Thanksgiving

Give thanks to God;
bless God’s name for he is good:
the Lord whose kindness endures forever…

From Psalm 100:4-5

Because our son and his wife are cooking today, I have more time than usual to list the many reasons I have to be grateful. My family tops the list. That I married was a huge surprise to me. That my husband and I have children is a miracle, literally, from what the doctors have told us. I’m grateful that my parents shared their faith with me through their practical day-to-day lives. They appreciated God’s love. Their resulting ability to weather any storm taught me to do the same.

I appreciate God’s love, too. When in doubt, I turn to Jesus who insisted that God loves us as we are with all of our human frailties. Though Jesus provided a lifetime of very good example, he also assured us that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more. Jesus spent his time with the seemingly unworthy. Jesus loved the poor in spirit and the materially poor. He always made time for them. Actually, Jesus made time for anyone who sought him out. In the end, Jesus endured crucifixion because he knew something better would follow very soon afterward. The best news is that this “something better” awaits us all.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks for my family and for the opportunities they give me to share God’s love in the best of ways. I give thanks for my work here at home and everywhere I encounter those God has given me to love. I give thanks for the opportunity to write and for those who take the time to read my humble words. I give thanks for Jesus who revealed God’s wonder to our weary world. Most of all, I gives thanks for God who makes it all worthwhile.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Generous God, thank you for everything, especially your amazing plans for each one of us.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Thanksgiving

“Why are you so terrified?
Why are you lacking in faith?”

From Mark 4:35-41

This Thanksgiving Day, I have so much for which to be grateful. As I list my precious family members to give thanks for each one, my grandson Daniel and his daddy give me reason to pause. Daniel’s long journey from birth to homecoming was quite an adventure. Though his dad was full-term at birth, he gave us quite a scare as well…

Because I had experienced contractions for days, we expected a quick delivery. Still, we waited several hours for progress. Suddenly, my nurse tossed a gown at my husband and rushed me into the delivery room. The monitors had detected fetal distress. When he made his appearance shortly thereafter, Timothy was white as a ghost. The nurse whisked our baby away without allowing us to hold him. After some whispering among the medical team, our doctor asked us not to worry. Then he added that he was calling in a specialist. My husband and I prayed. We had waited a very long time for this child.

The next morning, the doctor shared that our baby might be suffering from a grave illness which would cause serious disabilities before taking him by age three. This news devastated us and our prayers continued. Later that day, Sister Charles, who managed the hospital lab, hurried into our room. She said, “I’ve looked at Timothy. Trust me. He’ll be just fine.” Much to our relief, it was Sister Charles’ prognosis which proved to be accurate.

Dear God, your heard as I wept for Tim and again for Little Danny. I have wept for all of my family at one time or another. I love them all almost as much as you do. Thank you for caring for each one of them. Thank you for everything!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God…

That morning, I woke with a sense of gratitude in anticipation of Thanksgiving Day. My husband and I will host this year and I can hardly wait. We will also celebrate his and our son’s birthdays which fall on Monday and Thursday. I smiled as I determined that two cupcakes will have to accompany the pie so neither one is denied a birthday cake and at least one candle to extinguish. In the midst of this musing, I made a mental list of the gifts for which I am most grateful. My family and numerous others whom I have been given to love topped that list. God has been extremely generous to me in this regard. God has been extremely generous to me regarding everything!

God… It occurred to me that it comes naturally to me to include God in every aspect of my life. “When did this relationship begin?” I asked myself. After my dear husband left to tend to some errands, I decided to answer my question in the chilly, but sunny outdoors. As I walked along, I recalled the childhood nighttime prayers which I offered to seek forgiveness for the day’s misdeeds and blessings for those in need. Our family is large and at least one of us required prayers much of the time. Back then, I relied upon our Creator God for everything and these nighttime litanies always began with, “Dear God…” Later, when First Communion approached and my catechism classes focused upon Jesus, things changed. Though I held on to my awe for the God who made us and tended to all of our needs, I was also completely taken in by this Son of God who became one of us and who experienced our trials and tribulations firsthand.

Jesus, son of Mary, grew up in the small village of Nazareth. Jesus, cousin to John the Baptizer, worked as an apprentice carpenter with his foster-father Joseph. Jesus, friend to the couple who married at Cana, helped out when their wine ran out. Jesus the Rabbi taught with great authority in the temple which made him a threat to the temple hierarchy and a source of inspiration to the people. Jesus the Storyteller used his parables to reveal God’s compassion, mercy and love. Jesus was hope personified to the hemorrhaging woman, the blind man, the lepers, the paralytic, Martha and Mary and the thief who hung on a cross next to him. Jesus was life itself to the woman caught in adultery, to Jairus’ daughter and to Lazarus. Jesus the Servant washed his friends’ feet at their last supper together. Jesus the Risen Lord made the promise of life everlasting a reality for the rest of us. During that autumn walk, it occurred to me that becoming better acquainted with Jesus was an absolute game-changer in my life. Until then, I had made many assumptions about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. My faith assured me that God offered all of these things to me on an ongoing basis. When I encountered Jesus and learned of all that he did for those around him, my assumptions about God came to life. I no longer needed to rely upon my faith because Jesus showed me that everything I believed about God’s love for me was absolutely true.

As I walked toward home, I returned my thoughts to Thanksgiving and to God’s presence in my life. It occurred to me that even my deep sense of gratitude is the result of my acquaintance with God’s Son. When I sat at my desk to begin this writing, I determined that today’s Feast of Christ the King is the perfect end to the Church Year, the perfect beginning to Thanksgiving Week and the perfect prelude to the Advent Season which begins next Sunday.

You know, none of us can predict all that today will bring, much less the coming week or month or year. What we can be certain of is God’s affection for each of us. If you doubt God’s love for you, turn to the life of the beloved king whom we honor today. Though Jesus shied away from this title with all of his might, Jesus embraced every opportunity to reign among the people in the midst of the wear and tear of their lives. Jesus revealed Divine Love so perfectly that he could not pass by a soul in need without stopping to help. The same is true today.

Meeting Jesus has helped me to experience God’s love quite tangibly in the joyful and the troubling times of my life. On this Feast of Christ the King, I celebrate this Son of God with gratitude, and I invite you to do the same. After all, Jesus’ words and works assure us all of how precious we are in God’s loving eyes. Jesus’ words and works assure us that all will be well in the end.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Happy Thanksgiving!

Give thanks to God;
bless God’s name for he is good:
the Lord whose kindness endures forever…

From Psalm 100:4-5

This past week, my morning walks have not been as entertaining as they were in early November. The cold temperatures challenge my ability to dress appropriately. I struggle to layer myself lightly enough to engage in a brisk walk, but heavily enough to stay warm for the hour I spend outdoors. Once outside, I’ve discovered that the late autumn wind and diligent neighbors have removed most of the leaves along the way. I no longer enjoy the opportunity to crunch and crackle them beneath my feet as I amble along. The good news is that the late November sky provides plenty of opportunity for contemplation. The other day, the blue eastern sky glowed with bright sunlight while ominous charcoal thunderheads filled the sky to the west. It occurred to me that there was a great story here, until a couple of leaves distracted me.

These stubborn leaves seemed to cling to otherwise barren branches with all of their might. As I continued on, I noticed that, in spite of the wind that battered and shook them, several determined leaves held tightly to the trees they called home. Each one seemed unwilling to give in to the inevitable. I imagined these leaves laughing in the face of the cold wind and giving thanks for every additional second that they were able to hold on. These stubborn leaves had lived their lives to the full as best they could, and they were not about to let go before they absolutely had to do so.

This morning, I found that most of those determined leaves have finally joined their counterparts, swept away by wind and humankind. Only a few remained, stuck at the bases of bushes and fences. As I passed by, I silently congratulated them for a job well done. I also acknowledged that their work on this earth is not complete. They will rustle and settle and rustle again until the first heavy snow forces them into a final resting place. Though they will eventually lose their leaf-like appearance to decay, they will enrich the soil. That soil will nourish the trees which will produce another season’s leaves, some of whom will enrich my morning walks and repeat their brave predecessors’ stubborn ritual. Oddly enough, these leafy encounters on my treks around the neighborhood have provided me with a renewed understanding of today’s celebration of Thanksgiving.

If you’ve been attuned at church, you realize that we spend a good deal of time listening to Jesus teaching us the ways of his Father. Jesus preached love and forgiveness, joy in the face of poverty, and peace in the face of suffering. Jesus tried very hard to convince us that his Father –Our Father– loves us as we are with all of our human frailties. Though Jesus provided a lifetime of good example, he assured us again and again that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus spent his time with the seemingly unworthy, and he shunned the presumptuous ones who would use his acquaintance to increase their own power and stature. Jesus loved the poor in spirit and the materially poor, and he always made time for them. In the end, Jesus hung on a tree with all of his might, stubborn and determined not to let go until he had to let go. I imagine Jesus pondering those brave leaves who held onto their trees as he once did. I imagine Jesus smiling. He knows that just as their work to enrich the soil continues season after season, so does his work continue in and through your life and mine.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks for the lessons to be found in the lives of my precious leaves and in the life of my precious Lord. I give thanks for my family, for the blessing they are to me and for the opportunities they give me to share God’s love in a very personal way. I give thanks for my work here at home, at church, in my neighborhood and everywhere that I encounter those God has given me to love. I give thanks for the drab brown leaves who cling to trees and then fall, only to give life in seasons to come. I give thanks for the Christ, our Lord. For it is Jesus who clung to a tree as well that he might give life to you and to me and to all of God’s children. Most of all, I give thanks for the life Jesus lived before embracing that tree. It is this life which teaches me how to live and how to love to the full. What more do I need?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Generous God, thank you for everything. You gifted us with Jesus who revealed your love and mercy in everything he said and did. Thank you also for the leaves and all of creation which remind us of your amazing promises and plans for each one of us.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Time

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

From Mark 7:24-30

Though it is a full week before Black Friday, lines in stores and malls everywhere are growing. As I considered the linear mass of humanity of which I was a part this morning, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for those retailers who have agreed not to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. Of all of the holidays we celebrate in this country, Thanksgiving Day is the one we can all enjoy on without regard for our religious affiliation or lack thereof. I thanked God for the generosity of these employers whose workers will enjoy the holiday with their families this year.

After uttering a mental “amen” I returned to my grocery list to see that I had picked everything I needed. A voice from the front of the line distracted me from my work. This person remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As this man hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. I had already found wealth in these seemingly wasted moments when nothing more than to wait is demanded of me. While the world rushed about me, I had found the time to pray.

Perhaps this is the reason Jesus rose very early and stole away for quiet time as often as he could. The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were usually disrupted by those who desperately needed him. The same is true of you and me. Today, I am going to try to respond as Jesus would, with patience, genuine concern and love.

Dear God, this world of ours grows busier every day. Still, I am grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to respond to them as You would. Help me also to find the time to respond to you with prayer.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thanksgiving Day

And now bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you…

From Sirach 50:22-24

I could not resist Sirach’s words today: “Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb…” For, indeed, this is what God has done for me. My life is far from perfect, always has been and likely always will be. Still, I find an oasis of peace within me that comes in the form of God’s loving care.

I am one of six children. In the midst of this brood, my parents managed to convince me that I am truly loved, not so much with their words as with their actions. My dad went to heaven when I was eight. This is the way I viewed his leaving back then. Life has taught me that this view is clear and accurate. We didn’t have much growing up, but we were lavished with loving family, both immediate and of the extended sort. In our want, our mother taught us generosity. There was always someone who needed help more than we did, and she offered that help. And so it went…

I am blessed with having fallen in love way back when. The resulting sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren top the list of gifts for which I am grateful today. The life choices to teach, to embrace a faith community and to simply be kind to others have netted unexpected gifts as well.

Yes, the God of all has done wondrous things by fostering my growth all of my life. Today, I must give thanks.

Good and gracious God, thank you for the gift of life you have given me and for the lifetime of blessings with which you have ensured my growth. I would never have dared to ask for the blessings you lavish upon me. I love you!

©Mary E. Penich All Rights Reserved