Gift Them with Hope

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!

Isaiah 35:4

Something nudged me toward the obituary section of the paper. Much to my surprise, I encountered the name of one of my former students. “How can this be?” I asked myself. “Robert is only 51.”

As I recalled vivid memories of this young man as a third grader, noise outdoors drew me to the window. I looked past our lawn to the school across the street. A group of children had come out for recess. I smiled as I imagined Robert doing the same. Though he could sometimes be a handful, Robert had a very good heart. My thoughts turned to my own classroom and the Christmas celebrations I’d enjoyed there.

Like Robert, most of my students counted the days to Christmas with great relish. Robert enjoyed the holidays with his family. At the same time, a few of his classmates dreaded this departure from their daily routines. These children lived in poverty. School lunches were the best of their meals and our simple class parties were the best of their Christmases. Too often, the lack of material treasures in their lives paled in the shadow of their lack of love and security. The adults around them had their own troubles which made Christmas a low priority. As for Robert, he had a kind heart. How often he looked beyond his own mischief to extend kindness to his less fortunate friends. Robert never teased one of them!

As I continued to watch the carefree youngsters on the playground across the street, I prayed for Robert, that eternity will bring him a plethora of Christmas-like days. I also prayed for children in need, that somehow the rest of us find ways to provide for them.

Dear God, help us to bring hope to this in need as best we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

All God’s Poor

For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Psalm 69:34

Sometimes, when we hear or read about the poor in the scriptures or via the media, we assume that the term references those with dire material needs. Though this is often the case, God’s definition of “the poor” is all-inclusive. It seems to me that God attends to each one of us whether our needs are material or otherwise.

Sometimes, when we find ourselves doing well in the world’s eyes, we also find ourselves in need, deep within us where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing a secure life for themselves and their loved ones, the materially rich sometimes invest so much energy holding on to what they have that they lose their grip on the things that matter most to them.

We all take turns being counted among God’s poor. This much-loved group includes you and me and all of our brothers and sisters whenever this life robs us of the things we need to continue on. Whether we are lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parent, God knows our suffering. Whether we are besought by the enemy before us or by the demons within us, God stands at our sides. In spite of our other needs, we will always have enough of God’s love to get by.

Loving God, thank you for recognizing our poverty in all of its forms. Open our hearts to your generous love, that we may share that love with one another.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Poor

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Psalm 69:33-35

This is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis’s transition from a life of comfort to a life of poverty was absolute. I write “absolute” because, after leaving everything else behind, Francis stripped himself naked as he walked away from his family’s wealth. With that, Francis embraced the lot of the poorest of the poor who lacked even clothing enough to cover themselves. Though I won’t detail all that happened next, know that Francis remained true to his commitment to the poor for the rest of his life.

When I consider the poor, my thoughts turn to those with dire material needs. Francis’s lifelong generosity inspires my own efforts to assist them. As I reflect further, I remind myself that God’s definition of “the poor” is more inclusive. Some among us are materially rich, but also experience need deep within where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing secure lives, the rest of us sometimes lose our grip on the things which are most important. Francis of Assisi inspired many in this situation to turn their attention from their own treasures to wealth as God sees it.

We’re all counted among God’s poor at one time or another. This much-loved group includes us whenever this life robs us of the things we need. Whether we’re lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parents, we’re in need. Whether we’re besought by a stack of bills or by the demons within us, we’re in need. Francis of Assisi would respond by offering us what we need at the moment and by insisting that, in spite of our other needs, we always have enough of God’s love to get by. I wholeheartedly agree.

Loving God, you recognize our poverty in all of its forms. Thank you for your generous response.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Love

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126:5

I admit that I have shed some tears as of late. A recent gathering brought tears of joy over our grandson’s second birthday and the wonderful family with whom I celebrated. Unfortunately, the news on television that very evening was heartbreaking. I turned off the set before the newscast ended because I couldn’t listen to any more. A day later, an appeal for assistance to needy children arrived in our mailbox. If I multiplied the misery that packet chronicled one hundredfold, it would still be only a drop in the bucket of poverty which affects so many of our world’s children.

With each passing day, I worry, I rejoice in the blessings of my own family and I worry some more. And the tears continue to flow. Then, I passed a group of Scouts at the grocery store who were collecting school supplies for their needy classmates. After promising them I’d be back, I headed to another store which advertised an amazing back-to-school sale and I bought as much as I could. I know I shocked those kids when I returned with my bags.

Finally, it occurred to me to ask The Almighty how it is possible to watch over and attend to all of us twenty-four/seven for eternity. It was then that I imagined God smiling in response: “It’s love, Mary. It’s all about love. Just love!”

Loving God, of all of your gifts, our capacity to love is the greatest. Be with me and all of us as we try to love as completely as you do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Good Reason To Love

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider
that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:50

This is not my favorite scripture passage. Caiaphas sends a chill down my spine. He’s speaking about Jesus, the Good Shepherd who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. He’s speaking about the Father of the Prodigal Son who gave that young man half his wealth, watched him squander it and then welcomed him home. Caiaphas mustn’t have heard the parable about the pearl of great price for which a man sold everything. He must have missed the tale of the woman who swept up and dusted her house again and again until she found her precious coin. Poor Caiaphas seems to have missed everything of importance that Jesus said because he’s blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his own stature and to remain in power.

You know, there are many people near and far who are distracted by their troubles as well. Though some have lost their perspective through selfishness much like Caiaphas, most suffer distractions wielded upon them by the unexplained and/or deliberate injustices of our human existence. Perhaps Caiaphas’ callousness serves as a reminder that many of our fellow humans have little about which to rejoice today. Perhaps Caiaphas’ hatred of Jesus encourages us to love as Caiaphas could not love. Perhaps Caiaphas’ influence finally changes its direction because it inspires us to care for those who need us most.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for using even our weaknesses to teach us to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Beloved Poor

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Psalm 69:33-35

Sometimes, when we hear or read about the poor, we assume that the term references those with dire material needs. Though this is often the case, God’s definition of “the poor” is all-inclusive. It references each and every one of us whenever our needs are material or otherwise. Sometimes, when we find ourselves doing well in the world’s eyes, we also find ourselves in need deep within us where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing a secure life for themselves and their loved ones, those who seem to have the material things they need sometimes lose their grip on the things which truly matter.

There are times when we are all counted among God’s poor. This much-loved group includes us whenever life robs us of the things we need to continue on. Whether we are lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parent, God knows our suffering and shares our concern. Whether we are besought by the enemy before us or by the demons within us, God stands at our sides. We must remember that, in spite of our personal varieties of poverty, we will always have enough of God’s love to get by.

Loving and Caring God, thank you for recognizing our poverty in all of its forms and for easing us through it with your loving presence.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved