Beloved Servants

He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet and
dry them with the towel around his waist.

John 13:4-5

Amazing, isn’t it? Jesus knew all that was in store for him, yet he persisted. The rumblings among the people weren’t muffled enough to shield him from the probabilities which would begin to unfold within hours. Still, Jesus set aside his worry to serve those he had been given to love. I was gifted with a mom who followed Jesus’ lead precisely…

When my sisters and I gathered with heavy hearts to tell our mom the results of her surgery. The doctor had removed her eighty-two year old gall bladder with great success. Unfortunately, the disease which resulted in this procedure had spread to other organs. Nothing more could be done except to keep our mom as comfortable as possible.

When we shared this news with her, our mom immediately declared, “I’ve had a good long life. I wanted to leave a family that contributed and I have. I hope I can do what I want to do for as long as I can.” With that, our mom went on to say that she would no longer need the bedrooms she used at my sister’s and my homes. She would become a permanent resident of the facility we’d selected for her recovery. When she settled into her new home, our mom continued to do everything she could to make her eventual passing as easy as possible for us. This was her custom, you know. Our mom always put others before herself.

Tonight, as we wait with Jesus, let’s pick up our own basins and towels. Someone nearby needs his or her feet to be washed as only we can.

Dear God, we will wait through this night with Jesus just as you always wait with us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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The Hero Among Us

My dear husband and I had been overwhelmed by the tasks at hand for weeks. Then, Mike contracted the flu which evolved into bronchitis and an ear infection. I was medicated for preventative purposes. Still, I managed to catch a cold of my own. In a last-ditch effort to feel healthy again, we retreated to the north for a few days. We’d hoped to leave those pesky contagions behind and to breathe in some fresh Wisconsin air. As it happened, we did relax for most of those three days away. While Mike alternated between watching reruns and napping, I sought refuge in a thick worn paperback which has been with me since sophomore year of college. While Mike snoozed in the recliner across from me, I nuzzled into the corner of the couch. I didn’t turn to the beginning of my book because I didn’t have the time. Rather, I thumbed through hundreds of pages until I came to the section most familiar to me near the end of that book. I looked carefully until I found the passage I needed to read for this writing. Before I began, I turned my eyes and my thoughts heavenward. Though this would be a difficult interlude with the written word, it would also be a source of great peace for me if only I persisted…

A few paragraphs into the narrative, a chill ran down my spine. The passage I poured over hit a little too close to home. Without warning, difficult memories from my own life resurfaced. I looked away from the page to take a deep breath. Still, the tears flowed freely. This story’s hero is near and dear to me and I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that he approached the end of his life. He had maintained a positive and tough exterior while I lamented. I found him tying up loose ends in an attempt to leave those he loved with the best of his wisdom. Though his tone was hopeful, my hero suffered within. Worry regarding the path ahead threatened to shake his faith. His closest companions failed to sense this. When a few began to take notice, the events at hand distracted them from their concern. I had no doubt that my hero’s friends would be completely overwhelmed as the plot continued to unfold.

As I read on through those final pages with my hero, my own trials and tribulations resurfaced. I suppose this occurred because I identify with his story on many levels. He and I seem to approach the things that are most important to us in the same away. He loved his family just as I love my own. He was devoted to his parents whose most poignant lessons came through example rather than words. My parents taught me with their actions as well. My hero was very much at home in his faith because his parents introduced him to God when he was just a baby. My parents did the same. My hero lost his father early on, yet he grew into a devoted son who made his mother proud. Though my dad’s untimely death caused him to miss most of my childhood, I managed to make my mom proud once or twice as well. When those around him faced difficulties, this hero who seems more like a friend consistently stepped up to help. Though I often fail, I really do try to do the same.

When I turned back to my dog-eared text, I was struck by my hero’s persistence in the face of the worst this life had to offer him. Though he occasionally withdrew to regroup and to replenish his soul, he never abandoned his mission. Indeed, he returned every time more convinced than ever that he was walking the right path. I read on to find my hero as he left a holiday dinner. He had bared his soul to his friends regarding his love for them and he’d offered a final gesture of his devotion to each one. When he rose from their dinner table, my hero wondered if any of his friends had grasped his meaning. It was with a heavy heart that he led them out into the night. He left them to rest in a garden and then moved on to an isolated patch to consider what hours ahead would bring. He always turned to his dad on such occasions and that night is no exception. “Abba,” he prayed, “if you are willing, take this cup away from me…” Fear overwhelmed him and he sweated droplets of blood. Still, he turned to his father once again to add, “still, not my will but yours be done.”

With that, I set aside my tattered bible and closed the page on Luke’s passion account (Luke 22:14-23:56). As calamities from my own life flooded my memory, Jesus’ words filled my heart. I realized that I’d survived these things because I’d followed Jesus’ lead with absolute confidence. Every time, I had turned to the parent Jesus and I share, and, every time, God had accompanied me through what lay ahead. Every single time!

This Palm Sunday, as we listen to Jesus’ story, we acknowledge all that Jesus said and did. In Jesus’ life, we find the strength to endure. In his passion and death, we find the hope that urges us on. Jesus never promised that our lives will be easy, but Jesus did promise often that we will never be alone in our efforts. Today and throughout this Holy Week, we celebrate this hero who has shown us the way to live with courage, to die with hope and to rise into the reality of the resurrection which awaits us all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Thursday… Jesus’ Last Supper

When the hour arrived, he took his
place at table, and the apostles with him.
He said to them, “I have greatly desired to eat
this Passover with you…”

Luke 22:14

I know I shared this just a few days ago, but I must return to Jerusalem and the monastery chapel next door to The Upper Room. I was deeply moved by my visit to the Upper Room though archaeologists are reasonably certain that this is not the location of Jesus’ Last Supper. That nearby monastery doesn’t claim to be this holy place either. Still, the life-size sculpture of the Last Supper certainly gave me reason to pause. While I was moved by the large figures who brought that amazing night to life, it was the lone statue of Mary Magdalene which assured me that, had I been there, Jesus would have welcomed me in as well.

I chose to share Luke’s passage regarding the Last Supper because it captures the sense of homecoming which overwhelmed me throughout my stay in Israel. Jesus seemed to say, “I have greatly desired to spend this time with you.” At every turn, I was acutely aware of God’s presence in a particular place or within the people there. Sometimes, God came in strangers and sometimes in those with whom I traveled. Our dear tour guide Yossi would blush upon hearing how often his words and kindness and musical interludes ushered me into God’s company.

On this Holy Thursday, the same words are spoken to each one of us… I have greatly desired to eat this meal and to spend this time with you!

Dear God, though I know what followed that meal, tonight I celebrate this time at table together.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Thursday

When the hour arrived, he took his
place at table, and the apostles with him.
He said to them, “I have greatly desired to eat
this Passover with you…”

Luke 22:14

Let’s return to Jerusalem and the church next door to the Upper Room. I was deeply moved by my visit to the Upper Room though archaeologists aren’t certain that this is the precise location of the Last Supper. That nearby church doesn’t claim to be this holy place either. Still, the life-size sculpture of the Last Supper certainly gave me reason to pause. While I was moved by the large figures who brought that amazing night to life, it was the lone statue of Mary Magdalene which assured me that, had I been there, Jesus would have welcomed me in as well.

I chose to share Luke’s passage regarding the Last Supper because it captures the sense of homecoming which overwhelmed me throughout my stay in Israel. Jesus seemed to say, “I have greatly desired to spend this time with you.” At every turn, I was acutely aware of God’s presence in a particular place or within the people there. Sometimes, God came in strangers and sometimes in those with whom I traveled. Our dear tour guide Yossi would blush upon hearing how often his words and kindness and musical interludes ushered me into God’s company.

On this Holy Thursday, the same words are spoken to each one of us… I have greatly desired to eat this meal and to spend this time with you!

Dear God, though I know what followed that meal, tonight I celebrate this time at table together.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Hero

Though three unread books rest on the table next to me, I ignore them. I’m far too busy to begin anything new. So it is that I take refuge in a thick worn paperback which has been with me since sophomore year of college. I don’t turn to the beginning of the book because I haven’t the time. I quickly thumb through hundreds of pages until I come to the section most familiar to me near the end of the book. I look carefully until I find the passages I need to read today. Before I begin, I offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Though this will be a difficult interlude with the written word, I already sense the peace which awaits me there. I nestle into my recliner and hold that book close as I begin…

Only a few paragraphs into the narrative, a chill runs down my spine. The passage I’ve just pored over hits a little too close to home. Without warning, the most difficult memories from my own life resurface. I look away from the page to take a deep breath before the tears flow too freely. This story’s hero is near and dear to me and I’m not ready to accept that he approaches the end of his life. Still, he maintains a positive and tough exterior. At this point, he is tying up loose ends in an attempt to leave those he loves with the best of his wisdom and love. Though his tone is hopeful, my hero suffers within. Misgivings regarding the immediate future threaten to shake his faith, but his family and friends fail to sense this. While some begin to notice the change in his demeanor, the events of the moment distract them from their concern. I know that my hero’s friends will be taken by surprise as the plot unfolds.

Walking through these final pages with my hero brings to mind my own trials and tribulations. I suppose this is so because I identify with his story on many levels. We seem to share the same approach to the things that are most important to us. He loves his family just as I love my own. He is devoted to his parents whose most poignant lessons came through example rather than words. My parents taught me with their actions as well. My hero is at home in his faith because his parents introduced him to God when he was just a baby. My parents did the same. Though my hero lost his father early on, he grew into a devoted son who made his mother proud. Though my dad’s untimely death caused him to miss most of my childhood, I managed to make my mom proud once or twice as well. When those around him faced difficulties, this hero who seems more like a friend consistently stepped up to help. Though I often fail, I really do try to do the same.

When I turn back to my dog-eared text, I’m struck by my hero’s persistence in the face of the worst this life has to offer. Though he occasionally withdraws a bit to regroup and to replenish his soul, he never abandons his mission. Indeed, he returns every time more convinced than ever that he’s walking the right path. I read on to find that my hero has just left a holiday dinner. He bared his soul to his friends regarding his love for them and he offered a final gesture of his devotion to each one. When he rose from their dinner table, my hero wondered if any of his friends had grasped his meaning. With a heavy heart, he takes them out into the night. He leaves them to rest in the greenery and then moves on to an isolated patch to consider what the coming hours will bring. He always turns to his dad on such occasions and this night is no exception.

“Abba,” he prays, “if you are willing, take this cup away from me…” Fear overwhelms and he sweats blood. Still, he turns to his father once again and adds, “still, not my will but yours be done.” With that, I set aside my tattered bible and close the page on Luke’s passion account (Luke 22:14-23:56). As calamities from my own life flood my memory, Jesus’ words fill my heart. I realize I’ve survived these things because I followed Jesus’ lead with absolute confidence. Every time, God accompanied me through what lay ahead. Every time, peace followed.

This Palm Sunday, as we listen to Jesus’ story, we acknowledge all that Jesus said and did. In Jesus’ life, we find the strength to endure. In his passion and death, we find the hope that urges us on. Jesus never promised that our lives would be easy, but Jesus promised often that we would never be alone in our efforts. Today and throughout this Holy Week, we celebrate this hero who has shown us the way to live with courage, to die with hope and to rise with the absolute certainty that resurrection awaits us all.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Lesson In Service

He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet and
dry them with the towel around his waist.

John 13:4-5

When my sisters and I gathered at the hospital to tell our mother the results of her surgery, we did so with heavy hearts. The doctor had removed her eighty-two year old gall bladder with great success. Unfortunately, the disease that resulted in this procedure had spread to other organs. At this late stage, nothing could be done except to keep our mother as comfortable as possible.

When we shared this news with her, our mom immediately declared, “I’ve had a good long life. I wanted to leave a family that contributed and I have. I hope I can do what I want to do for as long as I can.” With that, our mom went on to say that she would no longer need the bedrooms she used at my sister’s and my homes because she would become a permanent resident of the facility we had selected for her post-surgical recovery. She ignored our invitations to stay with us. When she settled into her new home, our mom continued to do everything she could to make her eventual passing as easy as possible for her children. This was her custom, you know. My mom always put others before herself.

Merciful God, as we wait through this night with Jesus, we give thanks for your everlasting generosity. We also ask your help as we emulate your love in our service to those we meet along the way.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved