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

Our Friends Above

The souls of the just are in the hand of God…
From Wisdom 3:1

Before sitting at my keyboard today, I walked. As I grabbed my jacket, I heard raindrops tapping on the window. “Thank God for hoods,” I said as I headed out the door.

I don’t mind walking in the rain. My willingness to endure downpours great and small bolsters my sense of well-being. Walking in the rain also offers a unique perspective to which I’m usually not privy. Everything looks different in the rain. The sky exhibits great character. Who knew that there were so many varied shades of gray? Trees glisten far more subtly than they do in sunlight and far more beautifully, too. Dirty cars look newly waxed and sewer caps shine. Today, our neighborhood birds became nearly silent which allowed me to hear drops of rain falling into the pond I passed. I also heard individual drops as they pelted my hooded head.

As I walked further, I considered my loved ones who’ve passed away. This is All Souls Day and we celebrate the amazing souls who have touched our lives before moving on to the hereafter. With each loss, raindrops fell from my eyes on days much like this one. In spite of their absences which still pain me, I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for each one. I also prayed on their behalf that they enjoy the unique perspective that comes with a home in heaven. As I continued my walk, I felt quite certain that my loved ones were reminiscing as well.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of this life and the new life that will follow.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Forgive and Heal…

His father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

Forgiveness is a tough topic. Forgiveness is multifaceted. It includes giving and receiving forgiveness from others and giving and receiving forgiveness from ourselves. Though I once thought forgiving others is the tough part, I’ve discovered that receiving the forgiveness of others is difficult as well. Most difficult I think is accepting forgiveness from myself. When I accept forgiveness from anyone, I acknowledge that I’ve done wrong. This isn’t easy…

I’ve wrestled with forgiveness since childhood. As a child, I judged myself. This judgment was harsh and final. Because I viewed myself this way, it was difficult to accept that anyone else would view me more lovingly. It was only when I looked to Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son that I finally understood. That young man’s father echoed what God has spoken to each one of us since we took our first breaths: Silly child! I canceled your entire debt long before you turned my way for forgiveness. Dear child, deal as mercifully with yourself as I deal with you. Deal as mercifully with your sisters and brothers as I deal with you! Forgive and be healed!

Jesus’ parable says it all. We are a much-loved and generously forgiven people. With that knowledge in hand, God invites us to for give when necessary and to heal one another and this world as only we can!

Loving God, thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

X is for X-Ray

My heart quakes within me;
terror has fallen upon me.

From Psalm 55:5

X is for X-ray. Sometimes, we need x-ray vision to get to the bottom of things.

During a college theology class, a distraught classmate sought guidance from our “God-centered” gathering. Though it was off-topic, the professor allowed his student to elaborate. When my classmate took a breath, the professor referenced John of the Cross’s “dark night of the soul.” The professor felt that this student’s situation was uncomfortably similar to the trauma experienced by the saint. Though this young man didn’t know much about St. John, he appreciated the professor’s willingness to take his dilemma seriously. As the discussion continued, the entire class became involved. We agreed that our classmate was likely immersed in the closest thing to a “dark night of the soul” that any of us had ever seen. We also agreed that our support at the moment was far more important than attending to the course syllabus that day. Recently, when I found myself in my college classmate’s shoes, I was most grateful that those who love me set aside their syllabus in order to take care of me.

You know, there are many suffering souls nearby. The problem is that most of us are unaware because we don’t have the wherewithal to take a closer look. We can’t peek deep within the strangers who wait in line with us at the grocery store or within our own family members for that matter. Because we can’t x-ray one another’s souls, we miss a lot. This is where my professor’s example comes into play. First, we need to make ourselves approachable. Replacing a cranky scowl with a smile goes a long way. Second, we need to set aside our own agendas. Problems don’t arise in accordance with anyone’s syllabus. They just happen. Finally, we need to listen. When we get this far, leave the response to God. God will give us the inspiration we need to help. After all, God sees what lies deep within us all far more clearly than any x-ray will.

Compassionate God, help us to see one other with your x-ray vision and to respond to one another with your love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

V is for Vision

O God… doer of saving deeds…
From Psalm 74:12

V is for Vision. This reference has nothing to do with my ability to see the world around me. The vision to which I refer is that internal sense of direction which guides each of us when all else fails. Though I’ve weathered some difficult events and losses in my own life, these things pale in the shadow of the suffering which others endure. I can’t help being amazed as those around me cope with their circumstances. Though situation after situation promises only the most dire outcome, these suffering souls proceed and endure with hope and grace.

As I consider my own life, I know that each incidence of survival was transformed into triumph by God whom I somehow managed to find deep within me. Though I could see no end to the suffering on the surface, I also knew better days lay ahead. Somehow, I could see that all would be well in God’s time. Those who have shared their stories with me are absolutely convinced that they completed their journeys through suffering unscathed only because they remembered that God was with them all the while.

V is for Vision, our vision of our Ever-loving, Ever-merciful and Ever-caring God who walks with us through every single thing. Even when that vision is blurred by our tears, God remains at our sides.

Loving God, thank you for remaining with us, even when we fail to open the eyes of our hearts to you. Make us ever-aware that you are here.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

M is for Mercy

While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him and was deeply moved.
He ran out to meet him,
threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

M is for Mercy. Of all of the characteristics Jesus exhibited, I find mercy to be the most powerful. Jesus taught mercy masterfully through his interactions with others. He underscored these lessons with his unconditional love for those whom he met along the way. Jesus solidified all of this with the endearing image of God which he offered in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. If any of us question our ability to be lovingly and mercifully forgiven, this story dispels all doubt…

In Jesus’ community, a request for an early inheritance insulted a parent gravely. The offending child essentially demanded, “Behave as though you’re dead so I can have my money.” According to the parable, in spite of his son’s selfishness and disregard for his feelings, that father gave his son what he asked. The son responded by leaving town and squandering every cent. When he was left to find work tending swine, the young man had reached rock bottom. In the end, he realized his wrong-doing and returned home to work for his father as a servant. He knew he was unworthy and undeserving of anything more. As the passage from Luke tells us, this father would have none of it. At the sight of his son, mercy and love filled up the man and spilled out onto this child whom he welcomed home with an embrace.

Though Jesus revealed God’s love for us in everything he said an did, Jesus revealed God’s essence in this simple story of mercy.

Merciful God, your willingness to forgive us everything and to love us in spite of it all is more than we could ever have hoped for. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved