The Promise of Hope

You love me, O God, in your goodness…
From Psalm 51:3

I’m grateful for the signs of spring which renew my hope with every new sprout-sighting. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to be able to walk outdoors every day since our stay-at-home life has been in place. We who venture out have become expert at social distancing and at appreciating the fresh air and the natural beauty around us, rain or shine! The best part of this is that the expanse of the outdoors, from the sky above to the earth beneath our feet, puts our current situation in perspective.

You see, I’ve learned something from my walk through Lent and Easter 2020 and our battle with COVID-19. I’ve also learned something from Spring 2020. Each of these experiences promises life after winter, life after the trauma which besets us just now and life after death. Regardless of my success or failure to use the moment at hand optimally, another opportunity awaits me in the moment after that. This doesn’t mean that I’ll intentionally waste even a second of the time I’m given. What it does mean is that, when I make a mistake, I’ll be as patient with myself as God is.

Merciful God, help me to do my best. When I don’t, help me to acknowledge this setback honestly, to assess my regret sincerely, to seek your guidance once again and then to move on.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Pray Always, All Ways

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 86:3-4

I admit that there are times when the tone and the topics of my prayers amaze me. More than once, I’ve stepped back from a monologue directed at the Lord God to ask myself what I am thinking. Each time, after getting over the unmitigated gall with which I dared to approach The Almighty One, I take a deep breath and begin again. It is during these second beginnings that I apologize for my nerve in ordering God around, I give thanks for God’s unconditional love, and I invite God into a real conversation with me. Though I never actually “hear” a single word from above, God communicates just the same in the peaceful assurance which fills me up and urges me on.

It occurs to me that we humans are quite fortunate that we are created in God’s image and likeness. God’s love is so great that it spilled out and took form in Creation. God tells us that you and I are God’s greatest handiwork. Part of that greatness comes in the traces of God’s love which remain entrenched in our DNA -a constant reminder that we are loved and therefore listened to. No wonder we are not only compelled to pray but also to assume that we will always be heard.

Loving God, thank you for caring.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Best

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
From Luke 11:11-13

It was heartbreaking. Someone near and dear to me confessed her conviction that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word of consolation, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow which had filled her life. My friend ended her lengthy monologue with a deluge of tears. When I moved closer to her on the couch we shared, she collapsed in my arms.

I waited some time for her sobs to fade into whimpering and for her tears to run out. When my friend had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad I could be with her and that I loved her. We sat for a few more minutes and then I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thank you!”

I was most grateful that my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold your past against you. You lived through some seriously difficult times and I certainly understand what drove you to those things. You know what else? My humble opinion doesn’t matter. God’s opinion does. If little ol’ me can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of those things for you. God will never ever give up on you!”

I think that my friend believed me. She left smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear the smile in her voice.

Thank you, Loving and Merciful God, for always out-doing our best.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever Merciful

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd guards his flock.

Jeremiah 31:10-11

I admit that whenever Pope Francis is mentioned in the news I tune in with great interest. He stole my heart when he was elected and first appeared on that balcony over St. Peter’s Square. He refused to don the ornate cape normally placed over the shoulders of a new pontiff. Francis chose to greet God’s people as one of us.

Since that first “Francis sighting,” Francis has continued to stun some and to touch the hearts of others with his openness to all people and to reform in the church. His remarks indicate that he is keenly aware of Jesus’ propensity to embrace outcasts and to invite them back into the fold of the faithful. This pope is also keenly aware of Jesus’ generous and indiscriminate rendering of forgiveness and mercy upon all who need them. His declaration of the current Year of Mercy was no accident.

Pope Francis has empathy for divorced Catholics who have remarried outside of the Church and are therefore kept from receiving communion. This issue troubles me as much as it does Pope Francis and I’m pleased that he has made their plight a priority. Because I have helped many Catholics and others through the Church’s annulment process and I have witnessed their pain, I am anxious for the Church to do as Jesus did in this regard. After all, Jesus never ever excluded anyone from his table. I’m in your corner, Francis, as you work to see that we do the same.

Loving God, thank you for Pope Francis. Give him and all of us the wisdom and stamina to transform this world as you would.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

M… for Memorial Day

For the Lord loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149:4

Memorial Day observances traditionally recount the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives in service to this country. Whether they were drafted into service or they enlisted by choice, each one fulfilled an obligation which he or she accepted to the point of death. Though some may have wrestled with doubt, wondering if anything was worth dying for, we know the final outcome. This weekend, tens of thousands of flags decorate their graves. These flags herald those who completed, as best they could, what they set out to do.

Today, our Memorial Day remembrances include all of those who have passed from this life to the next. Though they may not have donned military uniforms to endure the trials of battle, those whom we mourn assumed a role of great importance to us. Whether our mother or father, our husband or wife, our child, our family member or our friend, those whom we mourn did something similar to that which our military personnel did. They responded to what they saw as their roles in this life and they fulfilled those roles as best they could. At times, our loved ones achieved great success and their impacts upon our lives were sources of great joy or growth or satisfaction. At times, they failed miserably, and their impacts upon us were precisely the opposite. Perhaps they walked away for a while from a father, a mother, a spouse, a child or a friend. Sometimes, we civilians can be tempted to be AWOL from a commitment which seems to require too much. Today, we mourn all of our loved ones who have passed, sometimes because of their humanity and sometimes in spite of it.

There is something very God-like about the way we remember those who have gone before us. Often, after we bid them our final farewells, our memories become less focused upon their failures. When we reminisce, we tend to recall the happy or amusing or glorious times we shared. In our family, my father died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his death, the man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. Years later, when our mother married a wonderful, but very different man, I marveled at his bravery. Following in my father’s footsteps was an impossible task. Yet, upon my step-dad’s death many years later, the same phenomenon occurred. A second father-turned-saint occupied our memories. Need I tell you that my mother-turned-saint resides above in all of her glory as well?

Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate the gift of eternal joy in the names of those who know that joy firsthand. There is something holy to be found as we relish our relationships with those among us and with those whom we mourn. The selective memories which bestow sainthood upon our very human loved ones reflect the selective vision of God. God’s welcoming eyes will greet each of us upon our arrival home.

Today, as we remember our military personnel and all of the loved ones who have lived their lives for us, let us smile between the tears. There is good reason to rejoice for them and for ourselves!

Thank you, God, for the promise of heaven and for the loved ones with whom we will share it!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Those Curve Balls…

“I have told you this so that you might have peace
in me. In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

John 16:33

He said it again. When life throws my husband a curve ball, he usually responds by observing, “God sure has a sense of humor!” I admit that my response differs a bit when I am the recipient of that curve ball. I tend to keep my initial reactions to trauma to myself. If I didn’t -well who knows what I might say? There is usually too much to do to allow myself the luxury of complaining aloud. So I converse with myself and then the Lord God in silence until I reconcile myself to the situation at hand. When I have calmed myself down –or God has stepped in to do this for me- I finally respond with my own observation: “This is just a small reminder that we’re not in heaven yet.”

The curve balls have been flying fast and furiously as of late. As a result, I find myself most grateful that God’s keeps the promise to be with us always. Though havoc reigns around me, gentle peace calms me from within -even when I fail to notice it for far too long.

Consoling God, knowing that your care is constant makes all of the difference in my little world.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved