God’s Precious Kids

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

My husband recently shared a Facebook posting he received from a former student of ours. Mike was Charlie’s middle school principal. As an elementary school remedial reading teacher, I never taught Charlie because he is extremely bright. Still, he and I interacted frequently due to our involvement in special school projects and the close proximity of our classrooms. We talked almost every day.

The truth is that I intentionally gave Charlie a good deal of attention. His amazing academic ability sometimes put him at odds with his classmates. I hoped to encourage Charlie to be himself and to do his best in spite of the teasing and worse which his peers mercilessly doled out. In the end, Charlie persisted. This brave young man is now a happy and productive adult.

Early into my teaching career, I was fascinated by a book concerning the most important things we learn in school. The author was convinced that he’d learned everything he needed to know for the rest of his life during kindergarten. Today, more than ever, I think we all need to be mindful of those early lessons in getting along and caring for each another. How I wish I could assign some of those currently in office and a few of my fellow citizens to repeat those lessons! The truth is that I sometimes need a similar refresher as well.

So it is that I’m going to take another peek at Charlie’s Facebook post. I’m certain that the image of his smile will reignite my faith in my fellow humans and in myself as we love one another through our battle with COVID-19.

Loving God, help us to be the children you created us to be.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Home, Sweet Home

I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the Lord helped me.

Psalm 118:13

An unexpected April snow drew my eyes to the kitchen window. When I looked through those dancing flakes, I noticed a little bird perched near a hole in our bird house. My feathered friend peered into that hole several times, but didn’t enter. I wondered if he was debating whether or not to move in. I didn’t understand his hesitation because it was quite cold outside. Still, that little bird seemed reluctant to jump into what might be a questionable living situation.

A while later, I returned to the window to see if that bird persisted in his indecision. I sighed a sigh of relief for my feathered friend as he was sitting in the bird house peeking out. I watched for several minutes as his head disappeared and reappeared over and over again. Apparently, he had found his new digs to be suitable shelter from that snow after all.

As I walked away from the window, I considered my own shelter. Actually, it’s my husband’s and mine. Like that little bird, I wondered how this shelter would serve Mike and me for the duration of our stay-at-home response to COVID-19. Fortunately for us, someone has kept an eye on us just as I kept an eye on that little bird. Though I walked away from the window and that bird to tend to this writing and then dinner, God never walks away from watching me. God doesn’t walk away from watching -and loving- any of us. Just as that little bird gave me reason to smile, I’m going to do my best to give God reason to do the same. Will you join me?

Generous God, our lives are an amazing gift. Give me the courage to embrace every opportunity to make the most of my shelter here until I occupy my perfect home with you.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Welcome Home!

Peace and mercy on all who follow this rule of life
and on the Israel of God.

From Galatians 6:15-16

As our plane made its descent toward Ben Gurion International Airport, I experienced a palpable sense of peace. I felt as though I was on my way to a family reunion…

Several years earlier, my husband and I traveled to Croatia to meet his cousins there. Later, we traveled to Sicily to find his grandparents’ hometown. Still later, we flew to Quebec to meet my father’s family. On each of these occasions, we experienced a heartwarming sense of belonging. As we gathered our luggage in the airport in Tel Aviv, I experienced the same in Israel -even more so than I had before.

When we boarded the bus for our hotel, our driver welcomed us. She explained that she was with us only for this first bus ride. Our new driver and the guide I’d come to know so well during our previous trips would see to it that we were warmly welcomed once again on the following day.

As I listened, I realized I didn’t necessarily need to be welcomed after all. My own story had begun in Israel long ago. The one whom they called “Teacher” had laid the foundation for everything of importance to me. When he revealed the essence of God’s love, Jesus also revealed our capacity to love one another. I wouldn’t be the woman, child, sibling, wife, mom, grandma and friend I am today if I hadn’t taken those lessons to heart. Though we may not be blood relatives, Jesus and I are family just the same. Though I wasn’t born in the area as Jesus was, he was part of me. What a homecoming this trip to Israel would be!

Loving God, thank you for the many homecomings I’ve experience along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always At Home

May you be glad on the
same score and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:18

The first leg of trip to Israel (pardon the pun) “flew” by without incident. Our layover provided another opportunity to get to know our fellow travelers. The security staff who oversaw our international boarding were kind and reassuring, perhaps in response to our cooperative adherence to the necessary protocol. In the midst of locating our seats and stowing our carry-on bag, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for the good people around me. After a quick meal, I nuzzled into my seat with another prayer, this time for a nap.

Sleep never came. Some excited passengers chatted the entire time. I wrote “excited” because their pitch and their comments indicated that they were especially happy about their impending return to their home in Tel Aviv. Because I knew what awaited our group there, I began to feel excited, too. Tired as I was, I pulled out our itinerary to scan the list of the special places we’d visit. Each one was now familiar to me. This trip would truly be a homecoming for me as well.

You and I experience homecomings more often that we are aware. We belong to families and neighborhoods, faith communities, social clubs, service organizations and sports teams. We have workplaces and favorite gathering places where we feel very much at home. As I consider them all, I see their common thread. Each one reminds me that I don’t live alone on this earth. Every place where I encounter my fellow humans gives me reason to feel at home. Over the coming days, the Holy Land would be home to me once again.

As I continue my journey through Lent, perhaps I can find ways to make those around me to feel at home as well, especially those who are lonely.

Loving God, thank you for our capacities to be at home with one another and with you.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

U… Unity

If a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.

Mark 3:25

U is for Unity. I’ve just returned from a dear friend’s wake. My friend’s family and circle of friends is large and I joined numerous others in offering my support. The many photos displayed indicated that the people she loved and loves are as varied as our human family can be. As I waited to offer my condolences to her husband and sons, I watched their interactions with those ahead of me. Tears flowed freely and smiles were exchanged generously as they consoled those who’d come to support them. It occurred to me as I watched that none of us is perfect. Yet, when it mattered most, this heartbroken family offered their best to every person who came to mourn with them. U is for Unity and this evening we were one in our sorrow.

It seems to me that this should be true wherever we find ourselves. Regardless of the circumstances, we need to see one another as God’s child. We need to love one another as we love ourselves. We need to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to better understand perspectives which sometimes differ from our own. We need to set aside non-essential details and focus upon the most essential needs of all of our human family and of this world. U is for Unity and this should be especially true of God’s family.

As I imagine my friend enjoying her new home in heaven, I hear her saying, “That’s right, Mary! Now you get it! God has breathed life into billions of children and God loves each one us. God’s only request is that we learn to get along.” My heaven-born friend built community wherever she was quite masterfully. Today, I’m going to try to do the same. Yes, U is for Unity, and I need to do my part to make this a reality when it comes to loving my fellow humans.

Dear God, you love each one of us. Help us to love each other as you do.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

U… Unity…

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
From Mark 11:17

U is for Unity… A few weeks ago, a groom-to-be took his beloved’s breath away with a lovingly orchestrated proposal. Just prior to his bending on one knee, this young man’s and his beloved’s families appeared to witness it all. This effort touched the bride deeply. This couple has drawn close to one another’s families. Their presence hinted at this couple’s intent to nurture these family ties while also laying the foundation of their own family-to-be. When Mike and I joined everyone afterward, we found that all concerned glowed in the love of these two young people.

This couple’s love is tangible. It’s evident in the way they look at each other and in the way they treat one another. Their love washes over all of those around them. It has certainly touched Mike and me. It seems to me that this should be true regarding the love we share as God’s family as well. We needn’t congregate in the same worship places, but we do need to respect one another and to see one another as God’s beloved child. We need to love one another as we love ourselves. We need to set aside the non-essential details of our differences and focus upon the essential needs of all of God’s family.

The couple we celebrated that evening will likely go on to raise children of their own. They’ll love their offspring and their potential mates and their potential grandchildren as only they can. They’ll celebrate the family they have become in everything they say and do. God has breathed life into billions of children and God loves each one of us. God’s only request is that we love each another and care for one another. U is for Unity, the unity we strive to create within God’s family.

Loving God, mold us into one family.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved