God’s Characters

“I have found you and
with my holy oil I anoint you…”

From Psalm 89:21

A few days ago, I referenced a childhood photograph which conjured up a regretful memory. Today, a second look at that photo brought a smile to my face. My brother, my four sisters and I are posed on the steps of our front porch. We’re dressed in our Easter finery. On such occasions, a family gathering of some magnitude followed. Such celebrations usually spilled out onto that porch if the weather was at all bearable. Since my parents had eighteen siblings between them, our extended family included an amazing variety of characters. I write “characters” with appreciative thoughts of each one!

Characters of every sort enrich my life. Family, neighbors, schoolmates and church friends account for many. By the time I was sixteen and took my first job at a grocery store, I was quite adept at interacting with others. This came to good use in college, when I eventually married and began my teaching career. All the while, I enjoyed the characters whom I met along the way.

Most precious are the moments I’ve shared individually. These encounters allowed glimpses of others which I might have missed in a crowd. It’s likely that many of these special people have no idea of their contribution to my humble existence. Still, each one reminds me in one way or another that we are all God’s anointed ones. Each of us is a unique gift to those around us and to this world. Yes, we are all God’s characters, sent to enrich others along the way. As we ease back into our new normal, may we all share the best of our characters as only we can!

Dear God, stay with us as we renew our appreciation of ourselves, of one another and of our world.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Just As We Are

Though I’ve shared my fascination with bubbles before, a recent encounter and today’s scripture passages urge me to revisit this favorite topic. For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a supply of bubbles in the cabinet under our kitchen sink. This began decades ago when our older son was a little boy. I introduced Little Mike to the joy of bubble-watching as soon as he was able to notice the bubbles I created around him. There is something magically mesmerizing about these delicately colored spheres. Whether they sail slowly in the still air or flit about in a brisk breeze, bubbles hold our attention until they literally pop out of sight. I’m convinced that our son shared my enthusiasm because he happily chased the bubbles I created. He was particularly pleased when a bubble rested nearby on the lawn, a leaf and sometimes on his own hand. Eventually, our firstborn learned to blow bubbles himself. He was in heaven and so was I! When little brother Tim came along and grew old enough to appreciate bubbles as well, his big brother happily joined his dad and me in our creative efforts. We blew bubbles for Timmy until he also became competent at this amazing art.

Throughout the years since, I’ve replenished my bubble inventory often. I’ve even made room on a shelf in the garage for those larger cylinder-shaped bottles with foot-long wands. When the wind cooperates, they allow me to create the largest and most plentiful bubbles ever. One never knows when bubbles will be needed to add a bit of joy to the moment at hand. As for me, in every instance of bubble-blowing I find myself incapable of suppressing a smile. Last weekend was no exception. Our granddaughters stayed with Grandpa and me while their parents attended a wedding. This trio consists of a seventh grader, a fifth grader and a third grader who usually present themselves as independent and mature preteens -yes, even that third grader! At least this is usually the case until they arrive at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s home. As soon as they walk through the door, they morph into little girls who enjoy playing with blocks and years-old toys. They also share their grandma’s love for blowing bubbles.

So it was that shortly after they arrived that day each of my granddaughters selected a bottle of bubbles from under the kitchen sink. After also taking some bubbles for me, the girls suggested that we head to the playground across the street. There they could run and blow bubbles to their hearts’ content. Since Grandpa would be busy with a wedding rehearsal until dinner, we had plenty of time for this outing. For an amazing hour, we blew bubbles in every direction. When the girls moved on to the playground equipment, I climbed atop a slide just high enough not to threaten by safety. From my above-ground perch, I blew bubbles wherever the girls ran. Those bubbles interrupted their play often. Sometimes, they chased my creations and sometimes they simply watched them float in the air. Perhaps my granddaughters appreciate the miracle of these delightful orbs as much as I.

As I rejoiced in my “bubble blessings” that afternoon, it occurred to me that this phenomenon hints at the delight God finds in each one of us. Though the film on my bubble wand looked the same every time I replenished it, every bubble I created took on its own coloring, shape and size. If I find such joy in breathing life into a bubble of soap film, imagine the elated expectation God feels when another of us emerges to embrace life on this earth! If I relish every moment with a bubble, whether it pops in three seconds or dances in the air for three minutes, imagine how precious each of our lives is to our beloved Creator! Whether we live for decades, an entire century or just a few days, there is never disappointment in the direction or length of our paths. God’s only hope in sending us on our way is that we do the best we can to delight in one another with as much love as we can muster all the while. The best part is that, just as I watch my bubbles for their entire life spans, God watches over every one of us!

I acknowledge that today’s scripture passages suggest some inconsistencies in the way God expresses this love for us. In the first reading, Isaiah (22:19-23) chastised the Hebrews who felt they were the only ones whom God would welcome into the Holy City. Isaiah insisted there was room for many others as well. This realization that God appreciates our differences is good news for us all. In his letter to the Hebrews (12:5-7, 11-13), Paul noted that much suffering would come to those who lived as God’s children. Though Paul described these hard times as God’s discipline, it seems to me that it is we humans who create much of this world’s misery. In the gospel (Luke 13:22-30), Luke tells us that the disciples asked Jesus if only a few would be saved. After offering a bit of caution regarding the propensity of some to think that self-proclaimed good deeds would get them into heaven, Jesus continued: “For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” While scripture scholars and preachers explain these passages further, I’m taking a lesson from the miracle of bubbles: In spite of our color, size, shape and path, God delights in our existence. In spite of and because of our uniqueness, God’s affection and good will toward each of us remain intact. God breathes life into us with great hope, far more hope than I breathe into my bubbles. Indeed, God breathes life into each one of us with the full expectation that we will evolve into the amazingly unique souls whom God will welcome home one day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

H is for Holy

Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

1 Samuel 3:19

H is for Holy. The dictionary defines holy as belonging to or coming from God; sacred; consecrated. When I was a child, I was convinced that holy was an adjective attributed only to God and the saints of old who lived perfectly moral and upright lives. Though I hoped to be a saint one day by gaining admittance to heaven, I never expected to be considered holy on any level.

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune of associating with people who understand holiness far more completely than I. They generously shared their conviction that anything and any one “of God” is holy. Since we and all of creation are God’s handiwork, we are indeed holy. Just as God remained with Samuel and blessed him with a purposeful life, so God blesses you and me.

As I consider my personal bouts with discouragement and guilt, I find that I move beyond these things best when I remember that I am “of God.” I am holy. You are holy, too. No one else’s opinion, no failure, no guilt, nothing you or I can do will ever change this. Yes, you are “of God” and so am I. We are holy.

Holy God, inspire us to realize that we are truly holy and help us to live accordingly.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Much-Loved Characters

“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him…”

Psalm 89:21

A recent conversation with a dear lifelong friend conjured up fond memories of our upbringing. His family mirrors my own in that it’s loving and large. We grew up on the same block where our gatherings with relatives often poured out onto our front and back porches. Though my friend has eleven siblings and I have only five, we were both reared with an amazing variety of “characters” in our lives. By the way, I write that with loving thoughts of them all!

Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with characters of every sort. Because I grew up down the block from our church, streams of fellow parishioners passed our house on their way to Mass each week. By the time I was sixteen and took my first job at a grocery store, I was quite adept at interacting with others. This came to good use in college, when I eventually married, began my teaching career and became involved in a new parish. All the while, I enjoyed the array of people who came with my new digs.

Still, more precious are the moments I’ve shared individually with others. These encounters offer glimpses of amazing souls whom I might have missed in a crowd. Many have no idea of their contribution to my humble existence. Each precious one reminds me that King David isn’t God’s only anointed one. Each of us is sent out to bless those around us and to bless this world with the unique gift of our self. Yes, each one of us is a “character” whom God has anointed and sent to enrich everyone we meet along the way.

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us and trusting us to enrich this world!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Even More Than Bubbles!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a supply of bubbles in the cabinet under our kitchen sink. This began when our older son Mike was just old enough to appreciate the joy of “bubble watching”. There is something magically mesmerizing about those colorful spheres. Whether they sail slowly in the still air or flit about in a breeze, they hold our attention until they pop out of sight and into nowhere. I’m convinced that my son shared my enthusiasm because he happily chased the bubbles his dad and I created. He was particularly pleased when a bubble rested on the lawn, a leaf or his own hand. Eventually, little Mike learned to blow bubbles on his own and he was in heaven! When Mike’s little brother came along and grew old enough to appreciate bubbles as well, Mike happily took over for his dad and me. He blew bubbles for Tim until that little boy also became competent at this amazing art.

Throughout the years since, I’ve continued to replenish my bubble inventory. They’ve provided ongoing entertainment to our nieces and nephews and the children of friends who stopped in. I’ve also brought bubbles enough to our family picnics to allow each of the children a chance to create his or her own variety of rainbow wonders. These days, my grandchildren enjoy my under-the-sink cache much to my delight. The truth is that in every instance of bubble-blowing I find myself incapable of suppressing a smile.

Last week I spent the day with our little grandson. I decided to take advantage of the morning’s breeze by enjoying an early walk. In the garage as I nestled Danny into his stroller, he pointed his finger and said, “Dah! Dah! Dat!” When I looked in the direction he indicated, I saw a bottle of bubbles. “Oh, wow!” I told Danny. “We can blow bubbles!” So it was that before we began our walk, we sat under a shady tree. For fifteen wonderful minutes, I blew bubbles which incited Danny to point and to giggle and to stare in awe. All the while, I marveled at each delightful orb. Though they looked quite similar as I blew life into them, each one took on its own coloring, shape and size. Each one also made its own way in a refreshing breeze that seemed to come from nowhere on that humid morning. Finally, Danny and I started our walk. In spite of the oppressive heat that began to take hold, nothing would diminish the delight Danny and I had found in those bubbles. As we strolled along, I had an unexpected bounce in my step and Danny happily pointed out “dah” and “dat” and “dit” all along the way.

As I rejoiced in my “bubble blessings” that morning, it occurred to me that this phenomenon hints at the delight God finds in every one of us. If I can find such joy in breathing life into a three-inch-diameter bubble of soap film, imagine the elated expectation God must feel when another of us emerges to embrace life on this earth! If I can relish every moment with a bubble whether it pops in three seconds or dances in the air for three minutes, imagine how precious each of our lives -short or long- is to our beloved Creator! There is never disappointment in the direction or length of our paths. God’s only hope in sending us on our way is that we do the best we can to delight in one another with as much love as we can muster all the while.

I acknowledge that some scripture passages suggest inconsistencies in the way God expresses this love for us. In Isaiah 22:19-23, the prophet chastises the Hebrews who feel they are the only ones whom God will welcome into the Holy City. Isaiah insists there is room for many others as well. In his letter to the Hebrews (12:5-7, 11-13), Paul adds that much suffering comes to those who live as God’s children. I imagine his followers scratching their heads in response. In Luke’s gospel (13:22-30), the disciples ask Jesus if only a few people will be saved. After offering a bit of caution regarding the propensity of some to think that self-proclaimed good deeds will get them into heaven, Jesus ends with, “For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

I’ve decided to leave it to scripture scholars and preachers to explain just what these passages meant to the audiences for whom they were written. As for me, I will take a lesson from the miracle of bubbles: In spite of our color, size, shape and path, God delights in our existence. In spite of and because of our uniqueness, God’s affection and good will toward each of us remain intact -always!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved