Time To Choose Wisely

A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.

Ecclesiastes 3:7

Though I cannot recall a time when my mom tore anything apart, she always made the time to sew. She was a talented seamstress who sewed her own clothing from her high school days throughout most of her life. She clothed my sisters and me beautifully because she could transform the plainest fabric into the cutest outfits for us. She often fashioned our winter coats from adult coats which others had cast aside. Our mom sewed some of our wedding dressings and the bridesmaid gowns which accompanied them.

Late in her life, my mom found sewing to be more tedious than creative. Her eyesight had diminished just enough to make threading a needle a daunting challenge. The arthritis in her hands added to the difficulty. So it was that she set aside her sewing machine and purchased the clothing she needed.

As I move on to the next line of that passage from Ecclesiastes, thoughts of myself resurface… There was a time when I always found the time to speak. This prompted my dad to ask, “Who put the nickel in you?” This also prompted my husband to note more than once, “What others can say in a sentence, you say in two paragraphs.” I admit that, on occasion, I’ve found my words to be tedious as well. Though I haven’t set aside every word that comes to me, I am more selective regarding which words to use and when. Though I know perhaps too well that there is a time to speak, I’ve also learned that there are also many times when being silent is the better choice.

Dear God, being good stewards of our gifts requires that we make the best use of them. Once again, I ask for guidance, especially when it comes to my words.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Q… Quiet

Be still, and know that I am God…
From Psalm 46:10

Q is for Quiet. I cannot take credit for this word. When I first tackled this alphabet some years ago, a friend from church stopped to tell me that she is enjoying my take on the ABCs. I told her that I’d hoped this approach would help me to focus for at least twenty-six days of writing. I added that I didn’t know what I was thinking when I undertook this endeavor. “Some letters are tough,” I moaned. “What am I going to write for O and Q?” Before she could speak, I added, “I’ve been thinking about “opus” for O. Maybe I can do something with that. But Q?” With that, I saw the bulb light up over her head. “Quiet,” she almost whispered. “You know… quiet.” With that, I hugged Carol and thanked her for the inspiration. Q is for Quiet… Of course! It worked back then and I’m going with it again today!

As I write, I can’t help laughing at myself because I relish the quiet around me. Why didn’t I think of that? When I’m home alone, the television set is off and other noisy distractions are scarce. I’m a master at creating a quiet environment. Nonetheless, this isn’t the quiet which Carol suggested. Carol nudged me to consider that internal quiet where we encounter God. This is the quiet that often comes in unexpected places at unexpected times. I find this inner quiet most often when I venture outdoors. Because the near-zero temperatures keep me inside much of the time, I’ve had to look elsewhere. Though I’ve found this inner quiet here at home and in both a full and empty church, I’ve also found it at the mall. There was something about the faces I passed and the interactions between parents and children, spouses and groups of teens which revealed the Almighty to me. I didn’t pray a word as those quiet revelations spoke all that needed to be said.

Yes, I must be still, for it is in the quiet stillness that I come to know God.

Dear God, thank you for filling the quiet with your loving presence.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love… Just Love!

The ordinances of the Lord are true, all of them just.
They are more precious than gold…

Psalm 19:10

As I walked the other day, I passed our local school at dismissal. Though I usually avoid this timing, I enjoyed the circus of it all just the same. The kids were well-behaved as they lined up for their buses and I fully appreciated the effort expended by them and their teachers to accomplish this. I wouldn’t trade my teaching career for anything. Still, there were days when I would’ve preferred to be any place other than in my classroom. This usually had little to do with the children. More often than not, it resulted from fatigue, frustration with “the powers that be” or the problems of people I care about. The good news is that my students managed to dispel my frustration in amazing ways.

When the children sensed an uncharacteristic edge in my voice, they were especially quiet and extremely helpful toward me and one another. In an effort not to darken my mood further, a few of them gave “the eye” to their less perceptive classmates who quickly responded. I always noted -and appreciated- this response to my crankiness and I answered it with a quick return to normalcy.

I worked very hard to make my classroom a productive and compassionate place. I realized that I succeeded at some level when the children managed my “off days” so mercifully. It seems to me that God has worked to make this world of ours a productive and compassionate place as well. The best way to let our Loving Creator know that we appreciate this effort is to respond in kind to one another.

Patient God, thank you for our capacity to love. Remind us often that your most pressing request is that we love each other.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Q… Quiet…

Be still, and know that I am God…
From Psalm 46:10

Q is for Quiet. Moments of quiet are amazing gifts. I relish the quiet around me. When I’m home alone, the television is off and other noisy distractions are scarce. I’m a master at creating a quiet environment. Still, this isn’t the best of the quiet I’ve experienced. I consider myself most fortunate when I experience that internal quiet where I encounter God.

This is the quiet that often comes in unexpected places and at unexpected times. As I struggled to write this afternoon, I realized that I needed a measure of quiet with God if I was going to produce anything worthwhile. I ventured outdoors to stroll around our yard. The sun shone brightly above me while a brisk breeze did its best to distract me. Oddly, though I could hear leaves rustling the entire time, I found precisely what I needed. In every flower my husband had planted and in every shrub I’d trimmed, I found quiet inspiration. Creation’s sound effects couldn’t keep this inner quiet at bay. Though I didn’t utter a single prayer as I absorbed the beauty, I knew God was listening to my every thought, breath and heartbeat.

Q is for quiet… that wonderful quiet in which I come to know God almost as well as God knows me.

Dear God, thank you for filling the quiet around me with your loving presence.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Healers Are We…

You are refuge for the poor,
a refuge to the needy in distress;
shelter from the rain and
shelter from the desert heat.

Isaiah 25:4

On this second day of Lent, I’m determined to keep my promise to bring healing to this world. My loved ones nearby and those God asks me to love on the other side of this world are in need of healing in some way. So it is that I’ll do my best to embrace every opportunity to heal.

This morning, I set aside a few minutes to consider how to proceed. Though I won’t be traveling to the suffering across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, I can do without a few things to contribute to our annual Lenten Rice Bowl effort for them. It’s my effort closer to home which causes me to be fidgety and uncomfortable. How can I heal the aching hearts around me? How can I heal myself? Like a shy child, I look upward in spite of my certainty that God resides within me. Like a shy child, I’m afraid to ask what God might expect of me. I’m making my simple commitment far too complicated.

After sitting for some minutes, fumbling for the courage to proceed, I finally settled down. As it happened, God nudged me into action as God always does. Encouragement came in the sunshine beyond my window which rested its warmth on me. God seemed to say, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. Just be yourself and be there for others. That’s good enough for me and it will be good enough for them. Healing will come!”

Dear God, who am I to question your faith in me? I will be there for others as only I can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Q is for Quiet

Be still, and know that I am God…
From Psalm 46:10

Q is for Quiet. I can’t take credit for this theme. It was some years ago when my friend Carol suggested that “quiet” is a beautiful thing, especially the quiet in which we encounter God. Though I struggled for a “Q word” when I first turned to the alphabet to guide these reflections, I’m not struggling today. Yes, Q is for Quiet! Thank you, Carol!

I’ve always relished the quiet around me. This may be a remnant from my crowded childhood. It was a rare moment when our six-room flat occupied by ten people was quiet. So it is that, when I’m home alone, our house is extremely quiet. The television is off. My computer speaker and cell phone are set at their lowest volume levels. I can actually hear the kids leaving the school across the street because of the quiet here. Still, my masterful ability to create this quiet environment doesn’t always result in the quiet which Carol suggested.

God’s quiet comes in unexpected places and at unexpected times. I find this inner quiet here at home and I find it when I venture outdoors. Because the current near-zero temperatures keep me inside much of the time, I sometimes look for God’s quiet at the mall. There is something in the faces I pass along the way and in the interactions between parents and children, spouses and groups of teens which reveal the Almighty to me. Though I don’t pray a word in the midst of these encounters, God speaks to me then and there every time.

Yes, I must be still enough to pay attention in the quiet and in the clamor of this life. For, in everything and everyone around me, God infuses that quiet presence where I come to experience God best of all.

Dear God, thank you for filling every space and moment with your loving presence. Nudge me to notice more often.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved