Back To The Basics… ABC…

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

Psalm 72:12

In just twenty-three days, Summer 2019 will begin. I’ve promised myself that, before the first leaves of Fall 2019 hit the ground, I will have made progress on my book. I’ve been on page 93 of that book for more than a year. And, yes, I’ve promised myself that I’d get back to it several times before. This time, I’m determined to keep this promise.

So it is that I’m going to revisit a favorite series of reflections. Some time ago, I used the alphabet to count the many blessings with which we’re gifted. Each letter designated one of the amazing ways God has enriched us all. Regardless of the troubles which beset us, God gifts us with just what we need to face them. In my case, reviewing this amazing list of treasures will give me the time to get to that book! If you’ve read these before, fear not. The editor in me will update each and every one! While making my way from A to Z, I’ll continue to post my longer reflections every Sunday.

Today, I begin again with A…

A is for Abundance. Each one 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’s up to us to appreciate our abundance and to share it generously with those we’ve been given to love. It’s also up to us to find and to acknowledge the abundance in others that they may do the same.

Loving God, help us all to respond to one another in our abundance and in our need.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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We Remember…

God loves the people,
and God adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149:4

Our Memorial Day observances honor those who gave their lives in service of this country. Whether drafted into service or enlisted by choice, each one fulfilled a mission. Though some wrestled with doubt, wondering if anything is worth dying for, we know the final outcome. They persisted for us. This weekend, thousands of flags decorate these heroes’ graves.

Today, we also remember our civilian loved ones. Though they didn’t endure the trials of battle, they endured the trials of this life. Whether our parent or spouse, our child, another family member or friend, we miss them. They also responded to their missions in this life and they completed them as best they could. At times, our loved ones achieved great success and their impacts upon our lives were sources of great joy. At times, they failed and their impacts were precisely the opposite. Still, we mourn those who have passed, sometimes because of their humanity and sometimes in spite of it.

There is something God-like about our remembering. When we reminisce, we tend to recall happy or amusing or glorious times shared. My dad died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his passing, this dear man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. I have no doubt that God agrees!
Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate the eternal joy of all who know that joy firsthand. There is something holy to be found as we relish our relationships with those whom we mourn. The selective memories which bestow sainthood upon our very human loved ones reflect the selective vision of God. Upon each of our arrivals home, God sees only a loved one who’s been away far too long.

Today, as we remember our military personnel and all of the loved ones who have lived their lives for us, let’s smile between the tears. God gives us good reason to rejoice for them all!

Loving God, be with all of our servicewomen and men today. Keep them and all of us safe until we return home to you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hear The Cry of the Poor

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
…the lives of the poor he shall save.

From Psalm 72:12-13

One of my favorite images of Jesus is Jesus The Teacher. I found great joy in my own teaching career and I’m pleased that Jesus and I have this vocation in common. I suppose the similarities end there as Jesus’ curriculum extended far beyond my own. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to turn to what I know best to ease myself and hopefully a few of you into a productive Spring 2019. I know. Spring began in March and summer will be here in less than a month. Still, I’m easing into spring because the cold weather distracted me from getting serious about this seemingly elusive season. Regardless, it’s time for me to get serious…

When I taught, I began every day by reviewing my lesson plans. The teachers who are reading with you know that the lesson plans they prepare provide their daily agendas. They include relevant page numbers and activities for various school subjects and blocks of time. Lesson plans keep all concerned focused on the given day’s priorities. I’m thinking that I’ll make better use of my days if I focus upon Jesus-the-Teacher’s priorities for me.

The passage above from Psalm 72 seems to be a good place to start. Jesus ministered to the poor in all of their forms. The world around you and me is filled with people who suffer equivalent woes. Jesus-the-Teacher might suggest that we plan our days to do the things we must and to reach out to the poor we meet along the way.

Loving God, help us to reach out to the poor among us as Jesus would.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love’s Work

…love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

From John 15:12-13

I admit to lots of anger over the suffering of those I’ve been given to love. Whether they are my own family members or children starving to death half a world away, I find it difficult to accept that there actually is nothing I can do to help. My frustration is amplified by my conviction that our problems can be solved if we consider them from a loving perspective. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky impossibility. Years of work with some tough youngsters taught me otherwise. When I approached a troubled student with sincerity and genuine concern, he or she sensed this and responded in kind.

What a different world this would be if we set aside our own pride and our own agendas for the good of others. It seems to me that we amass a treasure trove of goodness for ourselves when we put others ahead of ourselves. What a different world this would be if we did lay down our lives for one another! What a different world this would be if we each accomplished one good deed -instead of the opposite- every day!

Loving God, you gift each of us with the ability to make this world a better place. Help us to realize our potential and to make our positive mark as only we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Guide and Light The Way

The day after our granddaughter’s First Communion celebration, I woke with a smile. You see, Grandpa and I had spent Claire’s day with all of our family. Nothing brings Mike and me more joy! On this new day, we’d enjoy a bit more family time while babysitting for our grandsons. Because Grandpa would join me a bit later, I headed into the Monday morning traffic alone. Early risers who glutted the roads with me became unexpected allies along the way. Drizzle which greeted me as I pulled out of the garage quickly gave way to blue skies and sunshine. As I drove, I whispered a prayer of thanks for this new day, the cooperative drivers who shared the road with me, the prior day’s good times and the amazing people God has given me to love.

Later that morning, after our older grandson headed off to school, his parents drove off to work and before Grandpa arrived, our younger grandson took an early nap. I was grateful for the quiet as I had writing to do. Still, something -or Someone- urged me to use that quiet to replenish myself before tending to this reflection. I admit that I didn’t need to be nudged twice. I nestled into the recliner and contemplated closing my eyes. While offering another prayer of gratitude, this time for this unexpected bit of rest, the large picture above the fireplace caught my eye. Though I’ve often gazed at this rendering of a beautiful lighthouse, it spoke volumes to me that morning. This structure sits at the ocean’s edge with only one means of approach. A long wooden pathway with railings on both sides leads to a single door at the lighthouse’s base. It occurred to me that someone –Someone?– was very careful about seeing to it that all who approached did so safely without detour or delay. That pathway also allowed every visitor access to the amazing serene expanse which unfolded in every direction along the way. I wondered where that lighthouse is located because I’d like to visit it one day…

Much to my good fortune, my little grandson napped just long enough for me to jot down the first paragraph this reflection. Though I’m continuing this effort days later, that photo’s inspiration remains with me. It occurs to me that I have a good deal in common with those who walk the path to that lighthouse and to its benevolent occupant. Actually, you and I have something in common with every person into whom God has breathed life and who travels the path which lies ahead. Sometimes, we plod along with full appreciation of the beauty around us. When life is good, we’re happy to do nothing more than to draw in that goodness. Sometimes, pesky knotholes and loose boards make walking a serious challenge. We grab the railings on both sides to keep ourselves from falling. Sometimes, we’re so troubled that even that lighthouse’s mighty beam fails to light our way enough to urge us on. It is during these times that those on the path with us ease themselves between us and those wooden railings. They take hold of our hands to guide our uncertain steps. These hearty companions remain with us until we regain our footing and are able to amble along on our own. How often we too find ourselves serving as railings for other unsteady travelers!

John’s gospel (John 13:31-35) assures us that we also have something in common with Jesus and his closest friends. In this passage, Jesus offers indispensable words of encouragement to all who who turn to him to find their way. We return with Jesus to the Last Supper for this lesson. Jesus knew well what was about to happen to him and he was desperate to give his friends what they needed to make it through the trials which lay ahead. Like the railings on the pathway to that lighthouse, Jesus offered his friends something to hold onto along the way. Jesus had spent three years constructing that railing by teaching his friends how to care for those they were given to love. At their final meal together, Jesus repeated the essence of his message: “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer… Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Jesus had been there to support and guide their every step and he asked his friends to be there for each other and all who would share life’s pathway with them. Jesus asks us to do the same.

I’m happy to share that my path is leading me to another family gathering. This time, Grandpa and I participate as Deacon Mike and Mary. We’ll join our parish family for a very special weekend of celebration. Together, we’ll hear the first homilies delivered by our newly ordained deacons. Deacon Rod and Deacon Andy have prepared well for this and I know that they’ll do a wonderful job! Andy and his wife Kate and Rod and his wife Rita began this preparation more than four years ago. They adjusted their family lives and their work lives to accommodate diaconate training, to focus upon their spiritual journeys and to participate even more fully in parish life. All the while, they’ve remained at our sides. Throughout the years ahead, Rod and Andy will join our other deacons Ivan, Bob and Mike in leading the way. Sometimes, you and I will return the favor. Always, God will be with us until we make it home.

On this truly blessed occasion, I whisper another prayer of thanks…

Dear God, thank you for Andy and Rod who embrace their new roles among us. Thank you for their families who so generously share them with us. Thank you for calling them to be strong railings who will guide us along our way to you. Thank you for being present in the times ahead when we will step up to support them. Most of all, thank you for being that lighthouse who guides us and welcomes us home.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

This I Can Do!

Why must I go about mourning
with the enemy oppressing me?.

From Psalm 42:2

Once again, I allowed circumstances over which I have little or no control to upset me. A newscast fueled my frustration with the powers-that-be in this world of ours. “Do they really believe that this sort of posturing helps any of us?” I asked the television. A phone call from someone with a “church question” prompted me to voice my impatience regarding the many rules which fail to serve God’s people. “Is this what God wants?” I asked myself. Then I reviewed my to-do list which included far more than I could ever accomplish in a single day. “Now what?” I asked.

Before I edited my to-do list, a chirping chorus drew me to the window. Five robins had gathered at the foot of our bird house. They seemed to be hashing out just how to proceed in settling into this spring’s home. The robins ignored several squirrels who chased one another through the trees. They also ignored the rabbit who nibbled at seeds just a few feet away. Eventually, the robins seemed to have finalized their plan because they flew away, each in a different direction.

My feathered friends hinted a bit of wisdom regarding what I should do about the tasks at hand. I’ll always be concerned about the affairs of this world and I’ll pray fervently regarding them. I’ll even write letters to those who might listen. In the mean time, I will tend to the work at hand by setting aside the things over which I have no control. Then I’ll be free to embrace the opportunities to actually do something about the tasks close at hand. This I can do.

Loving God, thank you for directing my efforts through your creatures great and small.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved