Bring Joy To The Moment

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

Daniel 3:89

The other day, I ran into a couple with whom my husband and I worked before we retired. It was a pleasure to see these two happily strolling along. They were very dedicated educators who’d done a great deal to help many students and colleagues along the way. I couldn’t help smiling as we shared memories from our workdays and current events regarding our families. When we parted, I told them that it was a real pleasure to have talked to them, for indeed it was. During this exchange, I renewed my conviction that their positive presence in our workplace was rooted in their genuinely joyful approach to life. After we parted, I considered the mark I’d left on our school district. Had I brought my students and colleagues a bit of the joy which my friends had?

I responded to myself with thoughts of my favorite eight graders from long ago. These particular students desperately needed an adult ear. Every day when they reported to my classroom, they attempted to share their woes for the entire period. I never believed that they were engaging in work avoidance. The truth is that they were struggling with many things which needed to be dealt with. One day, when we learned that their classmate had unexpectedly lost his dad, their world turned upside-down. That day, we spent the entire period discussing this devastating occurrence.

The following day, I reminded my students that I was a reading teacher and not a counselor. As a result, I offered to spend the first ten minutes of each period sharing when needed. We’d use the remaining thirty-five minutes to engage in reading. Amazingly, they so appreciated this gesture that they improved their reading skills and their attitudes far more than anyone expected. I smiled as I acknowledged that I’d shared a bit of joy with them.

Compassionate God, thank you for making us flexible beings who can always find a way to bring joy to the moment at hand.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Bathed In Love

He drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick
to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:
“He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Matthew 8:17

I sat, mindlessly tapping my fingers on the table. Life has taken on a bit of normalcy as our grandchildren have returned to school and our newest grandchild follows a bit of a schedule these days. So it is that 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 was little I could do to alleviate much of anything.

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 waits, 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 to offer them just the same.

Dear God, give us the wisdom of my robin friend so that we too will know when to bathe in your care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

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