The “God” Side of Things

With me at your right hand,
you will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:8

My husband lifted his foot and rested it on the ottoman before him. “This really hurts,” he said. Then he quickly added, “But if this is the worst that happens today, I’m a lucky man.”

Our life together hasn’t been trauma free. Still, my husband and I try to look at the brighter side of things when tragedy touches us. I was blessed with this mindset early on. My husband was not. It took years of nurturing his own faith as best he could for him to develop his positive stance toward life’s negatives. Though this transformation occasionally reverts to a work in progress, I admire my husband’s persistence.

You know, God has encouraged us from the beginning. When humankind failed to see the better side of things, God sent the prophets and then Jesus of Nazareth to get our attention. Who but one from God could have conceived of the prodigal son’s forgiving father and the Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for even one of his sheep? Who but one from God could have lived love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness with such perfection? Yet, in spite of his goodness, tragedy touched Jesus’ life as well.

It seems to me that the moral of the story is this: Because we are not yet in heaven, this life will never be perfect. Still, God loves us and remains with us through it all. This is all we need to know.

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing presence within me.

Advertisements

Happiness to Come…

My renewed need to purge our home of non-necessities nudged me up the stairs to our spare bedroom. This was a huge mistake as that particular room is likely the most nostalgic place in our house. The wall of antique pictures of great-grandparents and grandparents and photos from my husband’s and my childhood eased the urgency I’d felt just a minute earlier. When I finally opened the first dresser drawer, I found one of the treasures my mom left when she passed away. As I paged through the seventy-four-year-old album, I rediscovered my mom’s bridal shower and wedding greeting cards. Suddenly, I realized that my definition of non-necessities was evolving quickly. My parents were married in October and I couldn’t resist this opportunity to celebrate their anniversary once again…

As I gently perused the yellowed cards, I was taken aback by their diminutive size. Most are no larger than three inches by four inches. One is just two inches by two. Still, these tiny cards carry grand wishes. Single phrases added to the manufactured verses spoke eloquently of love felt for my mom and dad. I imagined my someday-to-be-parents smiling over this album which teemed with kindness. As I read the various signatures, images of loved ones filled me up. “Auntie C. Dionne” clarified the origins of my propensity to address all of my aunts as “Auntie.” Isabelle, who attended my mom’s bridal shower, wrote a lovely poem to accompany her gift. Perhaps she inspired my mom always to add a note to her greeting cards. Emily Gutchick’s signature confirmed that she was married before my mom and dad. Her name also conjured fond memories of my first dance with a boy -her son, Bobby.

Telegrams from Auntie Lucille and Uncle Leonard, Mr. and Mrs. Belanger and soon-to-be Uncle Clarence underscored everyone’s excitement over this union. My dad’s co-workers sent their greetings as well. Perhaps the most touching message came from the president of the company where my mother worked: “Dear Rita: I am happy to learn that you are to be married on Saturday and want to extend my best wishes to you and your husband. May your wedded life be full of joy and happiness. Do not let the present gloomy world conditions put a damper on your hopes and ambitions. Marriage is a wonderful venture in life and I know it is going to mean much happiness to you both in the years to come. With kindest regards, I remain… W. R. Barker”.

My parents married on October 17, 1942. World War II raged and times were tough. Family members and friends served in the military. Damage done by a bout with rheumatic fever kept my dad from joining them. My mom had been working for years by then. She took a job during high school and continued after graduation because her family needed this added income. My mom’s greatest regret was her inability to attend college. Neither she nor her parents could afford the tuition. I’m certain that meeting my dad dulled the sting of that unrealized dream as a new dream took shape in their relationship. Indeed, my parents’ wedding day proved to be the first of 6112 amazing days together. It seems Mr. Barker predicted the joy which lay ahead. His greeting summed up everything that we can hope for in this life: A measure of happiness, the love of others, encouragement in spite of troubling times and friends who are always at our sides. Apparently, my mom appreciated Mr. Barker’s sentiments because his letter is displayed quite beautifully in her album.

Mr. Barker’s touching words reflect the empathy Jesus exhibits in Luke’s gospel (Luke 17:11-19). As he walked along, Jesus encountered ten lepers who cried out, “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!” Jesus looked upon them and felt their pain as only Jesus could. With little ado, Jesus sent the men off to show themselves to the priests of the temple. On the way, one leper realized he was cured. He raced back, fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped him. Though the others knew by then that they, too, were healed, only this man recognized the more significant blessing. He had encountered the Lord! Not only his body, but his spirit as well had been made whole. Jesus knew that a healthy spirit would flourish in spite of gloomy world conditions. Nothing would ever again discourage this man’s hope and ambition. So it was that he returned to say, “Thank you, Lord!”

As I consider the greeting cards which fill my mother’s album, I realize she kept them to remember the love which surrounded her and my dad throughout their life together. Just as the leper’s cure reminded him of God’s presence in his life, my mother’s album kept her cognizant of the loved ones who walked this life’s journey with her. It seems to me that Mr. Barker described perfectly how we are to respond to the miracle we celebrate today: We must never allow gloomy world conditions to put a damper on our hopes and ambitions. Life is a wonderful venture which will mean much happiness to us in the days to come –on this earth and in heaven above.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Upside of Things…

With me at your right hand,
you will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:8

My husband lifted his booted foot and rested it on the ottoman before him. “This really hurts.” Then he quickly added, “But if this is the worst that happens today, I’m a lucky man.”

Our life together has not been trauma free. Still, my husband and I try to look at the brighter side of things when tragedy touches us. I was blessed with this mindset early on. My husband was not. It has taken years of nurturing his own faith as best he could for him to develop his positive stance toward life’s negatives. Though this transformation sometimes reverts to a “work in progress,” I admire my husband’s persistence.

You know, God has encouraged our faith from the beginning. When humankind failed to acknowledge the wisdom of the prophets, God sent Jesus of Nazareth to get our attention even more dramatically. Who but one from God could have conceived of the prodigal son’s forgiving father and the lost coin’s owner who turned everything upside down to find it? Who but one from God could have lived love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness with such perfection? Yet, in spite of his goodness, tragedy touched Jesus’ life as well.

It seems to me that the moral of the story is this: Because we are not yet in heaven, this life will never be perfect. Still, God loves us and remains with us in everything. This is all we need to know.

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing presence as we make our way home to you.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seek Goodness

Seek good and not evil,
that you may live.

Amos 5:14

The other day, my niece forwarded a reflection to me which was written by someone from her church. Just above the message, Cece wrote, “I thought you’d like this one.” After reading what she sent, I agreed whole-heartedly.

The reflection was actually a commitment on the part of the writer to find the best in everyone and everything she would encounter that day. The writer began by listing all of the reasons for her certainty that she would, indeed, find goodness around her. She would expect no proactive activity on the part of others. Rather, she would look for goodness, regardless of how well-disguised it might be. While acknowledging the trials and tribulations which might mute that goodness in others, she would look for that goodness just the same.

I had to admit to myself that I begin some days with far less optimism than this fellow writer. I also had to admit that I prefer her optimism over the pessimism that too often lurks beneath the surface in us all. With that admission, I printed up a copy of that reflection which I have read every day since. Thank you, Cece!

Good and gracious God, thank you for allowing your love to take form in all of creation, especially in us. Give us eyes to see and hearts to appreciate this expression of your goodness in ourselves and in others.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved