The Small Stuff Matters…

“For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is greatest.”

From Luke 9:48

A recent walk around a nearby lake reminded me of just how small I am. This particular lake offers only a tiny beach area. The remainder of its circumference is lined with very tall trees and dense foliage. The greenery is interrupted only by a narrow path just wide enough for two. As I walked, I felt like a tiny ant in the grand scheme of things. Though the lot where I left my car was actually only a block away, I felt lost in the forest around me.

I feel very small at other times as well. In spite of my best efforts, it seems that I can’t do much to solve the problems of this world. Wars continue to be fought. Poverty continues in full force. Political interests overpower the good of the many and on it goes. I ask myself if there is anything I can do to make an important difference.

It is in the midst of this lament that I recall Jesus’ words regarding our need to become children once again. Little girls and boys don’t over-think things. (Remember when I mentioned little Christian’s kindness to Conner the other day?) Children simply observe the situation at hand and they respond accordingly. It occurs to me that I do my best work when I follow their lead. I do have the capacity to change the world. It is through my seemingly insignificant efforts that I bring peace, sustenance and justice to one soul at a time.

Dear God, the small things we do for one another make a world of difference after all. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Gift Them with Hope

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!

Isaiah 35:4

Something nudged me toward the obituary section of the paper. Much to my surprise, I encountered the name of one of my former students. “How can this be?” I asked myself. “Robert is only 51.”

As I recalled vivid memories of this young man as a third grader, noise outdoors drew me to the window. I looked past our lawn to the school across the street. A group of children had come out for recess. I smiled as I imagined Robert doing the same. Though he could sometimes be a handful, Robert had a very good heart. My thoughts turned to my own classroom and the Christmas celebrations I’d enjoyed there.

Like Robert, most of my students counted the days to Christmas with great relish. Robert enjoyed the holidays with his family. At the same time, a few of his classmates dreaded this departure from their daily routines. These children lived in poverty. School lunches were the best of their meals and our simple class parties were the best of their Christmases. Too often, the lack of material treasures in their lives paled in the shadow of their lack of love and security. The adults around them had their own troubles which made Christmas a low priority. As for Robert, he had a kind heart. How often he looked beyond his own mischief to extend kindness to his less fortunate friends. Robert never teased one of them!

As I continued to watch the carefree youngsters on the playground across the street, I prayed for Robert, that eternity will bring him a plethora of Christmas-like days. I also prayed for children in need, that somehow the rest of us find ways to provide for them.

Dear God, help us to bring hope to this in need as best we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Small, but mighty!

“For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is greatest.”

From Luke 9:48

A recent walk around a nearby lake reminded me of just how small I am. This particular lake offers only a tiny beach area. The remainder of its circumference is lined with very tall trees and dense foliage. The greenery is interrupted only by a narrow path just wide enough for two. As I walked, I felt like a tiny ant in the grand scheme of things. Though the lot where I left my car was actually only a block away, I felt lost in the forest around me.

I feel very small at other times as well. In spite of my best efforts, it seems that I cannot do a thing to solve the problems of this world. Wars continue to be fought. Poverty continues in full force. Political interests overpower the good of the many, and on it goes. I ask myself if there is anything I can do to make an important difference.

It is in the midst of this lament that I recall Jesus’ words regarding our need to become children once again. Little girls and boys don’t over-think things. They simply observe the situation at hand and respond accordingly. It occurs to me that I do my best work when I follow this lead. I do have the capacity to change the world. It is through seemingly insignificant efforts that I bring peace, sustenance and justice to one soul at a time.

Dear God, the small things we do for one another make a world of difference after all. Thank you!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Seedlings

“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:14

Our three granddaughters attended a church preschool. This past week, the youngest moved on to join her older sisters at their local public school. Since I spent my career in public education, I know that their religious education will continue there, though in unspoken ways. I didn’t “teach” my beliefs through the curriculum. Still, I certainly hope that my relationship with God was evident in my interactions with my students, their parents and my colleagues. Conversations with our older granddaughters assure me that goodness abounds in their school as well.

When our granddaughters were younger and God was a daily part of their curriculum, they often shared the things they learned about God with Grandpa and me. Now that the youngest has moved on to kindergarten, I wondered if these conversations would diminish or disappear. It was during a recent overnight with us that the girls joined us at church. They immediately picked up hymnals where they could find the prayers we’d use. I was amazed by their focus since the church was half-filled with scaffolds because it was being painted. I was further amazed because Grandpa-the-Deacon was preaching that day. All the while, they entered in like old pros. Apparently, those seeds which were planted by Mommy and Daddy and preschool are well-cared for and growing beautifully.

Good and gracious God, help all little children to find you in the people who love and care for them.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rescued By God

Then, seeing them tossed about
as they tried to row with the wind against them,
he came walking toward them on the water.

Mark 6:48

My granddaughter will soon be promoted from kindergarten to first grade. Lauren bubbled over with joy when she reported that her entire class will be reading with her during the coming year. Lauren loves to read and it warmed my heart to hear that she wished the same joy upon her classmates. I understand Lauren’s excitement because I spent a good deal of my career trying to share the same with reluctant readers of her age…

After two wonderfully successful years of planning and implementing a very special reading program which brought success to those most likely to fail, one of the “powers that be” reneged on an agreement. She determined that I would not be given that critical third year to prove the staff’s and program’s worth in spite of the fact that test scores had already reflected extremely positive outcomes. When I received this news, I left my office because darkness loomed over me there. I had never been so deflated and depressed by my workplace. When I entered the corridor, I didn’t notice a soul. I made my way down the hall as quickly as possible. I literally ran away from this terrible setback. Later, a fellow teacher and friend asked why I ignored her greeting as I walked past her. I had no idea she had spoken to me. At the moment tears threatened, a small voice intervened. “Hi, Mrs. Spinach. I’m coming to your class today, right?” I looked down at the little who interrupted my mourning and responded, “Of course you are!”

You know, I couldn’t do a thing about planning which was out of my hands. Still, there was plenty of time to arm my students with the skills they needed to read, and this is exactly what I did.

Loving God, rescued me that day with a very small voice. Thank you for inspiring my courage with this call to serve and to hand my worries over to you.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved