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

Make A Change

I am “a voice in the desert, crying out:
Make straight the way…”

John 1:23

I begin every New Year with great expectations for myself, for my loved ones and for this world of ours. I reflect upon my ever-growing list of imperfections and then select a few things which I can actually change. After devising my self-improvement plan, I consider those I’ve been given to love. My assessment of their needs is far less critical and far more nurturing than my own. I simply consider each one and wish him or her a New Year filled with the grace, wisdom and strength to do their best as best they can.

This world of ours is another story. I’m torn between heartbreak for our brothers and sisters whose suffering seems endless and anger toward those in power who can’t seem to get it right when it comes to creating peace on this earth. The divide between bondage and liberty, poverty and wealth, sorrow and joy seems to grow exponentially with every passing day. This year, the divide between health and illness has grown as well. Though opportunities to help have slipped through our collective fingers since the onset of this pandemic, we’ll begin a new year tomorrow. New Year 2021 offers new opportunities to make it a better year for us all.

Though my sphere of influence is minimal in the grand scheme of things, it is still mine. Every moment I’m given is mine. When I respond to the situations at hand lovingly and productively, I change the world in a positive way. When I respond with anger, hatred or even thoughtless impatience, I do the opposite.

It seems to me that the best New Year’s resolution I can make is to do everything I can to bring some measure of peace and love with me wherever I am. Sometimes, these efforts will be life-changing. Sometimes, they will be only moment-changing. Always, they will change this world for the better.

Loving God, be with us all as we bring your peace and love to this world, one moment at a time.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Peace Begins With Us

A peaceful heart create in me, O God;
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

Psalm 51:12

Though it has been 19 years, the date continues to send a chill up my spine. Like I do, you likely recall precise details of where you were when you realized what had happened in New York City, Arlington County, Virginia and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. The good to be found in all of this unfolded among us during the days that followed. Uncommon selflessness and generosity became the norm. Political differences fell to the wayside. We joined hands as one people to do everything possible to bring about healing.

I was convinced then just as I am convinced today that our world is in dire need of peace. Our sisters and brothers who were directly touched on 9/11 can attest to this. Those of us touched by tragedy of so many kinds since then as well as our current battle with this pandemic agree with this assessment. If this isn’t enough, daily news reports of the violence we inflict upon one another underscore our need to rid our world of violence and to embrace peace once and for all.

My mom reminded me often that charity begins at home. She expected me to show my own family the kindness that I so willingly extended to others. Today, I remind myself that peace begins at home: in our world, in our country, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our families and, most importantly, in our hearts. Today, I remind myself to do something to infuse peace into every moment I’m given.

Loving God, help us. Give us hearts which desire peace and hands which extend that peace to all whom we meet along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Little Efforts Add Up!

“For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is greatest.”

From Luke 9:48

A recent walk around a nearby lake reminded me of just how small I am. This lake offers only a tiny beach area. The remainder of its circumference is lined with very tall trees and dense foliage. The greenery is interrupted only by a narrow path just wide enough for two. As I walked, I felt like a tiny ant in the grand scheme of things. Though the lot where I left my car was actually only a block away, I felt lost in the forest around me.

I feel very small at other times as well. In spite of my best efforts, it seems that I cannot do a thing to solve the problems of this world. The pandemic continues. Unrest between nations persists. Poverty remains in full force. Political interests overpower the good of the many. And on it goes… I ask myself if there is anything I can do to make an important difference.

It is in the midst of this lament that I recall Jesus’ words regarding our need to become like children once again. Little girls and little boys don’t over-think things. They simply observe the situation at hand and respond accordingly. It occurs to me that I do my best work when I follow their lead. I do have the capacity to change the world. It is through seemingly insignificant efforts that I bring peace, sustenance and justice to one soul at a time.

Dear God, the small things we do for one another make a world of difference after all. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Time To Love…

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

Ecclesiastes 3:8

In spite of the absence of fireworks displays this Independence Day, this beloved holiday conjures recurring memories which will always be with me…

My husband and I have enjoyed celebrating July 4 since our first summer together as husband and wife. When our sons came along, they added exponentially to these observances. We live very near the center of our community on a cul-de-sac that was once filled with children. As a result, we all enjoyed our local fireworks displays from the comforts of our front yards. This amazing circus added to my affection for this holiday.

My earliest Independence Day memories include my own family’s quest for the nearest and best fireworks displays. This was particularly important July 4, 1959. My dad passed away early that morning and helpful relatives who whisked us away for the annual family picnic no doubt wondered if any sort of celebration was appropriate that night. Though I saw no fireworks that night, I find great solace in the displays I’ve observed every year since. Colorful lights bursting in the black sky above suggest resurrection to me. As I watch, I imagine that my dad’s passing into eternal life must have been a million times more glorious. While the sparkling displays above me consistently dissolve into smoke and ash, my dad’s transformation continues on in eternity.

This year, I’m asking my dad to take advantage of this 61st Anniversary of his first day in heaven. I’m asking him to rally all of the good will at his disposal and to shower it over this country and our entire world. Perhaps his effort will be enough to nudge each of us to do our parts in working toward world peace, especially within our own borders. What a miracle it would be to celebrate July 4, 2020, without a gun being fired or a harsh word spoken anywhere.

Loving God, inspire us to use the gift of our freedom to free this world of conflict and discord wherever we find ourselves.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make Your Difference Now

Yes, it is coming and shall be fulfilled,
says the Lord God. This is the day I have decreed.

Ezekiel 39:8

During our prior visits to Israel, we visited Megiddo-Armageddon. This time, other sites were added to our itinerary. As a result, we did a slow drive-by of this location. This didn’t disappoint me. You see, that beautiful park is said to be the eventual setting of the final battle at the end of the world. Biblical references to the end times have never drawn me in. This world is a difficult place. I can’t imagine that this world’s “last days” can bring any worse than the atrocities so many have suffered throughout human history. So it is that I look beyond these references to more hopeful passages. It is my hope for better things to come which sustains me.

The optimist in me is convinced that, if I am present for this final unraveling of human history, it will end in God’s favor. Though more fundamental believers will cringe at my next sentence, I would be dishonest if I didn’t write it. I cannot concern myself with the end times because the most important times in my life are the series of moments I’m given today and every day. It’s up to me to use every one of those moments to love and to appreciate God’s gifts to me and to love and care for my neighbor as myself.

Of course, what happens in the end is important. However, what we do before the end is just as important. We really can make all of the difference in the world!

Compassionate God, only you know where we are headed. Be with us every step of the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved