Care For One Another

You are more precious than gold,
more precious than a heap of purest gold…

From Psalm 19:11

Last night’s winds shook our trees just enough to fill the lawn with their branches. This afternoon, I grabbed a rake and headed outdoors. A light breeze provided optimum working conditions and I spent a pleasant hour tidying up the yard. Afterward, I headed back to the garage to rehang the rake. On my way, I stubbed my toe. I really stubbed my toe. The resultant pain was excruciating. I broke a toe a few years ago, so I feared the worst. On the way inside for some ice to soothe the pain, my mind drifted back to another toe injury…

Our granddaughters had joined us for a sleepover. I’d run upstairs to get colored pencils I’d purchased for them. On the way, I stubbed my toe on a heavy dresser. Like today, I really stubbed my toe. Immediately afterward, my youngest granddaughter came bouncing into the room. She saw the look on my face and asked, “Are you okay, Grandma?” Though I quickly wiped away a telltale tear and smiled, Claire knew that all was not well. “Oh, I just bumped my toe,” I said. With that, Claire ran downstairs to join her sisters. “Grandma hurt herself, so be quiet,” Claire ordered.

Now my older granddaughters preferred to be in charge back then. Still, they listened. They were especially quiet and cooperative when I joined them a few minutes later. All three girls did everything in their power to lighten my mood. I clearly remember how touched I was by their efforts. Just thinking about their sweet kindness distracted me from today’s injury.

When I finally sat with that ice pack in place, I felt much better in spite of my aching toe. My husband and I did our best to nurture loving and compassionate sons. Apparently, we’d succeeded at some level as illustrated by our granddaughters’ merciful response to my misery. It occurs to me that God created each one of us to be loving and compassionate. The best way to show our appreciation is to respond to one another in kind. Today, this is more important than ever…

Dear God, remind us often that your most pressing request is that we care for one another as you care for us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love One Another

Love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

From John 15:12-13

I admit to lots of anger over the suffering of so many around us. Whether they are my own family and friends nearby or children stricken by illness half a world away, I find it difficult to accept that there’s nothing I can do to help. You see, I’m convinced that we can alleviate some of this world’s suffering if we begin from an inclusive and loving perspective. This isn’t wishful thinking on my part. This is practical thinking.

When we support minimum-wage workers who’ve been laid-off due to the pandemic, we invest in a workforce who will be up and ready to help reopen our economy. When a local restaurant secures a loan to keep employees on the payroll to cook and do carry-outs, we secure one of the staples of our community. When the local barber receives a grant to cover the rent until he can reopen his shop, another neighborhood staple breathes in new life. When we support food pantries and other agencies who reach out to the least among us, we plant seeds of hope along the way.

What a different world this would be if we set aside our own agendas for the good of others! Truly, when we put the suffering ahead of ourselves, we amass goodness for ourselves as well. What a different world this would be if we did lay down our lives for one another. What a different world this would be…

Loving God, you gift us all with the ability to make this world a better place. Help us to realize our potential and to make a positive mark as only we can. And, please dear God, forgive my impatience as I hone my own positive mark-making skills.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Worth It!

If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
From John 15:20

A few weeks ago, my husband received a call from a friend with whom he served as a hospice chaplain. Afterward, Mike smiled as he recalled some of the remarkable people who shared their last days with him. Whenever he talks about these experiences, one of his favorite patients always comes to mind. Though a day of hospice visits often proved to be taxing, Mike returned home with a smile whenever he saw Marie. This elderly woman was filled with the most amazing bits of wisdom and she generously shared one or another of them during Mike’s visits.

My husband will never forget his favorite morsel which came in these words: “They can say life is a bowl of cherries, but I say it’s a bowl of pits!” Throughout the remainder of his visits with Marie, this comment stood out. He and Marie laughed often at the truth of her observation!

As life unfolds around us and we behave ourselves and try to do the right thing, we sometimes feel entitled to carefree days and smooth sailing. Unfortunately, as the current pandemic unceasingly reminds us, this isn’t the case for any of us. As the passage above from John’s gospel reminds us, even Jesus didn’t have it easy on this earth. Why, then, would things be any different for you and me? The best we can do is what Jesus did: Love and care for one another in the same way we hope to be loved and cared for in spite of what is going on around us.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of Jesus. In spite of everything, he convinces us that this life is worth all of our effort.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Grateful, Even Today

I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

It’s Mother’s Day Eve and I’m counting my blessings. In spite of our current stay-at-home status and the distance between me and those I love most, I am grateful for so much…

As I assemble my list, I write “Being a mom”. This is the best job I’ve ever had! Next, I write “Mom” with a flourish. I learned a lot from my mom. Even her imperfections taught me important life lessons. As it happened, it was the grace with which my mom lived her last days which touched me and taught me most.

Three days before my mom passed away, fatigue confined her to bed. Her daytime attire changed from street clothes to a nightgown to a hospital gown within seventy-two hours. This day, I arrived just as Ruth, her nurse, was spooning tiny dollops of ice cream into my mom’s mouth. After giving me a “Hi, Mary” smile, my mom turned to Ruth to whisper, “Thank you for the ice cream.” Afterward, Ruth helped her to the washroom. As Ruth nestled my mom into the wheelchair, my mom whispered again, “Thank you for your help.” Mom held on tightly when Ruth wrapped her arms around her to ease her back into bed. As she left, my mom’s eyes followed Ruth to the door. Ruth turned to wave and my mom smiled in gratitude. Later, when the activity director came to see how she was doing, Mom met her with another of her grateful smiles.

In spite of her impending passing, my mother concerned herself with the people around her. She never complained and was ever grateful for even the smallest kindness. Whether or not it was part of ones job or part her children’s duty to care for their dying parent, my mom always whispered, “Thank you!” Yes, even in the midst of our pandemic woes, I have much to say “Thank you” for. We all do!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dear God, thank you for the gift of my mom. She revealed your generosity, grace and love until the end. Give me the courage to offer the same to those I meet along the way, especially now.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share The Love

I recognize that there is nothing better than to be grateful…
From Ecclesiastes 3:12

Lucy had run to the store to do her bi-weekly shopping. She carefully made her way down each aisle to avoid other shoppers. The last thing she wanted to do was to bring “that virus” home with her groceries. She breathed a sigh of relief as she neared the checkout. Everyone had done well social distancing and Lucy would soon be safely out the door. It was then that a voice called, “Lucy, is that you?”

Before Lucy could reply, that voice announced to the clerk, “I’ll be paying for her groceries. Lucy, just keep your distance and let me take care of this.” Though Lucy protested, the other woman would have no part of it. “You helped me when I couldn’t feed my kids. I’m working now and we’re doing great, so please, let me do this for you!” Touched as Lucy was, she replied, “I helped you because you needed it. That’s what friends do. If you want to do something in return, just pay it forward.”

When my friend called to share this story, I told her that I hadn’t heard those words in years. Lucy’s insistence that she “pay it forward” elicited images from an amazing movie I’d seen more than a decade ago. Later that day, I did a search for Pay It Forward and spent a few minutes enjoying clips from this movie which so touched my heart.

It occurs to me that God is likely a big fan of paying it forward. Lucy never expected her generosity to be returned. She simply did what she did to help someone in need. When her friend finally agreed to pass on her gratitude, Lucy was thrilled. When we take the time to pay God’s blessings forward, I think God is thrilled as well!

Creative God, inspire our generosity and make us expert at paying forward your love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Merciful

Blessed are they who show mercy;
mercy shall be theirs.

Matthew 5:7

Many beautiful churches, mosques and chapels flank the holy places within Israel’s borders. The Mount of the Beatitudes is no exception. The Church of The Beatitudes was built in 1938 for the Franciscan Sisters. Our guide shared an unexpected aspect of the building’s history. It was funded by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Though history seems to indicate otherwise, I hope that Jesus who first spoke The Beatitudes touched this tyrant in some way.

Our guide also pointed out that the dome of this church is eight-sided. Each side depicts one of Jesus’ “Blest are…” statements. As I consider Jesus’ radical stance in viewing the most troubled of us as blessed, I cannot help thinking of Mussolini and the many other dictators who have ravaged our world. Mussolini seems to have been inspired by his father who was an outspoken anti-cleric. Why did his father’s message take hold over everything else he learned?

I cannot explain Mussolini’s actions any more than I can explain those of the others who have marred our history with their atrocities. However, I think I can explain Jesus’ thinking when he encountered such evildoing. It was sixty years ago. My widowed aunt and her children lived in the flat below us. It was late at night when a mugger brutally beat my aunt as she returned from her job cleaning office buildings downtown. The following morning, my mother told us what had happened. We scrambled down the stairs to wish our aunt well. Bruised and disfigured as she was, my aunt told us, “I’m praying hard for that guy. Can you imagine the terrible things that must have happened to him to make him do this to me? You need to pray for him, too.”

When Jesus looked into the eyes of the suffering and of those who caused that suffering, he saw everything that brought them to the moment at hand. Today, I’ll pray for all of us who are doing terrible things to others and I’ll pray for their victims. I’ll also replace my own unkind urges with mercy. I can’t afford to contribute any more suffering to this world of ours. None of us can.

Merciful God, give us loving and merciful hearts like yours.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved