S is for…

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased…

From Isaiah 42:1

S is for Service. When I was a little girl, I was usually the first to raise my hand when a teacher asked for assistance. At home, though I disliked my own chores, I happily volunteered when my mom requested help with a non-mandatory task. I jumped at the opportunity to do something for her especially after my dad passed away. Young as I was, I quickly discovered that, of all of the joy I’d experienced, the best of it was the result of being of service to someone.

Our lives are filled with opportunities to serve. I’ve been a spouse, parent, teacher, colleague, daughter to an elderly mom and sister to dying siblings, an ear for a troubled soul and an all-purpose volunteer. I’ve rescued a wayward can of soup that rolled out of a fellow shopper’s bag and a twenty-dollar bill that fell out of another’s wallet. I’ve even extinguished the burning hair of a wedding guest who stood a bit too close to a lighted candle. Your list of everyday and life-time service would fill a space much larger than this. Whenever we respond to those God has given us to love, we serve.

The joy that resulted from my helpful efforts as a child has remained with me. Though it’s nice to be thanked on occasion, the joy comes either way. Perhaps this is God’s way of assuring us that God is indeed pleased with us and all that we do!

Thank you, Good and Gracious God, for giving us loving and caring hearts like your own.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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A is for…

God is with us;
God is our strength.

Psalm 46:8

A is for Abundance. Each of us is a treasure-trove to ourselves and to one another. We’re filled with abundant gifts which no one possesses in the same configuration as we do. It is up to us to look within for our own abundance and to share it generously with those we’ve been given to love. It is also up to us to find and to acknowledge the abundance in others that they may do the same.

Unfortunately, as abundant as our gifts may be, we sometimes misuse them or fail to use them as best we can. Sometimes, we’re simply too tired or too distraught to help those around us. We’re even unable to help ourselves. This is when we must turn to God’s abundance which is always a prayer away: God’s abundant love, God’s abundant understanding and God’s abundant faith in our ability to pull ourselves together and begin anew. Yes, we even have an abundance of second chances!

Loving God, thank you for the abundance which enriches our lives.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Back To The Basics

God shall rescue the poor when they cry out,
and the afflicted when they have no one to help them.

Psalm 72:12

I enjoyed teaching in spite of those occasional days when both my students and I were not at our best. On such days, I learned not to become angry. Rather, I acknowledged all of our humanity and the troubles which sometimes accompany it. With that, the kids and I took deep breaths and moved on. Near the end of the school year, these days threatened to increase in frequency because all concerned where in dire need of summer break. It was then that I found a creative and productive way to lighten our collective mood.

It was late May when I challenged my second graders to list an alphabet’s worth of things which they hoped to do during the coming summer. Afterward, they wrote short paragraphs and drew illustrations for each entry. In the end, I stapled these into each child’s “My Summer Wishes” book. This effort provided ample subject matter which carried over into most of our lessons during those last days of school. It also netted a precious memento of each child’s hope for better things to come.

Not long afterward, I remembered this alphabetic effort. To ease myself through a trying time, I used one letter per day to designate one of God’s gifts to me. This little exercise changed my attitude and truly led me to a much better result than I expected. Tomorrow, I’m going to return to the basics. It will be the first of twenty-six days of reflections inspired by the ABCs.

Loving God, regardless of the troubles which beset us, from A to Z, you face them with us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Reveal God’s Love

“The works that I’ve given to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that God has sent me.”

From John 5:36

For just a little while, I’m once again citing my childhood impatience with some of Jesus’ contemporaries. As a pre-teen (I think I’d be a “tween” today), it seemed obvious to me that Jesus’ lessons, parables and works had to have come from a loving God. I wondered often why it was so difficult for the Pharisees to accept the same. They knew that Israel had awaited the Messiah for some time by then. They knew better than the rest of the people the Messiah’s origins and the circumstances of his eventual arrival. Still, they rejected Jesus.

Sadly, I admit that I sometimes do the same… Jesus accomplished amazing things from his humble state, yet I wonder if my retirement will be comfortable. Jesus needed no worldly authority to serve others, but I’m sometimes saddened when others don’t value my input. Jesus habitually sought the company of outcasts. Still, I sometimes seek out the local power-brokers to promote my causes. Jesus set aside his own concerns whenever he was needed. As for me, I sometimes withdraw because I’m tired of doing all that I do. Jesus prayed at every opportunity and I can go for hours without whispering a word to God above.

Though I wish the Pharisees had embraced Jesus rather than rebuffing them, I’m going to forget about their behavior and focus on my own. I know that Jesus revealed our loving God quite accurately and it’s up to me to do the same as best I can.

Good and Patient God, help me to reveal your love as only I can.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

How Can I Help?

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,”
but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:15-17

Perhaps it’s the mid-May wonder in nature which energizes me and urges me into action. As recent posts indicate, I seem to be in “do something” mode. The amazing people God has given me to love add to the mix as they are constant reminders that each of us possesses unique talents. I’m a constant reminder to myself and others that we’re all also burdened with our own variety of frailties. Still, God places this world in our hands. This is no empty gesture on God’s part. God created us in God’s own image and likeness. God knows better than we do just how capable we are.

So it is that I offer a challenge to myself and to anyone else who attends to this space. I encourage you to join me in setting aside your worry regarding the woes which trouble humankind these days. After praying with great fervor for world peace, look a bit closer to home. Is there something in your community, your neighborhood, your temple, your church, your workplace, your organization or in your own home which needs attention? Then, join me in asking, “What can I do to help?”

Let’s not discount even the smallest opportunity to do good. I’m convinced -and so is God- that our efforts will make a difference somewhere to someone every time.

Caring God, be with us as we do our best to love and care for one another as you care for us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

That Loving Fragrance!

And a voice came from the heavens saying,
“This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:17

While dropping off something at church, I couldn’t help noticing the scent of lilies. This was the first time I’d noticed the Easter lilies’ fragrance though they’ve filled the church for weeks. “You are amazing flowers,” I said, fully expecting a few nods in return. Though the blossoms stood motionless, I hoped they sensed my gratitude for the gift they were to me that day. I whispered, “Thank you!” on my way out the door.

We are much like each of those lilies in God’s eyes. If only we’d remember that God treasures each one of us just as we are before we set out on our own. If only we’d hold on to those words, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” Though they may not echo from the clouds above, God speaks those words just the same in the depths of our hearts. They come to life every time we make the difficult, selfless choices which make all of the difference in the world to those around us. These words also come to life when we need God most.

Though those lilies which fill my parish church will likely last only a few more days, their unmistakable fragrance will remain with me. It is a lingering reminder of God’s presence in my life. Just as those lilies adorn church, God singles out you and me to enhance life on this earth, especially the lives of those God has given us to love.

Dear God, what would my life be like if I was not enveloped in your fragrance? What would my life be like without your ever-creative reminders of your love?

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved