Labor Day Blessings!

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.

Luke 4:16

Labor Day has had special meaning for me of all of my life. When I was a child, we observed this holiday with a gathering -usually a picnic- in a family member’s yard. Back then, the new school year opened the following day. This last day of “freedom” gave my siblings, cousins and me good reason to celebrate. Later, when I discovered the meaning of “labor” for myself at my first job, leisure time became a most precious commodity. Finally, I understood why my mother allowed herself the luxury of sleeping in one day each week. She truly needed the rest.

It was no accident that the author of Genesis allowed God a day of rest after the six days of Creation. When Jesus came to remind us of God’s presence in a tangible way, he spent the greatest portion of his life working and resting just as we do. Only after living thirty years as a typical citizen of his day did Jesus set out to preach and teach. Even then, Jesus often stole away to rest in the company of God.

On this Labor Day, I hope you seize the opportunity rest and to celebrate the work to which you have been called. Perhaps you share in creating worlds of your own. Perhaps you preach or teach. In one way or another, you care for those you’ve been given to love. Perhaps your best work is “being there” for others. Whatever your calling, your work is precious in God’s eyes and your rest today is well deserved!

Dear God, thank you for the opportunity to labor and to rest in your loving care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Find The Joy

Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

Psalm 98:4

My husband and I recently drove up north to our favorite getaway, a little log cabin in the woods. Though we left plenty of work behind at home, we gave in to this much-needed opportunity to relax. Though I always volunteer to share the driving, my husband almost always opts to take the wheel for the duration. I admit that I was grateful that this was the case this time. I happily lay back and enjoyed the view beyond my window. Nature didn’t disappoint as summer’s splendor revealed itself throughout the drive. We made excellent time and were surprisingly refreshed when we arrived.

Though we intended to relax, as soon as we settled in, we each tackled a project which we had let go during prior visits. A few hours and lots of progress later, we realized that dinner time had come and we had made no plans. We opted for the five-minute drive to the nearest restaurant. As we settled in to scan the familiar menu, we laughed at how little we had relaxed that day. Still, we felt much better than we had a few days earlier when we determined that we needed this get-away. My husband observed, “Maybe we didn’t mind all of the work at the cabin because we didn’t have to do it. We did it because we wanted to.” How right he was…

Gracious God, thank you for our capacity to find joy in the most unexpected places.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Relax, Really Relax…

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things,
but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

It’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate our need to slow down and to relax a bit. I truly enjoy the natural beauty around me. Still, I sometimes use more energy listing the reasons that I cannot head out to walk on a particular day than I would have expended by actually walking. In the end, I accomplish far less than I might have if I’d been energized by that trek outdoors.

As I contemplate my need to relax, I look up from my keyboard to respond to the tree outside of my window. I watch as it seems to wave to me. It occurs to me that I must listen to the Wise One who once told Martha that she worried far too much. Martha needed to be more like Mary who sat peacefully at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the love that came with them. It occurs to me that I must ask Mary to move over a bit so I can sit as well. It is in my rest that I’ll learn to stop worrying about the tasks which lie ahead and to enjoy the moment at hand.

I’m going to sign off now and go for a walk. I want to wave to that tree outside my window in person. Perhaps I’ll find a bit of Mary’s peace along the way.

Generous God, teach us all to find your peace in our much-deserved rest.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Relax and Enjoy!

Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

I’ve been on a roll with my writing. I’ve been on a roll with everything for that matter as I need to be caught up. We’re happily awaiting the birth of our newest grandchild and Grandpa and I want to be ready. We’ll take care of big brother when Mommy and Daddy leave for the hospital. The name of the game these days is “Hurry Up and Be Ready”. While I celebrate these happy circumstances, I admit that I’m a little tired…

I abandoned this writing for just a minute to get a drink of water. While in the kitchen, a tap on the window drew my attention. It was far too windy for her to rest out in the open, so a lovely white dove nestled into the large flowerpot outside our patio door. Such visitors usually fly off when I draw near, but she remained to stare back at me and to tap again. A ray of sunlight caused her feathers to take on a heavenly aura. I scratched my head as I wonder what she was up to. That dove’s contented look indicated that she wasn’t wondering a thing about me. When our gazes met, I realized that I haven’t relaxed at all today. Did this lovely dove know that she reminded me to slow down and to do just that?

When I left that sweet bird to her rest, I returned to my keyboard to share her story with you. As soon as I proof this writing, I’m going to grab a book I’m reading. That book and I will retreat to our screened porch where I’ll read until it’s time to start dinner. For this, I thank you, Ms. Dove!

Loving God, thank you for your well-timed reminders to set aside my work, to relax and to enjoy life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest… It’s Okay!

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

I admit that it has taken me a few days to overcome the jet-lag which followed me off the plane when we returned from Israel. While running errands the other day, I was actually grateful for the long line ahead of me. I truly appreciated the opportunity to lean on my grocery cart and to stand still for a few minutes. There was no way I could have done this in Jerusalem’s bustling marketplaces. The people around me rushed among the stands and storefronts in order to make it home or back to work as quickly as possible. Yes, I truly savored these moments of inactivity here at home.

It seems to me that we are all too busy much of the time. My time in Jesus’ homeland assured me that this is nothing new. Jesus experienced the same day in and day out. Though Jesus longed for a bit of peace, there was always someone who needed him more than he needed his rest. This is the reason Jesus rose very early and stole away for quiet time as often as possible. Jesus made it his business to care for others, and, once in a while, to care for himself.

The moral of the story is this: It is perfectly fine and truly necessary to acknowledge our fatigue. When we give in to our aching muscles or our aching psyches and rest, we replenish our spirits. It is in doing so that we find the energy and the will to care for the many others who need us.

Dear God, I am grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to remember that I occasionally need me as well.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Every Moment An Opportunity

My husband and I have been in a bit of a frenzy as of late. We’re returning to Israel in a few days and we’re not at all ready. In an effort to prepare, Mike started taking down our Christmas decorations without my assistance. While he worked at stowing away our holiday treasures, I typed at my keyboard for hours on end. I was plugging away non-stop on reflections for our parish bulletin and the daily reflections I’ll need to cover our time away and a few days afterward. In the midst of this frenetic whirlwind, I desperately needed to stop to take a breath. Though writing is my second-favorite activity (time with our kids, kids-in-law and grandkids is #1), I’d had enough. After whispering a prayer that the Spirit would return to inspire me when I started anew, I retreated to my recliner…

Mike had done a superior job. Most of our Christmas decorations had been carefully stowed in the basement. As I sat, I noticed the basket of Christmas cards resting on the hearth. I wondered how Mike managed to take down our Christmas stockings without noticing this bulging basket below the mantel. Though my first inclination was to empty the basket and walk it down to the basement, I thought better of it. Rather, I sat with that basket in my lap and reread all of the Christmas cards and letters we’d received. Though I’d read each one on the day it arrived, I often did so too quickly to fully appreciate its message. This time, I savored each one. As I read, the glow of our Christmas Tree and the lights which were strung about the house returned. Each card’s artwork and greeting revived my Christmas Spirit. The personal messages, letters and signatures before me stirred my affection for each sender. Before long, I’d returned to resounding Christmas Joy. I lost sight of my time crunch. Suddenly, I had all of the time in the world to celebrate Christmas once again.

It was almost two hours later when I carried our empty Christmas card basket to the basement. As I headed back upstairs, it occurred to me that Christmas isn’t meant to be tucked away in our basements or attics. No, Christmas is meant to have a lasting effect which carries us through the months and year ahead. You know, the Sundays after Christmas are numbered until Lent begins. As we tick them off, we use each one to become as familiar as possible with this Jesus whose birth we recalled with such relish. It seems to me that the more we get to know Jesus, the more eager we should be to live as Jesus lived. My short interlude with those Christmas cards provided a poignant reminder to keep all that Jesus has shared in the forefront of my life. Still, doing so throughout the New Year may be challenging.

I find encouragement in the scripture passages we hear this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the first reading (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19), an unrecognizable call wakens young Samuel several times throughout the night. At first, he assumes that the voice is the elderly Eli who has taken Samuel into his care in the temple. Only after Samuel wakes him three times does Eli explain that it is the Lord who is calling. It is only then that Samuel responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” In the second reading (1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20), Paul stresses our need to help one another with the gift of ourselves. Our presence to those who need us is the most precise means we have to bring God to one another. As I consider Paul’s lesson, I recall that Paul had to be struck blind in order for God to get his attention long enough to call him into service. In the gospel (John 1:35-42), John the Baptist sees Jesus and announces, “Behold, the lamb of God.” Two disciples who hear this say nothing, but they follow Jesus closely. So begins the relationship which changed their lives forever.

Perhaps it was no accident that my husband neglected to pack away our Christmas card basket. Perhaps that call to my recliner was as intentional as the encounters described in today’s scripture passages. The coming days and weeks of Ordinary Time will re-acquaint us with Jesus. This humble tradesman-turned-apprentice-preacher transformed his ordinary life into extraordinary opportunities to care for those he met along the way. It seems to me that this Jesus invites us to acknowledge our own potential to bring the extraordinary to those we have been given to love. When we open ourselves to God’s presence in our own lives, we cannot help sharing what we find. As complicated or mundane as it may be, every moment we’re given provides the setting in which we hear God’s call. It’s up to us to respond as best we can. When in doubt, simply do as Jesus did with love and persistence. Maybe you can also allow yourself a little time off in the recliner to re-energize and to start again!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved