Holy Week… Monday

And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”

Matthew 21:10

While in Israel, our arrival in Jerusalem startled me a bit. This last stop on our tour was at least as frenetic as downtown Chicago on Black Friday. Though the other places we visited were well-populated, the crowds in Jerusalem rushed in every direction for as far as I could see. It occurred to me that Jesus’ contemporaries felt the same every year as Passover approached. Devout Jews filled the Holy City to observe this solemn feast. It was Friday when we arrived in Jerusalem. Sabbath would begin at sunset which prompted the frenzy in the markets. Everyone rushed to complete their errands before the shops closed a few hours later.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem that Sunday so long ago, I imagine he was anxious as well. It was not the shopping which concerned Jesus that day. It was we who were on his mind. He had worked tirelessly to reveal God’s loving and compassionate ways. Still, many remained who didn’t understand. Sadly, I don’t always behave as though I understand. As I looked into those crowds in Jerusalem that day, I wondered if they appreciated the thinking behind their Sabbath preparations. When I caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window, I wondered if I appreciated the thinking behind what Jesus had done for me.

Loving God, Jesus could not have given us a better picture of you. Help me to catch glimpses of you in everyone I encounter this week and always.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Keep God In Mind

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God…
Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your, with all your soul and with
all your mind. Take to heart these words…
Bind them at your wrist as a sign and
let them be as a pendant on your forehead.

From Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Today is Friday. While Catholics abstain from meat in observance of Lent, our Jewish sisters and brothers observe the Sabbath which begins at sundown. While in Israel, the rush of activity before Sabbath began was notable. Everyone hurried to get home to partake of their Shabbat Dinner. As we strolled along, we saw groups of Jewish worshipers garbed for the evening’s gathering.

Many of the men wore small cube-shaped leather cases on their foreheads. These little boxes were held in place with strings tied on the back of ones head. Before any of us could inquire regarding what we saw, our guide explained that these little boxes are Phylacteries. They hold small copies of passages from the Jewish Torah. These little boxes and a second one worn on the arm remind the wearer to keep God in mind and to keep the Law during their daily lives. Orthodox Jews wear Phylacteries in response to the passage from Deuteronomy which I cite above.

I smiled to myself as I listened. The author of Deuteronomy certainly understood human nature. How often we overlook God’s perspective on things! We become so distracted by our trials and tribulations that we forget to turn to the One who is at our sides in everything. I know that my worst moments occur in the midst of this very scenario.

This Lent, we need only turn to the life of Jesus for reminder after reminder of God’s presence in our lives. Jesus accomplished all that he did because he never lost sight of his Father. Even in the worst of circumstances, when I acknowledge God’s presence, I can do what needs to be done as well.

Loving God, thank you for remaining at our sides.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find The Good!

Accordingly, Jesus sent Peter and John off with the instruction,
“Go and prepare our Passover supper for us.”

Luke 22:6

While in Israel, we celebrated a special Shabbat Dinner with a local family. It was Friday night just after Sabbath began when we poured into the modest apartment of an Orthodox Jewish couple. This couple shared their Sabbath experience to extend their good will and to provide an opportunity for them and their guests to eat and pray together. This was an authentic experience which included one toddler, two preschoolers, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa and us guests. Our hosts also invited a few friends.

After settling into our places, this couple asked us to introduce and to share something about ourselves. In the process, one of the couple’s guests spoke of his emigration to Israel. Noam is 29 and a native of Baltimore, Maryland. He’d moved to Israel a year earlier for his job. Noam described his immediate uneasiness within this foreign culture. Though he is a good Jew, Noam was unprepared for life in this strange place. He found people to be refreshingly, and sometimes frighteningly, direct. His mild-mannered demeanor proved to be no asset as he tried to assimilate. Still, Noam persisted. He recognizes that life isn’t perfect anywhere on this earth and that it’s up to each one of us to find the good wherever we are and the goodness within ourselves. With only this revelation to guide him, Noam eventually decided to make Israel his permanent home. Though he couldn’t explain the reason, he felt that he truly belonged in this place.

I was taken aback by Noam’s bravery, his perceptiveness and his persistence. As we continued our meal together, I wondered where I might look more carefully for the goodness around me. Perhaps I need to look within as well…

Dear God, you send each one of us into this life filled with goodness. Help us to find the goodness in one another and to do good wherever we are.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Labor Day Greetings!

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
because on it God rested from all the work he had done….

From Genesis 2:3

I’ve always enjoyed Labor Day. When I was a child, we observed this holiday with a picnic which included our extended family. 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 more 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 six days of labor creating this world of ours. 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 God’s company.

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 or care for those you have 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!

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

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Lead with Compassion

Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man,
and not man for the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

Though our neighborhood had been plagued by flooding, the water receded enough to allow the village to continue with plans to replace an old water main. We’d have no water for a few hours and no drinkable water for another day. I admit that I grumbled over this inconvenience. The flooding had put our neighborhood through enough and this water issue added insult to injury. As I reread the letter which announced this water-delivery improvement, I grumbled over the boiling directives. It occurred to me that I’ve been grumbling over directives for a lifetime…

Though far from perfect at home, I behaved at school. Still, there were occasions when I questioned “the law” laid down by a teacher or principal. I failed to see the value of classmates being driven to tears over minor infractions such as having no pencil or forgetting homework. It seemed easier to give that student a pencil or to allow homework to be returned the following day. This is likely the reason I preferred college to elementary and high school. Professors provided a syllabus and it was up to us students to fulfill their demands. There was no public demeaning of anyone. If a student didn’t keep up, there were opportunities to seek out the professor privately for guidance.

Throughout adulthood, my stance has remained the same. Rules, like having to boil water for five minutes to make it drinkable, are very important. This directive kept my neighbors and me from getting sick. Still, other requirements are handed down by a variety of “powers that be” which aren’t actually helpful. I can’t change these things, but I can see to it that I don’t place my own demands of others over their well-being.

Dear God, be with me as I try to care for those you have given me to love with more compassion and fewer demands.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Relax and Rest

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“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 has taken me a lifetime to appreciate my 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 can’t head out to walk on a particular day than I would have spent 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 with her. It is there 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, as I set aside my own worries, help me to assist others in doing the same. Teach us all to find your peace in our much-deserved rest.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved