Rx: Rest As Needed

Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

Psalm 98:4

Whenever we find the time, my husband and I drive north to our favorite getaway, a little log cabin in the woods. Though we always leave plenty of work behind us at home, we give in to these much-needed opportunities to relax. Though I always volunteer to share the driving, I’m grateful that my husband usually doesn’t take me up on my offer. It is then that I sit back and enjoy the view beyond my window. Nature never disappoints. In spite of the almost-three-hour drive, we’re surprisingly refreshed when we arrive.

Though we intend to relax, as soon as we settle in, we often tackle projects which we didn’t get to during prior visits. It’s amazing that we usually make at least twice the progress we would have made on similar projects at home. In the end, we laugh at how little we actually rested. Still, we always feel much better than we did before we left home. On one such occasion, my husband observed, “Maybe we don’t mind all of the work at the cabin because we don’t have to do it. We do it because we want to.” How right he is!

Though we can’t pack up and drive north whenever we feel like it, we can all take much-needed breathers. Whether for five minutes or a few hours, we all deserve our rest. Just ask God about that seventh day of creation!

Gracious God, thank you for sharing your joyful Spirit with us. Give us the wisdom to take the time to revive our spirits as often as needed.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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A Little Change

“These works that I perform testify on my behalf
that God has sent me.”

From John 5:36

I reluctantly admit to my childhood impatience with the behavior of Jesus’ contemporaries. Because it was so obvious to me at age ten or eleven that Jesus’ lessons, parables and works had to have come from a loving God, I wondered why it was so difficult for the Pharisees to accept them. They knew that all of Israel awaited the Messiah. Foreign astrologers who recognized the sign in the night sky over their own country traveled to faraway Jerusalem in search of Jesus. It seemed to me that, in spite of everything, the Pharisees and many others should have known better than to reject Jesus.

Sadly, I acknowledge that times haven’t changed much. Though we see all that Jesus accomplished from his humble state, we work to accumulate riches. Though we see that Jesus needed no worldly authority to serve us, we vie for power just the same. Though Jesus sought the company of outcasts, we prefer those of higher stature regardless of the condition of their character. Though Jesus set aside his own concerns whenever he was needed, we take care of our own needs first. Though Jesus sought out time for prayer at every opportunity, we complain when our worship service seems dull or a homily lasts too long.

Though times haven’t changed much, there is still time for me to change for the better. There’s still time for all of us to change for the better.

Good and Patient God, I continue to allow my human frailties to keep me from nurturing my better self. Please help me to change me and the ways of this world so they reflect you a bit more accurately.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

D… Depth!

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me and I will make you fishers of people!”

Mark 1:17

D is for Depth. I’ve often wondered if Jesus appreciated the irony of the situation when he called Simon and Andrew to follow him. They were already experts regarding what lay beneath the surface. After all, they were successful fishermen. Still, Jesus asked them to cast their nets into much deeper waters. Jesus asked them to set their sights upon fellow souls…

It seems to me that I deal best with the challenges before me when I look beneath the surface as well. Many things aren’t as they seem. Just as Simon and Andrew made a science of studying the waters to determine where best to cast their nets, I must study the circumstances and people around me before casting a word or deed in their direction. When a quick response is necessary, I rely on God to guide me just as Jesus guided his followers. However, when I’m blessed with the time to plan ahead, it’s up to me to use that time well.

Depth… Of all of God’s gifts, I think I truly appreciate the understanding of another soul. What a gift it is when someone delves beneath the surface to discover what actually makes me tick! What a gift it is when I care enough to allow another to share the depths of his or her spirit with me!

Dear God, you understand us to depths of our cores. Help us to cast our nets with care as we seek to discover the gifts deep within all of those you have given us to love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Who Made Me Do What?

“…the Holy Spirit whom God
will send… will tell you everything.”

From John 14:26

I admit that some of today’s television offerings are a bit too much for me. Daily newscasts frequently dishearten me. This reality makes me reluctant to tune into fictional versions of the same. So it is that when I find myself in need of a departure from reality and am too tired to read, I turn to reruns. One station offers an amazingly endless selection of my long-ago favorites.

The other day, in the midst of such a retreat, I dozed off. I awoke to someone saying, “Why did I do that? What made me do it?” Though I had no idea of what I was watching, my groggy thoughts turned to Flip Wilson. I was in college (Yes, a long time ago!) when his comedy show aired. At the time, most people were aware of his classic assertion, “The devil made me do it.” The comedian had coined this line while portraying Geraldine in one of his most beloved character skits. Though Flip Wilson was popular, this line became even more so. At the time, regardless of what one was accused of, announcing “The devil made me do it!” was expected to absolve us of any responsibility for our wrongdoing. Though this didn’t actually work in most instances, a similar phenomenon seems to work every time.

Whenever I’ve found myself faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, something has nudged me in the direction of a solution. In these instances, there was never a logical reason for me to do what I did. Still, I did it because something from within nudged me. When I look back upon these events, I realize that I managed to survive what could have been devastating circumstances. When asked to explain, I can only respond, “The Spirit made me do it!”

Loving God, thank you for your presence which guides us through our troubles and opens us to your joy.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

He Walked On Water

When the disciples saw him walking on water, they were terrified.
“It is a ghost!” they said, and in their fear they cried out.

Matthew 14:26

Our guide Yossi is not only an excellent teacher of Israeli life and an accomplished musician. He is also an archeologist who has earned a doctorate in biblical religions. All of this contributed to the wealth of information he shared along the way. The day we sailed the Sea of Galilee was no exception.

After reading Matthew’s account of this middle-of-the-night encounter, Yossi explained that far more was going on here that meets the eye. The original passage indicates that the disciples saw something which touched them to their cores. The Hebrew word for that something can mean either “ghost” or “spirit”. Yossi maintains that the disciples saw Jesus very differently as he moved toward them. They saw not a ghost, but God’s Spirit emanating from their master. Suddenly, they knew that Jesus was much more than an itinerant rabbi who had given them a new view of the scriptures, of life and of their God. If they had no inkling up to this point, their eyes were certainly opened during the wee hours of that morning on the Sea of Galilee..

I’ve puzzled over the scriptures since I was a little girl. Back then, my only resources were my own imagination, my patient mother and teachers and our parish priest who clarified things for me as best they could. Today, we have numerous resources to help us along our scripture-reading way. That day on the Sea of Galilee, I happily accepted Yossi’s explanation. It made perfect sense for Jesus to share his essence with his closest friends. Why wouldn’t they see God’s Spirit within him? When I pay attention, I discover that Jesus reveals the same for me in amazingly simple, yet important ways.

Loving God, thank you for revealing yourself in ways I can sometimes understand.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Guides Our Way

Last weekend, my tired husband and I drove north for some much-needed rest. Oddly enough, as we packed the car, I realized that resting would be our least likely activity during this time away. In addition to his duffel bag of clothing, Mike filled the car with a flat of marigolds, his drill and a new curtain rod. He felt certain he’d find the time between naps to beautify our little cabin both inside and outside. Because Mike would be busy with his to-do list, I brought along our laptop and my writing resources with the hope of getting a head start on this reflection. Since inspiration normally flows freely when I’m in the midst of nature, I assumed that I’d be finished in no time. This is the reason I also brought our Israel trip photos and two empty albums. Since my husband’s projects often take him longer than he expects, I knew I’d get to those albums. “It’s about time!” I told myself.

As it happened, the weather in Wisconsin was perfect. We walked our entire neighborhood while listening to chirping birds and enjoying the scents of springtime which filled the air. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch at the cabin and then joined the locals at our favorite eateries for dinner each night. We tackled our self-assigned chores between excursions to Oxford, Portage and Montello. It was the morning of our last full day away when I realized that I hadn’t given thought to filling this space. While Mike planted his marigolds, I reread today’s scripture passages and sat at the laptop to work. Much to my dismay, Mike finished planting, sprayed our driveway for weeds and cleaned our screened porch while I edited and re-edited the same miserable paragraph. I finally acknowledged that inspiration had escaped me. Rather than struggling further, I turned to that stack of neglected photos and began to fill the first album.

When Mike came inside a while later and saw me elbow-deep in photos, he congratulated me for finishing my writing. I didn’t correct my dear husband because I’d completely forgotten my failed attempt to fill this page. I’d returned to Israel and that was all that mattered at the moment. Every photo carried me back to that place which had become my home away from home. Every photo brought a measure of the tangible peace which I’d encountered there. I credit our wonderful guide for this. Each time Yossi revealed one of Israel’s treasures, it was as though he was introducing a dear friend. Yossi’s eyes brightened and his emotion peaked as he described the venue or artifact or landscape before us. Though most of what I encountered in Israel amazed me, it was Yossi’s ongoing commentary which gave meaning to what I saw and which touched me most deeply. This alleged secular Israeli had revealed the Holy Land’s gifts with clarity, passion and absolute love for their Source.

After thoroughly enjoying that return visit to Israel which our photographs afforded me, I offered a prayer of thanks for the peace I’d found there. Though I’d struggled with the miracle of that first Pentecost a few hours earlier, suddenly everything had become clear. I returned to our laptop and read the scripture passages once again. Of course, Yossi-the-Guide came to mind. I wouldn’t have appreciated all that I’d encountered in Israel if Yossi hadn’t pointed out and explained what I saw. Yossi enriched my understanding of the things which were already a part of me while also inspiring me with new knowledge regarding much more. I admit to turning my eyes upward to prayerfully acknowledge the obvious regarding today’s feast. You know, the disciples received equally diligent guidance along the way. Jesus didn’t leave them to wander aimlessly through the uncharted territory which lay ahead. After he’d taught them well through his words and his example, he did more. To ensure that the best was made of his lessons, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide the disciples as they continued his work. Fortunately for us all, Peter and the rest took the Spirit’s guidance to heart. They did this with such passion that those around them couldn’t help listening. Those who took the disciple’s message to heart responded in kind by generously sharing this guidance with one another.

On this Pentecost Sunday, I celebrate the precious gift of God’s presence in our lives. God has put heart and soul into guiding humankind since the beginning of time. This effort continued through Jesus just as it continues within each one of us today. If I had ignored Yossi’s wisdom, I would have missed the Holy Land’s treasures. If I had ignored the stack of photos I toted to Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have rediscovered the peace I’d found there. If I’d ignored the guidance God infused into that photo opportunity, this page would be blank today. God’s guidance is always ours. We need only to open our hearts to find it.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved