrymen. He brought us to a Palestinian restaurant, an Arab gift shop and cafe, an Arab glass factory, the home of a Messianic Jewish couple and Shabbat dinner with an Orthodox Jewish family. Yossi’s exchanges with those who hosted us made it obvious that Yossi had nurtured relationships with each one. Afterward, Yossi observed that regardless of the troubles which beset each group, “They are just like us. All they want is the chance to work hard and to bring home food for their families.” In his own way, Yossi consoled the sorrowing with the gifts of his support, his friendship and our prayers.

Loving God, help us to bring you to those who need you most just as Yossi does.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Time To Forgive

“…go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:24

I recently celebrated my mom’s and stepdad’s wedding anniversary. While they celebrated in the hereafter, I recalled the whirlwind of festivities which led up to their wedding day and the happy days which followed. This musing elicited memories of my own wedding preparations…

When we became engaged, our parish priest provided all of the required marriage preparation. I appreciated this effort because I had known Father O’Connell since I was four years old and my fiancé had known him since high school. Father was like a second dad to me and I was thrilled that he wanted to ensure that Mike and I started this marriage with our best feet forward. Though Father’s talks were all helpful, one bit of advice has proven to be most beneficial over the years. Father encouraged us to never ever go bed angry with one another. The longevity our relationship is evidence of Father’s wisdom in this regard.

As I consider the value of Father’s wisdom, it occurs to me that I need to apply his advice to my other relationships as well. It’s never helpful to allow recent hurts to age into old scars. When I spend time nursing my wounds rather than dealing with their source, I bring their pain to every subsequent encounter. How much better off I’d be if I had sought out my perceived adversary and explored the problem with him or her! Though the result might not be what I prefer, the air between us will certainly be clearer. Isn’t fresh air always more energizing than smog?

Loving God, it has taken me too long to apply Father’s decades-old lesson to my other relationships. Thank you for giving me the sense to figure this out!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Glimpses of God

Since the creation of the world, invisible realities,
God’s eternal powers and divinity, have become visible
through the things God has made.

Romans 1:20

I’ve shared often that I love the outdoors. Though I’m not a mountain climber, boater, skier or even a seasoned hiker, I do enjoy brisk walks in any weather. It matters little if I’m exploring new territory or retracing steps I’ve taken for a dozen years. Whichever the case, I always manage to find something new to appreciate along the way. It seems to me that God intended these amazing discoveries when God orchestrated the creation of this world and the universe which surrounds us. Though I’d like to think that I’ve come to appreciate a bit about God throughout the decades, I admit that I’ve failed to scratch the surface of the Almighty.

With so much in nature to learn about God, imagine how much more we humans have to teach one another about our Maker! After all, of the things God has created, we humans are the ones who are made in God’s image. Perhaps I need to give a second and third and hundredth look toward my brother and sister humans. Perhaps it is in these amazing discoveries that I will finally scratch the surface and revel in a glance at God’s essence.

Creator God, help me to find you in all of the work of your hands, especially in the people with whom you have graced my path.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Whisper

I will call this to mind as my reason to have hope:
The love of the Lord is not exhausted, his mercies are not spent.

Lamentations 3:21-22

Sometimes, the voices we hear most loudly aren’t the voices to which we should listen. Sometimes, the voices which clamor for our attention must be ignored so we can hear the life-giving whisper of God…

When I consider the voice which discourages me and questions my worth and demands my shame and denies that I am loved, I find that it comes from within me. Though the critical voices of others sometimes make their way to my core, I eventually tune them out and move on. It is the familiar voice echoing my personal litany of self-doubts which stubbornly remains to chip away at my heart. I’m grateful that I’m incapable of numbing the pain which comes with this self-imposed criticism. You see, it is this pain which urges me to voice my own lamentations to God who listens and who never fails to respond. Whether it comes in the warmth of sunshine, in the glistening snow, in the words of a loved one or from the center of my core, the words remain the same: “You are my beloved, Mary, and my favor rests on you.”

How great is God’s faithfulness to you and to me! Listen and you too will hear your name in the midst of those amazing words…

Faithful God, let me never tire of your encouraging voice in whatever form you speak to me.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved