Alone With God

But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to God in secret.

Matthew 6:6

My grandson recently celebrated his third birthday. Quite a lot has happened since he made his early appearance three years ago. He’s now a happy and healthy big brother who’s just begun preschool. Three years ago, when I was too frightened to predict any of this, I learned a great deal about prayer…

My elder grandson arrived long before his projected due date. There seemed to be little I could do to help his mommy and daddy through this trauma. Grandpa and I assisted here and there while Mom-to-be remained on bed-rest and Dad continued to prep their home for Baby. Still, I could do nothing about the very real possibility that this baby would arrive early, too early. Finally, I heeded Jesus’ suggestion in Matthew’s gospel. Though the house was empty, I retreated to my room to talk to the only One who could make a difference in all of this. In the quiet, I lay my troubles in God’s lap. Oddly, even before I knew the outcome, I felt reassured. In the end, God responded with more than I dared to hope for. Yes, that little boy is just fine!

You know, that trip to the quiet of my room made all of the difference that day so long ago. It reminds me that sometimes I need to steal away from the distractions around me to be alone with God. Though those worries about my grandson are old news today, other concerns require my attention. This time, I’m not wasting my time on worry. This time, I’m spending some precious private moments opening my heart to God.

Loving God, we pray in quiet and in the midst of this life’s chaos, always certain that you are listening.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Q is for…

Be still, and know that I am God…
From Psalm 46:10

Q is for Quiet. Moments of quiet are amazing gifts. I relish the quiet around me. When I’m home alone, the television is off and other noisy distractions are scarce. I’m a master at creating a quiet environment. Still, this isn’t the best of the quiet I’ve experienced. I consider myself most fortunate when I experience that internal quiet where I encounter God.

This is the quiet that often comes in unexpected places at unexpected times. As I struggled to write this afternoon, I realized that I needed a measure of quiet with God if I was going to produce anything. I ventured outdoors to walk under the sunny sky in a brisk breeze. Oddly, though I could hear leaves rustling the entire time, I found precisely what I needed. Creation’s sound effects didn’t keep this inner quiet at bay. Though I didn’t utter a single prayer all the while, I felt God was listening to my every thought, breath and heartbeat.

Q is for quiet… that wonderful quiet in which I come to know God almost as well as God knows me.

Dear God, thank you for filling the quiet with your loving presence.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Always Listens…

God looked down from the holy height,
from heaven God beheld the earth,
to hear the groaning…

From Psalm 102:20-21

When I was a child, people often asked me to pray on their behalf. I obliged as best I could. Every night, I said my prayers. This was more my mother’s doing than my own. When she tucked me into bed, she’d always ask, “Did you say your prayers?” If I had, I proudly acknowledged this. If I hadn’t, I admitted my omission and quickly began. Sometimes, though I told my mom that I already said my prayers, she mentioned that I might want to offer an extra prayer for someone who was sick or who had something difficult to deal with. Again, I happily obliged. I was pleased that someone thought my prayers were helpful.

Over the years, difficulties which seemed not to be alleviated by my prayers gave me reason to question this effort. I wondered far too often if prayer did any good at all. Fortunately, I eventually realized that presenting a laundry list of requests to God isn’t all there is to prayer. I finally learned to listen. Rather then voicing what God already knew, I invited God to look into my heart for my troubles and those I carried for others. Though I wasn’t always sure of what my prayer accomplished, just knowing that God was aware changed everything for me. Though I rarely knew what, I knew for certain God would see to everything in God’s good time.

Generous God, inspire us with your persistence, that we will always turn to you in our need and with our gratitude.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Let Go…

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

Ecclesiastes 3:5

My need for order makes it unlikely that I’ll ever embrace the opportunity to “scatter” stones. I’m more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows depending upon their size. I’m even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important to us all and I can’t imagine ever situating myself far enough away from my fellow humans to preclude hugging.

As I composed that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her passing came to mind. She’d drifted into a coma the day before. Her time among us could be counted in hours. That night, I couldn’t bring myself to leave her. It was forty minutes after my sisters had left when I realized the error of my ways. You see, when our mom received her terminal diagnosis, she was very specific regarding where she would spend her last days. The underlying message was that she had no intention of breathing her last in any of our homes. She couldn’t bear to leave us with that memory. My presence at her bedside had obviously interfered with my mom’s intent. After kissing her one last time, I drove the thirty-minute ride home. Ten minutes after I’d arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave.

Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces. There are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, nudge me when it’s time to embrace those you’ve given me to love. Nudge me a bit harder when it’s time for me to step back and allow you to take care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Memories… Memories…

“Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked
to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?”

From Luke 24:32

Because we diligently chronicled our first trip to Israel, we have two albums which we lingered over after that trip and before we returned. We realize that this is the digital age and that we can enjoy our memories in full color on our laptop. Still, having them in hand is a luxury we’re not ready to give up. We keep all of our photo albums in our family room. This prompts visitors and us to enjoy them often. There’s no easier way to acknowledge our blessings on a regular basis.

Luke’s gospel tells us that Cleopas and his companion were confused by the stranger whom they met on the road to Emmaus. They had just left Jerusalem where Jesus had been crucified. It seemed everyone they knew was affected in some way by this tragedy, yet this man seemed to know nothing of it. Finally, when this stranger conjured up their memory of the breaking of the bread, they realized he was Jesus. This precious memory clarified everything!

Both of my visits to Israel have enriched me beyond words. Every time I open our albums, another precious memory enhances the moment at hand. As was the case for those fellows who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, my heart continues to burn within me.

Loving God, help me never to forget the wonder of your presence in my life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Ever-Present Companion

“Are you the only resident of Jerusalem who does not know
the things that went on here these past few days?”

From Luke 24:17

When I finally shook my jet-lag, I began to appreciate this second life-changing experience in Israel. I was and continue to be very excited about this trip, It seemed only natural to share this year’s adventure just as I’d shared last year’s.

I began this effort in January, the week after we returned. Though I’ve cultivated my friendship with Jesus all of my life, this stay in his homeland added an entirely new dimension to our connection. As I reviewed our itinerary and the new photographs through which we chronicled this trip, I realized that my experience this time around was far more unique than I’d expected. While my fellow travelers carefully listened to our guide’s every word, I listened to the quiet voice within me. I couldn’t help talking to Jesus with the familiarity of Mary Magdalene, Peter and the rest.

It is Cleopas who poses the question above regarding the things that had happened over Passover. Poor Cleopas couldn’t imagine that anyone was unaware of Jesus’ death. Jesus, who disguised himself for the moment, urged Cleopas and his companion to delve deep within to make sense of these events.

Though my trip and Lent have come and gone and Easter is a memory today, I think we are urged to do the same. If we truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we know that we will do the same. The question is, “How do we respond to Jesus’ precious company until then?”

Loving God, when I keep in mind that you are with me, I do my best work. Please inspire my efforts.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved