Last-Place Finish, First-Place Medal

1-31By Jim Cummings of Columbus, Ohio, USA

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

—Mark 9:35–37

I finished last in a five-kilometer race but received a first place medal!

Sounds funny, but it’s true. Let me explain. My niece, Rachel, is a first-year schoolteacher in a poor area of Kentucky. She loves her students and her job. In her first year she has helped to raise her students’ educational level by two grades, but they are still behind the national average.

The school needs equipment to help the students, so Rachel organized a race with sponsors to raise the funds. There were about 50 participants, and as I said, I finished last. Rachel gave first-place medals to the winners in each age category. I was the only runner over 60, so I received a medal.

Though I lost the race as a whole, I felt like a winner. Not because I received a medal, but because I helped the children. I could be a servant.

As we approach God in prayer, let us keep in mind the importance of servanthood.

Prayer for Peace
God who calls us, thank you for your Son, who showed us how to be a servant. We praise you for sending us the true peacemaker. May we share his peace with others.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons
Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the words sink deeply 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 139:14)?

Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you and every child. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you invited to let others go before you, to be God’s servant?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will let others go before me.

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“Someone” Showed Up

1-30By Karen Fultz of Atwater, California, USA

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who…sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

—1 John 3:16–17

It was the phone call no parent ever wants to receive. Our daughter, Sierra, was in a car accident in Missouri. I flew from California and was at her hospital bedside within 24 hours. After six months, two surgeries, many doctor and physical-therapy visits, I could go home for Christmas. She was on the road to full recovery.

Sierra suffered two broken legs, a fractured foot, an infection, and a gash on her knee that left a scar like a shark bite. There were many blessings amid her trauma. We experienced the sacrificial generosity of friends and church members!

My daughter’s friend picked me up from the airport and drove me to the hospital—an eight-hour drive for her!—so I didn’t have to rent a car. Sierra’s boss heard about the accident and spent the entire night in the emergency room until I arrived the next day. Many of her friends were in and out of the hospital to visit, help Sierra, and make sure I had food, company, and whatever I needed.

Sierra asked the hospital staff to call the local Community of Christ congregation. They asked for a person’s name, and she said, “No name. Just call. They’ll send someone.” The “someone” they sent was the pastor, who knew her family from youth camps. A church member let me stay at her home as long as I needed.

I could go on, and on, and on with many stories of people who blessed us along the way: the friend who took care of all four of Sierra’s pets, the woman and her son who saw the accident and pulled Sierra from under the truck, the family of the friend she was in the accident with. God showed up in her life through many lives, and we have been blessed and touched by each action of friends and the congregation.

Prayer for Peace
Thank you, God, for our communities at home and far away. Thank you for the spirit of kindness and generosity that spans the miles. Thank you for people who sacrifice for the needs of others.

Spiritual Practice: Experience Congregations in Mission
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a–d. Reread the sentence, “If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.” Make a list of the issues you feel mattered most to Christ. Make another list of issues that matter to your congregation. Reflect on the similarities and differences. How can you help align the lists? Throughout the day, as issues arise, ask yourself, “Would this matter to Christ?”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will show up when needed.

The Embodiment of Christ

1-29 ear By Jeanne Davis of Kansas City, Missouri, 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

Does the scripture passage say after the difficult, or before the difficult? Look again…

We all have various struggles. Usually we think of peace as something that could happen after the “struggle” part is past. But that’s not miraculous—that’s understandable and even visible. The invitation is to hope in the midst of the difficult, where we will receive peace in the midst of the struggle. That is salvation!

“…discover the blessings of all the dimensions of salvation.” As an artist, I work in two dimensions, sometimes three, but there are more dimensions than these—let’s add time. The dimensions of salvation include the now. Salvation is in the midst of the difficult. How am I saved? How can I see hope in the midst of despair?

I am saved by the peace of Jesus Christ through redemptive relationships—saved from despair, loneliness, rage, and fear. What does this look like?

I was saved from melting into a crazy puddle-of-a-mom with three babies far away by a redemptive relationship with Leslie Skoor and JoAnn Fisher. Saved from the depression and despair of a suicidal teenager through the redemptive relationship of Lisa Lowry and our congregation praise band. Saved from oppressive loneliness by the redemptive relationships of my office colleagues and the healing touch of Dana Speigle.

These people were the embodiment of Christ for me. Relationship with them saved me in the midst of my difficulties and brought me peace in the midst of my despair. These were ordinary people who became holy through their acts of kindness, through listening—just being there and spilling a bit of themselves with me, and me with them.

What are we not seeing?

Let’s open our eyes to see the opportunity to be in redemptive relationships. Who needs our listening ear? Who is it that needs to feel the loving acceptance of Christ’s family?

Prayer for Peace
Comforting God, we want to be as Christ, the embodiment of your shalom. We want to be there for one another. We want to be in the midst of sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Embodying God’s Shalom
Find a way to express and embody God’s shalom. Begin by prayerfully listening to your longing for peace. Become silent and imagine you can hear the groaning of the Earth’s people, nations, and creatures. Prayerfully open yourself to God’s yearning for peace and the divine vision of shalom.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will put on my listening ears and open my embracing arms.

Purr More…Hiss Less

1-28By Suzanne McMillan of East Sandwich, Massachusetts, USA

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

—Romans 12:18

Abby has bounded into our lives and hearts. She is a 10-week-old Labrador retriever. Our family has never experienced puppyhood before, so we’ve been especially charmed by her enthusiastic tail-wagging, and constant puppy antics. She likes dragging bags of groceries down the hall, chasing butterflies (and her tail), hiding shoes, and biting the heads off daffodils.

Then there are the endless attempts to befriend the cat.

Ah…the cat! On Abby’s arrival she quickly adopted a look of “We are not amused” on her delicate face. Close encounters have not been successful. We are vigilant about their meetings, as the kitty is assertive in her swats. Despite our attempts at diplomacy, hope seemed to be fading for a furry friendship until our oldest daughter made an unusual discovery.

Walking into the house in the wee hours of the morning she found the cat and the puppy sitting close together, seemingly enjoying each other’s company. No barks, no hissing, and no evident trauma. Skeptics would say the kennel door wasn’t latched properly that night, but we like to think the cat rose to nobler purpose and let the puppy out so they could work things out.

Can pets forgive one another? Can they mediate? Perhaps not. But we still can learn from them a lesson of Unity in Diversity. If cats and dogs can live together peacefully, why can’t we?

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, we realize peace depends on us. Teach us the lessons and give us the courage to live peacefully with all.

Spiritual Practice: Peace Action
Community of Christ is called to ministries of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit. PeacePathways is a church-sponsored website that shares peace and justice ministries, resources, and opportunities.

Visit http://www.kidpeace.org and prayerfully discern one ministry that speaks to you or captures your attention. Offer a prayer of blessing on the peace ministry you have selected. Listen quietly to see if God is calling you to additional responses to this ministry or another ministry of peace, reconciliation, or healing. If you cannot visit the website, offer a prayer of blessing on all peace ministries.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will purr more and hiss less.

Christ’s Mission Is Our Mission

1-27By Rick Maupin, Council of Twelve Apostles

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

—Luke 4:18–19, 21

Splat! I didn’t see it coming until it had splattered on my windshield. It was a wet sponge thrown by a young man several yards away. He and other impoverished boys in this particular country stand at traffic-light intersections, washing windshields. Motorists do not always appreciate their “marketing” technique. Desperate to earn a few pesos a day, they toss their sponges in hopes of “tagging” the windshields of generous drivers.

This young man is among the poor and oppressed spoken of in Luke 4:18. However, when that sponge hit my windshield my first thoughts were not about his plight, but about mine. Someone was invading my privacy, trying to take advantage of my good nature, and trying to get a few pesos from me.

I still have some concern with the method the young men use to secure clients. However, the greater concern is my attitude, how my first thoughts were not about the poor and oppressed. They were about me: my space, my agenda, and my needs. Being a disciple of Jesus requires me to look beyond my selfish view of splats on my windshield.

Many living in desperate conditions don’t even have a “sponge” with which to draw attention to their problem. Hidden in dark corners, those victimized by poverty and oppression often go unnoticed. If Christ’s mission is our mission, we will be aware of those people and generously share our resources to support ministries that will bring good news into their lives.

Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, help us to engage in Christ’s mission. We would abolish poverty and end suffering with Christ as our teacher. We would share his justice and peace.

Spiritual Practice: The International Community
Find (or imagine) a globe or map of the world. Look at all the nations and find a country other than your own. Notice the geographic distance between your homeland and this one. Picture a person living there. Pray for this person. Sense God’s love connecting you just as the oceans connect the continents. Thank God for the spiritual connection you have with all of God’s people around the globe. Ask a blessing on the church as a community sharing Christ’s peace, drawing all into the family of God.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will respond to the needs of at least one impoverished person.

Under the Microscope

1-26By Doug Haden of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

—2 Corinthians 8:7

This has been a great week for me because of a friend, a magazine article, a microscope, and our global community.

Dr. Gudush Jalloh is from South Africa and is the only private veterinarian in Sierra Leone. I’ve heard there is a direct link between the health of people and the health of the animals that live in our communities.

A geologist friend, Shaun, put me in touch with Dr. Jalloh, who was in desperate need of a binocular Zeiss microscope. I found one on the Internet, ordered it, and had some local vets make sure it was in good working order. Then I mailed it to the doctor. Within the week he received it and let me know by e-mail of its arrival.

It’s gratifying to make a small effort to help someone. I am glad for the opportunity to help others throughout the world make an impact on people’s lives.

This simple act of reading an article and connecting the dots through the influence of the Holy Spirit will bring relief to many. Through the skills and giftedness of one lone veterinarian, the citizens of his community will be blessed through his healing ministry to their pets and farm animals.

Christ has promised us that if we respond to those in need, all will be blessed and will sense his peace. This day, I feel privileged for the small part I had in meeting the needs of one doctor, his unique patients, and their owners’ holistic health. I praise God for giving me a passion for microscopes and the blessings that these instruments can give to others in towns and villages around God’s amazing world.

Prayer for Peace
God of the great and God of the small, help us see beyond our narrow world. Help us focus on needs that might be overlooked and to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Generous Offerings
Spend time meditating on the act of giving an offering. Begin by asking God for the spirit of generosity. Pray and reflect with these questions: How do I feel when I bring my offering to a worship setting and share it? What deep reasons motivate me to give? What is my best understanding of A Disciple’s Generous Response? Considering my financial circumstances, do I feel I am giving to my true capacity? In other words, am I giving the amount I am capable of giving without jeopardizing the needs and well-being of my family? Is God asking me to be more generous? How will I respond?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will try to discover a need and respond.

 

Move Out in Faith

1-25By Evelyn Herron of Lexington, Kentucky, 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 Covenants161:1a

I was driving along a freeway one evening in a community where I had lived only three months. My husband was out of town on business, and my children were with me. Suddenly something went wrong with the car, and I pulled to the side of the busy road.

The engine died, and I was unable to start the car again. We were about halfway between exits, and I didn’t know where the nearest service station was. Cars whizzed by in the darkness. Thick woods and fences separated me from the houses of a nearby subdivision.

Which way should I go for help? Who could I call? I knew only a few people in this city. I sat for several minutes, paralyzed by panic and indecision. Then I realized that my children depended on me to seek a solution. I decided on a direction, and we began walking toward one of the exits.

To my relief, I found a service station just off the freeway whose helpful owner towed my car with his truck. When he heard my plight, he was kind enough to take us home.

Sometimes we find ourselves in fearful situations—alone, with our lives broken down around us. A solution to our problems may be near. However, we must move out and seek it. God is there to guide us on our faith journey. God ensures we have the courage to determine our course and to take the first step of our journey.

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, may we have the courage to walk unknown paths with a faith that goes beyond our present vision. Calm our doubts and uncertainties and give us confidence to step boldly into the future. Give us the faith to share Christ’s peace with others who may be in fear.

Spiritual Practice: Intercessory Reflection
Sit quietly with your eyes closed as you enter intercessory reflection and prayer. Ask God to bring persons to your mind and heart who need prayer. Be open to images of the persons or spiritual insight into their needs. Listen for signals from their lives and let the depth of God’s love for them become powerful and real to you. Write, speak, or think a prayer of blessing and healing for these much-loved disciples and friends. Ask God to help you see ways to affirm and support them when you meet them in daily life.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will see with eyes of faith, where I am to go and how I can serve.

A Continuing Prayer

1-24By Mary Twinn of Collinsville, Illinois, USA

“Humble yourselves, and continue in prayer to him; cry to him when you are in your fields, and over all your flocks; cry to him in your houses, and over all your household, morning, midday, and evening…”

—Alma 16:219

When I was a young mother, I prayed God would grant my children all that they would ever desire, protect them from unhappiness, all pain and sorrow. Foolish! How little I understood.

Today my prayer for my children is quite different. I pray God will speak to the hearts and minds of my children and lead them through their decision making, choices, and experiences.

I pray they will find in whatever life holds for them a developing desire to know and serve God. I pray they may grow and be strengthened for the work that is theirs to do. My continuing prayer is that my children may discover God’s will in their lives and their role in Christ’s mission, thus fulfilling the purpose of their creation.

Prayer for Peace
Listening God, hear us when we pray for our families. Hear us when we pray for peace.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices
Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. Discernment invites us to orient our lives toward God and God’s vision for us and creation. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities in the day before you. Take these choices into prayer, asking God for wisdom and insight about what matters most.

Offer yourself to God with the prayer of Teresa of Avila: “God, what do you want of me today?” Sit prayerfully with this question as you review the day again. Be aware of images, thoughts, names, or actions that come to you. Ask for a blessing to live this day responsibly and compassionately in the spirit of Christ.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will pray morning, noon, and night.

Listening Friend

1-23By Dorene Kilburn of Stratford, Ontario, Canada

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. …And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

—Matthew 11:28–30, 28:20

It is indeed a blessing to have a friend who listens when we need to talk. We need friends who forgive us when we say something hurtful, who overlook our shortcomings. Friends want to share both our joys and our sorrows. But sometimes those special friends cannot be with us when we need them most.

We do have a friend who said, “…I am with you always.” That friend is Jesus. Though he is not visible to us, the friendship we develop with him is real. When we are overwhelmed by the day’s tasks or dragged down by doubts and fears, we can talk to him, for he has told us to come to him if we are burdened. He will give us rest. When we feel inadequate, when our self-esteem is damaged by insensitive remarks, we can turn to Jesus, who teaches us to see the worth of all persons.

As we pursue a closer friendship with Jesus, he will encourage us by the power of his Spirit—he will make us new creatures! This new day he beckons, “Follow me.” How much more can we do and be in his service, if we respond to his call.

Prayer for Peace
Ever-present God, we are thankful to have a friend like Jesus who we can share our burdens with. May we come to you often and pour out our hearts to make room for joy. May we then share that joy and the peace of Christ with others.

Spiritual Practice: Chalice Prayer
The chalice prayer is a form of intercession. Create a cup or chalice with your hands in front of your heart. Open your heart to God’s concern for the Earth and human family as you hold them in your chalice. See beauty and suffering as you lift the chalice and release the creation (open hands) to be blessed and healed by God.

Form the chalice again and hold persons who have particular needs—friends, loved ones, even enemies. Lift them and release them for God’s blessing. Place yourself inside the chalice as you confess your deepest needs. Lift and release yourself to God for healing. “Thank you and amen.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will cherish your presence with me.

Extend Yourself

1-22By Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

…let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. …and live in love, as Christ loved us…

—Ephesians 4:25, 5:2

As the result of an unsettling break-in at our home, the outpouring of genuine concern and assistance from our neighbors was a blessing. Going through this ordeal and seeing the response of those who live around us has caused me to think about my call as a member of my neighborhood community. I’m a friendly neighbor when I have the opportunity, but I admit I do not reach out and freely extend hospitality.

I was content to be a pleasant member of the community without extending myself into the lives of my neighbors. I chose to know them on a superficial level. I love to welcome people into my home, but the invitation often goes to my extended family and church family. After years of recognizing the need to reach out and share Christ with those in my neighborhood, I have realized I simply need to make myself receptive to opportunities waiting right outside my door.

One night I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try to nurture neighborhood relationships. Going even further, I listened again to the story of Mary and Martha. My house was far from clean and tidy, and the dinner dishes were not yet washed, but I put a cobbler in the oven, and there was plenty to share. I spontaneously called our neighbors and invited them over. We had a wonderful opportunity for laughter and conversation and allowed ourselves to be receptive to the blessings that come from being fully present in community.

Prayer for Peace
God of hospitality, may we always extend the invitation to gather in community, to live in love and share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Offering Blessings of Community
Receive and share Blessings of Community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the relationships in your life. See and feel connections with family members, spiritual friends, people in your congregation and community, and people and creatures in God’s sacred web of life. What blessings flow to you from these circles?

Reflect, pray, or 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 not clean my house. I will invite people to Christ.