The Steadfast Compassion of the Lord

By Linda Porter of Maryland Heights, Missouri, USA

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.  Isaiah 54:10

When my son was 2, we took a vacation to Tucson, Arizona. It wasn’t summer, but it already was hot. James and his sister, Jeni, wanted to play at the park.

Soon James was screaming, and Jeni came running to tell us he was hurt! We ran to the slide. It was so hot, he had burned his leg on the guard rail.

The bone was showing through his red and raw skin. The burn had taken off a chunk of skin. We rushed to the emergency room. The doctors on call came running to look at James’ leg. They called a specialist, and he said the wound could not heal without skin grafts.

The doctor wrapped James’ leg in gauze, put a patch over it, and told us to see our own doctor as soon as possible. That was Monday. We couldn’t get an appointment until Thursday. By Wednesday afternoon, the wound was weeping and infected. We knew something terrible was happening.

We located the Tucson Central Congregation of Community of Christ and took James to prayer service. After the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick I had a great sense of relief.

The next day the doctor looked at the wound and said the emergency doctors were alarmed for no reason. The wound already had started to heal. He predicted James would have an ugly scar on which no hair would grow.

Today we have to tell James which leg was wounded because it not only healed—it healed perfectly. We learned faith is not only a journey—it is a growing vine with events along the way that allow it to bloom.

Prayer for Peace:

Compassionate God, we believe in your healing light. We know your tears attend our own. We know your covenant of peace will not fail.

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 may 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 for you 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 not hesitate to call on you with my concerns.

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Companionship in England

By Donald Kirby of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Let contentions and quarreling among you cease. Sustain each other in peace, and ye shall be blessed with my Spirit, in comforting and strengthening you for my work.  Doctrine and Covenants 117:13

While stationed in the Air Force near Enfield, England, I attended a church family camp. One day the campers went on a tour north of London. The countryside and the remains of some Roman ruins were on the agenda. We chartered a 45-passenger bus and looked forward to this exciting day.

We boarded the bus and started north (or so we thought). The driver made a wrong turn, and we ended up going south. Most of us were dozing and had faith the driver knew what he was doing. After almost two hours, he turned around and started in the right direction. But he had forgotten where to turn, adding two more hours to what, at first, was a three-hour tour. Each passenger had a different idea of which way we should head.

We were indeed lost.

We were getting hungry, and no restaurants were in sight. Apostle Arthur Oakman started to calm the angry riders. He then led us in singing a hymn, “The Lord’s My Shepherd.” Soon we were on the right road, going back to the Enfield church building. We missed seeing the Roman ruins but enjoyed the day together.

We once were lost, but found community.

Prayer for Peace:

Tender Shepherd, help us find our way home. Lead us to community and hospitality. Help us realize the company we keep is more valuable than the destination. We pray for your Spirit on the path 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 may 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 for you 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:

On today’s journey, God, I will praise the pilgrimage from moment to moment, as well as mile to mile.

Come and Be Fed

By Becky Savage, First Presidency

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.  John 6:9–11

During the winter months a congregation in Florida offers a free soup-and-pie dinner for the neighborhood.

The population nearly doubles at that time of year as people journey away from the cold and snow of the North. Local and winter-
resident church members collectively prepare delicious soups and scrumptious pies to share.

It is difficult to anticipate the number of neighbors coming to be fed. Each year we offer prayers of thanksgiving and celebration in anticipation of the feast. While the members offer gifts of time, food, and hospitality, they know it is God who generously provides the blessings.

During one of these meals the congregation experienced a miracle of abundance. As the dinner crowd moved in and out of the friendship hall, the number waiting in line continued to grow.

It was apparent more people than expected were coming.

Each time the ladle was dipped left little doubt the soup was nearly gone. Miraculously, as the people came, each received a full bowl of soup and a slice of pie. After the last neighbor was served, the soup was completely gone.

The neighbors came to be fed, and the congregation rejoiced, knowing it, too, was fed.

Prayer for Peace:

God of abundance, we have faith in the full pot of soup. May we welcome the stranger and share our food. May we share the peace of Christ.

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 may 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 for you 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 I will make soup with the best herbs and vegetables. I will find someone with whom to share your goodness and peace.

Active Service

By Evelyn Spence of Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA

…when you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God.  Mosiah 1:49

I volunteer as a cashier at the Community of Christ Thrift Store in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The sale of donated goods helps provide food, clothing, and household goods for those in need.

Even though I work just one morning a week, I am blessed to interact with a wide range of people. I meet customers of all descriptions from many faith communities. It is good to get to know them and feel I am helping them.

Co-workers come from several Community of Christ congregations. Other co-workers are friends from other denominations. Our jobs include working the cash register, sorting items, pricing, and setting up displays.

Most volunteers are retirees, some older than 90. One of my favorite quotes from a woman who worked until she was 95 was, “If I stop moving, I might as well be dead.” I know what she means. If I just sit in my chair and am not physically working, I lose muscle tone or gain weight. I guess you could say this job benefits my health. It also helps me keep alive my interaction with others.

The best part of this job is that I can serve God by serving others.

Prayer for Peace:

God of both poor and rich, help us give according to our true capacity. Accept our service to our companions as service to you. May we serve those in need of justice and in need of peace.

Spiritual Practice:

Meditate on a time when you learned about community from someone who took you in, fed you, taught you, shared stories and wisdom with you. What did you learn? Prayerfully create a list of qualities you need to learn from spiritual mentors and friends. Then write the names of people who serve as teachers, models, coaches, or encouragers in your life as a disciple. Offer a prayer of gratitude and blessing for these spiritual “relatives” and friends.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will consider what I have and what I can give with generosity.

Paying Attention

By Norma Mercurio of Columbus, Ohio, USA

These are portentous times. The lives of many are being sacrificed unnecessarily to the gods of war, greed, and avarice. The land is being desecrated by the thoughtless waste of vital resources. You must obey my commandments and be in the forefront of those who would mediate this needless destruction while there is yet day.  Doctrine and Covenants 150:7

It was a beautiful holiday weekend. The sun was shining, and the temperature was perfect, but I was too focused on myself to notice. It was a lonely weekend, so I did what would cheer me up. I hopped in the car with a lawn chair and book, bought some candy, and drove to a park. It’s a beautiful park, built around a lake that has become a place of peace for me.

As I arrived, one of the many ducks that call the park home greeted me. However, he wasn’t interested in me; he wanted my candy! I set my chair by the water and delved into my treat. The duck got aggressive in trying to get me to share. Finally, I became irritated and chased that candy-loving duck away. (Everyone knows candy isn’t good for ducks!)

I settled back in my chair and began to read the words of Richard Foster on the discipline of study. “We now come to the least-recognized but perhaps the most important field of study: the observation of reality in events and actions. The easiest place to begin is with nature. …We begin the study of nature by paying attention. We see flowers or birds. We observe them carefully and prayerfully” (Celebration of Discipline, Harper: San Francisco, 1988, p. 73).

As I read and thought about those words, I suddenly had the feeling I wasn’t alone. I looked beside my chair, and there was the duck, just lying by my side. He didn’t come back to ask for candy, only to be a companion in my loneliness. I felt he and all God’s creatures were asking me for their protection by my living simply.

I knew in that moment God had come to me through one of God’s creatures. I need never be alone. I need only pay attention.

Prayer for Peace:

Creator God, we would cherish the Earth for which we are stewards. Help us pay close attention to your creatures. Help us live simply and, as far as possible, not intrude on their habitat. Help us share Christ’s peace with our neighbors in nature.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Offering Blessings of Community

Each day this week receive and share blessings of community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the network of relationships in your life. See and feel connections with family members, spiritual friends, people in your congregation and community, people and creatures in God’s sacred web of life.

What blessings flow to you from these circles? Reflect, pray, and write in your journal about the call to be “Community of Christ.” Go deeper each day as you “discern and embrace” the “divine blessing” of this name that opens you to “become a blessing to the whole creation” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:1). What act of blessing are you invited to complete?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will downsize my resource consumption.

Communities of Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace

By Elizabeth Else of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

The mission statement of Community of Christ is “We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.” I have experienced the gift of this mission.

Although I am an only child, I prefer to live in community. My family teasingly compared me to a puppy that loves to be around people. I am fortunate to have traveled the world and to have found community in so many places. What a blessing!

When I was finishing my first missionary term in Korea, I was looking at teaching in Asia, but nothing had been finalized. A month before I was to leave and a few days before I needed to make a commitment to seek a specific position, I discovered I had cancer. Suddenly my life turned upside down.

I had to return to North America. I had no home, no job, and I faced financial and medical crises. And yet, because of the love of communities around the world, I felt I was cradled in love.

My Korean community flew into action. It made flight reservations, helped me pack, said prayers, and cooked my favorite Korean food. I discovered not only family and friends, but communities throughout the worldwide church had put me on their prayer lists.

In Seattle I was welcomed into a home where I was lovingly cared for. I was able to work out the financial and medical challenges. Often the treatments were unpleasant and tiring. It took a year and a half to recover and feel fit again.

Communities of joy, hope, love, and peace carried me through. Groups of people called “communities” shared God’s love.

Prayer for Peace:

God of hope, I am so blessed to be part of Christ’s community. May all that I do be an invitation to others to come into this community so they may experience joy, hope, love, and peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Offering Blessings of Community

Each day this week receive and share blessings of community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the network of relationships in your life. See and feel connections with family members, spiritual friends, people in your congregation and community, people and creatures in God’s sacred web of life.

What blessings flow to you from these circles? Reflect, pray, and write in your journal about the call to be “Community of Christ.” Go deeper each day as you “discern and embrace” the “divine blessing” of this name that opens you to “become a blessing to the whole creation” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:1). What act of blessing are you invited to complete?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will welcome and care for the stranger among us.

The Grackle’s Kingdom

By E.J. Chappelle of Rosharon, Texas, USA

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.  Romans 14:19

A common scene outside my window includes a big, male grackle in all his iridescent glory. He lands quickly beside a piece of bread thrown for him. Rather than starting his easy meal, he turns to a few smaller grackles nearby. He stomps his feet at them with his beak skyward, scattering his rivals for the bread.

However, the other grackles do not leave. More arrive, and sparrows, too. As the big guy chases away this bird, then that bird, all have a turn at a few bites of the bread, which was left untended by its guardian. Still, this alpha grackle persists until he has his victory, and all the other birds are gone…with the bread.

The grackle’s secondary priority of defending the meal left him without a single bite.

I have a lot in common with that grackle. I often lose my priorities to momentary distractions. I ask myself if I am careful enough to seek first what matters most and avoid senseless distractions—to seek first the peaceable kingdom of God.

Prayer for Peace:

God of peace, teach us what matters most. Help us to avoid distractions on our journey to peace. May we keep an eye single to Christ’s mission and your glory.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Offering Blessings of Community

Each day this week receive and share blessings of community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the network of relationships in your life. See and feel connections with family members, spiritual friends, people in your congregation and community, people and creatures in God’s sacred web of life.

What blessings flow to you from these circles? Reflect, pray, and write in your journal about the call to be “Community of Christ.” Go deeper each day as you “discern and embrace” the “divine blessing” of this name that opens you to “become a blessing to the whole creation” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:1). What act of blessing are you invited to complete?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will build up others as I share Christ’s peace.

Your Son Loves You

By Paul McCain of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

…and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:2

I received an e-mail from my son with “Your Son Loves You” in the subject line, and I found myself reflecting on that statement. I thought, “Perhaps my Creator would like to hear me voice my love more often.”

I pondered whether I remembered to tell my Earthly father often enough that I loved him before he passed. He and I did not have a tradition of often sharing emotions. I know he loved his children but just didn’t say it out loud.

He also struggled with understanding God’s love and the grace available to him. He lived with me his last few years. I sometimes would overhear him praying, pouring out his soul to God. I feel it was a relief for him to pass into the presence of the One he trusted.

I wondered if I try hard enough to be the father to my son that makes it easier for him to love. With his busy life, I appreciate his decision to be intentional with staying in touch and sharing with me. He sends me special cards for Father’s Day, reminding me of the important part I have played in his life. He says he knows his success stems, at least in part, from principles taught him as he grew up.

When we talk on the phone we close the conversation with “I love you,” a tradition valued beyond measure.

I hope my grandson, even at his young age of 6, tells his father he loves him and faithfully continues to do so throughout his life. May we often feel the nudge to share with those close to us how we feel. May we also share our feelings of love with God.

Prayer for Peace:

Loving God, may we never forget to express our love for you. May all we do for one another be love in action. May we share Christ’s peace as part of that love.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Offering Blessings of Community

Receive and share blessings of community. Pray gratitude for your network of relationships. See and feel connections with family members, spiritual friends, people in your congregation and community, and creatures in God’s sacred web of life. What blessings flow to you from these circles? Reflect, pray, and write in your journal about the call to be Community of Christ. Discern what act of blessing you are invited to complete.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will let you know, in some tangible way, how much I love you.

God’s Love Embodied in Christ

By Deb Crowley of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, USA

Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom, invites all people to come and receive divine peace in the midst of the difficult questions and struggles of life. Follow Christ in the way that leads to God’s peace and discover the blessings of all of the dimensions of salvation.  Doctrine and Covenants 163:2a

“I love you more than all the macaroni and cheese in the world!”

It was a game I began with my granddaughter when she was 3. When saying good-bye, good night, I would try to convey my unconditional love for her though we often are hundreds of miles apart. When the game started, she would look at me, giggle, and respond, “Silly Grammie!” Then she would say “I wuv you, too!”

Now she is a grown up 5-year-old, and her world has expanded. She responds to my “I love you more than all the little friends in the world” with her own imaginative, “I love you more than all the houses and stars in the world!” And she still giggles!

It is more than a game. It is a fun way to assure Cadence of how precious she is to me, how I will love her forever no matter what, and that I will always be there for her.

Traveling through the magnificent mountains of Tennessee, sailing atop the mind-boggling expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, the indescribable beauty of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, I hear God say, “I love you more than all of this!”

God’s love for you and me, for each person on Earth, is beyond comprehension.

Humanity is often cruel, disrespectful of the Earth, and rebellious. It often denies God’s existence. Yet God’s love never wavers.

God speaks love through the beauty of creation. God speaks unconditional and unfathomable love through human relationships. Reminders are everywhere. Assurance of God’s love was part of God’s game plan. God said, “I love you more than life itself.” For God so loved the world, he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world so we might have everlasting life.

Christ is the embodiment of God’s shalom—love and peace.

It’s our turn. “God, I love you more than…”

Prayer for Peace:

God, it’s hard to express how much we love you. We praise you for the ultimate expression of your love—Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Offering Blessings of Community

Receive and share blessings of community. Be aware of and feel connections with people and creatures in God’s sacred web of life. Write in your journal about the call to be “Community of Christ.” Go deeper each day as you discern what act of blessing you are invited to complete.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will look at the world in another way—seeing your love in all that I behold.

We Are One

By Richard James, Council of Twelve Apostles

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.  Ephesians 2:17–20

Sometimes we can be uncaring and call people by hurtful names. Two of my friends in school carried such unkind names—they were Penguin and Brick. People thought it was good fun to use these names. However, it made my friends feel sad and angry.

In Ephesus this is exactly what was happening. People were calling one another cruel names (Jews and Gentiles, circumcised and uncircumcised) and Paul was telling them to stop. It must not be this way, he said.

Christ made us all one, for he has torn down the separation between God and us and with one another. In Christ we find peace, for he is our peace. We are all of equal worth to God and so do not build up walls that can separate one person from another. Using unkind names can cause sadness, resentment, and anger. People can become isolated and vulnerable. As disciples we stand with the vulnerable and help build bridges of understanding between people.

Let us therefore see every person as sisters and brothers in Christ, regardless of what label society may want to give them. Can we challenge our cultures that build walls of separation between people, that label people with hurtful names? Can we build sacred communities that are sanctuaries of Christ’s peace?

Our congregations are such places. In such places we affirm we are one in Christ Jesus.

Prayer for Peace:

God of many names, we have many names too. May we always use welcoming, positive, inclusive names when we speak with one another. May we break down the walls that divide. May we unite in Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Offering Blessings of Community

Each day this week receive and share blessings of community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the network of relationships in your life. See and feel connections with family members, spiritual friends, people in your congregation and community, people and creatures in God’s sacred web of life. What blessings are flowing to you from these circles?

Reflect, pray, and write in your journal about the call to be Community of Christ. Go deeper each day as you “discern and embrace” the “divine blessing” of this name that opens you to “become a blessing to the whole creation” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:1). What act of blessing are you invited to complete?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, there will be no strangers in my life—I will make them friends.