Peace Be With Us All

“The works that God gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify that God has sent me.”

John 5:36

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I wrote about the peace with which I begin each day? Though I’m grateful that God’s peace stays with me much of the time, this is sometimes not the case. Today, I’m more than impatient with a few of my fellow humans. Though I believe God loves us just as we are, I’m having a little trouble following God’s good example. I just watched a news report which I wish I’d missed. Those featured seem to have forgotten that we’re all God’s people. I shouldn’t have allowed these few to distract me from the remarkable good that is being accomplished by so many these days. Yet, I did!

Determined to change my attitude, I ran upstairs to take another peek out of the window which inspires my morning talks with God. Before I said a word, childhood memories regarding some of Jesus’ contemporaries filled me up. Before I could ask the point of all of this, the eleven-year-old I used to be came to mind. She was extremely impatient with the Pharisees who had no use for Jesus. This younger me was convinced that Jesus’ words and works had come from a loving God and she wondered why it was so difficult for the Pharisees to see this.

As I consider my current frustration, I acknowledge that times haven’t changed much. I’d revived my eleven-year-old frustration. I’d also lost the peace that resides not only beyond that window, but also deep within me. With that, I’m renewing my resolve to find that peace once again. I’ll pray for those who’d frustrated me so. I’ll also do what I can to bring peace to my little corner of this world.

Good and Patient God, help me to do just that!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Soul’s Landscape

From that desert, the whole Israelite
community journeyed in stages as the
Lord directed…
From Exodus 17:1

One of Israel’s remarkable characteristics is its varied landscape. Because I’m accustomed to the promise of spring buds, summer’s lush greenery, autumn’s array of color and winter’s icy white, I was most taken by Israel’s deserts. The arid countryside offers miniature versions of our Grand Canyon, rocky mesas and small mountains. Each of these boasts barely visible natural caves and crevices. To some, they appear to be dark and frightening dens of the unknown. To a desert-dweller, these sometimes tiny niches in the rocky expanse provide life-giving shelter at the peak of a day’s heat.

Another of the desert’s life-giving gifts is the smattering of thorny bushes and brownish-green grasses which appear out of nowhere in every direction. As we drove through a particularly rocky area, I noticed a lone ibex nestled on an extremely narrow crag. When I spotted the tufts of green dangling from its mouth, I understood the ibex’s bravery in selecting this precarious nook. This much-needed lunch was well worth the effort!

As we drove on, I considered the goodness I’d found in what I thought to be barren and lifeless landscape. It reminded me of myself on occasion. Though I should know better, I allow uncontrollable situations to drain the life out of me. Though I work hard to improve things, I see no progress. Then, in the midst of my misery, someone thanks me for something which I hardly recall doing. Another person compliments the reflection I posted a few weeks back. Someone else responds to my cheerful greeting because he needed to smile that day. I receive a thank you note and a pat on the back for what I considered trivial deeds.

I’ve discovered that, even when we think we’re no more fruitful than the most barren of deserts, God draws goodness from us.

Ever-loving God, thank you for drawing goodness from me, even when I dwell in the desert.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find The Good!

Accordingly, Jesus sent Peter and John off with the instruction,
“Go and prepare our Passover supper for us.”

Luke 22:6

While in Israel, we celebrated a special Shabbat Dinner with a local family. It was Friday night just after Sabbath began when we poured into the modest apartment of an Orthodox Jewish couple. This couple shared their Sabbath experience to extend their good will and to provide an opportunity for them and their guests to eat and pray together. This was an authentic experience which included one toddler, two preschoolers, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa and us guests. Our hosts also invited a few friends.

After settling into our places, this couple asked us to introduce and to share something about ourselves. In the process, one of the couple’s guests spoke of his emigration to Israel. Noam is 29 and a native of Baltimore, Maryland. He’d moved to Israel a year earlier for his job. Noam described his immediate uneasiness within this foreign culture. Though he is a good Jew, Noam was unprepared for life in this strange place. He found people to be refreshingly, and sometimes frighteningly, direct. His mild-mannered demeanor proved to be no asset as he tried to assimilate. Still, Noam persisted. He recognizes that life isn’t perfect anywhere on this earth and that it’s up to each one of us to find the good wherever we are and the goodness within ourselves. With only this revelation to guide him, Noam eventually decided to make Israel his permanent home. Though he couldn’t explain the reason, he felt that he truly belonged in this place.

I was taken aback by Noam’s bravery, his perceptiveness and his persistence. As we continued our meal together, I wondered where I might look more carefully for the goodness around me. Perhaps I need to look within as well…

Dear God, you send each one of us into this life filled with goodness. Help us to find the goodness in one another and to do good wherever we are.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Lovingly Persistent

“The works that God gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that God has sent me.”

John 5:36

Sometimes, I’m impatient with our humanity. I become frustrated with others, especially at church, when they forget that we’re actually God’s family. I become frustrated with myself when I allow their antics to distract me from the work at hand. So it is that I must return to my childhood musing regarding the behaviors of Jesus’ contemporaries. If it was obvious to me at age eleven that Jesus’ lessons, parables and works had to have come from a loving God, I wondered why it was so difficult for the Pharisees to accept this. They knew that Israel awaited the Messiah. Foreign astrologers had recognized the sign in the night and traveled a long distance to find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. It seemed to me that the Pharisees and many others should have known better than to reject Jesus.

As I consider my current frustration, I acknowledge that times haven’t changed much. We see all that Jesus accomplished from his humble state. We see that Jesus needed no worldly authority to serve us. We see that Jesus sought the company of outcasts and that he set aside his own concerns whenever he was needed. Still, we do as I have done and become angry when others who don’t conform to our hopes and desires.

Jesus persisted in spite of and because of the humanity of those he’d come to this earth to love. Times haven’t changed much and it’s up to me to persist as Jesus did with patient love.

Good and Patient God, help me to do just that!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Bright Side

With me at your right hand,
you will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:8

When the patio door refused to slide open, my husband rubbed his forehead and asked, “Now what?” As he checked the door from top to bottom, he added, “But if this is the worst that happens today, I’m a lucky man.” I smiled, as I agreed whole-heartedly.

Though our life together has not been trauma free, my husband and I have managed to look at the brighter side of things when tragedy touches us. I was blessed with this mindset early on. My husband was not. It has taken years of nurturing his own faith as best he could for him to develop his positive stance toward life’s negatives. Though this transformation sometimes reverts to a “work in progress,” I admire my husband’s persistence.

You know, God has encouraged our faith from the beginning. When humankind failed to acknowledge the wisdom of the prophets, God sent Jesus of Nazareth to get our attention even more dramatically. Who but one from God could have conceived of the prodigal son’s forgiving father and the lost coin’s owner who turned everything upside down to find it? Better still, Jesus lived the love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness which he attributed to God. Yet, in spite of his goodness, tragedy touched Jesus’ life as well.

It seems to me that the moral of the story is this: We are not in heaven yet and this life will never be perfect. Still, God loves us and is with us in everything. It is up to us to live accordingly in the mean time.

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing presence beside each one of us.