Care For One Another

You are more precious than gold,
more precious than a heap of purest gold…

From Psalm 19:11

Last night’s winds shook our trees just enough to fill the lawn with their branches. This afternoon, I grabbed a rake and headed outdoors. A light breeze provided optimum working conditions and I spent a pleasant hour tidying up the yard. Afterward, I headed back to the garage to rehang the rake. On my way, I stubbed my toe. I really stubbed my toe. The resultant pain was excruciating. I broke a toe a few years ago, so I feared the worst. On the way inside for some ice to soothe the pain, my mind drifted back to another toe injury…

Our granddaughters had joined us for a sleepover. I’d run upstairs to get colored pencils I’d purchased for them. On the way, I stubbed my toe on a heavy dresser. Like today, I really stubbed my toe. Immediately afterward, my youngest granddaughter came bouncing into the room. She saw the look on my face and asked, “Are you okay, Grandma?” Though I quickly wiped away a telltale tear and smiled, Claire knew that all was not well. “Oh, I just bumped my toe,” I said. With that, Claire ran downstairs to join her sisters. “Grandma hurt herself, so be quiet,” Claire ordered.

Now my older granddaughters preferred to be in charge back then. Still, they listened. They were especially quiet and cooperative when I joined them a few minutes later. All three girls did everything in their power to lighten my mood. I clearly remember how touched I was by their efforts. Just thinking about their sweet kindness distracted me from today’s injury.

When I finally sat with that ice pack in place, I felt much better in spite of my aching toe. My husband and I did our best to nurture loving and compassionate sons. Apparently, we’d succeeded at some level as illustrated by our granddaughters’ merciful response to my misery. It occurs to me that God created each one of us to be loving and compassionate. The best way to show our appreciation is to respond to one another in kind. Today, this is more important than ever…

Dear God, remind us often that your most pressing request is that we care for one another as you care for us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always On My Mind…

From the day we heard about you,
we have not ceased praying for you…

From Colossians 1:9

I’m finalizing Father’s Day plans with my family. This sounds odd, I know, since planning any gathering is a skill we’re all relearning these days. Because my husband relishes his roles as “Dad” and “Grandpa”, we’re doing our best to ensure him a worthy celebration. In the midst of this, I clearly recall the day this all began…

After a years-long struggle to have children, my husband dreaded this doctor’s appointment. Those which preceded it had brought much disappointment. Because Doctor Wool was fully aware of this, he couldn’t refrain from smiling in the midst of my exam. “My God, you’re pregnant!” he announced. While, I giggled uncontrollably, he sent the nurse to the waiting room to get Mike. There was no reason to tell Mike anything as he’d already heard my response.

From that moment, we knew our baby. We had no idea of what he would look like or who this child would be. Still, we loved our precious offspring. On that day, I began to pray above all else that this child would be happy and that we would be worthy parents. When our baby arrived, he proved to be all we had hoped for and more. Still, I continued to pray for him.

The truth is that this is also my ritual regarding our second son, our daughters-in-law, our grandchildren and, of course, my husband. I do this for all whom I’ve been given to love. These days, I’ve added all of our world’s suffering to my list. Though I know this isn’t a necessary exercise because God wishes goodness for us all, I pray!

Loving God, be with us as we adjust to our new normal. Help all of your people to find happiness in their little corners of the world.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Precious Kids

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

My husband recently shared a Facebook posting he received from a former student of ours. Mike was Charlie’s middle school principal. As an elementary school remedial reading teacher, I never taught Charlie because he is extremely bright. Still, he and I interacted frequently due to our involvement in special school projects and the close proximity of our classrooms. We talked almost every day.

The truth is that I intentionally gave Charlie a good deal of attention. His amazing academic ability sometimes put him at odds with his classmates. I hoped to encourage Charlie to be himself and to do his best in spite of the teasing and worse which his peers mercilessly doled out. In the end, Charlie persisted. This brave young man is now a happy and productive adult.

Early into my teaching career, I was fascinated by a book concerning the most important things we learn in school. The author was convinced that he’d learned everything he needed to know for the rest of his life during kindergarten. Today, more than ever, I think we all need to be mindful of those early lessons in getting along and caring for each another. How I wish I could assign some of those currently in office and a few of my fellow citizens to repeat those lessons! The truth is that I sometimes need a similar refresher as well.

So it is that I’m going to take another peek at Charlie’s Facebook post. I’m certain that the image of his smile will reignite my faith in my fellow humans and in myself as we love one another through our battle with COVID-19.

Loving God, help us to be the children you created us to be.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Fear Not…

I sought God, and God answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:5

While wheeling our recyclables to the street, a glass bottle re-positioned itself and crashed to the bottom of the cart. It made a loud unexpected crash which startled me. When I realized what had happened, I had to laugh at my response. Just a few weeks earlier, I’d dropped my Snapple bottle into our son’s recycle bin which resulted in a similar crash which brought our younger grandson to tears. Fortunately, Ben responded to my embrace and my assurances that all would be well. This little episode brought to mind tender moments with our own sons long ago.

Some of the most meaningful interactions between parents and children result from uncertainty and fear. A parent’s embrace and a few well-chosen words bring the assurance that, indeed, everything will be all right. When parents’ words aren’t enough and their children continue to shiver and shake, they simply hold their little ones tightly for as long as it takes to bring them peace.

During these difficult times, we who are God’s children aren’t very different from our own. Sometimes, no matter how well-chosen God’s words are, we find it difficult to take them in. Uncertainty and fear overwhelm us. For these very reasons, God promises simply to be with us.

I thought I was old enough and wise enough not to be frightened by much. Nonetheless, the devastation COVID-19 has imposed upon our world threatens to do just that. Since my parents’ laps aren’t available, I turn to God for consolation. It is in God’s embrace that I’m reminded of the terrible events which have shaped human history since time began. Throughout these episodes, we supported one another as best we could and as only we could. Today, God asks that we simply do our best to do as much. In the mean time, God will make good on that promise to remain with us all the while.

Loving God, thank you for embracing us in our joy, in our fear and in everything.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Real Life Lessons

When he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountainside.
After he sat down, the disciples gathered around him…

Matthew 5:1

Even from afar, the Mount of the Beatitudes exudes beauty. This deceptively peaceful setting is also known as Mount Eremos. Its name is derived from Greek and means “solitary or uninhabited”. I laugh as I type this fact as the opposite must have been true of this place the day Jesus offered his hope-filled lessons in living.

While Matthew placed Jesus on a mountainside for this discourse, Luke described the site as a level place. A close look clears up this discrepancy as there are numerous level places on the hillsides of Galilee. Jesus could have delivered his sermon from any one of them. More important is the value of Jesus’ teaching that day. Matthew’s indication that Jesus sat before he began mustn’t be overlooked. Those who taught in the temple always sat before offering their lessons. Jesus made a point when he followed suit. Once again, it was quite clear that Jesus taught with authority.

As for me, I’ve found myself weary of the empty words of an assortment “authority figures” throughout my life. What a life-giving experience it was when my parents and a favorite teacher and a respected public figure and my priest asked no more of me than they asked of themselves! This is precisely the experience of those who heard Jesus that day. This was their experience every time Jesus opened his mouth because Jesus’ actions always spoke louder than his words.

Loving God, thank you for sending an authentic representative to share your loving ways with us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

At Home…

Joseph went to the region of Galilee.
There he settled with them in a town called Nazareth.

From Matthew 2:23

While in Israel, we visited Nazareth. Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived there from the time Jesus was a little boy. Mary had also grown up there. It was in Nazareth that Mary discovered she would be the mother of Jesus.

The Basilica of the Annunciation rests over Mary’s home. Our archaeologist guide cited first century evidence which indicates that this place is indeed where Mary grew up and where it is believed the Angel Gabriel visited her. A small grotto in the church houses a portion of Mary’s home. After viewing that area, we walked next to the church where another portion of Jesus’ neighborhood has been excavated. There we viewed a Nazareth home likely similar to that of Jesus and his parents. It isn’t unreasonable to believe that Mary had walked into that home to visit a neighbor or that the boy Jesus had run through it in pursuit of a playmate. It isn’t unreasonable to imagine Joseph the Handyman was there as well, perhaps to carve into a wall to create a ledge for storage.

In Nazareth, I was completely overwhelmed by the past, a past in which I felt I had a share. The events which unfolded in Nazareth two thousand years ago prepared Jesus and his family for what was to come. The neighborliness of Joseph and Mary impacted Jesus’ behavior toward others as a child and in adulthood. All of this had everything to do with the manner in which Jesus lived his adult life. All of this has everything to do with the way I live my life as well.

That day in Nazareth, I celebrated with my long-ago family who remain with me even today.

Dear God, thank you for the many hints of your presence which sustain us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved