Friends Wait Close By

By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA  Luke 14:12–14

It would be limiting to choose only the friends who give us pleasure. We would become dull, lazy, and self-content. We might even lapse into a mutual-admiration society. We need people close to us who touch raw nerves and spur us into thoughtful action. People who make us ask questions. Yes, we need diverse friends.

We may need to break down walls to find these friends. People build barriers that shut out love. They sometimes hide deep within lonely prisons that echo their anguish. Don’t they know that friends wait close by who yearn to hold them and speak peace to them? Why must people perish in their webs of pain when help is near? When friends are near?

Everywhere I see people haunted by lost dreams and troubled minds. They mourn, for no one touches their hands and tells them of sweet justice. Let me be the one who touches them, Lord.

Prayer for Peace:

God of the lonely, God of those who mourn, may we, in our work for peace and justice, include them in our work. May we invite them to our banquet. May we invite them into our community of love.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Honoring the Worth of All Persons

Each day this week read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the deep meaning of the words sink into your mind, heart, and body. Imagine God watching you grow in your mother’s womb. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a)? Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you and every child ever born.

Ask God for an awareness of the sacred worth of each person on the planet. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you being invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant:

I will take the hands of marginalized persons and lead them to a place where prayers are answered.

Foundation of Forgiveness

By Candy Brayton of Independence, Missouri, USA

Listen to its teachings and discover anew its principles. Do not yearn for times that are past, but recognize that you have been given a foundation of faithful service, even as you build a foundation for what is yet to be.  Doctrine and Covenants 162:2b

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” For many years I have struggled with this prayer phrase. The trespass against me was at the profoundly life-altering far end of the spectrum. It took my innocence, sense of safety, and well-being.

I’ve struggled with shame, anger, helplessness, and hopelessness. The trespasser never took responsibility for the actions, never admitted the suffering caused.

My church family’s response has been to pray with me and for me—always encouraging me to find peace and strength through forgiveness. Some of those helping me have described forgiveness as “wiping the slate clean, and starting anew.” Another answer was “to forget.”

I asked, “How do I do this?” Well-intentioned people have given flowery phrases about love and the healing of the Holy Spirit. Or, “If you have faith, you just do it.”

However, phrases like “not enough faith” and “not a good enough Christian” added to my previous self-criticism. I felt even more miserable.

I continued to pray—desperate for insight that would help me understand.

I found the book, Five Stages of Grief (Kubler-Ross, 1969), which included denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It was one of those “eureka” moments.

I saw myself shifting through each of those stages. I let myself grieve what I had lost. The shift of view has helped me move forward to the “acceptance” stage.

I no longer need to hear remorse from the trespasser. I’m no longer angry when I think of that person.

It may not be how some might define “forgiveness,” but with the help of the sacred community, I find myself more at peace.

Prayer for Peace:

Reconciling God, we know you weep with us when we are in our dark places. Stay with us when we hurt. We know forgiving helps us find peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Honoring the Worth of All Persons

Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the deep meaning of the words sink into your mind, heart, and body. Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you and every child ever born. Ask God for an awareness of the sacred worth of each person on the planet. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth.

Peace Covenant:

God, I will call on you and Christ’s community when my ability to forgive is challenged.

A Plan for Hope

By Gary Piper of Fort Gratiot, Michigan, USA

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. …For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Jeremiah 29:7, 11

Since retiring from my 42-year employment in 2009, the plans and dreams my wife and I shared have been on hold because of circumstances beyond our control. Since then I have struggled with occasional periods of mild depression. Even so, I have not changed what matters most to me, but I have gone deeper into my relationship with Christ.

After thinking deeply on the underlying cause of my depression, I found it comes when my own feelings of self-worth are at their lowest. Recently I revisited what matters most to me, not to change my answer, but to examine what my relationship with Christ means and on what it is based.

One of my first thoughts centered on how much I must matter to Jesus Christ because of his life and ministry. And if I matter to him, then for me to honor that relationship I must matter to me as well.

I feel that to honor God’s gift of life I ought to honor the lives of others also.

Their welfare is important in the eyes of God and me.

Prayer for Peace:

God of hope, we honor the future you hope for us by being aware of our calling. May we attend to the welfare of those to whom you send us. May our lives be sanctuaries of your peace for them and the world.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Honoring the Worth of All Persons

Each day this week read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the deep meaning of the words sink into your mind, heart, and body. Imagine God watching you grow in your mother’s womb. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a)? Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you and every child ever born.

Ask God for an awareness of the sacred worth of each person on the planet. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you being invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will pray and act on what matters most in the cities and the world around me.

Thirst for Wisdom

By Jan Stoneking of Plano, Illinois, USA

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.  James 3:17–18

God has given me so much. I appreciate this chance to testify of the power of the Holy Spirit for the peaceable kingdom of God!

Several years ago, after prayer and thoughtful consideration, I asked God to take away my addiction to romance novels and replace it with a thirst for good books. Until that prayer, I rarely had been aware of my prayers being answered so quickly and definitively. From that time until now, I have had no wish to read shallow fiction all the time. Although some fiction is worthwhile, today my library is full of good, spiritual, life-enhancing books.

This new discipline led to reading the Bible from cover to cover with an intense thirst for God’s word and direction. Today I still find myself amazed at the awesome nature of the Holy Spirit and its transforming power in my life.

Prayer for Peace:

God of wisdom, may we be peaceable, gentle, and full of mercy. Fill us with knowledge of what you would have us learn. Sow in us a thirst for your word. May we harvest the will to share the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Honoring the Worth of All Persons

Each day this week read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the deep meaning of the words sink into your mind, heart, and body. Imagine God watching you grow in your mother’s womb. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a)? Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you and every child ever born.

Ask God for an awareness of the sacred worth of each person on the planet. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you being invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will take time to learn more of you and your vision.

Remembering Chuck

By Louita Clothier of Lamoni, Iowa, USA

Open your hearts and feel the yearnings of your brothers and sisters who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, unloved. Reach out in understanding, clasp their hands, and invite all to share in the blessings of community created in the name of the One who suffered for all… Respect each life journey, even in its brokenness and uncertainty, for each person has walked alone at times.  Doctrine and Covenants 161:3a–b

Anyone who knew Chuck Church was drawn to him by his big smile, cheerful personality, and optimistic outlook despite his lifelong physical struggle with the abnormal condition of his legs. He did not allow his circumstances to make him angry at life.

His parents treated him like other children. His strong faith; love of music; and steadfast wife, Eldeen, were all building blocks in his strength to overcome the condition that sentenced him to crutches and eventually a wheelchair.

Chuck had a glorious baritone voice. When our choir performed an Easter cantata, Chuck was the obvious choice to sing the part of Jesus Christ.

His voice still sings in my mind when I read the Holy Week scriptures. Chuck’s favorite solo was a rendition of the psalm “I will sing unto the Lord for as long as I live. I will praise the Lord while I have my being.”

Sometimes I felt that just struggling on his crutch-canes to his place to perform, he already had acted out those words.

In the end our friend, in his weakened condition, could not defeat cancer. The last time I saw Chuck, our congregation choir had gathered around the hospital bed Eldeen had set up in their living room. No one remembers what we sang, only that we did. But I clearly remember the words Chuck spoke at that time: “I’ll be just fine.”

In his heart Chuck was always “just fine.” He taught us that it’s not one’s circumstances that determine happiness, but attitude toward those circumstances.

Prayer for Peace:

Loving God, we bring our attitudes to you for your blessing. May we remember, those who are challenged may not always have a community of support and often walk alone. May we learn from those whose spiritual strength brings peace to the world.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Honoring the Worth of All Persons

Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the deep meaning of the words sink into your mind, heart, and body. Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you and every child ever born. Ask God for an awareness of the sacred worth of each person on the planet. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you being invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant:

I will open my heart to the lonely, loving God, and share your peace with them.

Stand Firm

By Dale Luffman, Council of Twelve Apostles

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God…and having done everything, to stand firm…As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith…Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:10–13, 15–17, adapted

This is a wonderful passage of scripture! It aims to provide the Christian community with advice on how to live the Christian life in a hostile culture and climate. The writer has described “the old life” (Ephesians 4:17—6:9) and now in this passage gives the disciple advice about Christian discipline.

The suggestion of spiritual warfare reflects Christian pacifism. Christians in the early centuries refused to take up weapons of war and violence. The battle in which Christians understood themselves to be engaged was a spiritual battle.

Unfortunately, the Christian notion of warfare against spiritual forces has been glibly shifted to the justification of violence and war—justifying armed conflict. The early Christian community would have been horrified, and would have seen contemporary justification of violence and war by Christians as heretical. Christians understood spiritual forces to be fallen. The call was for Christians to resist those powers.

Early Christians were pacifists, something we too often forget. They understood themselves to be called by Christ to avoid bearing arms against or on behalf of human agents. Why? Because the battle was a spiritual one. Christians were admonished: “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.”

No early Christian took up weapons against persecutors. Many died as martyrs. They were good peacekeepers! Christians, according to Ephesians, bring a witness to the gospel of peace, with only “the whole armor of God” as their protection. The word of God would act on their behalf, destroying the powers of darkness and evil, even death itself.

As extremists of hope they were bold in their proclamation and in their living, bringing peace into the presence of dark days. They stood firm!

Prayer for Peace:

Spiritual Fortress, thank you for the strength you give us to proclaim your peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Honoring the Worth of All Persons

Read Psalm 139:13–18. Sit quietly and let the deep meaning of the words sink into your mind, heart, and body. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a )? Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you. Ask God for an awareness of the sacred worth of each person on the planet. How are you being invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will put on your armor, slough off the need to justify violence, and stand firm in your peace.

Seek First the Kingdom

By David Nii of Centennial, Colorado, USA

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

The Coeur d’Alene Congregation in Idaho is three blocks from an alternative high school. Many discussions centered on how to seek first the kingdom. The opportunity came when conversations with school officials brought a tangible need to the awareness of the congregation.

Dozens of homeless students did not have access to basic hygiene products. It was an easy decision for the congregation, in partnership with the school, to provide personal hygiene kits that included items such as soap, shampoo, dental care, and deodorant.

Coeur d’Alene received grant funds through World Mission Tithes to assemble the kits. The kits also included church contact information that invited students to connect with Community of Christ ministries.

As a continuing outreach, the church is open as a weekly meeting space for the youth to discuss their many challenges, including addiction issues.

Your contributions to World Mission Tithes are touching the lives of youth. Thank you for responding faithfully and giving generously.

Prayer for Peace:

Caregiver God, inspire us to serve you by caring for our companions in need. We hold our youth and all their struggles up to you for healing. May we join in that healing by sharing from our first fruits. May we do our part by sharing the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice:

Imagine what it would be like to gather with members of your congregation under a tree and be taught by Jesus. What would the tree look like? What would you most like to learn? What changes would happen in your congregation as it became a community of disciples? Write or speak a prayer, asking God to bless you and your congregation in learning to become disciples of Christ.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will first seek ways I can help build your signal community.

Attend to that which Is Their Due

By Dawn Squires of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

And you will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to all persons according to that which is their due.  Mosiah 2:24, adapted

Six-year-old Susie went to visit her grandparents. She wanted to talk with her granddad, but he was working in the garden. He was busy planning a whole new outlay for his plot of earth and was not in the mood for his little magpie’s constant chatter.

He didn’t want to give her the attention she felt she was due. Eventually he said, “Not now Susie. You run inside and talk to Grandma, and I’ll talk to you later.”

Susie answered, “You know Grandpa, if you were a little girl and I was the granddad, I wouldn’t tell you to go inside. I would listen to what you had to say.”

Sometimes our best advice comes from little children.

I wonder how often we are immersed in our own priorities when God wants to talk to us. May we focus on what God has to say and give attention when it is due.

Prayer for Peace:

Listening God, may we be listeners too. May we set aside trivial activities and pay attention to what matters most. May we seek the lonely and befriend them. May we find the lost and share with them the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Encountering Scripture as Continuing Revelation

Each day this week read and pray with the Doctrine and Covenants as continuing revelation of God’s vision for the church and creation. Choose a favorite section or focus on recent counsel in Sections 156–164. Read a few selected paragraphs slowly three or four times.

Pause to pray for deep understanding of meaning after the first reading. Pray to open your heart and emotions to the text after the second reading. After the third reading, prayerfully ask to hear the particular phrase or word that speaks to you or touches your life. Stay with this word or phrase. Listen as fully and openly as you can. What sense of divine presence or invitation comes? What is revealed?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will lay aside whatever distracts me from listening to you.

Love Your Neighbor

By Eleanor St. Clair of Oak Harbor, Ohio, 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

I was blessed beyond measure by the workers, Shawn and Jason, who installed a weatherization package in my house. I bonded quickly with them.

On other jobs they normally ate lunch in their truck. By invitation, they sat at the table with me on the first day. The second day, Jason ate a plate of pasta with great appetite. The third day I served a homemade peach pie. They loved the homemade, whole-wheat bread, which we broke together daily for two weeks.

Of course, breaking bread included testimonies of Christ, the Bread of Life, which made their eyes light up.

They went beyond what was required in repairing houses and said, “We like to make sure our customers are happy when our team leaves a job.” I assured them they were serving God by serving their neighbors.

When they finished, we shared good-byes and hugs.

Jason remarked, “You said that you once cooked for millionaires. I felt like a millionaire when I sat at your table and ate what you so lovingly prepared.”

Shawn said, “I want you to know you have made me want change in my life.”

Christ was among us. We were deeply touched. They assured me that if they were assigned near my area again, they would be back for a visit. “And food,” I said. “Yes, spiritual food,” was their response.

I miss them.

Feasting together was a joy, but sharing God’s love was the greatest. We are told many will respond if we share our testimony of God’s love and the peace of Jesus Christ. I thank God for their response.

Prayer for Peace:

Loving God, we respond to you with love. We know we are blessed when we share your love with our neighbors. Help us extend our love to the stranger with hospitality and generosity. May we show our love for you by sharing the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Encountering Scripture as Continuing Revelation

Read and pray with the Doctrine and Covenants as continuing revelation of God’s vision for the church and creation. Choose a favorite section or focus on recent counsel in Sections 156–164. Pause to pray for deep understanding. Pray for opening of your heart.

Peace Covenant:

God, today I will extend the hand of peace to a stranger.

Mutual Ministers

By Evelyn Spence of Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA

…but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth…  Isaiah 11:4

I accompanied my husband to a retirement home to serve the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to three residents. We arrived just after they finished their noon meal and gathered in one of their apartments. After we completed the sacrament, we visited for a while. It was such a joy!

We shared news of common acquaintances. We remembered events from the past. We went to minister to them. They, being full of humility and meekness, ministered to us. We parted with joyful hearts. This is my humble and simple testimony: We were blessed to be a blessing.

Prayer for Peace:

Ministering God, we would bring ministry, too. We would bring blessing as we are blessed. We are humbled by the gifts you give us to share. May we also share the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Encountering Scripture as Continuing Revelation

Each day this week read and pray with the Doctrine and Covenants as continuing revelation of God’s vision for the church and creation. Choose a favorite section or focus on recent counsel in Sections 156–164. Read a few selected paragraphs slowly three or four times.

Pause to pray for deep understanding of meaning after the first reading. Pray to open your heart and emotions to the text after the second reading. After the third reading, prayerfully ask to hear the particular phrase or word that speaks to you or touches your life. Stay with this word or phrase. Listen as fully and openly as you can. What sense of divine presence or invitation comes? What is revealed?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will open my heart to receive the blessings offered by others.