Y… Yearning!

My soul yearns and pines for the Lord.
My heart and my soul cry out for God.

Psalm 84:3

Y is for Yearning. Sometimes, only God will do.

After retiring from his first career as a school principal, my husband worked as a hospice chaplain. This work touched him deeply. Though we consider ourselves to be “God-aware” people, this experience brought new depth in this regard to both of us. Mike observed often that, when a patient seemed to have lost every means of communication, he or she somehow managed to acknowledge prayer. Whether by squeezing a hand, blinking an eye, smiling ever so slightly or whispering an “amen”, even those closest to death became present when it was time to pray. Some patients rapt in comas seemed to breathe more calmly when those around them prayed. When all else was said and done, God remained present to each one.

Though most of us are not in need of hospice care at the moment, we are all in need of God. When no one else comprehends our suffering, it is God who experiences every detail of it with us. When we cannot mouth a single word, much less breathe without shedding more tears, God understands our situations completely. God is with us -ALWAYS!

In times of suffering, when I’m certain that no one understands my heartbreak, I feel completely alone for only a millisecond. If I pay attention, I realize within that instant that God is with me. Yes, sometimes, only God will do. Always, God will do!

Merciful and loving God, thank you for satisfying my yearning with your presence.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Inspire Hope

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!

Isaiah 35:4

The temperature had risen enough to coax me outdoors to our driveway. There were a few patches of ice there and on the sidewalk which needed to be broken up. If I tended to these nuisances right away, the sun would melt them out of existence.

As I worked at the task at hand, a group of children ran out of the school across the way for recess. I smiled as I imagined their teachers thanking God for weather warm enough to allow for this reprieve from managing their classrooms. This was no criticism as I thanked God often for the same over the years. The joyful bantering that filled the air turned my thoughts to Christmas Past in my own classroom…

Most of my students counted the days to Christmas with great relish. Every year, however, one or two of my students dreaded this departure from their daily routines. These children lived in dire poverty. School lunches were the best of their meals and our simple class parties were the best of their Christmases. Too often, the lack of material treasures in their lives paled in the shadow of their lack of love and security. The adults around them, burdened with their own troubles, missed the hurt and hopelessness growing in their children’s eyes.

As I chopped the ice in my driveway, I prayed for these special children who appreciated the little gifts I hid in their backpacks almost as much as they appreciated my attention throughout the day at school. Though I didn’t have the resources to alleviate all of their poverty, I did manage to ignite a bit of hope in these amazingly resilient children.

If a needy child is pulling at your heartstrings this Christmas, respond. I assure you that you won’t regret it. Neither will that little one!

God of hope, let this child share your love with my smile and your hope with what I’m able to share.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Twelve + One Miracles!

Out of the depths, we dance before you, O Lord,
because, Lord, you heard our voices and you stayed with us.
You gave us the wisdom to persist and to think and to pray until we got it right.
And, Lord, we did!

A joyous and grateful rewrite of Psalm 130

I went to bed Monday night with a prayer on my lips. Though I normally fall asleep quickly, that night, I lay wide-eyed as I began. After acknowledging that God has placed the welfare of this planet and of each one of us in our hands, I also acknowledged that God remains with us in everything. I dared to go on. I pointed out that I would never stand by in the midst of a tragedy and do nothing. I also pointed out that it is God who instilled this propensity to help within me. With that, I added the obvious…

“Dear God, I know you feel the same way. Please breathe enough know-how and stamina and courage into those divers to make their way to the remaining four soccer kids and their coach. Then, please give the same to those kids and that coach so they can all emerge from that cave alive and well.”

I normally don’t hear responses when I pray and Monday night was no exception. However, for unknown reasons, I fell asleep contemplating just how proud God must have been of all who were participating in this rescue. Seven countries assisted the Thais in these efforts. The Thai people stood by as so many did around the world offering ongoing prayers for all concerned.

This morning, I woke to the news that the recovery was complete. I looked upward through tears of joy to whisper my thanks that all twelve soccer kids and their coach were rescued. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We can accomplish the amazing and, yes, the miraculous, when we work together for good.

God of Love, thank you for fashioning us with such remarkable abilities. Be with us as we try to emulate that rescue team’s good will at every opportunity.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gift Them with Hope

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!

Isaiah 35:4

Something nudged me toward the obituary section of the paper. Much to my surprise, I encountered the name of one of my former students. “How can this be?” I asked myself. “Robert is only 51.”

As I recalled vivid memories of this young man as a third grader, noise outdoors drew me to the window. I looked past our lawn to the school across the street. A group of children had come out for recess. I smiled as I imagined Robert doing the same. Though he could sometimes be a handful, Robert had a very good heart. My thoughts turned to my own classroom and the Christmas celebrations I’d enjoyed there.

Like Robert, most of my students counted the days to Christmas with great relish. Robert enjoyed the holidays with his family. At the same time, a few of his classmates dreaded this departure from their daily routines. These children lived in poverty. School lunches were the best of their meals and our simple class parties were the best of their Christmases. Too often, the lack of material treasures in their lives paled in the shadow of their lack of love and security. The adults around them had their own troubles which made Christmas a low priority. As for Robert, he had a kind heart. How often he looked beyond his own mischief to extend kindness to his less fortunate friends. Robert never teased one of them!

As I continued to watch the carefree youngsters on the playground across the street, I prayed for Robert, that eternity will bring him a plethora of Christmas-like days. I also prayed for children in need, that somehow the rest of us find ways to provide for them.

Dear God, help us to bring hope to this in need as best we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Gets It

“…But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to God in secret.”

From Matthew 6:6

I’ve shared before that I’ve found myself frustrated as of late. Though I manage my own troubles reasonably well, I have difficult with my inability to “fix” the troubles of those I love. I don’t like to see anyone suffering. Even the woes of those who might not list me among their friends give me reason to pity them and to help them as best I can.

So it is that I do what I can as I wonder why things have to be “this way” or “that way”. When I’m in the midst of my best fretting and hand-wringing, it occurs to me that I’m relying on the wrong one to solve the problems and to soothe the suffering around me. It is then that I sheepishly retreat to the quiet of prayer. Wherever this might be at the moment, I turn over my thoughts and all that troubles me to the One who makes all of the difference in everything. Though the results may not be of my design, simply knowing that God “gets it” brings me immeasurable consolation. This is all that I need. This is all that any of us need to pull ourselves together and carry on.

Compassionate God, thank you for listening to my troubles large and small.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Fill Them With Joy

God will be gracious to you when you cry out;
as soon as God hears, God will answer you.

From Isaiah 30:19

It was early December during the year I was assigned to teach second grade. A little boy in my class Joey arrived at school in tears. It was the eve of St. Nicholas Day and Joey’s older brother announced that he was not putting out his shoes in anticipation of a visit from the jolly old saint. He had told poor Joey that this tradition was for babies and that no one would be visiting their apartment that night. Joey had placed his hope in this yuletide saint for as long as he could remember because his grandparents had brought this tradition with them from their homeland. Joey was crestfallen over his brother’s loss of hope. I knew that Joey’s family had recently experienced a rough turn of events and I wondered if his older brother knew that there was no money for “extras” this year.

I consoled Joey as best I could and then decided to arrange for a visit from St. Nicholas at school. I expanded our social studies lesson that day to include a discussion of holiday traditions. After Joey and his classmates shared their family traditions, I asked if they’d like to prepare for a visit from St. Nicholas. The possibility of unexpected surprises resulted in unanimous agreement. At the end of the day, the children left their gym shoes on their desks. After school, I hurried out to purchase small treats and crayons for each of them. The next morning, I arrived early to fill their shoes with these treasures. When I went outdoors to gather my students, Joey ran to me to report that St. Nicholas had indeed visited his home. “Even my big brother found stuff in his shoes!” So did Joey’s classmates.

Dear God, when I see unhappiness and doubt in others, help me to replace their hopelessness with your joy.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved