Have A Little Faith!

A few weeks ago, friends shared that they hope to travel to Alaska one day. Now I’m not the travel aficionado that my dear husband is. Nonetheless, six years ago, we traveled to Alaska in celebration of a milestone wedding anniversary. That trip evolved into an amazing adventure and I couldn’t help encouraging our friends to visit Alaska as soon as they can. “If there’s time, include a stop at Icy Straight Point,” I told them. “You can go zip riding there!” Our friends didn’t seem particularly interested in that bit of information. As for me, just this mention of my zip riding experience filled me with excitement. Not long after that conversation, I pulled out our Alaska photo album. I wanted to bask a little longer in the wonder I’d found in our Forty-ninth State.

When I opened the album, I recalled my reluctance the morning we left. Though we’d flown long distances before, I’d worried extensively in anticipation of our departure. After the flight, we’d board a cruise ship. This was our first cruise and I had no idea of what to expect. I worried about forgetting our passports. I worried about having packed appropriate clothing and I worried that the weather forecasts might be inaccurate. I worried about our excursions. Would we enjoy them all? I worried about seasickness because I’d never been on a ship before. Most of all, I worried about that first excursion: zip riding from a mountainside over the trees in Icy Straight Point.

I admit that I looked through our album twice that day. Both times, I lingered over a photo we’d purchased after zip riding. I recalled our sons’ amazement that we’d signed up for that adventure. They asked me several times if I was sure I wanted to do this. Our sons know their parents well. Their dad is a great fan of roller coasters and their mom is not. Though Mike enjoys flying anywhere, I don’t. I’m not a fan of heights and this completely out-of-character adventure would take me more than one thousand feet above ground for a mile-long ride. I would travel well above Alaska’s tallest treetops. Still, I felt called to embrace this adventure. When Mike joined our sons in questioning the wisdom of doing so, I assured him that I really, really had to do this.

As I stared at that photo, I remembered those anxious minutes just prior to sailing over those trees. We’d found our places and strapped ourselves into something like adult-sized baby swings. The man who would release us into the air checked every seatbelt. When he was certain that all was well, he announced, “Here you go!” With that, the gates before us dropped and we sailed –No, we sped!- down the mountainside over a forest. I remembered my amazement over just how high we were. I looked over the trees and onto the inlet where our cruise ship rested. I clearly recall letting go of that swing and extending my arms as far as they’d reach. As I stared at that photo, I repeated something similar to what I’d shouted six years earlier, “Thank you, God! Thank you so much! That really was awesome!” That day, I knew that I was nestled in the strongest and gentlest of hands. I’d also shared in one of God’s best kept secrets. I’d discovered why God keeps such diligent watch over Creation. There is nothing more beautiful! I also felt closer to God than ever. Was this the reason I simply had to go zip riding that day?

When I turned to today’s scripture readings, I found a trio of answers to my question. The readings from Habakkuk (1:2-3; 2:2-4), 2 Timothy (1:6-8, 13-14) and Luke (17:5-10) speak of the things which fuel our faith in God. Habakkuk complained that his life and the world around him were complete disasters. God responded by instructing Habakkuk to revisit his dreams because his dreams would be fulfilled. In the letter to Timothy, this young man is encouraged to hold tightly to his faith because he would find God in the end. In the gospel, Jesus summarized everything. He told his friends that faith as tiny as a mustard seed is capable of ordering a tree to uproot itself from the ground and to replant itself in the sea. Jesus explained that having faith doesn’t mean that this life will unfold perfectly. However, Jesus does say that if we have faith we can somehow make things happen the way we’d like them to happen. Having faith means that we do what we do because we truly believe that we can make a difference. Faith assures us that we will find peace and absolute joy with God here and in the hereafter.

You know, I would have missed a life-changing experience if I hadn’t climbed onto that zip rider and opened myself to what God had in store for me. That leap of faith exemplified precisely what God asks of us. God knows better than we do the difficulties of life on this earth. Still, God extends an encouraging hand and urges us on. All the while, God assures us that, when we embrace the moment, the hour, the day and the lifetime that lie before us, God will be with us all the while. This is what faith is all about, even faith as small as a mustard seed!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Walk -or Ride- With Faith

A few week’s ago, my husband and I drove to St. Louis to attend a wedding. The bride and her parents are friends and we were pleased to celebrate with all concerned. We left just after the morning rush hour the Friday before so we’d arrive with plenty of time to dress for the rehearsal. When I made my usual offer to assist with the driving, my dear husband got behind the wheel. In the process, he mumbled something about letting me know if he became too tired to continue. So it was that I nestled into the passenger’s seat with a prayer of gratitude on my lips for the opportunity to enjoy the scenery along the way. Mike backed out of the driveway and I settled in for the duration with the certainty that I’d find inspiration as I gazed out the window. Traffic was a bit heavier than expected and it offered plenty to entertain me along the way. Mike sang along with his favorite oldies and I absorbed life unfolding on the road ahead.

We passed two school buses filled with children who were likely on a field trip. I didn’t envy their teachers and chaperones as I recalled that even the most organized excursions sometimes brought unexpected surprises. I wished them well with a prayer that they’d all return to school unscathed. Several semi drivers plugged along as well. I wondered if they ever tired of life on the highway. Did they have families who missed them too often or did they find solace on the open road? Either way, I prayed that each one would find peace in his work that day. A hapless texter interrupted my contemplation when she edged into our lane. Mike quickly alerted her to the problem by sounding his horn. I prayed quickly that she’d learn her lesson before hurting herself or anyone else. We passed many single-passenger cars and many others filled with families. I wondered if any of those full cars were headed to St. Louis as well. Though I received no response to my wondering, I also added prayers for them. When Mike noticed ambulance lights in his rear-view mirror, he eased over to make room. I prayed in full earnest for the person who needed that hopefully life-saving ride. As we increased our speed again, I turned my attention to the Lord God. I acknowledged that the prayers I offered that day wouldn’t necessarily result in making things perfect or at all improved for anyone. I’ve acknowledged this numerous times before, yet I continue to pray…

When I turned to the scriptures, I found a trio of explanations for my persistence. Passages from Habakkuk (1:2-3; 2:2-4), 2 Timothy (1:6-8, 13-14) and Luke (17:5-10) each speak of those promises which fuel our faith in God. Habakkuk complained that his life and the world around him were complete disasters. God responded by instructing Habakkuk to revisit his dreams, for indeed the dreams of the just will be fulfilled. Though life on this earth is rarely easy, life in heaven would fulfill Habakkuk’s every expectation and more. In his letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged his young friend to hold tightly to his faith because God would reward him with heaven’s joy as well. In the gospel, Jesus summarized everything when he observed that faith as tiny as a mustard seed is capable of ordering a tree to uproot itself from the ground and replant itself in the sea. Jesus went on to speak of the servant who does what is expected with no expectation of his master’s gratitude. The servant does what is expected because it is expected. Jesus explained that we Christians are asked to live appropriately for the same reason: This is what is expected of us. Having faith doesn’t mean that life will unfold perfectly. Nor does it mean that if we truly believe we can somehow magically make things happen the way we would like them to happen. Having faith means that we do what we do because we truly believe that we will find peace and absolute joy with God in the end.

You know, I will continue to pray for all sorts of people and their special intentions. Though my efforts won’t ensure any of them a smooth path in the immediate future, God will listen to every word. Indeed, God answers every prayer with the promise that each of our paths will lead to something greater than we can imagine in this life. God knows better than we just how difficult life on this earth can be and all God asks is that we respond as best we can. All any of us is expected to do is the best we can. During that drive to St. Louis and every day, my fellow travelers and I need only to embrace the moment, the hour, the day and the lifetime we are given. God will be with us all the while and God will be with us in the end.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved