Change?

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Change is difficult for me. Though my established routines usually prove to be helpful to those concerned, this doesn’t seem to be the case these days. I often ask myself, “Why change what is working?” Today, however, I’d like to pose that question to a few others in my vicinity.

It’s not that I’m so stuck in my ways that I can’t deal with adjustments and replacements and revamping and alterations of the status quo. The problem is that I’d like these changes to be made with thought and with consideration for those involved and for those who will be impacted by them. Is something positive actually being accomplished?

Yes, change is difficult for me, not so much because of me, but because of its impact upon others who are very important to me. Perhaps it’s time to kill my inactivity and to do what I can to heal those around me. Perhaps it’s time to tear down the walls which hinder communication and to build relationships that thrive on openness. Perhaps the changes around me won’t be so difficult after all.

Loving God, help me to find the tools to transform the changes around me into opportunities for joy and productivity.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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J… Joy, Joy to the World

The Lord has sent me to bring
glad tidings to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives,
recovery of sight to the blind
and release to prisoners…

Luke 4:18

J is for Joy, a sometimes elusive state of mind, body and soul. Recently, I found myself aching over an old wound. Because I tend to let go of hurtful events from my past, this recollection surprised me. I distracted myself by perusing the newspaper which only increased my melancholy. I set it aside and grabbed the remote. As I surfed the channels, a news report caught my eye. This update confirmed that recent violence was accomplished to honor God’s name. I sank into my recliner and asked, “Dear God, what are we doing?”

We humans have been hurting one another in God’s name since the beginning of time. Still… Before I could repeat my question, a strong gust scattered glitter-like snow across the frozen ground. Almost on cue, several birds fluttered about, ensuring that those sparkling bits of ice remained afloat. When the birds congregated at their favorite feeder, another gust swirled the silver-white specks yet higher. That gust lifted my heart as well. “Thank you, Lord!” I said aloud.

That glistening snow didn’t change the subzero temperature outdoors. Still, it warmed my heart with winter’s beauty. Though those flitting flakes will eventually settle and melt, God’s handiwork always surrounds me. As long as some of us continue to appreciate the joy within us and around us, there will be joy in this world of ours. Rather than allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by wounds old and new, we must revel in joy and share that joy at every opportunity.

Joyful God, you fill every moment and every one of us with the potential for joy. Help us to unearth this gift at every opportunity!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love First

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

John 5:8-9

The scriptures make it quite clear that Jesus couldn’t resist a troubled soul. On the occasion cited above, Jesus assisted a man confined to a mat on the ground. Though the man somehow found his way to the healing waters of Bethesda, he could find no one to help him into the pool. Every time he seemed close, someone else went in before him. Jesus noted the poor man’s predicament and offered him far more than could be found in the pool. The man accepted Jesus’ gesture with absolute faith.

Jesus’ good deed drew the attention of the Pharisees because it occurred on the Sabbath. When Jesus cured the man and then instructed him to pick up his mat and walk, he violated the Sabbath by causing the man to carry his mat. When the Pharisees saw the man doing this, they chastised him. When they discovered that Jesus was responsible, the Pharisees began to plot against this troublemaker who seemed oblivious of The Law. Jesus responded to the Pharisees in kind, pointing out their error in placing The Law above the basic needs of God’s people.

I admit that my greatest frustration with the Church and organized religion in general is our propensity to confine God, God’s goodness and God’s blessings to our limited understanding. When in doubt, it seems to me that the best we can do is to make love and the well-being of others our top priorities.

Patient God, thank you for our capacity to love. When we’re motivated by love, we always get things right.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

So Grateful!

One of them, realizing that he had been cured,
came back praising God in a loud voice.

Luke 17:15

A recent email exchange between my eldest niece and me reminded me that she will celebrate a milestone birthday this year. I was shocked by this reminder as I clearly recall the day my sister told me she was expecting her first bundle of joy. My sister’s joy was tangible in spite of her previous experience with rearing little ones.

Poor Rita is the eldest of us six siblings. She was only fifteen when our dad passed away. The rest of us were 14, 8, 6, 5 and 3. Since our mom had to go to work to support us, Rita assumed a good deal of responsibility for the rest of us. Looking back, I realize that this changed what might have been my sister’s carefree teens into a much more difficult experience. Much to her credit, Rita did not share only our mom’s workload. She also shared in our mom’s efforts to keep our family’s “special occasions” special. Rita helped our mom to select and wrap our Christmas gifts. She also pitched in for our birthdays and Easter. As soon as she could, Rita began to use the few dollars she earned each week at her job to supplement our mom’s gifts to us.

The scripture passage I selected above is an excerpt from Luke’s account of the healing of the ten lepers. Though all were made whole, only one took the time to return to Jesus to thank him. In an effort not to repeat the mistake of the other nine lepers, I need to do the same. Thank you, Rita, for all you did for us!

Loving God, thank you for empowering us to enrich this life with our kindness and gratitude toward one another.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Return To The Obvious

“…these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.”

From John 5:36

I just read a newsletter from one of many non-governmental organizations which work tirelessly to address and alleviate the injustices of this world of ours. I consider myself to be reasonably well-read regarding such things. Still, I was once again taken aback by the depths of our inhumanity to one another. The topic this time was the plight of seafarers who often literally put their very lives into the hands of unscrupulous employers simply to provide their families a poverty-level existence. How can this occur in 2016?

When I was a child, I had great impatience with Jesus’ contemporaries. If it was obvious to me at age ten that Jesus’ lessons, parables and works had to have come from a loving God, why was it so difficult for the scribes and Pharisees to accept the same? It seemed to me that the Pharisees and many others should have known better.

Times have not changed much. I realize that there are many very good people who call God by another name and who do their best to emulate God’s loving ways in their lives. Still, there are those among us who work to accumulate riches at the expense of others. There are those who vie for power at all costs. There are those who prefer status to character and who see to their own needs before those of others. If I’m honest, I must admit that I have joined the Pharisees and all of these on occasion.

Rather than wringing my hands in response, I’m returning to the “obvious” which I saw so clearly at age ten. I’m going to do my best to love and care for others, both near and far, as God does.

Dear God, I cannot change the entire world today, but I can do something today to make it better for someone. Help me to do just that.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Okay… Let Go…

“…until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part
of a letter will pass until
all things have taken place.”

Matthew 5:18

A recent gathering with my sisters included the usual reminiscing. This time, we traveled back to that childhood summer when we stayed at a rented lake cottage. On this particular day, my younger sisters and I romped in the water with our dad. We climbed all over him as he attempted to swim. Suddenly, he sank into the water and called, “Rita, get the kids off of me.” This out-of-character request prompted us back to the sandy beach where my older sister watched over us as my mom tended to our dad. Subsequent tests and doctor’s visits revealed a heart condition which would allow my dad only one more year of life. My mom’s vigilant care and my dad’s vigilant obedience to his doctors earned him that precious year.

The following summer, my dad lay in the hospital. He told my mom about the “scare” he had experienced. “I shook hands with St. Peter last night,” he remarked. Mom knew as the doctor had already spoken to her. It was then that she offered my dad the medicine he needed most. “God has taken good care of us and the kids, too. Do you think he’s going to stop because you’re not here? It’s okay to let go, Honey. We’ll make it…” My dad passed away that night.

I failed to appreciate the depth of my mom’s sacrifice until I had a family of my own. Could I ever do what this mother of six children had done? I’ll never know because life has unfolded differently for me. As for my mom, her faith never wavered. She acknowledged often that God had not left her or her children alone.

Loving God, help me to trust in your plans for me.
They are so much better than my own.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved