God Always Listens…

God looked down from the holy height,
from heaven God beheld the earth,
to hear the groaning…

From Psalm 102:20-21

When I was a child, people often asked me to pray on their behalf. I obliged as best I could. Every night, I said my prayers. This was more my mother’s doing than my own. When she tucked me into bed, she’d always ask, “Did you say your prayers?” If I had, I proudly acknowledged this. If I hadn’t, I admitted my omission and quickly began. Sometimes, though I told my mom that I already said my prayers, she mentioned that I might want to offer an extra prayer for someone who was sick or who had something difficult to deal with. Again, I happily obliged. I was pleased that someone thought my prayers were helpful.

Over the years, difficulties which seemed not to be alleviated by my prayers gave me reason to question this effort. I wondered far too often if prayer did any good at all. Fortunately, I eventually realized that presenting a laundry list of requests to God isn’t all there is to prayer. I finally learned to listen. Rather then voicing what God already knew, I invited God to look into my heart for my troubles and those I carried for others. Though I wasn’t always sure of what my prayer accomplished, just knowing that God was aware changed everything for me. Though I rarely knew what, I knew for certain God would see to everything in God’s good time.

Generous God, inspire us with your persistence, that we will always turn to you in our need and with our gratitude.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Don’t Fret…

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…
Hebrews 10:24

I’m certain my litany of complaints gave my friend a headache. I began with the observation that I think I’m getting old. I find myself full of impatience regarding the state of our world and of the many institutions which provide structure to our daily lives. I feel a great sense of urgency which demands that the powers that be do something to improve life on this planet. At the same time, I feel impelled to take action myself as well. But, where do I begin? While my friend shook his head, I wondered…

Has all of my fretting given the Lord God reason to laugh? God knows better than I that we humans have struggled with our use of free will since time began. God also knows better than I that in our brighter moments, when we allow the goodness within us to light our way, we’re capable of transforming the worst situations into amazing opportunities.

Perhaps God hasn’t been laughing at me after all. Rather, perhaps God has smiled in my direction and imparted a bit of Divine Wisdom in the process. It occurs to me that, though I may not be able to alleviate all of this world’s woes, I can certainly do something in my little corner of this world.

Dear God, as long as we care, we’re capable of great good. Help me and all of us to use our energy and resources to make that goodness a reality.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always There…

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:5

Some of the most tender moments parents share with their children are the result of uncertainty and fear. Through the worst of storms, a far too frightening film or when someone actually promises to do them harm, children scramble to the laps of their parents to find safety. In their parents’ embrace, children find comfort in carefully chosen words which offer the assurance that, indeed, everything will be all right. When parents’ words aren’t enough and their children continue to shiver and shake, parents simply hold their children tightly for as long as it takes to bring them peace.

God’s children aren’t very different, are they? Sometimes, no matter how well-chosen God’s words are, we also find it difficult to take them in. Uncertainty and fear overwhelm us. These feelings preclude our understanding and they preclude our ability to find comfort. For these very reasons, God promises simply to be with us.

Though I’m old enough and wise enough not to be frightened by much, there are times when my circumstances or those of another of God’s children manage to fill me with fear. Since my parents’ laps are no longer available to me, I immediately ask God to make good on that promise to remain with me, and so God does… Every time, God is there…

Loving God, thank you for embracing each of us in our joy, in our sorrow and in our fear.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Struggling To Respond…

Two of them that same day were making their way to Emmaus,
seven miles distant from Jerusalem,
discussing as they went all that had happened.

Luke 24:13-14

On our last day in Israel, we arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv late Monday night. Tired as I was, my brain seemed to be in overdrive as images from the past eight days swirled about in my memory. I pulled my now-ragged itinerary from my purse in a vain attempt to organize my thoughts. I’d met so many wonderful people and revisited so many amazing sights along the way. I wondered how I could possibly process all of this…

After Jesus died, those who were unaware returned to their villages and homes to resume their lives after Passover. Some of those who knew Jesus had to do the same. Any hope they had in a change for the better died with their teacher. So it was that they returned to life before Jesus. Jesus’ closest friends suffered nearby as they huddled in uncertainty and fear. Those who remained near the cross until the end and then saw to his burial worried little about themselves. Those who had deserted Jesus and denied him wallowed in the fear which kept them from standing by their dying friend.

The men who returned to Emmaus struggled with their memories as well. Their thoughts likely swirled in their heads as mine had while I sat in the airport. In my case, I knew the end of the story and the hope for us all that has followed. These poor fellows knew none of this. They walked in disappointed misery until a stranger joined them along the way…

Loving God, be with me when I swim in uncertainty without direction. Be with me as I struggle to respond to your presence in my life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Only A While Longer?

“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”
John 13:33

While we were in Israel, I overheard two travelers from another group consoling one another over a friend who was unable to join them for their trip. The person who couldn’t travel with them had been ill and didn’t recover as quickly as they’d hoped. Because these three considered this trip to Israel to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, this turn of events anguished them all. The two who had made it consoled own another with their promise to pray at every holy place they visited for the person they’d unwillingly left behind. Their tone indicated that this illness might be their fellow traveler’s last.

As Holy Week approaches, I imagine conversations regarding Jesus’ situation among his friends. I suppose none of them were anxious to return to Jerusalem with so much uncertainty regarding Jesus’ work. Where would Jesus’ teaching take him? Where would it take them? Was Judas already expressing concern regarding all of this? Were the others happy to follow their teacher or were they struggling with worry as well?

Those fellow travelers found consolation in praying for their sick friend. She would be with them in spirit as they expressed their concern for her to God. The poor disciples weren’t as adept as we are at prayer. Though they had Jesus in their midst, they weren’t certain of what to make of his presence in their lives. Though they’d witnessed so much, they’re weren’t privy to The Big Picture which inspires us along the way.

Loving God, help me to be patient with others and with myself when we puzzle over this life. Help us to remember that you are with us though it all.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Life-Giving Water

Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul…

From Psalm 23:2-3

The Dead Sea is a popular attraction in Israel. It rests sixteen miles east of Jerusalem and covers 300 square miles. When referenced in the scriptures, it’s called The Salt Sea. Most often, this formidable body of water is cited simply to describe the location of more important places. Though our ancient counterparts likely weren’t aware of the chemistry involved, the waters of their Salt Sea are actually almost 25% mineral salts. It seems to me that we should return this powerful body to its original name. Modern-day visitors appear to agree because they come in droves to seek its amazing power to rejuvenate ones skin, ones health and perhaps much more…

As we approached the shoreline, we found ourselves in the midst of a tourist haven. People from everywhere had come to experience the Dead Sea’s therapeutic powers firsthand. Many wore swimwear in an effort to soak themselves in this apparent fountain of youth for as long as possible. My husband and our tour-mates joined in the fun and fury by making their way down to the black mud beach. They waded into the water as far as their rolled-up jeans would allow.

As for me, I waited at a small observation area which offered a breathtaking view. After taking in the sea air and the inspiring surroundings, I watched as drenched pilgrims made their way back to the tourist center to warm themselves and to replace their swimsuits with dry clothing. Some laughed. Some seemed uncomfortably cold. Some seemed rapt in prayer, perhaps asking that this would be the “something” which relieved their suffering. As each one passed, I prayed as well. “Dear God, help them to find what they’re looking for.”

As we boarded the bus for our next adventure, I realized that I’d been blessed with something unexpected. Though I hadn’t touched a drop of that amazing water, my soul was at peace and all was well in my little corner of the world.

Generous God, thank you for the many unexpected surprises which come our way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved