Always Forgiven and Always Loved

God says, “From the least to the greatest, you know me.
I forgive your evildoing and remember your sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:34

My husband spent the afternoon searching for flowers to plant around our yard. Armed with mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and the resolve to social distance, he enjoyed a safe and productive afternoon. I took advantage of the quiet house by sitting at my keyboard to write. Sadly, I wasn’t as productive as Mike. Before beginning, I glanced at photos from my childhood which rest inches above my keyboard. Rather than offering my usual reminiscent smile and then getting to work, a recent bit of self-doubt turned my thoughts to a painful aspect of that childhood.

When I was little, I was a bit too sensitive. I was no less innocent than most children, yet I took even the smallest reprimand to heart. Though the adult involved quickly forgot whatever I’d done, my guilt remained with me. All of this was my own doing. My parents never belittled my siblings or me. Though a teacher may have given me reason to question my ability to be forgiven on occasion, this wasn’t the norm. I eventually came to understand, at least mentally, that those who love us don’t hold grudges. It was my own propensity to retain guilt which caused my angst. These decades later, this tendency remains to some extent. So it was that my self-doubt prevailed until I remembered the words from Jeremiah which I cite today.

This and numerous other passages reference God’s forgiveness. Each one assures us of God’s absolute love and God’s absolute inability to be separated from any one of us. Though we try to run away, God remains with us and within us. Neither we nor anyone else can impose enough guilt upon us to repel God. For this, I’m most grateful!

Loving God, help us to let go of our guilt as quickly as you do. Only then will we be free to embrace your love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Like You!

“If you then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God in heaven do?”
Inspired by Luke 11:12-13

A kind-hearted friend who is also a compassionate listener wondered if he’d done the right thing…

Someone near and dear to Jack had confessed her conviction that she was completely unforgivable. Before Jack could utter a word of consolation, the woman enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow which had filled her life. She ended her lengthy monologue with a deluge of tears.

Jack waited some time for the woman’s sobs to fade into whimpering and for her tears to run out. When she had no energy left with which to fight off his consolation, Jack told her that he was glad he could be there for her. Jack also told her that he was quite certain that nothing is unforgivable in God’s eyes. The two sat for several minutes before Jack asked his friend if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thank you!” When Jack ran into his friend a few days later, she repeated her thanks especially with regard to God’s opinion of her seemingly terrible past. Jack told me that he was thrilled when she said, “I really do think that God loves me.”

As Jack relayed the story, I wondered why he’d asked if he’d done the right thing. Before I could ask, Jack explained. “I always thought I believed that stuff, but when I was telling her about being forgiven, I somehow knew it was true. I’m just a regular guy and I could feel her pain. Doesn’t this mean that God is even better at feeling all of our pain?”

Yes, Jack. Thant’s exactly what it means!!!

Thank you, Loving and Merciful God, for inspiring us to be like you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Time To Think and Then To Speak

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

Ecclesiastes 3:7

There was a time when my mom said that there is always time to sew. She was a talented seamstress who sewed her own clothing throughout most of her life. My mom clothed her six children 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 made some of our wedding dressings and the bridesmaid gowns which accompanied them.

There was a time when I would say that there is always time to speak. My dad often asked, “Who put the nickel in you?” when I monopolized a conversation. My husband has noted on occasion, “What others can say in a sentence, you say in two paragraphs.”

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 impossible. The arthritis in her hands added to the difficulty of that and many related tasks. So it was that she set her sewing machine aside.

Over time, I’ve found my words to be tedious on occasion as well. Though I haven’t set aside all of my words, I have tried to become more selective in using them.

Dear God, thank you for being with us as we attempt to make good use of all of your gifts.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Best

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
From Luke 11:11-13

It was heartbreaking. Someone near and dear to me confessed her conviction that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word of consolation, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow which had filled her life. My friend ended her lengthy monologue with a deluge of tears. When I moved closer to her on the couch we shared, she collapsed in my arms.

I waited some time for her sobs to fade into whimpering and for her tears to run out. When my friend had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad I could be with her and that I loved her. We sat for a few more minutes and then I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thank you!”

I was most grateful that my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold your past against you. You lived through some seriously difficult times and I certainly understand what drove you to those things. You know what else? My humble opinion doesn’t matter. God’s opinion does. If little ol’ me can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of those things for you. God will never ever give up on you!”

I think that my friend believed me. She left smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear the smile in her voice.

Thank you, Loving and Merciful God, for always out-doing our best.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Perfect In God’s Eyes

I’m reminiscing quite a bit these days. This is likely the result of my new role as caretaker for our grandson one day per week. Danny is a little guy who enjoys two daily naps. During these hiatuses from one another, Danny retreats to Dreamland and I retreat to Memory Lane. While I straighten up from playtime, retrieve misplaced diapers and bottles and recoup my energy, I recall the days when I did this job twenty-four/seven. Memories of my own sons evoke frequent smiles as I wonder how I managed while working. During the drive to and from Danny’s house, I pass the school where I once taught. I learned a great deal from the students and parents I met there. The other day, Charley and one of those lessons came to mind…

When I picked up Charley for our daily reading lesson, she ran ahead to my classroom. She bolted across the room into the storage closet and slammed the door. She threw herself onto the floor and began to cry, “I’m bad! I’m bad! I’m bad, bad, bad…” That day, I had retrieved Charley from the nurse’s office rather than her classroom. Charley was a lively and playful little girl who often acted long before she considered the consequences. During P.E. class, Charley had slapped a classmate on the back and knocked him into a brick wall. Charley intended to congratulate her friend for winning a relay race. Unfortunately for both children, Charley had forgotten the many reminders she’d been given not to touch others, especially as forcefully as she hit James. Her mistake cost James a tooth and brought her a great deal of trouble. I happened by just after the incident and offered to take James to the nurse and to talk to Charley. As I walked Charley to my classroom, she pulled her hand out of mine and ran ahead. She wanted to hide from everything and everyone. When I opened the closet door, I coaxed Charley out to talk about her troubles. This little seven-year-old had analyzed everything and determined that there was nothing to talk about. “I’m just bad, Teacher!” As she wiped away her tears, she proceeded to report to me all of the “bad” things she had done that week at home and at school. “Mommy’s mad. Daddy’s mad. Now you’re mad, too. James is all bloody and I’m bad! I hope he stopped bleeding. I hope he can get a new tooth!”

There was no consoling poor Charley though I explained that everyone knew she didn’t mean to hurt James. Poor Charley never meant to hurt anyone with her antics. She suffered from recently diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Unfortunately, while her body responded to her dietary changes and her medication, life continued to be difficult for her. That day, her life was more than she could bear. As tears trailed down her cheeks and I was about to give up and join in with tears of my own, James, his mother and the school nurse arrived. James ran to Charley, tooth in hand, to show her his precious prize. This tooth had been a stubborn adversary which needed to come out. James had been wiggling it in vain for days. He also wasn’t bleeding any more. He wanted to let Charley know that he was okay. James’ mother could not have been kinder to the little girl. She told Charley that she was glad that Charley and James were friends. She sealed her forgiveness with a warm hug. Charley’s tears finally disappeared and her wonderful smile returned. She looked at me and said, “I guess I’m not bad, Teacher. I’m not bad! Can James and me go back to gym class?”

In today’s readings, Isaiah (6:1-2, 3-8), Paul (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) and Simon Peter (Luke 5:1-11), share Charley’s despair as they acknowledge their weaknesses and sinfulness. In each case, God responds with affirmation, forgiveness, unconditional love and an invitation to serve. God’s people needed Isaiah, Paul and Peter for the particular gifts which only they possessed. Just as James’ mom freed poor Charley from her guilt and feelings of uselessness with that wonderful hug, God embraced Isaiah, Paul and Peter in order to free them to do God’s work in this world of ours. Over and over again, God does the same for you and me.

How often we find ourselves in Charley’s shoes, laden with guilt over things which we never intended to say or to do! We fret over missteps and missed opportunities. Regret threatens to paralyze us and we cannot move on. It is then that God reminds us that James’ mother doesn’t hold the patent for wonderfully soothing hugs. It is then that we find ourselves in the forgiving embrace of God. It is then that, like Charley, we get back to gym class or to the tasks at hand. It is then that we share what only you and I have to give.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved