L… Love!

You shall love God…
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

From Matthew 22:37-38

L is for Love. This is a tough one. I don’t have a bit of trouble loving God. Though I admit to having had words with our patient Creator, this is the result of my certainty of God’s love for me. God invited me into a relationship. When I accepted, I committed myself to being completely honest in our interactions. This is my only choice. After all, if I choose not to share my true feelings, God knows them nonetheless.

Early on, a wise teacher shared that there is something lovable about every one of us and that it is up to us to discover what this is. This observation has helped me a great deal over the years. Though I don’t have a flawless track record, I can honestly say that I don’t hate anyone. Still, though I love my neighbor in theory, putting that love into practice sometimes poses a challenge. The good news here is that I do try. The better news is that joy is the result of these efforts.

The toughest part is loving my neighbor as I love myself. Sometimes, I’m judgmental and much of that judgment is directed toward me. If I fail to love myself enough to allow myself the luxury of being a frail human, how can I love my neighbors enough to allow them to do the same?

Love is a tricky endeavor at best. Still, it’s the best work we can do and the best source of our joy. The words from Matthew cited above aren’t a directive. They’re an invitation to heaven on earth.

Loving God, thank you for creating us in your image, especially when it comes to our ability love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Make It A God Day!

I much prefer face-to-face and telephone interactions to email and texts. Still, I use my handheld and desktop devices to communicate in one way or another every day. Over the years, I’ve developed adequate publishing skills and enough technical knowledge not to disrupt my computer’s functions too often. Still, I’ve experienced the occasional snafu usually through my own ineptitude. Much to my dismay, this occurred a few weeks ago. Somehow, I’d deleted my email account. After struggling to retrace my steps for hours, I realized that I needed far more expertise than I possess to retrieve it. What had I done? In desperation, I set aside my panic long enough to reach out to a friend.

Much to my good fortune, Andy generously agreed to rescue me. I think my tearful over-the-phone explanation encouraged him to come to my aid in person rather than trying to guide me from afar. While I waited for his arrival, more tears streamed down my face. When I deleted that email account, I’d lost my blog account and more than two thousand of my daily reflections. Once again, I asked myself, “What have I done?” I had no time to answer because the doorbell rang. A very calm Andy must have sensed my distress. Before he did a thing, Andy alleviated my worst fears by assuring me that everything I thought I’d lost was indeed somewhere. With that, he quickly and amazingly restored it all. Within minutes, I’d replaced my tears with a smile and returned to my work.

Because this technological frenzy had persisted for hours before Andy’s rescue, I was behind with my writing. Before returning to the reflection at hand, I tackled the thirty or so emails which had accumulated since the onset of my misery. Though I normally think far more quickly than I type, I did this even more so as I made my way through those messages. I proof-read often to see that I’d written what I’d intended to write. Oddly, though it hadn’t been that sort of a day for me, my most frequent error occurred at the close of almost every one of my replies. I’d intended to end with “Have a good day!” However, I actually typed, “Have a god day!” Why was I so consistent with this particular error? I had made this mistake before, but never with such consistency. Had I hit the “o” key so quickly that the second “o” didn’t register? It took me several minutes to acknowledge that “g-o-d” was far more than the misspelling of “good.” It’s the single most important word that I know. Was my error actually a subconscious or perhaps inspired effort to offer my email recipients much more than a good day? Perhaps my error wasn’t a spelling error at all, but rather an error in capitalization. Perhaps I should have been typing, “Have a God day!” all along. After all, Andy had certainly given me a God day when he saved my email and my writing.

I’m sharing all of this with you because “God days” seem to be at the core of Jesus’ message to his disciples this Ascension Day. When he bade them farewell, Jesus reminded his friends of the most important aspects of his teaching. God blessed each of us with the potential for a lifetime of God days. If Jesus’ friends took his words to heart, every day would be a “God day” for them. Though we hear different Ascension gospels each year, Jesus’ promise remains the same.

In today’s account from Luke (Luke 24:46-53), Jesus said, “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” Luke wrote to impress upon his readers Jesus’ promise that God would be with them in everything. Mark’s account (Mark 16:15-20) tells us that Jesus asked his disciples to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” By sharing the word, they would assure all who listened of God’s love for them. Every day would be a God day for all concerned. In Matthew’s account (Matthew 28:16-20), Jesus added this promise: “I will be with you always, until the end of the world.” Jesus promised to remain at their sides through everything. John’s gospel ends without a reference to the Ascension. When John’s gospel is read on Ascension Day, this reference to the Last Supper is cited: “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: ‘Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…’” Jesus’ prayer included not only the disciples who walked with him, but also all who would eventually be touched by their efforts. Indeed, “God days” are intended for everyone.

On this Feast of the Ascension, we are invited to join the disciples in making every day a “God day” for ourselves and for all whom we meet along the way. Through all that he said and did, Jesus assured those in his company that they were loved more than they could ever imagine and that God was with them in good times and in bad. It’s up to us to do the same. This likely won’t involve our preaching on street corners or mountainsides. However, if we follow Jesus’ lead, these efforts will involve sharing God’s love as best we can whenever we can. Every time we repeat this precious message through our interactions and our relationships with those we’ve been given to love, we make their days and our own “God days”. As for me, I’m most grateful that my friend Andy imitated Jesus’ generosity in transforming that potentially devastating day into a God day for me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time Together

If you… know how to give your children what is good,
how much more will God give good things to those who ask!

From Matthew 7:11

My husband and I have been gifted with three amazing granddaughters and two sweet little grandsons. Grandpa and I could not have asked for more. I admit that both of us have to work at not spoiling our grandchildren. Though I’m not much of a shopper, I find something which they would like whenever I venture out. Most of the time, I restrain myself. I love these little children and I enjoy their company more than anything. I don’t want my overindulgence to change this. While I lie on the floor playing with them, it occurs to me that the best gift Grandpa and I give each of them is our time.

It seems to me that the most important gifts we can give to any of those we have been given to love are our love and our time. The next time you’re puzzling over what to do for a loved one, schedule some quality time with him or her. Trust me! This gift of yourself will be much appreciated by all concerned.

Loving God, help us to see one another with your loving eyes and help us to respond to one another with your loving heart.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thanks for…

“God knows
what you need before you ask…”

From Matthew 6:8

The other day, I woke after a particularly restful night’s sleep. I was so grateful that I felt a strong urge to thank someone. At that moment, I realized that I’d somehow lost sight of what I used to say every morning: “Thanks for the sleep!” I always directed this comment to God above with genuine gratitude. This had been the case because, regardless of any given day’s events, I’d always managed to sleep restfully. Now I admit that this pattern of sleep took hold only after my children were old enough not to need me or to cause me to worry during the wee hours of the night. Very early on, I’d become accustomed to thanking God accordingly. That morning, I looked upward a bit sheepishly to echo the thanks which I’d somehow lost sight of. “Thanks for the sleep, good and generous God. I’m so sorry it has been so long…”

I didn’t continue because the line of light sneaking in where the blind and window frame don’t quite meet distracted me. Without another word, I got out of bed and walked over to that window. When I raised the blind, the bright sun, blue sky and greening foliage took my breath away. Without an audible word, God had assured me that it was indeed a new day. I could renew my resolve to express my gratitude and to be my best in whatever ways I chose to. With that, I looked upward once again. “Thanks for the sleep, ” I repeated. Then I added, “Thanks for the reminder that you’re always nearby…”

I’m happy to share that I’m back in the habit of expressing my morning gratitude and so much more these days.

Dear God, thank you!.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Alleluia!

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.”

Matthew 28:5-6

It’s Holy Saturday and Easter’s Eve. Still, I find myself reluctant to move beyond Jesus’ passion and death to celebrate his resurrection. At Lent’s onset, I promised myself that I would spend a bit of time every day getting up close and personal with God. I also promised to bring healing to this world. I hoped to do this for loved ones both nearby and far away. I’ve tried to give meaning to all of this by retracing Jesus’ steps through the last days of his life.

In the process, I’ve come to realize once again that Jesus suffered real pain, real loneliness, real uncertainty regarding his ministry, real fear and real disappointment. Still, when Jesus hanged from the cross, hope lingered and love prevailed. Though much of the world saw a despised failure nailed to that wood, those who knew Jesus knew better. Jesus knew better as well. Jesus reached beyond the skeptics and cynics to offer a place in heaven to the insurgent hanging beside him. Jesus offered the same to you and to me and to all of God’s children through everything he said and did.

This is Holy Saturday and Easter’s Eve. All is not well in the world, nor will it ever be. Nonetheless, all is well with God’s people. Jesus caused those rumblings in the tomb. Jesus returned from that tomb more alive than he had been since Bethlehem. Jesus came to reveal God’s love for us and to assure us that we too will live forever.

You know, I can move beyond Jesus’ suffering and I can sing “alleluia” after all. Jesus insists and I’m very happy to oblige him!

Loving God, Jesus is risen, your promises are fulfilled and eternal life awaits us all! Alleluia!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Forgiven, No Matter What!

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”
From Matthew 26:14-25

When I was a child, I learned to cal this day Spy Wednesday. I was taught that Judas struck a deal with the high priests and arranged Jesus’ betrayal on the Wednesday before Passover. Of course, the timing isn’t as important as the deed itself. Betrayal at any level stings. When it comes at the hands of a trusted colleague, friend or family member, betrayal cuts us to the core. Perhaps the only good that comes from these experiences is the light they shed upon Jesus’ capacity to love and to forgive…

Jesus and Judas walked together for three years. Jesus shared his most important teachings and his most intimate feelings with Judas and the others. The weeks leading to Passover proved to be extremely difficult as sentiment in the Temple had turned completely against Jesus. The scribes’ and Pharisees’ treachery certainly angered and frightened Judas. Judas likely warned Jesus that the tables were turning against him. Eventually, Judas realized Jesus’ intent to follow through with his plans. Rather than comforting his friend and perhaps doing something to help him, Judas did what was necessary to save himself. Judas sealed this arrangement with a kiss. In the end, Judas regretted what he had done and he hanged himself. Though Judas didn’t wait long enough to seek forgiveness, I’m certain Jesus offered it when he hanged from that cross the following day.

Jesus understood Judas and his motives far more than Judas understood himself. The same is true of you and me. God understands completely and God forgives completely, ALWAYS!

Merciful God, you know each of us better than we know ourselves. Please, God, let us never forget that we are loved and forgiven, no matter how great our failures may be.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved