Still Celebrating Easter?

“My God, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me…”

From John 17:24

Last Wednesday was the first warm and sunny day we’d had in a while. Early on, my husband headed to the garage to begin his planting. Mike worked on his pots and planters while I trimmed a few boxwood bushes which had done serious battle with the frost. I swept the patio and arranged the furniture there while Mike ran to the garden shop for a few more plants. After lunch, my favorite gardener returned to his flowers and I reluctantly headed upstairs to begin this writing.

Since Memorial Day was only five days away, I had a difficult time returning my thoughts to Easter. After all, we’d sung our alleluias and enjoyed that wonderful lamb dinner almost five weeks earlier. Even those pesky remnants of Easter grass (Which continue to linger!) didn’t help much. It was the sunshine pouring through the study window which finally drew my thoughts to Easter’s joy. “How can I have lost sight of that?” I asked myself aloud…

At church, we actually celebrate Easter for eight weeks. On paper, the Easter Season closes on Pentecost Sunday. Still, the warm rays which caused the window and study floor to glow said otherwise. Regardless of the calendar’s date, the sun persisted in doing its job. Even through clouds and the worst of storms, the sun’s warmth makes its way to us. The sun is always there. It occurred to me that the same is true regarding Easter Joy. It’s always there, too.

Those who walked with Jesus celebrated Easter for what remained of their earthly lives. Their faith in the things to come inspired them to share what they knew with everyone they met along the way. The sun lingering overhead reminded me that you and I are invited to do the same.

Generous God, thank you for the gentle nudges which remind us to celebrate Easter Joy always.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Every Day A Good Day!

Cast your care upon the Lord
and he will support you.

Psalm 55:23

Early that morning, I’d engaged in my daily routine which begins with the few exercises which keep my aging frame more limber than it might otherwise be. Though I’m usually invigorated by this regimen, I found myself a bit melancholy. I hadn’t yet recouped the energy I’d expended as I prepared for Easter. Unfortunately, this didn’t deter the new and unwanted to-do list which was forming on my desk. Before I could voice a complaint to myself, a familiar photograph caught my eye.

I exercise in the same spot most days, but my thoughts usually prevent me from attending to the scenery. That morning, however, my sister Cecele demanded my attention. This particular picture was taken in the midst of the chemotherapy regimen which we hoped would destroy the cancer in her lungs. Only a bit of fuzz served as Cecele’s hair when she posed, but it’s difficult to notice. Every time I see that photograph, I’m drawn to my sister’s dancing eyes and her broad smile. That morning, those eyes twinkled and I’m certain that her smile grew even larger.

“Yes, Cecele, I get the point!” I told my sister. “I won’t complain and I will be grateful for this new day.” Cecele had been grateful for every day she was given after that final diagnosis took her by surprise. And, yes, after breakfast, I started working on that to-do list with my own grateful smile!

Patient God, thank you for the numerous reminders that this life is truly a gift!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Promise to Us All

This morning, I reluctantly disposed of a drooping Easter bouquet. As I pulled the stems from their vase, I remarked, “I wish you’d lasted as long as the Easter grass. I’ll be picking up that stuff for at least another month.” Apparently, the flowers had no life left in them because they failed to respond to my remark. As I washed the vase, a tiny green flicker caught my eye. Once again, I spoke. “Where did you come from?” The lone strand of Easter grass lying on the kitchen counter said nothing. I decided to end this conversation before my dear husband came in to see to whom I was speaking. Rather, I explored the rest of the kitchen and family room in search of more Easter grass. Since I’d prepared our grandchildren’s Easter Baskets in those rooms, I thought I’d confined the green stuff to the first floor of our house. After vacuuming, I determined that I’d finally seen the end of those green cellophane strands.

On my way up to the study to begin this writing, a strand of green greeted me at the top of the stairs. “How did you get all the way up here?” I asked. Still, no answer. While changing loads of laundry between paragraphs, I encountered green strands next to the dryer. When I went to my closet to hang some of the clean laundry, green strands near the shoe rack greeted me. Though I’ve been up and down the stairs a hundred times since Easter, I never carried an Easter Basket along for the ride. It occurs to me as I sit here that I’ll be vacuuming up Easter grass for some time. Even the needles from our Christmas Trees never make it upstairs to the bedrooms, so why is it that Easter grass ends up all over the house? I looked upward as I posed that question…

Dear, dear God, what a sense of humor you have! Thank you for speaking to me so simply. As I discover another bit of Easter grass –this one lying under my chair– I realize what a gift I have in these pesky green strands. Though we celebrated just days ago, Easter seems distant from the busyness and worries of this particular day. So it is that you speak to me through the trail of Easter grass in my path. Each strand I find brings me back to that remarkable day. Yes, it is in Jesus’ life among us, his death and his rising that I find the promise of new and everlasting life for the rest of us. These strands of green cellophane aren’t annoyances after all, are they? You’ve given them to me as gentle reminders that the joy and promise of Easter are with me today and always just as you are!

There you have it! For the gazillionth time in human history, God reveals the joy of Easter and the promise of eternal life in a common human experience. God is using these lovely green cellophane strands to remind me that the joy and promise of Easter remain with me every single day. I assume the timing of this realization is God’s insistence that I share this news with you. As I continue to write, I wonder further. With these wonderful reminders at my fingertips, why do I lose sight of God’s promises and God’s love when the going gets tough?

Today, John’s gospel (20:19-31) references Thomas who also seemed to have been searching to discover what Jesus’ life and death meant for him. Thomas missed Jesus’ first post resurrection visit. Though John didn’t explain Thomas’ absence, I wonder. Was it Thomas’s search for meaning in all that had happened which coaxed him from the safety of their hideout to see firsthand the aftermath of Jesus’ death? Perhaps Thomas needed to separate fact from rumor on his own. Perhaps Thomas needed to experience the loss of his friend without the distraction of the others who mourned in fear. You know, John’s is the only gospel which reports Thomas’ absence and doubt regarding Jesus’ appearance. Did the other gospel writers see something different in this disciple? As for me, I have great affection for the Apostle Thomas because I often walk in his shoes.

The truth is that I understand Thomas’s need to leave that upper room and to sort things out for himself because I often have need to do the same. I also understand Thomas’s elation when he finally saw the resurrected Jesus for himself. Though I continue to fret about things which I need to let go, like Thomas, I’ve also found the courage to turn my eyes upward and to recognize what Thomas did when he saw Jesus. It is at those discouraging times that I echo Thomas: My Lord and my God, you love me! My Lord and my God, you’re with me! My Lord and my God, everything will be as it should because of you!

Today, as we continue to celebrate Easter, let’s all take notice of God who is always present among us and within us. Trust me. Whether through the amazing people who love us, the wonders of Creation, a bit of written inspiration, a great song, a hopeful bit of worship alone or with this community, or a strand of green cellophane Easter grass, our Lord and our God insists, “I am with you!”

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hope… Even At The Mall!

Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you: in the name of
Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise and walk.”

Acts 3:6

I’d ignored my sadness for weeks due to the numerous tasks at hand. With my Lenten and Easter to-do lists complete, those buried emotions rose to the surface. I decided to walk because the fresh air always seems to rejuvenate me regardless of the condition of my psyche. Unfortunately, rain coaxed me to the mall to stretch my legs and my spirit.

That pouring rain proved to be a blessing. As I walked indoors, I ran into a friend who had recently survived a seemingly hopeless ordeal. Though that topic never entered into our conversation, the joy with which she embraces every new day was unmistakable. Still, in spite of her miraculous outcome, my friend has not forgotten the pain of her grim journey. So it was that, after allowing me to bare my soul, she hugged me. “Mary, you have reason to feel they way you do. The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel and you will find it!”

I walked away from that conversation feeling a lot better and a little silly. My dear friend had survived cancer though she was not expected to live. I was surviving raw emotions which didn’t come close threatening my life. For the rest of that walk, I thanked God for the numerous and abundant blessings which have come my way, especially for that wonderful friend!

Loving God, you sprinkle morsels of hope and encouragement in the most unexpected, but opportune places. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hope-Filled News!

Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,” and then
reported what he had told her.

John 20:18

Good news is hard to keep to oneself, especially when the information will be helpful to others. We share a good book and diet tips that really work. We tell our colleagues about inroads we’ve made with the new payroll technology or the new boss. We cannot keep the news of a long-awaited pregnancy or a cancer remission to ourselves for longer than it takes to scroll down to a number on our cell phones. Still, it seems that good news is a far too limited commodity in this Twenty-first Century world of ours.

The truth is that since we humans decided that our own agendas were our top priorities, good news has been in short supply. Still, at least some of us have also held onto our hope for better things to come. Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem certainly offered a glimpse of hope. When Jesus lived a life of acceptance, mercy and all-encompassing love, hope took on new life. When he made it up the hill to Calvary, Jesus persisted until he embraced death. A few days later, the rumbling in the tomb sealed the deal. Jesus himself became hope-fulfilled. Good news took on a whole new meaning –forever!

Dear God, painful as his passion and dying were, Jesus persisted because of the great good which would result. Help me to persist in doing the right thing as well, even when it’s painful.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Post-Easter Efforts

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way…

Matthew 28:8-9

This Monday after Easter, we’re returning to our normal routines. Grandpa and I will babysit for our grandsons, our kids will return to work and the older grandchildren will return to school. Still, I’m taking a moment to consider all that has transpired in recent weeks. Lent was productive, though not always as I’d planned. My Holy Week observances were both sobering and uplifting as I returned to the scene at least mentally. I offered my presence to Jesus with the hope that I would have stayed with him if I had been there two millenniums ago. Today, just as spring offers hints of the beauty to come, I hope to hint at the Promise of Easter in all of my efforts.

When the two Marys went to Jesus’ tomb that first Easter morning, I wonder what they expected to find. I wish I’d been there when they arrived to find that the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus was gone. Did either Mary say, “I knew it! I just knew it! He rose as he said he would!”? Though I can’t be certain of their initial reactions, I do suspect that they responded with great joy when they saw Jesus once again!

As for me, I know what happened and I need to respond accordingly today and always!

Loving God, help me to make my life an ongoing hint at
the amazing things to come for us all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved