Irresistible God

When Jesus said, “Come after me;
I will make you fishers of men,”
They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:17-18

My relationship with God began early on. My parents inspired my effort in this regard by taking their own faith to heart. No matter what the circumstances, they found reason to thank God for blessings received or to place the misery of the moment in God’s hands. My parents and all of my family seemed to assume God’s involvement in everything. No matter what, they were convinced that God was aware. They also knew that, in the end, all would work out for the best. Most of the adults I met along the way seemed to share my family’s perspective. When I came across someone whose opinion differed, I contented myself with the knowledge that God loved that person regardless of what he or she thought of God.

I think the adults who inspired my faith took their lead from Jesus’ followers. When I consider how quickly the disciples walked away from their daily lives to follow Jesus, I feel certain that something about Jesus drew them in. Simon and Andrew were successful fishermen who left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Martha and Mary ignored the social mores of the day when they opened their home and hearts to Jesus. Mary Magdalene, a woman of means who made her own way in spite of persistent illness, did the same. Did Jesus do such an amazing job of revealing God’s love and compassion and mercy that his company was irresistible? The God I’ve come to know and love certainly is!

Generous God, thank you for the gift of you. You’ve transformed my life from the moment I first heard your name.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Better Than The Weather?

This is the message you heard from the beginning:
we should love one another.

1 John 3:11

Though I enjoy the view from our study window, I’ve closed the blinds today. The sun was pouring in and raising the indoor temperature exponentially. Though I miss the lush greenery outdoors, I realize that this is a minor woe. As I write, our friends to the west suffer the ravages of wildfires which continue to destroy acre after acre and home after home. To the east, terrible storms flood and wash away entire communities in their path. Though our local television meteorologist offers encouragement with a promise that cooler temperatures will prevail here in a few days, she makes no promises regarding the misery of our faraway neighbors.

It occurs to me that our presence to one another can be just as promising as cooler temperatures and just as terrible as the fires and storms which wreak havoc upon so many. Flames and floods don’t discriminate as they destroy everything in their paths. Sometimes, we fail to open our eyes and to look closely at what or who stands on the path before us. The good news is that we usually have the time to think before we plow ahead. We can choose whether to change things for the better or for the worse for those we meet along the way.

I’ve opened the blinds again because the sun has set. As I take in the greenery beyond my window, I also take in God’s urging not to add to the damage nature has done. It’s up to me and each one of us to make things better for those we meet along the way.

Dear God, though the weather is out of my control, my attitudes and actions are my own. Help me to use them both with love and good will.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Bring Peace…

I will hear what God proclaims;
for he proclaims peace.

Psalm 85:9

Though I’ve recently shared my frustrations with the evils which plague us humans, I’ve prayed about these things. With that, I attend to the issues close at hand as best I can. My normal response to imminent trauma is precise calm. I do what needs to be done at the moment and collapse afterward. It’s then that I realize just how devastating the circumstances I encountered might have been. It’s then that I’m also grateful that I did something to be of help.

This propensity to respond is likely the result of my mother’s example. She responded to violence around her without concern for herself. Her priority was to keep her fellow human’s safe. She confronted a man who was bothering a woman on a bus; he jumped off that bus at the next stop. She chased the assailant who mugged my aunt in our hallway; he fled before doing irreparable harm. Though I haven’t found myself in the midst of such dramatic scenarios, my mom’s lessons have compelled me to respond to others who need assistance just the same.

You know, my mom was no more brave than the rest of us. It was her faith in doing the right thing and in the God who promises to be with us which was unshakable. Though my mom’s interventions weren’t necessarily peaceful -or particularly wise- as they unfolded, they brought unmistakable calm to those she assisted. Being a herald of God’s peace sometimes takes us to uncomfortable places.

Loving God, none of us can change this world on our own. Still, each of us can do something to improve the turf on which we walk. Give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Edit…

A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.

Ecclesiastes 3:7

There was a time when my mom insisted that there is always time to sew. She was a talented seamstress who made her own clothing from high school throughout most of her life. My mom clothed her six children beautifully because she could transform the plainest fabric into the cutest outfits for us. She often fashioned our winter coats from adult coats which others had cast aside. Our mom made some of our wedding dressings and the bridesmaid gowns which accompanied them. Though she loved to sew, it was an extremely tight budget which urged her on.

There was a time when I would have said that there is always a time to speak. Still, my dad often asked, “Who put the nickel in you?” when I monopolized a conversation. My husband has noted more than once, “What others can say in a sentence, you say in two paragraphs.” Though I haven’t heard complaints regarding my written words, I can’t say the same about those I’ve spoken.

Late in her life, my mom found sewing to be more tedious than creative. Her eyesight had diminished just enough to make threading a needle impossible. The arthritis in her hands added to the difficulty. So it was that she set her sewing machine aside and purchased her clothing.

Though I truly enjoy writing, on occasion, I’ve found speaking to be tedious as well. Though I haven’t resorted to silence, I’m trying very hard to be far more selective regarding what I say.

Dear God, help me to make the best use of my ability to speak and to write. Once again, I ask for guidance.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever Hopeful!

It’s difficult to focus today. Recent losses touch close to home. Though words usually flow from my fingertips, they escape me when it comes time to offer condolences to those in mourning. I fret over what to say to still others whose loved ones prepare to take their leave. How can I encourage those whose families and friendships remain intact, but who are immersed in suffering the rest of us cannot imagine? How do I respond to yet another senseless act of violence which took the lives of innocent people, changed the lives of their loved ones and harmed still others? How do those who continue to rebuild after hurricanes and earthquakes process this unnecessary violence? How do those who endure in violent neighborhoods and war-torn countries find the heart to acknowledge such senseless suffering? The cloudy skies which reign over this November day reflect my mood with unwanted precision.

It was with my sadness intact that I turned to today’s scripture passages for this writing. I couldn’t help giving up my frown as I discovered once again that my current sentiments are nothing new to humanity. The passage from the Book of Wisdom (6:12-16) gives Wisdom life as a woman who is always present to those who seek her. She brings understanding where none seems possible and gives meaning when this life is most difficult to understand. At the moment, I’m impelled by my aching spirit to seek Wisdom’s help in full earnest. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (4:13-18) addresses similar distress. His followers were upset because Paul had preached that Jesus would return soon to take up the righteous with him. Unfortunately, many of those good souls had since died and there was no evidence that eternal life had yet come their way. Paul consoled those who mourned by echoing Jesus’ promise of eternal life for each and every one of them. Though I needed no convincing that life in the hereafter will eventually come for us all, I couldn’t shake my frustration at being unable to find much hope in the moment at hand. It is today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 25:1-13) which addresses this.

This particular passage elicits memories of my childhood response to Jesus’ parable about the wise and foolish virgins. According to his story, ten young women waited dutifully for a bridegroom’s arrival at his wedding. Jesus considered five of the virgins (bridesmaids in the present vernacular) to be wise because they brought along both their lamps and extra oil in preparation for the wedding. They left nothing to chance as their wait for the groom might have been longer than expected. The extra oil would allow them to relight their lamps to guide his way. Jesus considered the five remaining virgins to be foolish because they brought only their oil-filled lamps and nothing more. They had no options if the groom was late. As a fifth grader, I found myself in total disagreement with Jesus’ assessment. I felt great sympathy for the allegedly foolish virgins. After all, the groom was about to be married and it was his responsibility to be on time for his wedding. The oil in the foolish virgins’ lamps should have been enough. In my young mind, I found the groom to be the fool and quite rude for being inexcusably late for this extremely important occasion!

Over the years, the wisdom of biblical scholars has enlightened my thinking. They tell us that the bridegroom is Jesus and the wedding banquet is the kingdom of God. The wise virgins are those who prepare for and welcome this encounter. The foolish virgins miss the opportunity by being unprepared for God’s promises. Our faith in God and God’s love places us in the shoes the wise virgins. We’re prepared to embrace all that lies ahead because we’re full of hope and joy over life in the hereafter. I normally consider myself among those wise ones, but this hasn’t been the case as of late. How can I have forgotten that extra hope-filled oil for my lamp?

Patient readers that you are, you’ve born witness to many difficult times which threatened to drain the oil of hope from my lamp. In the midst of these events, I walked with the foolish virgins with barely a drop of oil to keep the flame of hope burning within me. Fortunately for me, that oil was replenished every time by an unmistakable sign offered by one good soul or another to assure me that I wasn’t alone. God joined in those efforts by sharing in every bit of my pain and by participating in every bit of kindness sent my way. Though none of us can ever completely heal the pain of another, God joins in our efforts to replenish the oil of hope every time. Though we may not always understand God’s timing any better than I understood that bridegroom’s tardiness, we can definitely count on God’s loving presence. Yes, God is with us in everything always!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Jump In!

He drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick.”
From Matthew 8:17

I sat mindlessly tapping my fingers on the table. I turned my attention to some troubling circumstances for which I see no end in sight. As I considered my options, I realized that there is little I can do to alleviate much of anything in this regard.

Just outside my window, a large robin plopped himself into our bird bath. He fluttered his wings for several seconds, splashing water every which way. Though I knew he couldn’t hear me, I remarked to my feathered friend, “It certainly doesn’t take much to make you happy!” Even before I finished this sentence, I realized that the same is true for all of us. Just as that water stands, available for my robin friend whenever he chooses to enjoy it, all that we need awaits us as well.

You know, being loved and cared for is the best any of us can hope for. Being loved and cared for makes everything we encounter doable. Though branches and boulders clutter the road before us, we manage to climb over them or to plod around them because we’re not alone. Though we may only occasionally choose to bathe in the waters of God’s loving care, God remains twenty-four/seven to offer them just the same.

Dear God, give us the wisdom of my robin friend that we may also bathe in the waters of your care.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved