Let’s Help With Those Crosses

Carrying his cross by himself, he went out to what is called
The Place Of the Skull, which in Hebrew is Golgotha.

John 19:17

The Second Station: Jesus Bears His Cross

Jesus might have refused the cross. If he just lay on the ground to die, couldn’t he have avoided that painful trek up to Calvary? My conjecture is meaningless because Jesus accepted the cross. Though another man would have fallen under the burden, he persisted. As I imagine this scene, I remember that Jesus was God’s Son, God’s fully human son. His body felt that burden as fully painfully as any one of us would have.

Isn’t it odd that we struggle for power and prestige while Jesus forsook them both for us? While Jesus embraced his cross, we wiggle and squirm just enough to shake away our own burdens. Comfort is too often our goal. Whether it is physical or emotional or financial, we do what we must to ensure our comfort. It occurs to me that I’m happiest when I look beyond my own “comfort issues” to take care of others. Jesus did this all of his life. Perhaps I can do the same just for today.

Loving God, help me to embrace the opportunities before me. Help me to bring a bit of comfort to those whom I meet along the way.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Make Time for God

All who touched him got well.
From Mark 6:56

On this last day of January, I realize that this first month of New Year 2019 has eased me into winter. The warm temps earlier on allowed me to stay as busy as ever both indoors and out. As I shared the other day, I was rather grateful when the snow finally came. It forced me to plan my errands around safe travel and, therefore, to budget my time better. This has allowed my husband and me the opportunity to retreat, to regroup and to nurture our love for one another. It has also allowed me to do the same regarding my relationship with God.

I hope that my affection for the Lord God is obvious in my efforts to fill this space every day. I hope that most of what I do speaks the same. Still, the monotony of daily life and unexpected demands sometimes distract me. I don’t always take the time to speak my affection to God or to simply sit or walk in God’s good company. Winter 2019 is providing the perfect opportunity for me to do just that. Will you join me?

Gracious God, thank you for being with us in everything. I’ll try to show my appreciation by acknowledging your presence by talking with you at least once a day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s in The Midst of Everything!

Though Christmas 2018 already seems a distant memory, I won’t soon forget my husband’s gift to me. Mike knows that I truly enjoy live theater. After investigating the current shows, he opted to purchase tickets for Fiddler on the Roof. Mike discovered that tickets were still available for the play’s final week. All was going well until it came time to select seats online. The two “best available” options were on the aisle of the first row center on the main floor and on the aisle of the first row center of the loge. Since both sets of tickets were offered at the same price, Mike had no clue which were the better option. Would I prefer to be up close and personal with the cast or to have a panoramic view of the entire stage? Brilliant spouse that he is, Mike decided that my input regarding seats was more important than my being surprised on Christmas morning. When posed with my options, it took only a moment for me to announce, “Front row center for sure!” Two weeks ago, when we made our way to those seats, I knew that we wouldn’t be disappointed. It was during the first scene that lead character Tevye and his fellow villagers made it clear that they were performing just for Mike and me.

Though I can sing most of the show’s tunes from memory, I’d forgotten the details of the plot until Tevye, his family and their neighbors gave life to the story. The drama unfolded in a small early Twentieth Century Russian village where most of the inhabitants were of Jewish heritage. Tevye, husband to Golde and father to five daughters, was steeped in the traditions dictated by his culture and his faith. Tevye’s relationship with God became evident when Tevye revealed his favorite form of prayer. Whenever things were very good, very bad and everywhere in between, Tevye turned his eyes upward to address the Lord God directly. Tevye’s trust in God was so great that, after posing his requests, he always added, “But on the other hand…” Tevye always left the final say to God. Though the rest of the audience seemed to find Tevye’s prayer amusing, I squirmed in my seat. This lovable man’s efforts echoed my own prayer far too closely. I’m embarrassed to admit that Tevye’s sometimes sarcastic tone toward God sounded a bit too familiar. Though I squirmed a little more at this realization, Tevye seemed unperturbed. Every time he turned toward God, Tevye was confident that God heard him, that God was indeed in charge and that God would respond appropriately. Even in the midst of the darkest turns of events, Tevye persisted in his prayer. No one in that village was closer to God than Tevye and I want to be like him in that regard.

I share my encounter with Tevye and Fiddler on the Roof because the mother of Jesus addressed her son with Tevye’s confidents. Today, we hear the passage from John’s gospel (John 2:1-11) which recounts Jesus’ first miracle. Jesus and his family attended their neighbors’ wedding. Not long into the festivities, Mary heard that the couple was running out of wine. She immediately approached Jesus for help. Jesus, who was slowly easing into his ministry, told his mother that “his hour” hadn’t yet come. Mary, seemingly oblivious to her son’s reply, simply told the stewards to do whatever Jesus asked. Like Tevye, Mary was certain that Jesus had heard her, that Jesus was in charge and that Jesus would respond appropriately.

Though none of us know much about the lifetime of interactions Mary and Jesus shared before that wedding. I can tell you that Tevye had experienced a lifetime of grueling toil, persistent poverty and persecution before I met him in the theater that night. His experiences in that small Russian village proved to be very similar to Mary’s and her family’s experience in Nazareth. Though they were God-loving people who followed their faith’s traditions devoutly, Mary’s family endured persecution at the hands of their Roman government and its unscrupulous agents. Yet, in spite of their suffering, Mary and her family turned to God. In their joy and in their sorrow, they had prayed as Tevye learned to pray centuries later. It’s no wonder that Mary turned to Jesus with complete confidence.

If you’ve listened to the news lately or read the paper, if you’ve looked down the street or into your own backyard, you’ve likely seen evidence of joy and evidence of suffering in its too numerous insidious forms. When it comes to things being very good, very bad and everywhere in between, our experiences aren’t very different from those of Tevye’s and Jesus’ families. It seems to me that the moral of the story is this: God hears us, God is indeed in charge and God always does and will continue to respond appropriately. All that we are asked to do in the midst of any situation is the best that we can. Then, we must raise our eyes to heaven up close and personally as Mary and Tevye did. With their confidence, we must invite God into the best and worst times of our lives and into everything in between. The truth is that, whether we turn to God or not, God is with us!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Tangible Prayer

All who touched him got well.
From Mark 6:56

Lent 2018 will begin in ten days. Every year, I try to set aside these forty days much the way a couple sets aside time for a getaway together. If my husband and I are astute enough to retreat and to nurture, and sometimes recapture, our love for each other, it makes sense to do the same in our relationships with God. The time I spent in Israel has intensified my need in this regard.

I walked the roads and byways where Jesus taught. I peered into a home in the tiny town of Nazareth which certainly housed Jesus’ neighbors. Had Joseph and Mary and he visited there? I stepped into the ruins of the synagogue where Jesus and Mary Magdalene prayed. Did they meet there or on one of the excavated streets nearby? I spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed to be rid of his cross. I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where everything ended and everything began. Jesus’ life had become frighteningly and awesomely real to me. I left Israel compelled to make this awareness known to Jesus in a tangible way.

I hope that my affection for the Lord God is obvious in my efforts to fill this space every day. I hope that most of what I do speaks to this. Still, daily demands often distract me. I don’t take the time to speak my affection to God or to simply reflect in God’s good company. Lent 2018 provides the perfect opportunity to remedy this. I’ve decided to find my trip itinerary. I’m going to revisit each stop along the way in Jesus’ company. I’ll tell him what it meant to me. Then, I’ll listen for what he has to say…

Good and Gracious God, thank you for the gift of Jesus. He offered us a lifetime of glimpses into your great love for us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

For your kindness is before my eyes,
and I walk in your truth.

Psalm 26:3

My dad would have celebrated his ninety-eighth birthday today. Perhaps I shouldn’t have written “would have” as heaven may acknowledge such milestones with far more revelry than we do!

When I was a little girl, the proximity of my dad’s birthday to Christmas troubled me. Young as I was, I appreciated the possibility that his special day was likely lost in the hustle and bustle of yuletide every year. Eventually, I asked my dad if he minded that his birthday fell two days after Christmas.

My dad replied with great wisdom. He told me that his birth date was just fine with him. After all, Christmas was a very good day which led into his own very good day. The truth is that my grandparents had little money which leads me to believe that my dad didn’t receive many gifts on either day. Still, he shared his memories with a smile big enough to convince this daughter that his childhood Christmases and birthdays were just as they should have been. It occurs to me that I should take this revelation as an invitation to make every day special for someone!

Loving God, thank you for my dad who taught me about your love by loving me so generously.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Prepare For The Journey

They laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him to let them touch
just the tassel of his cloak.
All who touched him got well.

From Mark 6:56

Lent 2017 is just two days away. I spend a good deal of time reflecting about this season because it is precious to me. Every year, I try to set aside these forty days much the way a couple sets aside time for a second honeymoon. If my husband and I are smart enough to retreat and regroup to nurture -and sometimes recapture- our love for each other, it makes sense to do the same in our relationships with God. So it is that I am attempting to recapture the zeal of my childhood Lents by actually planning for this special walk to Easter.

The gospels leave little doubt regarding Jesus’ popularity with ordinary people. Though the temple hierarchy saw Jesus as a threat and the Romans considered him a nuisance, those of little or no stature found everything in him. The sick sought out Jesus at all costs, while others with less obvious needs also found their way to him. This is the reason Lent is so precious to me. It gives me the time to get to know more about that irresistible Jesus who doesn’t need a thing from me, but who longs for my company just the same.

Today, I will plot the journey which I’ll begin on Ash Wednesday. Today, I’ll do as the people of Jesus’ time did and plan ahead for my special encounter with him.

Good and Gracious God, as I prepare for my Lenten journey, encourage me with a glimpse of that heart which is blind to my sinfulness and loves me as I am.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved