Our Personal Best

And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
Luke 13:29

As the 2019 Chicago Marathon approaches, I recall our older son’s effort a few years ago. I enjoy walking, but I admit that I’m no athlete. Though my husband maintains a very respectable workout schedule, he doesn’t consider himself to be an athlete. Still, our older son managed to acquire the very best of our gene pool in this regard. Mike has enjoyed participating in sports since his t-ball days. Running became a serious pursuit for him in adulthood. He completed the 2013 Chicago Marathon within a very respectable time-frame. When he ran his second marathon, his only goal was to exceed his personal best and he did.

This reminiscing urged me outdoors for a trek of my own. As I considered what my son accomplished, I pushed myself to walk a bit more briskly and a bit farther. Once I established my pace, I attended to the beauty around me, my constant companion during these jaunts. The sky boasted an amazingly deep blue and the trees showed off their emerging fall colors. The spraying fountain which I pass near our village hall sparkled in the sunshine like an array of diamonds. “Thank you, for all of this!” I prayed.

My son and I embark upon very different journeys when we exercise. Mike attends to what his body tells him, while I attend to the things outside of me. We each do what we must to accomplish our goals and we both feel very good in the end.

Unique demands accompany each of our journeys through this life. God asks only that we deal with these things as we can as best we can and as only we can. This is all that is required.

Gracious God, our personal best -even when it isn’t very good- is all that you ask. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Just Ask…

“For the one who asks, receives. The one who seeks, finds.
The one who knocks, enters.”

Matthew 7:8

The other day, after a productive morning of writing, I ran out of steam. When this occurs, I usually take a break outdoors or turn to a favorite book. If the weather isn’t cooperating or that book doesn’t help, I look back to my own writing for a bit of help. That day, though my own inspiration had run out, something -or someone- inspired that walk back through my own words. This is what I found…

I’ve been working hard not to do so. Still, I admit to giving in to a bit of discouragement… Many people with greater concerns suffer far more than I. Still, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that I’m getting nowhere fast and that no one seems to care one way or the other. When this occurs, I look beyond my circle of family and friends for support.

Since the Source of my hope resides above, I look upward for encouragement. When I do this, I discover that my discouragement has come from within… It occurs to me that my family and friends do not often hear me say a thing about my heartfelt concerns. For the most part, they are unaware of the things which trouble me most. If this is the case, how can I expect them to respond with the encouragement I long for? It seems to me that I must not only listen well. I must also learn to speak up as needed.

I couldn’t believe what I read! Those of you who read these posts regularly are likely aware that I recently muddled through some tough times. It occurred to me that if I’d followed my own advice and shared more freely with those who love me, I would have emerged far more quickly from my misery.

Loving God, help us all to speak from our hearts to those who love us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s With Me

The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear
the sound it makes, but you do not know
where it comes from or where it goes…

John 3:8

You’re probably tired of reading that I enjoy walking outdoors more than any other physical exercise. Please forgive my repetition. It helps me to renew my resolve and to walk as often as possible. You see, regardless of my mood, walking lifts my spirit. If a soft breeze caresses me along the way, I relish nature’s attention. If a blustery wind pushes me onward or threatens to push me back from where I’ve come, I welcome nature’s challenge to continue on my way. Whatever the conditions, except perhaps pouring rain or below-zero temperatures, the outdoors never cease to speak to me. Even then, they cause me to reflect from the comfort of home.

I think I enjoy these treks outdoors because I do my best praying when I walk, especially on breezy days. Though the trees and the pond that I pass are beautiful, it’s the wind that nudges me out the door every time. There’s something about the wind that assures me that God is attending to my praise, my gratitude, my remorse and my requests as I amble along. At the same time, I also feel most listened to when I walk in the midst of Creation. I imagine God swirling down, sometimes in a whirlwind and sometimes in the gentlest breeze, simply to let me know that I’m never alone. I always return home convinced that I’ve been heard and that I’m in very good company!

Dear God, I thank you for the creative ways in which you make your presence known.
I thank you even more for the inspiration which lets me know you are with me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Special, Indeed!

“…to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God…”

2 Timothy 1:2

This past weekend, we gathered to celebrate our newest grandchild’s baptism. I admit that this gave me reason to pause. It wasn’t all that long ago that I had held his dad in my arms. How is it that my baby is blessed with a wonderful wife and two sons of his own these days? Of course, this musing filled me with joy. I completely overlooked the fact that my son’s evolution into a father was proof positive of my own evolution into a grandma!

Throughout our gathering, I kept myself in close proximity to our newest grandchild as often as possible. Eventually, after my husband, his other grandparents and aunts and uncles stopped doting over him, I held Benjamin for a while. I took this opportunity to ask that tiny baby, “Do you know how loved you are? Are you happy with your name?” Though he closed his eyes to nap, I continued. “Your dad wasn’t at all happy with his name. He felt very badly that his was the only name in our family which didn’t begin with an M. It was only when I explained just how special Timothy was to me that your dad realized that he is special to me, too. Never forget that you’re special, Benjamin.”

With that, I relinquished that squirming little boy to his mom. As she nursed her content little son, I smiled. What better evidence of our being loved is there then our mom’s embrace? With that, I looked upward and prayed that Ben and all of my family will remember just how loved and special they are.

Loving God, each of us is special in your eyes. Help us to remind one another of this in all we say and do.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Contract or Covenant?

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,”
declares the Lord. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God and they will be my people.”

Hebrews 8:10-11

While in Israel, we ventured to Jericho. Along the way, we saw the Plains of Moab where Mount Nebo rests. Mount Nebo is one of three places where Moses is said to be buried. Neither Torah nor biblical scholars can determine which of three sites, if any, is actually Moses’ final resting place. Three distinct scripture passages each cite the specific location of Moses’ burial. Even today, no one knows for sure.

As we drove along, I considered poor Moses and all he’d endured as he guided the Israelites from slavery to The Promised Land. This was a forty-year journey during which the people lost their patience with Moses and with God quite frequently. Again and again, Moses turned to God to beg for mercy and assistance as he tried to calm his fellow Israelites. Though Moses grew weary, God persisted in delivering the people to a better place.

It occurs to me that the Israelites were fortunate that God looked upon the relationship they shared as a covenant rather than a contract. God takes Divine Love quite seriously. It is offered unconditionally to every soul into whom God breathes life. Regardless of the response, God’s love for that soul endures. Contracts are another matter. If one or the other party fails to fulfill the conditions of the agreement, that agreement is deemed null and void. There is no recourse.

How grateful I am that there is nothing I can do which will nullify God’s covenant with me. The same is true for you. For this, I am grateful!

Dear God, I am awed by and grateful for your faithful love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Just As We Are!

When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband entrusts his heart to her. She is an unfailing prize. She brings good and not evil all the days of her life. She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with loving hands. She puts her hands to the distaff and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out to the poor and extends her arms to the needy. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who loves the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31.

I can’t resist repeating today’s reading from The Book of Proverbs for you. My family and I have found great comfort in these words every time we mourned the loss of one of the special women who graced our lives: my mom and my husband’s mom, our aunts and cousins, my sister and my sister-in-law and our dear friends. Each one used her hands in her own unique way to live and to love as the ideal woman described here. I believe these words characterize each one of us, women and men alike, when we use the gifts we’re given as best we can.

For the past few weeks, the scripture passages featured at our weekend Masses have focused upon the end times. After Jesus’ resurrection, those who followed Peter, Paul and the rest were quite certain that Jesus would soon return to lead them and all of the righteous to join him in heaven. As good people died and Jesus failed to come back in his glory, those waiting began to lose heart. I understand their concern as none of us want to think of our loved ones suspended in some sort of limbo for any length of time. We also hope that their good deeds will not go unnoticed in the grand scheme of things. When these scripture passages take a harsh turn regarding our failures and our unworthiness for the things to come, we find ourselves sharing the worries of Matthew’s audience. We question God’s intent and perhaps God’s love for us. This is the reason I cannot turn my thoughts from today’s passage from Proverbs. As I consider the losses of those close to me, I acknowledge that I couldn’t help focusing upon their best characteristics at the time. When their faults and frailties come to mind, I conclude that each one did his or her best in the face of circumstances none of the rest of us can fully understand. When poor choices plagued a loved one, I had no choice but to turn him or her over to God’s loving care. In the end, I know that God sees my loved ones realistically and that God loves each one without reserve. This passage from Proverbs is precious to me because I believe it echoes God’s sentiments toward us all.

My assessment of God’s mercy is the result of my own experiences as both child and parent. I was a far-from-perfect daughter. Still, I never doubted my parents’ love. My dad bore the worry of an unexpectedly abbreviated lifespan. Still, he gave my siblings and me all of the attention he could muster until the end. When my mom became our sole source of income and of everything else, she met these overwhelming responsibilities with persistence and love. When I became a mother, I finally understood my parents’ ability to love so freely. They couldn’t help themselves, just as I can’t help loving my sons more than anything. When our grandchildren came along, the unconditional love which I thought had found its limits exploded exponentially with each of their births. I’m quite certain that this is a mere hint of God’s love for you and me. Indeed, God is far too loving to dismiss any one of us.

I share all of this because, while today’s passage from Proverbs echoes God’s appreciation of our efforts, we’re occasionally given a different impression by the scriptures. These impression sometimes portray God in a less loving light. When the author of Proverbs praises a worthy wife, he assures us that the seemingly mundane things this woman does actually make all of the difference to those she has been given to love. These verses make it clear that, regardless of our stature in this life, every woman and man, teen and child is capable of living meaningfully in God’s eyes. When other passages warn of the consequences of our misdeeds, their tones respond to the mindsets of their followers, not to God’s love. Just as I occasionally adjusted the tone of my voice in response to my sons’ behavior, these scripture writers adjusted the tone of their messages to nudge their audiences to carry on more appropriately. At the same time, I never stopped loving my sons and God never stops loving us.

In the end, God doesn’t need us to do anything in particular with our lives. It is because God loves us that God gives us the opportunity to live meaningfully. Regardless of our own assessments of our talents and resources, God considers them to be of great value. They are all that we need to make a difference in this world. Like that woman from Proverbs, God invites us to bring our unique variety of goodness to everyone we meet along the way.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved