More On God’s Gifts…

Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.

Psalm 98:8

When friends of ours expressed doubts about taking a cruise, I promised to convince them otherwise. In an effort to do so, I showed them our album from an Alaskan Cruise we’d enjoyed some years ago. Though mere mention of the 49th State conjures up mental images of this trip, our album brought these beautiful memories to life…

Every morning, the majestic outdoors waited outside our window to welcome us to the new day. Mountains peered from above inviting me to gaze their way before the inevitable approach of cloud-cover. Gulls, salmon and whales gifted me with appearances as well and then quickly continued on their way. Even before breakfast, Creation filled me with reason to rejoice and be glad.

The people we met added to our treasure. I remember the Tlingit Tribe Member, the fifth generation Alaskan migrant, the Alaskan newcomer and fellow travelers who shared their stories with us. Each one embraced the simple life dictated by Alaska’s geography and climate only to find much more. Though it was impossible to understand each of their journeys completely, the peace within them was unmistakable. Life is not perfect for my Alaskan friends. Still, the beauty and simplicity around them lightens their burdens and frees them to focus more fully on the things that matter most.

Though I didn’t say much about the ship as I shared that album, the beauty we discovered on that cruise convinced our friends to give it a try.

Loving God, thank you for the wonderful gifts which urge us to expand our horizons and to appreciate your handiwork.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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It Is A God Day!

This is the day the Lord has made.
Rejoice and be glad!

Psalm 118:24

A few years ago, I found myself making an habitual mistake every time I closed an email. When I intended to type, “Have a good day,” I actually typed, “Have a god day!” Though my typo didn’t begin with a capital letter, the meaning of my error didn’t escape me. Well, I’ve apparently not mastered my typing skills in this regard because I’m once again making that error on a regular basis.

When I consider what might be behind this typing slip, it doesn’t take me long to figure it out. Life in this world of ours is tough these days. This country and many others around the world are steeped in battles within their own borders which elicit anything but good days. The church reels in its turmoil over the abuse of children and the blatant cover-up of these incidents. In addition, there are the natural disasters and violence which assault innocent people day in and day out. It’s extremely difficult for me to have a good day with these clouds overhead. Finally, a call from our sons or smiles from our grandchildren distract me from my woe. Finally, I remember that God is above, loving us and encouraging us all the while.

In the end, I realize that there is no typing error here. I truly wish all of us to “Have a God day!” every day! From morning til night, we all need to realize that God loves us. God has also given each of us unique gifts with which we can change this world as only they can.

Yep, I wish us all a God day every day!

Loving God, thank you for making all of our days God days even when we fail to notice.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Good, Indeed!

Take courage and be stout-hearted,
all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31:25

When I remarked to Annie that she’ll enjoy the second holiday of the school year on Columbus Day, my teacher friend announced, “God is good!” As soon as I heard her exclamation, images of my great-aunt Sister Gerard came to mind. Like Annie, Sister Gerard often used this phrase in response to the blessings in her life. Come to think of it, Sister Gerard also repeated this observation in the aftermath of tragedies as well. This dear woman was convinced that God infused goodness into the best of time, the worst of times and everything in between.

My teacher friend will find reason to praise God in the small gift of that free Monday by picking apples and reconnecting with her own children. Like Sister Gerard, she finds God’s favor in all of the moments of her life. This was especially true when her sister became ill and their time together was suddenly limited to only a few months. It was their faith in God’s goodness which sustained my friend and her sister through it all.

Like Sister Gerard and Annie, I’m convinced that God’s goodness is always within reach. Whether in the joy of a day off, in the warmth of the autumn sun or in the eyes of a loved one who will leave us too soon, God is with us. Whatever the tone of the moment at hand, we can always find proof that, indeed, God is good!

Good and Wondrous God, you are good! Thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Teach Them To Hope

My people, hear my teaching,
listen to the words of my mouth…

Psalm 78:1

After encouraging some teacher friends as they prepare to welcome the new school year and their new students, I considered my own efforts in this regard…

I began my teaching career with the basics in mind. I had to get my students’ attention. I had keep their attention by making what I had to say interesting and understandable. Finally, I had to give them reason to remember what I shared with them. Not long into that first year, I realized there was so much more to welcoming and educating children! By the time I became a reading teacher, I’d mastered the art of convincing even the most reluctant students to read just about anything. The greater challenge came in convincing them to approach their textbooks with the same enthusiasm. Because I sympathized with their struggle, I convinced them that what they picked up from those seemingly tedious lessons would actually enrich their lives one day. Of course, I offered lots of stories to make my case.

Perhaps this is the reason Jesus taught with so many parables. When I doubt that I’m loved, I recall the parable of The Good Shepherd. When I doubt that I’ll ever be forgiven, I think of the Prodigal Son and his dad. When I wonder if I’m of value in anyone’s eyes, I consider that lost coin. Jesus said its owner turned her house upside down to find it. Through each of his stories, Jesus gave us reason to abandon our worry and embrace hope. Hopefully, I taught a student or two to do the same.

Loving God, thank you for hope-filled lessons and the amazing teachers who offer them!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Expectations Fulfilled…

In verdant pastures God gives me repose;
beside restful waters God leads me;
God refreshes my soul.

From Psalm 23:2-3

This is the anniversary of my sister’s departure for the hereafter.

When Cecele returned to her doctor due to a persistent cough, she didn’t expect him to suggest an exploratory procedure. Not long afterward, she didn’t expect to hear about cancer, her months-long prognosis and the chemo which might or might not help. When she finally absorbed all of this, Cecele observed, “I’m a fighter. I’m going to fight this.” And that she did!

My sister dug in her heals and embraced the regimen of care laid out for her. The rest of us accompanied her to appointments and did whatever else we could to lighten her burden. We talked a little and we listened a lot. When the chemo wreaked havoc with her hair, my sister’s daughter-in-law shaved her head for her. Though the Cancer Society provided a lovely wig, Cecele determined that bald is beautiful. On her, it really was. When the chemo failed to help, Cecele accepted hospice care. Again, she fought, This time, she fought to accomplish everything that needed to be done before she took her leave. And that she did, too. I don’t think I’ll ever meet an equally prepared dying person!

Though my sister’s final journey was unexpected, the outcome was precisely what she’d hoped for. When I bade my final farewell to her earthly remains, the peace on Cecele’s face was unmistakable. The few glimpses of the hereafter which had graced her last days sustained Cecele through her good-byes and her last breaths. I have no doubt that her experience of the things to come is everything she hoped for and so much more! It was her expectation regarding eternal life which saw her through what could have been a far more difficult journey.

Loving God, thank you for this life and the amazing life to come.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserve

Return The Love With Love

Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant…
Matthew 20:27

Though I don’t often visit cemeteries, I recently did so to celebrate memories of my loved ones. I know I can do this anywhere. Still, I find tangible peace in these places where I expressed my grief through my tears and spoke my final farewells. Though the remains of all of the people whom I’ve lost weren’t buried in this particular place, each one came to mind as I gazed over rows of monuments which seemed to go on for infinity.

As I considered these loved ones, I realized the reason I miss them so. In one way or another, each one enriched my life. Even when some of them weren’t at their best, they touched me in extremely important ways. Perhaps the most powerful trait which these good souls share is their consistent willingness to put others before themselves. Even when circumstances forced them into acts of generosity and selflessness, they rose to these occasions with grace and kindness.

As I recounted their good deeds, I couldn’t help smiling. I looked up to my loved ones in their afterlife abodes and whispered, “How can I thank you for doing all that you did for me?” Though I “heard” nothing in response, I had the distinct feeling that doing the same for those I have been given to love would be quite enough.

Generous God, thank you for the amazing people who have enriched my life. Help me to do the same for those I meet along the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved