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

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Love As Jesus Did

“If I do not perform God’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works.”

John 10:37-38

Throughout my life, I’ve been told often that I’m naive. Still, I continue to trust in the goodness of my fellow humans. I’m not foolish enough to believe that there are no evildoers among us. Still, I do believe that in the right circumstances most of us would choose to do the right thing. So, I persist in trusting those I meet until they give me reason not to do so.

Jesus wasn’t naive at all. He knew that those who questioned his motives were blinded by hatred. Jesus’ threat to the status quo and to the power of his enemies was more than they could tolerate. Though Jesus’ works helped the neediest and most marginalized of his contemporaries, these kindnesses fueled the anger of the temple leaders. If acceptance and mercy soothed the people too much, their fear of the consequences of their alleged sins might dwindle. The scribes and Pharisees power over them might also dwindle. In the face of all of this, Jesus delivered God’s message of love, forgiveness, inclusion and mercy. In the mean time, Jesus’ enemies worked diligently to find a way to dispose of him. Jesus persisted anyway because every person he ecounterd absolutely worth the trouble.

You know, the people Jesus comforted had been looked upon as the drudges of society for much of their lives. Still, Jesus invested his time and his love in them. Though I don’t have Jesus’ capacity to love, I do have my own. So it is that I must persist as well.

Loving God, help us to open our hearts generously to those you have given us to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

How Can I Help?

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,”
but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:15-17

Perhaps it’s the mid-May wonder in nature which energizes me and urges me into action. As recent posts indicate, I seem to be in “do something” mode. The amazing people God has given me to love add to the mix as they are constant reminders that each of us possesses unique talents. I’m a constant reminder to myself and others that we’re all also burdened with our own variety of frailties. Still, God places this world in our hands. This is no empty gesture on God’s part. God created us in God’s own image and likeness. God knows better than we do just how capable we are.

So it is that I offer a challenge to myself and to anyone else who attends to this space. I encourage you to join me in setting aside your worry regarding the woes which trouble humankind these days. After praying with great fervor for world peace, look a bit closer to home. Is there something in your community, your neighborhood, your temple, your church, your workplace, your organization or in your own home which needs attention? Then, join me in asking, “What can I do to help?”

Let’s not discount even the smallest opportunity to do good. I’m convinced -and so is God- that our efforts will make a difference somewhere to someone every time.

Caring God, be with us as we do our best to love and care for one another as you care for us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Don’t Fret…

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…
Hebrews 10:24

I’m certain my litany of complaints gave my friend a headache. I began with the observation that I think I’m getting old. I find myself full of impatience regarding the state of our world and of the many institutions which provide structure to our daily lives. I feel a great sense of urgency which demands that the powers that be do something to improve life on this planet. At the same time, I feel impelled to take action myself as well. But, where do I begin? While my friend shook his head, I wondered…

Has all of my fretting given the Lord God reason to laugh? God knows better than I that we humans have struggled with our use of free will since time began. God also knows better than I that in our brighter moments, when we allow the goodness within us to light our way, we’re capable of transforming the worst situations into amazing opportunities.

Perhaps God hasn’t been laughing at me after all. Rather, perhaps God has smiled in my direction and imparted a bit of Divine Wisdom in the process. It occurs to me that, though I may not be able to alleviate all of this world’s woes, I can certainly do something in my little corner of this world.

Dear God, as long as we care, we’re capable of great good. Help me and all of us to use our energy and resources to make that goodness a reality.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

Surrounded By Goodness!

Seek good and not evil,
that you may live.

Amos 5:14

I continued my efforts to purge the clutter from our home by tackling my desk. I admit that I didn’t quite finish the job. Rather, I tended to a stack of notes and clippings which I’d saved for months. A few were more than a year old! In the process, I unearthed a reflection my niece forwarded to me some time ago. Cece’s only comment was, “I thought you’d like this one.”

The reflection was actually a commitment on the part of the author to look for the best in everyone and everything she’d encounter that day. She would expect no proactive activity on the part of others. Rather, she’d seek out goodness, regardless of how well-disguised it might be. While acknowledging the trials and tribulations which might mute the goodness in others, she promised herself that she’s look for that goodness just the same.

I admit that I begin some days with far less optimism than this fellow writer. I also admit that I prefer her optimism to the pessimism which too often lurks beneath the surface in us all. With that admission, I’ve set that reflection on top of my neatly piled notes. This time, I won’t lose it in the piles on my desk. This time, I’ll read it often to remind me to seek out the best in everyone. Thank you, Cece!

Generous God, give us eyes to see and hearts to appreciate the goodness around us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved