C is for…

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult before God.

Psalm 96:11-12

C is for Creation. When life is going well, I’m drawn outdoors to share my good fortune with Nature. When I’m troubled in great ways or small, Nature’s order and beauty beckon me with their promise of peace and better things to come. I cannot take in the tiniest of this earth’s treasures without also taking in the treasure of God’s loving care for me.

However, in my neck of the woods, springtime took its sweet time while settling in. Without warning, we rushed from cool temperatures through a few days of springtime and on to summer. After all of that, our local meteorologists suggested that the roller-coaster ride wasn’t yet over. In spite of all of that, I can still assure you that the loveliness I find outdoors continues to be miracle enough to nourish my spirit.

As I move on in my effort to alphabetize God’s amazing gifts, I rely heavily upon the gift of Creation. It is there that I find God’s wonder in its purest form. And, if Nature is so wonderfully fashioned, how much more so are you and I?

Dear God, I rejoice in your creative beauty every day! Thank you!

©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

Thank you, Mom!

I have competed well;
I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

On this Mother’s Day Eve, I count my blessings. As I assemble my list, I write “Mom”. I learned many things from my mom. Still, the grace with which she lived her last days touched me and taught me most.

Three days before my mom passed away, fatigue confined her to bed. Her daytime attire had changed from street clothes to a nightgown to a hospital gown within seventy-two hours. On the first of those three days, I arrived just as Ruth, her nurse, spooned tiny dollops of ice cream into my mom’s mouth. After giving me my “Hi, Mary” smile, my mom turned to Ruth to whisper, “Thank you for the ice cream.” Afterward, Ruth helped her to the washroom. As Ruth nestled my mom into her wheelchair, my mom whispered again, “Thank you for your help.” Mom held on tightly when Ruth wrapped her arms around her to ease her back into bed. As she left, my mom’s eyes followed Ruth to the door. Ruth turned to wave and my mom smiled in gratitude. Later, when the activity director came to see how my mom was doing, Mom met her with another of those grateful smiles.

In spite of her physical decline and her impending passing, my mother concerned herself with the people around her. She never complained and was ever-grateful for even the smallest kindness, whether or not it was part of ones job or ones duty to her dying parent.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of my mom. She revealed your generosity, grace and love all the way to your embrace.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Beauty in Everything and Everyone

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
and forget not all of God’s benefits.

Psalm 103:2

That afternoon, while my husband headed to the gym, I abandoned my writing and headed outdoors. Rather than walking the neighborhood, I drove to a little lake just a mile away. I seized the opportunity to hike the path around this tiny body of water. Though the scenery there isn’t very different from that of our local park, it took my breath away. A brisk breeze urged me along. It also caused leaves to rustle and tiny waves to form on the lake. Though I could easily see from one edge of this pond to the other, those ripples of water made it look strong in its own right.

Along the way, I encountered numerous unfamiliar flowers, an oddly shaped tree and a chipmunk who dared to scamper inches from my toes. A very large and unleashed dog gave me reason to pause until the canine’s owner noted my alarm and quickly attached a leash to her furry companion. I thanked her for this consideration after I complimented her admittedly cute canine. When I began my second trek around the lake, I hoped to see that dog again so I could exhibit my newfound bravery in its presence. I also looked forward to discovering even more of the treasures hidden in this beautiful place.

Afterward, I strolled back to my car filled with gratitude for this amazing interlude with nature. While pulling away, it occurred to me that my fellow humans are filled with hidden treasures as well. That day, I promised to take a closer look at every opportunity…

Creator God, thank you for giving me the capacity to appreciate this beautiful world. Help me to appreciate my fellow humans as well.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share Your Good News

“Let us move on to the neighboring villages
so that I may proclaim the good news there also.”

Mark 1:38

Though most people had made their Christmas returns days earlier, I waited. I’d purchased a little cash register for our grandson which would have been a duplicate gift. I didn’t have time to return it before Christmas and I’d forgotten to do so afterward. So there I was…

I enjoy people-watching perhaps more than shopping these days and that afternoon was no exception. While browsing, I observed a little boy and his mom. While his mother patiently urged him toward a checkout line, he skipped and wiggled and looked in every direction except hers. Finally, she patiently nudged him on once again. With that, the little boy announced, “You’re so mean!!” I couldn’t help noticing as that mom brushed a tear from her eye. She gently took her son’s hand and ushered him toward a check-out line.

Though I still hadn’t finished browsing before making my return, I couldn’t let this poor woman leave in her current state. I walked up to the checkout line where I waited behind her. I made a bit of small talk and then got to my point. I told her that my own sons had spoken similar words to me when they were her child’s age. I admitted that I responded with tears as well until I learned an important lesson from my wonderful neighbor. She’d taught me to respond with an “I love you” which apparently touched my kids. Both of my sons’ subsequent outbursts were few and far between. After thanking me for this bit of wisdom, the young mom smiled. As I walked away to take care of my return, I heard her telling that little guy, “I love you.”

Loving God, love is always the best response to our misdeeds. Thank you showing us the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s All About Love!

I realize that you’re not in church while reading this. Still, imagine yourself in a quiet place where you have a moment to relax and regroup. I hope this helps…

The candles which light our Advent Wreath glow in unison today. This is the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve. There is no more time to wonder if I’ll be ready for Christmas Day because in a few short hours Christmas will be here. In spite of the time constraint and the lingering details which demand my attention, I find myself content in the moment at hand. Though my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gatherings will likely be far from perfect, they will be perfectly fine for me. Love is in the air and this is all that matters today. This is all that matters every day…

As our Advent Candles burn on, we listen to Luke’s gospel in their glow. Today’s passage (Luke 1:26-38) speaks of Mary’s unexpected preparations for the first Christmas. Mary loved and obeyed her parents. She had great devotion to her Jewish Faith. She was also already betrothed to Joseph. Still, nothing could have prepared her for Gabriel’s visit that day. This poor teen who felt fairly certain of the way her life would unfold was at best startled by Gabriel’s appearance with an alternative plan. As I consider the scene, I wonder what persuaded Mary to listen to that mysterious angel. When Gabriel voiced God’s invitation, what kept Mary from fleeing Gabriel’s company? Why did she stay to listen? More importantly, why did she agree to God’s plan?

The only explanation for all of this which makes sense to me is love. Mary must have loved and trusted her God long before this encounter. Mary must also have recognized God’s enduring love for her. Perhaps it was a glimpse of God’s great love within Gabriel which convinced Mary to listen. When compelled by love, it’s difficult for any of us not to respond in kind. So it was that Mary responded, “God’s son? My son? How can this possibly be?” As Gabriel explained how this would come to pass, Mary-the-teen listened in spite of herself out of love. Practical young woman that she was, Mary realized that her agreement promised her seemingly insurmountable challenges. If she accepted this out-of-wedlock pregnancy, Mary would have to explain it to both her parents and poor Joseph. She also risked the wrath of the temple authorities who might have seen to it that she was stoned for her apparent infidelity to Joseph. Young as she was, Mary likely understood the political climate which made life difficult at best for the Jewish People. Did she wonder what talk of God’s son might add to their misery? Nonetheless, though Mary’s situation overwhelmed her, she stepped past her fear because she loved God and she was convinced that God loved her.

As I consider Mary’s introduction to motherhood and to all of the unexpected joys and sorrows which followed, I’m convinced that it was her certainty regarding God’s love which sustained her. When we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, we put everything into perspective. Mary wasn’t suddenly struck with some kind of instant friendship with God as a result of Gabriel’s visit. Her parents had begun sharing their deep faith in God with Mary many years earlier. Mary responded to that sharing by making her parents’ faith her own. Somehow, knowing that God persisted in faithfulness to the Chosen People, knowing that the Messiah would come one day, knowing the miracles of Abraham’s descendents and Moses’ encounter on that mountain fueled Mary’s faith. Mary somehow knew all would be well for her in the end.

You and I have so much more to fuel our faith. We know who Jesus of Nazareth is. We know that after his death, Jesus rose from the dead. We know that Jesus chose to come as a human just like you and I. Out of the circumstances of his ordinary life, Jesus taught us the nature of God’s love. You and I know that the sick were healed and sinners were forgiven. You and I know that we are embraced after every failure just as lovingly as was the prodigal son. You and I know that there is life after this life and that nothing in this world can rob us of what awaits us in the next. Mary allowed her love for God and God’s love for her to lead her. In doing so, Mary prepared the way of the Lord for generations to come. You and I are invited to allow that love to lead us as well. When we do, it’s so much easier to embrace this life as Mary did.

With that, I invite you to sit back in the glow of our Advent Candles. Sit back for this hour and bask in God’s love just as Mary did. Though the day ahead will be hectic, it will also be holy and happy and love-filled. Today, God invites us all to bask in God’s love for us, our love for God and our love for one another. Yes, it’s all about love. Merry Christmas!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved