Loved Just As You Are

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God in heaven give to those who ask!”
Luke 11:11-13

When I came across this passage from Luke’s gospel, a long-ago encounter with someone very dear to me came to mind…

I still recall my heartache as my friend sobbed that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow that had filled her life. My friend ended this monologue with more tears. I waited some time for her tears to run out. When she had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad to be with her and that I loved her. After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thanks.”

I was extremely grateful when my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold anything against you. You lived through some tough times and I understand what drove you to do what you did. You know what else? My opinion doesn’t matter. God’s does. If I can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of this for you. God never ever gives up on you! God doesn’t give up on any of us!”

I think my friend believed me because I left her smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear that smile in her voice. That smile lasted for a very long time…

Thank you, loving and merciful God, for loving each one of us so completely.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Forgiven and Always Loved

God says, “From the least to the greatest, you know me.
I forgive your evildoing and remember your sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:34

My husband spent the afternoon searching for flowers to plant around our yard. Armed with mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and the resolve to social distance, he enjoyed a safe and productive afternoon. I took advantage of the quiet house by sitting at my keyboard to write. Sadly, I wasn’t as productive as Mike. Before beginning, I glanced at photos from my childhood which rest inches above my keyboard. Rather than offering my usual reminiscent smile and then getting to work, a recent bit of self-doubt turned my thoughts to a painful aspect of that childhood.

When I was little, I was a bit too sensitive. I was no less innocent than most children, yet I took even the smallest reprimand to heart. Though the adult involved quickly forgot whatever I’d done, my guilt remained with me. All of this was my own doing. My parents never belittled my siblings or me. Though a teacher may have given me reason to question my ability to be forgiven on occasion, this wasn’t the norm. I eventually came to understand, at least mentally, that those who love us don’t hold grudges. It was my own propensity to retain guilt which caused my angst. These decades later, this tendency remains to some extent. So it was that my self-doubt prevailed until I remembered the words from Jeremiah which I cite today.

This and numerous other passages reference God’s forgiveness. Each one assures us of God’s absolute love and God’s absolute inability to be separated from any one of us. Though we try to run away, God remains with us and within us. Neither we nor anyone else can impose enough guilt upon us to repel God. For this, I’m most grateful!

Loving God, help us to let go of our guilt as quickly as you do. Only then will we be free to embrace your love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

For Me?

O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion,
wipe out my offense…
wash me from my guilt…

From Psalm 51:3-4

I’m often told that I have a selective memory. The worst of my personal history lies very deep within me. The best of it glows in a rose-colored aura that attests to the many blessings -mostly in the form of people- which have made me who I am today. Occasionally, something unexpected jars one of those dark recollections which would be best left forgotten. Though the transgression which comes to mind has long since been forgiven and forgotten by both my victim and my God, I dwell on it until my guilt peaks and I can’t bear it any longer. Only then do I bury this reminiscence once again with the hope that I’ve buried it deep enough this time…

There is some good news here. Since I began writing these daily reflections, I’ve felt increasingly obliged to practice what I preach. If I write of God’s merciful love for others, I’d better believe that this love is meant for me as well. If I write that the transgressions of others are forgiven and forgotten in a millisecond, I’d better believe that forgiveness is also mine.

Dear God, I know that these wonderful gifts are meant for me, too. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

On My Way…

Dearly Beloved, we are God’s children now…
From 1 John 3:2

I decided to use a free afternoon to clean and organize my desk. I admit that I need to do this far more frequently than most people. Apparently, I find it impossible to part with a good quote, allegedly important notes or an inspiring story. This time, I found a wrinkled page of notes which summarized something I’d read about St. Therese of Lisieux a long time ago…

Therese who is lovingly referenced as The Little Flower didn’t always merit that designation. Poor Therese realized this at the ripe old age of thirteen. It was then that Therese realized the selfishness of her ways. Poor Therese was the youngest in her family and she was prone to tantrums whenever things upset her. It was Christmas Eve when she overheard a life-changing comment from her father. He suggested to Therese’s sisters that they get through Christmas Eve as quickly as possible so they could be finished with Therese’s outbursts for the day. Sadly, poor Therese had no idea that she’d caused so much pain for the people whom she loved most in this world. It was within minutes of hearing her father’s frustration wit her that Therese resolved to change her ways.

Year’s later, Therese described this event as her “Christmas Conversion”. It was from that moment on that Therese began to live according to what she later called her “Little Way.” Through all of this, Therese realized that God loved her just as her family had loved her in spite of herself. As a result, Therese spent the remainder of her short life convincing others that God loves them just as completely.

I admit that I stopped cleaning my desk long enough to considered my contributions to the world around me. Is “Mary’s Way” as honorable an endeavor as Therese’s had become? This gave me quite enough to think about as I finished cleaning my desk…

Loving God, you love us and you forgive us everything. This new year, be with us as we work on our own little ways of doing good.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Best Teacher

My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.

Psalm 78:1-

Before we began a recent visit with our granddaughters, each one had a few minutes of homework to complete. Though the fifth grader’s word study page was easy-peasy, the seventh grader’s math threw me. Fortunately, she understood precisely what to do. The third grader’s math involved place value which, fortunately, hasn’t changed since I taught third grade. I secretly wished I could sit in on a class with any of my granddaughters, especially that seventh grader!

Early in my teaching career, I developed the skills I needed to reach my students. I began by getting the attention of my students. I then kept their attention by making what I had to say interesting and understandable. Finally, I gave them reason to remember what I shared.

Perhaps this is the reason Jesus repeated his lessons through his parables. When I doubt that I’m loved, I recall the parables of The Good Shepherd, The Pearl of Great Price and The Lost Coin. In each one, everything is set aside in order to pursue that which is lost. The message? Regardless of where I hide, God does whatever it takes to watch over me and to love me. When I doubt that I can possibly be forgiven, I recall the parables of The Prodigal Son, The Unjust Judge and The Friend at Midnight. The message? Regardless of how the world responds to my guilt, God always looks beyond what I have done to embrace me and to encourage me to be begin anew.

It seems to me that Jesus’ effort was well placed. Jesus’ lessons regarding God’s mercy and patience, forgiveness and love will remain with me always.

Generous God, thank you for gifting humankind with such a great teacher. Help us to take Jesus’ lessons to heart.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Lights Our Way

Little children,
let us love in deed and in truth…

From 1 John 3:18

A storm is brewing just beyond my window. It was once an odd phenomenon to hear the local television meteorologist speak of the possibility of snow. After all, we’ve just turned our calendars to November! Unfortunately, the meteorological antics of Halloween 2019 seem to have changed that forever. Though she offers encouragement with a promise that sunshine will return tomorrow, this weather expert cannot dispel the gray which lurks beyond my window today. Though I do enjoy the cold, I enjoy sunshine as well.

It occurs to me that, on occasion, my knowledge of human nature fails me as much as the weather does. I sometimes ignore this wisdom and “push buttons” that would best be left alone. Though I know well what will come next if I attempt to have the last word, I speak in spite of myself. When the thunder in my adversary threatens, I push when I should let go. I forget to let love take care.

Like raking leaves after a windstorm or shoveling snow after a blizzard, I make feeble attempts to right the things I’ve done wrong. Sometimes, I succeed. Sometimes, the damage is too extensive to repair. As I reaffirm my resolve not to repeat these transgressions, the sun breaks through the clouds. God remains with me as I transform my good intentions into good deeds.

Patient God, help me respond to every storm with rays of love, just as you do.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved