Just a Phrase in the Bible

2-28By Jim Cummins of Columbus, Ohio, USA

“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

—Matthew 7:7

I think the most misunderstood phrase in the Bible comes from a saying of Jesus, “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

God has a way of answering my prayers in ways that are not always what I directly ask or even hope for. I have found that God answers my requests for material possessions with spiritual blessings.

The poem, “Unanswered Prayer,” by an unknown author, states, “We ask for things that we might enjoy life. God gives us life that we might enjoy all things.” In a sermon I heard Sunday, the speaker told of almost unbearable challenges in her life. She told us she fell to her knees in prayer. Now, many years later, she can see where God answered her prayers in ways she never imagined at the time.

Keep in mind God does want us to keep the lines open. God wants us to be in relationship, even if we are not theologians, even if we don’t have the purest motives for our prayers. Sometimes we are selfish, sometimes we are hurting.

God hears our prayers and wants us to keep communicating. We may not always recognize God’s answer, but God is ready to bless us. When we ask in faith, we receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit. God blesses us with peace, hope, and joy. God blesses us with gentleness, love, and kindness. Who could ask or hope for more?

Prayer for Peace
Loving God, we know you hear our prayers. We know you are with us when we are searching for peace to share with others.

Spiritual Practice: Examining God’s Call to Me and to All
Reflect on God’s call in your life. Begin by prayerfully asking to recall particular moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come.

When has God seemed most real in your life? How and when has God called you to use your energies and gifts? When have you felt most deeply connected and responsive to God’s movement in your life? When have you felt disconnected or resistant to God’s call? How do your gifts and callings connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will search with faith that I will be blessed.

Insert Your Name Here______________________

2-27By Julie Conway-Sword of Gainesville, Florida, USA

And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son…And worlds without number have I created, and I also created them for mine own purposes; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten…and there is no end to my works, neither to my words; for this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality, and eternal life…

—Doctrine and Covenants 22:4a, 21c, 23b

It was a mid-February morning—cool, crisp air for our part of the world. We walked along a St. Augustine beach. Our eyes, except for viewing an unusual shell or two, were fixed on the horizon. We rested our eyes just above the continuous waves. Suddenly, a pink crescent ray flooded our faces. Like the screeching and then suddenly silent sea gulls, we faced the water expectantly—waiting on God’s next wonderful message.

I reflected on Moses’ experience, when blessed by God’s Spirit he talked with God, face to face. And the Lord told him, “…worlds without number have I created…there is no end to my works, neither to my words…”

As we journey on life’s beaches, we, too, can experience the giant, baptismal wave of God’s wisdom, like a flood cleansing the eyes of our understanding, our commitments, our relationships, and our service in the mission of Christ.

Speaking to Moses, God said, “I have a work for thee, Moses, my son…” We can insert our own names, at any juncture of our lives and hear the Lord tell each of us, “I have a work for you, _________, my child.” Listening expectantly, we can respond to that call as we await God’s next wave of truth, Continuing Revelation, to be shared with the world.

Prayer for Peace
We are watching your miraculous creation, God, with thankfulness. We are listening, God, for your expectations of us. We await the words with which to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Encountering Scripture as Continuing Revelation
Read and pray with Doctrine and Covenants as Continuing Revelation of God’s vision for the church and creation. Choose a favorite section or focus on counsel in Sections 156–164. Read a few selected paragraphs slowly three or four times. Pause to pray for deep understanding after each reading.

Pray for the opening of your heart and emotions. Prayerfully ask to hear the phrase or word that speaks to you or touches your life. Stay with this word or phrase. What sense of divine presence or invitation comes? What is revealed?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will contemplate your many worlds and how I can fulfill my needed part in Christ’s peace.

The Whole Tree!

2-26By Shirley Phillips of Independence, Missouri, 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…But this is not all: you must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness. “And when you do not cry to the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer to him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.”

—Alma 16:219, 221–222

We had several days of heavy rains and flash floods. Tree branches bent near the ground. Wind tore them apart. During one storm, about midnight, my daughter-in-law woke my son and told him their tree had blown down. Not concerned, he told her to go back to bed.

“No! It’s the whole tree!”

He went out and found the huge tree that grew next to the house was on the ground, its roots fully exposed. The trunk sprawled across the yard and over the fence, just missing a busy street. What a blessing no one was hurt.

As I prayed that night, all I could say was thank you. Thank you, God, thank you. I often hold up my son and his family in my prayers, asking God to protect them and allow what is best for them and their souls. I feel close to God as I pray for my family.

Prayer for Peace
We cry to you, Lord, for protection and peace. We do what we can for the welfare of our families, and then we leave it with you. May we pray unceasingly with faith.

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 pour out my soul to you.

A Lesson in Humility

1-30By 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…

—Colossians 3:12–13

I sat in the hospital waiting room, focusing on my wife and her medical problems. Soon, a family of four entered, all middle-aged and older.

A glance determined their socio-economic status. Their dress was slovenly. Their straggly hair was dirty, and so was their skin. One was missing several teeth.

They seemed oblivious and insensitive to others. They loudly and unabashedly discussed personal topics that were none of anybody else’s business.

They were beyond annoying. And the longer they stayed, the more they annoyed.

Then one of them, a woman in her late 60s or early 70s, jolted me with a simple statement to a nearby pastor: “I want to become a minister someday.”

My initial impression: “No how, no way.”

Almost immediately, a wave of shame slammed into me. Who was I to judge her? Who was I, based on a few minutes of observation, to decide whether somebody was fit for ministry? Who was I to know what call she might have from God?

It struck me that she might be better qualified than I. After all, I knew about Colossians 3:12–13, which calls me to clothe myself “with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” and to “bear with one another.” Yet, here I was, a modern Pharisee, passing judgment—something I should never do.

God, I thank you for this humbling lesson. I pray you will forgive me and help me remember the Worth of All Persons. Help me to engage in compassionate ministries. And I pray you will bless the woman’s need for a deeper relationship with you.

Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, thank you for the lessons we learn from one another. Forgive us when we judge. Turn our hearts to sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Welcoming Unity in Diversity
Meditate on Unity in Diversity. Create a circle with your arms. See and feel the diverse people God invites inside the sanctuary of Christ’s peace represented by this circle.

Who is easiest to welcome? Whom do you struggle to include? Confess the dividing walls between you and people too different or “dangerous” to invite into your spiritual home. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers that keep you and others from being one in Christ’s peace.

Peace Covenant
I will remember, God, that when I accept others in their diversity, I strengthen my unity with them and you.

Become a Covenant People

2-24 rootsBy Andrew Shields of Independence, Missouri, USA

But the word of the Lord came to [Abram]. “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lords; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. On that day the lord made a covenant with Abram, saying. “To our descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…”

—Genesis 15:4–6, 18

How is God connected to what is most important to you?

Abram wanted to have a legacy through his children and their inheritance. God offered to be in relationship with him, to grant his deepest desires in an unexpected way. Abram agreed, even when circumstances were grim. It was impossible to see ahead to how God would fulfill the promises. Abram trusted in the relationship and the promise.

In the end, we want similar results. We want to feel connection with others. We want our lives to have meaning. We want to be successful. We may differ in our ways of thinking about those goals, but they are part of what it is to be human.

Today, God is offering us the same deal offered to Abram—be in covenant with God, and our desire for connection, meaning, and success will be met in an unexpected way. God offers security grounded in only one way—connection to God. Our connection to God is rooted in trust, even in the hard times.

The hard part of this deal is that it is not always possible to imagine how the future plays out­—a way out of current difficulties into a more balanced life. Also, the Divine often calls us to take risks that do not make sense to people. They do not feel the pull of God’s will toward a surprising decision.

The easy part of this deal is that no matter what others think of you, the world does not get to decide what you are. Your standing with God decides your value, and God sees you as beyond price. You are of great worth, part of the divine, in community with creation and Creator. If you can trust that, even with questions, you already have God’s transforming grace.

Prayer for Peace
Covenant God, we would do your part to honor the covenant you offer to us. Root us in your grace. Open our hearts to your unexpected ways. Open our hearts to receive your grace and share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Deepening Roots
A tree with superficial roots will wither during drought or be uprooted by severe storms. A free whose roots go deep is stable and draws from deep waters. Imagine yourself as a tree by a river or stream. Sense your roots extending deep into the Earth in search of God’s Spirit. Reflect or pray about what you hope to find as your spirit searches for deeper identity in God.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will take a risk for a deeper identity with you.

Letting Go

2-23By Barbara Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

—Mark 10:21–22

In Heinrich Hofmann’s painting, “Christ and the Rich Young Ruler,” the ruler is shown with his hand in a gesture of rejection of Jesus. His other hand is closed. Hands appear central to the painting. Jesus’ face depicts sorrow, and the young man’s face is sad, too.

His sadness seems connected to the position of his hand. He is moving away from Jesus, who has told him that to inherit the kingdom he must sell all his goods and give to the poor.

Sometimes when we confront difficulty, we express our pain and frustration bodily. The artist captured that moment on canvas. We can, without realizing it, make idols of our possessions. Jesus was not condemning the ruler’s riches. He was, rather, asking him to put God at the center of his life.

Whatever is “opaque to God,” wrote the German theologian, Paul Tillich, becomes our idol—what we worship. Riches mattered to the young ruler. He had interest in salvation, but he was unwilling to give up his riches to let God be the center of his life. He could not enter into genuine community with Jesus.

Many idols can keep us from enjoying genuine community with Christ: our opinions, hobbies, prejudices, and whatever we value more than a relationship with God. What do we need to release to participate fully in Community of Christ?

Prayer for Peace
Loosen our grip, God. Help us let go of that which does not make us whole. Help us bring the sharing of Christ’s peace to the center of our lives.

Spiritual Practice: Open Hands
Stand or sit with your hands extended in front of you. Prayerfully ponder all the things you hold in your hands that make you feel too full, busy, drained, or tight. Spread your hands up and apart to release these things. Then hold your hands open and empty them again. Thank God for relationships that fill and feed your spirit. Pray for a generous heart and open hands that reach out to make room for all in the circle of Christ’s community.

Peace Covenant
We are told, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist” (Indira Gandhi). Today I will extend an open hand for peace.

Come to Me

2-22By Robert Glenn of Evansville, Indiana, USA

“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.”

—Matthew 11:28–30

One Sunday our congregation was blessed to have a guest minister as the speaker. The theme was the “Spirit of God.” In his sermon the speaker shared how his business partner had taken three years of their tax money and misused it. The speaker said he became depressed. He wanted to talk to someone about his burden. Then, unexpectedly, he got a phone call from a friend, a minister, who said he would fly to see him in a couple of hours.

They talked. They went to God and prayed together. The speaker knew he had been blessed. He also knew when God blesses you in such a manner, God might ask you to be a blessing to someone else.

It wasn’t long until one of his associates was in dire need of help. Our speaker felt prompted by the Spirit to visit her. He was on his way to a conference, but he had enough time to visit this distressed woman, who had been praying for help. They talked and cried together. They shared her burden and went to God in prayer. This short, but timely, visit was a blessing.

When God leads and blesses us we should prepare to be a blessing to others. The congregation, as a source of witness, was a blessing to me and others seeking the way of Christ who said, “Come to me.”

Prayer for Peace
Burden-sharing God, we are blessed to be a blessing. You have shared your peace with us that we might share it with 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
As I have been blessed, God, so I will bless those who are burdened.

Working for Peace with Faith and Prayer

2-21By R. Keith Lane of Pastor Valley Station, Kentucky, USA

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you.

—Isaiah 26:3

One night in Ban Me Thuot, Viet Nam, I was in the Officer’s Club, enjoying a game of bumper pool with another pilot. We heard the sound of mortars firing in the distance. Before we could leave the building for the safety of a bunker, the shells started landing. All we could do was take shelter inside the building.

As I lay in the corner, the man beside me began saying the Lord’s Prayer. It reminded me of the assurance I had felt from God that I would be OK during the year I was to spend there. Nevertheless, something told me I needed to protect myself. I saw a chair with thick, removable rubber cushions.

I pulled them over us, and shortly the building took a direct hit to the roof. Two small pieces of shrapnel hit me, one on my right hand and one on my left knee. Later, I counted 28 holes in the cushions. Thankfully, the injuries weren’t too bad, and I needed only a short visit to the infirmary.

A philosopher, Edmund Burke, said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.” There have been many times I sat back and said of a given situation, “It’ll be OK, you’ll see,” and then did nothing to help. I since have learned that faith, prayer, and whatever we can do to back it up, with the blessing of God’s grace, will bring us peace.

Prayer for Peace
We trust in you, steadfast God. We have faith in your grace. We will pray unceasingly for opportunities to share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Pursue Peace on Earth
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 161:2a. Reflect on how you can “see violence but proclaim peace…feel conflict, yet extend the hand of reconciliation…encounter broken spirits and find pathways for healing.” Prayerfully open yourself to God’s yearning for peace and the divine vision of shalom. What act of justice or peacemaking does God invite you to pursue this day? Dwell on these words of pursuit: see, proclaim, feel, extend, encounter, find.

Peace Covenant
Today, I place my trust in you, God. I will determine my actions for pursuing peace.

Global Village

2-20By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Heed the urgent call to become a global family united in the name of Christ, committed in love to one another…

—Doctrine and Covenants161:6b

The local Foster Care and Adoption Association held its annual gala and auction fund-raiser. It was a big event, with the theme, “Forever Families.” I was puzzled why my husband and I were invited. Then I learned my sister, Pam, who had been a social worker for the state, was being honored posthumously with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

They used great words, which she deserved, to describe her work. Her son and daughter, Ben and Heidi, accepted the award for her. She would have been deeply touched. It was a bittersweet occasion.

The speakers impressed me. The master of ceremonies was Jason Holsman, a state legislator. He said, “The only completely renewable energy resource is love.” He talked about the selfless generosity of foster and adoptive parents.

Kansas City’s new mayor, “Sly” James, shared a story from his childhood. He grew up in what he called the ghetto, but he stayed out of trouble. On his way home from school, James was stopped by a tough drug dealer, who tried to persuade him to sell drugs.

A small, elderly woman, sitting on her front porch, saw the encounter. She walked up to the drug dealer, James said, and poked him in the chest with a boney finger. “You leave this boy alone!”

The drug dealer said, “You ain’t his mama.” And the woman said, “TODAY I AM!” The young mayor-to-be went on his way and wasn’t harassed again.

We also heard from a young man who was abused before he went into foster care and was adopted. Though he and his siblings were taken from life-threatening conditions (one of his brothers died from parental abuse), he still loved his mother.

Unconditional love…divine love. Some would say this is naïve love, all-he-had-ever-known love. But even as a fairly objective adult, he forgave and loved his imprisoned mother unconditionally. This is what we can learn from children. This is what we can learn from God.

And we can learn from little, elderly women, sitting on the front porch…keeping an eye on the sparrows of the neighborhood. We, too, can be community for any child, any day.

Prayer for Peace
God of wisdom, keep teaching us until we get it right. May we keep practicing until it is as natural as the love of a child.

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, neighborhood, and the global village.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will keep an eye out for injustice.

A Tap on the Shoulder—a Life Changed

2-19By Deb Crowley of Charlotte, Michigan, USA

“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.”

—Luke 4:18–19

For Moses, it was an ordinary day as he herded the grazing sheep. Then God called from a burning bush, and his life changed direction.

Matthew was at his booth, collecting taxes. He didn’t much care for his job, but he lived comfortably (more than most) and was dedicated, though not popular. Then Jesus walked by, invited him to leave his booth and join him. Matthew’s life was never the same.

Saul, later called Paul, was faithfully ridding society of the radical Christians who were upsetting religious and political norms. Just an average day of righteously justified persecution until the trip to Damascus, where he was struck blind and saw his life’s mission dramatically turned around. Christ’s mission became his mission.

Not all have extraordinary encounters with the Divine where God calls from a bush, a booth, or from the darkness. Few of us may ever face the choice to follow God in a direction that disrupts and changes the course of our lives, let alone the course of humanity! But God calls us just the same. God taps us on the shoulder, probes our conscience, or shakes us awake to be aware and to serve people in need.

Indeed, we are not Moses, Matthew, or Paul. Most likely our names will never be written in annals of history for generations to reflect on great deeds done. A life heeding God’s call, moment by moment is no less radically changed. Our life’s work becomes a culmination of simple acts of serving others, making a difference in the life of one person, relieving one burden at a time.

Prayer for Peace
Anoint us God. Tap us on the shoulder. Call us, and we will follow, we will serve. Spark change in our lives, God, and we will change others by sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Examining God’s Call to Me and to All
Reflect on God’s call in your life. Begin by prayerfully asking to recall particular moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come.

When has God seemed most real in your life? How and when has God called you to use your energies and gifts? When have you felt God’s love in your life? When have you felt disconnected or resistant to God’s call? How do your gifts and callings connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will be awake and aware of those who need a vision of Christ’s mission.