God’s Unique Handiwork

I admit that today I’m writing quickly and offering prayers of thanksgiving all the while. The good deacon and I are returning to Israel for a final visit. While I’m absolutely thrilled about this, completing everything on our to-do lists beforehand has been challenging. When I finally felt that I had things under control, Mike reminded me that we needed to head north to check on our little cabin in the woods before boarding that plane. Fortunately, this bit of caretaking could be accomplished in a single day. Three days later, we set out just after the morning rush-hour morphed into manageable traffic. Mike chose the new scenic route we discovered during a recent stormy drive home. Though I rarely read in the car, I turned to this week’s scripture passages to get a head start on this writing. I needed inspiration and I hoped that it would come in the scenery I’d enjoy along the way. Though I read and reread the scriptures, I didn’t receive that nudge from above which elicits an audible “aha” and an idea I can’t ignore…

As it happened, we made excellent time until we saw what seemed to be a huge cloud of fog looming over the road ahead. Before we could comment on that eerie vision, we realized that the fog was actually a mass of tiny snowflakes which grew larger with every passing second. While Mike lamented the possibility of driving that last hour in a blizzard, I whispered a prayer of gratitude. As the poor man carefully drove on, the beautiful flakes dancing around the car captivated me. “Thank you!” I whispered again. I didn’t realize as I prayed that my plea for inspiration would soon be answered quite generously.

You see, of all of the amazing beauty which nature offers, I love snow most. As a little girl, my favorite art projects involved making snowflakes. I remember my teacher patiently demonstrating how to fold and cut scraps of white paper to fashion beautiful snow designs. She reminded us not to worry about the patterns we’d make because each of our creations was meant to be as different as real snowflakes. In the end, we covered our classroom windows with hundreds of unique bits of paper snow. Years later, a high school science teacher confirmed that every snowflake is different. During college, while I waited for Chicago el trains many a wintry day, I studied the snowflakes that rested on my blue pea coat. Their uniquely intricate artistry fascinated me.

As Mike and I drove through what evolved into a mere twenty minute diversion, I took advantage of the opportunity to study snow once again. Did you know that some snowflakes seem to fall in straight lines to the ground while others just a few inches away slant to the right or the left? Still others puff up into billowy clouds before making their descent. Some snowflakes zigzag to and fro regardless of the presence or absence of the wind. When the wind makes itself known, these seemingly hapless comings and goings continue more frenetically than ever. As I reminded myself that it was I who should move frenetically because of all I had to do, my spirit basked in the beauty of the snowfall that blanketed our car that day. As Mike navigated through that mini blizzard, the inspiration I was granted came to fruition.

It occurred to me that you and I aren’t very different from the snowflakes that brought me such peace that day. Each of us is unique in his or her own right. In spite of our opinions or those of others, our personal packaging and personalities, interests and talents are among God’s best work. Some of us travel in straight lines, while others zigzag with a bit of uncertainty or simply because they choose to do so. Still others find themselves suspended in the clouds before making their way home. Some travel only to the right or to the left. All of us adjust our courses with the wind. Is that wind actually God’s Spirit guiding and inspiring us along the way? In the end, like snowflakes, God sprinkles us where we’re meant to be to transform this earth as only we can.

In today’s Gospel, Matthew (4:12-23) tells us that Jesus was heartbroken over the death of his cousin John the Baptist. Still, Jesus followed God’s Spirit and John’s work by beginning his own work among us. Convinced of our importance to one another, Jesus began his ministry by calling others to his side. Peter and Andrew, James and John couldn’t imagine where that journey might take them, yet they willingly became the first of the community who would follow Jesus. Like the snowflakes which tossed and turned in the wind outside of our car, the disciples’ lives turned topsy-turvy during the three years that followed. All the while, God’s Spirit led them as Jesus walked at their sides. In the end, Jesus and his friends transformed the world even more beautifully than the blanket of snow that surrounded us on the way to the cabin that day.

Jesus invites you and me to answer God’s call and to open ourselves up to God’ Spirit as well. Though our journeys will likely not be as adventurous as those of the first disciples, our impact upon this world can be equally dramatic. Whether we veer to the left or the right, zigzag or land in a cloud, when we move with God’s Spirit, we accomplish what we are called to do and we end precisely where we are meant to be.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

C… Creation

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 the Lord.

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 am troubled in great ways or small, Nature’s order and beauty beckon me with a 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.

In my neck of the woods, we endured a December which was completely devoid of snow. That January morning, when I discovered the slushy white stuff clinging to the evergreens in our backyard, I felt as though I’d witnessed a miracle. Perhaps I had. The beauty I find outdoors is always miracle enough to nourish my spirit. It transforms the sorrow of the moment into joy. It enhances the joy of the moment a hundredfold.

As I continue my New Year trek toward becoming a better me, I rely heavily upon the gift of Creation. It is there that I find God’s wonder in its purest form. If Nature is so wonderfully fashioned, how much more so are you and I?

Dear God, help me to discover your creative beauty within those you have given me to love and within myself.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Fill The Void

On that day,
a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

Isaiah 11:1

Though the cold has set in, a squirrel appeared this morning to eat from beneath our bird feeders. The birds who feast high above drop a generous measure of seed onto the grass below. As a result, this determined squirrel has learned to scavenge plenty of food. His success is evidenced by his waistline. This particular squirrel is the chubbiest I’ve ever seen. Still, I don’t fault him a bit. The winter weather is here and Mr. Squirrel must prepare for the long haul.

As I consider that squirrel, I realize that his creativity in preparing for the enduring cold should inspire my own efforts as I prepare for Christmas. My lengthy to-do list, decorating and shopping make it difficult to find the time to reflect upon the reason we celebrate this season every year. Just as Mr. Squirrel has found a way to feed his chubby little body, I must find a way to nourish my soul. So it is that I will indulge in the generous measure of inspiration around me. The efforts of so many who care for those in need renew my faith in the goodness of humankind. Though my own efforts seem small, I guess they do add up after all -just like the birdseed that continues to fill up Mr. Squirrel!

Today and every day this Advent, may we all be encouraged by the goodness around us and may we all become a part of it. Wherever we find a need, let’s fill the void.

Loving God, thank you for the wonders of nature and the creativity of my fellow souls. They constantly remind me to do good wherever I can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

So Much To Be Grateful For…

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

This morning, I went out to walk around our backyard. There isn’t much to see these days except for bare trees, empty flowers beds and a few small patches of snow. It was when I walked to the front of the house that our Thanksgiving display caught my eye. Peanuts characters Lucy, Snoopy and Charlie Brown happily enjoy pumpkin pie in our front yard. Since our grandchildren enjoyed our Halloween Peanuts display, we’ve added the Thanksgiving edition of my favorite cartoon characters. Though these three are the work of Charles Schultz’s imagination, they elicited very real feelings of gratitude from me. When I considered their elation over that pie, I couldn’t help feeling the same over so much more…

Suddenly, the blue of the sky and those leafless trees which I’ve seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Chirping birds who should be well on their way south elicited a smile as they enjoyed lunch at our bird-feeders. Even the chubby squirrels who made a meal of the birds’ leftovers gave me reason to feel grateful.

It seems I’ve received a lesson in Creation’s wisdom without leaving my own yard. The blue sky that beckoned my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward encourage me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. Those birds and squirrels who so happily enjoy their daily bread remind me that I’m blessed to do the same. Perhaps I’m on this earth to point others in heaven’s direction as well.

It seems to me that being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and honor and something for which to be especially thankful.

Generous God, I am grateful to be a part of your handiwork. Help me to express my gratitude by taking on your generous ways.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Joy-filled Seasons

“Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it…”

Psalm 98, 1:7

Each of the seasons captivates me with its unique variety of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with hints of renewed life-in-the-making. Summer brings hope-fulfilled in lush green carpets of grass and blossoms of every color. Though fall’s sometimes gloomy days replace summer’s vibrancy too quickly, its own colors renew my fascination with the outdoors. Still, in spite of all of this beauty, I find myself most taken by the coldest season of the year. Recent blustering winds more than hinted at winter’s impending arrival. They tricked and treated us on Halloween Day with an onslaught of snow and cold. Though I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow, I felt for the children who braved winter conditions to collect their annual ration of Halloween candy.

In spite of that frosty Halloween of five days ago, a yard-full of leaves beckoned me outdoors. When I joined them on our lawn, I heard them crackling as they flew. I wondered if they were laughing at my my incorrect assessment that the snow had brought this year’s raking to a close. Perhaps those leaves chuckled because mounds of snow will soon require my attention as they did on Halloween.

Still, I welcome winter. During winter, numerous living things lie dormant beneath the surface. To me, they symbolize the potential to be found each one of us. Amazing gifts too often lurk beneath the surface. Discovering these new or forgotten gifts in those I’ve been given to love reminds me of the hidden treasures I find after my annual encounters with winter. Though they may be hidden for a while, the gifts of this life are everywhere and in everyone I meet along the way.

Creator God, thank you for the beauty of this world and of our human family.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Creation… God’s Handiwork

Great are God’s works,
exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:2

My friend Kevin is currently enjoying an amazing cruise in and around the Arctic Circle. He’s visited Iceland, Greenland, Ireland, Newfoundland and Norway along the way. Though I’m not inclined to travel for such an extended period of time, I envy Kevin’s stamina and the amazing sites he’s seen along the way. Though I’m not this household’s Facebook aficionado, my dear husband has called my attention to all of Kevin’s travel posts. Each one has given me reason to smile. My only disappointment, and Kevin’s too, is that he hasn’t yet seen the Aurora Borealis. Cloudy skies have hidden it from view for most of my friend’s trip. My hope today is that he’ll see it before the cruise ship sets sail for home.

This morning, Psalm 111 prompted me to search online for what Kevin missed. Though I know the images and videos I found didn’t do justice to the Aurora Borealis, they took my breath away just the same.
Just knowing the Aurora is out there for someone to see compels me to smile. Perhaps Kevin will see it before he comes home and perhaps I’ll see it in person one day. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the beauty at hand…

Loving God, thank you for the beauty with which you surround us and for giving us the ability to appreciate these gifts.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved