Better Than The Weather?

This is the message you heard from the beginning:
we should love one another.

1 John 3:11

Though I enjoy the view from our study window, I’ve closed the blinds today. The sun was pouring in and raising the indoor temperature exponentially. Though I miss the lush greenery outdoors, I realize that this is a minor woe. As I write, our friends to the west suffer the ravages of wildfires which continue to destroy acre after acre and home after home. To the east, terrible storms flood and wash away entire communities in their path. Though our local television meteorologist offers encouragement with a promise that cooler temperatures will prevail here in a few days, she makes no promises regarding the misery of our faraway neighbors.

It occurs to me that our presence to one another can be just as promising as cooler temperatures and just as terrible as the fires and storms which wreak havoc upon so many. Flames and floods don’t discriminate as they destroy everything in their paths. Sometimes, we fail to open our eyes and to look closely at what or who stands on the path before us. The good news is that we usually have the time to think before we plow ahead. We can choose whether to change things for the better or for the worse for those we meet along the way.

I’ve opened the blinds again because the sun has set. As I take in the greenery beyond my window, I also take in God’s urging not to add to the damage nature has done. It’s up to me and each one of us to make things better for those we meet along the way.

Dear God, though the weather is out of my control, my attitudes and actions are my own. Help me to use them both with love and good will.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Grateful? Oh, Yes!

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

Psalm 145:10

I usually wake with a “thank you” on my lips. Today, however, I woke with a mumble. In an effort to improve my mood, I took the time to peek out every window as I opened the blinds around the house. Thanks to my husband’s handiwork, colorful blossoms of every sort met my glance no matter where I looked. I whispered my thanks for Mike and his flowers. Still, that dull ache in my heart remained. We’ve been struggling a bit with a situation of importance to both of us. We and our kids and grandkids are fine. This is something outside of our family circle which needs to be remedied. The problem is that there isn’t much more we can do.

As I pondered this dilemma, I decided to distract myself with email. The first message was a lengthy update from a friend’s ailing husband. After a short greeting from my friend, her husband’s amazing litany of thanksgiving followed. This was unexpected and remarkable as the poor man has battled terrible illness for a very long time. Though hope in his case has been elusive at best, this grateful man wrote paragraph after paragraph to express his gratitude regarding his journey to date and the dear ones who’ve walked it with him. When he expressed his gratefulness for his faith in God, he touched my heart. By the time I reached the end of his remarks, I wondered why I’d allowed myself to forget all that I have to be grateful for.

After replying with gratitude to my friends, I looked upward and offered that “thank you” which I’d forgotten this morning. I also gave more thought to my own troubling situation. If my friend can see God at his side in the midst of months and months of suffering, I can certainly follow God’s lead as I work through the discomfort at hand.

Dear Sweet God, thank you for your good company!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

N is for…

God looked at everything God made
and found it to be very good.

Genesis 1:31

N is for Nature. If you check a dictionary, it will define “nature” something like this: the essential characteristic or quality which makes something what it is; its essence. I think it’s extremely important for us to remember the Source of our nature. God is the Source who made us who we are. It is God who created us and everything else from nothing more than an insatiable willingness to love.

The line I cite above from the Creation Story certainly gets to the nature or essence of God’s feelings for us and for all of God’s handiwork. It seems to me that our best response is to accept that we are good and to live accordingly. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, it’s hard to see the good. Yet God insists that it’s there within me. Sometimes, my neighbor poses the challenge when he or she behaves in anything but lovable ways. Still, God insists that goodness dwells within every one of us and God asks that we behave accordingly. If this isn’t troublesome enough, God also insists that all of creation is good. Not only must I love my fellow humans, but also I must care for our earthly home.

N is for Nature. God asks that I live up to my nature by living with love toward myself, my fellow humans and this earth. Indeed, God looks at us all and finds us to be very good. What an amazing place this will be if we do our best to do the same!

Patient God, this is a tough one. Please be with me as I try to look upon everyone and everything with your loving eyes.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

J is for…

The Lord has sent me to bring
glad tidings to the poor…

From Luke 4:18

J is for Joy. I would be completely dishonest if I didn’t admit that joy eludes me at times. A recent off-the-cuff remark opened an old wound. Though I tend to let go of hurtful memories, this recollection surfaced immediately. Rather than giving in to my slowly simmering anger, I picked up the newspaper to distract myself. Unfortunately, the headlines only increased my melancholy. I swapped the paper for the remote. I surfed the channels until a news report caught my attention. The update confirmed that violence continues to plague my old neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. I sank into my recliner, looked out the window and asked, “Dear God, what are we doing?”

We humans have hurt one another since the beginning of time. Before I could repeat my question to the Almighty, a lone bird perched on our bird bath. Though the bird may have been a pigeon, she was a dove to me. Almost on cue, she turned my way seemingly to peer into my aching heart. When a large blue jay joined her to dance on the rim of that bird bath, the dove continued to look at me. That sweet bird didn’t change the news that afternoon. Still, she filled me with joy just the same. When she eventually flew away, I imagined that she’d gone to spread joy elsewhere.

As long as we can appreciate the joy within us and around us, there will be joy in this world of ours. Rather than allowing myself to be overwhelmed by wounds old and new, that wonderful dove reminded me to revel in joy and to share that joy at every opportunity.

God of Joy, you send me to bring your joy everywhere I go.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

Loved Always and Forever!

It was decades ago…

Early that morning, I was sitting alone in the teachers’ lounge. I needed a few minutes to gather my thoughts before the school day began. My stepdad had been ill and I felt quite certain that he was in the midst of his last hospital stay. I didn’t realize a colleague had joined me until she said, “Mary, are you okay?” I smiled as I assured her that all was well. I must’ve been convincing because she replied, “Then can I ask you to do me a favor? I bought this book for a baby shower gift and I don’t know if it’s appropriate. Will you read it?” Since I felt badly about misrepresenting my state of mind seconds earlier, of course I agreed to help her. This was the day I became acquainted with Robert Munsch’s book, LOVE YOU FOREVER. When I delivered the book to that teacher’s classroom a few minutes later, I tearfully assured her that her purchase was the best baby shower gift I’d ever seen. It also unexpectedly lifted my spirits. After school that day, I clearly recall announcing to my dear husband that I needed to find that book and to purchase a copy of my own…

Year’s later, shortly after our parish was founded, my husband-the-deacon read that book at all of the Masses on our first Mother’s Day together in 1992. Mike’s gathered our children at the foot of the altar to do the same every year since. Though the book might seem to be a cutesy means to keep the children’s attention for a Mother’s Day homily, its message is meant to do far more for us all. When we listen carefully as Mike reads, we who believe in God’s promises can’t help identifying with the outlandish antics of the child and the eternal patience of the mother in the story. By the end of the book, we who believe in eternal life understand that the experiences of this child and parent illustrate precisely the relationship which God offers to each one of us. Let me explain…

From his infancy, Mother finds her helpless baby irresistible and she promises to love him forever. As is the case with us all, it doesn’t take long for this child to become adept at performing in less-than-lovable ways. Mother thinks the worst that can happen is having her watch flushed down the toilet until her toddler grows into boyhood and then his teens with all of the accompanying trials and tribulations. Still, whatever phase her child grows into, Mother repeats her promise to love him forever. Eventually, the young man leaves home for life in the world. In spite of the distance between them, Mother makes her way to her son to repeat her pledge to love him. As is often the case with those of us blessed with “seasoned” parents, the day arrives when Mother can no longer make her way to her son. She calls and invites him to come to her so she might to speak those words of promise to him one more time. You’ll have to read the book to discover what occurs when mother and child meet…

On this Ascension Day, Jesus finds himself in a similar predicament as his time on this earth with his disciples comes to a close. Though we hear different Ascension gospels each year, the core of Jesus’ message remains the same. In Luke’s account (Luke 24:46-53), Jesus says, “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” Luke impresses upon us Jesus’ promise that God will be with us in everything. In today’s account from Mark’s gospel (Mark 16:15-20), Jesus asks his disciples to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” By sharing the Word, they will assure all who listen of God’s love for them. In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 28:16-20), Jesus adds his promise, “I will be with you always, until the end of the world.” Jesus promises to remain at their sides through everything. Like the mother in Robert Munsch’s story, Jesus repeats his promise to those he loves over and over again. This is precisely the point of everything Jesus said and did. By the end of the story, you realize that Jesus’ hope is the same as that of the grown child’s mother: That his beloved children accept love and that they learn to love generously in return.

You know, my stepdad passed away not long after I read LOVE YOU FOREVER in the teachers’ lounge that morning. When I bade him my final good-bye, I pictured my stepdad cradled in God’s arms just as that mother had cradled her son and just as that son had eventually cradled his mother. I was convinced that God wouldn’t begin my stepdad’s first day at home in heaven any other way. So it is that I thank you, Robert Munsch, for the poignant glimpse of God’s love which your wonderful book has given me. Thank you, Jesus, for preaching this very lesson every day of your life among us. Thank you, God, for loving each of us through our lifetime journeys home to you. Thank you, Moms (and dad’s!) for doing your best to teach the same!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Munsch, Robert (1986). LOVE YOU FOREVER. Ontario, Canada: Firefly Books.
This book is available in bookstores and online.