A Blessed Labor Day!

God blessed the seventh day and made it holy
because on it God rested from the work God 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 us kids good reason to celebrate. Later, when I discovered the meaning of labor for myself at my first job, leisure time became a precious commodity.

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.

Labor Day 2020 is certainly different from those of the past. This year, we’re being quite creative in our socially distanced revelry in order to keep one another safe. We’re also celebrating essential workers who’ve risked so much for us in a very special way. In spite of the holiday, many of them are reporting to work as usual today. Let’s seize the opportunity to rest and to celebrate these workers and the special work to which you and I have been called. It seems to me that all of our best work is simply being there for one another. In the end, all of our work is precious in God’s eyes and today’s rest is well deserved!

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

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Worry Less and Enjoy More

“Martha, Martha, you worry about many things, but only
one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it
will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

It’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate my need to prioritize. One would think that the past 100+ days of staying-in-place have given the opportunity to become an expert at this. I’m embarrassed to say that this isn’t the case. Though I’ve spent few of those days away from home, I still find myself with too little time to accomplish all that I hope to on any given day.

As I contemplate my need to better manage my time, I look up from my keyboard to respond to the tree outside my window. It seems to be waving to me. It could be the wind, but nothing else is moving beside a small cluster of that tree’s branches. Is that tree waving or is Someone else trying to get my attention?

Jesus once told his friend Martha that she worried too much. Martha needed to be more like her sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the love that came with them. Never mind that Martha was seeing to Jesus’ next meal! It occurs to me that the things we consider to be most important are sometimes of little importance in the grand scheme of things. Though Martha, Mary and Jesus certainly needed to eat that day, that meal could wait until after they’d had the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company.

Perhaps it’s time for me to ask Mary and Martha to move over a bit so I can sit with them. Perhaps they’ll teach me to stop worrying, to enjoy the moment at hand and then to get back to my work -in organized fashion, of course!

Generous God, as I set aside my worries, help me to enjoy the gift of every moment and to use each one well.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Handiwork

Great are God’s works,
exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:2

A dear friend knows that I’m a huge fan of the Aurora Borealis. Now this is in spite of the fact that, when my husband and I cruised through Alaska, it was too cloudy at night for us to see this amazing natural wonder. During our stay-in-place days, my friend spent more time than usual online. In the process, she discovered several amazing videos of the wondrous Aurora. Much to my good fortune, she shared them all with me. I watched each of those videos several times. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of God’s handiwork when it comes to the Aurora Borealis.

Though I’m certain that those images didn’t do justice to this natural wonder, they took my breath away. They also gave me a most welcome distraction from our current worry regarding the pandemic and the resulting misery that has hurt our fellow humans in so many ways. When I returned my thoughts to the troubles of the day, images of the Aurora stayed with me. It finally occurred to me that God creates this beautiful sight from a few solar flares, our earth’s magnetic field and some of the matter in our atmosphere. Imagine the beauty God could create if given free reign in our minds and hearts these days! Imagine the beautiful ways we might find to alleviate the suffering of so many around us!

Loving God, thank you for the beauty with which you surround us. Help us to reveal the even greater beauty you’ve created within each one of us as we work to heal our ailing world!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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 first stop on our tour was at least as frenetic as downtown Chicago on Black Friday. Though all of the places on our itinerary 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 Jewish people filled the holy city to observe this solemn feast. It was Friday when we toured 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 wasn’t 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.

It seems to me that it’s more important than ever to focus upon all that God has done for us. The gifts of this earth, of one another and our very lives seem more precious than ever. After tending to our loved ones with whom we’re sharing close quarters these days, we might turn our eyes upward and tend to that Ever-present Loved One who remains with us through it all.

Dear God, thank you for loving me through today’s troubles and through whatever lies ahead. I love you, too.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Solitude

After he had dismissed them,
he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone.

Matthew 14:23-24

I enjoy being with people. Whether at a party, out together for a show and dinner or visiting after Mass at church, I enjoy being with people. I will normally choose to spend a day out with others rather than staying home alone. Still, after a series of gatherings or a vacation which immersed me in crowds twenty-four/seven, I long for solitude. Though I’m grateful for the company of others, I’m also grateful to be in my own company as well. These quiet times allow me to regroup, replenish and renew my spirit.

In this technological era, it’s difficult to find time alone. Even when we’re the only passenger on a bus, the only patient waiting in the doctor’s office or at home by ourselves, our cell phones, tablets and other devices provide a constant stream of information, wanted and otherwise. These days, it’s quite possible never to have experienced a moment of quiet during a given day’s waking hours.

It occurs to me that Jesus experienced the same type of bombardment throughout his ministry. When Jesus found himself too tired or drained to go on, he stole away to be alone. Yes, there is something to be said for regrouping, replenishing and renewing our spirits even for Jesus.

I enjoy being with people. Still, I must remember that I’m one of the people with whom I need to spend some time.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of others and for the gift of ourselves.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest and Be Grateful

Since on the seventh day God had finished
with the work he had been doing, God rested.

Genesis 2:2

I cringed as I considered all that I had to do. Mike and I had taken off for a few days of much-needed rest up north. We’d returned with a bag of dirty laundry to an inbox full of email and the full calendar we’d left behind. The relaxation we’d felt just hours earlier vanished with the blink of an eye. After filling the washing machine, I decided to see how our outdoor plants had fared while we were away.

As I rounded the corner of our porch, a slight flutter caught my eye. I stopped in my tracks to avoid disturbing a beautiful dove who rested on the edge of our birdbath. Though it was far too cold for her to be here, she rested peacefully. Such visitors usually fly off when I come near. Still, she remained content to stare in my direction. A ray of sunshine caused her feathers to take on a heavenly aura. As I wondered what she was up to, it occurred to me that she might wonder the same about me. When our gazes met, I realized that I hadn’t prayed much that day. The traffic and drizzle during the drive home had distracted me from my usual sense of gratitude. Did this lovely dove intend to remind me to slow down and to express that gratitude? Before she could reply, I resolved to recapture the restful peace which our treks to Wisconsin always bring. Then, I turned my eyes upward and whispered, “Thank you!”

Dear God, be with me as I make a habit of setting aside my to-do list as needed and of thanking you often.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved