God Really Is Good!

If you had faith the size of a mustard seed,
you could tell this mountain to move and it would.

From Matthew 17:20

I’m still hurting over what occurred at the United States Capitol on January 6. I prayed while everything transpired and I’ve prayed since for all concerned. All the while, I’ve stood sheepishly in God’s presence without the courage to ask, “What are you going to do about this?”

In an effort to distract myself from my worry, I turned to the wall which features photos of my loved ones who’ve passed. As I gazed at my father-in-law in his army uniform and my stepdad in his American Legion gear, a chill ran down my spine. “How did you endure the war?” I asked them. I didn’t wait for their responses because another photo caught my eye. Sister Gerard is my mom’s aunt who lived through three wars and several bouts with cancer. After spending years teaching at a boarding school for boys, she shared, “I’ve taught convicts and bishops, lawyers, janitors and butchers and I love them all. God put each one into my life. God is good!” Whenever Sister Gerard shared her stories she ended with the same observation:God is good.

I wondered if God had intentionally distracted me from that question I was reluctant to ask. Before I could look upward to discuss this, thoughts of Sister Gerard returned. This time, I pictured her at age ninety-two. I’d visited her because she was in the midst of her final bout with cancer. She smiled at me from her sickbed as she admitted, “I was a little upset that God didn’t cure me this time around. Then, I thought about where I’m going and said ‘Thank you!’ God is so good!”

With that, I looked upward to acknowledge, “You didn’t cure Sister Gerard because something far better was in store for her. You’re not fixing this mess because there is something far better around the corner. We’ll get to that something if we walk together and work together to find it. Yes, God, you are good!”

Dear God, thank you equipping us with just enough of your goodness to fix things.

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

One By One…

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

Proverbs 31:20

I know I’ve shared my lofty childhood aspirations with you before… I had visions of grandeur regarding what I would do with my life. I wanted to solve the problems of the world. I wanted to end wars. I wanted to fight against prejudice and injustice. I wanted to end poverty. I wanted to work with special needs children. I wanted to teach. I wanted to become a nun. I wanted to…

Eventually, things fell into place and the path before me became less cluttered. I learned to value the seemingly mundane callings which in reality make all of the difference in the world. Where would we be today if our essential workers has chosen different paths? I realized that a good person who deals fairly and kindly with those around her brings peace to our world. Generous couples who allow their love to spill over onto to those around them bring love to the world. Parents who nurture their children with their time and attention bring hope to this world. Caring for those we’ve been given to love is the most important work we can do.

Recent events have assured me that I still want to solve the problems of the world. This time, however, I’m tackling all of this one loving act at a time.

Dear God, when I wonder if I’m doing my loved ones or this world any good, you dispel my doubt with encouragement. Thank you!

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Irresistible!

When Jesus said, “Come after me,”
they abandoned their work and followed him.

From Mark 1:17-18

Though we celebrated Christmas 2020 almost three weeks ago, I had to be coaxed to finish taking down our Christmas decorations. My husband and I had decorated our home, inside and out, as we’ve done for decades, with the hope of capturing a generous portion Christmas Spirit. Because we’d succeeded, I was tempted to keep those decorations intact for as long as possible.

Christmas 2020 wasn’t “business as usual” at home or the mall or at church. I worshiped virtually with thousands of others that day. Our priest offered a wonderful homily which put our experiences during this pandemic into perspective -God’s perspective. Father Joe’s only point was that we are family and we are loved. I never expected to be so deeply touched by an image on my computer screen, yet I was.

I used to wonder why so many of Jesus’ contemporaries abandoned so much everything to follow him. What drew them in? Jesus’ closest followers left their livelihoods to follow him. Was there something about him or the wonder within him? The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely. Even some tax collectors and Pharisees found the courage to approach Jesus.

Though I’ve never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I can’t imagine my life without his influence. Perhaps this is the reason I wanted to hold onto Christmas 2020. Our difficult circumstances make the promise of better things to come irresistible. This pandemic and racial injustice and political infighting make Jesus’ call to love one one another more irresistible than ever.

Loving God, thank you for loving us and for sending Jesus who transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest! It’s Okay!

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know,
but he couldn’t escape notice.

Mark 7:24

My husband serves as our family grocery shopper. When I joined him in retirement, I tried to retrieve what had once been my responsibility. After my first few trips to the store, Mike asked, “What takes you so long? I can find the stuff on a list twice as long in half the time. What are you doing there?” When I thought about what had transpired on these outings, I realized that, each time, I’d run into a neighbor, someone from church, a former colleague or a friend. Of course, I took the time to chat. Why not? I had all of the time in the world.

These days, none of us has time to spare when it comes to shopping. My dear husband has taken full responsibility in this regard because his maneuvering up and down aisles is far more efficient than my own. Even behind his mask and sunglasses, he finds everything on his list in record time. I admit that I don’t mind this arrangement. Since the pandemic took hold, Mike’s efficiency has allowed me the time to write at will and to finally return to my book. It has also allowed us the time to regroup, to refresh and to relax with each other -all of which were rare commodities in pre-COVID-19 times.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were few and far between. When he did find opportunities to rest, they were often interrupted by those who needed him. In spite of stay-in-place mode, the same is true for you and me much of the time. Always, and especially during these stressful times, we are allowed to rest on occasion just a Jesus did.

Dear God, help us to respond with kindness to those around us and to our own fatigue when needed.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Glimpse of God’s Peace

So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead…”

Mark 5:39

The funeral director called to request a favor. A woman’s remains would be brought in from out-of-state for her committal and burial. Since her family had no local church affiliation, the funeral director called to ask my husband to do the service. As he prepared, Mike asked about the person who had passed and her family. He discovered that this fifty-eight year old person was disabled and had been cared for by her elderly parents all of her life. By this time, her parents’ ages prevented them from traveling. Still, they wanted their child’s remains to lie near their other departed family members. One day, these parents will do the same.

In spite of their own advanced ages and their daughter’s difficult life, these parents deeply grieved her loss. At the same time, they couldn’t help sharing the bit of joy their daughter had offered them at the end of her life. “Just before Ella passed away, she told us that she was going with Jesus and she smiled. How can we cry after hearing that?” Mike responded by sharing the homily he would offer at Ella’s service with her parents. This time, he knew there was no need to persuade mourners that their loved one had embraced eternal life. He simply smiled with them over what they now knew to be true.

When Mike presides over a burial with only himself and the funeral director in attendance, he is often struck by sadness. Not this time, however. Mike knew that Ella couldn’t be happier and that the same was true for her parents.

Gentle God, touch the hearts of everyone who experiences loss with a glimpse of the peace which Ella shared with her mom and dad.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Enough Love To Go Around

“You shall love God with all your heart…
and love your neighbor as yourself.”

From Mark 12:30-31

This first week of September, the world around me continues to lack the normalcy we’ve come to expect at the onset of a new school year. Most of the children I know are beginning this year with remote learning in the comfort of their own homes. Still, the teacher in me impels me to gauge the moment at hand in accord with my own life in academia. Since I entered kindergarten, I’ve settled into a comforting routine by this time every September. This remained true for the years I spent as a student and the years I spent as a teacher and an administrator.

This year, I’m having a little trouble finding a comfortable routine. The unexpected events that come with this pandemic continue to disrupt my scheduling attempts quite creatively. The tribulations of this world continue to pull at my heartstrings. As a result, I can’t seem to organize and to prioritize effectively. There’s just too much on my mind. When I try, the things I truly want to do -Like finishing my book!- continue to find their way to the bottom of my to-do list. “You’re not getting any younger,” I tell myself.

With that realization in mind, I reread the scripture I cited above. I do love God with my whole heart, so I care for the things God loves. I love my neighbor, so I care for my neighbor. It occurs to me that I’m one of God’s beloved as well. If I’m going to love others as I love myself, I need to love me and to prioritize me a bit more efficiently. This means that, on occasion, I get to accommodate my own heart’s desire and so do you!

Dear God, help me to find balance as I strive to love as you, my neighbor and me.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved