Rest… It’s Okay!

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

I admit that it has taken me a few days to overcome the jet-lag which followed me off the plane when we returned from Israel. While running errands the other day, I was actually grateful for the long line ahead of me. I truly appreciated the opportunity to lean on my grocery cart and to stand still for a few minutes. There was no way I could have done this in Jerusalem’s bustling marketplaces. The people around me rushed among the stands and storefronts in order to make it home or back to work as quickly as possible. Yes, I truly savored these moments of inactivity here at home.

It seems to me that we are all too busy much of the time. My time in Jesus’ homeland assured me that this is nothing new. Jesus experienced the same day in and day out. Though Jesus longed for a bit of peace, there was always someone who needed him more than he needed his rest. This is the reason Jesus rose very early and stole away for quiet time as often as possible. Jesus made it his business to care for others, and, once in a while, to care for himself.

The moral of the story is this: It is perfectly fine and truly necessary to acknowledge our fatigue. When we give in to our aching muscles or our aching psyches and rest, we replenish our spirits. It is in doing so that we find the energy and the will to care for the many others who need us.

Dear God, I am grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to remember that I occasionally need me as well.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Good God!

She had heard about Jesus and came up behind
him in the crowd and put her hand on his cloak.

Mark 5:27

A recent chance encounter revealed a shared experience of God’s presence in our lives. I discovered that my great-aunt Sister Gerard had taught this person many years ago. I knew that, above all else, Sister Gerard believed that God is good. My new friend had learned the same thing in Sister Gerard’s classroom. Sister Gerard first spoke this phrase to me more than five decades ago. My great-aunt was a dynamic and lively little nun! After spending much of her career teaching at a boarding school for boys, Sister Gerard shared, “I’ve taught convicts and bishops, lawyers, janitors and butchers and I love them all. God put them all into my life. God is good!” I listened happily as she shared stories about her teaching career and life among the sisters.

Eventually, bouts with cancer mandated her assignment to the sisters’ mother house. This kept her close to the hospital where she received treatment. Sister Gerard busied herself with visiting the elderly sisters, of whom she was one, during their hospitalizations. Through it all, Sister Gerard maintained her conviction regarding God.

At age ninety-two, Sister Gerard discovered that her final bout was a losing battle. She smiled at me from her sickbed as she admitted, “I was a little upset that God didn’t cure me this time around. Then, I thought about where I’m going and I thanked him! God is so good!” When my sweet aunt passed away, I imagined her dancing as she announced to all of heaven, “God is good!”

Good God, thank you Sister Gerard and all of the amazing people who share your goodness with the rest of us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Take Care of You

Whatever place does not welcome you
or listen to you, leave there and
shake the dust off your feet…

Mark 6:11

Every new year urges me to take stock of my life and to adjust as needed to make the most of every day. I know New Year 2018 is already 25 days old, but better late than never! This year, I once again acknowledge that I find it extremely difficult to shake the dust off my feet. I find peace in the familiar and I’m reluctant to change things when the status quo works. Still, just because things as they are function, I’m not necessarily making the most of the opportunities before me. What am I to do?

This propensity to stay connected to others is partially genetic and partially learned. My parents opened their door to everyone. My mom often said, “If people choose not to come in, it’s their loss.” Jesus welcomed everyone who crossed his path as well. So it is that I try to do the same.

Still, there are people and situations which aren’t necessarily good for us. They may not cause us physical harm, but they do take a psychological or spiritual toll. I find that if my gut is having a strong reaction to someone or something, I need to listen. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I need to completely remove myself from a given person or setting. However, it may mean that I should limit contact.

This may seem like an odd topic for a spiritual reflection, I know. However, I have good reason for sharing this. Sometimes, good people think that part of “being good” is to allow themselves to be hurt unnecessarily. I truly believe that God could not disagree more.

Dear God, keep us safe and wise. Help us to recognize harm and guide us away from its source.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

One Loving Act at a Time

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

Proverbs 31:20

While growing up, I had visions of grandeur regarding what I would do with my life. I wanted to solve the problems of the world. I wanted to end wars. I wanted to fight against prejudice and injustice. I wanted to end poverty. I wanted to work with special needs children. I wanted to teach. I wanted to become a nun. I wanted to become a nurse…

When things began to fall into place, the path before me became less cluttered. I learned to value the seemingly mundane callings which in reality make all of the difference in the world. A good person who deals fairly and kindly with those around her brings peace to our world. Generous couples who allow their love to spill over onto to those around them bring love to the world. Parents who nurture their children with their time and attention bring hope to this world. Caring for those we have been given to love is the most important work we can do.

The truth is that I still want to solve the problems of the world, to end wars and poverty and to fight against prejudice and injustice. This time around, I’m tackling each of these and more with one loving act at a time.

Dear God, when I wonder if I’m doing my loved ones or this world any good, you dispel my doubt with encouragement. Thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Anointed Ones

The Lord is the strength of his people,
the saving refuge of his anointed.

Psalm 28:8

Sometimes, it’s difficult to feel “anointed”. We sometimes consider ourselves to be just one of many regardless of the group we’re in. I come from a large family. My earliest memories include major family gatherings for the holidays, christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals. I grew up down the block from our church and numerous people passed our house on the way to Mass each week. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college where I tended to lines of customers all day long. When I married and began my teaching career, people of every sort continued to fill my life. There were times in each of these settings when I felt lost in the crowd. Then there were those other amazing times…

I’ve always been especially grateful for individual encounters with those around me. Whether a scheduled or haphazard meeting, it is during these precious moments together that I receive glimpses of many amazing souls. Most of them have no idea that they are contributing to my well-being and that of this world of ours simply by sharing their time. I take great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts and my appreciation of them as often as possible.

You know, God looks upon each one of us as an anointed one. This is the reason God sends us out to bless those around us and to bless this world with the gift of ourselves.

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us so much that you trust us to bring you into this world!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of You

Tell it to your children,
and your children to their children,
and their children to the next generation.

Joel 1:3

When my extended family gathered at our house over the holidays, we gathered at the table to play a new game. While we organized our play pieces and reviewed the rules, I ran upstairs to get a toy vacuum for my grandson. We’d settled down after our meal and it was good time for Danny to busy himself with cleaning up. On the way, I couldn’t resist pausing at our family picture wall. This collection includes photos from my childhood. Many of those pictured have passed away including my parents, sister and brother who have joined the heavenly host. Because I didn’t want to delay our game-playing, I left my reminiscing until I said my last good-byes that evening. After the family left, I returned to that wall to consider each one of my loved ones passed. Though I know that they’re all alive and well in another place, I miss their physical presence.

I stared longingly at the photos of so many who have “moved on.” Each one touched my life as no one else has or ever will. Each one, with his foibles and her imperfections, will never be replaced. Each one added something special to my life and to life on this earth which no one else will replicate or replace. I whispered a prayer of thanks for them all.

This New Year 2018, I will pray that we all become good souls who thrive in spite of our imperfections because we generously share ourselves and our gifts with one another.

Thank you, dear God, for the good souls who so creatively brighten our lives.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved