Share Your Good News

“Let us move on to the neighboring villages
so that I may proclaim the good news there also.”

Mark 1:38

Though most people had made their Christmas returns days earlier, I waited. I’d purchased a little cash register for our grandson which would have been a duplicate gift. I didn’t have time to return it before Christmas and I’d forgotten to do so afterward. So there I was…

I enjoy people-watching perhaps more than shopping these days and that afternoon was no exception. While browsing, I observed a little boy and his mom. While his mother patiently urged him toward a checkout line, he skipped and wiggled and looked in every direction except hers. Finally, she patiently nudged him on once again. With that, the little boy announced, “You’re so mean!!” I couldn’t help noticing as that mom brushed a tear from her eye. She gently took her son’s hand and ushered him toward a check-out line.

Though I still hadn’t finished browsing before making my return, I couldn’t let this poor woman leave in her current state. I walked up to the checkout line where I waited behind her. I made a bit of small talk and then got to my point. I told her that my own sons had spoken similar words to me when they were her child’s age. I admitted that I responded with tears as well until I learned an important lesson from my wonderful neighbor. She’d taught me to respond with an “I love you” which apparently touched my kids. Both of my sons’ subsequent outbursts were few and far between. After thanking me for this bit of wisdom, the young mom smiled. As I walked away to take care of my return, I heard her telling that little guy, “I love you.”

Loving God, love is always the best response to our misdeeds. Thank you showing us the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Nurture Their Hope

God will be gracious to you when you cry out;
as soon as God hears, God will answer you.

Isaiah 30:19

While I walked the mall with my husband, a long line of children waited to see Santa Claus. We chuckled about our sons’ first visits with the jolly old elf. As we continued our shopping, I recalled a decades earlier visit with Santa that almost ended badly for one of my students.

The week after Thanksgiving, Ronnie told me that he was going to prove to his older brother that Santa Claus is real. Ronnie planned to tell no one what he wanted for Christmas except Santa. When Ronnie visited Santa during his family’s annual day-after-Thanksgiving trek to the mall, he whispered into Santa’s ear so his gift would remain a secret. I had hoped to catch Ronnie’s older brother in the hallway to let him in on Ronnie’s plan. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my intent until a few days after Christmas. Though I normally set aside school concerns during winter break to enjoy Christmas with my own family, that year I wondered often if Ronnie’s experiment ended well. Happily, Ronnie returned to school in January with a bigger-than-ever smile.

Not long afterward, Ronnie’s mom shared that her older son had discovered Ronnie’s plan. The entire family paid close enough attention to Ronnie and eventually discovered his Christmas wishes. With that, Ronnie’s hope in Santa Claus remained intact for another year.

Loving God, when I see doubt in others, bless me with the ingenuity that kept Ronnie’s hope intact that I may plant seeds of hope with everything I do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

‘Tis the Season…

Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O God, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 86:4

I can still smell the turkey. This is quite a phenomenon since we ate our son’s house yesterday. Still, in spite of the lingering aromas in my psyche, Thanksgiving Day is fading into memory. Some shoppers headed out before the leftovers were put away last night. Others left their beds in the wee hours this morning to take advantage of sales. Many who are working today will go directly to the mall afterward with the hope that their wish list items are still available. Overnight, the Christmas Shopping Season made its stealth entrance quite effectively.

If you haven’t given much thought to Christmas yet, don’t worry. Though today’s sales will make a dent in store inventories, those empty shelves will be filled again soon enough. Retailers will seek your contribution to the cause for the duration. In the mean time, I invite you to join me in letting go of the holiday frenzy and in reaching out for a measure of peace.

I’ve decided to tackle the tasks which lie ahead in small increments. I’m going to shop when I can, but NOT until I drop. I’ll save the rest for another day. My husband and I will decorate indoors and outdoors in the same fashion. We enjoy the Christmas Season best of all and we hope to have the energy to attend to every minute of it. In the process, we’ll avoid the weariness which comes with trying to do too much in too little time.

So it is that I invite you to join me in finding ways to remove just a bit of the hustle and bustle of the season from your life. I also invite you to enjoy the little things along the way. You truly deserve to do so!

Loving God, gift us all with a touch of your peace as we prepare the way to Christmas.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Christmas Remains

They carried to him all those afflicted…
He cured them all.

From Matthew 4:24

When I was a child, my family referred to this day as Little Christmas. January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany and we celebrated the arrival of the Magi at the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Wise astrologers that they were, the Magi followed signs in the night sky which pointed to the arrival of Israel’s new king. The Magi didn’t waste the opportunity to pay homage to this child who was destined for greatness.

Today, our Christmas Tree remains intact because my extended family will visit tomorrow for another holiday gathering. As I check to see if the tree’s needles will last another day, I realize just how reluctant I am to let go of the hope, promise and good cheer of Christmas 2016. Though most of us have returned to our pre-holiday routines, I hold onto as many remnants of Christmas joy as possible. I celebrate Little Christmas with memories of my siblings and me moving the three Wise Men closer and closer to our crèche until January 6 when we orchestrate their arrival. Still, recent losses remind me that some will never return to their pre-holiday lives because life has changed forever for them. I realize that this life will never be the same for any of us after this day, this hour and even this very moment.

Perhaps it’s a blessing that Christmas creeps into our shops and malls a few months early. That Christmas extends to Little Christmas is another happy circumstance. These reminders of Christmas are with us for good reason. When we keep Christmas in mind, thoughts of the birthday we celebrate cannot be far behind. When we remember the hope and promise which that tiny baby brought to this world, we remember God’s presence. God is with us to endure, to survive and to celebrate every moment, even the ones which change our lives forever. Whether these changes come with sorrow or joy, we live them with God at our sides.

Loving God, thank you for being with us in everything.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Feel The Love

O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the
secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet and lovely.

Song of Songs 2:14

While preparing for a Christmas gathering, I desperately tried to find places for items displaced by our Christmas decorations. Though my closet doesn’t have much room to spare, I looked for a useful nook. In the process, I bumped into a plastic container filled with a lifetime of mementos. Busy as I was, I allowed myself a very long minute to examine these treasures. I came across programs from the weddings of several loved ones. I couldn’t help smiling as I read the names of the maids of honor, best men and others involved. One of the programs included scripture readings which were shared that day. Among them, I found the passage from the Song of Songs cited above.

This particular passage is a favorite. Our friend Scott read these words at our wedding. My husband and I selected this reading because we were taken in by the painful longing this lover expressed for his beloved. What we did not fully appreciate is that the lover who spoke so passionately is the God of Israel who desperately sought to be reunited with the Jewish People. This Divine longing persisted for centuries and came to fruition in the gift of Jesus. On the first Christmas, God expressed this unrequited love face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the most tangible way possible. God expressed this love in the gentle cooing of the newborn baby who would spend his life convincing us all that God’s love for us is very, very real.

Loving God, thank you for your persistence. Today, busy as I am, I’ll slow down to bask in your love!

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Share Our Hay

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
…They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

From Isaiah 35:4-10

A recent trip to Target brought me back to my classroom where I joined my students in counting the days to Christmas vacation. Most of the children found nothing better than freedom from school schedules and homework. A mother in the toy aisle who seemed to be struggling with her Christmas budget brought to mind those children who dreaded Christmas vacation. They found comfort in the structure of our classroom where the expected almost always came to fruition. Their school lunch was often the best of their meals and our simple class parties were the best of their Christmases. More sadly, the lack of material treasures in their lives paled in the shadow of their lack of security. The adults around them, heavily burdened with their own troubles, didn’t have the luxury of detecting the hopelessness growing in their children’s eyes.

My thoughts wander to a child of long ago. While Joseph searched for a place where Mary could give birth, Mary focused upon the child within. When they finally settled among the livestock that night, perhaps Joseph arranged the hay in that manger while Mary labored. Though it wasn’t much, that warm hay provided the best bed Mary and Joseph could offer Jesus that night. Perhaps the best we can do for those in need around us is to provide them with our own variety of hay. Though it may not be much, our best is always enough to those in need and to God.

God of love, help me to comfort those who need you most with my own variety of hay.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved