N is for…

God looked at everything God made
and found it to be very good.

Genesis 1:31

N is for Nature. If you check a dictionary, it will define “nature” something like this: the essential characteristic or quality which makes something what it is; its essence. I think it’s extremely important for us to remember the Source of our nature. God is the Source who made us who we are. It is God who created us and everything else from nothing more than an insatiable willingness to love.

The line I cite above from the Creation Story certainly gets to the nature or essence of God’s feelings for us and for all of God’s handiwork. It seems to me that our best response is to accept that we are good and to live accordingly. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, it’s hard to see the good. Yet God insists that it’s there within me. Sometimes, my neighbor poses the challenge when he or she behaves in anything but lovable ways. Still, God insists that goodness dwells within every one of us and God asks that we behave accordingly. If this isn’t troublesome enough, God also insists that all of creation is good. Not only must I love my fellow humans, but also I must care for our earthly home.

N is for Nature. God asks that I live up to my nature by living with love toward myself, my fellow humans and this earth. Indeed, God looks at us all and finds us to be very good. What an amazing place this will be if we do our best to do the same!

Patient God, this is a tough one. Please be with me as I try to look upon everyone and everything with your loving eyes.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Love As Jesus Did

“If I do not perform God’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works.”

John 10:37-38

Throughout my life, I’ve been told often that I’m naive. Still, I continue to trust in the goodness of my fellow humans. I’m not foolish enough to believe that there are no evildoers among us. Still, I do believe that in the right circumstances most of us would choose to do the right thing. So, I persist in trusting those I meet until they give me reason not to do so.

Jesus wasn’t naive at all. He knew that those who questioned his motives were blinded by hatred. Jesus’ threat to the status quo and to the power of his enemies was more than they could tolerate. Though Jesus’ works helped the neediest and most marginalized of his contemporaries, these kindnesses fueled the anger of the temple leaders. If acceptance and mercy soothed the people too much, their fear of the consequences of their alleged sins might dwindle. The scribes and Pharisees power over them might also dwindle. In the face of all of this, Jesus delivered God’s message of love, forgiveness, inclusion and mercy. In the mean time, Jesus’ enemies worked diligently to find a way to dispose of him. Jesus persisted anyway because every person he ecounterd absolutely worth the trouble.

You know, the people Jesus comforted had been looked upon as the drudges of society for much of their lives. Still, Jesus invested his time and his love in them. Though I don’t have Jesus’ capacity to love, I do have my own. So it is that I must persist as well.

Loving God, help us to open our hearts generously to those you have given us to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time Again…

A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.

Ecclesiastes 3:2

A time to be born… I enjoy walking outdoors because of Nature’s ongoing evolution. My entire world engages in rebirth during springtime. This growth continues through summer when flowerbeds and gardens flourish. Leafy trees respond to September’s mix early on with subtle changes in color. October brings those changes to fruition only to give way to November winds. Leaves crunching beneath my feet remind me that winter is near. Even then, barren trees hold the promise of new life. Yes, it seems to me that there is always a time to be born.

A time to die… Just as Nature engages in rebirth around me, it also engages in dying all the while. Something old continually gives way to something new. Seeds fall from trees and dance in the wind until they find rest on the ground below. Though no longer part of a living tree, they hold all of the potential they need for life anew. These seeds nestle into the ground with great hope in the things to come.

A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant… If those seeds are lucky, a watchful gardener will see that they are covered with enough soil to survive. If they sprout too closely to one another, that gardener will gently relocate them so each will have room to take root and to receive its share of sunlight and water.

Loving God, you are the watchful gardener who places each of us precisely where we are meant to be. Help me to embrace my place with the certainly of those seeds who entrust their futures to your loving hands.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Meticulous Care

In the beginning was the Word;
the Word was with God
and the word was God.

John 1:1

While in Israel, over the course of a few days, it rained sporadically. I shared earlier that our guide Yossi did a happy dance in response as Israel was in the midst of a drought. This didn’t dampen our spirits until we realized that flood waters pouring down from the mountains caused us to be rerouted on our way to Masada. WE had to visit Qumran instead. Though the views from Masada are breathtaking, I secretly joined Yossi in his happy dance. I was eventually relieved and happy to share with my tour-mates that our view of Qumran rivaled that of Masada.

The rocky mountainside of Qumran was the home of what are called the Dead Sea Scrolls. These truly ancient writings were discovered between my toddler and teen years. Their importance was immediately recognized. By the time I entered college, their discovery had revolutionized Old Testament studies.

The caves of Qumran were used for storage only. Several scrolls from Genesis, Deuteronomy and The Psalms, among others, filled numerous ancient jars which protected them from the elements for what seems like forever. As I looked from cave to cave, I wondered about those who’d written the scriptures and those who devoted themselves to meticulously copying them. A few days later when I viewed bits of these scrolls at the Israeli Museum, I understood what an amazing miracle it is to have any of them in our possession in the 21st Century!

Sometimes, I wonder about the Lord God who so meticulously tends to you and me. All the while, God works to preserve our goodness and to arm us against the elements which threaten during this life. Perhaps God has discovered something in each of us which will revolutionize our little corners of the world. God only knows!

Dear God, thank you for your ever-present faith in each of us!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

He Walked On Water

When the disciples saw him walking on water, they were terrified.
“It is a ghost!” they said, and in their fear they cried out.

Matthew 14:26

Our guide Yossi is not only an excellent teacher of Israeli life and an accomplished musician. He is also an archeologist who has earned a doctorate in biblical religions. All of this contributed to the wealth of information he shared along the way. The day we sailed the Sea of Galilee was no exception.

After reading Matthew’s account of this middle-of-the-night encounter, Yossi explained that far more was going on here that meets the eye. The original passage indicates that the disciples saw something which touched them to their cores. The Hebrew word for that something can mean either “ghost” or “spirit”. Yossi maintains that the disciples saw Jesus very differently as he moved toward them. They saw not a ghost, but God’s Spirit emanating from their master. Suddenly, they knew that Jesus was much more than an itinerant rabbi who had given them a new view of the scriptures, of life and of their God. If they had no inkling up to this point, their eyes were certainly opened during the wee hours of that morning on the Sea of Galilee..

I’ve puzzled over the scriptures since I was a little girl. Back then, my only resources were my own imagination, my patient mother and teachers and our parish priest who clarified things for me as best they could. Today, we have numerous resources to help us along our scripture-reading way. That day on the Sea of Galilee, I happily accepted Yossi’s explanation. It made perfect sense for Jesus to share his essence with his closest friends. Why wouldn’t they see God’s Spirit within him? When I pay attention, I discover that Jesus reveals the same for me in amazingly simple, yet important ways.

Loving God, thank you for revealing yourself in ways I can sometimes understand.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Homecoming

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
forever and ever.

From Psalm 23:6

Though this was my second trip to Israel, every morning promised a new adventure. In spite of having visited most of the sites on our itinerary last year, each one gifted me with new and unexpected levels of inspiration this time around. Because I had more time to internalize this experience, I often found myself talking non-stop to Jesus of Nazareth along the way. Last year, I felt that I’d returned to my homeland because Israel seemed so familiar to me. This year, I felt even more convinced that I was doing just that.

The Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Magdala elicited a sense of homecoming which I cannot deny. The events from Jesus’ life which unfolded in these places made me feel as though I was returning to revive my own ancient memories. Indeed, I wasn’t disappointed.

I may not have stood on the precise patch of ground where Jesus spoke the beatitudes or multiplied the loaves and fishes. I may not have stepped in Mary Magdalene’s footprints. I may not have sailed Jesus’ course on the Sea of Galilee. Still, I felt that I walked where I was meant to walk in order to rekindle important relationships from long ago. I wouldn’t have felt more at home if a family member had come forward to welcome me home after a far too long absence.

Loving God, thank you for making me feel at home wherever you are.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved