Walk Your Walk

People will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in God’s Kingdom.

Luke 13:29

We recently enjoyed our first family gathering since our stay-in-place regimen began. Our sons, their wives and their children joined us that day. As we sat in the breezy outdoors, I smiled as I acknowledged that our sons draw the best from our gene pool. My husband is of average height and I’m short. Still, our sons are six feet tall. They have far healthier lifestyles than we had at their ages. Our sons and daughters-in-law adhere to their exercise routines while instilling the same passion in our grandchildren. When it comes to healthy eating, they’re all experts.

These observations and a few extra stay-in-place pounds nudged me outdoors the following day. I pushed myself to walk more briskly and a bit farther. Once I established my pace, I attended to the beauty around me. The sky boasted an amazingly deep blue and the trees sported vibrant greens. The spraying fountain I passed along the way sparkled like an array of diamonds. I looked up and gratefully whispered, “Thank you, for all of this!”

As I walked on, it occurred to me that our younger family members and I each embark upon a unique journey when we exercise. They attend quite astutely to what their bodies tell them, while I turn to life outside of me to distract me from the same. In the end, we each do what we must to accomplish our goals and we all feel very good in the end. It also occurred to me that all of our journeys through this life bring unique demands. God asks only that we tend to these things as best we can and as only we can.

Gracious God, help each one of us to be a blessing to those we meet along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Mom

When one becomes a mother, her new life is valued far beyond pearls.
Her children entrust their hearts to her. They are an unfailing prize.

Inspired by Proverbs 31:10-11

On this Mother’s Day Eve, I can’t help thinking about the most important work of my life. Thoughts of my own mom and the other amazing moms who’ve touched my life swirl about in my head. Still, I can’t escape the overwhelming joy which fills me up as I consider my own good fortune in this regard.

I’ve shared before that I didn’t grow up with an ambition to get married or to have children. I was quite certain that I would please God most and reach the fullness of my potential by entering the convent. This resolve remained under the surface through college until, amazingly enough, I fell in love and married. Because I’d embraced a new husband and a new career simultaneously, my potential to be a mom escaped me for a while. It was only after a few successful years in the classroom and the purchase of our first home that I realized the opportunity before me.

Though our hope for a little one took some time to come to fruition, I’ll never forget the day I heard the news. During what seemed to be our millionth visit to his office, Dr. Wool finally announced, “Mary, you’re pregnant!” Apparently, I didn’t hide my excitement because my husband heard my response all the way out in the waiting room. At that moment, my life changed forever. Suddenly, I knew God’s love firsthand because, sight unseen, I loved that baby more than anything. The truth is, I continue to love him and his brother just that much! Though the rest is history, I’d relive every moment as their mom in a heartbeat -a joyful heartbeat.

Dear God, thank you for entrusting me with the two amazing people who call me “Mom”.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Leave the Timing to God

“How does that concern of yours involve me?
My hour has not yet come.”

From John 2:4

“Timing is everything,” so they say…

I’ve often scratched my head while entering a particular place at a particular time wondering why I was there. Though uncertain of my purpose, I’ve continued on, full speed ahead. More often than not, as these encounters unfolded, I realized that I was precisely where I was meant to be. On a few occasions, I’ve met someone who became a friend. At other times, I’ve chatted with someone just long enough to be of help. I’ve even simply enjoyed myself unexpectedly only to leave fully rejuvenated as a result. Some of these encounters have transformed a fleeting interest into a long-term commitment.

A lifetime of such serendipitous adventures has convinced me there aren’t many coincidences. I simply can’t accept that our lives are lived at the mercy of chance. Now, when I find myself questioning my involvement with the people who cross my path or tasks which seem to demand my attention for no good reason, I don’t have to wait long for an explanation. God has made an art of providing me and all of us opportunities to serve and to be served. Somehow, we’re all given chance after chance to be our best in the ways we’re needed most. When we embrace those opportunities, we’ll make life better for someone else and for ourselves.

Dear God, thank you for this life. Though I am never quite sure of where I am headed, you always know what lies before me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Precious Lives

Return to God,
for God is gracious and merciful…

Joel 2:12-13

A dear friend recently reminisced about her lost brother. His parting three years ago had been painful for many reasons. These siblings had shared a troubled childhood, yet both their lives had taken a turn for the better before he passed. This change made their parting even more difficult than it might have been. As I wrote a note to console her, I stopped to listen to the voice of a newscaster which echoed from the television downstairs. He reported that a young boy had lost his life in a senseless shooting. This parting is painful as well. No parent should ever have to bury a child. The daily paper reported more of the same. No family should have to deal with these sorts of things. Passing naturally is one thing. Passing as a result of violence is something else entirely.

The God of Love knows full well that every life will end with a parting which pains other souls, yet God gives us life just the same. Short or long, each of our lives impacts this world in a unique and lasting way. Even Jesus was not spared the loss of others and the loss of his own life. Still, though Jesus knew full well what was in store, he came to live and to die as one of us. Yes, God values each of our lives and it is truly up to us to do the same.

Loving God, our losses bring to mind the fragility and the importance of every life. Help us to make the most of every day we are given.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

E is for Everlasting

O God, our God,
how glorious is your name over all the earth.
You have exalted your majesty
above the heavens.

Psalm 8:1

E is for Everlasting. Of everyone and everything in existence, only God is everlasting. Only God has no beginning and no end. God is, was and always will be. Though we have been blessed with immortal souls, it is God who breathed life into each one of us at a particular point in time.

The best part of all of this is that God’s every characteristic is also everlasting. God’s love; God’s patience; God’s forgiveness; God’s mercy; God’s creativity; God’s knowledge of you and me; God’s amusement over our silliness; God’s compassion when we are hurting; God’s ability to look beyond our failures to the goodness deep within us. God’s everything is everlasting.

Today, I hope I can return God’s everlasting gifts to me with gratitude. Perhaps today will be the first of an everlasting string of days on which I thank God simply for being God. What more do I need? What more does any of us need?

Everlasting God, you remain with us for the long haul, today and always. Thank you for including us in your eternity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time Enough…

While listening to our favorite oldies station in the car, I was thrilled when The Byrds 1965 hit Turn! Turn! Turn! began to play. Some time ago, my friend who shares my nostalgic tendencies sent me a link to a YouTube video of this beloved song. Though I rarely click email links, I was thrilled to do so at the time. When my husband and I returned home after our errands, I searched for that link with hope for a replay. Happily, I found that treasure and then sat back to listen. I wasn’t disappointed. The Byrds had put the text from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to music almost verbatim. When they released their potential hit, this American Folk Rock Band did so in an effort to promote world peace. Throughout the years since, I’ve listened intently to both this melody and the original passage from Ecclesiastes which was often read at funerals I’d attended. Every time, whether spoken or sung, those amazingly simple words filled me with inexplicable peace.

For those not familiar with The Byrds’ rendition, every verse begins, “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under heaven.” If you read through the song’s lyrics or the scripture passage, you’ll find that there is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, to reap, to kill, to heal, to laugh and to weep. There is also a time to build up and to take down, to dance and to mourn. According to both sources, there is a time for every purpose under heaven. The song and the scripture passage end with the assertion that there is also a time for peace. Insisting that this was the case even in the tumultuous 60s, the Byrds added, “I swear it’s not too late.” I admit to my own very strong inclination to insist the same. Even today, it’s not too late for peace among us here at home and around the world. This passage from Ecclesiastes isn’t among the scripture readings we’ll hear at Mass this weekend. Still, it seems to me that the Ordinary Time scripture readings from recent weeks and today indicate that Jesus was very much aware of the timing of the events of his life. Jesus was also very much aware of our need to infuse peace into each and every one of those events.

After much prayer and reflection, Jesus went to his cousin John to be baptized. It was time for Jesus to begin his public life. Not long afterward, Jesus attended the wedding in Cana with his friends. Very much aware of timing herself, Mary sought Jesus’ help when the couple involved ran out of wine. If she acted quickly, they would suffer no embarrassment over this turn of events. Jesus initially seemed unhappy with Mary’s timing. Still, on second thought, he abided by his mother’s wishes and provided the wine that was needed. At the same time, Jesus’ friends realized it was time to allow their belief in Jesus’ friendship to grow into belief in his ministry. In today’s gospel (Luke 4:21-30), Luke tells us that Jesus found himself in the midst of seemingly poor timing when he preached for the first time in his home town of Nazareth.

It was in the synagogue where he grew up that Jesus read this passage from the Prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor.” When he finished, Jesus set aside the scroll and told the people that this saying had come to fruition before them. While his neighbors marveled at his knowledge of the scriptures, they also wondered why Jesus performed no good works among them. After all, those closest to Jesus certainly deserved a miracle or two. Apparently, Jesus felt that the timing wasn’t right or perhaps that his neighbors’ hearts weren’t ready. Rather than offering a miracle, Jesus responded with a lesson. Jesus insisted that ones proximity to a temple or preacher, priest or prophet, bible or scroll had little to do with ones relationship with God. It was the generosity of a person’s spirit which spoke volumes. When one reached beyond the peaceful confines of his or her own comfort zones and time zones to those in need, one demonstrated his or her proximity to God most clearly. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right for Jesus’ neighbors. They weren’t ready to recognize the peace to be found in aligning themselves with God’s timing and with God’s love. They didn’t understand that, whether the opportunity was a one-minute encounter with a homeless person or a lifelong relationship, it was always the right time to love as God loves. It was always the right time to find true peace.

I admit that I sometimes join Jesus’ neighbors in failing to take advantage of God’s timing and God’s peace. When I look back upon the happiest and the most trying episodes of my life, I realize that there truly is a time for every purpose under heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die. Between those two events, God sees to it that there is also time enough to plant, to reap, to heal, to laugh and to weep, to build up and to take down, to dance, to mourn and to love. God sees to it that there is always time enough to transform our little corners of the world with peace by loving just as Jesus loved and as only we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved