God Already Knows

I call upon you because you will answer me, O God.
You turn your ear to me and you hear my every word.

Psalm 17:6

When a friend requested prayers for an ailing family member, I promised to storm heaven on their loved ones behalf. Though I believe we always have God’s attention, I also think that adding our own positive energy to the mix is helpful. Much to my dismay, I’m sometimes lacking in that positive energy as of late. I’m as tired as everyone else of our current uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and my heart aches over the injustices which plague our nation. Most of all, I’m frustrated over my inability to change any of this. As I struggled to voice the prayer my friend requested and my own regarding these other issues, my words failed me. After several uncomfortable minutes, it occurred to me that I need to heed my own advice.

Whenever I’m asked about prayer, I encourage those interested to speak to God in their own words. If the words don’t come, I suggest that they sit quietly and simply accept the fact that God understands. If they feel that they must say something, I add, “When in doubt, go to the psalms. There’s a psalm for anything and everything we can’t seem to put into words for ourselves.”

After taking a few minutes to laugh at myself over my inability to practice what I preach, I turned to the Book of Psalms and found the words I cite above. I happily rediscovered that there is a psalm for every occasion under heaven. I also happily reminded myself that God knows every detail of my reasons for praying in the first place. With that, I sat in God’s company quite peacefully. You see, I finally acknowledged that God already knew what I was trying to say.

Dear God, thank you for your understanding. It means everything to me!

©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

Act Like Children… Really!

For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is greatest.

From Luke 9:48

A recent walk around a nearby lake reminded me of just how small I am. This particular lake is tiny itself and offers a very limited beach area. The remainder of its circumference is lined with trees and foliage. The greenery is interrupted only by a narrow path just wide enough for two or three people. Still, as I walked along, I felt like a little ant in the grand scheme of things.

There are other times when I feel very small as well. In spite of my best efforts, it seems that I cannot do much to solve the problems of this world. Though I try very hard to live up to the spirit of these daily reflections, I don’t seem to accomplish much. Our war with COVID-19 rages on, poverty in so many places ravages too many of us, and special interests continue to argue more and accomplish less. I wonder too often if there actually is anything I can do to make an important difference.

It’s in the midst of this lament that I recall Jesus’ words regarding our need to become like children. Little girls and boys don’t over-think things. They simply observe the situation at hand and respond accordingly. It occurs to me that I do my best work when I follow this lead. I do actually have the capacity to change the world. Through seemingly insignificant efforts, I bring something which is needed to one soul at a time. You know, so do you! Never underestimate the power of simply doing what needs to be done in the moment at hand.

Dear God, thank you for acknowledging that the small things we do for one another make a world of difference after all.

©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

Nature… God’s Precious Gift

Truth shall spring out of the earth…
From Psalm 85:12

When I walk just south of our neighborhood, I pass a greenhouse, Mary’s Greenhouse to be precise. I chuckle when I read the sign on that building full of flowers and greenery. For years, I’ve told my husband that he should have been a florist or tended a greenhouse because he has an amazing green thumb. Though I’m a worthy assistant when it comes to digging up flowerbeds, trimming roses and weeding here and there, my knowledge of annuals, perennials and most other aspects of gardening is minimal. The good news is that my husband loves these things. As a result, the yard around our home is beautifully picturesque. I appreciate his efforts more than words can express. I also find a world of inspiration in the loveliness of his handiwork especially during our stay-in-place stint.

As I write, it occurs to me that “Mary’s Greenhouse” provides the perfect reminder of how generously God has blessed me. God has given me both my own gardener-in-residence and the sense to recognize the wonder present in his flowerbeds. In each one, I enjoy both the fruits of my husband’s talent and the fruits of God’s love for us. How much God must care to have created a world capable of producing such beauty! How much God must care to have given us those who make the most of this gift!

Generous God, we can all find joy in the beauty which springs from this earth. Inspire us to be good custodians of this precious gift.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

World Environment Day

God looked at everything that God made
and found it to be very good.

Genesis 1:31

In 1973, the United Nations designated June 5 as World Environment Day. The intent of was to unite the world in an effort to literally save this planet. Each year’s observance calls attention to the human transgressions which cause climate change, deforestation, air pollution and pollution of the oceans. Add to this the disruption COVID-19 has brought to life as we know it and you can see that there is reason for concern. More importantly, the day’s designation is also intended to be a hopeful call to action.

Oddly, it is COVID-19 which brings some hope to the situation. The world’s adherence to stay-in-place mandates has decreased our use of airplanes and automobiles, factories and other polluting entities. This has also decreased air pollution. Some weeks ago, atmospheric maps indicated notably cleaner air in some places. New York City’s pollution decreased 50%. In Wuhan, China, pollution was down 25%. News stories indicated that those residing in Northern India saw the Himalayan Mountains for the first time in 30 years. In addition to these atmospheric changes, wild life on both land and in the sea has thrived. Though pollution has concerned me since my college days, I suddenly find hope that it’s not too late for us to join hands to do something about it.

Two great spiritual leaders came forward to support this effort on Earth Day, April 22, 2020. The Dalai Lama and Pope Francis offered a call to action to us all. An old Spanish saying offered by Pope Francis seems to summarize their concern best: “God Always forgives; we humans sometimes forgive and sometimes not; the earth never forgives.” Pope Francis underscored the urgency of the situation by adding, “The earth does not forgive; if we have despoiled the earth, its response will be very ugly.”

In the wake of COVID-19, while we adjust to our new normal, perhaps we can adjust our efforts to care for this earth as well. How great it would be for our new normal to bring renewed health to our global home.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of Mother Earth. Be with us in our efforts to care for her lovingly.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved