God Already Knows

I call upon you because you will answer me, O God.
You turn your ear to me and you hear my every word.

Psalm 17:6

When a friend requested prayers for an ailing family member, I promised to storm heaven on their loved ones behalf. Though I believe we always have God’s attention, I also think that adding our own positive energy to the mix is helpful. Much to my dismay, I’m sometimes lacking in that positive energy as of late. I’m as tired as everyone else of our current uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and my heart aches over the injustices which plague our nation. Most of all, I’m frustrated over my inability to change any of this. As I struggled to voice the prayer my friend requested and my own regarding these other issues, my words failed me. After several uncomfortable minutes, it occurred to me that I need to heed my own advice.

Whenever I’m asked about prayer, I encourage those interested to speak to God in their own words. If the words don’t come, I suggest that they sit quietly and simply accept the fact that God understands. If they feel that they must say something, I add, “When in doubt, go to the psalms. There’s a psalm for anything and everything we can’t seem to put into words for ourselves.”

After taking a few minutes to laugh at myself over my inability to practice what I preach, I turned to the Book of Psalms and found the words I cite above. I happily rediscovered that there is a psalm for every occasion under heaven. I also happily reminded myself that God knows every detail of my reasons for praying in the first place. With that, I sat in God’s company quite peacefully. You see, I finally acknowledged that God already knew what I was trying to say.

Dear God, thank you for your understanding. It means everything to me!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Remains

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.

1 John 4:16

While walking yesterday, I stepped over the remains of a burned sparkler. I wondered what it was doing on the sidewalk. This year, there are no fireworks displays in the area. Though I’ve heard lots of activity in the neighborhood over the past week, none of those crackles and booms were “official” displays. I can only assume that this sparkler is the result of similar revelry. As I continued my walk, my thoughts turned to our typical July 4th rituals…

How I loved dragging folding chairs out to our driveway. We live just near enough to an amusement park to enjoy their annual fireworks. Ours is a relatively new neighborhood and our newly planted trees didn’t grow tall enough to block our view for quite a few years. We and our neighbors gathered in the center of our cul-de-sac street to watch the always-breath-taking display. Eventually, those trees grew and our wonderful view was diminished. Since then, the fireworks have seemed a little too far away. In recent years, though we and some of our neighbors have dragged those chairs a few blocks closer, the view and our camaraderie simply isn’t the same.

As I ponder this disappointment, I can’t help considering other occasions when I wished I’d been a little closer. When life’s struggles threaten, I sometimes feel quite alone as try to focus on what needs to be done. Finally, in the midst of my misery, I give in to my propensity to look upward for assistance. Why does it take me so long to remember that I’m never really alone in anything?

Regardless of the joys and sorrows I encounter, God’s love is the constant which never changes. Though there were no fireworks displays this year, God remained deep within me.

Loving God, too many of us are struggling these days. Today, please touch each one with tangible reminders that you’re always nearby.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Through It All…

You lowly ones, be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the God hears the poor,
and God loves them.

Psalm 69:33-35

Sometimes, when we hear or read about the poor, we assume that this term references those with dire material needs. Though this is often the case, God’s definition of “the poor” is all-inclusive. It references each and every one of us whenever our needs, material or otherwise, become too much to bear. Sometimes, when we find ourselves doing well in the world’s eyes, we also find ourselves in need deep within us where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing a secure life for themselves and their loved ones, those who seem to have the material things they need sometimes lose their grip on the things which truly matter.

There are times when we are all counted among God’s poor. This much-loved group includes us whenever life robs us of the things we need to continue on. Whether we are lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parent, God knows our suffering and shares our concern. Whether we are besought by the enemy before us or by the demons within us, God stands at our sides. Even when we’re completely lacking in compassion for our fellow humans, God looks upon us with everlasting compassion. We must remember that, in spite of our personal varieties of poverty, we will always have enough of God’s love to get by.

Loving and Caring God, thank you for recognizing our poverty in all of its forms and for easing us through it with your loving presence.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Worry Less and Enjoy More

“Martha, Martha, you worry about many things, but only
one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it
will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

It’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate my need to prioritize. One would think that the past 100+ days of staying-in-place have given the opportunity to become an expert at this. I’m embarrassed to say that this isn’t the case. Though I’ve spent few of those days away from home, I still find myself with too little time to accomplish all that I hope to on any given day.

As I contemplate my need to better manage my time, I look up from my keyboard to respond to the tree outside my window. It seems to be waving to me. It could be the wind, but nothing else is moving beside a small cluster of that tree’s branches. Is that tree waving or is Someone else trying to get my attention?

Jesus once told his friend Martha that she worried too much. Martha needed to be more like her sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the love that came with them. Never mind that Martha was seeing to Jesus’ next meal! It occurs to me that the things we consider to be most important are sometimes of little importance in the grand scheme of things. Though Martha, Mary and Jesus certainly needed to eat that day, that meal could wait until after they’d had the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company.

Perhaps it’s time for me to ask Mary and Martha to move over a bit so I can sit with them. Perhaps they’ll teach me to stop worrying, to enjoy the moment at hand and then to get back to my work -in organized fashion, of course!

Generous God, as I set aside my worries, help me to enjoy the gift of every moment and to use each one well.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Stroll 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 usually matters very 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. The truth is that I never return from a walk without at least a tidbit inspiration.

Much to my dismay, my walks were irregular this past week. The excessive heat made my attempted treks outdoors far more taxing than I’d like them to be. That heat also distracted me from any inspiration that was sent my way. So it was that I tried to move around indoors just enough to convince myself that I’d gotten in 10,000 steps each of those days. Much to my dismay, those indoor steps were not at all inspiring!

Fortunately, the temperatures eventually dropped and I headed outdoors once again. I don’t think I was out of the house for two minutes when 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, our good and gracious God took residence in my uninspired psyche and the inspiration returned.

It seems to me that God enjoys my walks as much as I do because God seems to be with me every time I step out the door.

Dear God, thank you for being with us on whatever paths we’ll cross today.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Abba’s Children

I laughed half-heartedly as I looked over our June calendar. I’d already drawn a large X through a previously scheduled hair appointment and a meeting, a friend’s wedding day and our departure date for my niece’s wedding in Italy. Each of these events was cancelled several weeks ago in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I considered what we would do to celebrate Father’s Day in some manner, I looked upward. How I wanted to fill that calendar with an extended family dinner or a trip to the zoo or a cookout! I admit that I looked upward with every intention of complaining. And so I began, “I get staying-in-place. I understand that we don’t want to spread the virus. I just want to see our kids and grandkids and I’d like to actually hug them! Seeing a friend or two would also be nice!” As soon as I reached that exclamation point, I turned away from the calendar and looked downward. I put on my shoes and went outdoors to our patio.

My husband-the-deacon should also be called my husband-the-gardener. He truly has a green thumb which allows him to select just the right combinations of flowers and greenery to bring our yard to life each year. Mike’s plants are his babies and he carefully nurtures each one until it reaches its most beautiful potential. We usually wait several weeks into summer for his pots and flowerbeds to grow into their lush best. This year, however, is different. A week after he’d completed his planting, everything he’d nestled into the soil began to blossom beyond expectation. Within another few weeks, every leaf and flower had grown into what seemed to be its seasonal best. When I told Mike how amazed I was at all of this, he simply shook his head. “I don’t know what’s happening,” he said, “but the flowers have never looked this good before July. Whatever the reason, I’m glad!” Mike’s handiwork is what beckoned me out to the patio to continue my conversation with God.

As I took in the beauty around me, I looked upward once again, this time with my apology. “I’m sorry. I know I have nothing to complain about. So many people are suffering. If it’s not the virus, it’s the worry. A lot of people haven’t been called back to work. Some never will be. Then there are the poor who are always poor. Nothing ever seems to get better for them. Then there are the nurses, the doctors and the EMTs. Have they actually had the chance to rest yet? Then there is George Floyd. The poor man had no idea that he’d lose his life while changing all of our lives that day. I’m so sorry, dear God. I have nothing to complain about…” With that, I walked around our entire front and back yards. I looked at every annual and perennial. My husband-the-gardener had planted each one precisely where he wanted it to be and he pruned those that needed it with care. Though Mike often asks me what I think about his planting choices, I defer to his judgment. As I said, he’s the one who knows his flowers…

By the time I walked back to the patio, tears were streaming down my face. I finally understood. Just as Mike had done with every one of his plants, God has done with me. Mike’s plants are his babies. We are God’s babies. Mike planted each one where it would flourish and bloom. God planted me where I will flourish and bloom. God has planted us all in the precise place where we will flourish and bloom. My husband-the-gardener has achieved amazing results with his plantings. Imagine what God-the-Gardener hopes to achieve in you and me!

With that, I turned my thoughts from my worry and disappointment to Father’s Day and to this reflection. My kids and I organized a worthy celebration for Mike after all. I made him a Father’s Day card to avoid an extra trip to the store. Then, I turned my attention to God-the-Gardener. As I type, I realize I should have written God-the-Daddy because this is the name Jesus gave us to address his Abba and ours. We are much more than flowers and greenery to God. The scriptures remind us that we are indeed Abba’s children.

In the first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13), Jeremiah ends a fearful lament with this joyful realization: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion… who has rescued the life of the poor!” In the second reading (Romans 5:12-15), Paul tells us “…the grace of God… overflows for the many.” That many includes you and me. If we continue to doubt that we are God’s children, Jesus settles the matter in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 10:26-33): “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without Abba’s knowledge… So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” There you have it! Though we fail one another and fail ourselves more often than we care to admit, our Abba remains steadfast in loving us. In the midst of our troubles, our Abba never leaves us alone. It seems that, in spite of everything, Father’s Day is well-timed this year. What better time is there to acknowledge our dads who love us through everything and our Abba who does the same?

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved