Be An Inspiration!

I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in my name.

From Zephaniah 3:12

The people and events around me have affected me quite tangibly all of my life. Though external forces never dictate my responses, they do provide the opportunity for me to react. This is the reason I enjoy walking outdoors so much. It seems that every aspect of Creation has something to say to me when I take the time to listen. When I walk indoors, those I pass unwittingly speak to me as well. Their smallest gesture, smile or grimace gives me something to think about. I’m so grateful for the inspiration I find in these interactions that I don’t leave them to chance. Every morning, I start my day with a passage from a favorite devotional. The featured writers who share themselves so generously fuel me for the day ahead regardless of their topics. When I cannot make the time to walk, these writers energize me as I start my day.

As you know, I express gratitude for the inspiration I find around me in my own writing. Some time ago, a dear friend encouraged me to get my writing “out there.” She insisted that my words fueled her spirit and that I could do the same for many others. Though I questioned my dear friend’s judgment, I listened. Now, I enjoy the inspiration in my life twice, once when it surfaces and once again when I share it with you.

Thank you, God, for the many awesome people who inspire me with their goodness and for the wonder of Creation which does the same. As we prepare for Christmas together, help each of us to use our unique gifts to inspire those you have given us to love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Advent of Joy

Love your neighbor as yourself.
From Matthew 22:19

As I strung lights around our Christmas Tree, I remembered my mom doing the same half a century ago. I loved watching her transform the year’s bare tree into our living room’s centerpiece. While perched on a small ladder, she placed ornaments strategically. Those that reflected most were hung near the brightest lights. Though we lived in a crowded flat, there was always room for that tree and the tiny village she’d fashion beneath it.

The Christmas I recall most vividly, our dad had passed away the previous July. Young as I was, I wondered how my mom found the strength to celebrate that year. In spite of the sadness which remained with us all of those months, my older sister Rita joined Mom in preparing special gifts for each of us. On Christmas Eve, our parish priests asked my brother to walk his wagon down to the rectory. Raoul returned with a beautifully wrapped package for himself and his five sisters. Who could have expected more? None of us did, but it came…

After Christmas dinner at home, we went on to Aunt Claire’s and Uncle Steve’s home to celebrate with our extended family. My aunt and uncle ushered us to their Christmas Tree for more gifts. Though all concerned knew that nothing could replace my dad, they did their best to emulate his love for us. Though I can’t name the gifts I received that year, I continue to feel the love offered which has sustained me for a lifetime.

In spite of the terrible loss my family experienced, those who loved us did their best to bring joy to that long ago Christmas. It seems to me that we observe Advent best when we do the same for one another.

Loving God, help me to bring joy to others in everything I say and do.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Fill The Void

On that day,
a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

Isaiah 11:1

Though the cold has set in, a squirrel appeared this morning to eat from beneath our bird feeders. The birds who feast high above drop a generous measure of seed onto the grass below. As a result, this determined squirrel has learned to scavenge plenty of food. His success is evidenced by his waistline. This particular squirrel is the chubbiest I’ve ever seen. Still, I don’t fault him a bit. The winter weather is here and Mr. Squirrel must prepare for the long haul.

As I consider that squirrel, I realize that his creativity in preparing for the enduring cold should inspire my own efforts as I prepare for Christmas. My lengthy to-do list, decorating and shopping make it difficult to find the time to reflect upon the reason we celebrate this season every year. Just as Mr. Squirrel has found a way to feed his chubby little body, I must find a way to nourish my soul. So it is that I will indulge in the generous measure of inspiration around me. The efforts of so many who care for those in need renew my faith in the goodness of humankind. Though my own efforts seem small, I guess they do add up after all -just like the birdseed that continues to fill up Mr. Squirrel!

Today and every day this Advent, may we all be encouraged by the goodness around us and may we all become a part of it. Wherever we find a need, let’s fill the void.

Loving God, thank you for the wonders of nature and the creativity of my fellow souls. They constantly remind me to do good wherever I can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Wrapped and Rapt With Love

“When he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20-21

We cherish our best friends. They know what is on our minds before we do. They can finish our sentences. They help us through the most difficult times of our lives and they share our greatest joys. The impact which a best friend has upon any of us is beyond words. That being said, I’m going to use my feeble words to share with you one of the greatest things my Best Friend has done for me…

I’ve often told those who are close to me that I truly appreciate the way Jesus of Nazareth asked us to live. I like Jesus’ acceptance of each of us for who we are and I like his command that we love one another. Jesus values humility and service and so do I. Most of all, I appreciate knowing that there is nothing I can do that is unforgivable in God’s eyes. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is among Jesus’ greatest gifts to me because it promises that God’s love is unconditional. It promises that God’s love is a constant offering to you and me. Though any one of us can spend an entire lifetime rejecting God’s love, God’s embrace awaits us just the same.

Loving God, did you know that these would be the words powerful enough to encourage all of humanity for a billion lifetimes? Did you know that these would be the words which I so desperately need to hear again and again and again?

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Beloved Servant

“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

Matthew 20:27

A recent walk past my wall of family photos brought Aunt Lucille to mind…

After raising her own children and becoming a widow for the second time, Aunt Lucille busied herself by caring for home-bound elderly people. She had a way with others and her “ladies” as she called them were no exception. One particular woman had been troublesome from the start. This was our opinion, NOT Aunt Lucille’s. The woman’s memory no longer served her which exacerbated her already trying personality. She was unkind and demanding at best. Still, Aunt Lucille made a point of discovering this woman’s favorite things and her pet peeves in an attempt to accentuate the positive and to avoid the negative as best she could. During the year Aunt Lucille cared for her, this woman became one of her most tiring and most beloved patients. When this woman passed away, Aunt Lucille attended her funeral.

The woman’s family was well-known and many notable people attended the service. When Aunt Lucille arrived early to insure herself a seat, she sat in the last row to avoid imposing upon anyone. Just before the funeral service began, the woman’s son noticed Aunt Lucille in the back of the church. He immediately walked back to her and escorted her to the family’s pew. “My mother loved you, Lucille. You’ve been a blessing to her and to us. Your place is here!” Needless to say, my aunt was overwhelmed by this recognition. That son’s kindness gave her a glimpse of God’s appreciation as well!

Loving God, help us all to put ourselves aside and to care for those we’ve been given to love with Aunt Lucille’s humility and generosity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Welcome, Neighbor!

“Love one another.”
From John 13:34

The other day, I watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with my grandsons. The show is well done and has been the source of many discussions between me and the kids. It elicited precious memories. Daniel Tiger is one of Fred Roger’s make-believe friends from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood which I watched with my own sons too many decades ago. That effort wasn’t wasted as I truly tried to emulate Mr. Roger’s welcoming ways in my own life. His wisdom inspired my efforts, especially throughout my teaching career…

My most frustrating experiences were the result of observing stubborn or mean-spirited adults who refused to welcome others into the moment at hand as a neighbor would: A teacher who misrepresented a student rather than admit an error; a principal who refused to support a teacher whom she simply didn’t care for; a lunch monitor whose demeanor was less-than-welcoming toward “those” kids; a custodian who took his time when certain teachers called for help. This list exists in one form or another in just about every human institution, I know. How much more we’d accomplish if only we’d welcome one another as Fred Rogers -and Jesus- suggested.

Luke’s gospel tells us that a hungry homeless man, covered with sores, died on a rich man’s doorstep. He might have survived if the rich man had only welcomed him in. Today, God asks us to take notice of those above us, those below us and those who walk at our sides. “Take notice and welcome them all,” God says.

Patient God, I sometimes fail to offer your welcome. Please help me to see everyone around me with your loving eyes and to respond to each one with your loving heart.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved