Tell God About It

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1

Throughout my life, it’s been made quite clear to me that God listens. Numerous people far wiser than I have assured me that it’s always appropriate to bring our troubles to God. I’ve shared before that my family gathered in our living room to pray whenever a loved one experienced serious illness. At those times, we relied on The Rosary to express our sentiments. When other equally traumatic events were in the offing, my mom asked me to say a special prayer for the person involved who was “having some troubles”. At these times, my mom assured me that offering my own words on behalf of that loved one would suffice.

Those special prayers of my own creation encouraged my habitually familiar stance toward God. Ever since, I’ve spoken plainly and directly in my prayer. Though I’d like to think that I’ve refined my childhood approach a bit, I still find myself speaking with the Almighty as I would with my best friend. I never wonder if God is listening. Why question the obvious?

So it is that I turn my tearful eyes upward whenever necessary. I can’t get through a newscast these days without pointing out the obvious to God in spite of the fact that God sees the world’s misery firsthand. Oddly, simply acknowledging God’s attentive ear to me and to all of us lifts my spirit and solidifies my hope. Acknowledging God’s attentive ear also gives me the courage to do what I can to alleviate the troubles around me.

Dear God, you attend to each one of us every moment of every day. Thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Time To Let Go…

A time to keep and a time to cast away.
From Ecclesiastes 3:6

I’ve persisted in my effort to purge our home of unneeded items. This is in spite of the fact that most of these items hide in closets, drawers and a storage room in our basement. The old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” certainly applied in this regard until recently. I’m committed! With that, I turned to some boxed books I’d retrieved from my study. Where would I begin?

I started with an assortment of inspirational books. Each one touched me the day I received it. Still, I hadn’t looked at most of them for years. I decided it was my turn to inspire and placed all but two of them in my give-away box. My collection of novels had renewed my empathy for my fellow humans in many ways. Still, though I’d reread a few of them, I likely never will again. I kept the autographed copies and added the remainder to that give-away box. There was no question regarding my books on death, dying and the hereafter. They sustain my hope, so I kept every one. My children’s books feed my imagination and strengthen my bond with our grandchildren. I decided to keep a few and to donate the rest to my favorite after-school program.

I’d spent over an hour on this task when I discovered an old catechism. A bookmark rested at the chapter entitled GRACE. I learned long ago that grace is God’s very life within us. I laughed as I noted that a bit of grace had flowed through almost every book I’ve ever read. Still, in spite of this joyful revelation, I hauled that box of give-away books to the garage with a promise that I’ll deliver it ASAP!

Loving God, thank you for the gift of inspiration I find in the written word and for my ability to let go of a few of those books.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Much-Loved Poor

You lowly ones, be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For God hears the poor
and those who are in bondage.

Psalm 69:33-35

Sometimes, when we hear or read about the poor, we assume that the term references those with dire material needs. Though this is often the case, God’s definition of “the poor” is all-inclusive. It references each and every one of us whether our needs are material or otherwise. Sometimes, when we find ourselves doing well in the world’s eyes, we also find ourselves in need deep within us where it matters most. The materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing a secure life for themselves and for their loved ones. Sometimes, we who can provide for our own material needs sometimes lose our grip on the things that truly matter to us.

There are times when we are all counted among God’s poor. This much-loved group includes you and me whenever life robs us of the things we need to continue on. Whether we are lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parent, God knows our suffering and shares our concern. Whether we are besought by the enemy before us or by the demons within us, God stands at our sides. We must always remember that, in spite of our poverty, we will always have enough of God’s love to get by.

Loving God, thank you for recognizing our poverty in all of its forms and for giving us all that we need.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hearts Matter

Jesus said to them,
“The Sabbath was made for man,
and not man for the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

A recent discussion reminded me that for most of my life I’ve had occasional issues with rules. Though far from perfect at home, I was well-behaved at school. Still, there were times when I questioned “the law” laid down by a teacher or principal. I never saw reason for a classmate to be left sobbing over minor infractions such as having no pencil or forgetting homework. As it happened, my propensity to minimize these missteps almost cost me my place at high school graduation.

Weeks beforehand, our principal strolled through the cafeteria. When she stopped to chat with us outgoing seniors, she remarked that we’d likely soon hang black bunting over our lockers since we’d be vacating them. Afterward, a classmate noted that our principal had made a valid point. We needed to properly mourn our departure. One week later, we celebrated a mock funeral which included a solemn procession into the cafeteria behind a cardboard casket which bore a dummy dressed in a school uniform. The two hundred students assigned to our lunch period participated by streaming past the coffin to pay their respects. Though the entire event resembled an actual visitation with silence and feigned mourning, our principal wasn’t amused. She demanded the organizers’ names and mumbled something about their absence from graduation.

Because I was among the perceived culprits, I rehearsed the explanation I’d offer my mother and then sought out a trusted ally. I worked with Sister Paschal in the school bookstore and knew our respect was mutual. With great hope in Sister’s influence, I explained that our principal had inadvertently suggested this funeral. None of us meant any harm as this display was an expression of our school spirit and our genuine sadness over leaving.

Though I wasn’t privy to Sister Paschal’s intervention, I’m happy to report that our principal never addressed that funeral again. We all also happily attended graduated.

Loving God, rules are important, but not as important as people’s hearts. Help me always to remember this.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Still God’s Beloved…

You are no longer strangers and sojourners;
you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God…

From Ephesians 2:19

One of my favorite experiences in Israel was being amidst the hustle and bustle of people in the streets of Jerusalem. It was there that I tasted the urgency of Jesus’ contemporaries. Life was tough in Jesus’ day. The Jewish people lived under Roman rule which had little appreciation for the plight of the poor. The people also suffered under the temple hierarchy who valued The Law more than the people for whom The Law had been given. Jesus himself endured the Pharisees’ criticism because they couldn’t see past their infatuation with rules and control. It was Jesus’ failure to adhere to ritual cleanliness and his association with outcasts which infuriated these adversaries most.

The good news is that Jesus ignored the criticism and made room for whoever desired his company. He associated with perceived sinners of every sort. He touched lepers and the blind. He even saved a woman caught in adultery. He would have done the same for the man involved had he been threatened with stoning as well.

Though you and I aren’t often ostracized quite as dramatically as these, we suffer our own varieties of exclusion, loneliness and despair just the same. The good news for us is that God responds in like manner to you and me. When the rest of the world pushes us away, God embraces us. When no one lifts a finger to help, God assures us of the Divine Presence at our sides. The hustle and bustle of our human existence hasn’t changed much over the two millenniums since Jesus walked among us. God’s love for us also hasn’t changed!

Dear God, thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Co-Exist

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

After stopping for a quick lunch, I continued our gardening efforts. Though this was my first attempt at this task, I trimmed a row bushes which had begun to grow together. As I swept up afterward, I admit to smiling over the finished product. My husband would be happily relieved not to have to repair my handiwork! On my way to put the clippers away, I noticed sprinkles of soil next to two planters on the patio. As I swept the soil, I saw a squirrel watching me from afar. “You little stinker!” I whispered. After all, I didn’t want to scare the poor thing.

As I continued to sweep, it occurred to me that I should have scared my furry friend. He was likely the culprit who had displaced that dirt while digging around the begonias. So it was that I decided to engage that squirrel in conversation. “You know,” I said loudly enough to scare him away, “You can dig up the entire yard if you want to. Just leave the flowers alone!” Afterward, I went on to wash the bird bath. When I finally went into the house, that squirrel or his twin brother scampered up to the planters. I knocked on the patio door glass to remind him of my offer. I couldn’t help laughing as he scampered off with record speed.

My husband and I will figure out a way to keep our squirrel friends our of our planters. In the mean time, we’ll continue to welcome them into the rest of the yard because they really are fun to watch.

God of Love, help us humans to find better ways to co-exist. When we do, we’ll also be so much more fun to watch.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved