Ask For God’s Help, Too

“…But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to God in secret.”

From Matthew 6:6

A while back, I found myself quite frustrated. Though I usually manage my own troubles reasonably well, I hadn’t done a great job of that. I was also having difficulty with my inability to alleviate the troubles of those I love. I don’t like to see anyone suffering. Even the woes of those who might not list me among their friends give me reason to pity them and to help them as best I can.

So it was that I did what I could for these others and myself. I also wondered all the while why things had to be “this way” or “that way.” When I was in the midst of my best fretting and hand-wringing, it eventually occurred to me that I was relying on the wrong one to solve the problems at hand and to soothe the suffering around me. It was then that I sheepishly retreated to the quiet of my room and turned my eyes upward. There, I turned over all that troubled me to the One who always makes all of the difference in the world. Though God didn’t change any of our circumstances, my ability to work within them improved exponentially when I acknowledged God’s presence at my side.

Compassionate God, thank you for walking this sometimes arduous journey with us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

A Time To Tweak…

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Time is a precious gift. Still, I have difficulty dealing with time when it comes Time to Change. Change is tough for me, especially when my established routines seem to be helpful to all concerned. “Why change what’s working?” I ask myself.

The problem is that I don’t always evaluate what “working” actually means to all concerned. Is the status quo simply maintaining my peace of mind or is something positive actually being accomplished? Is adhering to what I’m used to adding to the quality of my life and life around me or is it allowing a musty fog to blur the wonder that’s left to discover? Sometimes, it really is time to change.

Change is difficult for me. Though I don’t like the connotation of “a time to kill”, I will work at tweaking a few of the unnecessary habitual entries in my schedule. I’ll adjust enough to allow myself and those around me some breathing room. Discarding a bit of what I’m used to may bring a bit of peace and healing to my restless soul. It may also bring a welcomed bit of adventure my way!

Loving God, be with me as I let go of my routines and embrace the opportunity which lies in every moment ahead.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hold On To Peace

We’d just returned from a few days up north. While carrying in some leftover groceries, I slipped off my shoes in an effort to protect the carpet on the way to the kitchen. I set down my parcel and then returned to those shoes. While putting them on, I noticed a strand of Easter grass on my sock. Honestly, I thought I’d freed the house of this green stuff weeks ago! I couldn’t help laughing as I walked back to the garage to help my dear husband carry in the rest of our things. “What’s so funny?” Mike asked. I responded by voicing my surprise at having found that pesky cellophane. We’d celebrated Easter almost six weeks earlier. First Communion Day had come and gone. Our parish’s new deacons have been functioning for two whole weeks since their May 11 ordination and we’re on the verge of celebrating Memorial Day. Let me add that I’d vacuumed several times in the midst of these events and I’d washed the floor twice. “How can that stuff still be here?” I moaned.

Before my poor husband could respond, I reminded him that I’d written about this dilemma a few weeks ago. “I think I ended with something about Easter’s lingering joy. The grass I found back then was a reminder. You know, there’s another story here…” With that, Mike and I carried in the rest of our gear. He went on to get the mail our neighbor had collected for us while I emptied our bags and sorted the dirty laundry. While Mike tended to that pile of mail, I considered this reflection. I wondered what else that Easter grass had to tell me. Finally, I realized that this pest had attached itself to my sock with good reason. You see, in the busyness which has filled my days since Easter, I’ve managed to lose sight of Easter’s joy on more than one occasion. That grass reminded me to get back on task, not to get more work done, but to get to the things I have to do with a renewed attitude. When I turned to the scriptures, I realized that I’d failed to allow Easter’s joy to morph into peace. Sadly, this was my loss as this peace is no ordinary commodity. Jesus himself offered this very peace again and again before and after his resurrection.

Fortunately for us, our friends who were the early church paid better attention than I to the peace of which Jesus spoke. Acts (15:1-2, 22-29) describes a great dilemma within the early church. Jesus’ teachings had taken hold and were spreading quickly throughout the community. Those who embraced the faith were no longer limited to the Jewish community. Gentiles had also been drawn to Jesus’ teachings. Because these newcomers hadn’t been raised in the Jewish faith, they weren’t familiar with the numerous laws which the Jewish people had taken for granted. As a result, questions arose regarding what would be required of these perceived outsiders who wished to join the church. Because some of the laws required serious sacrifice, Paul and Barnabas appealed to the apostles for guidance. Perhaps because they were immersed in the peace Jesus had offered them, his closest friends responded with great love. The apostles sent representatives to the Gentiles with this response: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…” In the end, compassion and acceptance renewed peace among and within Jesus’ earliest followers and the Gentiles found their places within the church. In the second reading (Revelations 21:10-14, 22-23), John underscores the early church’s efforts to welcome all who embrace Jesus’ ways. John described a vision he was given of the holy city Jerusalem coming out of heaven. Though the temple had been the center of Jewish worship in Jerusalem, John saw no temple building in this heavenly Jerusalem. John concluded that God cannot be confined in any building. God alone is the temple who provides light and life to the people. It is God who provides everlasting peace to us all.

Peace was such a tremendous gift that Jesus spoke of its value and its availability at every opportunity. John’s gospel (14:23-29) tells us some of what Jesus told the disciples in this regard: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of what I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” I wonder how often the apostles retrieved these words of consolation and promise while seeking comfort after Jesus ascended in heaven. How often since Easter had I forgotten these invitations to embrace God’s peace? Too often!

When I pealed that bit of Easter grass from my sock, I didn’t throw it away. Because it served as a better herald of God’s peace than I have as of late, it deserved a place of recognition. In an effort to keep God’s peace in the forefront of my thinking, I taped that straggly green reminder to my desk right beside my keyboard. There it reminds me to look outside of myself when I’m troubled. When I do so, I see evidence of God’s peace everywhere.

Whenever unrest threatens, peacemakers and peace-sharers rise and respond to the suffering around us all. They reside within our own households, down the block, at work and half-a-world away. These heralds of God’s peace make all of the difference in the world to those they meet along the way. When even their heroic efforts fail to move us, we must recall Jesus’ promise: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” What more do we need to know?

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest Here

Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome,
and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

My husband and I were up north. As we discussed where we’d attend church that weekend, we wondered how the several small churches in the area would carry on in light of the priest-shortage. Though I had several suggestions for the powers-that-be, I tucked them away for another time. As our conversation trailed off, my thoughts returned to “church” and all that this affiliation has meant to me throughout the most critical times of my life. My dad must be hovering nearby because he comes to mind once again…

My childhood church stood just a block down and around the corner from our two-flat. My parents married there. My siblings and I were baptized there. We celebrated First Communions, Confirmations and funerals there. A priest walked down the block to visit my dad when he was very sick. The morning my dad passed away, I ran down the street to church. When our parish priest saw me, he knew that the inevitable had occurred. After listening patiently as I sobbed, he sat me in the pew next to him –a humble substitute for Daddy.

Father knelt and I looked through tear-filled eyes at this church which had become a second home to me. When I peered at the ceiling, I read the inscription over the altar: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” That day, I had come to find rest from the most terrible burden a child could bear. Over the months and years that followed, I realized that I’d gone to the right place –no, the right One– for rest. I’d turned to God that morning because it is in God that I found the hope which has been with me ever since…

When I returned my thoughts to those soon to be un-staffed churches, I prayed that we’d all realize that God will remain among us to offer us rest regardless of who leads us in prayer.

Comforting God, thank you for your ever-loving ongoing presence.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Let God Get Your Attention

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

Psalm 23:2-3

The other day, I ran from the moment I woke that morning. Before finishing preparations for a meeting I’d lead that evening, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I finished a bit of housecleaning and three loads of laundry. Having the “home front” in order eased me into a productive and positive frame of mind for the evening’s meeting.

As it happened, I was prepared with hours to spare. It the midst of my revelry, I noted that sunshine was pouring through my window. Though the needle on my thermometer hadn’t edged beyond the forties that day, I couldn’t resist the sun’s warmth. The rays that seemed to reach from heaven enhanced the beautiful fall colors that adorned my neighborhood. As I gazed out the window at that amazing show, another passage from Psalm 23 came to mind…

So it was that I headed out the door to walk beyond the trees on my block to the still waters of a nearby pond. I admit that I enjoyed every step in the chilling wind as God restored my soul.

Loving God, I remember thank you for drawing my attention with that wonderful sunshine so you could refresh my soul once again.

©2018 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