They’re Always Watching!

Beloved:Let no one have contempt for your youth,
but set an example for those who believe,
in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

The other day at the grocery store, a young man “slipped” and said a word that wasn’t suitable for the ears of some nearby children. Before he could apologize, the older woman with him responded, “You know, kids are always watching and it’s up to us to show them what’s right.” The woman added another line or two about how she and his dad were very careful of their language when he was within earshot. The young man took his mother’s comments well. The pair smiled at one another and then continued their shopping. As for the kids, I’m grateful to say that they didn’t react to any of this as they were distracted by the shelves of breakfast cereal before them. Neither they nor their mom seemed to have heard a word.

That wise parent’s comment echoed sentiments repeated frequently throughout my teaching career and my second career as a grandparent. Grandchildren repeat just about everything they hear. They also mimic our actions and our attitudes far more accurately than we might think possible.

What does all of this mean for us allegedly mature adults? Apparently, we need to be on our best behavior as often as possible. None of us knows when an impressionable child of any age may be watching. It’s up to us to provide them with the best lessons we’re capable of offering as often as we can.

Easy, huh?

Loving God, help us to offer only glimpses of your goodness to the young souls you place in our care.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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How Will We Change The World?

Peace!… Do not be afraid!
Go and carry the news…

From Matthew 28:9-11

Though eighteen years have passed, I’ll never forget my whereabouts Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001…

I was driving to school when a report of an airliner crashing into the World Trade Center interrupted the local news. The assistant principal and I were discussing that horrific accident when the second assault in New York occurred. Fortunately, our students were all in the building by that time. When the Pentagon was hit, area schools were put in “lock-down” mode. Classroom teachers secured their doors and kept their students inside while the rest of us patrolled the hallways and saw to it that no unidentified individuals entered. Our school district served both local children and the children of military personnel assigned to the military installation just blocks away. Each of us prayed fervently that the base wouldn’t be the next target…

Though eighteen years have passed, I’ll never forget the heroic effort which unfolded by midday, September 11, 2001…

The morning’s devastation horrified us all, yet bravery and selflessness reigned. Uncommon generosity became the norm. Those nearby joined hands to do everything possible to care for those who’d been hurt. Many more did the same during the months and years that followed. This world has never been the same since that day…

I was convinced that nothing would change this world as dramatically as that infamous day did and I was wrong. The actions of those hijackers inspired subsequent assaults. The actions of those first responders and those who who continued their efforts for months and years afterward inspired selflessness and generosity beyond all of our expectations.

What will change the world around us today? It’s up to you and me…

Loving and Merciful God, give us hearts which desire peace and hands to build that peace wherever we are.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Generations of Hope

I hear what God proclaims;
God proclaims peace.

Psalm 85:9ab

I’ve enjoyed an abundance of family time as of late due to recent birthdays, our family vacation and our anniversaries. Still, in spite of the tangible love evident in all of these events, I’m bothered these days. I wonder aloud if this restlessness is a sign that I’m getting older. A sense of urgency overwhelms me and I feel a deep need to fix everything that needs fixing!

I love our sons, their wives and our grandchildren more than anything else on this earth. This prompts me to be gravely troubled by the current state of this world of ours. When I convince myself that things cannot possibly get worse, the airwaves deliver another bit of bad news. After lamenting this turn of events, reminders of poverty and other social ills here at home and around the world hit me right between the eyes. I think of my family, especially our grandchildren, and I wonder what this world will be like long after Grandpa and I are gone. How will this mess get fixed?

The family photo resting above my keyboard interrupts my brooding. The sparkle in the eyes of my offspring insists that I give them and their contemporaries a little credit. That sparkle touches smoldering embers of hope deep within which I’ve neglected these days. It occurs to me that numerous generations before me have wrung their hands in despair as well, only to be surprised by the goodness brought about by the young people among them. Finally, I find peace.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of each new generation. Within them lie hope and the potential for peace on this earth.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifts of Peace

Their amazement went beyond all bounds.
“He has done everything well!
He heals the deaf and the mute!”

From Mark 7:37

As I made my way out of the store the other day, a teen-aged girl and someone who seemed to be her younger brother made their way in. I couldn’t help hearing as this young woman advised her young companion regarding how to deal with someone who was giving him trouble. Though I’m not certain of how that conversation ended, I liked what I heard as I passed by. This young woman’s wise advice reminded me of a former student from long ago…

I could hear Frankie telling her classmate, “Nasty, nasty, nasty. He’s just nasty, so ignore him!” Frankie, a fifth grader who was wise beyond her years, had mastered the art of defusing misbehavior. Though she would never allow one classmate to physically hurt another, Frankie ignored verbal assaults and she taught those in her company to do the same. Frankie single-handedly prevented many a playground altercation by simply walking away. While the teacher in me addressed any assault, verbal or otherwise, I truly respected Frankie’s approach to getting along in this world.

As I walked on to my car, I prayed for the young woman I’d passed and her little brother. I asked God to help her to replace his anxiety with a bit of peace.

Dear God, thank you for the peacemakers among us. Help us all to learn from those who try to diffuse our troubles with a measure of peace.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

2019… A Year of ???

Only three days of Year 2018 remained when I looked up from my keyboard to discover large flakes of snow falling just beyond the window. I smiled broadly. Because we’d enjoyed spring-like temperatures for a while, this snow took me completely by surprise. Though I noted that there was no accumulation, those flitting flakes were enough to brighten my mood. In spite of the mid-afternoon hour that Friday, I decided to set aside this writing and to run a few errands. Unlike the commuters who’d soon be headed home, I wanted to enjoy the white stuff firsthand. As it happened, the snow fell only ten minutes into my travels. Still, much to my good fortune, that ten-minute interlude was enough to maintain my joyful mood and to fortify me for the long lines which greeted me at each of the stores I visited. Though I waited for twenty-five minutes in one line, I hummed happily all the while. Who would have thought that a bit of snow and running errands would be so uplifting?

While driving home, I was gifted with another surprise. I’d tuned in to the news in spite of the fact that it might darken my mood. In the midst of stock reports and the world and national news, a familiar voice shared an amazing human-interest tidbit. Though this snippet lasted less than a minute, it remained with me all the way home and as I made my way back to my keyboard. With New Year’s Eve and New Year 2019 just 72 hours away, this report focused on New Year’s resolutions. The news anchor explained that one resolution in particular had made an unexpected impact throughout 2018. Apparently, someone had decided to make New Year 2018 the Year of Love. A young woman had resolved to use social media to do this. She’d planned to write a post every day which described someone who meant something special to her. She’d even titled her effort #Year of Love. When asked about her success, the woman shared that it wasn’t difficult to find people to write about. Every day, someone graced her life. She added that 2018 hadn’t provided enough days for her to acknowledge all of the people who’d touched her with their love. As a result, she’s decided to continue these daily acknowledgements throughout New Year 2019. As Ms. Year of Love went on to describe the remarkably varied people she’d featured, I began to recount my own treasure in this regard. I also began to consider how I might make 2019 my own year of something…

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The scriptures tell us that Jesus was about thirty years of age when he spent forty days alone in the desert to consider what lay ahead for him. In spite of encounters with evil during what Jesus hoped would be a reflective interlude, Jesus chose to embrace the path ahead as best he could. Luke’s gospel (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22) tells us that the people were certainly ready for someone to grace their lives. Many wondered if John the Baptizer might be the messiah for whom they waited. John responded by assuring the crowds that one far greater than he was coming. When Jesus approached John for baptism, poor John did as Jesus asked in spite of feeling completely unworthy to do so. Perhaps to reassure both men and the rest of us, God declared from above, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” After that day, a relieved John continued his preaching. With every word, John pointed his followers in Jesus’ direction while Jesus embraced his mission as only he could. If social media had been available, perhaps Jesus would have dubbed his effort Life of Love.

As I’ve written often, I repeat that there was nothing easy about Jesus’ life among us. Still, Jesus persisted in using his very human circumstances to reveal God’s love and God’s faith in each one of us. Though he was given thirty-three years, Jesus used only the last three to teach and to preach. Until then, he’d invested himself in his life at home with Mary and Joseph, in the neighborhood with this neighbors and in working as an itinerant mason and an itinerant rabbi. It was in those places that Jesus came to fully appreciate those he’d been given to love. When Jesus invested himself in others, Jesus also invested himself in spreading God’s love. Long before Jesus asked John to baptize him, Jesus had made Life of Love his way of doing things. No wonder God was so pleased!

I’m most grateful for the bit of snow which distracted me from this writing and for that well-timed report about the woman who transformed 2018 through her #Year of Love efforts. Most of all, I’m grateful for that much-needed reminder to refine my own plans for New Year 2019. When I consider my too-frequent surrenders to the darkness around me this past year, something –no Someone– urges me to make Year of Joy this year’s effort. If ten minutes of snow succeeded in cheering me up and that twenty-five minute wait in line failed to elicit a groan, finding the joy around me seems doable. Like Jesus, I need to do this as only I can. The truth is that we’re all called to do what only we can throughout these lives of ours. Whatever we choose to be our new year efforts, God asks only that we stick to them as only we can. After all, like Jesus, each one of us is God’s beloved child!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

One Moment At A Time…

“I have written this to make you realize
that you possess eternal life…”

1 John 5:13

I’m trying hard to hold on to Christmas and to bring a bit of peace to this world of ours. I wonder aloud what I might add to my agenda to accomplish this. Though the first full week of the new year usually provides a bit of breathing room before my routines fully return to normal, this hasn’t been the case this year. I ask myself how I can add another item to my already full schedule. Still, my commitment gnaws at me…

After some reflection, I realize that I must learn to practice what I preach and write! How often have I used this space to insist that we do our best by simply making the most of all that we say and do? How often have I written that God has placed each one of us precisely where we are meant to be? With that, I see that there is nothing to add to my agenda. All that is needed is to polish up and refine my delivery. When I acknowledge that God has assigned me a very specific mission every moment of every day, everything becomes worth my best effort.

So it is that I’ll continue to fill this space by relating my experiences of God in my life as well as my other life experiences to you. At the same time, I’ll also make good use of the moments which lie ahead to make the world around me a little bit better.

Loving God, please continue to nudge us along with your good company as we do our best for you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved