Our Greatest Fan

I know that God’s ways are spiritual,
whereas I am weak flesh…

Romans 7:14

Our September trek through Italy netted unexpected results. I’d lost three pounds before we left in anticipation of the amazing meals I’d enjoy there. When we returned, I found that I’d lost an additional pound. All of that walking certainly paid off! As a result, I recommitted to my daily attempt to get in those 10,000 steps with renewed vigor. I also tweaked my daily intake a bit. In the month since we’ve returned, I’ve managed to ease myself extremely close my ideal weight. I admit that I’m fairly excited about this.

At the same time, I took a look deep within to check conditions there. In the process, I found that my internal health had slipped as well. Though I pride myself in keeping my inner demons at bay, I found that they were running freely, coloring my attitude and my mood as they pleased. I’d internalized the multitude of troubles which plague this world these days. Sadly, I’d also added a few of my own to the mix. Needless to say, I’d lost my ability to keep things in perspective. The worst of this is that I’d failed to turn the source of consolation who always eases me through tough times. What was I thinking?

The reason I cited the scripture passage above is that I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. God has no expectation for perfection from any one of us. God knows better than we do just how difficult this life can be. God also loves us and God has great faith in us. All God asks is that we do our best along the way. Though sometimes our best efforts will be paltry at best, God appreciates our effort just the same. All the while, God remains around us and within us, cheering us on. When I finally came to my senses, I attended to my inner health by listening carefully for those cheers from our Greatest Fan!

Loving God, THANK YOU!.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved


O is for…

For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be and favored.

Psalm 128:2

O is for Original. I had difficulty settling on today’s word. I was torn between “original” and “opus” because each word describes an extremely important aspect of our existence. Each and every one of us is an original. Even my cousins who are identical twins are very different people. Still, I cannot dismiss the word “opus” because each of our lives is precisely that. You and I are unique and important works which God has contributed to our human family. Our part in all of this is to contribute our own unique and important work to the mix. Whether we compose or construct or cause things to happen, our opus is vital to the rest of humankind. Whether this work is a lifelong process, a singular effort at a particular moment in time or a combination of the two, our original opus will make an impact upon others in a way that no one else’s work can.

My first reaction to all of this is to feel the weight of the world upon me. Then, I consider the great and small works of those I’ve met along the way. I realize that the grandeur or smallness of their actions means little to me. It is their presence and their delivery which changed everything. Each person’s original opus impacted me in a unique way. The same is true of my own work and yours!

It’s up to each of us to make a contribution to this world; to seize the opportunities before us and make the most of them. Hmmm… Opportunities… O is for the Opportunities which we embrace to complete our own Original Opus. How about that!

Loving God, be with us as we bring our unique talents to fruition.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Changing Time?

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, especially when my established routines prove to be helpful to all concerned. “Why change what is working?” I ask myself.

The problem is that I don’t always evaluate what “working” actually means. Is the status quo simply maintaining my peace of mind or is something positive actually being accomplished? Is adhering to what I am used to adding to the quality of my life and the lives of those around me or is it allowing a musty fog to blur the wonder left to discover? Even when I answer these questions honestly for myself, my responses don’t always agree with those around me. Then what?

Change is difficult for me. Still, discarding a bit of what I’m used to may bring new life to my sometimes stunted spirit. Because change is difficult for me, I’ll consult with my God who never changes along the way…

Loving God, give me the courage to let go of my routines and to embrace the opportunities which lie ahead. Be with me as I muster the courage to take that first step.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Jump In!

I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the Lord helped me.
My strength and my courage is in the Lord…

Psalm 118:13-14

As I finished the dishes, I gazed out the window. I noticed a little bird perched at a hole in our bird house. My feathered friend peered through that hole several times, but didn’t enter. I wondered if he was debating whether or not to move in. This bird house is a welcomed replacement to our old one which the squirrels had transformed into a tenement. isn’t in the best of shape. They’d gnawed at some of the holes and made them large enough to poke in and takeover our alleged avian haven. That little bird seemed wise not to jump in until he was certain that the squirrels hadn’t once again demonstrated their handiwork.

I stepped away from the window to dry the dishes I’d washed. When I returned, I looked to see if that bird persisted in his indecision. To my amazement, he was sitting in the bird house peeking out. I watched for several minutes as his head disappeared and reappeared over and over again. Apparently, he’d found his new digs to be suitable after all.

Sometimes, I question new opportunities as well. I peek in to investigate, but my feet stay planted in place. I’m not as courageous as that little bird who took that leap of faith and found himself a new home. So it is that I look upward in my uncertainty. There I find our loving God who promises always to light my way.

Generous God, give me the courage to embrace the opportunity at hand. Help me to make the most of my digs here until I occupy my perfect home with you.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Every Moment An Opportunity

My husband and I have been in a bit of a frenzy as of late. We’re returning to Israel in a few days and we’re not at all ready. In an effort to prepare, Mike started taking down our Christmas decorations without my assistance. While he worked at stowing away our holiday treasures, I typed at my keyboard for hours on end. I was plugging away non-stop on reflections for our parish bulletin and the daily reflections I’ll need to cover our time away and a few days afterward. In the midst of this frenetic whirlwind, I desperately needed to stop to take a breath. Though writing is my second-favorite activity (time with our kids, kids-in-law and grandkids is #1), I’d had enough. After whispering a prayer that the Spirit would return to inspire me when I started anew, I retreated to my recliner…

Mike had done a superior job. Most of our Christmas decorations had been carefully stowed in the basement. As I sat, I noticed the basket of Christmas cards resting on the hearth. I wondered how Mike managed to take down our Christmas stockings without noticing this bulging basket below the mantel. Though my first inclination was to empty the basket and walk it down to the basement, I thought better of it. Rather, I sat with that basket in my lap and reread all of the Christmas cards and letters we’d received. Though I’d read each one on the day it arrived, I often did so too quickly to fully appreciate its message. This time, I savored each one. As I read, the glow of our Christmas Tree and the lights which were strung about the house returned. Each card’s artwork and greeting revived my Christmas Spirit. The personal messages, letters and signatures before me stirred my affection for each sender. Before long, I’d returned to resounding Christmas Joy. I lost sight of my time crunch. Suddenly, I had all of the time in the world to celebrate Christmas once again.

It was almost two hours later when I carried our empty Christmas card basket to the basement. As I headed back upstairs, it occurred to me that Christmas isn’t meant to be tucked away in our basements or attics. No, Christmas is meant to have a lasting effect which carries us through the months and year ahead. You know, the Sundays after Christmas are numbered until Lent begins. As we tick them off, we use each one to become as familiar as possible with this Jesus whose birth we recalled with such relish. It seems to me that the more we get to know Jesus, the more eager we should be to live as Jesus lived. My short interlude with those Christmas cards provided a poignant reminder to keep all that Jesus has shared in the forefront of my life. Still, doing so throughout the New Year may be challenging.

I find encouragement in the scripture passages we hear this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the first reading (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19), an unrecognizable call wakens young Samuel several times throughout the night. At first, he assumes that the voice is the elderly Eli who has taken Samuel into his care in the temple. Only after Samuel wakes him three times does Eli explain that it is the Lord who is calling. It is only then that Samuel responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” In the second reading (1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20), Paul stresses our need to help one another with the gift of ourselves. Our presence to those who need us is the most precise means we have to bring God to one another. As I consider Paul’s lesson, I recall that Paul had to be struck blind in order for God to get his attention long enough to call him into service. In the gospel (John 1:35-42), John the Baptist sees Jesus and announces, “Behold, the lamb of God.” Two disciples who hear this say nothing, but they follow Jesus closely. So begins the relationship which changed their lives forever.

Perhaps it was no accident that my husband neglected to pack away our Christmas card basket. Perhaps that call to my recliner was as intentional as the encounters described in today’s scripture passages. The coming days and weeks of Ordinary Time will re-acquaint us with Jesus. This humble tradesman-turned-apprentice-preacher transformed his ordinary life into extraordinary opportunities to care for those he met along the way. It seems to me that this Jesus invites us to acknowledge our own potential to bring the extraordinary to those we have been given to love. When we open ourselves to God’s presence in our own lives, we cannot help sharing what we find. As complicated or mundane as it may be, every moment we’re given provides the setting in which we hear God’s call. It’s up to us to respond as best we can. When in doubt, simply do as Jesus did with love and persistence. Maybe you can also allow yourself a little time off in the recliner to re-energize and to start again!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Normal’s Best!

“We have this confidence in God:
that God hears us whenever we ask for anything…”

1 John 5:14

Each year, when I hang the coming year’s calendar, I’m usually ready to return to what I consider to be “normal”. This year, however, is different. As I planned my “de-decorating” strategy, I wondered just how long I might dare to keep up our Christmas Tree and houseful of decorations. After long days of planning and celebrating, I found great comfort in the colored lights strewn about the railings and tree. My affection for the peaceful company nestled in the crèche under our tree compelled me to hold on tightly to Christmas. I longed to postpone my return to “normal” for as long as possible…

As I considered how to proceed, I sat near our Christmas Tree with the hope of finding inspiration there. As I gazed at the tiny baby in the crib, I realized that there was no returning to “normal” after Jesus arrived. Because of him, everything changed for us all. With that, I mentioned to my husband that we could take down the decorations whenever he was ready. Though these visuals would be packed away in our basement until next Christmas, the transformation which began in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago would continue through me.

I went back to my January 2018 Calendar to plan another strategy. This time, I wondered how I might dare to bring the message of the first Christmas to the year-full of opportunities before me. I wondered what my new “normal” will be.

God of Hope, this world needs you more than ever. Help me to bring your presence into every moment of the coming year.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved