Pesky Politics!

…all the people were arguing among themselves…
From 1 Kings 19:10

When our friends who recently traveled to Italy chronicled their adventures every day via Facebook, they elicited fond memories of my husband’s and my trip there. These memories nudged me toward our Sicily album. As I perused those photos, I rekindled my fascination with the island’s rich history…

The local guides prided themselves in both Sicily’s natural beauty and the amazing contributions of the various ethnic groups who made Sicily their home over the centuries. I developed great respect for the Sicilian people who continue to celebrate humanity’s potential. They welcome immigrants from everywhere who wish to make their homes among them. At the same time, I found myself amused by the story behind two of Sicily’s most visited and beloved cathedrals. One was built to “outdo” the other. I still laugh over this as the concept of “outdoing” anyone when building a place of worship continues to puzzle me. I remember our tour guide’s response to my wry smile: “Politics. You know it’s everywhere, even in the church,” he said.

That guide’s comment wasn’t lost on me. His words challenged me to do my best to be open to others. Regardless of their differences in perspective and especially when “politics” is at work among us, I must resist my own need to “win”. It’s far more important for me and for all of us to be at one with those we’ve been given to love. Within our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our churches and our nation, there’s simply no room for power struggles. We have much to accomplish together and this never seems to have been more true than it is today.

Loving God, open our hearts to all of those whom we meet along the way and inspire our efforts to work together.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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B… Blessed!

May God’s name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun, God’s name shall remain.
In God shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed…

From Psalm 72:17

B is for Blessed. You are blessed and so am I. We wouldn’t walk this earth if we were not intentionally breathed into existence by our creatively loving God. I use the adverb “creatively” intentionally. You see, God’s blessings often befuddle me. Most of the time, I don’t recognize them until long after a given person or circumstance has moved on. A lifetime of chance meetings, one-liners which lodge in my memory, unexpected friendships, opportunities, seeming setbacks and heart-breaking tragedies prove this over and over again. Though I don’t realize it much of the time, I am indeed blessed.

As I consider and offer thanks for the blessings in my life, I must acknowledge that these blessings include everyone around me. This is the challenging part because “everyone” includes those who occasionally give me a headache, a heartache, a soul-ache or worse. How can I look upon these people as blessings?

B is for Blessed. You are blessed and so I am. So it is that you and I must gently remove the wrapping which conceals the blessedness within ourselves and within others. It is then that we will discover the fullness of God’s precious gifts.

Loving God, help me to see my blessings and those of others with your perceptive eyes. Give me a grateful heart so I can appreciate both in their fullness.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Q is for Quiet

Be still, and know that I am God…
From Psalm 46:10

Q is for Quiet. I can’t take credit for this theme. It was some years ago when my friend Carol suggested that “quiet” is a beautiful thing, especially the quiet in which we encounter God. Though I struggled for a “Q word” when I first turned to the alphabet to guide these reflections, I’m not struggling today. Yes, Q is for Quiet! Thank you, Carol!

I’ve always relished the quiet around me. This may be a remnant from my crowded childhood. It was a rare moment when our six-room flat occupied by ten people was quiet. So it is that, when I’m home alone, our house is extremely quiet. The television is off. My computer speaker and cell phone are set at their lowest volume levels. I can actually hear the kids leaving the school across the street because of the quiet here. Still, my masterful ability to create this quiet environment doesn’t always result in the quiet which Carol suggested.

God’s quiet comes in unexpected places and at unexpected times. I find this inner quiet here at home and I find it when I venture outdoors. Because the current near-zero temperatures keep me inside much of the time, I sometimes look for God’s quiet at the mall. There is something in the faces I pass along the way and in the interactions between parents and children, spouses and groups of teens which reveal the Almighty to me. Though I don’t pray a word in the midst of these encounters, God speaks to me then and there every time.

Yes, I must be still enough to pay attention in the quiet and in the clamor of this life. For, in everything and everyone around me, God infuses that quiet presence where I come to experience God best of all.

Dear God, thank you for filling every space and moment with your loving presence. Nudge me to notice more often.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest! It’s Okay!

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

I’d been running errands all morning and I was grateful for the long line ahead of me. Oddly enough, I truly appreciated the opportunity to lean on my grocery cart and to stand still for a few minutes. While enjoying this bit of peace, a person ahead of me in line remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As this man hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. I had found wealth in these seemingly wasted moments.

It seems to me that all of us are too busy far too often. This is nothing new, as Jesus experienced the same. Though Jesus longed for a bit of peace, there was always someone who needed him more than he needed his rest. This is the reason Jesus rose very early and stole away for quiet time as often as possible. Jesus made it his business to care for others, and, once in a while, to care for himself.

The moral of the story is this: It is perfectly fine and truly necessary to acknowledge our fatigue because we find the energy and the will to care for others in our own rested spirits. The moral of the story is: Rest when you need to!

Dear God, I’m grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to remember that I occasionally need me as well.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

You Are Special!

God is the strength of the people,
the saving refuge of all the anointed.

Psalm 28:8

Sometimes, it’s difficult to feel “anointed” or “special” in any way when we consider ourselves to be just one of many, regardless of the group. I come from a very large family. My dad is one of twelve children and my mom is one of eight. My earliest memories include large family gatherings for the holidays, christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals. I grew up down the block from our church. Numerous people passed our house on the way to Mass each week. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college where I tended to a line of customers all day long. When I married and began my teaching career, people of every sort continued to fill my life. There were times in each of these settings when I felt lost in the crowd. Then there were those other times…

I’ve always been especially grateful for individual encounters with those around me. Whether a scheduled or haphazard meeting, it is during these precious moments together that I receive glimpses of many amazing souls. Most of them have no idea that they are contributing to my well-being and that of this world of ours simply by sharing their time. I take great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts and my appreciation of them as often as possible.

You know, God looks upon each one of us as an anointed one. This is the reason God sends us out to bless those around us and to bless this world with the gift of ourselves.

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us so much that you trust us to bring you into this world!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Inspire!

I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who find inspiration in the name of the Lord.

From Zephaniah 3:12

With five days remaining until Christmas, my thoughts turn to the many reasons I have to celebrate. The people and the world around me have affected me quite tangibly all of my life. Though external forces never dictate my responses, they do inspire my reactions. This is the reason I enjoy walking outdoors. Every bit of Creation has something to say to me when I take the time to listen. When I walk indoors, those I pass unwittingly speak to me as well. Their smallest gesture, smile or grimace gives me something to think about. I’m grateful for the inspiration I find in these interactions.

I express this inspiration through my writing. Some time ago, a dear friend encouraged me to get my writing “out there.” She insisted that my words fueled her spirit and that I could do the same for many others. Though I questioned Carol’s judgment, I listened. Now, I enjoy the inspiration in my life twice, once when it surfaces and once again when I share it with you.

Thank you, God, for the many wonderful people who inspire me with their goodness and for the wonder of Creation which does the same. As we prepare for Christmas together, help each of us to use our unique gifts to inspire those you have given us to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved