Always Teaching…

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

As soon as I saw his face, I knew the young man before me and I had walked the same hallways decades earlier. Though I was never his teacher, this bright and talented student and I interacted frequently due to our involvement in special projects and the close proximity of our classrooms. We talked almost every day.

Though Charles was far too bright to require the academic support I offered, I gave this young man as much attention as possible. His amazing abilities sometimes put him at odds with his classmates. I hoped to encourage him to be himself and to do his best in spite of the teasing and worse which his peers doled out. In the end, he persisted. This brave young man is now a happy, well-adjusted and productive adult.

Many years ago, I was fascinated by the title of a book regarding all of the things the author had learned in kindergarten. This writer was convinced that he’d acquired life’s most important skills during that single year. While I agree with him regarding those all-important life-skills, I’d like to think that we have the potential to learn something new every day. I also think we have the potential to teach something new every day. This is the reason that we need to be ever-mindful of the gift of the children among us. The things they learn at home, at school and in the neighborhood remain with them for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, our instructive example contributes to their development, their productivity and their ability to nurture and to teach others even better than we have.

Loving God, help us to bring a bit of your wonder and your love to the little children and to the grown children nearby.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Do What You Can Do

Though I walk in the valley of darkness,
I fear no evil because you are at my side.
You give me courage.

Psalm 23:4

I know. I’m repeating myself. I’ve written about blessings, miracles and happy times, desperate prayers graciously answered and persistent worry dispelled. I’ve also chronicled this world’s troubles which I was once at a loss to imagine. I see no end to much of the pain and trauma around us. In the midst of this suffering, many of our sisters and brothers feel very much alone. Often, so do we.

It is in the face of all of this that I take God at God’s word. Because God looks upon us as family, I behave as God’s child. I look upward and raise my voice in an admittedly disrespectful manner. I accuse God of watching this suffering and doing nothing about it. I go on and on until I’ve exhausted myself. With that, I turn away to pout.

When I come to my senses, thoughts of free will and the hereafter fill me up. Existence on this earth is no picnic. Jesus himself suffered far more than most of us ever will. When my own kids or grandkids have gotten into a self-made predicament, I’ve had to step back and watch as they worked through it as best they could. All the while, God also watched and waited and loved. Finally, I realize that God is allowing us the freedom to grow into our best selves as well. With that, I look upward to offer an embarrassed apology.

I can’t explain away human suffering. What I can explain is that it’s up to me to do what I can to make things better. I know that God is with us in our joy and our sorrow. I also know that God has trusted us with this world and with one another and God hopes that we’ll make the most of the opportunities at hand to do good. It’s all up to us.

Dear God, I know you’re with me as I try to do what I can today.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make Things Better

“Know that I am with you always
until the end of the world.”

From Matthew 28:20

Lately, I’ve written about blessings, miracles and happy times, desperate prayers graciously answered, gloomy moods and persistent worry dispelled. At the same time, I know that many people deal with difficulties that I’m at a loss to imagine. Some suffer themselves. Some stand by as loved ones or caretakers of those in pain. Some see an end to their trauma. Some have no idea how long their misery will continue. In the midst of this suffering, many feel very much alone.

In the face of such hardships, I take God at God’s word. My belief that God looks upon us as God’s children empowers me to look upward and to raise my voice in an admittedly disrespectful manner. I accuse God of watching this suffering and doing nothing about it. I go on and on until I’ve exhausted myself. With that, I turn away with a sneer and pout.

Eventually, I come to my senses. Thoughts of free will and the hereafter fill me up. Existence on this earth isn’t a picnic. Jesus himself suffered far more than most of us ever will. When my sons or a grandchild have gotten into a self-made predicament, they’ve had to face their lot alone and work through it as best they could. All the while, I held my breath and prayed. All the while, God also watched and waited and loved. Finally, I realize that God is allowing us the freedom to grow into our best selves as well. With that, I look upward to offer an embarrassed apology.

I can’t explain human suffering. What I can explain is that I’m at my best when I do what I can to make things better. I know that God is aware of what each of us is up to and that God is with us. God has trusted us with this world and with one another and God hopes that we’ll make the most of the opportunities at hand to do good. It’s all up to us.

Dear God, I’ll do my best to make things better today.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Live and Learn!

“Teach them to carry out everything I have told you.”
Matthew 28:20

I admit that reading the daily obituaries has become habitual for me. This has been the case since I inadvertently read of the passing of a favorite classmate some months ago. In the process, I’ve come across other familiar names which identified acquaintances from long ago or elicited fond memories. Last week, one of those listed shared the name of an amazing professor I haven’t seen for many years. When I realized this, I offered a prayer for Kathleen and then retrieved my favorite “Kathleen Memory.”

It was the last day of a semester of an extremely demanding post-graduate program. After collecting our final assignments, Kathleen assigned a textbook to be read over winter break. I didn’t hide my anger well as I spoke: “I’ve survived this semester only because I’ve looked forward to Christmas with my family. This intrusion upon this very necessary time together is unacceptable.” Dedicated teacher that she was, Kathleen pointed out that I was no longer in high school and that the assignment stood.

As we left, my classmates applauded my courage and laughed at my stupidity in speaking up. “Mary, just don’t read it. We’re not. The day before class, scan the chapter titles. You’ll know enough to muddle through.” I went home brooding, unsure of what I would do.

As it happened, we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas. While the kids played with their new toys and my husband tended to other things, I read that book. The truth is that it proved to be very helpful in my subsequent work with children and teachers. When I returned to begin the next semester, I apologized to Kathleen for my attitude. My gracious professor smiled in response. “I admire your passion, Mary. I also admire your commitment. I knew you’d read the book.”

Patient God, when I balk at the things you ask of me, open my mind to your wisdom and my heart to your love. Also, please bless Kathleen today. She inspired some of my best work.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Best Teacher

Jesus saw a vast crowd. He pitied them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them at great length.

Mark 6:34

My favorite image of Jesus is “Jesus the Teacher”. He saw the need in each face before him and likely could not help responding. Jesus used lesson after lesson and story and after story to make his point. Of course, Jesus followed every lesson with tangible examples of his meaning through his own behavior. Powerful as Jesus’ words were, his actions were even more so.

I shared recently that I was going to try not to judge others or myself in New Year 2017. This past week has revealed to me just how critical I can be, especially when I am unhappy with myself or my circumstances. Though I’ve avoided “speaking” my sentiments, I’ve felt them just the same. It seems to me that, if I wish to succeed, I need to attend to Jesus the Teacher. When I pay attention, I find that I’m most deeply taken with Jesus’ focus. He didn’t invest his time in worrying about himself. Rather, Jesus focused upon those around him. We find the truest representation of our endearing, loving, merciful, welcoming and forgiving Lord in his encounters with others. This is also where I will find my best self: in my concern for others.

Loving God, thank you for revealing yourself to us through Jesus. His selfless ways offer us the best lessons of all. Help us to take Jesus’ ways to heart.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Teach Them Well

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

As soon as I saw his face, I knew the young man before me had walked the same hallways with me three decades earlier. Though I was never his teacher, this bright and talented student and I interacted frequently due to our involvement in special projects and the close proximity of our classrooms. We talked almost every day.

Though Charles was far too bright to require the academic support I offered, I gave this young man as much attention as possible. His amazing ability sometimes put him at odds with his classmates. I hoped to encourage him to be himself and to do his best in spite of the teasing and worse which his peers doled out. In the end, he persisted. This brave young man is now a happy, well-adjusted and productive adult.

Many years ago, I was fascinated by the title of a book regarding all of the things the author had learned in kindergarten. The writer was convinced that he’s acquired life’s most important skills during that single year. I’d like to think that we have the potential to learn something new every day. I also think that we need to be ever-mindful of the gift of the children around us. The things they learn at home and at school remain with them for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, our instruction contributes to their development, their productivity and their ability to nurture and to teach others even better than we have.

Loving God, help us to enrich the children among us as you would.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved