One By One…

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

Proverbs 31:20

I know I’ve shared my lofty childhood aspirations with you before… I had visions of grandeur regarding what I would do with my life. I wanted to solve the problems of the world. I wanted to end wars. I wanted to fight against prejudice and injustice. I wanted to end poverty. I wanted to work with special needs children. I wanted to teach. I wanted to become a nun. I wanted to…

Eventually, things fell into place and the path before me became less cluttered. I learned to value the seemingly mundane callings which in reality make all of the difference in the world. Where would we be today if our essential workers has chosen different paths? I realized that a good person who deals fairly and kindly with those around her brings peace to our world. Generous couples who allow their love to spill over onto to those around them bring love to the world. Parents who nurture their children with their time and attention bring hope to this world. Caring for those we’ve been given to love is the most important work we can do.

Recent events have assured me that I still want to solve the problems of the world. This time, however, I’m tackling all of this one loving act at a time.

Dear God, when I wonder if I’m doing my loved ones or this world any good, you dispel my doubt with encouragement. Thank you!

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Anointed? Indeed!

God is the strength of the people,
the saving refuge of the anointed.

Psalm 28:8

Sometimes, it’s difficult to feel “anointed”. We often consider ourselves to be just one of many regardless of the group we’re in. These days, while we remain within our “bubbles” of family members and/or our closest friends, we might wonder what we’re actually accomplishing for anyone.

I come from a large family. My earliest memories include big family gatherings for the holidays, christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals. I grew up down the block from our church and numerous people passed our house on the way to Mass each week. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college where I tended to lines of customers all day long. When I married and began my teaching career, people of every sort continued to fill my life. Sometimes, I felt lost in the crowd. Then, there were those other amazing times…

I’ve always been especially grateful for individual encounters with those around me. Whether a scheduled or haphazard meeting, with a student, a family member, a friend or a customer at the grocery store, it was during these precious moments together that I received glimpses of many amazing souls. Most of them have no idea that they were contributing to my well-being and that of this world of ours simply by sharing their time. I’ve taken great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts and my appreciation of them as often as possible.

You know, “anointed” means “blessed” and God calls each of us an anointed one. This is the reason God sends us out to bless those around us and to bless this world with the gift of ourselves. Even in the midst of this pandemic, we can do good simply by staying safe for ourselves and for one another and by encouraging one another along the way.

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us so much that you trust us to bring you into this world!

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Be Creative!

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

Ecclesiastes 3:5

My need for order in my life makes it unlikely that I’ll ever embrace the opportunity to scatter stones. I’m far more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows. I’m even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important and I cannot imagine ever situating myself far enough from my fellow humans to preclude hugging. Little did I know that COVID-19 would completely undermine this resolve. I don’t know how those who’ve had to leave their loved ones at a hospital’s door have managed to find the courage. I know from experience that I could not…

As I wrote that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her death came to mind. When she drifted into a coma, we knew that her time left could be counted in hours. Though my sisters and I had agreed to leave our mom for the night, I couldn’t bring myself to comply. I’d stayed another forty minutes after my sisters left when I finally realized the error of my ways.

You see, when our mom received her diagnosis, she was quite specific regarding where she would spend her last days. She had no intention of breathing her last in any of our homes. She couldn’t bear to leave us with that memory. My presence at her bedside had obviously interfered with my mom’s intent. After kissing her one last time, I drove the thirty-minute ride home. About ten minutes after I arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave of this earth shortly after I left her.

Our experience with this pandemic has provide a review of this important lesson. Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces in order to deal with our most important work. In the end, there are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, be with us as we learn to be creative about loving one another without those all-important embraces.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Dance?

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:4

My husband and I planned to attend three weddings this summer. At the moment, the two earlier weddings have been cancelled while the third dangles in uncertainty on our calendar. We looked forward to celebrating with each couple. I would have found it encouraging and, yes, a bit romantic, to wish these hopeful spouses all of the best for their futures together.

I admit that I also looked forward to dancing at their receptions. I usually begin with a slow dance in my husband’s arms. Afterward, he retreats to join anyone else who isn’t dancing while I continue on with a friend or family member whose spouse has also retreated from the dance floor. In the end, the dancer within me takes over for as long as I can move. Though she sometimes has a difficult time guiding my feet into the prescribed steps for a given dance, she always succeeds in freeing me to abandon my inhibitions and to rejoice in the music at hand.

Needless to say, there will be no such dancing for us in the foreseeable future. Still, the words I cited above from Ecclesiastes nudge me to try. I truly believe that God intentionally created us with the ability to party. This is one of God’s most creative ways of reminding us to take the time to relax and not to take ourselves or this life too seriously. Like you, I know we’re immersed in one of the most serious times of our lives. Still…

…Our grandchildren amuse us with three-way FaceTime calls. Friends resend emails and Facebook posts which force us to laugh aloud. We walk outdoors and shout cheerful greetings to those we see while social distancing at twice the prescribed footage. We telephone those we love, but cannot see and we pray for everyone. Yes, we are in this together and we are called to turn our mourning into dancing whenever we can!

Gracious God, thank you for our ability to transform our tears into laughter and our mourning into at least an attempt to dance.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Love…

There is an appointed time for everything
and a time for every purpose under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

It was unusual for my husband and me to schedule vacations in January or February. The retired principal and teacher in us tend to reserve the summer months for such activities. Happily, our winter trips to Israel could not have been better. Each time, the only downside was trying to play “catch-up” with our to-do lists once we returned home. My commitment to share these experiences though these daily reflections added more to my to-do list than I’d expected. When I finally returned to some sense of normalcy, the COVID-19 outbreak became the news of the day every day. Suddenly, I found myself with more time on my hands than I ever expected to have. Though I’d prayed often for a somewhat empty calendar, I wasn’t particularly grateful for my prayer to be answered this way…

It was in the midst of all of this that I recalled one of my favorite scripture passages. It offers the guidance I craved. The words I cite above from Ecclesiastes insist that there is a time for everything. There is time to work and time to rest, time to think and time to write. For me, time has always involved difficult choices. I’ve had to prioritize and reorganize my schedule often. But not just now.

Today, timely decisions revolve around those I’ve been given to love. In the midst of writing and cleaning the house, cooking and reading and exercising a bit, I must also set aside time to reach out. Though I cannot share time in person these days, I can call or text or send emails or cards to let others know that they are loved. Of all of the “purposes under the heavens” which Ecclesiastes speaks of, loving others is the most important.

Loving God, you’ve given us the time to love one another. Help us to use this time well.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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