Beloved King

In an effort to organize my thoughts for this writing, I decided to ignore the mist in the air and to head outdoors for a much-needed walk. I reread today’s scripture passages and then bundled up for my trek into autumn. Much to my surprise, I found that the threat of rain had retreated and the clouds had separated just enough to allow an occasional glimpse of blue. I whispered a prayer of thanks for my good fortune and then set my pace for the duration. In an effort to clear my head, I set aside today’s topic and concentrated on the fleeting color around me. Recent winds, my dear husband and our diligent neighbors had removed most of the leaves along the way. The few which remained on the sidewalk made no sound as I walked over them. The morning’s drizzle had robbed them of their crackling crunch. Still, I gave thanks for their once-brilliant color which had so generously gifted us all.

As I walked, I noticed a few stubborn leaves clinging with all of their might to otherwise barren branches. As I continued on, I saw that several more determined leaves held tightly to the trees they called home. Each one seemed unwilling to give in to the inevitable. I imagined these leaves mustering their strength in the face of the cold wind and giving thanks for every additional second during which they remained in place. Those determined leaves had lived life to the full as best they could and they weren’t about to let go before they absolutely had to do so. Those leaves which clung so tightly to their branches weren’t in alone their efforts. I also discovered a smattering of their counterparts nuzzled close to the bases of bushes and fences. I congratulated them for a job well done. I also reminded them that their work on this earth isn’t finished. They will swirl and settle and swirl in the air again until the first heavy snow forces them into a final resting place. While they will eventually lose their leaf-like appearance to decay, they will also enrich the soil. That soil will nourish the trees which will produce another season’s leaves. These new leaves will repeat their brave predecessors’ purposeful ritual.

In spite of my effort to clear my head, those leafy encounters filled my head with a renewed understanding of today’s feast day. For this I was also most grateful. Today, we observe the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year which is The Feast of Christ the King. This timing is intentional. We’ve spent the year reading and listening to scripture passages which recount Jesus’ life and his teachings. Jesus used both his word and his example to teach God’s ways. Jesus preached love, mercy and forgiveness, joy in the face of poverty and peace in the face of suffering. Jesus worked very hard at convincing those he met along the way that God loves us just as we are with all of our human frailties intact. This is the reason Jesus publicly referenced God as his Abba, his Daddy, and the reason Jesus invited us to do the same. While Jesus provided a lifetime of good example, he assured us again and again that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus spent his time with the seemingly unworthy, shunning the presumptuous ones who attempted to use his acquaintance to increase their stature. Jesus loved the poor in spirit and the materially poor and he always made time for them. In the end, Jesus hung on a tree with all of his might, determined not to let go until he had to let go. On this Feast of Christ the King, I imagine Jesus pondering the brave leaves who hold onto their trees as he once did. I imagine Jesus smiling because he knows that just as their work to enrich the soil continues season after season and year after year, his work continues in and through the lives of all of God’s children. Yes, through you and me.

As I considered the innumerable reasons I have to give thanks for Jesus’ impact upon my life, his presumed kingship never entered my mind. I researched the history of today’s feast because I wondered why we call attention to the one title which Jesus seemed least anxious to acquire. I discovered that in the grand scheme of church history this feast is relatively new. This observance was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Pius served during extremely difficult times when communism and fascist governments threatened many. Pius hoped that this feast would draw attention away from those political bullies and toward Jesus who ruled with the authentic power of God’s love. When I consider Jesus’ kingship in this light, I find good reason to celebrate.

On this Feast of Christ the King, I rejoice in the many lessons I found among this year’s crop of leaves. Their brave journeys through spring’s budding, summer’s lush exuberance and fall’s decay opened my eyes once again to the wonder to be found in Jesus’ life. So it is that today I celebrate Jesus, our Jesus who clung to a tree to complete his life and to let go of it, just as you and I will do. Even more so, I celebrate the life Jesus lived before letting go of that tree, for it is that life which teaches me how to live and how to love as God asks.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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So Generously Restored!

…he leads me beside still waters
and restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

I ran from the moment I woke that morning. Before thinking about a little volunteer pitch which I’d deliver at Mass that evening, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I did two loads of laundry while working on a few more of these daily reflections. Completing this little to-do list put me in the perfect frame of mind to ask others who are able to step up and occasionally help out with some fairly easy tasks at church.

After practicing my one-minute and fifteen-second speech, I noticed that the November rain had let up. Though the red line on my thermometer had not edged beyond forty-five that day, I couldn’t resist the oddly peaceful setting which lay beneath the cloudy sky. Though the beautiful fall colors which adorned my neighborhood were muted on that seemingly dismal day, the scene before me nudged me back to Psalm 23.

Though I had a bit more to do inside, I headed outdoors to walk. Every step of the way, God restored my soul. Even on that gray-hued day, God refreshed me.

Loving God, thank you for the many gifts with which you refresh us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifts Everywhere…

The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.

Psalm 24:1

The four seasons captivate me with their shows of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with only the slightest hint of renewed life-in-the-making. Summer brings hope-fulfilled in lush green carpets of grass and blossoms of every color. Though autumn’s sometimes gloomy days replace summer’s vibrancy too quickly, its own colors captivate as well. Yet, in spite of this beauty, I find myself most taken by the coldest season of the year.

The blustering winds outdoors hint at winter’s impending arrival. That frigid season will soon draw me in with its onslaught of snow and cold. I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow beneath my feet and I’m in outdoor heaven!

My revelry over our ever-changing seasons doesn’t dispel the twinge of frustration I experience as I peek out the window at the leaves I raked an hour ago. They’ve deserted their piles to flit and crackle in the wind. Are they laughing at my wasted effort? Mounds of snow will soon do the same. Still, I look forward to winter. Living things lying dormant beneath the snowy surface symbolize the potential to be found in so many unexpected people and places. These wonderful discoveries rekindle my hope just as winter does. You see, though they may be hidden for a while, the gifts of this life are everywhere!

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts to be found in others whatever the season.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Part of God’s Creation

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

Psalm 145:10

I admit that I haven’t been as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d like. I can offer no worthy excuses for this because these adventures always leave me feeling wonderful. I’ll blame uncontrolled busyness rather than myself. Still, I’m ignoring the obvious: that this crazy schedule is of my own doing. Though I’m too often guilty as charged, this morning was different. I ignored my to-do list, grabbed my jacket and headed outdoors.

In spite of the cold, it struck me that, as soon as I established my pace, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. Though I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I have seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide a winter’s measure of nuts were the frosting on the cake. Though I always enjoy these walks, the joy I experienced this morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during these treks. The blue sky that so often beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in heaven’s direction as well. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude. Being part of God’s creation is very good reason to give thanks!

Generous God, help me to live every day with a grateful heart. Your gifts are more than any of us could ever have hoped for. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Precious Gifts Abound

“Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy
before the Lord.”

Psalm 98, 1:7-8

A cold front transformed yesterday’s moderate temps into a taste of fall this morning. Though I enjoy the approach of each of the seasons, this sudden change took me by surprise. Then again, I’ve recently enjoyed a string of wonderful family gatherings with my niece who is in from California. Perhaps I fear that the change in temperature will somehow lessen the “Cece Effect” which is always a boost to her Chicago family. As I grab my jacket for a walk, I consider the miracle of Cece’s presence and in nature which I’ll pass along the way.

As fall progresses, life around me will give way to winter. Most of the living things I encounter will lie dormant beneath the surface until next spring. The potential they hold reminds me of the potential to be found in so many unexpected places and people. I realize that recent outings with family and friends revealed many amazing gifts which too often lurk beneath the surface. The transformations I find in nature are reminiscent of the new and forgotten gifts of those I’ve been given to love.

My morning walk and the encounters of the past few days have renewed my belief that new life is everywhere and in everyone I meet along the way. I need only to take the time to enjoy it.

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts of nature and of those you have given me to love, whatever the season.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Jump In!

He drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick.”
From Matthew 8:17

I sat mindlessly tapping my fingers on the table. I turned my attention to some troubling circumstances for which I see no end in sight. As I considered my options, I realized that there is little I can do to alleviate much of anything in this regard.

Just outside my window, a large robin plopped himself into our bird bath. He fluttered his wings for several seconds, splashing water every which way. Though I knew he couldn’t hear me, I remarked to my feathered friend, “It certainly doesn’t take much to make you happy!” Even before I finished this sentence, I realized that the same is true for all of us. Just as that water stands, available for my robin friend whenever he chooses to enjoy it, all that we need awaits us as well.

You know, being loved and cared for is the best any of us can hope for. Being loved and cared for makes everything we encounter doable. Though branches and boulders clutter the road before us, we manage to climb over them or to plod around them because we’re not alone. Though we may only occasionally choose to bathe in the waters of God’s loving care, God remains twenty-four/seven to offer them just the same.

Dear God, give us the wisdom of my robin friend that we may also bathe in the waters of your care.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved