Sing at the Top of Your Lungs

By Mary Humphrey of Independence, Missouri, USA

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.  Psalm 98:4–6

Last summer I went to Middle School Camp at Lake Doniphan. I remember I felt close to God many times. Two of my fondest memories of that closeness were on walks where we could reflect, pray, and just have some time with God.

The first walk was called the walk of faith. On the walk of faith, we were led outside and blindfolded. We then walked over and around many obstacles as if in the dark of night. The only thing guiding us was a rope. I found God in this activity because we realized God is always there—even when we couldn’t see the barriers and obstacles. God kept us safe that entire journey, and for that, I grew in God.

The second walk did not have a name, but it was just as memorable. We had our campfire, starting with the usual silly, fun songs and skits. Then it got serious. Everyone sang at the top of their lungs, praising God. Then, as a cabin group, we were led to talk to one of the pastors for a prayer before we were sent to the woods with only a candle in our hands.

As I walked, I thought about whom I was living my life for.

Was it for me? If not, who? Then I realized it was God. God is the one I want to live my life for. God gave me my life, my breath, and the place I live. I walked off that trail, crying, and I was greeted by people who love me, people who God put there for me.

So, thank you, God.

Prayer for Peace:

Can you hear our joyful noise, Lord? We want you to hear how loved we feel; how much we love you. Thank you for your guidance on the path to peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart

Each day this week open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breath slow and deepen. Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity.

With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. “God, I breathe in the gift of  ______ with thanks.” Let your heart expand to contain God’s gracious outpouring. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share out of the overflow of your heart.

Eternal joy and peace await those who grow in the grace of generosity that flows from compassionate hearts.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

Peace Covenant:

Even though I go through some dark times, God, I will trust you are there.

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Love Your Neighbor in Prison

By Lillian Kirby of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:28–31

The telephone rang in the chaplain’s office at the Temple, and I answered it, receiving a most-unusual request. The call was from a prison inmate. He could make only outgoing calls, and I couldn’t call him back because of prison regulations.

His first question was, “Does your church believe in a heaven and a hell?”

Section 76 of Doctrine and Covenants came into the conversation as I steered it toward Community of Christ’s belief in God’s grace and forgiveness.

Apparently this is what he needed to hear. Next, he confessed he could not forgive his mother, who would not come to see him in prison. She was ashamed her son had committed a crime for which he was incarcerated.

I carefully steered our talk to God’s forgiveness of the sincerely repentant. I looked down on my desk, and my Bible was open to the Psalms. The psalmist had repented and prayed for God to forgive him. I read several chapters to this upset, needy man.

With help from the Holy Spirit, I persuaded him to forgive his mother and to call her on Mother’s Day to tell her he loved her. With a contrite heart and a voice filled with emotion, he thanked me and agreed not only to call his mother, but to start on his own path of repentance.

Prayer for Peace:

Thank you, God, for our neighbors, who are poor, needy, socially marginal, and imprisoned. May we extend to them our love, which is your love. May we extend to them also our radical hospitality. In accepting this mission, we come closer to peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart

Open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. Focus on breathing in God’s generosity. Silently name one gift for which you are thankful. Let your heart expand to contain God’s gracious outpouring. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share.

Eternal joy and peace await those who grow in the grace of generosity that flows from compassionate hearts.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

Peace Covenant:

Today God, I offer you love from my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

God’s Faithfulness

By Dorene Kilburn of Stratford, Ontario, Canada

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.  Isaiah 11:5

This morning, when I looked on our backyard, I got a wonderful surprise. A three-inch-tall clump of daffodils had pushed up through the earth!

A couple of days before, a foot of snow had hidden the promise. The snow, except for huge mounds on the front lawn, disappeared with yesterday’s rain. Winter has not yet left, but God is providing signs of rebirth—a glimpse of blessings to come.

I pondered the broader message this might have for me. Do I live in expectation of blessing that is as much a part of God’s love for us as the changing seasons God created?

My life took an unexpected turn this past year, and the journey now includes me being caregiver because my husband has a debilitating disease. Still, there are wonderful surprises, moments that tell me God blesses us on the journey. I know I must live in expectation of that blessing.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “God is with us in the evening and the morning, and very definitely on every new day.”

Prayer for Peace:

God of dusk, dawn, and every new day, send us your innermost spring. Awaken us with your hidden, unfolding seasons. In the cold winter, assure us the warmth of spring will come. Help us know the promise of fall when we endure the stifling heat of summer. We have faith in your comfort when we face struggles.

Spiritual Practices for the Week: A Gracious, Generous Heart

Open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breath slow and deepen. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity. With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. “God, I breathe in the gift of  _______ with thanks.” With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Peace Covenant:

I will wait on your promises, God, knowing they will complete their sacred circle.

Pray It Back

By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1–2

Dear God,

In your grace and forgiving nature, won’t you let me take back my prayer? You must know I didn’t mean it as soon as it spilled from my mouth. You must know it wasn’t truth that was escaping from my broken heart. At least, then, if you release it back to me, I won’t feel so dishonest. After all, I was just trying to be brave.

Do you remember my pathetic prayer? It was right after my son lost his fight with leukemia. It was at his memorial service and went something like this…

“Gentle Shepherd, from a mother’s loving arms

I release my son into your loving arms.

     From a mother’s care and concern,

     I release him into your salvation.

Thank you, Creator God, for allowing us the
blessing

of being co-creators with you of this being we
called Isaac Samuel.

     Thank you for the 25 years, the laughter…the tears.

     From his infancy to his parenthood—in
the seeming blink of an eye.

Thank you for Community of Christ, which
was with him

constantly during his long, hard fight for life.

     And now, thank you for releasing him
from his final struggle

     into your peace. Amen”

Do you remember?

When the first anniversary of his death approached, and time wasn’t doing its expected healing job, I realized how much I really didn’t mean that prayer. So, to make up for my misplaced “acceptable” behavior, I went into the woods and I screamed as loudly as I could. I know you were there to hear me, God…like you were there to hear my prayer.

Yours truthfully, Isaac’s mom (on his birthday)

Prayer for Peace:

Understanding God, when we lift our eyes to the hills to find you, sometimes they are full of tears. Bless us with your comfort, God, and strengthen us to be your disciples of peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart

Open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breath slow and deepen. Spend time focusing on breathing in God’s generosity. With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. “God, I breathe in the gift of  ________with thanks.” With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Peace Covenant:

Today God, I will be strong and remember the blessings of comfort the community brings.

Speak of God’s Power

By Richard James, Council of Twelve Apostles

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”  Acts 2:17–18

I was attending a leaders meeting in Germany four years ago. I could not speak German, so the discussions were translated for me. It was a long day, and much was discussed. On some issues there was not a clear way forward.

At the end of the day we gathered in a circle for worship, which again was translated for me. It started with a scripture from Johannes (John), which I recognized.

Then a time was available for people to share their thoughts on the day and their hopes for the church.

I suddenly had a remarkable experience.

As I looked around the circle a person would come to my mind, and then words came into my head. Then that person stood up. As the words were translated, they were the same words I had heard in my mind. This happened five times consecutively.

This was a powerful expression of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was similar to the experience of the early disciples at Pentecost. As I reflected on my experience I heard the words again in my mind that “we need to listen to one another, as we are all speaking words from God. If we only listen to a few voices we do not get the whole message.”

As we engage in discernment it is important that we listen to everyone, so God’s voice can be heard. I am humbled by the powerful way God moved that day and that I was reminded “all are of worth.” I also was reminded the Holy Spirit works in wonderful ways to help us in Christ’s mission.

Prayer for Peace:

Revealing God, open our ears to one another so we may hear your whole message. We all are called—may we all call for the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart

Each day this week open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breath slow and deepen. Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity.

With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. “God, I breathe in the gift of  with thanks.” Let your heart expand to contain God’s gracious outpouring. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Eternal joy and peace await those who grow in the grace of generosity that flows from compassionate hearts.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will listen for your call and then join my voice with other peacemakers around the world.

Pay Attention

By Jeff Anderson and Larry McGuire of Baltimore, Maryland, USA

You who are my disciples must be found continuing in the forefront of those organizations and movements which are recognizing the worth of persons and are committed to bringing the ministry of my Son to bear on their lives.  Doctrine and Covenants 151:9

The Power House ministry in inner-city Baltimore is a blessing to countless children, youth, and adults. It is also a place for dreams of peace.

The recent addition of a Young Peacemakers trailer—complete with displays—means people can pay attention to those dreams as they become real.

Principals of two schools agreed to support Young Peacemakers as part of their educational experience. Now children of broken dreams and broken neighborhoods can experience what it means to have a place of safety and peace.

Thanks to generous gifts, including a missionary grant from World Mission Tithes, building peace in the Power House is a reality that touches countless children. Thank you for responding generously.

Prayer for Peace:

Divine Architect, help us, as disciples, to design ministries that will witness of your Son. May we provide sanctuary for those who feel unsafe. May we each recognize the worth of all persons as they are and in their potential to be peacemakers.

Spiritual Practice:

What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom, God’s dream of beauty and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the voice of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise?

Spend a few moments reflecting on when and how God’s voice has spoken to you. When did you first feel called to join God in the pursuit of peace and justice? How does that call to shalom continue to come to you through the many voices of God?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will pay attention to ways I can make dreams of peace come true.

It Happened at a Celebration

By Shirley Remmenga of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5–6

The wedding ceremony ended, and all the wedding party and most of the guests gathered for the reception meal. My grandniece had asked me to give the prayer of blessing for the newlyweds and the meal.

I happened to sit next to the husband of another grandniece, someone I hardly knew. I offered the prayer, and as I sat down, he said, “Where did you find that prayer?” I answered, “I wrote it.” He responded, “It was so right, I think you ought to publish it as a wedding blessing!”

His simple remark somehow connected us—not because of the prayer itself, but because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in that place at that moment.

Our relationship will forever be one of connectedness, and neither of us will forget it. I am so grateful God is present in our celebrations, as well as in our life struggles.

I have decided to apply this blessing to all my relationships:

“Creator God, may we keep the communication lines between us and our loved ones open and kind, so we can tell one another our joys, concerns, and deep feelings. For when we share these, we will be able to meet the challenges that every relationship faces and be able to continue to journey together in love.

“Help us, God, remember that it is important that we all continue to develop our own individuality so our togetherness does not become a chain that binds us, but wings that help us soar. Strong, secure individuals enhance exciting relationships—ones that definitely include you, God. Bless us to this beginning. Amen.”

Prayer for Peace:

God of blessing, we feel your presence in life’s celebrations as well as in our struggles. May we magnify our relationships as we recognize your presence in them.  May your presence guide us on the road to peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Connecting with God as Center

Each day this week connect with God through journal writing. Use a notebook, journal, computer, or any available paper. Prayerfully center on your intent to open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind.

Your “letter to God” might include thoughts, questions, feelings, needs, artwork, quotes, and scriptures, or it might take the form of a prayer, psalm, or poem. Try to write at least five minutes each day.

What do you experience? Is this an effective way to connect with God? What surprises you? What new images or questions from God emerge? What deepens or changes in your relationship with God, Christ, Spirit?

Peace Covenant:

Creator God, I will encourage freedom in relationships—freedom to seek you as individuals.

How Would You Prepare?

By Vera Entwistle, Forster Keys, New South Wales, Australia

…who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free…  Psalm 146:7

A cartoon is called “Calvin and Hobbes.” Calvin marches into the living room early one morning. His mother is in her favorite chair, drinking coffee. She is amazed at how young Calvin is dressed.

A large space helmet encases Calvin’s head. He wears a long cape. In one hand he holds a flashlight and in the other a baseball bat. What’s wrong, his mother asks. “Nothing, so far,” says Calvin. “But you never know. Something could happen, and if anything does, I am going to be ready for it.”

As he leaves the room his mother says, “I think I need a suit like that.”

During the last few weeks our congregation has focused on personal meditation. I remembered Calvin, and I realized some days I feel I need an outfit like Calvin had.

Then today comes the news of some dear friends, church leaders in Nepal, who have gone into hiding. Their lives were threatened because of their faith. How would any of us prepare for a threat like that?

In times like these I am thankful for God’s love and assurance. I feel I need to sing a hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal: “I am trusting thee, to guide me, Thou alone shalt lead; every day and hour supplying all I may need.”

Prayer for Peace:

Comforting God, set free those who suffer for your cause. Assure us that your peaceable kingdom will prevail.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Connecting with God as Center

Each day this week connect with God through journal writing. Use a notebook, journal, computer, or any available paper. Prayerfully center on your intent to open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind.

Your “letter to God” might include thoughts, questions, feelings, needs, artwork, quotes, and scriptures, or it might take the form of a prayer, psalm, or poem. Try to write at least five minutes each day.

What do you experience? Is this an effective way to connect with God? What surprises you? What new images or questions from God emerge? What deepens or changes in your relationship with God, Christ, Spirit?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will trust in you to set the prisoner free. I will do what I can to work for justice.

Patio Prayer

By Elizabeth Else of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

Advertisements constantly bombard us: Buy this, achieve that, travel here, or do this and you will find happiness. We aspire for, focus on, and become addicted to the pursuit of happiness.

There are times of achievement, gain, or experience that do produce a measure of happiness, but then the moments, like the objects, pass.

I, too, wish to be happy. I remember those fleeting moments when “all’s right with the world.” However it was during illness, professional uncertainty, and great personal pain that I understood deep joy.

In the summer of 2002, I was at a crossroads. I experienced painful betrayal and devastating losses. I had just recovered from an illness. My career was uncertain. Although moving was a certainty, the destination was unknown.

Late one Sunday evening after my English students had left our tea party, I went out to the patio. I was drawn into the beauty of the night—the sound of crickets, the smell of flowers, and the sight of a full moon shining on the garden.

I began to pray. As I praised God in my usual way, I entered a state of praise as never before. I thanked God for the opportunity to meet new friends and to serve overseas. Joy bubbled up from somewhere deep inside. An hour later, I said, “Amen.”

Life continues with its ups and downs—momentary happiness and challenges. I live, as many do, in the valleys of each day rather than on the mountaintops of exquisite experiences. However, the joy of that summer night’s prayer remains to sustain me in trials, support me in my serving, and to pull me back to the center when caught in the pursuit of something less.

Prayer for Peace:

Guard our hearts, God, against shallow desires. Challenge us to want what you want for us—that which provides deep, lasting joy for our soul. With this deep joy to carry us, we are able to be at peace with the ebb and flow of pleasure and pain.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Connecting with God as Center

Each day this week connect with God through journal writing. Use a notebook, journal, computer, or any available paper. Prayerfully center on your intent to open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind.

Your “letter to God” might include thoughts, questions, feelings, needs, artwork, quotes, and scriptures, or it might take the form of a prayer, psalm, or poem. Try to write at least five minutes each day.

What do you experience? Is this an effective way to connect with God? What surprises you? What new images or questions from God emerge? What deepens or changes in your relationship with God, Christ, Spirit?

Peace Covenant:

I will forget my temporal aspirations, God, and drink deeply of your living and everlasting waters.

What Matters Most

By Karin Blythe of Burlington, Iowa, USA

The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.  Doctrine and Covenants 164:9f

Inner-city schools ring with a different tone than any other place I have been. Maybe the bells are louder, or the sound lasts longer, or it rings deeper within the soul. Those bells brought me Johnny, a student I will never forget.

I had to make a disciplined effort to love and care for Johnny because he was a challenge and often an obstacle to learning in my classroom.

When the morning bell rang, I knew Johnny was at school, but I was never sure where. Sometimes he hid between lockers, or made a space for himself in my closet. Sometimes he roamed the halls and disrupted other classrooms.

Early in the school year I had to decide what mattered most as I considered Johnny and his life. His smile could always melt my anger and frustration, and we both knew his actions were not his identity; they were not his being. Johnny was too young for the decisions of his life, and he was screaming for intervention, attention, and compassion.

So Johnny and I made a silent pact to value only what matters most—compassionate acceptance.

Johnny needed to be valued just because he existed, without any expectation or judgment. Johnny needed love that was unconditional, the kind of love that Jesus spent a lifetime expressing, explaining, and advocating. Johnny is a constant reminder to me that we all are called to find “what matters most” and to move forward with that objective and mission as a constant guide.

Prayer for Peace:

Wisdom, guide us in our search for what matters most. Help us find our part in the mission of Jesus Christ. Help us share his love and peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Connecting with God as Center

Each day this week connect with God through journal writing. Use a notebook, journal, computer, or any available paper. Prayerfully center on your intent to open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind.

Your “letter to God” might include thoughts, questions, feelings, needs, artwork, quotes, and scriptures, or it might take the form of a prayer, psalm, or poem. Try to write at least five minutes each day.

What do you experience? Is this an effective way to connect with God? What surprises you? What new images or questions from God emerge? What deepens or changes in your relationship with God, Christ, Spirit?

Peace Covenant:

I will not judge others. I will love and accept those who challenge me most.