The Bright Side

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

Psalm 16:8

My husband gingerly eased into his recliner, saying, “My shoulder really hurts.” Then he quickly added, “But if this is the worst that happens today, I’m a lucky person.”

Our life together hasn’t been trauma free. Still, my husband and I try to look at the brighter side of things when tragedy touches us. I was blessed with this mindset early on. My husband wasn’t. It’s taken years of nurturing his own faith as best he could for him to develop this positive stance toward life’s negatives. Though this transformation sometimes reverts to a “work in progress,” I admire Mike’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? Who but one from God could have lived love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness with such perfection? Yet, in spite of his goodness, tragedy touched Jesus’ life as well.

It seems to me that the moral of the story is this: Because we are not yet in heaven, this life will never be perfect. Still, God loves us and remains with us in everything. This is all we need to know.

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing presence as we make our way home to you.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Just Like The Movies?

I believe I shall see the good things of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13

The other day, I allowed myself the luxury of an hour of television. I settled on an old movie which I knew would end happily. Because I didn’t recall many of the plot details, the time invested seemed worth it. Afterward, as the credits rolled down the screen, I wondered why life in the real world doesn’t unfold as neatly. Movie scripts allow heroes to arrive in the nick of time. Lonely widowers meet loving widows, organ donors are unexpectedly found, wayward children embrace family values and absentee fathers becomes stellar dads. I asked aloud, “Why can’t the woes of the real world be remedied as neatly?”

I looked upward for an answer though I knew that God has already responded. God provides for our needs with Creation. Though we too often forsake this gift, God stands by with great hope in our ingenuity. Jesus entered human history to reveal Divine Love even more tangibly. Jesus showed us that to lead, we must serve, to be first, we must be last, and to save our lives, we must live our lives for others. If this isn’t enough, God’s Spirit remains within us to nudge along the way.

I think that television’s optimistic stance has a place in reality, even if that “place” is simply to encourage us to make the best of our circumstances. If we truly get into character, it will eventually become natural to accentuate the positive in our interactions with those we’ve been given to love.

Dear God, help us to take direction from your love and to write happy endings for the stories which unfold around us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Peacemakers, One and All

Say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God in whom I trust.”

Psalm 91:2

It has been a week since a shooter decided to leave his mark upon unsuspecting New Yorkers who were out to enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon. Because it was Halloween, the assailant seems to have felt certain that numerous victims would be his for the taking. As it happened, this assessment proved accurate. Eight people were killed and numerous others were wounded in some way. Had the man not been stopped, notes he left indicate that he would have moved on to make victims of others in his path.

I was unaware of all that had occurred until later that evening because I’d spent the day with my grandson. Later at home, I looked with tearful eyes at the wall where our grandchildren’s photos hang. Without thinking, I said aloud, “I hope we can fix this before you grow up and I hope each of you sees to it that this never happens again.” The tears flowed more freely when I realized that I’d uttered similar words after the Las Vegas shooter’s assault.

I began working my way through Psalm 91 with yesterday’s reflection and I’ll continue for a while longer. This particular Psalm celebrates God’s care for each one of us. In the midst of this world’s ongoing violence, it seems appropriate to acknowledge God’s very real love and concern for us. It also seems appropriate for me and for all of us to challenge ourselves to counter that violence and to share God’s love at every opportunity. Our simple attempts to insert calm and peace into the moments at hand are a great way to start.

Dear God, you are our refuge and our strength. Help us to be the same for one another.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Sow Love

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me so love…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

I think I’ve shared before my heartbreak when my now forty-year-old son was just seven years old. Something I asked him to do made my dear child angry enough to cry, “I hate you!” Because I rarely used this verb myself, I was moved to tears by this outburst. Rather than respond in the heat of the moment, I went out to our patio to consider what had occurred. When our dear neighbor shouted “Hello” over the fence, I burst into tears. Eventually, I explained what had happened and then asked my neighbor if her children, who are my age, ever said the equivalent when they were little. “Of course they did!” Ellie responded, “But only once each. After they shouted their feelings about me, I drew them close and said,’Well I still love you!'” With that, I returned to my son and told him the same. By the way, he never repeated that infamous line either.

I share this because I think we need to sow the seeds of love for one another very early on. At the same time, I also believe that it’s never too late to begin. Though I still don’t know what drove that shooter in Las Vegas to injure and kill so many of his fellow humans, I wonder what I can do to prevent someone else from even considering the same. How unloved must we be before we turn to hatred to address our concerns? More importantly, how do we love these feelings out of existence?

Today, I’m determined to sow love at every opportunity. Will you join me?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Let Us Pray

“You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left
.
John 4:50

It has taken me a lifetime to imitate the man about whom John wrote the words above. I admit that I have succeeded only some of the time. This man was a royal official, likely quite used to having his every need met without question. At the time, the man’s child lay dying. He had likely tapped every resource at his disposal to find a cure. Still, in spite of his position and out of desperation, the man sought out Jesus for help. When Jesus instructed him to go home because his son was recovering, the man believed Jesus and went home. The man was not disappointed.

I’m not sure of what urged that royal official to turn to Jesus. I’m certain that he knew only a fraction of what we have come to know about Jesus. Still, in the face of two thousand years of proof of God’s love for us in more than a billion lifetimes, I sometimes doubt. I don’t doubt God’s love. What I sometimes doubt is my ability to participate in God’s love by praying. I wonder if my prayers for healing or peace or a turn of events for someone who has asked me to pray make a difference. Then, someone thanks me for praying for his sick wife who has recovered. Another friend thanks me for praying during his dad’s successful cancer surgery. A neighbor thanks me for praying for her grandchild who will experience birth in a few short weeks. As my prayers continue and this list of thanks grows, I’m assured that every conversation in which God and I engage makes a difference.

The outcomes I share are all the best that could be hoped for. It seems to me that even when an outcome isn’t everything that we’d hoped for, knowing that God is with us through it all is enough.

Compassionate God, there is never doubt about your love and the power of our prayers.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The “God” Side of Things

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

Psalm 16:8

My husband lifted his foot and rested it on the ottoman before him. “This really hurts,” he said. Then he quickly added, “But if this is the worst that happens today, I’m a lucky man.”

Our life together hasn’t been trauma free. Still, my husband and I try 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 took years of nurturing his own faith as best he could for him to develop his positive stance toward life’s negatives. Though this transformation occasionally reverts to a work in progress, I admire my husband’s persistence.

You know, God has encouraged us from the beginning. When humankind failed to see the better side of things, God sent the prophets and then Jesus of Nazareth to get our attention. Who but one from God could have conceived of the prodigal son’s forgiving father and the Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for even one of his sheep? Who but one from God could have lived love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness with such perfection? Yet, in spite of his goodness, tragedy touched Jesus’ life as well.

It seems to me that the moral of the story is this: Because we are not yet in heaven, this life will never be perfect. Still, God loves us and remains with us through it all. This is all we need to know.

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing presence within me.