There’s Always Room for You

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

When I was a little girl, dinner time was the best part of my day. Though I enjoyed the meals which were typical of a blue-collar family of the era, I enjoyed the family which gathered to partake of them far more. Because my dad worked nights, dinner time was our first opportunity to spend quality time with him most days. This was “morning” to him and my dad almost always exhibited his sense of humor as he started his new day. We often laughed as much as we chewed throughout these shared meals.

Happily, my parents’ welcoming spirits remain with their children. We all do our share of opening our homes and our hearts to others. I’m particularly grateful that my parents’ example taught me to extend hospitality even to those who are less than friendly toward me. At my parents’ table, I found the tools and the willingness to invite in any of God’s children who want to take a seat and “chew” on whatever is on their minds. These tools have served me well all of my life.

It seems to me that we have no better example of welcoming others than we find in God. Jesus did an amazing job of revealing God’s loving ways toward all of humankind. In our goodness and in our failures, God finds us worthy of the present moment and of the things to come. If we can remember to be welcoming of others as we tackle this pandemic, the division which has also plagued this country and the tough days ahead, everything that lies ahead will be manageable because we’re face it together.

Welcoming God, your heart is open to each one of us. Help us to open our hearts as you have.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Shepherded With Love

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In God’s own house shall I dwell
forever and ever.

Psalm 23:6

A friend emailed to ask how I was doing. She wasn’t being polite. She really wanted to know. Soon after, another friend received an email from someone I haven’t seen in some time. This man had belonged to our church before he relocated. He asked how I was doing because he really wanted to know. Both read these posts and both have the impression that something is bothering me. What astute readers I’m blessed with! More importantly, how wonderful it is that they took the time to express their concern.

I consider myself to be a generously blessed soul. At the same time, I’m a painfully sensitive soul. I take the suffering around me to heart and I find it difficult to accept that I can’t remedy it. While my family and loved ones nearby are fine, others in the vicinity and throughout this world suffer greatly. Every time I hear of another incidence of injustice or of another devastating natural disaster or of another COVID-19 case or more political bickering my heartbreak increases.

Fortunately, these reflections allow me to encourage others and myself along the way. This is the reason I find such consolation in Psalm 23. The Shepherd who inspired this prayer watches over us every step of the way. This Shepherd cares for each of us as only our Shepherd-God can. I find great comfort in this realization.

Today, more people than ever have troubles which seem insurmountable. Like my friends who expressed concern for me, I must express my concern. If there is something tangible I can do to help, I will do it. If not, I must pray and I must rely on God to inspire others to do the rest.

Dear God, be with us as we do our best to shepherd one another.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Fear No Evil

Though I walk through the valley of darkness,
I fear no evil; for God is with me…

From Psalm 23:4

When I was a little girl, I feared an encounter with the doctor more than much else. Our family physician was pleasant enough, but he administered inoculations which wasn’t pleasant at all…

The other day, when I finally got around to my annual physical, that childhood fear returned. Did I mention that I was a year late in scheduling this dreaded encounter? This omission on my part made me all the more apprehensive. So it was that I relaxed and engaged in deep breathing as best I could when the nurse approached to take my blood pressure. I was relieved when the result was only a few numbers higher than it should have been and that the nurse kindly attributed this to “white coat syndrome”. I quickly agreed with her diagnosis. By the time the doctor arrived, I’d composed myself enough to present as a somewhat healthy and sane individual. In the end, the doctor announced that I am actually more than somewhat healthy and sane.

While driving home, I wondered if God looks upon me as that doctor-fearing little girl from long ago. The truth is that I secretly hoped so. I happily imagined myself in God’s lap. God immediately wrapped those loving arms around me. When I thought this was all I could hope for, God pulled me closer and whispered, “You’re fine. You’ll always be fine, even when you’re sick, because I’m always with you.” By the time I arrived home, I realized that God wouldn’t keep me from all of the evils of this world. I also realized that God would love me through whatever the future holds.

Dear God, thank you for your persistent and loving presence among us and within us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Never Gives Up On Us

God leads me in right paths…
From Psalm 23:3

When I consider the state of the world around me and of my own heart, I sometimes wonder why God bothers. Though God gifts humankind in ways more numerous than the grains of sand which cover this earth’s beaches, we manage to misuse our gifts in equally bountiful ways.

Fortunately for me, God takes note of my discouragement long before it morphs into something unmanageable. In the midst of my laments, images of kindnesses great and small distract my thinking. Moments in nature, in the company of those I love, at prayer and at peace with the tasks at hand compel me to utter words of thanks without much thought. While I remain baffled at this transition from discouragement to contentment, God leans back and admires this bit of Divine Handiwork.

As I consider Psalm 23 once again, I understand. God will never cease to lead us in right paths because it is in God’s nature to do so. When one loves as completely as God does, one never EVER gives up on the objects of that love!

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing encouragement in things great and small. Remind me never to give up on this world because you will never give up on a single one of us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Restored Once Again

…God leads me beside still waters
and restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

It was a new morning, but the same old routine. Once again, I ran from the moment I woke. Before thinking about another of my Sunday reflections, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I did two loads of laundry while picking up the house and then read the coming weekend’s scripture passages. Though I’d decided not to mention COVID-19 and our other current sources of misery by name, I also realized that each of these afflictions weigh heavily upon us all these days.

After getting a positive start on that reflection, I noticed that the rain had let up. I wasn’t certain how long this would last. However, I was certain that the red line on my thermometer had not edged beyond forty-five that day. Still, I couldn’t resist the oddly peaceful setting which lay beneath the cloudy sky. Though the beautiful fall colors which adorned my neighborhood were muted on that seemingly dismal day, the scene before me nudged me back to Psalm 23.

Though I had plenty more to do inside, I headed outdoors to walk. Every step of the way, autumn’s beauty urged me on. It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized God had restored my soul. Even on that gray-hued day, God had refreshed me.

Loving God, thank you for the many beautiful ways in which you refresh us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Remote Blessings

He makes me lie down in green pastures…
Psalm 23:2

Before the pandemic, a day didn’t go by that my husband failed to reveal another destination to which he hoped to travel “one day”. These days, Mike’s travel bucket list sits patiently on the sidelines until COVID-19 can be controlled. The truth is that Mike had been uncharacteristically quiet in this regard for some time until the other day. While making his way through the television channels, Mike passed on the Star Trek, Superman and Adam 12 reruns. Rather, he settled on a travel show which featured Egypt. My sister ventured there years ago when this was a safer endeavor. Mike had hoped we’d follow her lead one day. So it was with great pleasure that he settled in to watch…

An hour later, I was amazed to find my invigorated husband smiling as that program ended. Mike has always taken great pleasure in exploring new places and getting to know the people who inhabit them. Though this particular adventure was completely remote, it left him refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of the day. It occurred to me that Mike needs to make a habit of watching those travel shows. Whether they feature sandy expanses, vast oceans or green pastures, these remote adventures are life-giving just the same.

As I reflect further on Psalm 23, I can’t help thinking that our persistent God has blessed my dear husband with this desire to travel with good reason. Over the years, our adventures have allowed Mike to lie down in green pastures, to traipse through every sort to terrain and even to climb a small mountain or two. Every time, Mike returned ready to embrace life here at home with renewed eagerness. Even when God provides adventures in video form, they give Mike and all of us a bit of what we need to carry on.

Loving God, thank you for caring for us though the wonders of this world even when we have to enjoy them remotely!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved