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

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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

God Delights Us

Great are the works of the Lord,
exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:2

A few weeks ago, I admitted that I was as tired as my poor husband was that day. My admittedly self-imposed to-do list had overwhelmed me and I needed a break. So it was that I joined my husband in the family room to relax. It didn’t take long for us to be drawn in by the travel channel. We discovered a series of shows which featured Alaska. The week before, friends had shared that they’re planning a cruise to the 49th State. Ever since, I couldn’t help relishing flashbacks to the wonder we’d encountered there. Though cloudy weather had prevented us from viewing the Aurora Borealis, we encouraged our friends take every opportunity for a potential sighting. Much to my absolute joy, the program my husband and I watched that day featured the Aurora in all its glory.

Though I’m certain that these images didn’t do justice to God’s handiwork, they took our breath away. They gave my husband and me a most welcome distraction from our fatigue. Perhaps they’ve also given us reason to take the time to explore God’s other treasures as well.

Loving God, thank you for the beauty with which you surround us. Thank you also for these little interludes which nudge us to enjoy that beauty as often as we can!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Choose The Better Part

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41

My most precious childhood memories include large family gatherings. Though I dreaded the preparations, I loved these parties. I usually crept away from the other children and eased myself into the periphery of the adults. I listened to recent news and familiar stories with equal interest. I continue to savor remnants of these wonderful exchanges. As my mother often observed, I didn’t miss a thing! Still, I would have missed it all if I had busied myself with “things” rather than enjoying these wonderful people.

A few years into my marriage, I lost the art of enjoying such gatherings. While my husband engaged our guests, I busied myself in the kitchen preparing, serving and cleaning up afterward. When my poor husband tried to head off to bed, I kept him up with questions regarding the family or friends who’d just left.

Jesus addressed a similar dilemma when he visited the home of Martha and Mary. Martha scurried about to prepare a meal for Jesus and his friends, while Mary seated herself at Jesus’ feet. When Martha complained about Mary’s disinterest in helping her, Jesus offered her little sympathy. Though Jesus appreciated Martha’s concern, he appreciated Mary’s company far more.

I eventually learned Martha’s lesson by letting the dishes go and being present to those I was given to love.

Loving God, you have blessed us with both a work ethic and the capacity to love. Help us to keep these gifts in balance by choosing love over our to-do lists every time.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Monday of Holy Week

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. I will try to offer glimpses of you to others in everything I say and do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved