Time To Love? Always!

A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:8

Sometimes, circumstances around us and circumstances within our own hearts evoke feelings far removed from love. When violence and hatred touch those we care for or those who cannot defend themselves, it’s difficult not to feel hatred toward whoever is responsible. At the same time, we’re frequently amazed and inspired by victims who have been ravaged by the evil deeds of others and yet find it in their hearts to forgive. A few weeks ago, I referenced Corrie ten Boom, a Holocaust Survivor who found it in her heart to forgive her captors and to teach others to do the same. Corrie understood quite well that it is always time to love, even when it requires forgiving the seemingly unforgivable.

There is something deep within each of us which calls us to find God’s love in the moments of our lives. Though I cannot explain why some of us experience that love more tangibly than others, I am convinced that God’s love is there just the same.

It is suddenly clear to me that the most important purpose of my writing is to spread the word regarding God’s love for us and God’s presence in each of our lives. I’ve been inspired by the good hearts, words and actions of those around me all of my life. Hopefully, my words do the same for a soul or two who reads them along their way.

Loving God, each of us is called to touch this world with your love. Inspire us with whatever means necessary to do so.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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God Stands Ready

For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority God confirms over them.

Sirach 3:2

Some of the most tender moments between parents and their children are the result of uncertainty or fear. Through the worst of storms, after watching a frightening film or when someone actually promises to do them harm, children scramble to the laps of their parents for safety. In their parents’ embrace, children find comfort and the assurance that, indeed, everything will be all right.

We who are God’s children aren’t very different, are we? Sometimes, life throws us for a loop or downright frightens us. When we don’t know what to do, uncertainty and fear overwhelm us. Even when we do know what we must do, our trepidation sometimes keeps us from responding to the troubles at hand.

The good news in all of this is that God is far more perceptive than we earthly parents will ever be. God also holds true to that promise to do whatever it takes to get us safely home. So it is that God recognizes our troubles long before we do. God always stands ready to help us to deal with whatever we face. All we need to do is to imitate our own children and run to God’s embrace. It is there at we will find the encouragement, the comfort and the strength we need. It is there that we will realize that everything will indeed be all right.

Loving God, thank you for your encouragement, your protection and, most importantly, your love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

X… X-Ray!

My heart quakes within me;
terror has fallen upon me.

From Psalm 55:5

X is for X-ray, X-ray Vision to be precise! Sometimes, we need x-ray vision to get to the bottom of things.

I’ll never forget this particular meeting of a college theology class. Though we dealt more with dogma than with faith experiences, a distraught classmate couldn’t help seeking guidance from our “God-centered” gathering. When the professor allowed this student to elaborate, he observed that his dilemma resembled what John of the Cross termed a dark night of the soul. As the discussion continued, the entire class became involved. We agreed that our classmate was indeed likely immersed in the closest thing to a dark night of the soul that any of us had ever seen. We and our professor also agreed that our support at the moment was far more important than attending to the course syllabus that day.

You know, there are many suffering souls nearby. Unfortunately, the rest of us remain unaware because we don’t have the time or the wherewithal to take a closer look. We can’t peek into the hearts of strangers who wait in line with us at the market or the hearts of our own family members or friends. Because we can’t x-ray one another’s souls, we miss a lot. This is where my professor’s example comes into play. First, we need to be approachable. Replacing a cranky scowl with a smile goes a long way. Second, we need to set aside our own agendas. Problems don’t arise in accordance with anyone’s syllabus. They just happen. Finally, we need to listen. When we get to this point, we leave the response to God. God will give us the words to help. After all, God sees what lies deep within us all more clearly than x-ray vision ever will.

Compassionate God, help us to see one another and to respond to one another with your loving eyes.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

T… Thankfulness!

Give thanks to God, for God is good,
and God’s mercy endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

T is for Thankfulness. I know I’ve made it abundantly clear in one way or another that life isn’t always perfect for me. Still, I have so much to be thankful for, far more than I ever expected or dared to hope for! The most precious of these gifts aren’t tangible, but they are very real to me just the same. Yes, I am a very blessed soul!

Though I lapsed in reciting my favorite morning prayer for some weeks, I’ve reinstated this practice. Regardless of what the coming day may hold for me, I open my eyes while whispering “Thanks for the sleep!” God knows that these four words express both my gratitude for the rest I enjoyed and my anticipation of many opportunities to offer thanks during the coming twenty-four hours. Though I’ve occasionally forgotten to pray, “Thank you, God”, our benevolent Creator has never forgotten me.

When this life presents unpleasant challenges, I face them most effectively with a grateful heart. I hope God never tires of hearing me pray, “God, I know you have been very good to me, but really? I don’t mean to complain, but how can I deal with this?” It usually takes me a few minutes to adjust my thinking and my prayer. I continue, “Thank you, God, for being with me in everything. I know that all of this will end well. Then, I roll up my sleeves, take a deep breath and do the best I can.

T is for Thankfulness. Today and every day, I will do my best to face everything with a heart full of thankfulness!

Generous God, thank you for everything!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

P… Peace!

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of God’s gifts, I savor God’s peace most of all. During the most difficult times of my life, I’ve been at least faintly aware of a measure of peace deep within me. In spite of the troubles at hand, I’ve felt convinced at some level that circumstances would evolve for the best. While I made my own ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer in the process, peace eventually eased its way to the surface. Eventually, I accepted that I could only do what I could do and that I had to leave the rest to God.

This had always been the case until some months ago when events beyond my control overwhelmed me. I’ve almost let go of my angst on many occasions and I’ve happily embraced God’s peace every time. Then, a seemingly inconsequential comment or encounter nudged me back in time. The good news is that these relapses are far less frequent. The rest of the good news is that I’ve realized once again that letting go of the past frees me to embrace God’s peace more fully.

You know, I can infuse some level of peace into every moment I’m given. I can begin by taking a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to flow from my lips. I can glance upward and within before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. I can begin every day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to erupt. Yes, I can bring God’s peace to this world with a bit of well-placed effort.

Compassionate God, help us to let go of our worries and so we can embrace your peace at every opportunity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hold On To Peace

We’d just returned from a few days up north. While carrying in some leftover groceries, I slipped off my shoes in an effort to protect the carpet on the way to the kitchen. I set down my parcel and then returned to those shoes. While putting them on, I noticed a strand of Easter grass on my sock. Honestly, I thought I’d freed the house of this green stuff weeks ago! I couldn’t help laughing as I walked back to the garage to help my dear husband carry in the rest of our things. “What’s so funny?” Mike asked. I responded by voicing my surprise at having found that pesky cellophane. We’d celebrated Easter almost six weeks earlier. First Communion Day had come and gone. Our parish’s new deacons have been functioning for two whole weeks since their May 11 ordination and we’re on the verge of celebrating Memorial Day. Let me add that I’d vacuumed several times in the midst of these events and I’d washed the floor twice. “How can that stuff still be here?” I moaned.

Before my poor husband could respond, I reminded him that I’d written about this dilemma a few weeks ago. “I think I ended with something about Easter’s lingering joy. The grass I found back then was a reminder. You know, there’s another story here…” With that, Mike and I carried in the rest of our gear. He went on to get the mail our neighbor had collected for us while I emptied our bags and sorted the dirty laundry. While Mike tended to that pile of mail, I considered this reflection. I wondered what else that Easter grass had to tell me. Finally, I realized that this pest had attached itself to my sock with good reason. You see, in the busyness which has filled my days since Easter, I’ve managed to lose sight of Easter’s joy on more than one occasion. That grass reminded me to get back on task, not to get more work done, but to get to the things I have to do with a renewed attitude. When I turned to the scriptures, I realized that I’d failed to allow Easter’s joy to morph into peace. Sadly, this was my loss as this peace is no ordinary commodity. Jesus himself offered this very peace again and again before and after his resurrection.

Fortunately for us, our friends who were the early church paid better attention than I to the peace of which Jesus spoke. Acts (15:1-2, 22-29) describes a great dilemma within the early church. Jesus’ teachings had taken hold and were spreading quickly throughout the community. Those who embraced the faith were no longer limited to the Jewish community. Gentiles had also been drawn to Jesus’ teachings. Because these newcomers hadn’t been raised in the Jewish faith, they weren’t familiar with the numerous laws which the Jewish people had taken for granted. As a result, questions arose regarding what would be required of these perceived outsiders who wished to join the church. Because some of the laws required serious sacrifice, Paul and Barnabas appealed to the apostles for guidance. Perhaps because they were immersed in the peace Jesus had offered them, his closest friends responded with great love. The apostles sent representatives to the Gentiles with this response: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…” In the end, compassion and acceptance renewed peace among and within Jesus’ earliest followers and the Gentiles found their places within the church. In the second reading (Revelations 21:10-14, 22-23), John underscores the early church’s efforts to welcome all who embrace Jesus’ ways. John described a vision he was given of the holy city Jerusalem coming out of heaven. Though the temple had been the center of Jewish worship in Jerusalem, John saw no temple building in this heavenly Jerusalem. John concluded that God cannot be confined in any building. God alone is the temple who provides light and life to the people. It is God who provides everlasting peace to us all.

Peace was such a tremendous gift that Jesus spoke of its value and its availability at every opportunity. John’s gospel (14:23-29) tells us some of what Jesus told the disciples in this regard: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of what I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” I wonder how often the apostles retrieved these words of consolation and promise while seeking comfort after Jesus ascended in heaven. How often since Easter had I forgotten these invitations to embrace God’s peace? Too often!

When I pealed that bit of Easter grass from my sock, I didn’t throw it away. Because it served as a better herald of God’s peace than I have as of late, it deserved a place of recognition. In an effort to keep God’s peace in the forefront of my thinking, I taped that straggly green reminder to my desk right beside my keyboard. There it reminds me to look outside of myself when I’m troubled. When I do so, I see evidence of God’s peace everywhere.

Whenever unrest threatens, peacemakers and peace-sharers rise and respond to the suffering around us all. They reside within our own households, down the block, at work and half-a-world away. These heralds of God’s peace make all of the difference in the world to those they meet along the way. When even their heroic efforts fail to move us, we must recall Jesus’ promise: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” What more do we need to know?

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved