Beloved King

In an effort to organize my thoughts for this writing, I decided to ignore the mist in the air and to head outdoors for a much-needed walk. I reread today’s scripture passages and then bundled up for my trek into autumn. Much to my surprise, I found that the threat of rain had retreated and the clouds had separated just enough to allow an occasional glimpse of blue. I whispered a prayer of thanks for my good fortune and then set my pace for the duration. In an effort to clear my head, I set aside today’s topic and concentrated on the fleeting color around me. Recent winds, my dear husband and our diligent neighbors had removed most of the leaves along the way. The few which remained on the sidewalk made no sound as I walked over them. The morning’s drizzle had robbed them of their crackling crunch. Still, I gave thanks for their once-brilliant color which had so generously gifted us all.

As I walked, I noticed a few stubborn leaves clinging with all of their might to otherwise barren branches. As I continued on, I saw that several more determined leaves held tightly to the trees they called home. Each one seemed unwilling to give in to the inevitable. I imagined these leaves mustering their strength in the face of the cold wind and giving thanks for every additional second during which they remained in place. Those determined leaves had lived life to the full as best they could and they weren’t about to let go before they absolutely had to do so. Those leaves which clung so tightly to their branches weren’t in alone their efforts. I also discovered a smattering of their counterparts nuzzled close to the bases of bushes and fences. I congratulated them for a job well done. I also reminded them that their work on this earth isn’t finished. They will swirl and settle and swirl in the air again until the first heavy snow forces them into a final resting place. While they will eventually lose their leaf-like appearance to decay, they will also enrich the soil. That soil will nourish the trees which will produce another season’s leaves. These new leaves will repeat their brave predecessors’ purposeful ritual.

In spite of my effort to clear my head, those leafy encounters filled my head with a renewed understanding of today’s feast day. For this I was also most grateful. Today, we observe the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year which is The Feast of Christ the King. This timing is intentional. We’ve spent the year reading and listening to scripture passages which recount Jesus’ life and his teachings. Jesus used both his word and his example to teach God’s ways. Jesus preached love, mercy and forgiveness, joy in the face of poverty and peace in the face of suffering. Jesus worked very hard at convincing those he met along the way that God loves us just as we are with all of our human frailties intact. This is the reason Jesus publicly referenced God as his Abba, his Daddy, and the reason Jesus invited us to do the same. While Jesus provided a lifetime of good example, he assured us again and again that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus spent his time with the seemingly unworthy, shunning the presumptuous ones who attempted to use his acquaintance to increase their stature. Jesus loved the poor in spirit and the materially poor and he always made time for them. In the end, Jesus hung on a tree with all of his might, determined not to let go until he had to let go. On this Feast of Christ the King, I imagine Jesus pondering the brave leaves who hold onto their trees as he once did. I imagine Jesus smiling because he knows that just as their work to enrich the soil continues season after season and year after year, his work continues in and through the lives of all of God’s children. Yes, through you and me.

As I considered the innumerable reasons I have to give thanks for Jesus’ impact upon my life, his presumed kingship never entered my mind. I researched the history of today’s feast because I wondered why we call attention to the one title which Jesus seemed least anxious to acquire. I discovered that in the grand scheme of church history this feast is relatively new. This observance was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Pius served during extremely difficult times when communism and fascist governments threatened many. Pius hoped that this feast would draw attention away from those political bullies and toward Jesus who ruled with the authentic power of God’s love. When I consider Jesus’ kingship in this light, I find good reason to celebrate.

On this Feast of Christ the King, I rejoice in the many lessons I found among this year’s crop of leaves. Their brave journeys through spring’s budding, summer’s lush exuberance and fall’s decay opened my eyes once again to the wonder to be found in Jesus’ life. So it is that today I celebrate Jesus, our Jesus who clung to a tree to complete his life and to let go of it, just as you and I will do. Even more so, I celebrate the life Jesus lived before letting go of that tree, for it is that life which teaches me how to live and how to love as God asks.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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So Generously Restored!

…he leads me beside still waters
and restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

I ran from the moment I woke that morning. Before thinking about a little volunteer pitch which I’d deliver at Mass that evening, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I did two loads of laundry while working on a few more of these daily reflections. Completing this little to-do list put me in the perfect frame of mind to ask others who are able to step up and occasionally help out with some fairly easy tasks at church.

After practicing my one-minute and fifteen-second speech, I noticed that the November rain had let up. Though the red line on my thermometer had not edged beyond forty-five that day, I couldn’t resist the oddly peaceful setting which lay beneath the cloudy sky. Though the beautiful fall colors which adorned my neighborhood were muted on that seemingly dismal day, the scene before me nudged me back to Psalm 23.

Though I had a bit more to do inside, I headed outdoors to walk. Every step of the way, God restored my soul. Even on that gray-hued day, God refreshed me.

Loving God, thank you for the many gifts with which you refresh us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Lambs

The Lord is my shepherd and there is nothing I shall want.
Psalm 23:1

The month of October proved to be challenging. Two amazing women completed their battles with cancer and moved on to the hereafter. A very young man in the neighborhood endured a tragic accident and moved on as well. The rainy weather mirrors my sentiments as I continue my prayers for those left behind.

I’ve walked with many loved ones through serious illnesses. I watched helplessly as they processed the scenario which lay before them. In every case, I was deeply moved by their bravery through transitions from anger to fear to sadness to practical concern for those left behind to joyful anticipation of the things to come. It was then that I offered frequent prayers of thanksgiving for the grace which allowed these amazing souls to manage their illnesses and to embrace their journeys home to God.

As is the case with most of us, my journey home to heaven lies ahead sometime beyond my knowing. In the mean time, I turn to a favorite Psalm where I find encouragement for the journey ahead. Psalm 23 elicits the image of a happy little lamb dancing through tall grass in a beautiful pasture. Within seconds, this lamb’s revelry becomes my own. “The Lord is my shepherd and there is nothing I shall want…”

With that, I resolve to do my best today regardless of all this day will bring. I do so with a smile because God is my shepherd and there really is nothing more for me to want.

Loving God, help us all to remember that you are always walking at our sides.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

They Serve and Protect Us

Upon their hands, the angels shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:12

On this Veteran’s Day, I cannot help thinking about those who serve and protect us both nearby and far away. It seems that every passing day gives reason for us to pray a bit more fervently for their safety. Whether they serve us overseas or here at home, these dedicated personnel have set aside their personal lives to do so. Ones politics doesn’t matter in their regard. They serve us and protect us regardless.

Though I know God remains with each one in spite of what may come his or her way, it is a worthy endeavor to keep them in our prayers just the same. At the same time, let’s add a prayer of thanks for the hundreds of thousands of veterans among us. Though it is only recently that we’ve acknowledged the toll taken by active military service, all of our veterans have suffered in one way or another simply because they have served this country of ours.

Happy Veterans Day, Dear Veterans and Veterans-in-the making. Thank you for everything!

Dear God, bless them generously and be with them all.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Angelic Friends

To the angels God has given the command
to guard you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:11

Some time ago, my sister invited me to accompany her to a talk at her church by a woman who believes strongly in the presence of angels in our lives. I happily tagged along because the topic was familiar territory to me. Very early on, the good sisters taught me about God and about these special helpers who dutifully keep an eye on each one of us. It had been a long time since I’d heard any talk of angels…

The woman’s presentation did not disappoint. She related both her own angelic encounters and those of many others which she’d collected and researched. She’d certainly done her homework ruling out other explanations for many impossible-to-explain events. Afterward, while we enjoyed refreshments, a few hard-to-convince skeptics admitted that they were truly moved by what they’d heard. So was I.

Over the years, I’ve been privy to similar accounts. Because I’m willing to listen, many people have shared their stories with me. They most often begin with: “I’m going to tell you this, Mary, because I know you’ll believe me…” Their sincerity and their own efforts to explain away what occurred leave me no choice but to accept the validity of what they share.

Our current difficult times invite us to open ourselves to God’s angels. Whether or not they fit the descriptions offered in the scriptures and other holy writings matters little to me. Having someone in our corners from the spiritual realm is a great gift. Though I believe God is always with me, it’s nice to know that God’s helpers are here as well.

Dear God, thank you for these unexplained glimpses of your goodness.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Through Everything!

You dwell in the shelter of the Most High;
You abide in the shadow of the Almighty…

Psalm 91:1

Yesterday, I filled this space with a joyful recounting of my Halloween adventure. Though I traveled no farther than to my front door, I encountered God in an admittedly peculiar, yet wonderfully uplifting way. Half-way through trick-or-treat hours in our community, I realized I was doling out candy with a bit of the enthusiasm with which I believe God loves us. It was awesome!

As I contemplated my good fortune in all of this, it occurred to me that I might have missed this gift at another moment in time. Fortunately for me, I think, life had been tough leading into Halloween. I admit that the losses of two exceptional women and of a healthy twenty-two-year-old neighbor tested my appreciation for God’s plan in all of this. Though I truly believe that these three who passed are quite happy in the hereafter, I know without a doubt that their loved ones are suffering greatly over their losses. Knowing that there really wasn’t much I could do to help those concerned added to my angst. It was with this mindset intact that I began my Halloween door-duty. It was with this mindset intact that God dispelled my brooding with a taste of Divine Love.

Finally, it occurs to me that God is quite aware of all of our suffering. Just as God used trick-or-treaters to remind me of how much I am loved, God works through each one of us to bring the same message to those who need it most. Even when we fail to cooperate in God’s work, God finds a way to say, “I love you!”

Thank you, Dear God, for your love!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved