God’s Planters

Act justly, love kindness, walk humbly with God.
From Micah 6:8

I’m a “smiler” by nature. When I pass by people at the mall or anywhere else, I almost always add a smile to the encounter. I even smile at the greenery and creatures I pass while walking outdoors. Neither drizzle nor a cloudy sky dampens my fascination with the beauty around me.

This is the reason I was taken aback by the students in the new school to which I was assigned some years ago. My office was located at one end of the building while the school office and the children I worked with were located at the other. Needless to say, I walked the halls numerous times per day. Every time, I passed dozens of students. What concerned me was the lack of smiles -or any acknowledgement for that matter- which I noted along the way. When I offered a “good morning” as I passed, the kids registered genuine surprise. It took many of them a week or two before they began to respond in kind. About a month into the school year, a colleague asked me why the students I passed in the hallway always greeted me. I told her that they were simply returning the favor.

You know, if we truly desire peace and justice for this world of ours, we need to plant the seeds of that peace and justice wherever we find ourselves. A few small seedlings here and there will grow into a flowerbed and then a garden and perhaps a forest one day. To get there, though, we must first plant the seeds.

Loving God, be with us as we work to bring peace and justice to others. Small as we are, we can plant seeds of greatness everywhere.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Choose Wisely

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41

I recently participated in a flurry of emails regarding an upcoming family gathering. In this busy technological era, my extended family has resorted to email to narrow down potential gathering dates by assessing who can come when. One of my nephews even proposed an online app to facilitate our efforts. Happily, a date has been chosen which will result in optimum attendance.

Large family gatherings are among my most precious childhood memories. Though I dreaded the preparations involved, I loved our family parties. I usually crept away from the children and eased myself into the periphery of the adult conversations. I listened to recent news and familiar stories with equal interest. I continue to savor remnants of these wonderful exchanges. My mom often observed that I didn’t miss a thing! The truth is that if I hadn’t busied myself with listening so carefully to the adults around me, I would have missed a great deal!

Something similar occurred during one of Jesus’ visits to the home of Martha and Mary. Martha scurried about to prepare a meal for Jesus and his friends, while Mary seated herself at Jesus’ feet. When Martha complained about Mary’s disinterest in helping her, Jesus offered her little sympathy. Though Jesus appreciated Martha’s concern, he appreciated Mary’s company far more.

The truth is that being present to those we love is the most important task at hand.

Loving God, you have blessed us with both a work ethic and the capacity to love. Help us to use both wisely.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Love… Time to Be Loved…

A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:8

Sometimes, circumstances around us and circumstances within hearts evoke feelings far removed from love. When violence and hatred touch those we care for or those who cannot defend themselves, it’s difficult not to feel hatred toward those responsible. At the same time, we are frequently amazed and inspired by victims who have been ravaged by the evil deeds of others and yet find it in their hearts to forgive.

There is something deep within each of us which urges us to find God’s love in the moments of our lives and to share that love with others. Though I cannot explain why some of us experience God’s love more tangibly than others, I am convinced that God’s love is present within us just the same.

It’s quite clear to me that the predominant reason I write is to spread the word regarding God’s love for us. I’m convinced that God’s love has carried me through the best and the worst times of my life. When no one else understood my pain, God did. If you take nothing else away from these writings, take God’s love.

God of Love, you dwell within each of us. Please rumble a bit more noisily within those of us who doubt.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rejoice! Be Glad! Respond!

Alleluia! Rejoice and be glad! Today, we are more aware than ever of God’s unending love for us. The events of the first Easter plant seeds of unshakable hope in the hearts of all who have heard Jesus’ name. If we take nothing else from Jesus’ final days, we must at least begin to appreciate the joy which awaits us. Jesus suffered the worst our earthly existence has to offer, yet he endured. When Jesus breathed his last on that wooden cross, he opened his eyes once again to life with his Father. Today, Jesus continues to rejoice in the fruits of his thirty-three years among us. After we persevere through the seemingly tragic events of our lives, we will do as Jesus does. I write “Alleluia!” and “Rejoice and be glad!” because, when Jesus rose from the dead, he illustrated as precisely as possible all that awaits you and me.

This year, I began my Lenten Journey one month early. In mid-January, I returned to Israel for a second visit. This unexpected opportunity allowed me to delve a bit more deeply into the story behind the Holy Land’s now-familiar sites. This time, I felt very much at home in Nazareth and Magdala, at the Sea of Galilee, in Capernaum and Jerusalem. This time, I moved beyond my awe regarding these places to being completely rapt by Jesus himself. You know, Jesus literally made all of the difference in the world to humankind. Through his life among us, Jesus changed everything. As our guide shared the scriptures and his own archaeological and historical perspectives regarding Jesus’ time among us, I felt I had finally begun to understand. I began this reflection with an invitation to rejoice and be glad. It occurs to me that Jesus calls us to take one step further. Jesus asks that we rejoice and be glad and that we respond to his loving presence in our lives.

Whether we revisit Jesus’ time among us in the holy Land, in the scriptures or in the quiet of our hearts, we find innumerable examples of Jesus’ unconditional love. We also find that those whom Jesus touched responded in remarkable ways. Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well became extraordinary when she responded by accepting Jesus’ presence in her life. She was so taken with Jesus that she ran off to tell anyone who would listen of their encounter. When Jesus cured the man born blind, the man responded with deep gratitude and then shared his good fortune with all who would listen as well. He told not only his neighbors, but also the priests in the temple. While the priests responded by expelling the now-sighted man from his place of worship, the man left filled with absolute faith in God who had gifted him with new life. In every case, those Jesus healed responded by embracing their second chances with Jesus at their sides. Though he was crucified just three years into his ministry, Jesus remained with those he was given to love until they joined him in eternity.

Today, the love which brought peace to the woman at the well is extended to us. The love which gave sight to the man born blind invites us to see with new eyes as well. The love which transformed their lives is ours today. All that God asks on this Feast of Jesus’ Resurrection is that we rejoice and be glad and that we respond by welcoming God into our lives. Though we may not have invested ourselves in failed relationships and we may not suffer from physical blindness, we have all suffered in our own way. Whether physical maladies afflict us or our loved ones, their pain and the toll they take are very real. Though our physical vision may need only a tweak, we have all been blinded by our attitudes and our emotions, our desires and our regret. We have all failed to see God’s love for us at one time or another because our suffering has clouded our perspective. These are the times when God is most insistent that we look to the cross and remember that Jesus would have endured it all for any one of us.

In Jerusalem, I peered into the tomb which biblical scholars, historians and archeologists believe to be the burial site of Jesus. As I stared into the darkness, I imagined Mary Magdalene peering into this place on the first Easter morning. Though she didn’t yet realize that she had reason to rejoice and be glad, she had certainly responded to Jesus’ presence in her life. Nothing would have kept Mary from going to the tomb that morning to minister to the one who had changed her life forever. Today, we rejoice and are glad with Mary and the rest. Just as they did, we’ve come to understand and to celebrate because the life which comes after this life is worth all of our effort. Today, Jesus and all of those who have gone before us invite us to respond to this amazing news.

This is Easter Sunday and today we begin our own quests to live with the Risen Jesus at our sides. Today, we rejoice and we are truly glad! But, most of all, we respond wholeheartedly because Jesus remains with us through whatever will come our way today and always.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

They Serve and Protect Us

Upon their hands, the angels shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:12

On this Veteran’s Day, I cannot help thinking about those who serve and protect us both nearby and far away. It seems that every passing day gives reason for us to pray a bit more fervently for their safety. Whether they serve us overseas or here at home, these dedicated personnel have set aside their personal lives to do so. Ones politics doesn’t matter in their regard. They serve us and protect us regardless.

Though I know God remains with each one in spite of what may come his or her way, it is a worthy endeavor to keep them in our prayers just the same. At the same time, let’s add a prayer of thanks for the hundreds of thousands of veterans among us. Though it is only recently that we’ve acknowledged the toll taken by active military service, all of our veterans have suffered in one way or another simply because they have served this country of ours.

Happy Veterans Day, Dear Veterans and Veterans-in-the making. Thank you for everything!

Dear God, bless them generously and be with them all.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Angelic Friends

To the angels God has given the command
to guard you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:11

Some time ago, my sister invited me to accompany her to a talk at her church by a woman who believes strongly in the presence of angels in our lives. I happily tagged along because the topic was familiar territory to me. Very early on, the good sisters taught me about God and about these special helpers who dutifully keep an eye on each one of us. It had been a long time since I’d heard any talk of angels…

The woman’s presentation did not disappoint. She related both her own angelic encounters and those of many others which she’d collected and researched. She’d certainly done her homework ruling out other explanations for many impossible-to-explain events. Afterward, while we enjoyed refreshments, a few hard-to-convince skeptics admitted that they were truly moved by what they’d heard. So was I.

Over the years, I’ve been privy to similar accounts. Because I’m willing to listen, many people have shared their stories with me. They most often begin with: “I’m going to tell you this, Mary, because I know you’ll believe me…” Their sincerity and their own efforts to explain away what occurred leave me no choice but to accept the validity of what they share.

Our current difficult times invite us to open ourselves to God’s angels. Whether or not they fit the descriptions offered in the scriptures and other holy writings matters little to me. Having someone in our corners from the spiritual realm is a great gift. Though I believe God is always with me, it’s nice to know that God’s helpers are here as well.

Dear God, thank you for these unexplained glimpses of your goodness.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved