Relax With God

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42

It’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate our need to slow down and to relax a bit. I truly enjoy the natural beauty around me. Still, I sometimes use more energy listing the reasons that I cannot head outdoors than I would’ve spent by actually walking. In the end, I accomplish far less than I might have if I’d been energized by a trek outdoors.

As I contemplate autumn’s arrival, I realize that outdoor opportunities will soon be limited by increasingly cold temperatures. Though I truly enjoy winter’s beauty, I’ll enjoy it firsthand for only a few minutes at a time. I looked away from my keyboard for a moment to respond to the tree outside of my window. It seemed to be waving to me. As I watched, it occurred to me that I must listen to Jesus who told Martha that she worried too much. I must also imitate Mary who sat peacefully at Jesus’ feet. She drew in his every word and all of the affection that came with them.

Today, I’ll ask Mary to move over a bit so I can take my place at Jesus’s feet as well. It’s there that I’ll learn to stop worrying about the cold which may or may not come and I’ll enjoy the warmth of the moment at hand. I’m going to sign off now to go for a walk. I want to wave to that tree outside my window in person.

Generous God, as I set aside my worries, help me to assist others in doing the same. Open our hearts to your infinite love and peace.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Labor Day and Everyday Blessings

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.

Luke 4:16

Throughout his life among us, Jesus did many things “according to his custom.” He must have worshiped regularly at the temple because he was well-versed in the scriptures and the goings on within his faith community. His parents must have taught him to pray often because the scriptures offer numerous accounts of Jesus’ efforts to spend quiet moments in prayer. Jesus consistently exhibited good manners because he never left anyone out of his conversations. Jesus also invited shunned outcasts to share a meal with him. His contemporaries referred to Jesus as “the carpenter’s son.” He must have earned this designation by working hard at Joseph’s side to learn his trade well.

You know, Jesus spent the greatest portion of his life doing the ordinary things which make up most of our lives. It seems to me that Jesus would not have spent 30 of his 33 years among us engaged in these ordinary things of there wasn’t something extraordinary about them after all. When Jesus embraced his human existence, he embraced our human existence as well. When Jesus made a holy life of those 30 years as a son, a carpenter and neighbor, he offered us the opportunity to do the same. Though most of us won’t die as Jesus did, we all have the opportunity to live as Jesus lived.

This is Labor Day, the perfect day to celebrate the potential for holiness of our labor and our leisure. How? Do as Jesus did. Do it all with love.

Loving God, thank you for revealing your goodness through the life of Jesus. Help us to transform the ordinary moments of our lives into the extraordinary, just as Jesus did.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Labor Day Blessings!

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.

Luke 4:16

Labor Day has had special meaning for me of all of my life. When I was a child, we observed this holiday with a gathering -usually a picnic- in a family member’s yard. Back then, the new school year opened the following day. This last day of “freedom” gave my siblings, cousins and me good reason to celebrate. Later, when I discovered the meaning of “labor” for myself at my first job, leisure time became a most precious commodity. Finally, I understood why my mother allowed herself the luxury of sleeping in one day each week. She truly needed the rest.

It was no accident that the author of Genesis allowed God a day of rest after the six days of Creation. When Jesus came to remind us of God’s presence in a tangible way, he spent the greatest portion of his life working and resting just as we do. Only after living thirty years as a typical citizen of his day did Jesus set out to preach and teach. Even then, Jesus often stole away to rest in the company of God.

On this Labor Day, I hope you seize the opportunity rest and to celebrate the work to which you have been called. Perhaps you share in creating worlds of your own. Perhaps you preach or teach. In one way or another, you care for those you’ve been given to love. Perhaps your best work is “being there” for others. Whatever your calling, your work is precious in God’s eyes and your rest today is well deserved!

Dear God, thank you for the opportunity to labor and to rest in your loving care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find The Joy

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

Psalm 98:4

My husband and I recently drove up north to our favorite getaway, a little log cabin in the woods. Though we left plenty of work behind at home, we gave in to this much-needed opportunity to relax. Though I always volunteer to share the driving, my husband almost always opts to take the wheel for the duration. I admit that I was grateful that this was the case this time. I happily lay back and enjoyed the view beyond my window. Nature didn’t disappoint as summer’s splendor revealed itself throughout the drive. We made excellent time and were surprisingly refreshed when we arrived.

Though we intended to relax, as soon as we settled in, we each tackled a project which we had let go during prior visits. A few hours and lots of progress later, we realized that dinner time had come and we had made no plans. We opted for the five-minute drive to the nearest restaurant. As we settled in to scan the familiar menu, we laughed at how little we had relaxed that day. Still, we felt much better than we had a few days earlier when we determined that we needed this get-away. My husband observed, “Maybe we didn’t mind all of the work at the cabin because we didn’t have to do it. We did it because we wanted to.” How right he was…

Gracious God, thank you for our capacity to find joy in the most unexpected places.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Not Counting, Thank Goodness!

After whispering a prayer of thanks for the new day, I begin what remains of each new day with counting. An ages-old lower back issue compels me to complete four exercises before I get out of bed. I count forty reps for each one. My physical therapist at the time assured me that the results would be worth the effort. Since my arthritic back rarely bothers me, I assume that she was absolutely correct. When I get up, I lie on the floor to complete four more exercises which require a firm surface. Once again, I count forty reps for each one. Finally, I stand for one shoulder exercise which has kept it moving appropriately since surgery some years ago. And, yes, I count to forty for that as well.

In spite of the benefits of these exercises, I grow weary of the counting. I tried singing my way through each movement. Unfortunately, this effort left me with no idea of the number of reps I’d actually completed. I tried timing my efforts only to discover that, for unknown reasons, I do them at different rates each time. I even tried praying my way through them only to find that I couldn’t give appropriate attention to either activity. As I write, I imagine that the serious workout buffs and trainers among you will respond to all of this with, “Mary, just count and be done with it!” I smile as I admit to myself that you’re absolutely right. Still, I find a morsel of vindication in the apostle Peter’s frustration with counting and God’s lack of interest in the same…

In last Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 18:21-35), Peter asked Jesus if it was enough to forgive his brother seven times. Poor Peter certainly didn’t expect Jesus to respond that he must forgive his brother not only seven times, but seventy times seven times. Of course, Jesus’ point was that the number of times we must forgive one another’s transgressions cannot be counted. We must forgive whenever it’s required regardless of how frequently this necessity presents itself. As I reconsider my morning exercises, I admit to being grateful that my forty reps of each one are enough. Poor Peter wasn’t as fortunate!

In today’s gospel (Matthew 20:1-16), Jesus presents another “counting” scenario in the form of a parable. On this occasion, Jesus tells the disciples that the kingdom of heaven operates like the vineyard of a certain landowner. That landowner went out early in the morning to seek laborers. He found a group who agreed upon the standard daily wage and sent them off to work. An hour later, he hired more workers to whom he promised to pay a fair wage. The landowner hired additional workers at noon, at three o’clock and then at five o’clock. When the workday ended at six o’clock, the landowner told his foreman to pay all of the laborers, beginning with those hired last.

The foreman began by paying each man the standard day’s wage. When they realized what was happening, the laborers at the end of the line who were hired first began to count up their fortunes. If those who worked only one hour were given a full day’s wage, they could only imagine what they’d receive for the ten hours they’d worked. Ten times the daily wage was a tidy sum! Much to their dismay, the foreman ignored their calculations and paid these laborers the standard day’s wage as well. When the men grumbled, the landowner reminded them that they’d been given exactly what they had agreed to. The landowner went on to scold them for resenting his generosity toward the other men. Those who worked only six or three or one hour had families to feed and debts to pay as well. The landowner simply gave them all what was necessary to survive.

I admit to being relieved by that landowner’s choice to ignore the numbers when it came to providing for his workers. I’m even more relieved by Jesus’ insistence that this is precisely the way God operates when it comes to you and me. Though I’m compelled by my potentially aching body to count those reps when I exercise each morning, God isn’t compelled to count a thing. As sorely miserable as our efforts may be, God doesn’t keep score regarding them. God’s main interest is the moment at hand and our use of that precious gift. Every time we do the right thing, even when these occurrences are few and far between, we add to our own goodness. In the process, we improve God’s vineyard by helping those around us and ourselves to blossom in unexpectedly beautiful ways.

Today, God continues as the landowner who seeks laborers to tend to the fields of this life. God is pleased with those among us who begin our labor at daybreak and give our all for the duration. At the same time, God continues the search for more laborers. Every time another accepts God’s invitation to work at being the best he or she can be, God is pleased. That brave soul and God’s entire vineyard benefit from these seemingly delayed efforts. The lesson here is that God isn’t counting the hours we work. Rather, God celebrates the quality of our labor whenever it is the best we have to offer at the time. Now that’s something you and I can count on!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Labor Day Greetings!

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
because on it God rested from all the work he had done….

From Genesis 2:3

I’ve always enjoyed Labor Day. When I was a child, we observed this holiday with a picnic which included our extended family. Back then, the new school year opened the following day. This last day of “freedom” gave my siblings, cousins and me good reason to celebrate. Later, when I discovered the meaning of “labor” for myself at my first job, leisure time became a more precious commodity. Finally, I understood why my mother allowed herself the luxury of sleeping in one day each week. She truly needed the rest.

It was no accident that the author of Genesis allowed God a day of rest after six days of labor creating this world of ours. When Jesus came to remind us of God’s presence in a tangible way, he spent the greatest portion of his life working and resting just as we do. Only after living thirty years as a typical citizen of his day did Jesus set out to preach and teach. Even then, Jesus often stole away to rest in God’s company.

On this Labor Day, I hope you seize the opportunity rest and to celebrate the work to which you have been called. Perhaps you share in creating worlds of your own. Perhaps you preach or teach or care for those you have been given to love. Perhaps your best work is “being there” for others. Whatever your calling, your work is precious in God’s eyes and your rest today is well deserved!

Faithful God, thank you for the opportunity to labor and to rest in your loving care.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved