Stroll With God

Teach me your paths, my God,
guide me in your truth.

Psalm 25:4

I’ve probably written more often than you care to read that my favorite solo leisure activity is walking outdoors. The weather usually matters very little as I find these treks enjoyable regardless of the temperature. Odd as it may seem, a breeze of any velocity enhances these excursions exponentially for me. The truth is that I never return from a walk without at least a tidbit inspiration.

Much to my dismay, my walks were irregular this past week. The excessive heat made my attempted treks outdoors far more taxing than I’d like them to be. That heat also distracted me from any inspiration that was sent my way. So it was that I tried to move around indoors just enough to convince myself that I’d gotten in 10,000 steps each of those days. Much to my dismay, those indoor steps were not at all inspiring!

Fortunately, the temperatures eventually dropped and I headed outdoors once again. I don’t think I was out of the house for two minutes when a gentle breeze enveloped me. Two blocks later, the breeze’s strength increased and nudged me along the way. This was quite a feat as I was already walking briskly. Halfway into this adventure, our good and gracious God took residence in my uninspired psyche and the inspiration returned.

It seems to me that God enjoys my walks as much as I do because God seems to be with me every time I step out the door.

Dear God, thank you for being with us on whatever paths we’ll cross today.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Handiwork

Great are God’s works,
exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:2

A dear friend knows that I’m a huge fan of the Aurora Borealis. Now this is in spite of the fact that, when my husband and I cruised through Alaska, it was too cloudy at night for us to see this amazing natural wonder. During our stay-in-place days, my friend spent more time than usual online. In the process, she discovered several amazing videos of the wondrous Aurora. Much to my good fortune, she shared them all with me. I watched each of those videos several times. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of God’s handiwork when it comes to the Aurora Borealis.

Though I’m certain that those images didn’t do justice to this natural wonder, they took my breath away. They also gave me a most welcome distraction from our current worry regarding the pandemic and the resulting misery that has hurt our fellow humans in so many ways. When I returned my thoughts to the troubles of the day, images of the Aurora stayed with me. It finally occurred to me that God creates this beautiful sight from a few solar flares, our earth’s magnetic field and some of the matter in our atmosphere. Imagine the beauty God could create if given free reign in our minds and hearts these days! Imagine the beautiful ways we might find to alleviate the suffering of so many around us!

Loving God, thank you for the beauty with which you surround us. Help us to reveal the even greater beauty you’ve created within each one of us as we work to heal our ailing world!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Walk In Good Company

Give Thanks to God for God is good.
From Psalm 136:1

Before I set out to walk this morning, I decided that I would empty my mind of the day’s concerns and open myself up to God’s presence. If you’ve read these posts the past few days, I think you’ll agree that this was a well-timed decision on my part. Still, I have to admit that I wasn’t a block away from home when I realized that my mind was as cluttered as ever with worries of every sort. While most of these things matter greatly, in the grand scheme of things, there isn’t much I can do to deal with them.

As I walked on, I tried to think of anything but my laundry list of complaints regarding life on this June 2020 day. Tried as I might to shake it, my angst relentlessly dug in and clung to me. “Ugh!” I said aloud. “Why can’t I get rid of the negativity?” Though I expected no answer, an uncommonly cool breeze responded immediately. Without a thought, I said aloud, “O God, I love the wind! It reminds me that you’re with me.” As I continued to walk, those worries remained. The difference was that they’d lost their ability to overwhelm me. Somehow, I knew that all will be well in the end.

As I made my way through the neighborhood and then back home, that breeze continued to press against my back and God continued to remind me that I am never alone. None of us is ever alone!

Good and gracious God, thank you for walking with me. Thank you for walking with every one of us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

One Step At A Time

Blessed are the steadfast…
From Matthew 5:8

Our seventy-plus stay-in-place days have given me plenty of time to reflect. In spite of this ample in-house opportunity, my favorite place to think continues to be outdoors. So it was that I went for a much-needed walk through the neighborhood. As I plodded along, I enjoyed my neighbors’ yard work. Every step along the way, flowers of numerous varieties and colors gave me reason to smile.

Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived. I allowed my mind to wander back to the newscast I’d turned off before leaving home. The report offered another example of humanity’s persistent inability to get along. I find this realization particularly upsetting. I grew up with visions of grandeur regarding what I’d do with my life. I wanted to solve the problems of the world. I wanted to end wars. I wanted to fight against prejudice and injustice. I wanted to end poverty. I wanted to do so much. On that particular day, I wanted to do something to make a difference somewhere and somehow. Actually, I want to do this every day.

Fortunately, I walked long enough to allow myself time to find a solution on the way home. It was during my trek back home that these things occurred to me: A good person who deals fairly and kindly with those around her brings peace to our world. Generous couples who allow their love to spill over onto to those around them bring love to the world. Parents who nurture their children with their time and attention bring hope to this world. Caring for those we’ve been given to love is the most important work we can do. Just as I completed that walk one step at a time, I can change this world one step at a time.

O Lord, thank you for reminding me that my effort matters.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be A Peacemaker

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

The other day, my husband and I tended to some gardening. While Mike fertilized, I swept piles of displaced soil into the appropriate flowerbeds. In the process, I noticed sprinkles of soil next to two planters on the patio. As I swept up that soil so I could replace it, I noticed a squirrel watching me from afar. “You little stinker!” I whispered. After all, I didn’t want to scare the poor thing. Still, as I swept, it occurred to me that I should have scared away my furry friend.

That squirrel was likely the culprit who’d displaced that dirt while digging around the begonias in our planters. After coming to this realization, I decided to engage Mr. Squirrel in conversation. “You know,” I said loudly enough to scare him, “You can dig up the entire yard if you want to. Just leave the flowers alone!” When I finally went into the house, that squirrel (or his twin brother) scampered up to the planters. I knocked on the patio door glass to remind him of my offer. I couldn’t help laughing as he ran off full speed ahead.

My husband and I will figure out a way to keep our squirrel friends out of our planters. In the mean time, we’ll continue to welcome them into the rest of the yard because they really are fun to watch. If only it was as easy to get along with our fellow humans!

God of Love, help us humans to find better ways to coexist with one another as well. When we do, I’m certain we’ll also be much more fun to watch.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Is With Us… ALWAYS!

Throughout most of our seventy-plus stay-in-place days, I’ve been on a bit of a roll. Last week, I shared that leisurely mornings have allowed me to organize my thoughts and my heart each day with our benevolent Creator in mind. Almost every day, my husband-the-deacon and I have also made time for a walk outdoors. Even on the cloudiest bad-news days, I’ve managed to find reason to appreciate God’s goodness in it all. I began this paragraph by saying, “Throughout most of our seventy-plus stay-in-place days…” because the other day was quite different. For perhaps obvious reasons, I vacillated between anger and despair over the suffering and loss caused by our bout with COVID-19 and our inability to work together as one people to fight it. In an effort not to give in to these feelings, I gave Mike a peck on his cheek, grabbed my hoodie and headed outdoors. I fully intended to clear my head and my heart in the process.

That day, the temperature struggled to reach fifty degrees in spite of the sunshine. I stuffed my hands into my pockets as I made my way down our cul-de-sac. I went on toward village hall and into the subdivision to the north. As I walked along the winding streets, a chilling breeze blew open my jacket. I zipped up and pulled my hood over my head. I looked toward the cloudless sky and declared, “Not funny!” Afterward, I picked up my pace just enough to create my own heat as I continued on my way. Eventually, I warmed up and inadvertently began to do what I most often do during my walks. I lost myself in Nature. I looked at the branches of every tree I passed to check on its leaves. Not many months ago, green leaves turned yellow and brown and then fell to the ground to be trampled or blown away. This cycle has continued in the buds and young leaves which now burst forth from charcoal branches overhead. Though the wind continued its brisk assault, I no longer minded.

As I walked on, I looked skyward again. This time, I whispered an apology. I acknowledged that the cold breeze which pushed me along earlier had accomplished much more. Though that breeze gave me a chill, it also gave me the peace and comfort which I’d longed for. I’d fretted so about that virus’s attack on life as we once knew it that I’d forgotten the Source of that life. I’d worried so about our inability to work together in dealing with all of this that I’d forgotten all of the good people who have and continue to do just that. It finally occurred to me that perhaps God has something far more valuable for me to experience during this pandemic than anger and despair. God didn’t cause that virus which wreaks havoc on our lives. However, God did create us with the ability to respond to it. It is God’s faith in us and love for us which breathes life into our efforts. With that, I looked up once again. That time, I said, “Thank you, dear God, for remaining with me and with all of us. Just help us to take notice of your presence more often!” Before I could add an “amen” to my prayer, the wind blew my hood off of my head and pressed my sleeves against my arms. I took that as God’s assurance that I never walk alone. None of us do.

I share all of this as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday with good reason. This is the last day of Easter Season 2020 and what an unusual season this has been! Our lives changed drastically in mid-March when staying-in-place became the norm. Without warning, we lost access to life as we once knew it. The same was true for Jesus’ friends two thousand years ago. The poor disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus and, as their final trip to Jerusalem drew closer, they were in a far worse frame of mind than I was when I set out for my walk the other day. While I had lost my focus for a bit, the disciples were on the verge of losing Jesus. Though we can see light at the end of the tunnel today, Jesus’ followers could not. They watched him taken prisoner, deserted him when he needed them most and then watched him die on that cross from afar. What worse could have happened?

John’s gospel offers a different Pentecost account than the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. These three speak of Jesus’ resurrection, subsequent appearances and his ascension into heaven. It was after Jesus’ ascension that the Holy Spirit set the disciples on fire and spurred them into action. Today’s gospel from John (20:19-23) ushers us back to the first Easter. It was on that day, when the disciples heard of the empty tomb, yet still hid in absolute fear, that Jesus appeared. It was on that evening, when the circumstances of Jesus suffering and death were fresh in their minds, that Jesus appeared. The first words Jesus spoke were, “Peace be with you!” Like that quiet presence which walked with me the other day, Jesus slipped into that room to walk with his friends through their grief and fear. Jesus added, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” With those words, Jesus promised his friends that they would never ever be alone.

You know, God’s presence isn’t always tangible. Though God used that breezy day to renew my peace, I still sometimes walk in the fearful disciples’ sandals just as we all do. It is during times such as these that we must let go of our worry and embrace Jesus’ Pentecost promise: God’s Spirit is with us when we need God most, now as our new normal unfolds, and always!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved