Thanks for…

“God knows
what you need before you ask…”

From Matthew 6:8

The other day, I woke after a particularly restful night’s sleep. I was so grateful that I felt a strong urge to thank someone. At that moment, I realized that I’d somehow lost sight of what I used to say every morning: “Thanks for the sleep!” I always directed this comment to God above with genuine gratitude. This had been the case because, regardless of any given day’s events, I’d always managed to sleep restfully. Now I admit that this pattern of sleep took hold only after my children were old enough not to need me or to cause me to worry during the wee hours of the night. Very early on, I’d become accustomed to thanking God accordingly. That morning, I looked upward a bit sheepishly to echo the thanks which I’d somehow lost sight of. “Thanks for the sleep, good and generous God. I’m so sorry it has been so long…”

I didn’t continue because the line of light sneaking in where the blind and window frame don’t quite meet distracted me. Without another word, I got out of bed and walked over to that window. When I raised the blind, the bright sun, blue sky and greening foliage took my breath away. Without an audible word, God had assured me that it was indeed a new day. I could renew my resolve to express my gratitude and to be my best in whatever ways I chose to. With that, I looked upward once again. “Thanks for the sleep, ” I repeated. Then I added, “Thanks for the reminder that you’re always nearby…”

I’m happy to share that I’m back in the habit of expressing my morning gratitude and so much more these days.

Dear God, thank you!.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Z is for Zenith

Great is God and wholly to be praised
God’s holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.

From Psalm 48:2-3ab

Z is for Zenith. Zenith… the high point, the point directly overhead, the peak, the pinnacle, the summit, the fairest of heights. When good things happen to us we say that our spirits are high or that we’re uplifted. Though I don’t think there is actually a direction toward heaven, I turn my eyes upward to pray. I visualize God and the heavenly cohort looking from above upon me.

This is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent 2019 and the last day of this alphabet of reflections. I find this a meaningful coincidence. For most of my life, I’ve approached Lent with a sense of penitence, fully aware of my need to do better and to be better. For the past few years, I’ve taken a different stance. Rather than concentrating on repairing my own inadequacies, I’ve tried to celebrate God’s complete adequacy to me and to us all.

Zenith is my z-word because God is the high point of everything. This “above-ness” doesn’t imply in any way that God is unwilling to enter into the troubles of this world. God’s assigned position “above” never stops God from being with me in the worst of messes. God’s position “above” never stops God from responding to us. God loves us from the fairest of heights and in the deepest of trenches. God also loves us from that quiet place within us all where God also resides.

Today, I thank you for making your way through this alphabet of reflections with me. I also invite you to make your way through Lent 2019 with the God we’ve celebrated through all of this. As we walk through the lessons and passion of Jesus, remember the reason Jesus came: To show us firsthand that God is the joy of all the earth and the source of joy for each one of us. Let’s spend Lent getting to know our God more intimately.

Loving God, as we acknowledge your company this Lent, make it very clear that you are with us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

F is for Faith

He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations;
which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.

Psalm 105:8-9

F is for Faith. I learned very early on in my life that faith is a far greater gift than the various denominations which sometimes unite us and sometimes separate us. Faith is that sense deep within us which keeps us ever-mindful of God’s presence in our lives. Whether we view God as a distant entity, a constant and nearby companion or as someone quite different from either, it is our faith which tells us that God is.

For me, faith is life-giving and life-saving. It seems to me that it is often the faith deep within us which urges us in the direction of our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples in the first place. I find many precious people and many good things which nourish me in my faith community. Their presence feeds the faith deep within me which sustains me in the best and the worst of times. Sometimes, those who are not in touch with the faith deep within turn to our faith communities for guidance in unearthing this precious gift. I think that we help them best when we welcome them tenderly and without judgment. That tenderness may be the closest experience to God that they have had. That tenderness may be just what is needed to bring life to the faith that lay dormant within them.

My faith in God is the most powerful catalyst in my life. When I welcome others into any aspect of my life with tenderness and without judgment, I share my faith and reveal a bit of God-the-Catalyst to them.

Faithful God, perhaps my faith in you is strong because your faithfulness to me and to all of your children is everlasting.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Persistent BFF

God is near to all who call upon God…
From Psalm 145:14

The other day, while organizing my messy desk, I rediscovered a favorite prayer card. I placed it next to my keyboard so I’d see it every time I sit down to write. Unfortunately, in my haste to meet a deadline, I managed to bury that card once again. I finally unearthed it on a not-so-cheery morning when I badly needed its message. I treasure this card because it features a prayer which asks God to open us all into a personal relationship. This prayer doesn’t request a keen knowledge of church teaching or the scriptures or theology. This prayer asks that we sense God’s presence not only with our psyches, but with our hearts as well.

It occurs to me that this prayer’s anonymous author approaches God in the same personal way in which he interacts with his closest friends. What is even better is that God seems to reciprocate this relationship in very tangible ways. I treasure this prayer card because I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the same on occasion.

God invites each of us into a relationship. When we respond as we would to a dear friend, we speak freely and hide nothing. We tell God everything with the absolute certainty that God understands it all. The truth is that God understands all of our predicaments far better than we do!

The moral of the story is this… God loves you and me passionately and God is with us always like the truly good friend who God is!

Loving God, be persistent in revealing your friendship so unmistakably that we can’t miss your presence around us and within us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God With Us

Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.

Psalm 139:5

Though it was mid-October, the humidity peeked as I walked. Oddly, I failed to notice until a row of trees covered me with shade for several seconds. As I ambled along beneath them, I felt notably cooler. When I walked on into the sun again, I felt the day’s unexpected heat until I reached another row of trees. I plodded along in and out of the heat for several minutes.

Eventually, I found myself beneath a half-block row of trees. I embraced the coolness I found there with deep gratitude. Though that morning’s temperatures would have been considered a blessing in mid-July, I was grateful for the reprieve just the same. I couldn’t help voicing my thanks with a short prayer: “Thank you, Generous God. This feels so good!” God responded with a most consoling thought. “Just as those trees offer you shelter from the heat,” God seemed to say, “I offer you shelter whenever it is needed.”

For the rest of that walk, I thanked our God for the shelter that has come during countless difficult episodes in my life and the lives of those around me.

Comforting God, you are with us in our joys and in our sorrows. Please reveal your presence to us often just as tangibly as you did that day.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Prepare For The Journey

They laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him to let them touch
just the tassel of his cloak.
All who touched him got well.

From Mark 6:56

Lent 2017 is just two days away. I spend a good deal of time reflecting about this season because it is precious to me. Every year, I try to set aside these forty days much the way a couple sets aside time for a second honeymoon. If my husband and I are smart enough to retreat and regroup to nurture -and sometimes recapture- our love for each other, it makes sense to do the same in our relationships with God. So it is that I am attempting to recapture the zeal of my childhood Lents by actually planning for this special walk to Easter.

The gospels leave little doubt regarding Jesus’ popularity with ordinary people. Though the temple hierarchy saw Jesus as a threat and the Romans considered him a nuisance, those of little or no stature found everything in him. The sick sought out Jesus at all costs, while others with less obvious needs also found their way to him. This is the reason Lent is so precious to me. It gives me the time to get to know more about that irresistible Jesus who doesn’t need a thing from me, but who longs for my company just the same.

Today, I will plot the journey which I’ll begin on Ash Wednesday. Today, I’ll do as the people of Jesus’ time did and plan ahead for my special encounter with him.

Good and Gracious God, as I prepare for my Lenten journey, encourage me with a glimpse of that heart which is blind to my sinfulness and loves me as I am.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved