Time To Love…

There is an appointed time for everything
and a time for every purpose under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

It was unusual for my husband and me to schedule vacations in January or February. The retired principal and teacher in us tend to reserve the summer months for such activities. Happily, our winter trips to Israel could not have been better. Each time, the only downside was trying to play “catch-up” with our to-do lists once we returned home. My commitment to share these experiences though these daily reflections added more to my to-do list than I’d expected. When I finally returned to some sense of normalcy, the COVID-19 outbreak became the news of the day every day. Suddenly, I found myself with more time on my hands than I ever expected to have. Though I’d prayed often for a somewhat empty calendar, I wasn’t particularly grateful for my prayer to be answered this way…

It was in the midst of all of this that I recalled one of my favorite scripture passages. It offers the guidance I craved. The words I cite above from Ecclesiastes insist that there is a time for everything. There is time to work and time to rest, time to think and time to write. For me, time has always involved difficult choices. I’ve had to prioritize and reorganize my schedule often. But not just now.

Today, timely decisions revolve around those I’ve been given to love. In the midst of writing and cleaning the house, cooking and reading and exercising a bit, I must also set aside time to reach out. Though I cannot share time in person these days, I can call or text or send emails or cards to let others know that they are loved. Of all of the “purposes under the heavens” which Ecclesiastes speaks of, loving others is the most important.

Loving God, you’ve given us the time to love one another. Help us to use this time well.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Talk To God

God knows what you need before you ask.
This is how you are to pray.

From Matthew 6:8-9

Every morning when I wake, I habitually pray, “Thank you for the sleep!” Afterward, I crawl out of bed, raise the shades in our bedroom and read a page from my favorite devotional. That reflection gives me a positive focus for the new day and reminds me to add some substance to that one-line prayer I mumbled earlier. The problem is that I sometimes head off to the tasks at hand without giving a thought to the rest of that prayer.

The other day, as I considered my to-do list, I found myself forwarding a list of “to-dos” to God. I communicated with my Maker and Constant Companion mechanically. There was nothing personal in this particular morning’s conversation. I was simply going through the motions because of the busy day which lay ahead.

I’m happy to report that this isn’t the way it always goes. Most mornings, I take note of the conditions outdoors as I raise those shades and I thank God again, this time for creation. After reading the reflection in that devotional on my dresser, I give thanks for the wisdom I’ve found there. Finally, as I mentally organize my day, I share my plans with God. I add the concerns of my loved ones and my own. I also invite God to interrupt whatever I’m doing whenever God chooses. After all, I interrupt God’s day all of the time!

Dear God, thank you for listening.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time Enough…

While listening to our favorite oldies station in the car, I was thrilled when The Byrds 1965 hit Turn! Turn! Turn! began to play. Some time ago, my friend who shares my nostalgic tendencies sent me a link to a YouTube video of this beloved song. Though I rarely click email links, I was thrilled to do so at the time. When my husband and I returned home after our errands, I searched for that link with hope for a replay. Happily, I found that treasure and then sat back to listen. I wasn’t disappointed. The Byrds had put the text from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to music almost verbatim. When they released their potential hit, this American Folk Rock Band did so in an effort to promote world peace. Throughout the years since, I’ve listened intently to both this melody and the original passage from Ecclesiastes which was often read at funerals I’d attended. Every time, whether spoken or sung, those amazingly simple words filled me with inexplicable peace.

For those not familiar with The Byrds’ rendition, every verse begins, “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under heaven.” If you read through the song’s lyrics or the scripture passage, you’ll find that there is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, to reap, to kill, to heal, to laugh and to weep. There is also a time to build up and to take down, to dance and to mourn. According to both sources, there is a time for every purpose under heaven. The song and the scripture passage end with the assertion that there is also a time for peace. Insisting that this was the case even in the tumultuous 60s, the Byrds added, “I swear it’s not too late.” I admit to my own very strong inclination to insist the same. Even today, it’s not too late for peace among us here at home and around the world. This passage from Ecclesiastes isn’t among the scripture readings we’ll hear at Mass this weekend. Still, it seems to me that the Ordinary Time scripture readings from recent weeks and today indicate that Jesus was very much aware of the timing of the events of his life. Jesus was also very much aware of our need to infuse peace into each and every one of those events.

After much prayer and reflection, Jesus went to his cousin John to be baptized. It was time for Jesus to begin his public life. Not long afterward, Jesus attended the wedding in Cana with his friends. Very much aware of timing herself, Mary sought Jesus’ help when the couple involved ran out of wine. If she acted quickly, they would suffer no embarrassment over this turn of events. Jesus initially seemed unhappy with Mary’s timing. Still, on second thought, he abided by his mother’s wishes and provided the wine that was needed. At the same time, Jesus’ friends realized it was time to allow their belief in Jesus’ friendship to grow into belief in his ministry. In today’s gospel (Luke 4:21-30), Luke tells us that Jesus found himself in the midst of seemingly poor timing when he preached for the first time in his home town of Nazareth.

It was in the synagogue where he grew up that Jesus read this passage from the Prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor.” When he finished, Jesus set aside the scroll and told the people that this saying had come to fruition before them. While his neighbors marveled at his knowledge of the scriptures, they also wondered why Jesus performed no good works among them. After all, those closest to Jesus certainly deserved a miracle or two. Apparently, Jesus felt that the timing wasn’t right or perhaps that his neighbors’ hearts weren’t ready. Rather than offering a miracle, Jesus responded with a lesson. Jesus insisted that ones proximity to a temple or preacher, priest or prophet, bible or scroll had little to do with ones relationship with God. It was the generosity of a person’s spirit which spoke volumes. When one reached beyond the peaceful confines of his or her own comfort zones and time zones to those in need, one demonstrated his or her proximity to God most clearly. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right for Jesus’ neighbors. They weren’t ready to recognize the peace to be found in aligning themselves with God’s timing and with God’s love. They didn’t understand that, whether the opportunity was a one-minute encounter with a homeless person or a lifelong relationship, it was always the right time to love as God loves. It was always the right time to find true peace.

I admit that I sometimes join Jesus’ neighbors in failing to take advantage of God’s timing and God’s peace. When I look back upon the happiest and the most trying episodes of my life, I realize that there truly is a time for every purpose under heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die. Between those two events, God sees to it that there is also time enough to plant, to reap, to heal, to laugh and to weep, to build up and to take down, to dance, to mourn and to love. God sees to it that there is always time enough to transform our little corners of the world with peace by loving just as Jesus loved and as only we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Prioritize and Write! Right?

Hear, O Lord,the sound of my call;
hear, O Lord, and answer me.

Psalm 27:7

July proved to be a crazy month which ended with our family vacation. This adventure included our sons’ daughters-in-law and our four grandchildren. We had a wonderful time and, needless to say, my husband and I returned home exhausted, happily exhausted. Between loads of laundry, I peeked at our August calendar to confirm that this promises to be a far less frenetic month. After confirming that most dates are free of commitments, I noticed a word I’d written in large block letters at the top of this new calendar page: BOOK! With that, the free-time I’d anticipated for the month ahead seemed to have morphed into a writing frenzy.

I’ve alluded to my frustration over not completing my book multiple times. When I printed BOOK! next to AUGUST on my calendar, I made a mental note to make this the month I return to that manuscript. This time, however, I’ve also made a mental NOT to engage in a writing frenzy. In the past, I’ve spent every available minute at my keyboard. I kept phone calls brief and leisure reading became nonexistent. I exercised less and gave up solving an occasional Sudoku and daily crossword puzzles. Television became a non-entity as well. Though spending time with family and friends brings my greatest joy, I actually felt “bothered” by invitations to socialize.

My skewed priorities added nothing to the quality of my manuscript and the quality of my life. On this August 1, I’m happy to share that I will adhere to my new writing schedule which allows time for the other priorities in my life, especially the people I love.

Patient God, remind me often to make love my main priority.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Matter of Time

There is an appointed time for everything
and a time for every affair under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

It was very unusual for my husband and me to schedule a vacation in February. The principal and teacher in us tend to reserve the summer months for such activities. Happily, our winter trip to Israel could not have been more wonderful. The only downside was trying to play “catch-up” with our to-do lists when we returned home. My commitment to share this experience though these daily reflections added more to my to-do list than I expected. As I attempted to return to some sense of normalcy, one of my favorite scripture passages offered much-needed guidance.

The words I cite from Ecclesiastes indicate that there is time for everything. Still, in my life to date, I’ve never had time for everything. For me, time allotment always involves difficult choices. At age sixteen, I determined that I would not be a “straight A” student because I had to devote time to the part-time job which would fund my college education. In the end, I juggled school and work as best I could. The resulting grades were just fine and I enrolled in college with a scholarship and savings enough to keep me there.

Today, timely decisions plague me once again. What can I continue to do and what must I let go? If I am going to finish the book stored partially in that computer file, partially in my head and partially in my heart, I must take the time to write it. Is this the appointed time to get the job done?

Loving God, please help me to see what time it is.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God-Talks

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
This is how you are to pray.

From Matthew 6:8-9

Every morning when I wake, I habitually pray, “Thank you for the sleep!” Afterward, I crawl out of bed, raise the shades in our bedroom and read a page from my favorite devotional. That reflection gives me a positive focus for the new day and reminds me to add some substance to that one-line prayer I mumbled earlier. The problem is that I sometimes head off to the tasks at hand without giving a thought to the rest of that prayer.

The other day, as I considered my to-do list, I found myself forwarding a list of “to-dos” to God. I communicated with my Maker and Constant Companion mechanically. There was nothing personal in this particular morning’s prayer. I was simply going through the motions because of the busy day which lay ahead.

I’m happy to report that this isn’t the way it always goes. Most mornings, I take note of the conditions outdoors as I raise those shades and I thank God again, this time for creation. After reading the reflection in that devotional on my dresser, I give thanks for the wisdom I’ve found there. Finally, as I mentally organize my day, I share my plans with God. I add the concerns of my loved ones and my own. I also invite God to interrupt whatever I’m doing whenever. After all, I frequently interrupt God’s day.

Dear God, thank you for listening.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved