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

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Bring Peace…

I will hear what God proclaims;
for he proclaims peace.

Psalm 85:9

Though I’ve recently shared my frustrations with the evils which plague us humans, I’ve prayed about these things. With that, I attend to the issues close at hand as best I can. My normal response to imminent trauma is precise calm. I do what needs to be done at the moment and collapse afterward. It’s then that I realize just how devastating the circumstances I encountered might have been. It’s then that I’m also grateful that I did something to be of help.

This propensity to respond is likely the result of my mother’s example. She responded to violence around her without concern for herself. Her priority was to keep her fellow human’s safe. She confronted a man who was bothering a woman on a bus; he jumped off that bus at the next stop. She chased the assailant who mugged my aunt in our hallway; he fled before doing irreparable harm. Though I haven’t found myself in the midst of such dramatic scenarios, my mom’s lessons have compelled me to respond to others who need assistance just the same.

You know, my mom was no more brave than the rest of us. It was her faith in doing the right thing and in the God who promises to be with us which was unshakable. Though my mom’s interventions weren’t necessarily peaceful -or particularly wise- as they unfolded, they brought unmistakable calm to those she assisted. Being a herald of God’s peace sometimes takes us to uncomfortable places.

Loving God, none of us can change this world on our own. Still, each of us can do something to improve the turf on which we walk. Give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Forgives It All…

All, from the least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:34

A friend recently shared some regret which has remained with her since childhood. I understood her pain because I was a fairly sensitive child when it came to wrong-doing. Though I was no more or less guilty or innocent than most little children, I took even the smallest reprimand to heart. Every time, though the adult who corrected me had quickly forgotten whatever I’d done, the guilt remained with me. All of this was my own doing. Neither of my parents nagged or belittled my siblings and me. Though a teacher may have given me reason to question my ability to be forgiven on rare occasion, this wasn’t the norm. Fortunately, I eventually came to understand -mentally, anyway- that those who love us don’t hold grudges against us. Still, my own propensity to hold on to my guilt remains with me to some extent even today.

This is the reason that I find consolation in the passage above from Jeremiah and in Jesus’ numerous parables which address forgiveness. Every word assures us of God’s absolute love and God’s absolute inability to be separated from any one of us. Though we may run away and bury our heads in the sand, God remains at our sides. We can never impose enough guilt upon ourselves to repel God’s love.

Loving God, help us to forgive ourselves just as you do. Only then will we be free to enjoy the comfort of your embrace.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Nails

There they crucified him…
From John 19:18

While in the Holy Land, our guide Yossi had surprised us with something he had in his pocket. This surprise was heart-wrenching. Yossi produced an old nail which an artisan friend had cleaned for him. Yossi told us, “This is similar to what the Romans used to nail Jesus to the cross.” Though I’d imagined those nails a thousand times, seeing this nail in Jerusalem sent chills up my spine.

I’ve never gotten over the nails. Accounts which describe crucifixion reference the use of nails or ropes or both. The intent was to lengthen the duration of the victim’s suffering as much as possible. The image of one human being driving a nail into the wrist or the foot of another is unimaginable to me. How could we have regressed to this level of cruelty? I can’t get over the nails because they were used on the one person whose entire life spoke of love, acceptance, forgiveness and mercy…

The scriptures tell us that, while those nails held Jesus to the cross, he continued to care for those he was given to love. One of the men crucified with him asked Jesus to remember him when he entered into his kingdom. Jesus responded by promising him a place in Paradise. Jesus also spoke to his mother and his friend John. He gave them to one another to be family to each other after he was gone. Finally, Jesus forgave those who drove those nails into his body. He knew that they had no idea of what they’d done.

Though I will never get over those nails, I will also never get over the realization that I’m loved. There is nothing that I or any of us can do which will stop God from loving us.

Loving God, be with us as we replace every nail in our arsenals with an act of love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Contract or Covenant?

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,”
declares the Lord. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God and they will be my people.”

Hebrews 8:10-11

While in Israel, we ventured to Jericho. Along the way, we saw the Plains of Moab where Mount Nebo rests. Mount Nebo is one of three places where Moses is said to be buried. Neither Torah nor biblical scholars can determine which of three sites, if any, is actually Moses’ final resting place. Three distinct scripture passages each cite the specific location of Moses’ burial. Even today, no one knows for sure.

As we drove along, I considered poor Moses and all he’d endured as he guided the Israelites from slavery to The Promised Land. This was a forty-year journey during which the people lost their patience with Moses and with God quite frequently. Again and again, Moses turned to God to beg for mercy and assistance as he tried to calm his fellow Israelites. Though Moses grew weary, God persisted in delivering the people to a better place.

It occurs to me that the Israelites were fortunate that God looked upon the relationship they shared as a covenant rather than a contract. God takes Divine Love quite seriously. It is offered unconditionally to every soul into whom God breathes life. Regardless of the response, God’s love for that soul endures. Contracts are another matter. If one or the other party fails to fulfill the conditions of the agreement, that agreement is deemed null and void. There is no recourse.

How grateful I am that there is nothing I can do which will nullify God’s covenant with me. The same is true for you. For this, I am grateful!

Dear God, I am awed by and grateful for your faithful love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Traveling Light

“He instructed them to
take nothing on the journey
but a walking stick…”

Mark 6:8

Packing for this year’s trek to Israel was much less complicated than last year’s effort. This time, I weeded out all of those extra “what if” items which I never used. This time, I brought along only what I needed. In the end, my resolve to simplify paid off. I had less to carry and less to worry about. This freed me to concentrate on the people I met and places I had traveled to explore.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when he sent out his disciples with no luggage. Perhaps he didn’t want them to waste a moment of their time or a bit of their energy on the unimportant. Jesus hoped they would make the most of their travels among us at every opportunity.

It occurs to me that God invites us to travel lightly all of the time, not only when we’re embarking upon a vacation or an adventure of some sort. When we amble into the moment at hand with our hands free and our hearts free, we free ourselves to embrace the treasures which await us.

Generous God, thank you for this amazing world and the awesome people who fill it. Be with us as we explore the gifts we encounter every day along the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved