Time To Be On Our Own

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

Ecclesiastes 3:5

My need for order in my life makes it unlikely that I’ll ever embrace the opportunity to “scatter” stones. I’m far more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows -depending upon their size. I’m even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important to us all and I cannot imagine ever situating myself far enough away from my fellow humans to preclude hugging.

As I wrote that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her death came to mind. When she drifted into a coma the day before, we knew that her time left could be counted in hours. Though we all had agreed to leave our mom for the night, I couldn’t bring myself to do so. I had stayed another forty minutes or so after my sisters left when I realized the error of my ways. You see, when our mom received her terminal diagnosis, she was very specific regarding where she would spend her last days. The underlying message was that she had no intention of breathing her last in any of our homes. She couldn’t bear to leave us with that memory. My presence at her bedside had obviously interfered with my mom’s intent. After kissing her one last time, I drove the thirty-minute ride home. About ten minutes after I arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave of this earth shortly after I’d left her.

Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces in order to deal with our most important work. In the end, there are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, be with me as I figure out when to embrace those you have given me to love and when to leave them in peace with you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Q… Quiet…

Be still, and know that I am God…
From Psalm 46:10

Q is for Quiet. Moments of quiet are amazing gifts. I relish the quiet around me. When I’m home alone, the television is off and other noisy distractions are scarce. I’m a master at creating a quiet environment. Still, this isn’t the best of the quiet I’ve experienced. I consider myself most fortunate when I experience that internal quiet where I encounter God.

This is the quiet that often comes in unexpected places and at unexpected times. As I struggled to write this afternoon, I realized that I needed a measure of quiet with God if I was going to produce anything worthwhile. I ventured outdoors to stroll around our yard. The sun shone brightly above me while a brisk breeze did its best to distract me. Oddly, though I could hear leaves rustling the entire time, I found precisely what I needed. In every flower my husband had planted and in every shrub I’d trimmed, I found quiet inspiration. Creation’s sound effects couldn’t keep this inner quiet at bay. Though I didn’t utter a single prayer as I absorbed the beauty, I knew God was listening to my every thought, breath and heartbeat.

Q is for quiet… that wonderful quiet in which I come to know God almost as well as God knows me.

Dear God, thank you for filling the quiet around me with your loving presence.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Healers Are We…

You are refuge for the poor,
a refuge to the needy in distress;
shelter from the rain and
shelter from the desert heat.

Isaiah 25:4

On this second day of Lent, I’m determined to keep my promise to bring healing to this world. My loved ones nearby and those God asks me to love on the other side of this world are in need of healing in some way. So it is that I’ll do my best to embrace every opportunity to heal.

This morning, I set aside a few minutes to consider how to proceed. Though I won’t be traveling to the suffering across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, I can do without a few things to contribute to our annual Lenten Rice Bowl effort for them. It’s my effort closer to home which causes me to be fidgety and uncomfortable. How can I heal the aching hearts around me? How can I heal myself? Like a shy child, I look upward in spite of my certainty that God resides within me. Like a shy child, I’m afraid to ask what God might expect of me. I’m making my simple commitment far too complicated.

After sitting for some minutes, fumbling for the courage to proceed, I finally settled down. As it happened, God nudged me into action as God always does. Encouragement came in the sunshine beyond my window which rested its warmth on me. God seemed to say, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. Just be yourself and be there for others. That’s good enough for me and it will be good enough for them. Healing will come!”

Dear God, who am I to question your faith in me? I will be there for others as only I can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Alone With God

But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to God in secret.

Matthew 6:6

My grandson recently celebrated his third birthday. Quite a lot has happened since he made his early appearance three years ago. He’s now a happy and healthy big brother who’s just begun preschool. Three years ago, when I was too frightened to predict any of this, I learned a great deal about prayer…

My elder grandson arrived long before his projected due date. There seemed to be little I could do to help his mommy and daddy through this trauma. Grandpa and I assisted here and there while Mom-to-be remained on bed-rest and Dad continued to prep their home for Baby. Still, I could do nothing about the very real possibility that this baby would arrive early, too early. Finally, I heeded Jesus’ suggestion in Matthew’s gospel. Though the house was empty, I retreated to my room to talk to the only One who could make a difference in all of this. In the quiet, I lay my troubles in God’s lap. Oddly, even before I knew the outcome, I felt reassured. In the end, God responded with more than I dared to hope for. Yes, that little boy is just fine!

You know, that trip to the quiet of my room made all of the difference that day so long ago. It reminds me that sometimes I need to steal away from the distractions around me to be alone with God. Though those worries about my grandson are old news today, other concerns require my attention. This time, I’m not wasting my time on worry. This time, I’m spending some precious private moments opening my heart to God.

Loving God, we pray in quiet and in the midst of this life’s chaos, always certain that you are listening.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Whispers of Peace

After the earthquake there was fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound…
God’s voice…

From 1 Kings 19:12

On our first day of touring, after visiting Caesarea, we went on to the Baha’i Gardens on Mount Carmel. I was anxious to see them because rainy weather had kept us from exploring the gardens during our first trip to Israel. The intricately tiled pathways were off-limits as they were too slippery for walking. This time, the weather cooperated and we explored the grounds freely. This worldwide home of the Baha’i Faith hosts thousands of pilgrims annually. Though the gardens before me were breathtaking, my thoughts turned to another temple I’d encountered decades earlier…

I attended college in the north-easternmost part of Chicago just south of Evanston. When venturing north, I caught glimpses of the Baha’i Temple there. This was one of the most peaceful places I’d ever encountered. I knew nothing of the Baha’i Faith, its rituals and prayer and I really had no desire to learn more. Still, I found that the space they’d created near the shores of Lake Michigan provided the perfect setting in which to empty myself of my concerns and to focus upon God. Though the structure’s huge dome was architecturally impressive, its furnishings were sparse. Perhaps this environment provided me a tangible to nudge to empty myself of the minutia which cluttered my psyche and my heart. That place proved to be quite conducive to prayer.

As I walked the Baha’i grounds in Israel, I marveled at their loveliness. I also marveled at the plethora of ways we humans have found to relate to God. I hoped that my own efforts to build “church” among God’s people induced a measure of the peace I’d found in that temple and deep within myself. I hoped and I prayed that this is, or soon will be, what I’ve done…

Faithful God, we need only to listen to hear your peace-filled breath. Help me to nudge others your way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time For Solitude

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
Ecclesiastes 3:5

My need for order in my life makes it unlikely that I’ll ever embrace the opportunity to “scatter” stones. I’m far more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows -depending upon their size. I’m even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important to us all and I cannot imagine ever situating myself far enough away from my fellow humans to preclude hugging.

As I wrote that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her death came to mind. When she drifted into a coma the day before, we knew that her time left could be counted in hours. Though we all had agreed to leave our mom for the night, I couldn’t bring myself to do so. I had stayed another forty minutes or so after my sisters left when I realized the error of my ways. You see, when our mom received her terminal diagnosis, she was very specific regarding where she would spend her last days. The underlying message was that she had no intention of breathing her last in any of our homes. She couldn’t bear to leave us with that memory. My presence at her bedside had obviously interfered with my mom’s intent. After kissing her one last time, I drove the thirty-minute ride home. About ten minutes after I arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave of this earth shortly after I left her.

Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces in order to deal with our most important work. In the end, there are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, be with me as I figure out when to embrace those you have given me to love and when to leave them in peace with you.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved