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Franciscan Spirit Blog

Pennies from Heaven

Jun 28, 2021
Seven Days with the Psalms: Pennies from Heaven
Welcome to day one of our celebration! Today, Maureen O'Brien encourages us to put our trust in God—just as the psalms advise.

Finding a penny is such an ordinary thing. Just a near-worthless coin fallen in a parking lot or in cinders on the edge of a road. I absolutely love finding a penny. I keep them in a woven dish my daughter made in middle school, and when it overflows, I donate them all to the American Cancer Society, even if it’s only eighty-six cents.

This began when I had the blessing of attending—or should I say the “lamps under my feet led me” to—a monthly support group with the great healer Bernie Siegel. A nebbishy Jewish pediatric surgeon from Yale who changed the face of cancer care in the 1980s with his breakout book Love, Medicine, and Miracles, his work has impacted the entire landscape of modern medicine ever since. His international, bestselling books—with titles like A Book of Miracles and 365 Prescriptions for the Soul—are uplifting and useful to anyone, not just individuals and families traveling the unfamiliar road of serious illnesses.

We’d sit in a circle of metal folding chairs at his son’s New Age bookstore, Wisdom of the Ages. Bernie’s ratty, matted rescue dogs snored and panted in the center. Our group was comprised of vulnerable people in various phases of disease. Bernie holds the belief that all people long to be healed. Not cured. Healed. “Death is not a failure,” he frequently said. “It’s going to happen to all of us. But instead of being afraid of death, do something else. Send yourself life messages.”

Author Maureen O'Brien encourages us to look for minor miracles all around us.

I remember a man who was terminal; we all loved his kind smile. He had recently purchased his dream car, a vintage canary-yellow convertible Corvette, and would tell us how he traveled thirty miles (one way) each morning to go get his favorite smoothie. Bernie always praised his attitude, how the man prioritized joy and sent his body life messages.

Bernie believes in finding signs of God everywhere, including the “In God We Trust” messages imprinted on random pennies waiting for us on the ground. Bernie is a delightful storyteller, and if I recall this correctly, he tells a story of running a marathon and spying a penny many miles into his route, bending to pick it up, and hearing a spectator on the sidelines witness this and gasp, “Wow, that guy must be really poor.”

A line from the psalms can glint like this.

I’ve flipped forward and backward through the pages. Read them right to left, from Psalm 39, turned the pages up to Psalm 116. It’s just the way it is, being with them. And as I near my yearly cancer test, I tell my friend Alex how vulnerable I know I will feel in my hospital Johnny, the intimacy of being on the G.I. floor near others in their beds and just curtains between us, the chance that a stranger might see you undressing by mistake, the doctors and nurses in their New Balance sneakers, and the wait to see if Dr. Vignati found anything, and the dehydration and the anesthesia, and Alex offers, “Well, I am really glad Madeline is taking you to the test, how wonderful,” and I agree.

I am very grateful my children take me, and as the day of the test draws near, I am sitting on my deck with my Bible open to the Psalms and I find this glinting: The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; you turn down his bedding whenever he is ill. (Ps 41:3)

I have never read those lines before, and there they are, a perfect penny found, In God We Trust.

Wisdom from the Psalms

Sometimes, in the challenges of our lives, we can feel far from God’s help. The images in these lines can help us remember God’s nearness:

“He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield” (Ps 91:4).

Take some time today to recognize the ways that God is alongside you—never missing a step—and that you can trust God completely.

Find refuge in the psalms


Mon, 06/28/2021 - 07:52 AM
Funny how God works! I’m going to my oncologist today to review lab work . If it’s not good it will mean a possible change of medicine which will most likely cause side effects. And my daughter is having surgery in July to rule out cancer, Boy did this help me today ! Thank you Lord and I trust in You 🤗
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:16 PM
You sound like such a positive person, even in spite of these really difficult challenges--I admire that!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 07:56 AM
I read the Pop's daily message that includes a Psalm. I grew to love reading them and added your site for extra inspiration.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:19 PM
Thank you Maryann; I hope these Seven Days With the Psalms does indeed give you extra inspiration!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 08:20 AM
Maureen, what a blessing to start my day with this wonderful gift from you on my daily Franciscan Media reading!! You continue to be a real blessing in my life...thank you for your wisdom, your gift of writing and your friendship... Sending prayers and hugs!!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:21 PM
Anne, I appreciate your reaching out! I am still so grateful for your willingness to be interviewed for the book! How is your dwelling?:)
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 08:24 AM
Found a penny yesterday! It is the simple things that can brighten up a day. I am learning to understand letting go of the things I cannot control and trusting God to handle things.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:24 PM
Joann, I struggle with it so much--it seems just when I let go, I take it back--and have to let go again!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 08:42 AM
I found the reading and Maureen's message full of hope. I like to find pennies but from now on I will see that chance as a sign of hope from God to me.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:25 PM
Wishing you lots of pennies!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 08:50 AM
I go today and tomorrow for my 3 mo. lab results. Cancer from 2005 snuck back in 2017, 19, or radiation has kept me free. It is chronic illness I can live with. But still takes me anxiety to get results. Ps 91 is a prayer to be free from this 'enemy' personalize the psalm and it is a healing prayer. Put your words to it.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:30 PM
I understand your anxiety, and I admire your commitment to letting Psalm 91 work in your life. It's one of my favorites now as well. Coincidentally (or not!) the reader who left a comment above (Anne) is in my book and is the one who first led me to really looking at Psalm 91.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 09:25 AM
Thank you for your “every day” insights one day at time. Hank D
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:32 PM
Hank, thank you so much for reaching across the many years to leave a comment here! I hope you are well and, perhaps, finding pennies...!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 10:12 AM
I was diagnosed with cancer 4 months ago. This reading gave me tremendous peace. Thank you for your witness and for the grace it provides.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:37 PM
Jason, thank you so much for taking the time to say that this reading helped you. I am humbled to know this, and I deeply appreciate your words. I know that grace will continue to find you!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:09 PM
As most folks, I have picked up numerous pennies throughout my life. However, I never thought deeply about the inscription of "In God we trust" before...until now! No wonder they call it pennies from heaven! Thank you for bringing this to my attention! From now on I will not only just pick them up, but it will now bring to mind that God IS always with me and reminding me of another small, nudging way.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 02:17 PM
Marilyn, I am so glad you, too, are now going to be one of the people who really value finding pennies...I am so convinced they show up just when we need them!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:49 PM
I just read the reflection for Day 1 as I await being called in at the Wound Clinic where my open wound from surgery & the beginning of lymphedema will be evaluated. TRUST is just what I needed to hear today. Thank you.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 02:20 PM
It takes such courage to remain open to trust when we are afraid; I deeply admire your ability to do it! Your journey sounds so difficult...yet your attitude is fully inspiring...
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 01:54 PM
During our months of Covid Lockdowns I decided to make a Camino with the Psalms most days I walked within my 5 k neighbourhood And local 300 acre parklands and reflected on a psalm beginning with Psalm 1. I began 19 th Jan and finished on 17 th June I felt God accompany me and wrote a reflection each day it has been a very enlightening experience and I enjoyed noticing all the little miracles I discovered on my Camino especially those taking place in Nature winter Jan ,Spring March /April and Summer May /June. The changing seasons reminding me of W Gods abundance and regeneration and the earths capacity for healing .
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 02:24 PM
Joy, I love this story! I mean, just WOW! Your discipline and commitment to the Psalms is truly beautiful and inspiring...just stunning! Thank you so much for sharing it here.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 04:05 PM
Very Inspiring write up. Thank you sincerely. I pray through these days of sharing I will come to know love a d pray with the palms
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 09:47 PM
I definitely believe that in just seeking them as you are that you WILL be brought closer to them… they never let me down.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 05:08 PM
I enjoyed the first encounter with you and Seven Days with the Psalms. I look forward to this opportunity to look at and venture through the Psalms.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 09:48 PM
We’re glad you’ve joined us in this journey!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 07:46 PM
After reading this meditation this morning, I ordered Chinese for dinner and afterwards I opened my fortune cookie and this is what it read “Pennies from heaven find their way to your doorstep this year”. Praise God for he is speaking to his servant.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 09:50 PM
I love this! An amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing it! :) a perfect way to end our first day of the journey!
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 10:31 PM
I am brand new to this site and I am very happy that God has led me to all of these wonderful stories and uplifting words ! And I also am going through some stuff …I needed to read all of these words today. I always start my day with gratitude, today makes me especially grateful finding this site!
Wed, 06/30/2021 - 04:25 PM
Kathie, welcome, I love what Franciscan Media offers. So much great material to lead you to the peace we all long for and deserve.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 11:24 PM
,,,,,, when I find a penny I feel it is my son sending a “ Hi Mom, I’m Ok”, from heaven. He died at age 21… now I can add the message to my mind, “ in God I trust “, realizing that God does care.
Wed, 06/30/2021 - 04:27 PM
I cannot imagine the heartache you have endured… this is an incredible “penny story”…thank you for sharing it with us.
Mon, 06/28/2021 - 11:53 PM
I remember longing for a milk shake or chocolate when I was on chemo. I could not because I was lactose intollerant. So happy happy someone could enjoy these simple pleasures of life.
Wed, 06/30/2021 - 04:28 PM
You have such graciousness—thank you for sharing it here!

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