Worth The Effort

As for you, every hair of your head has been counted;
so do not be afraid of anything.

Matthew 10:30

A recent gathering with extended family allowed me to watch as my nieces and nephews interacted. Their good-hearted banter brought to mind my sister and brother who celebrate with us from the hereafter these days. Before it could be detected, I dabbed an unexpected tear from my cheek. Perhaps my recent reflections regarding the things to come have come full circle. When I returned home afterward, I strolled to our wall of family photos. I smiled at the images of my brother and sister, my parents, grandparents and many others. All the while, I consoled myself with the certainty that they’re all just fine in their new home with God.

My certainty regarding the things to come began with my mom and dad. Later in college, I encountered the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who pioneered near-death experience studies. Her research regarding life after this life underscored what my faith had already convinced me was true. Throughout the decades since, many medical professionals have added to her research. More recently, two physicians (Dr. Eben Alexander and Dr. Mary C. Neal) who’ve had near-death experiences themselves have added to this wisdom.

I don’t mean to repeat myself in these daily posts. However, sometimes a topic is so important to me and to all of us that I’m compelled to do so. With that, I encourage you to do the best you can to live a happy, generous and productive life. I also encourage you to remember that you are never ever alone and that all you do is worth the effort.

Loving God, help us to remember that you are with us in everything always.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Pray With Certainty

Then Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry,
but let me speak just once more…”

Genesis 18:32

The promise of springtime has also brought the promise of eternity with the end of some lengthy illnesses and other unexpected departures from this life. Recent wakes and funerals bring to mind a springtime loss of my own…

Thirty years ago, I stood at my step-father’s bedside with an aching heart. Emphysema had transformed the muscular carpenter I once knew into a shadow of his former self. I prayed and asked the God of Abraham to watch with me for a while. Like Abraham, as soon as I had God’s attention, I began negotiating.

First, I asked for relief for my dad’s difficult breathing. When I felt assured of that much, I went on. I requested strength for my mom and for the rest of us to remain present to him for as long as needed. I knew God was listening as always and so I continued. In the end, I dared to set limits on the “as long as needed” part. Indeed, I challenged God to hear and to respond to my prayer as Jesus promised God would do.

Just a week later, we walked with my step-dad through his passing. When all was said and done, I apologized to our patient God for my insolent and demanding prayer. I also thanked God for taking this second dad of mine home. In spite of my tears, I smiled and promised to pray with the conviction of Abraham many more times before God and I meet face to face.

Loving and Patient God, thank you for listening and for responding with more than I could ever hope for.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Memory To Celebrate!

Then they recounted what had happened on the road and
how they had come to know him in the breaking of the bread.

Luke 24:35

We didn’t visit Emmaus during our second trip to Israel. Our rigorous schedule which included some new sites simply didn’t allow the time. So it was that I allowed myself a peaceful return to Emmaus which only I enjoyed. As we traveled between nearby sites, I recalled the grounds of St. Mary of the Resurrection Abbey. The abbey is located in the Muslim village of Abu Gosh along one of the oldest roads which links Jerusalem to the coast. At the time, the grounds were bustling with young people gathered for a program. When we returned, I discovered that the granddaughter of a friend from Germany was among that group.

After sharing the outdoors with those college students, our guide ushered us into the historic church. Beautiful as it was, I recall the lower level with deep gratitude. It was there that we discovered an ancient stream which flowed as freely as it had in Jesus’ day. I thought that listening to the same soothing rush of water which Jesus’ contemporaries heard was a gift to be cherished. When our guide pulled out his flute and added his rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria to the mix, I tasted a bit of heaven.

The disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus aren’t the only ones gifted with such encounters. Whenever we open ourselves to one another and to the beauty around us, we cannot help meeting God. This is the reason the Easter Season lasts fifty days and the reason the miracle of Easter should set the tone for every day of our lives. When we respond to the promise of the Resurrection of Jesus in all that we say and do, we truly celebrate Easter!

Loving God, I will find a bit of Easter in every day!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Ever-Present Companion

“Are you the only resident of Jerusalem who does not know
the things that went on here these past few days?”

From Luke 24:17

When I finally shook my jet-lag, I began to appreciate this second life-changing experience in Israel. I was and continue to be very excited about this trip, It seemed only natural to share this year’s adventure just as I’d shared last year’s.

I began this effort in January, the week after we returned. Though I’ve cultivated my friendship with Jesus all of my life, this stay in his homeland added an entirely new dimension to our connection. As I reviewed our itinerary and the new photographs through which we chronicled this trip, I realized that my experience this time around was far more unique than I’d expected. While my fellow travelers carefully listened to our guide’s every word, I listened to the quiet voice within me. I couldn’t help talking to Jesus with the familiarity of Mary Magdalene, Peter and the rest.

It is Cleopas who poses the question above regarding the things that had happened over Passover. Poor Cleopas couldn’t imagine that anyone was unaware of Jesus’ death. Jesus, who disguised himself for the moment, urged Cleopas and his companion to delve deep within to make sense of these events.

Though my trip and Lent have come and gone and Easter is a memory today, I think we are urged to do the same. If we truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we know that we will do the same. The question is, “How do we respond to Jesus’ precious company until then?”

Loving God, when I keep in mind that you are with me, I do my best work. Please inspire my efforts.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Never Alone…

In the course of their lively exchange,
Jesus approached and began to walk along with them.
However, they were restrained from recognizing him.

Luke 24:15-16

That last day in Israel, our plane took off from the Tel Aviv airport at 11:10 PM. Because we’d spent that day touring until dinnertime, I slept through most of our flight home. I’d hoped to replay this trip in my mind as we crossed the ocean, but my fatigue got the best of me. When we landed in Chicago the following morning, I tried to make sense of my remarkable return to Israel. Apparently, jet-lag had set in. It would be days before I truly appreciated this adventure…

Jesus’ friends were at a loss after his death. Those who stood near the cross saw for themselves. Those who hid in fear didn’t have to be there to understand the horror of what had occurred. Jesus’ contemporaries were far too familiar with crucifixion. What terrified them most was Jesus’ innocence. Who would have thought that his enemies’ hatred would drive them to murder? Who would have thought?

Three days later, Mary Magdalene returned to Jesus’ tomb. She found that the stone at the entrance had been moved. She quickly reported this to the Peter and the rest who investigated for themselves. Though they were convinced that something amazing had occurred, they were at a loss regarding what to do next.

How often we forget that we are privy to such life-giving news! How often we find ourselves at a loss regarding what to do next! Fortunately for us, Jesus remains with us as we tiptoe onto the path which lies ahead.

Loving God, Jesus rose and so will we. How can I ever be at a loss?

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Struggling To Respond…

Two of them that same day were making their way to Emmaus,
seven miles distant from Jerusalem,
discussing as they went all that had happened.

Luke 24:13-14

On our last day in Israel, we arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv late Monday night. Tired as I was, my brain seemed to be in overdrive as images from the past eight days swirled about in my memory. I pulled my now-ragged itinerary from my purse in a vain attempt to organize my thoughts. I’d met so many wonderful people and revisited so many amazing sights along the way. I wondered how I could possibly process all of this…

After Jesus died, those who were unaware returned to their villages and homes to resume their lives after Passover. Some of those who knew Jesus had to do the same. Any hope they had in a change for the better died with their teacher. So it was that they returned to life before Jesus. Jesus’ closest friends suffered nearby as they huddled in uncertainty and fear. Those who remained near the cross until the end and then saw to his burial worried little about themselves. Those who had deserted Jesus and denied him wallowed in the fear which kept them from standing by their dying friend.

The men who returned to Emmaus struggled with their memories as well. Their thoughts likely swirled in their heads as mine had while I sat in the airport. In my case, I knew the end of the story and the hope for us all that has followed. These poor fellows knew none of this. They walked in disappointed misery until a stranger joined them along the way…

Loving God, be with me when I swim in uncertainty without direction. Be with me as I struggle to respond to your presence in my life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved