Always With Us

Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth.

From Isaiah 45:22

Recent celebrations of our wedding anniversary and our little grandson’s birthday elicited much reminiscing on my part. I’ve enjoyed fond memories especially of my mom. My mom was happiest when we were gathered as family under one roof enjoying one another. How she would have loved to participate in the many events which have occurred since her passing!

After what we expected to be uneventful surgery, my sisters and I were shocked by the news of our mom’s cancer, her four-month life expectancy and the possibility of pain that could darken her smile. When we told our mother the news, she shared our surprise at the diagnosis, but not at the outcome. “We all have to die from something. I’ve had a good long life. I wanted to leave an educated family that contributes and I have. I hope I can do what I want for a while. I hope I can be comfortable. I hope I go without too much trouble. I hope…” We all hoped with her.

In the end, the outcome was precisely what my mom had hoped for. The pain never came and she did everything she hoped to until her last two days when she remained in bed. On the day she left us, my mom’s eyes were closed, but her heart was wide open to the things to come. As for our family gatherings since then, I’m certain my mom has been perched nearby and that she hasn’t miss a thing!

Loving God, thank you for making us capable of loving one another so much that our losses hurt and thank you for filling us with just enough faith and hope to cope.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Why Not Now?

They carried to him all those afflicted
with various diseases and racked with pain…
He cured them all.

From Matthew 4:24

My sister and I attended a family baby shower last weekend. Seeing our extended family elicited fond memories of our parents, grandparents and siblings who’ve passed. Though I’m certain of their current bliss, the sting of these losses remains with me. I can still recall the details of their last days among us.

When the people we love are sick, it’s difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. When depression, addiction or a misguided heart brings them pain, we wonder why this occurs. When their days are numbered, the inevitable isn’t easy to accept. When we recall the healing powers of Jesus, we’re tempted to ask “Why not now?”

When I ponder this and similar questions, I consider Jesus’ experience as one of us. He struggled with trials and tribulations just as we do. If that wasn’t enough, he was nailed to a cross as well. Was Jesus capable of doing all of this because he knew what was coming afterward? I admit that I also know of the things to come. If I’m honest with myself, I must admit that this should be enough to see me through. Our loved ones in the hereafter tell us again and again that this is so. It’s time I listen!

Dear God, when the going gets rough, nudge us along with reminders of the things to come.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

More On Time…

A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.

Ecclesiastes 3:2

A time to be born… I enjoy walking outdoors because of Nature’s ongoing evolution. The entire world seems to engage in rebirth during springtime. This growth continues through summer when flowerbeds and gardens flourish. Leafy trees respond to September’s mix early on with subtle changes in color. October brings those changes to fruition only to give way to November winds. Leaves crunching beneath my feet remind me that winter is near. Even then, barren trees hold the promise of new life. Yes, it seems to me that there is always time to be born.

A time to die… Just as Nature engages in rebirth, it also engages in dying all the while. Something old continually gives way to something new. Seeds fall from trees and dance in the wind until they find rest on the ground below. Though no longer part of a living plant, they hold all of the potential they need for life anew. These seeds nestle into the ground with great hope in the things to come.

A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant… If those seeds are lucky, a watchful gardener will see that they are covered with enough soil to survive. If they sprout too closely to one another, that gardener will gently relocate them so each will have room to take root and to receive its share of sunlight and water.

A time to love… Fortunately for us all, God feels it is always time to tend to us, the most beloved of all God’s creatures.

Caring God, thank you for your always timely love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Mary’s Path and Ours

Be on your way, and remember
I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves..

From Luke 10:3

While looking over the ruins in Magdala, we saw a street which is flanked by the remains of shops of every sort. Archaeologists suggest that pottery, fresh produce and woven cloth were likely sold there. A few shops which sported small pools and a well likely sold fish caught locally. Another street was home to a row of houses, a small part of a neighborhood arranged in grid-like fashion much like our streets here at home. Closer to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, there are remains of a warehouse and huge storage vessels. Magdala seems to have been home to a bustling economy. Many Greeks also lived in Magdala which made it a far more “worldly” setting than Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.

As I considered Magdala in Jesus’ day, I imagined Mary Magdalene doing her best to maintain her stature in spite of the mysterious illness which plagued her. I also wondered if Mary maintained this facade when she first met Jesus or if she immediately revealed the pain which plagued her. Whichever the case, when Mary made her way to Jesus, her life changed forever.

It seems to me that the same is true for each one of us. Wherever we find God, we find life anew.

Dear God, sometimes, I walk a straight path to you. Sometimes, I wander aimlessly as though I don’t know the way. Always, you stand waiting for me.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Brought Back To Life!

While in Israel, I quickly discovered that the precise locations of the events of Jesus’ life didn’t concern me as much as breathing in the air Jesus breathed and walking where Jesus walked. Meeting people who resembled Jesus, his family, neighbors and disciples awed me. Having said that, I admit that my perspective changed on the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus’ presence was almost tangible.

As our guide led us toward the water, he insisted, “Wait here. You must get onto Daniel’s boat.” Yossi returned quickly to lead us aboard. As we pulled out onto the water, I absorbed the images around me: the sea, the boats, the hills in the distance and the faces of those who sailed with me. I looked upward to ask, “What were you thinking when you looked at all of this?” Before I received an answer, a gentleman came forward to offer a commentary regarding the sea and Jesus’ impact there. I was surprised by this. His passion implied that this presentation was far more than a tour narrative. I assumed this man was Daniel until he stepped back to introduce our boat captain. Seconds into Daniel’s remarks, I understood Yossi’s reasons for booking this tour with him.

Daniel explained that he is a Messianic Jew. He was born to a young unmarried Orthodox Jewish woman and was given up for adoption to a secular Jewish family. Though his family had no faith to share with him, they provided Daniel with a loving home in the port city of Haifa. This proximity to water inspired Daniel’s love for the sea and his desire to become a boat captain one day. Daniel’s family also nurtured his love for music by gifting him with a set of drums early on. Unfortunately, Daniel endured a personal crisis in his late twenties. This death of sorts urged Daniel onto a quest deep within himself. Because his family hadn’t kept his adoption secret, Daniel continued his journey by finding his birth family: his mother and four siblings. With the hope of building relationships with them, Daniel relocated nearby. He stayed in a Kibbutz and found a job on a tour boat.

I recalled our tour guide Yossi’s experience growing up in a Kibbutz. There was no talk of God there. I assumed Daniel’s newfound family were Orthodox Jews as his birth mother had been, so there would be no talk of Jesus with them. Offering tours of “holy” places is big business and certainly not a religious experience for local Jews and Palestinians. What was it then that prompted Daniel to take that extreme step toward Jesus?

Apparently, Daniel discovered Jesus’ tangible presence on the Sea of Galilee just as I had. For five years, he listened to his passengers talk about their belief in Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) as they sailed. All the while, Daniel absorbed the prayers, music and scripture passages they shared. Every day, Daniel pondered all that he saw and heard. In the end, Daniel couldn’t help being moved. Something within Daniel came to life the day he realized that he also believed in Yeshua. Yeshua had become Daniel’s most precious and life-giving treasure.

Daniel has responded by sharing his testimony and his music during tours. He sings the hymns which inspired him and translates them into Hebrew for other Messianic Jews to enjoy. The day we sailed with him, I witnessed Jesus’ passion in Daniel. The love he expressed for Yeshua with every word echoed Jesus’ deep love for you and me. Daniel has recorded these hymns and his own works in an effort to tell all who will listen about Yeshua. He does this in spite of being ostracized by many of his fellow Jews, secular and religious, who resent the beliefs of Messianic Jews. As for me, Daniel’s CD eases me into Jesus’ company every time I listen to it.

I share all of this because Jesus seems to have done for Daniel what he did for Lazarus two thousand years ago. Today, John’s gospel (John 11:1-45) tells us that Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had taken ill and died. When Jesus went to Lazarus’ sisters to comfort them, Martha and Mary insisted that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been with him. Do you know how many times I’ve looked upward and declared, “If you were here, things would be different?”! Raising Lazarus was Jesus’ greatest miracle. Daniel will tell you that this miracle was repeated in him when he welcomed Jesus into his life. I will tell you that this miracle has been repeated within me every time I’ve survived one of the major and minor tragedies of my life. Jesus’ miracle is repeated in each of us over and over again. The best part of all of this is that we can imitate Jesus’ miracle in our own efforts to renew the lives of those we’ve been given to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Reconciled!

“…go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:24

When I became engaged, my parish priest provided all of the required marriage preparation. I appreciated this effort because I had known Father O’Connell since I was four years old and my fiancé had known him since high school. Father was like a second dad to me and I was happy that he wanted to ensure that my future husband and I started this marriage with our best foot forward. Though Father’s talks were all helpful, one bit of advice has proven to be most beneficial over the years. Father encouraged my future husband and me never to go to bed angry with one another. The longevity our relationship is evidence of Father’s wisdom in this regard.

It occurs to me that I need to apply this advice to my other relationships. It’s never helpful to allow recent hurts to age into old scars. When I spend time nursing my wounds rather than dealing with their source, I bring their pain to every subsequent encounter. How much better off I’d be if I sought out my perceived adversary and explored the problem with him or her. Though the result might not always be what I prefer, the air between us will certainly be clearer. Isn’t fresh air always more energizing than smog?

Loving God, it has taken me too long to apply Father’s decades-old lesson to my other relationships. Thank you for giving me the sense to figure this out!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved