A Lifetime of Second Chances

God created us in God’s image…
God looked at everything God created and found it to be very good.”

From Genesis 1

The treasures I recall from my childhood include our children’s bible. This huge book consisted of cardboard front and back covers which held together several small booklets. A new booklet arrived in the mail every month. Each time, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the new booklet and then replaced the cover. Afterward, my sisters and I poured over this newest addition where colorful pictures adorned every page. When we were finished, I always returned to the first booklet’s story of Creation, Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. Eden looked amazing to me, at least as grand as heaven. “Why,” I often asked myself, “would Adam and Eve turn away from God who gave them so much?”

Life in this troubled world of ours answers that question every day. It’s lucky for us that God never returns the favor when we walk away. God simply watches with great expectations as we feebly do our best to make things right again. God also waits with arms outstretched for our return.

A friend recently shared a story from his childhood which illustrates this point. My friend was about twelve years old when he’d made a mess of a small chore. His ever-patient mom offered him the opportunity to try it again. My friend was so encouraged by his mother’s faith in him that, the second time around, he completed the task perfectly. My friend shared this story to make a point. “You know,” he said, “God gives us all a lifetime of second chances just like my mom!” I couldn’t agree more.

Generous God, thank you for the second and third and twenty-ninth chances which you offer us day in and day out. Give us the wisdom to embrace every opportunity to begin anew.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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There’s Always Another Chance

The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband…

Genesis 3:6

When I was a child, my parents didn’t have money to spare. Still, they invested in books. One of these treasures was a children’s bible. It consisted of cardboard front and back covers, several separate booklets and extremely long laces which held the entire thing together. The seventy-two booklets which eventually completed this bible came in the mail periodically. When each one arrived, my mom carefully untied those laces, removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the new booklet, replaced the cover and retired those laces. Afterward, I poured over every page. The colorful pictures and reasonably understandable text held my attention for some time.

When I finished perusing each new edition, I habitually returned to the first book’s story of Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. Eden amazed me almost as much as heaven did. “Why,” I often wondered, “would Adam and Eve turn away from God who gave them so much?”

Life in this world answers that question every day. It’s difficult to read the headlines and listen to the daily news without wondering where we are headed these days. It’s fortunate for us all that God never strays from our company. God simply waits with arms outstretched for our return.

Dear God, thank you for the second and third and twenty-ninth chances your offer us day in and day out. Grant us the wisdom to start anew whenever we need to.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

There’s Always One More Chance

She took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband,
who was with her, and he ate it.

Genesis 3:6

The treasures I recall from my childhood include two family bibles. The first is a single volume in which our family tree and significant events were recorded. The second consisted of cardboard front and back covers which held together several separate booklets that arrived in the mail periodically. With each new arrival, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the new booklet, and replaced the cover. Afterward, my sisters and I poured over this newest addition where colorful pictures adorned every page. When we were finished, I always returned to the first book’s story of Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. Eden looked amazing to me, at least as grand as heaven. “Why,” I often asked myself, “would Adam and Eve turn away from God who gave them so much?”

Life in this confused world of ours answers that question every day, doesn’t it? It’s lucky for us that God never returns the favor when we walk away. God simply waits with arms outstretched for our return.

Generous God, thank you for the blessing of second and third and twenty-ninth chances which you offer us day in and day out. Give us the wisdom to accept every chance you give us to start anew.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Lent Is Here

“One does not live on bread alone, but on every word
that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

From Matthew 4:1-11

The purple of the Lent adorns churches everywhere today. Lent has begun, and the call to respond is loud and clear. This past Wednesday, when I approached the sanctuary to receive ashes, I promised to change my life for the better over the next forty days. This Lent, I will make this change by pursuing a more intimate friendship with Jesus.

When Jesus began his last forty days, he knew every detail of what lay ahead, yet he pressed on. Like a person who had just received his final diagnosis, Jesus did what he had to do to live to the fullest the time that remained with those he loved. All the while, Jesus hoped that you and I were listening and learning all that we would need when our turn comes. Jesus embraced his final days because he loves you and he loves me. This is the Good News which the scripture’s illustrate so beautifully. You and I walk in the company of Jesus who understands precisely what our earthly lives are all about.

The Book of Genesis (2:7-9; 3:1-7) tells us that God gave Adam and Eve domain over all of the beauty and wonder of this earth. Somehow, they missed the grace in what God placed before them and they looked for more in the empty promises of the serpent. So enticing was this invitation that Adam and Eve did precisely what God asked them not to do.

Luke’s gospel (4:1-13) tells of the serpent’s reappearance in different form. Forty days of fasting and prayer had taken their toll on Jesus. “An easy target,” Satan must have thought. The devil tempted Jesus so subtly that his first suggestion could hardly be construed as sinful. What harm would there be in changing a few stones into bread? Think of the comfort that bread would have brought to Jesus’ empty and aching stomach. When Jesus failed to respond, Satan gave him the opportunity to exhibit his power and might. Surely there could be no sin in showing a bit of angelic force. Finally, Satan offered Jesus the world – literally! He promised to leave it all to him if Jesus prostrated himself before Satan just this once. Could a one-time compromise of all Jesus stood for be worth trouble-free lives for the rest of us? “Away with you, Satan!” Jesus answered for himself and for all of humankind. Saint Paul explains the significance of these temptations when he writes to the Romans (5:12-19). As catastrophic as Adam’s turn from God was, God did not allow the damage to be permanent. The possibilities for you and me find life in Jesus’ own answer to temptation.

This Lent offers us the opportunity to absorb Jesus’ responses to the good and the evil that touches all of our lives. The more we study Jesus’ actions, the more we come to know Jesus’ heart. Perhaps the purple that greeted us as we entered church today should not be so much a sign of penance as a sign of passion –passion for the truest and most constant love we will ever know. This Lent, our focus is the person of Jesus Christ who will say and do the most amazing things for you and me. If you and I truly believe in Jesus’ complete devotion to us, shouldn’t we at least try to return Jesus’ affection in kind?

Dearest Lord, your love for me is so complete that you endured temptation for my sake. Strengthen me in the face of my own weakness, that I may resist this world’s call to selfishness and indulgence, mistrust and cynicism. Let me hear only your call to love as you do.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved