Ask God…

But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah…
From 1 Kings 18:46

If you don’t recall the details, check 1 Kings 18 regarding Elijah…

I admit that I thought about Elijah’s wrath throughout our stay in the Holy Land and long after we left Mount Carmel. The good news is that Elijah’s fiery presence often gave way to his contemplative side. Elijah said that he was on fire with zeal for God. Before he did most of what he did, Elijah prayed. Elijah’s ability to withdraw into God’s presence empowered him to act with conviction on behalf of his fellow humans.

I admit that I sometimes avoid Old Testament texts because I don’t want to be reminded of the violence recorded there. Elijah’s encounter with the priests of Baal is no exception. Still, as I contemplated further, I realized that Elijah did the best he could in the time and place where God situated him. I wasn’t there and I don’t know the details of all that occurred among his people. In the end, it isn’t up to me to judge.

Each of us finds ourselves in particular times and places over which we have little control. Nonetheless, you and I are called to respond as best we can and as only we can. This is good reason to imitate Elijah’s contemplative side. When in doubt, Elijah always prayed. It seems to me that we should do the same.

Loving God, thank you for offering us your company and your counsel. Remind us to seek both often.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Nudges Us Along with Love

All week, I’d battled a dark mood which simply wouldn’t let up. I admit that I find great satisfaction in “fixing” things. This means that I’ll do whatever it takes to improve troubling situations within reach and within what I perceive to be my realm of influence. Though I’m usually satisfied with my efforts, this hasn’t been the case as of late. Unsettling events globally, nationally and closer to home have made me feel quite helpless these days. In the midst of my frustration, I looked upward and asked, “How do you deal with all of this?” Though our benevolent Creator didn’t respond verbally, I felt certain that God understood the reasons for my question.

In an effort to improve my mindset, I decided to take a walk outdoors. I detoured from my usual trek past the Village Hall, library and post office. Though I normally enjoy ambling along under the trees in the condo complex to the south, I determined that it was time to revisit the cul de sacs of my own neighborhood. This proved to be a helpful choice as the changes on each street distracted me from my woes. Some homes had undergone impressive make-overs while a few others uncharacteristically needed maintenance. I wondered if all was well with the current residents. As always, the array of annual and perennial growth I encountered elicited an appreciative smile. “So nice that people bother to plant,” I told myself. While off the familiar turf of my own street, I passed neighbors I don’t know as they engaged in yard work, entertaining their kids, hosting a garage sale and relaxing on their porches. I greeted each one with a “hello” and a smile. As I made my way home, I marveled at my little neighborhood and all that was transpiring there. Once again, I looked upward. “How do you keep track of us all?” I asked.

When I returned home, I glanced through the patio door on my way to the kitchen for a much-needed glass of water. I noted that this year’s weather has helped to maintain our lawn and flowers. I smiled again as I absorbed my husband’s successful gardening efforts. Colorful blossoms pour in every direction from numerous large pots on our patio. Mike’s precision in watering and fertilizing has paid off. Gratitude filled me up as I enjoyed the fruits of the poor man’s labor. Suddenly, it occurred to me that my encounter with the things closest to me had dispelled my dour mood. “Thank you, God, for the little gifts which replenish our joy,” I prayed.

With my worry neatly tucked away, I went inside to attend to a bit of joyful work. Our son Tim, his wife Kim and our grandson Danny have just welcomed the newest addition to their family. Little Benjamin has been a source of joy to all concerned. The best evidence of this is Danny’s huge smile every time he gets to hold Benjamin. The wise inventor of the Boppy Pillow has made these encounters safe and comfy for all concerned. The joyful task at hand was to wrap Danny’s birthday gift. Challenging as that cumbersome box was, once again, I found myself content with the blessings closest to me.

I share all of this because my mood matched that of Elijah in today’s reading from 1 Kings (19:4-8). Elijah the Prophet was at the peak of discouragement. When I read of Elijah’s mindset, my thoughts immediately returned to the rough patch I’d experienced. Elijah had just rid his community of four hundred fifty prophets of Baal, the idol of Queen Jezebel. Afterward, Elijah discovered that Jezebel sought his very life in response to his transgression. I couldn’t help shaking my head over Elijah’s surprise. While I sympathized with Elijah’s predicament, I wondered what he expected. With nowhere to turn, Elijah abandoned hope and fled to the desert to die. He curled up under a broom tree with the intention of sleeping himself into eternity. Apparently, God had other plans because an angel roused Elijah and offered him sustenance. Though Elijah ate all that the angel offered, he immediately returned to the sleep which he hoped would be his last. God persisted by sending the angel once again to nourish and encourage Elijah. This time, Elijah rose, ate and put his new-found strength to good use. This time, Elijah heeded God’s urging and embraced the new day.

It occurred to me that my rough patch didn’t hold a candle to Elijah’s. After all, no one was seeking to do me bodily harm! Still, sustenance and encouragement came my way in the beauty of my husband’s flowers and in the joy of wrapping a three-year-old’s gift. It didn’t take much, did it? You know, we all experience dark and seemingly fruitless days. The good news here is that God tends to us just as God tended to Elijah. God’s love took root the moment God breathed life into each one of us and it continues ad infinitum. Every moment of every day, God eases us over the rough patches and on to whatever the adventure which lies ahead.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Withdraw Into God’s Company

But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah…
From 1 Kings 18:46

My experience on Mount Carmel revealed that Elijah’s fiery presence was complimented by his contemplative side. Elijah said of himself that he was on fire with zeal for God. One doesn’t become this close to God without spending time in God’s company. Before he did most of what he did, Elijah prayed. Elijah’s ability to withdraw into God’s presence and then to act with conviction has inspired many over the millenniums since he walked among us.

Today, Mount Carmel is inhabited by Carmelite priests. These modern-day religious do their best to emulate Elijah’s contemplative and worldly sides. They pray alone and with one another throughout the day. They also serve their brothers and sisters on the outside. Carmelites strive to maintain a sort of detached attachment with the rest of us. They work hard to make our world a better place without becoming fully a part of this world. Theirs is a tough assignment, but they manage to pull it off without wielding Elijah’s sword.

Several pilgrims from around the world joined us on Mount Carmel. One group from the Philippines had gathered inside the small chapel to share scripture and to pray. They invited us to join them. When they’d completed their devotions, our guide Yossi began his flute concert in the sanctuary. Together, we sat in silence, completely drawn in by Yossi’s reverence. Once again, our guide who claims not to know how to pray inspired the rest of us to do just that.

Loving God, thank you for revealing yourself and for calling us in so many unexpected ways.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Withdraw and Return with God

But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah…
From 1 Kings 18:46

My experience on Mount Carmel continued long after my encounter with Elijah’s statue. Just as there was reason for Elijah’s fiery presence so long ago, there was reason for his contemplative side. Elijah said of himself that he was on fire with zeal for God. One doesn’t become this close to our Benevolent Creator without spending time in God’s company. Before he did most of what he did, Elijah prayed. Elijah’s ability to withdraw into God’s presence and then to act with conviction on behalf of his fellow humans has inspired many over the millenniums since he walked this earth.

Today, Mount Carmel is inhabited by Carmelite priests. These modern-day religious do their best to emulate Elijah’s contemplative and worldly sides. They pray alone and with one another throughout the day. They also serve their brothers and sisters on the outside. Carmelites strive to maintain a sort of detached attachment with the rest of us. They work hard to make our world a better place without becoming fully a part of this world. Theirs is a tough assignment, but they manage to pull it off without wielding Elijah’s sword.

When we visited the small chapel on the grounds, several pilgrims from around the world joined us there. When our dear guide Yossi began his concert in the sanctuary, we sat in silence, completely drawn in by Yossi’s reverence. Toward the end of Yossi’s hymn, a Carmelite priest joined us in the chapel. When Yossi finished, the priest thanked him for this unexpected gift. All of us who gathered there left with far more than we dared to hope for.

Loving God, as we continue our Lenten journeys, nudge us in your direction often.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Nudged Along By Love

It was early Sunday afternoon and I found myself in what I wish was an uncharacteristically dark mood. Unfortunately, I have allowed myself to succumb to this life’s annoyances far too frequently as of late. In a vain effort to improve my mindset, I decided to take a detour on the way home from church. I’d stop for a budget bouquet and bring some of summer’s radiance indoors. “This pick-me-up will help,” I told myself. In spite of my resolve, sadness overwhelmed me as I pulled into the store’s parking lot. When tears stung my eyes, I decided to leave this errand for another day and to seek refuge at home.

When I walked into the house, I took off my shoes and ambled over to the windows that overlook our yard. This year’s abundant rainfall has maintained our lush lawn. I couldn’t help smiling as I absorbed this backdrop to my husband’s gardening efforts. Colorful blossoms pour in every direction from numerous large pots on our patio. The Mike’s precision in watering and fertilizing them is evident in each of the plants which thrives in his care. Gratitude filled me up as I enjoyed the fruits of Mike’s labor. I had not been in the house more than ten minutes, yet the comforts of home had dispelled my dour mood. “Thank you, God, for the little gifts which replenish our joy,” I prayed.

With my adjusted attitude intact, I grabbed the Sunday paper and headed to the patio. My husband would not be home for another hour or so and it was a little early to think about dinner. Enjoying this bit of leisure seemed the best use of my time. After all, God intended Sunday to be a day of rest. Indeed, God knows better than we do that we all need to replenish ours spirits on occasion. This occasion seemed perfectly timed for me! I perused my favorite sections of the Tribune, looking up frequently at the birds who stopped at our birdbath. I must have posed no threat to my feathered friends because two of them perched themselves on the chair across from me for a few seconds. I admit to being thrilled that those robins seemed oblivious to the concerns that filled me up just an hour earlier. Apparently, so was I.

With my worries neatly tucked away, I went inside to attend to a bit of joyful work. I’ve shared earlier that our younger son and his wife are expecting their first baby. This little one gave us a bit of a scare when he seemed anxious to make an appearance long before Mommy’s “due” date. After much prayer and mandated bed rest, things settled down. So it was that I found the courage and the joy to wrap their baby gift. I had assembled a few items that represent the common history which has brought us to Baby’s arrival. Recounting the blessings which are my son’s and his wife’s lives turned out not to be work at all. Indeed, this little labor of love replenished my spirit further.

When I thumbed through the scriptures today, I could not help attending to 1 Kings 19:4-8. This account describes Elijah the Prophet at the peek of discouragement and dejection. As I read, my thoughts immediately returned to that rough Sunday I’d experienced. Elijah had abandoned all hope and fled to the desert to die. He actually curled up under a broom tree with the intention of sleeping himself into eternity. Apparently, the Lord God had other plans because an angel appeared to rouse Elijah and offer him sustenance for the journey that lay ahead. Though Elijah woke and ate all that the angel offered, he immediately returned to the sleep that he hoped would be his last. God persisted by sending the angel once again to nourish and encourage Elijah. This time, Elijah rose, ate and put his new-found strength to good use. This time, Elijah heeded God’s urging and embraced the new day.

Sometimes, during the dark hours of seemingly fruitless days, it takes an angel’s visit to revive us. Through whatever form that angel takes, our persistent God provides the means to our survival. God’s tender love and care took root the moment God breathed life into each one of us. Even several millenniums of rough days lived in billions of human lives cannot elude God’s love and care. So it was that Elijah embraced the new day that lay ahead. So it was that I found gratitude and joy within a string of seemingly bad days. So it is that God eases you and me over the rough patches and on to the adventures that lie ahead.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved