Remote Blessings

He makes me lie down in green pastures…
Psalm 23:2

Before the pandemic, a day didn’t go by that my husband failed to reveal another destination to which he hoped to travel “one day”. These days, Mike’s travel bucket list sits patiently on the sidelines until COVID-19 can be controlled. The truth is that Mike had been uncharacteristically quiet in this regard for some time until the other day. While making his way through the television channels, Mike passed on the Star Trek, Superman and Adam 12 reruns. Rather, he settled on a travel show which featured Egypt. My sister ventured there years ago when this was a safer endeavor. Mike had hoped we’d follow her lead one day. So it was with great pleasure that he settled in to watch…

An hour later, I was amazed to find my invigorated husband smiling as that program ended. Mike has always taken great pleasure in exploring new places and getting to know the people who inhabit them. Though this particular adventure was completely remote, it left him refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of the day. It occurred to me that Mike needs to make a habit of watching those travel shows. Whether they feature sandy expanses, vast oceans or green pastures, these remote adventures are life-giving just the same.

As I reflect further on Psalm 23, I can’t help thinking that our persistent God has blessed my dear husband with this desire to travel with good reason. Over the years, our adventures have allowed Mike to lie down in green pastures, to traipse through every sort to terrain and even to climb a small mountain or two. Every time, Mike returned ready to embrace life here at home with renewed eagerness. Even when God provides adventures in video form, they give Mike and all of us a bit of what we need to carry on.

Loving God, thank you for caring for us though the wonders of this world even when we have to enjoy them remotely!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Garden of Peace

Great are the works of the Lord,
exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:2

Our pastor is a young man. I get to say that because Father Chris is a few years younger than my older son and a few years older than my younger son. At the same time, Father Chris has an appreciation for the beauty of creation which is far beyond his years. Though I’d like to think that I’ve appreciated the natural beauty around me all of my life, I was a bit older than Father Chris when I began to seek every opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Now, I’m as hooked as he is…

A few weeks ago, Father Chris wrote about his interactions with nature throughout the pandemic. Though someone takes care of the mowing at the parish, Father Chris planted a garden vegetable garden. He also began taking daily walks around the parish grounds to watch as the flowers and greenery flourished from springtime and into summer. Attending to this beauty has given him the strength and encouragement he’s needed to persist in his work as the pandemic continues. Father Chris went on to invite us all to walk the parish grounds and to embrace the peace to be found there.

It seems to me that Father Chris’s wisdom in immersing himself in creation offers a great lesson to us all. Rather than fretting within our limited confines, Father Chris encourages us to move freely through the beauty that lies just a few feet from our doors. I think God encourages us to do the same!

Loving God, thank you for the beauty with which you surround us and for giving us the ability to appreciate these gifts. Help us to focus more on these wonders and less upon our worries, especially the worries which are out of our hands.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Leave The Worry Behind

He instructed them to
take nothing on the journey
but a walking stick…

Mark 6:8

I laughed as read this line from Mark’s gospel. I’m certainly not planning to travel these days. At the same time, I realize that a journey does lie ahead for me. Actually, it lies ahead for us all today. If I’ve counted correctly, this is Day 150 of my stay-in-place status. I realize that I’m allowed to take walks outdoors and to go to the store and to the doctor and to buy gas for my car. I can sit outdoors at a restaurant if I choose to. At the same time, I’m also acutely aware that I have a long way to go before I can mingle freely with my fellow humans whenever and wherever I’d like to do so. Yes, the journey ahead promises to be almost as challenging as the past 150 days have been.

As I consider how to proceed, I’m recalling preparations for past trips overseas with my husband. Mike is a natural when it comes to travel. I’m just the opposite. He plans the details of every adventure with precision while giving little thought to his minimal packing. Both planning and packing drive me crazy. Eventually, Mike convinces me that his efforts guarantee an amazing experience and that I need only a small suitcase with the bare essentials to participate. In the end, I’ve never been disappointed.

Perhaps Mike understands better than I what Jesus was getting at when he sent out his disciples with no luggage. Jesus didn’t want anything to keep them from making the most of their travels among the people. Perhaps I need to unpack as well. My worry and fear about what the next 150 days will bring won’t help, but making the best of each of those days will help a lot.

Dear God, help me to heal this world and those you have given me to love as only I can.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Handiwork

Great are God’s works,
exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:2

A dear friend knows that I’m a huge fan of the Aurora Borealis. Now this is in spite of the fact that, when my husband and I cruised through Alaska, it was too cloudy at night for us to see this amazing natural wonder. During our stay-in-place days, my friend spent more time than usual online. In the process, she discovered several amazing videos of the wondrous Aurora. Much to my good fortune, she shared them all with me. I watched each of those videos several times. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of God’s handiwork when it comes to the Aurora Borealis.

Though I’m certain that those images didn’t do justice to this natural wonder, they took my breath away. They also gave me a most welcome distraction from our current worry regarding the pandemic and the resulting misery that has hurt our fellow humans in so many ways. When I returned my thoughts to the troubles of the day, images of the Aurora stayed with me. It finally occurred to me that God creates this beautiful sight from a few solar flares, our earth’s magnetic field and some of the matter in our atmosphere. Imagine the beauty God could create if given free reign in our minds and hearts these days! Imagine the beautiful ways we might find to alleviate the suffering of so many around us!

Loving God, thank you for the beauty with which you surround us. Help us to reveal the even greater beauty you’ve created within each one of us as we work to heal our ailing world!

©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

Always With Us!

“Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked
to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?”

From Luke 24:32

Because my husband diligently chronicled our trip to Israel with wonderful photographs, we purchased two albums for his handiwork. We realize that in this the digital age we can enjoy our memories in full color on our laptop. Still, having them in hand where we can linger over each one is a luxury we’re not ready to give up. We keep our photo albums on display in our family room. This prompts visitors and us to enjoy them often.

While looking through those albums one stay-at-home day, I came across photos of the church and monastery we visited in Emmaus. I also revisited Luke’s gospel which tells us about Cleopas and his companion who had just left Jerusalem and traveled along a road to Emmaus. It wasn’t long after Jesus’ death and they were discussing all that had happened during those dark days. As they walked, they encountered a stranger. Though everyone they’d met in Jerusalem was affected in some way by Jesus’ death, this man seemed to know nothing of it. After explaining along the way, this man offered his sense of those events. When trio eventually stopped to eat together, this stranger broke bread just as the disciples said Jesus had done. Cleopas and his friend immediately realized who this stranger was. Jesus had been with them all the while!

Throughout what remains of this COVID-19 era and for a long time afterward, we will have ample opportunity to discuss all that is and has occurred. Between those conversations, we’ll do our best to keep ourselves and our loved ones safely at home. Hopefully, we’ll also find the time to pray. It seems to me that every time we take the time to talk to God, we become more certain, like Cleopas and his friend, that God is with us all the while!

Loving God, help us never to forget that you are with us in everything!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved