Truly Blessed!

Blessed are you…
From Matthew 5:11

Though most of what I experienced in Israel captivated me, I clearly recall my excitement as we neared The Mount of the Beatitudes. Anyone familiar with the gospels likely recalls Jesus’ message to the crowds before him that day. Matthew 5:3-10 tells us that Jesus insisted…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

As I prepared to take in what I could from that precious place, I replayed these words in my head. There was nothing easy about being poor, mournful, meek or hungry in Jesus’ day. It was difficult to be merciful and peaceful when Jesus’ people received neither from their government or their temple. Perhaps they found consolation in the fate Jesus promised the persecuted because, indeed, they were. As we drew closer, I hoped that beautiful setting would inspire me to stay tuned, just as it inspired the crowds who listened so long ago…

Loving God, when you created this world and gifted us with it and with one another, did you hope we would behave as Jesus asked? Be with us as we try to do just that today and always.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Peaceful Revelations…

The Lord’s fire came down and consumed the holocaust…”
From 1 Kings 18:38

While in the Holy Land, I found myself thinking about Jesus at every turn. How could I not? Jesus had spent his entire life in the vicinity. Our visit to Mount Carmel adjusted my focus a bit. People had lived in that mountain’s caves since prehistoric times. It’s been considered a sacred place for what seems like forever. My knowledge of Mount Carmel begins with the Prophet Elijah.

The scriptures tell us that Elijah became impatient with Israel’s leadership. King Ahab married Jezebel, a Phoenician princess. Jezebel introduced Ahab and his people to her god Baal. Jezebel also saw to the murders of several prophets. As a result, the people’s ties to the God of Israel faded quickly. After much prayer, Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to build an altar and to place a sacrifice upon it. These priests were to ask Baal to light a fire to burn their offerings. Though 450 priests prayed fervently, their sacrifice remained unlit. Elijah also built an altar. He prayed that the God of Israel would set his sacrifice afire. Though Elijah had doused everything with water to prove his point, a bolt of lightning lit Elijah’s sacrifice. Elijah went on to kill those priests of Baal.

Our guide shared that this account is found in the Book of Kings, but he offered no opinion of its authenticity. Yossi is an archaeologist, not a scripture scholar. As for me, I’m no fan of bloodshed and no fan of religious intolerance. However, I do understand Elijah’s devotion to God. In this case, I hope Kings’ author adjusted these events to illustrate a point: Elijah did what he needed to do to turn his people back to their Lord.

Unlike Elijah, you and I need only to live with compassion and generosity to reveal God to others. When we love one another and behave like one family, we say all that needs to be said about God.

Loving God, help us to reveal you in all that we say and do.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

J… Joy

The Lord has sent me to bring
glad tidings to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives,
recovery of sight to the blind
and release to prisoners…

Luke 4:18

J is for Joy. Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on joy. A recent off-the-cuff comment opened an old wound. Though I tend to let go of hurts from the past, my heart ached. I distracted myself by perusing the newspaper which increased my melancholy exponentially. I set aside the paper and grabbed the remote. As I surfed the channels, a news report caught my eye. The update confirmed that recent violence was accomplished to honor God’s name. I sank into my recliner, looked out the window and asked, “Dear God, what are we doing?”

We humans have been hurting one another in God’s name since the beginning of time. Still… Before I could repeat my question, a strong gust scattered glitter-like snow across the frozen ground. Almost on cue, several birds fluttered about, ensuring that those sparkling bits of ice remained afloat. When the birds congregated at their favorite feeder, another gust lifted the silver-white specks yet higher. That gust lifted my heart as well. “Thank you, Lord!” I said aloud.

Though that glistening snow didn’t change the subzero temperature outdoors, it filled me with winter’s beauty. Though those flitting flakes will eventually settle and melt, God’s handiwork surrounds me. As long as some of us continue to appreciate the joy within us and around us, there will be joy in this world of ours. Rather than allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by wounds old and new, let’s revel in the joy and share that joy with one another at every opportunity.

Generous God, you share your joy with us through Creation, through those you have given us to love and through your presence deep within us. Help us humans to focus on your joy in spite of our continuing attempts to distort and disfigure it.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

Independence Day Hope

A time to love… and a time for peace.
From Ecclesiastes 3:8

It’s Independence Day and precious memories fill me up…

My husband and I have enjoyed celebrating July 4 since our first summer together. When our sons came along, they added exponentially to these observances. We live near the center of our community on a cul-de-sac which was once filled with children. Our location allowed us to enjoy local fireworks displays from the comforts of our front yards which added to my affection for this holiday.

My earliest Independence Day memories include my own family’s quest for the best fireworks around. This was particularly important sixty years ago. My dad passed away early that morning. Helpful relatives whisked us kids away for our annual family picnic in an effort to give our mom some peace. I’m certain my well-meaning aunts and uncles wondered if any sort of celebration was appropriate that day. Though I saw no fireworks that night, I’ve found great solace in the displays I’ve observed every year since. Colorful lights bursting in the black sky suggest resurrection to me. As I watch, I imagine that my dad’s passing into eternal life must have been even more glorious. While those sparkling displays above dissolve into smoke and ash, my dad’s transformation continues for all of eternity.

On this 60th Anniversary of his first day in heaven, I’m asking my dad to rally all of the good will at his disposal and to shower it over this country and our entire world. Perhaps Daddy’s effort will nudge us all to do our parts in working toward world peace. What a miracle it would be to celebrate July 4, 2019 without a gun being fired or a harsh word spoken anywhere!

Loving God, inspire us to use the gift of our freedom to transform this world into a haven of peace for all people.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved