Trust in God on High

By Linda Lyons of Kansas City, Kansas, USA

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you.  Isaiah 26:3

This morning I read the last devotional from Daily Bread, closing the volume for the year. As one day flowed into another and as one year melted into the next, I reflected on all that has happened in the last year.

Our son survived a life-threatening accident but lost his job. Our granddaughter died of cancer. For about three months we went to a funeral nearly every week. One daughter got a big raise, while others were laid off. My husband continues to work part-time at the age of 77. Our grandchildren are becoming more mature. We replaced our old furnace and air conditioner with the aid of a tax credit.

God’s work continues in our community. I was ordained to the office of elder this last year. Many good—as well as sad—things have happened.

Then my thoughts turned to the comfortable feeling I have, knowing God was with me the entire year. What a blessing!

As I reflected on all this, my littlest dog jumped onto my lap and snuggled close. Her eyes seemed to say, “I trust you, and I will never let you down.” I prayed, “I trust in you, God, and I hope I never let you down.” This gave me a warm feeling. Just imagine the warm feeling God has when disciples trust and obey.

Prayer for Peace:

Comforting God, we thank you for being present in the dark and the light. Some moments would be hard to endure without you. We trust you to guide us as we share the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice of Gratitude:

Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others in deepest gratitude.

Peace Covenant:

God, I will thank you for your presence throughout the day and the year.

Let Christ Be in You—A Good Fit

By Greg Clark of Independence, Missouri, USA

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…  Colossians 3:12–16

I dragged myself out of bed this morning and, bleary-eyed, walked to my closet. I picked out blue slacks, a sweater, and a gray shirt. From my chest-of-drawers I grabbed some underwear and what I hoped were blue socks. Then I slowly dressed for work. That’s so much easier than clothing myself the way God asks.

When I dress for work, I put on…well, clothes. When I dress for God, I’m told to clothe myself “with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” And “above all, love.”

When I dress for me, I’m pretty much the only person (except maybe my wife) who cares that my socks and slacks don’t match. When I dress for God, every person I meet—and many I’ll never see—might be affected if I don’t do it right.

It’s all about relationships. If I don’t dress the way God wishes—the way Paul instructs the Colossians—I’m guaranteed to hurt others. Friends. Family. Co-workers. Virtually everybody I contact.

I also hurt those I never see. If I’m not clothed right, I don’t act with the grace and generosity that can help others, even those in faraway places. I even hurt my relationship with myself. When I clothe myself with anger, apathy, and avarice, I’m assured of feeling grumpy throughout the day. More important, I provide a rotten example of the qualities a disciple should model, the same qualities with which Jesus wants me to clothe myself.

Then I not only hurt my relationship with other people, I hurt my relationship with God. I become less than God made me to be.

So next time I dress in the morning, I’ll try to put on my best clothes first. And then I’ll worry about picking out a shirt, sweater, and slacks.

Prayer for Peace:

Holy and loving God, we will put on love for you and our companions. We will don garments of compassion and patience. We will be kind. We will wear the peace of Christ in our hearts.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Joy of Gratitude

Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others in deepest gratitude.

Peace Covenant:

God, today I will be mindful to show grace and generosity to others, knowing it will affect relationships.

Tradition

By Suzanne McMillan of East Sandwich, Massachusetts, USA

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

We had a tradition in our family. On New Year’s Day we would start a jigsaw puzzle. However, for the last couple of years, we hadn’t done one. But this year I thought it would be fun, so I bought a cheap puzzle.

That puzzle has frustrated us all. It’s not cut precisely. The pieces are thin and don’t fit well, even when you know they should. What used to be a source of enjoyment is increasingly a lesson in defeat. I keep wondering why I didn’t spend a little more to get a good-quality puzzle. It would have caused much less trouble.

I have been meditating on the path of our discipleship being one of learning and growth. I compared it to our family’s puzzle and wondered about the costs of discipleship. The more I “pay” in time, prayer, and study, the more truth I glean. I find that pieces somehow “fit right.”

The same is true of trees. When I take on the “cost” of digging the hole the right size, preparing the soil, and watering, the trees thrive. When we don’t pay the cost and plant haphazardly, the trees don’t do well. I guess it comes down to the axiom, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

Let’s be good stewards over our time and pay the cost for what matters most.

Prayer for Peace:

Generous God, may we be generous, too—with our time and our wealth. May we create traditions that strengthen what matters most. May we make time to share the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice:

Pray with a partner if possible. The heart is a center of compassion and spiritual connection. Stand or sit across from your partner with hands open and palms up. Invite your partner to place his or her hands, palms down, on your hands. Close your eyes and be aware of the connection between your heart and your partner’s heart.

What needs, feelings, or longings do you sense? Invite God’s presence to flow into you and move from your heart to the heart of your partner. Feel or see God’s healing light and love flowing between your hearts. After a period of silent prayer, thank God and your partner. Say amen. (You also may pray this prayer by envisioning a particular person across from you.)

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will take the time and pay the cost to fit my life to you.

Journey in Trust

By Heather Varner of Independence, Missouri, USA

Lift up your eyes and fix them on the place beyond the horizon to which you are sent. Journey in trust, assured that the great and marvelous work is for this time and for all time.  Doctrine and Covenants 161:1a

God has accompanied me on a journey of patience and trust. My husband, Matt, and I had been married a couple of years and were ready to have a child. We thought within a year or so we would have a little bundle of joy. But after four years, it was still just the two of us.

We visited several doctors, including a specialist. There were tests, medicine, and procedures—but still no baby. I was confused, depressed, even angry with God. Why weren’t we allowed to become parents? What had I done wrong? Did God hear my prayers for a child? It seemed other couples had children so easily. It wasn’t fair.

Over time, my anger and frustration toward God lessened. Maybe we should choose a different way to bring children into our family. Certain that God must have a child for us somewhere, we began to explore adoption.

Then one day I was driving home from work. I looked at the blue sky and saw a white bird. It seemed to be circling over my car, following me, gliding on the breeze. Seeing the bird gave me a sense of peace, as if God was telling me everything was going to be fine. A few weeks later the doctor confirmed my pregnancy, and in 2009 I gave birth to our precious Emily Rose.

Through all this, I remain assured that God is always present—in our joys and in our sorrows. However life turns out, with patience and trust, I believe we can find goodness in God’s grace. Lift up your eyes and journey in trust.

Prayer for Peace:

Co-creator God, give us faith for the journey. We thank you for our families. We thank you for sending your son to be our Prince of Peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Joy of Gratitude

Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others in deepest gratitude.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will lift my eyes to you in faith.

In His Name, We Will Hope

By Willa Frey of Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.  Matthew 12:18–21

I had the joyous experience of being invited to share in the sacrament of blessing my three new grandsons. The first one was Sebastian. Next were twin boys, Elliot and Sawyer. The sacrament of blessing of children is a wonderful experience!

As I prepared, I was impressed with the responsibilities I, the parents, and the congregation assumed. Christ commanded all of us to take these responsibilities seriously. That doesn’t mean telling the parents what they should or shouldn’t do. It means surrounding them with nurturing love, help, and consideration.

It is our responsibility to demonstrate Christ in our daily living—the most effective way for new parents to learn. This involves being good listeners, sensitive to their fears and mistakes. It’s not as though we never have made any mistakes! They will learn from them just as we have. We will allow them room to grow.

God will always be with parents and those who set forth on this nurturing path, supporting one another. Embrace new parents with love.

They shoulder the hope of the world—God’s children.

Prayer for Peace:

Tender Shepherd, nurture the parents who nurture the children. Protect these tender reeds that they may not be bruised. Let us look to them for our hope, as we look to Christ. May we share Christ’s peace with the world’s children.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Joy of Gratitude

Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others in deepest gratitude.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will support new parents without interfering.

Spiritual Practices

By Eileen Turner of Portland, Oregon, USA

And there came a voice to them, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying, “Peace, peace be to you because of your faith in my well beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.”  Helaman 2:112

Most everyone has had a time when the stress of holidays “gets to you.” It’s often the same at my workplace. Over the years, as I moved from one position and location to another, I found I could fall back on a spiritual practice I learned at an earlier, stressful time: meditation.

I centered my thoughts on Christ, with the help of a mantra, twice a day for about 20 minutes.

This allowed me to free my mind of all activity, anxiety, and extraneous noise. Silently repeating any word can become a mantra, and joining it with rhythmic breathing in and out forms a pattern of relaxation.

I’d held a position where I was responsible for the clinical practice and staff education. The director was pressuring the leadership team, and meetings had become stressful and unbearable. I loved my job and was unwilling to let this atmosphere get in the way. By practicing meditation, I found I could contribute without fear of retaliation and become a stress-free, productive employee.

On another difficult day in another place and position, contentious problems seemed insurmountable. I took myself to a place in the hospital where I could look over a river and see a crew sculling with precision and grace. Its smooth, repetitive movements were a visual source of inner peace and calm.

God provides us with wonderful ways of dealing with everyday struggles, whether by prayer, meditation, or calming nature scenes. Our peace may depend on setting one more practice in motion.

Prayer for Peace:

Whispering God, we praise you for your gentle spirit. At this season, we will continue to center ourselves on Christ. We will share the teachings of the Prince of Peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Joy of Gratitude

Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others in deepest gratitude.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will continue Christmas with all its meaning in my heart.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, 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. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the birth of the Lord…  Psalm 98:4–9, adapted

How can I help but worship the Creator? God has set me amid marvelous events. Daily I watch God display divine majesty in endless creation. God patiently weaves shifting sands with miles of rootlets; teaches oysters to turn irritants into shimmering pearls; creates billions of snowflakes, each one unique.

In a split second, divine lightning strikes and replenishes the nitrogen in the barren soil. Silently and ever so slowly, microscopic lichens dissolve giant stone mountains. A drip, a trickle of water carves deep canyons at their feet. I am borne away on the Sacredness of Creation.

After doing all this, is it any wonder the Divine has chosen to send us a Christ child to further our awe; to contemplate the mystery and to humble our existence; to give us joy, hope, peace, and the ultimate meaning of love?

Prayer for Peace:

O Creator of the Earth and of me, how can I help but worship you? In my mind’s eye I gaze on the Christ child, and I praise you for such a gift. I hold him in my heart to know joy. I release him from my heart to share his peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Joy of Gratitude

Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others in deepest gratitude.

Peace Covenant:

Today God, I will celebrate the birth of your son by singing songs of joy and sharing his peace.

Thank You, Isabella

By Norma Mercurio of Columbus, Ohio, USA

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.  Isaiah 35:1–2

As a retired elementary teacher with 36 years of experience, I am aware of the truthfulness of “A little child shall lead them.” Often I was led and taught by the many children I was privileged to teach. However, a powerful lesson also came from my granddaughter, Isabella, when she was 4.

It was Christmas, and every grandparent knows how special the holidays are when they can be shared with beloved, excited grandchildren. At the time, I lived about 150 miles north of my children, so I carefully packed my car with all the surprises I had prepared.

I left just before noon on Christmas Eve because we were going to attend church services together that evening. I was looking forward to the time and was excited about sharing the packages I had for Isabella and her little sister, Gabriela. Little did I know that waiting for me was a great gift.

I timed my arrival well, just as the children’s naps ended. I left my car, walked up to the front door, and knocked. The door flew open, and there stood Isabella with a beautiful smile and a welcoming hug. In my excitement, I asked, “Isabella, who is coming tonight?” Without hesitation she joyfully replied, “Baby Jesus!”

“You are so right, Isabella. Baby Jesus is coming tonight!”

As you might have guessed, this wasn’t the answer this humbled grandma expected. I’m sure Isabella isn’t aware of the gift she gave me that Christmas Eve, but I will never forget. Thank you, Isabella. Thank you, God.

Prayer for Peace:

Holy Parent, may we always be open to learning from little children. May we follow them on the way to peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Joy of Gratitude

Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others in deepest gratitude.

Peace Covenant:

God, I will keep Christ at the center of my Christmas.

Rejoice

By Steven Shields of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

…And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”  Luke 1:41–42, 44–45

Most everything about Jesus’ birth was ordinary, simple, commonplace. Joseph and Mary were nobodies. Just an ordinary, working-class couple.

Joseph worked hard for a living and had no prospect of ever being rich. Mary, an unwed mother, had no hope for a life at all except for Joseph’s grace and generosity to go through with their marriage.

Much is said of Jesus’ humble birth, but the retrospective from a modern, economically developed cultural viewpoint assumes things that are not true. In Jesus’ time, almost everyone was poor. In Jesus’ time, almost all babies were born in abject poverty. Jesus’ birth was no different from most other babies born that same day in Judea.

The only parts of Jesus’ birth that were not commonplace were the angelic heralding to a ragtag band of shepherds and the prophetic messages given to those close to Mary. Even so, the guests were common, ordinary people.

Of course, who Jesus was and is gives us cause for great rejoicing. But what really makes it special is that everything about him was common, ordinary. Just like most of us. Jesus was born just like all of us. He grew up playing with the neighborhood children and learning to work; he never had wealth and status. Jesus is for everyone, regardless of any of the social trappings humans find so important and spend lifetimes seeking.

We rejoice because Jesus was and is one of us. Everyone has access to the Divine. That is precious in a world of status symbols. We can simply reach out and take all that Jesus offers. We rejoice in God’s unconditional grace and generosity as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Prayer for Peace:

Generous God, we thank you for our poor yet powerful Jesus. May we not love power, but feel the power of love in our soul and use that power for peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Joy of Gratitude

With arms outstretched, imagine God filling your arms with your family, friends, and possessions. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will seek peace above power.

Best Gift of All

By Michael Clarke of Clay Cross, Derbyshire, England

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.  Luke 1:78–79

During Advent season, I was giving children a lesson about the meaning of Christmas. They were telling me the gifts they would like for Christmas. Some said they would like a new video-game system. Laptops and phones were mentioned.

We also talked about children who would not get such gifts because they live in a poor country.

We talked about a television show airing from a school, where children were trying out new toys. At the end of the show the host told the children they all would receive a gift. The following week, the host said the children gave all their gifts to a children’s home.

We watched the children giving away their gifts with joy. We all could see the love in their hearts.

Back to our group discussion with the children. We talked about our best Christmas gifts. One girl in the class said her best gift was a gift from God. She said Jesus was the best gift. He never gets old or runs out of batteries, and he loves us all.

So at Christmas always think about the best gift of all—Jesus Christ: a gift we can all share.

Prayer for Peace:

Creator God, thank you for your gift of hope. May we share through our witness and generosity the light that guides our feet on the way to peace.

Spiritual Practice:

Hold (or imagine) a piece of patterned cloth. Examine it carefully. Notice the overlapping of threads, the mingling of colors to form the design. Write a journal entry about the threads and patterns of your life. What design do you see? How does the life pattern you are weaving create justice and wholeness in God’s world? What new patterns is God calling you to weave?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will think of the many gifts I have received and the many ways I can give.