Beloved King

In an effort to organize my thoughts for this writing, I decided to ignore the mist in the air and to head outdoors for a much-needed walk. I reread today’s scripture passages and then bundled up for my trek into autumn. Much to my surprise, I found that the threat of rain had retreated and the clouds had separated just enough to allow an occasional glimpse of blue. I whispered a prayer of thanks for my good fortune and then set my pace for the duration. In an effort to clear my head, I set aside today’s topic and concentrated on the fleeting color around me. Recent winds, my dear husband and our diligent neighbors had removed most of the leaves along the way. The few which remained on the sidewalk made no sound as I walked over them. The morning’s drizzle had robbed them of their crackling crunch. Still, I gave thanks for their once-brilliant color which had so generously gifted us all.

As I walked, I noticed a few stubborn leaves clinging with all of their might to otherwise barren branches. As I continued on, I saw that several more determined leaves held tightly to the trees they called home. Each one seemed unwilling to give in to the inevitable. I imagined these leaves mustering their strength in the face of the cold wind and giving thanks for every additional second during which they remained in place. Those determined leaves had lived life to the full as best they could and they weren’t about to let go before they absolutely had to do so. Those leaves which clung so tightly to their branches weren’t in alone their efforts. I also discovered a smattering of their counterparts nuzzled close to the bases of bushes and fences. I congratulated them for a job well done. I also reminded them that their work on this earth isn’t finished. They will swirl and settle and swirl in the air again until the first heavy snow forces them into a final resting place. While they will eventually lose their leaf-like appearance to decay, they will also enrich the soil. That soil will nourish the trees which will produce another season’s leaves. These new leaves will repeat their brave predecessors’ purposeful ritual.

In spite of my effort to clear my head, those leafy encounters filled my head with a renewed understanding of today’s feast day. For this I was also most grateful. Today, we observe the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year which is The Feast of Christ the King. This timing is intentional. We’ve spent the year reading and listening to scripture passages which recount Jesus’ life and his teachings. Jesus used both his word and his example to teach God’s ways. Jesus preached love, mercy and forgiveness, joy in the face of poverty and peace in the face of suffering. Jesus worked very hard at convincing those he met along the way that God loves us just as we are with all of our human frailties intact. This is the reason Jesus publicly referenced God as his Abba, his Daddy, and the reason Jesus invited us to do the same. While 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, shunning the presumptuous ones who attempted to use his acquaintance to increase their 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, determined not to let go until he had to let go. On this Feast of Christ the King, I imagine Jesus pondering the brave leaves who hold onto their trees as he once did. I imagine Jesus smiling because he knows that just as their work to enrich the soil continues season after season and year after year, his work continues in and through the lives of all of God’s children. Yes, through you and me.

As I considered the innumerable reasons I have to give thanks for Jesus’ impact upon my life, his presumed kingship never entered my mind. I researched the history of today’s feast because I wondered why we call attention to the one title which Jesus seemed least anxious to acquire. I discovered that in the grand scheme of church history this feast is relatively new. This observance was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Pius served during extremely difficult times when communism and fascist governments threatened many. Pius hoped that this feast would draw attention away from those political bullies and toward Jesus who ruled with the authentic power of God’s love. When I consider Jesus’ kingship in this light, I find good reason to celebrate.

On this Feast of Christ the King, I rejoice in the many lessons I found among this year’s crop of leaves. Their brave journeys through spring’s budding, summer’s lush exuberance and fall’s decay opened my eyes once again to the wonder to be found in Jesus’ life. So it is that today I celebrate Jesus, our Jesus who clung to a tree to complete his life and to let go of it, just as you and I will do. Even more so, I celebrate the life Jesus lived before letting go of that tree, for it is that life which teaches me how to live and how to love as God asks.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Part of God’s Creation

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

I admit that I haven’t been as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d like. I can offer no worthy excuses for this because these adventures always leave me feeling wonderful. I’ll blame uncontrolled busyness rather than myself. Still, I’m ignoring the obvious: that this crazy schedule is of my own doing. Though I’m too often guilty as charged, this morning was different. I ignored my to-do list, grabbed my jacket and headed outdoors.

In spite of the cold, it struck me that, as soon as I established my pace, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. Though I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I have seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide a winter’s measure of nuts were the frosting on the cake. Though I always enjoy these walks, the joy I experienced this morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during these treks. The blue sky that so often beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in heaven’s direction as well. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude. Being part of God’s creation is very good reason to give thanks!

Generous God, help me to live every day with a grateful heart. Your gifts are more than any of us could ever have hoped for. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Grateful, in Spite of It All

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:11

I’m usually tired on Wednesday. This is a good thing as it’s the result of spending Tuesday with my grandson. This week, I found it particularly therapeutic to run with Danny for the day. I’ve been in a dark mood due to circumstances all over this world of ours. Though things have deteriorated closer to home these days, some of our sisters and brothers across whichever ocean you chose have suffered the equivalent for lifetimes. The worst part of all of this is that much of the suffering is long-term. I can donate to relief efforts, which I will, but I can’t do much more from here. What’s worse is that I can’t seem to make much difference regarding suffering which is closer to home…

I consoled myself with a walk. As I headed down the block, I saw our neighbor’s car. They’ve returned from a weekend away. I smiled as I congratulated myself for remembering to bring their baby bottle to church. We filled them with spare change to support a program which assists women in difficult pregnancies. That same weekend, a doctor and nurse from the Mission Doctors Association also made an appeal. The outpouring of support for both causes amazed everyone. In spite of my dour mood, I felt a twinge of gratitude.

For the first time in several days, I noticed the blue sky, an assortment of wispy clouds and the lush trees which line our neighborhood. For the first time in several days, I took notice of the goodness which surrounds me. Though a day with our grandchildren is always a treat, so is a day touched by the goodness of the people who grace my life. Though floods and poverty and injustice won’t be wiped away in an instant, every effort to respond will make a difference every time!

Dear God, help me to live with a loving and grateful heart by responding to those you have given me to love, both near and far away.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Living Gratefully

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

This occurs occasionally and without explanation. Unexpected feelings of gratitude overwhelm me. I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every single time I venture outdoors. Still, the blue of the sky or changes in the trees which I’ve seen a hundred times before fill me with awe. The familiar green branches looming overhead reveal new knots and gnarly twists every time I pass under them. Chirping birds provide the frosting on the cake. Even drizzling rain gives me reason to be grateful.

Perhaps I’ve been an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during these treks outdoors. Perhaps the gently clouded sky that beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees which continuously raise their arms upward are reminding me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. And then there are those people I’ve been given to love…

Perhaps my existence on this earth is meant to point others in heaven’s direction as well. Like Nature around me, perhaps I’m meant to do everything I do with a spirit of gratitude. After all, being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and honor and something for which to be extremely grateful.

Generous God, when I appreciate what I have, it’s easy to share my gifts with others. Help me to do so generously.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Unique Journeys

And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.

Luke 13:29

I admit that I’m pleased that our sons draw the best from our gene pool. My husband is of average height and I’m short. Our sons are six feet tall. They also have far healthier lifestyles than we had at their ages. Though our older son gave up running after reaching his marathon goals, he continues a taxing exercise regimen. Our younger son was never a runner, but he’s a consistent and serious walker. I would be remiss if I didn’t add that our daughters-in-law engage in their own exercise routines while urging on their husbands and our grandchildren. When it comes to healthy eating, they’re all experts.

These observations and a few extra pounds nudged me outdoors. I pushed myself to walk a bit more briskly and a bit farther. Once I established my pace, I attended to the beauty around me. The sky boasted an amazingly deep blue and the trees sported vibrant greens. The spraying fountain near our village hall sparkled like an array of diamonds. “Thank you, for all of this!” I prayed.

Our younger family members and I embark upon very different journeys when we exercise. They attend to what their bodies tell them, while I turn to life outside of me. We do what we must to accomplish our goals and we all feel very good in the end.

All of our journeys through this life bring unique demands. God asks only that we tend to these things as best we can as only we can.

Gracious God, thank you for your unique call to each one of us. We will do our best to be a blessing to those we meet along the way.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Walk With God

Teach me your paths, my God,
guide me in your truth.

Psalm 25:4

I’ve probably written more often than you care to read that my favorite solo leisure activity is walking outdoors. The weather matters little as I find these treks enjoyable regardless of the temperature. Odd as it may seem, a breeze of any velocity enhances these excursions exponentially for me.

Much to my dismay, my walks have been irregular as of late. I’ve had trouble juggling my schedule and making time to write as often as I would like to. A few days ago, I couldn’t deal with my restlessness and frustration any longer. I announced to my husband that I was going for a walk and that was that. The poor man responded with a puzzled look as I’d complained only a few minutes earlier regarding my current lack of time.

Not two minutes out of the house, a gentle breeze enveloped me. Two blocks later, the breeze’s strength increased and nudged me along the way. This was quite a feat as I was already walking briskly. Halfway into this adventure, my head cleared and our good and gracious God took residence there for the duration. Suddenly, my writing schedule -or lack thereof- seemed less of a problem and more of a blessing. Somehow, I knew I would find the time to do what needs to be done.

It seems to me that we sometimes learn God’s paths best when walk in search of them.

Merciful God, thank you for having pity on me when I lost sight of your presence. The moment I opened my heart, there you were!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved