It’s Not Always Easy, But…

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

1 John 3:11

I have a headache and a heartache. The realities of New Year 2019 insist upon revealing themselves in full force. I celebrated with many across this world when the clock struck 12:00 AM on New Year’s morning. I shared their relief over the close of Year 2018. I also whispered prayers of gratitude for many blessings of that year. Today, however, I realize that there is still much to be done if there is ever going to be peace on earth and in my little corner of this world.

Apparently, the heavens have a headache, too. A storm is brewing just beyond my window. This is an odd phenomenon. Only rarely do we hear thunder before a snow. If my minimal meteorological knowledge serves me, ice pellets rather than snowflakes may fall within the next few minutes. I wonder. Ice pellets sting, unlike snowflakes which gently settle to the earth. Still, in the end, both blanket the earth in white.

My headache fades a bit. There is wisdom to be found in the white stuff which has begun to fall. As those icy pellets tap my windowpane, their music lifts my spirit. I realize that Year 2019 brings both challenges and promise. Sometimes, I’ll be called to respond gently like the falling snow. Sometimes, my actions may sting me or those who need me. In the end, I must do what is needed to blanket as much of this world as I can with God’s peace.

Loving God, you never said that our work will be easy, but you will always be with us through it all. Thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Uncover The Hope Around You

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 98:7-9

Wintertime captivates me with its onslaught of snow and cold. While this past December’s warmth provided excellent conditions for Christmas shopping, I longed for a shower of frozen flakes to uplift my spirit. I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree and an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow under my feet and a chilling wind around me and I’m in heaven! I willingly volunteer to be the driver in the worst winter weather. You see, even then, I find peace in the midst of nature’s havoc.

Why this affinity with this difficult season? I’m not certain. I can only guess. The “winters” of my lifetime have snowed a plethora of challenges and sorrows and disappointments upon me. Still, I emerged from each storm with renewed hope, increased stamina and a stronger resolve to carry on. Perhaps winter, when most living things lie dormant beneath the surface, symbolizes the potential to be found in the many unexpected places, circumstances and people in our lives. Perhaps knowing that spring will eventually come inspires my hope that, indeed, life is everywhere, in everything and in everyone!

Creator God, thank you for the beauty of this world that so inspires my hope. Help me to uncover that hope for those around me, whatever the season.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Let God Get Your Attention

…God leads me beside still waters;
God restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

The other day, I ran from the moment I woke that morning. Before finishing preparations for a meeting I’d lead that evening, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I finished a bit of housecleaning and three loads of laundry. Having the “home front” in order eased me into a productive and positive frame of mind for the evening’s meeting.

As it happened, I was prepared with hours to spare. It the midst of my revelry, I noted that sunshine was pouring through my window. Though the needle on my thermometer hadn’t edged beyond the forties that day, I couldn’t resist the sun’s warmth. The rays that seemed to reach from heaven enhanced the beautiful fall colors that adorned my neighborhood. As I gazed out the window at that amazing show, another passage from Psalm 23 came to mind…

So it was that I headed out the door to walk beyond the trees on my block to the still waters of a nearby pond. I admit that I enjoyed every step in the chilling wind as God restored my soul.

Loving God, I remember thank you for drawing my attention with that wonderful sunshine so you could refresh my soul once again.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifts Everywhere!

Let rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy
before the Lord.”

Psalm 98 III:7-9

The four seasons captivate me, each one with its own variety of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with only the slightest 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. Yet, in spite of all of this beauty, I find myself most taken in by the coldest season of the year. The other day, blustering winds hinted at winter’s impending arrival. I realized that winter will soon draw me in with its onslaught of snow and cold perhaps a bit sooner than I’d hoped. Still, I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow under my feet and a chilling wind around me and I am in outdoor heaven!

Having written that, I see that the piles of leaves I raked this morning now flutter about in the wind. They crackle as they fly and I wonder if they’re actually laughing at my wasted effort. Mounds of snow will require similar and perhaps equally futile attention when they arrive in not too many weeks. Still, I look forward to winter.

You see, it is during winter that most living things lie dormant beneath the surface. To me, they symbolize the potential to be found in so many unexpected places and people. Recent gatherings with family and friends revealed gifts which too often lurk beneath the surface. Finding these treasures in those I’ve been given to love elicited pure joy. These wonderful encounters rekindled my hope, just as winter does. Though it may be hidden for a while, life is everywhere!

Creator God, help me to appreciate your gifts whatever the season.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Zipping Along…

God has done great things for us.
From Psalm 126:2

Road construction surrounds us in every direction both nearby and faraway. As a result, my husband and I drove the “scenic route” when we returned home from Wisconsin a few weeks ago. Since Mike enjoys the drive, I contented myself with the beautiful autumn colors which graced the roadside. Along the way, we passed a zip-lining site. The lines and platforms stretched amidst a forest of trees for what seemed at least a mile. My view from the car indicated that those trees were the best of the scenery a rider would enjoy.

Though I don’t mean to be a “zip-lining snob”, I think I’ve become one. Five years ago, while visiting Alaska, my husband and I enjoyed an excursion in Icy Straight Point. It was there that we took advantage of the ingenuity of the Hoonah Tribe. These Native Alaskans operate the world’s longest zip-rider. For reasons unknown to me, Mike and I found the courage to take that zip-rider from the side of a mountain hundreds of feet above ground to enjoy the most amazing experience of our lives. For the entire duration of the ride, I repeated two phrases: “This is awesome!” and “Thank you, God, for giving me the courage to do this!” I recall that I smiled all the while.

When I looked back toward that roadside zip-line, I acknowledged that it paled in comparison to my Alaskan experience. Still, I wondered if I should give it a chance. After all, I’m the one who finds an adventure every time I walk my neighborhood. Every new day brings me a new perspective regarding the greenery I pass along the way. Perhaps those trees will provide their own wonderful soul-changing experience. With that, I turned to my husband to suggest that we may want to zip-line locally next time.

Generous God, thank you for showing yourself to me in all of the wonders of this world.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Loves You!

Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your love.

Psalm 145:4

This past summer, I wasn’t as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d hoped to be. Fortunately, our time in Italy re-acclimated me to the rigors of serious effort in this regard. I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten back “on track” so to speak…

The other day, in spite of the cold, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me as I walked. Though I’m a creature of habit who takes the same route almost every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I’ve seen a hundred times before filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide a winter’s measure of nuts were the frosting on the cake. Though I always enjoy walking, the joy I experienced that morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during these treks. The autumn sky that 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 enduring love. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in the same direction. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude that day. Being able to share God’s love is very good reason to give thanks!

Generous God, help me to remind everyone I meet along the way of just how much you love them.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved