Time To Love? Always!

A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:8

Sometimes, circumstances around us and circumstances within our own hearts evoke feelings far removed from love. When violence and hatred touch those we care for or those who cannot defend themselves, it’s difficult not to feel hatred toward whoever is responsible. At the same time, we’re frequently amazed and inspired by victims who have been ravaged by the evil deeds of others and yet find it in their hearts to forgive. A few weeks ago, I referenced Corrie ten Boom, a Holocaust Survivor who found it in her heart to forgive her captors and to teach others to do the same. Corrie understood quite well that it is always time to love, even when it requires forgiving the seemingly unforgivable.

There is something deep within each of us which calls us to find God’s love in the moments of our lives. Though I cannot explain why some of us experience that love more tangibly than others, I am convinced that God’s love is there just the same.

It is suddenly clear to me that the most important purpose of my writing is to spread the word regarding God’s love for us and God’s presence in each of our lives. I’ve been inspired by the good hearts, words and actions of those around me all of my life. Hopefully, my words do the same for a soul or two who reads them along their way.

Loving God, each of us is called to touch this world with your love. Inspire us with whatever means necessary to do so.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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A Time To Be Free

God has made everyone appropriate to their time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Though I enjoy the revelry with which we begin the month of July, this page of the calendar also reminds me of significant losses in my life. The first is my dad who left us on July 4 six decades ago. We gathered at his sister’s wake on July 4 some years later. As I prepared to write a July 4 reflection during another year, a dear friend battled cancer.

It was June that year when news of John’s impending recovery spread among his family and friends. He was a good man and a good priest and his life made all of the difference in the world to each of us. This news elicited a collective sigh of relief from all concerned.

With this good news to inspire me, I headed to my computer to write that reflection and a letter to John. Poor John was a captive fan to whom I sent my reflections and a letter each week. We would observe July 4th in a few days and the holiday set my tone. I wished John a generous measure freedom. My litany began with “…freedom from illness, freedom to breathe in as deeply as you want to –with no pain! I wish you freedom from chemotherapy and I wish you hair! I wish you the freedom to get back to the people and the work you love and the freedom to come and go as you please.”

It’s unlikely that John read that letter because he returned to the hospital a day after its writing. His struggle to breathe had become too much. When pneumonia set in, John lacked the stamina to fight it. It was twenty years ago today that John embraced the ultimate freedom which we’ll all enjoy one day.

Loving God, as I remember John and all of those I’ve lost, touch the hearts of all who mourn with your peace.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Shepherds All

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Psalm 23:1

An unexpected conversation with an unexpected friend left my heart heavy with compassion for this suffering person. A loved one is critically ill and the only consolation I could offer was my promise to pray for him. As I walked away, I began my prayer. “Dear God, give them strength,” I begged. Though my own sons, their wives and our grandchildren are happy and well these days, I’ve experienced enough health scares in their regard for me to understand this person’s pain too well. So it was that I reached for the image of our loving God which consoles me most when I am in asking mode: The Good Shepherd.

I prayed on… “Where would I be today, Lord, if I had not been in your care through the trauma of my own life? Sometimes, you came out of nowhere to assure me of your presence. You came in the kindness of your servant-shepherds who kept hope alive for me. Please, do the same for my friend and that family today.”

Truly, no one would be where he or she is today if not for God’s relentless love and care. Sometimes, this comes in our own awareness of God’s presence. Sometimes, that care comes in the efforts of the shepherds God has asked to care for us. Each instance of nurturing feeds our hope and empowers us to carry on. What an awesome responsibility and privilege it is for us to do the same for one another!

Good Shepherd, be with us as we share your nurturing ways through our loving care for one another .

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Y… Yearning!

My soul yearns and pines for the Lord.
My heart and my soul cry out for God.

Psalm 84:3

Y is for Yearning. Sometimes, only God will do.

After retiring from his first career as a school principal, my husband worked as a hospice chaplain. This work touched him deeply. Though we consider ourselves to be “God-aware” people, this experience brought new depth in this regard to both of us. Mike observed often that, when a patient seemed to have lost every means of communication, he or she somehow managed to acknowledge prayer. Whether by squeezing a hand, blinking an eye, smiling ever so slightly or whispering an “amen”, even those closest to death became present when it was time to pray. Some patients rapt in comas seemed to breathe more calmly when those around them prayed. When all else was said and done, God remained present to each one.

Though most of us are not in need of hospice care at the moment, we are all in need of God. When no one else comprehends our suffering, it is God who experiences every detail of it with us. When we cannot mouth a single word, much less breathe without shedding more tears, God understands our situations completely. God is with us -ALWAYS!

In times of suffering, when I’m certain that no one understands my heartbreak, I feel completely alone for only a millisecond. If I pay attention, I realize within that instant that God is with me. Yes, sometimes, only God will do. Always, God will do!

Merciful and loving God, thank you for satisfying my yearning with your presence.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

X… X-Ray!

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

From Psalm 55:5

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

I’ll never forget this particular meeting of a college theology class. Though we dealt more with dogma than with faith experiences, a distraught classmate couldn’t help seeking guidance from our “God-centered” gathering. When the professor allowed this student to elaborate, he observed that his dilemma resembled what John of the Cross termed a dark night of the soul. As the discussion continued, the entire class became involved. We agreed that our classmate was indeed likely immersed in the closest thing to a dark night of the soul that any of us had ever seen. We and our professor also agreed that our support at the moment was far more important than attending to the course syllabus that day.

You know, there are many suffering souls nearby. Unfortunately, the rest of us remain unaware because we don’t have the time or the wherewithal to take a closer look. We can’t peek into the hearts of strangers who wait in line with us at the market or the hearts of our own family members or friends. 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 be 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 to this point, we leave the response to God. God will give us the words to help. After all, God sees what lies deep within us all more clearly than x-ray vision ever will.

Compassionate God, help us to see one another and to respond to one another with your loving eyes.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

P… Peace!

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of God’s gifts, I savor God’s peace most of all. During the most difficult times of my life, I’ve been at least faintly aware of a measure of peace deep within me. In spite of the troubles at hand, I’ve felt convinced at some level that circumstances would evolve for the best. While I made my own ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer in the process, peace eventually eased its way to the surface. Eventually, I accepted that I could only do what I could do and that I had to leave the rest to God.

This had always been the case until some months ago when events beyond my control overwhelmed me. I’ve almost let go of my angst on many occasions and I’ve happily embraced God’s peace every time. Then, a seemingly inconsequential comment or encounter nudged me back in time. The good news is that these relapses are far less frequent. The rest of the good news is that I’ve realized once again that letting go of the past frees me to embrace God’s peace more fully.

You know, I can infuse some level of peace into every moment I’m given. I can begin by taking a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to flow from my lips. I can glance upward and within before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. I can begin every day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to erupt. Yes, I can bring God’s peace to this world with a bit of well-placed effort.

Compassionate God, help us to let go of our worries and so we can embrace your peace at every opportunity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved