Another Child Lost…

So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?”

From Mark 5:39

I grew up in a tough neighborhood. This means that I heard the names of gangs in whispers and I was careful with my money when walking to and from the grocery store. I didn’t go out after dark. Still, the worst local news referenced an occasional a knife or a purse-snatching. Though my own family was touched by more serious crime, these events pale in light of today’s reports. Guns have replaced knives and murder has become the crime of choice. The losses of children are far too common.

The only child in our family to pass away is my husband’s cousin Mary. Mary was born long before current medical advances. Mary’s Down Syndrome had taken a toll on her heart. Every cold required a serious regimen of care to prevent complications. Mary enjoyed a much longer life than expected as a result of her parents’ diligence. She was twenty-two when she began her last hospital stay. When my husband and I went to Mary’s home to console her parents, they surprised us with their account of Mary’s final moments. “Just before Mary passed away, she told us that she was going with Jesus and she smiled.” Their child’s proclamation brought the consolation they needed. Mary’s suffering had ended and her absolute joy began. Mary’s parents had found some peace in the midst of their sorrow.

No parent should ever have to say goodbye to a child. Today, far too many children will be lost to starvation, to violence and to abuse. Illness is one thing. These circumstances are another. Though I know that God will meet each one with open arms, most of their parents will not have the luxury of hearing Mary’s consoling words. Most of their parents will simply sob and ask, “Why?”

Compassionate God, please comfort the heart of every parent who has lost a child. And, please God, touch the hearts of those responsible and help us all to put at end to this.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Happy Birthday, Daddy!

For your kindness is before my eyes,
and I walk in your truth.

Psalm 26:3

My dad would have celebrated his ninety-eighth birthday today. Perhaps I shouldn’t have written “would have” as heaven may acknowledge such milestones with far more revelry than we do!

When I was a little girl, the proximity of my dad’s birthday to Christmas troubled me. Young as I was, I appreciated the possibility that his special day was likely lost in the hustle and bustle of yuletide every year. Eventually, I asked my dad if he minded that his birthday fell two days after Christmas.

My dad replied with great wisdom. He told me that his birth date was just fine with him. After all, Christmas was a very good day which led into his own very good day. The truth is that my grandparents had little money which leads me to believe that my dad didn’t receive many gifts on either day. Still, he shared his memories with a smile big enough to convince this daughter that his childhood Christmases and birthdays were just as they should have been. It occurs to me that I should take this revelation as an invitation to make every day special for someone!

Loving God, thank you for my dad who taught me about your love by loving me so generously.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

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