Worry Less and Enjoy More

“Martha, Martha, you worry about many things, but only
one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it
will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

It’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate my need to prioritize. One would think that the past 100+ days of staying-in-place have given the opportunity to become an expert at this. I’m embarrassed to say that this isn’t the case. Though I’ve spent few of those days away from home, I still find myself with too little time to accomplish all that I hope to on any given day.

As I contemplate my need to better manage my time, I look up from my keyboard to respond to the tree outside my window. It seems to be waving to me. It could be the wind, but nothing else is moving beside a small cluster of that tree’s branches. Is that tree waving or is Someone else trying to get my attention?

Jesus once told his friend Martha that she worried too much. Martha needed to be more like her sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the love that came with them. Never mind that Martha was seeing to Jesus’ next meal! It occurs to me that the things we consider to be most important are sometimes of little importance in the grand scheme of things. Though Martha, Mary and Jesus certainly needed to eat that day, that meal could wait until after they’d had the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company.

Perhaps it’s time for me to ask Mary and Martha to move over a bit so I can sit with them. Perhaps they’ll teach me to stop worrying, to enjoy the moment at hand and then to get back to my work -in organized fashion, of course!

Generous God, as I set aside my worries, help me to enjoy the gift of every moment and to use each one well.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Just As You Are

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God in heaven give to those who ask!”
Luke 11:11-13

When I came across this passage from Luke’s gospel, a long-ago encounter with someone very dear to me came to mind…

I still recall my heartache as my friend sobbed that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow that had filled her life. My friend ended this monologue with more tears. I waited some time for her tears to run out. When she had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad to be with her and that I loved her. After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thanks.”

I was extremely grateful when my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold anything against you. You lived through some tough times and I understand what drove you to do what you did. You know what else? My opinion doesn’t matter. God’s does. If I can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of this for you. God never ever gives up on you! God doesn’t give up on any of us!”

I think my friend believed me because I left her smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear that smile in her voice. That smile lasted for a very long time…

Thank you, loving and merciful God, for loving each one of us so completely.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Act Like Children… Really!

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 is tiny itself and offers a very limited beach area. The remainder of its circumference is lined with trees and foliage. The greenery is interrupted only by a narrow path just wide enough for two or three people. Still, as I walked along, I felt like a little ant in the grand scheme of things.

There are other times when I feel very small as well. In spite of my best efforts, it seems that I cannot do much to solve the problems of this world. Though I try very hard to live up to the spirit of these daily reflections, I don’t seem to accomplish much. Our war with COVID-19 rages on, poverty in so many places ravages too many of us, and special interests continue to argue more and accomplish less. I wonder too often if there actually is anything I can do to make an important difference.

It’s in the midst of this lament that I recall Jesus’ words regarding our need to become like children. 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 actually have the capacity to change the world. Through seemingly insignificant efforts, I bring something which is needed to one soul at a time. You know, so do you! Never underestimate the power of simply doing what needs to be done in the moment at hand.

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

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Up To Us

Be compassionate as God is compassionate.
Luke 6:36

I admit that I’m repeating myself here, but I can’t help it. A recent phone call ignited my angst regarding the injustices of this life. A few minutes spent perusing the newspaper and then listening to a newscast added to my unrest. I admit to lots of anger over the suffering of those I’ve been given to love. Whether they are my own family, starving children half a world away or the sick across town, I find it difficult to accept that there actually is nothing I can do to help.

My frustration almost always gets the best of me. After moaning to myself, I look upward and groan, “If only you would reveal yourself to those in power, they might actually take it upon themselves to fix this mess!” I tell God that I do realize that repairing this world of ours is a multi-leveled task. Still, I add that a change of heart among the higher-ups (as well as the rest of us) would certainly help.

In God’s infinite wisdom, God allows me to stew until I return to my senses. It is then that I acknowledge that God leaves it to us to do the best we can in all of this. God’s assistance comes in the example of Jesus, in the good people around us who urge us on and in God’s presence among us and within each one of us. In the end, God leaves it up to us to bring about change, one moment at a time, one problem at a time, one opportunity at a time…

Patient God, forgive my impatience with others, with myself and with you. Help me and all of us to do what we can whenever we can to make this world a better place.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Give Thanks and Give Love

One of them, realizing that he had been cured,
came back praising God in a loud voice.

Luke 17:15

Since the ripe old age of ten, I’ve saved mementos of every sort. This began with my report cards and the little holy cards or medals my teachers offered in recognition of a job well done. Later, I added letters, notes and greeting cards to this collection. During these stay-at-home days, I decided to examine the storage bins hidden under the beds our sons used to occupy. In one of those bins, I discovered some of the treasures of which I write.

I immediately abandoned my plans to purge further. Rather, I perused that bin for at least an hour. This time was well invested as it netted numerous reminiscent smiles and a joy-filled heart. Each item spoke love to me in one way or another. I wished I could thank those who were the sources of these kindnesses one more time.

The tale of the lepers whom Jesus healed underscores my need to restate my gratitude. Jesus knew the pain of each of these men and was moved to heal them. Jesus sent them to show themselves to the priests of the temple so they could be declared clean. One leper raced back to Jesus to express his gratitude. This grateful leper no doubt treasured that encounter for the rest of his life. If my stash of mementos continue to bring joy to me, imagine what that much-needed cure accomplished!

The capacity to love and to be grateful for that love is an amazing gift. Even our smallest gestures of love have an amazing impact. Even more amazing is that our love empowers others to offer the same to someone else. Today, more than ever, our ability to love and to show our gratitude for being loved is truly a Godsend!

Loving God, thank you making us people who can love and show gratitude toward one another.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

In This Together With Jesus!

Sometimes, our worries overwhelm us so completely that we miss the joy that lingers within reach. We wonder where God can possibly be in all of this. Today, Luke, the masterful narrator, reminds us of how amazingly nearby God actually is…

In his gospel (Luke 24:13-35), Luke tells us that Cleopas and a friend left Jerusalem for Emmaus a few days after Jesus’ death. The two men were still reeling over the events of the past week. They shook their heads and fretted over what might have been and what had actually occurred. Jesus had offered such hope to the people! They rallied to welcome him when he arrived in Jerusalem. No one suspected that he would be crucified five days later. Then, as they mourned Jesus, some of the women reported seeing a vision of angels at his empty tomb. The disciples who ran to the tomb afterward found the scene just as the women had described it. When Cleopas and his companion embarked upon that seven mile walk to Emmaus, they puzzled over whether to mourn or to celebrate.

Just a short distance into their walk, the two encountered a stranger who confused them further. When this man acknowledged that he knew nothing of what had happened at Calvary, the two disciples wondered how anyone near Jerusalem could have missed the news of Jesus’ death. Little did these two realize that they knew far less of what had occurred than their new acquaintance did. After listening to Cleopas explain, the stranger responded with a few lessons of his own. He spoke of Moses and the prophets who followed Moses. He explained the references the prophets had made to the Christ. This stranger made it quite clear that what had happened should have been no surprise to those who studied the scriptures. This suffering was predicted as was the messiah’s glory. When the stranger completed his lesson, he prepared to leave Cleopas and his friend until they pressed him to stay and to share their evening meal. It was when they gathered at the table that the stranger broke bread just as Jesus had. How excited the two were when they recognized that Jesus had been with them all the while!

You and I have walked with Cleopas and his companion on occasion throughout our lives. Over the past forty or so days, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to shake our heads and to fret over developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply staying at home has been challenging for many of us, especially since there is so much to be done elsewhere. Troubles within our workplaces and the lack of jobs weigh heavily upon us. Illnesses that once seemed manageable have been exacerbated by our inability to keep up with once easy-to-access care. Those who battle emotional and spiritual illnesses too often have only themselves to rely upon. Healthcare workers and first responders on the front-line in this battle find themselves exhausted all of the time. Others who provide vital necessities such as food and gasoline and furnace repairs never signed up for such hazardous duty, yet they serve the rest of us bravely. The list of those called to serve above and beyond is very, very long.

During the Easter Season, we normally put our hearts and souls into living the joy that comes with knowing that life after this life is a reality for us. When the worst of our earthly woes threaten, we habitually return to God’s promise of better things to come for consolation. After all, Jesus gave us living proof that everything he endured was worth the new life he embraced afterward. Jesus went on to assure us that the same is true for us. No matter what this life entails, what comes afterward is worth it all. Still, this Easter Season, we find ourselves worrying and wondering. Like Cleopas and his friend, we reel with sadness as we puzzle over all of this. “Why? Why? Why?” we ask. Yet, like Cleopas and his companion, we don’t completely succumb to our fear. We could ignore those who need us, but we don’t. Like Cleopas, we look beyond our own needs to care for one another. It is in this caring that we celebrate Easter Joy after all.

When they realized that it was Jesus who had walked with them, Cleopas and his friend returned to Jerusalem to tell the others. How could they keep this good news to themselves? You know, our encounters with Jesus aren’t usually as dramatic as Cleopas’ experience, but today they are. In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, news and other special programs continuously report the heroic efforts of people just like you and I. Like Cleopas and his friend, they hurry to individuals and families, to the ill and the needy to do what they can. Though the magnitude of need threatens to overwhelm, they persist. Like Cleopas and his friend, we really are in this together. And, as he was for Cleopas and his friend, Jesus is with us all the while.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved