Nestle In God’s Embrace

Every morning, I set the tone for the day by reading from a daily devotional. My favorite features dozens of writers. Each contributes six or seven of the reflections which appear throughout the book. Regardless of the author of the day, I’m consistently touched by the morsels of wisdom nestled among his or her words. Whether or not the story which unfolds appeals to me, the author’s intent always manages to touch my heart. Some mornings, I add favorite passages from Henri Nouwen and Max Lucado. I’m most grateful for their generosity in sharing their deeply personal relationships with God with the rest of us. As I struggle to do the same through my own book, my admiration for these writers continues to grow exponentially.

After I opened my devotional this morning, I returned to this writing. Because I completed my research yesterday, I planned to write all of this fairly quickly. That was until the pile of notes resting next to me spilled over onto my keyboard. I had to re-stack them before I could type another word. In the process, I found a small sticky note which read, “Nestle, Don’t Wrestle”. I laughed as I recalled this old phrase. Long ago, I’d read about someone who’d hoped to write a book about our struggles throughout this life and our propensity to ignore the precise solution to all of our problems. This woman intended to title the book, Nestle, Don’t Wrestle. She’d hoped that her text would convince all of the world that we must stop wrestling with God and insisting that God solve our problems our way. I laughed again as I admitted to myself that I’m guilty of just that.

Of course, I couldn’t let go of this concept of nestling in God’s care rather than wrestling alone with life’s challenges. I wondered if the person I’d read about had actually written her book. After searching online for some time, I realized that this potential author had likely not realized her dream. I found no books of that title anywhere. What I did find was Corrie ten Boom’s DON’T WRESTLE, JUST NESTLE* which was published long before the person I’d read about had voiced her dream. Still, the titles were so similar that I had to learn more. I discovered that Corrie ten Boom’s book is still available and that it can also be downloaded for free. I also found several short reviews which indicated that this book had indeed offered the same advice which that potential author had hoped to share years later. That advice? To take God at God’s word and to place our troubles into God’s capable hands. This frees us to embrace the moments at hand with hope. Corrie ten Boom and her family lived in The Netherlands. When the German Army invaded her country, she turned her home into a hideout where she protected many Jewish people. As a result, she and her family were arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp where her sister died. In spite of this heart-wrenching experience, Corrie’s absolute hope in God’s care remained. As I read on, I discovered that Corrie’s relationship with God was steadfast throughout this suffering and her lifelong efforts to speak out about God’s love and forgiveness and our need to forgive.

So many scripture passages echo God’s invitation to us all to nestle and not to wrestle our way through this life alone! Isaiah (Isaiah 66:10-14c) tells us. “…you shall be carried in her arms, …as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…” God promises to carry each one of us through everything. We mustn’t waste our energy wrestling with our problems alone. We mustn’t wrestle with God to convince God to do things our way. Rather, we must ease into God’s arms with all of our problems in tow. When we hand the things which trouble us over to God, we free ourselves to enjoy the peace that only God’s embrace can offer. In his letter to the Galatians (6:14-18), Paul expounds upon the peace he found when he opened himself up to Jesus. Paul had persecuted and killed hundreds of Jesus’ followers because they’d moved beyond The Law. The Law was part and parcel of their Jewish identity, yet many of the people had embraced the teachings of Jesus as well. After meeting Jesus himself in an astonishing post-resurrection encounter, Paul realized that our acknowledgement of God’s love for us and our need to love one another were what truly mattered. With that, Paul took in all that Jesus had taught and he made Jesus’ mission his own. Luke’s gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20) tells us that Jesus had spread his teaching by sending out seventy-two disciples two-by-two. He asked them to set aside their own concerns and their own lives in order to share God’s hope and enduring love with those who hadn’t yet heard of these things. Jesus sent them on their way to offer God’s message with the hope that it would take root within others who would go on to share his word and to live accordingly.

As I consider my “on paper” acquaintance with both my would-be author friend and Corrie ten Boom, I wonder if they realize just how far-reaching their sharing of their relationships with God has been. Though that would-be author may never have written a word beyond her title, she certainly added a spark to my relationship with God. Corrie ten Boom endured far more suffering than most of us ever will, yet she insisted that we nestle in God’s loving care. Corrie added to that spark between God and me as well! It seems to me that we’re all called to spread the good news of God’s love for us. Whether we travel two-by-two or go it alone, each of us is invited to believe for ourselves and to share with all who will hear us that there is a place in God’s arms for every one of us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

*Corrie ten Boom. Don’t Wrestle, Just Nestle. Published January 1, 1979 by Fleming H Revell Co (first published 1978)

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Is There Something I Can Do?

If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

Luke 16:31

The most frustrating times of my teaching career, and throughout my life for that matter, have occurred when mean-spirited adults refused to do the right thing. At school, it was a teacher who refused to admit an error, a principal who refused to support a teacher whom she didn’t much care for, a lunch monitor who exhibited an attitude toward certain kids or a custodian who took his time when his least favorite teachers called for help. This list, which goes on and on, exists in just about every human institution including our circles of friends and our families. Our school secretary often observed, “Jesus himself could show them different and they’d still act that way!”

Luke’s gospel tells us that a hungry homeless man died on a rich man’s doorstep simply because the man didn’t notice him. When I consider my own annoyance with those who refused to do the right thing at work, I wonder how many times I’ve been guilty of the same. How many times have I avoided or simply not noticed a situation in which I could have done some good? Would it have mattered if Jesus himself had tapped me on the shoulder to get me moving? It occurs to me that perhaps Jesus is tapping at the moment. For some reason, I’m compelled to ask, “What might I have done to help those seemingly mean-spirited people to embrace a more positive stance?” Hmmm… What might I have done?

With that, I see that it’s time that I forget about the omissions of others. Rather, I need to tend to my own ability to take notice and to take care whenever the opportunity arises.

Patient God, help me to see those who need me with your eyes and to respond to them with your heart.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Back To The Basics

God shall rescue the poor when they cry out,
and the afflicted when they have no one to help them.

Psalm 72:12

I enjoyed teaching in spite of those occasional days when both my students and I were not at our best. On such days, I learned not to become angry. Rather, I acknowledged all of our humanity and the troubles which sometimes accompany it. With that, the kids and I took deep breaths and moved on. Near the end of the school year, these days threatened to increase in frequency because all concerned where in dire need of summer break. It was then that I found a creative and productive way to lighten our collective mood.

It was late May when I challenged my second graders to list an alphabet’s worth of things which they hoped to do during the coming summer. Afterward, they wrote short paragraphs and drew illustrations for each entry. In the end, I stapled these into each child’s “My Summer Wishes” book. This effort provided ample subject matter which carried over into most of our lessons during those last days of school. It also netted a precious memento of each child’s hope for better things to come.

Not long afterward, I remembered this alphabetic effort. To ease myself through a trying time, I used one letter per day to designate one of God’s gifts to me. This little exercise changed my attitude and truly led me to a much better result than I expected. Tomorrow, I’m going to return to the basics. It will be the first of twenty-six days of reflections inspired by the ABCs.

Loving God, regardless of the troubles which beset us, from A to Z, you face them with us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thank You, Neighbors!

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
From Mark 12:31

I don’t have the time to post two reflections in a single day. Still, yesterday’s activity in my snow-covered neighborhood compels me to do just that.

Several inches of snow had fallen overnight. Local schools were closed and some of the neighbors worked from home. A few others had unavoidable obligations which prevented them from clearing their walks and driveways. After fortifying ourselves with breakfast and coffee (okay, my husband had the coffee), we bundled up and headed outdoors to tackle our driveway and then move on to the neighbors’.

While Mike started our snowblower and I grabbed a shovel, two more snowblowers arrived on the scene. Our neighbor Ron from down the block had already cleared his own driveway and those of two neighbors on his side of the street. He’d come down the block to begin his fourth driveway just across the street from us. Our other neighbor Mike had done his own drive and was finishing up another neighbor’s driveway on our side of the street. When he saw us, he aligned his snowblower with my husband’s. They cleared our driveway in a few minutes. As for me, I had only the front walk and the steps outside our the back door to deal with. When I thanked the guys for their efforts, they looked surprised. In their minds, they simply did what any neighbor would do.

Though yesterday’s outdoor temperature was uncomfortably cold, I came into the house after shoveling the snow feeling warm to my core. That’s what happens when we neighbors simply do what any neighbor would do.

Loving God, help me to love all of the neighbors whom I meet along the way as simply and as generously as my snow-moving neighbors loved me yesterday.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Take Notice

If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

Luke 16:31

The most frustrating times of my teaching career, and throughout my life for that matter, occurred when stubborn or mean-spirited adults refused to do the right thing. At school, it was an unfair teacher, a principal who refused to back a teacher whom she didn’t much care for, a lunch monitor who exhibited an attitude toward “those” kids or a custodian who took his time when certain teachers called for help. This list, which goes on and on, exists in just about every human institution, including our circles of friends and our families. Our school secretary often observed, “Jesus himself could show them different and they’d still act that way!”

Luke’s gospel tells us that a hungry homeless man died on a rich man’s doorstep simply because the man didn’t notice him. When I consider my own annoyance with those who refused to do the right thing at work, I wonder how many times I’ve been guilty of the same. How many times have I intentionally avoided or simply not noticed a situation in which I could have done some good? Would it have mattered if Jesus himself had tapped me on the shoulder to get me moving?

It’s time that I forget about the omissions of others. Rather, I need to tend to my own ability to take notice and to take care whenever the opportunity arises.

Patient God, help me to see those who need me with your eyes and to respond to them with your heart.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Sent Forth With Love

My husband and I babysit for our little grandson a day or two each week. When we arrived this past Tuesday, Danny smiled broadly as he opened his arms to greet us. When his dad handed him over to me, he explained that Danny’s smile surprised him because his dear child had woken up every two hours the previous night. Danny continued to sport his infectious grin as I informed him that he would need to nap well that day. Amazingly enough, Danny continued to smile for an hour after his daddy left for work. Eventually in the midst of our play, Danny rubbed his eyes and whimpered a bit. When I scooped him off the floor, he quickly nuzzled into me. When I retrieved a bottle of milk from the refrigerator, I fully expected Danny to sit up and offer the elated coos which normally accompany this rite. This time, however, little Danny nuzzled more closely and waited peacefully as the bottle warmed. The tired little imp managed to keep his eyes open about an ounce into that bottle. He finished the rest in a sleepy daze. After Danny drew in the last drop, I held him for a few minutes and then laid him in his crib for the first nap of the new day.

As I tiptoed down the hall, I wondered if Danny will remember anything from his seemingly carefree infancy. I actually stopped in my tracks with that thought as there hasn’t been much that has been carefree regarding Danny’s life to date. From the early onset of labor which confined his mommy to bed to his early arrival which frightened us all, this child’s well-being has been the main focus of his parents and the rest of us who love him. The good news is that residual issues have been addressed. The better news is that Danny now behaves as a typical ten-month-old –if there is such a thing!

I admit that I took advantage of Danny’s nap-time that morning to prepare this reflection. The images of our peacefully sleeping grandson and his daddy’s tired eyes inspired some insight regarding the scriptures. Isaiah (66:10-14c) likens the prosperity of God’s people to a newborn baby who is lovingly cared for. This child’s mother has been blessed as well because the babe in her arms arrived without benefit of grueling labor and a painful delivery. The mothers among us can attest to the uniqueness of this situation! All of us can attest to the fact that the care we received as infants has had a lifelong impact upon who we are today. This is the reason Isaiah assured the people of God’s initial and ongoing love for each one of them.

In his letter to the Galatians (6:14-18), Paul references a birth of sorts as well. Paul expounds upon the miracle of his rebirth at the hands of Jesus. Paul had persecuted and killed hundreds of Jesus’ followers because they had moved beyond The Law which had been part and parcel of their Jewish identity to the teachings of Jesus. After meeting Jesus himself in an astonishing post-resurrection encounter, Paul realized the one’s acknowledgement of God’s love for us and our need to love one another were what truly mattered. So it was that Paul took on all that Jesus had to say and he made Jesus’ mission his own.

Luke’s gospel (10:1-12, 17-20) relates another rebirth. After having sent The Twelve to teach in his name, Jesus sent out seventy-two others to do the same. Jesus cautioned them not to worry about money, meals or even the sandals on their feet. Jesus sent them off with all they needed to bring God’s peace wherever they made their way. Though they left Jesus’ side with a measure of trepidation, all seventy-two returned with ecstatic hearts. It was impossible for them to contain their awe over all they had accomplished in Jesus’ name.

When Danny began to stir from his nap that afternoon, I set aside my pen and thanked God for easing his parents through those traumatic early days with him. For another few decades, they’ll continue to nurture and guide their little boy. When the time comes for Danny to set out on his own, he’ll be as ready as any of us can be. As I headed down the hall to rescue my grandson from his crib, I realized that I have experienced the love that Isaiah, Paul and Jesus insist is ours. While Danny’s parents will deal with the nitty-gritty of minute-to-minute parenting, Grandpa and I get to watch over it all. Like our ever-benevolent God, we will stand by to help out in a pinch. Like our ever-faithful God, we will watch with expectant love knowing that Danny will fulfill it as best he can. From the moment God created you and me, that same love has poured down upon us. From our very beginnings God has known that we will all fulfill every expectation of us as best we can –just like Danny!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved