Tangible Reminders of God’s Love

God is love…
From 1 John 4:16

While checking to see if the bushes alongside our house were in need of trimming, I found the remains of a burned sparkler. On July 4, I hadn’t noticed anyone with sparklers nearby. Perhaps the morning’s wind had relocated it. As I continued to examine the bushes, my thoughts turned to our July 4th fireworks.

We live near enough to an amusement park to enjoy their annual fireworks display. When our neighborhood trees weren’t so tall, we gathered with our lawn chairs in the center of our cul-de-sac to watch the always-breath-taking display. The trees have grown and our line of vision has shrunk, so we carry our chairs a bit closer to the amusement park’s “launch pad.” Though our view of each colorful burst was unobstructed, the fireworks seemed far away to me this year. If only I could’ve been a little closer…

This minor disappointment gave me reason to consider other occasions when I wished I’d been a little closer. When life’s struggles threaten, I sometimes feel alone as I prepare to face them. It’s only after further thought and following my propensity to look upward for assistance that I realize that I’m never alone in anything. Regardless of the joy or sorrow I encounter, God’s love is the constant which will never ever change. Indeed, God’s love accompanies me through everything.

God of Love, through I’m enjoying a pleasant day, many of your children are struggling. Help us to be tangible reminders of your love to those who need you most.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Truly Free

I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever;
there is no adding to it, or taking from it.

Ecclesiastes 3:14

While visions of last night’s fireworks linger in my memory, so do my memories of a dear friend who left our company just after our July 4th revelry some years ago…

John had battled cancer for months. After completing chemotherapy, John’s doctors, family and friends felt certain that his future was secure. He was a good man and a good priest. His life made all of the difference in the world to each of us. He’d managed far more difficult challenges than this illness.

With this good news to inspire me, I headed to my computer to get a letter off to John. He’d been recuperating at his brother’s home where he was a captive fan. I mailed him a letter and these reflections each week. Since July 4th approached, I wished John a generous measure of freedom with which to get on with his life. My litany began with “…freedom from illness, freedom to breathe in as deeply as you want to –with no pain! I wish you freedom from chemotherapy and I wish you hair! I wish you the freedom to get back to the people and the work you love and the freedom to come and to go as you please.”

John never read that letter. He returned to the hospital the day after its writing. His struggle to breathe had become too much. A drug-induced coma failed to restore his lungs. When pneumonia set in, John couldn’t fight it. John let go of this life to embrace ultimate freedom.

Loving God, John made the most of his freedom by doing good. Be with us as we strive to do the same.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Independence Day

My dream is of a place and a time where
America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.

Abraham Lincoln

Though I normally cite a scripture passage to set the tone for these reflections, I couldn’t resist the quote above. While searching my desktop for something else, I found this amazing bit of wisdom from my favorite president…

On July 4, 1776, our forefathers (and fore-mothers!) saw this neophyte of a nation as just that: The last best hope of earth. Our collective history from that day forward has been punctuated with the very best humanity has to offer. It has also been tarnished by less-than-honorable behavior which has managed to soil us all a bit. Still, we carry on as one imperfect people who celebrate our freedom with every choice we make.

On occasion, I’ve looked upward to ask, “What were you thinking, Dear God, when you gave us free will?” God’s only response is the sound of Divine Laughter echoing throughout the heavens. As unhelpful… No, as terrible as some of our choices have been, God knows that someone somewhere always manages to draw good out of each one. It seems to me that this phenomenon is particularly important these days when so many of our seemingly cemented opinions of things clash at every turn.

On this wonderful day in our nation’s history, I invite you to embrace a bit of independence. Free yourself from your anger and discontent and embrace the good things that are in place around you. At the same time, consider this: Is there something you can do today in your little corner of this nation which will take this country a step closer to her place as the last best hope of this earth? If we can remember that not one of us is all bad, we may just catch a glimpse of the good lying within those with whom we disagree most. When we find that good, let’s all make the most if it!

Dear Patient God, make us good stewards of our freedom and of your love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Near

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.

1 John 4:16

While walking yesterday, I stepped over the remains of a burned sparkler. On July 4, I’d heard lots of activity in the neighborhood and I assumed this sparkler was the result of this revelry. As I continued my walk, my thoughts turned to our July 4th fireworks.

We live near enough to an amusement park to enjoy their annual fireworks. When our neighborhood trees weren’t so tall, we gathered with our lawn chairs in the center of our cul-de-sac to watch the always-breath-taking display. The trees have grown and our line of vision has shrunk, so we carry our chairs a bit closer to the amusement park’s “launch pad”. This year, though our view was unobstructed, the fireworks seemed far away. If only I could have been a little closer…

This minor disappointment gave me reason to consider other occasions when I wished I’d been a little closer. When life’s struggles threaten, I sometimes feel alone as I prepare to face them. It’s only after further thought and following my propensity to look upward for assistance that I realize that I’m never alone in anything. Regardless of the joy or sorrow I encounter, God’s love is the constant which will never change. Though this year’s fireworks seemed a bit distant, God’s love is always deep within me.

God of Love, you know that many of your children are struggling. Today, please touch them with tangible reminders that you’re always nearby.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Another Farewell

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

Ecclesiastes 3:2

Thoughts of our Independence Day revelry linger as do memories of another loss I experienced in early July…

My friend battled cancer. But, after long bouts of chemotherapy, John’s future seemed secure. He was a good man and a good priest. His life made all of the difference in the world all who knew him. Eventually, word spread that John had beaten the cancer and a collective sigh of relief rose to the heavens.

With this good news to inspire me, I headed to my computer to write my next article and to get a letter off to John. My poor friend was a captive fan to whom I mailed my reflections each week. I always included a letter to let him know that we were thinking about him. Because we would observe July 4th a few days later, the holiday set my tone. I wished John a generous measure of freedom with which to get on with his life. My litany began with “…freedom from illness, freedom to breathe in as deeply as you want to –with no pain! I wish you freedom from chemotherapy and I wish you hair! I wish you the freedom to get back to the people and the work you love and the freedom to come and go as you please.”

John didn’t read this letter because he returned to the hospital a day after its writing. Pneumonia had set in and John lacked the stamina to fight it. When John’s life among us ended, he embraced ultimate freedom.

While John enjoys life in the hereafter, I admit to a bit of melancholy. I still miss my friend.

Loving God, I think the most difficult part of this life is saying good-bye. Today, please touch the hearts of all who mourn with your peace.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time For Peace

A time to love, and a time to hate,
a time of war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:8

Each year, Independence Day observances conjure up recurring memories which will always be with me…

My husband and I have enjoyed celebrating July 4 since our first summer together as husband and wife. When our sons came along, they added exponentially to these observances. We live very near the center of our community on a cul-de-sac that was once filled with children. As a result, we all enjoyed our local fireworks displays from the comforts of our front yards. This amazing circus added to my affection for this holiday.

My earliest Independence Day memories include my own family’s quest for the nearest and best fireworks displays. This was particularly important July 4, 1959. My dad passed away early that morning and helpful relatives who whisked us away for the annual family picnic no doubt wondered if any sort of celebration was appropriate that night. Though I saw no fireworks that night, I find great solace in the fireworks displays I’ve observed every year since. Colorful lights bursting in the black sky above suggest resurrection to me. As I watch, I imagine that my dad’s passing into eternal life must have been a million times more glorious. While the sparkling displays above me consistently dissolve into smoke and ash, my dad’s transformation continues with each moment of eternity.

This year, I’m asking my dad to take advantage of this 58th Anniversary of his first day in heaven. I’m asking him to rally all of the good will at his disposal and to shower over this country and our entire world. Perhaps his effort will be enough to nudge each of us to do our parts in working toward world peace. What a miracle it would be to celebrate July 4, 2018, without a gun being fired or a harsh word spoken anywhere.

Loving God, inspire us to use the gift of our freedom to free this world of conflict and discord wherever we find ourselves.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved