Evidence of God’s Care

Friday, May 31

5.31By Colleen LeRoy of Layton, Utah, USA

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

—John 14:27

 One morning while I was walking to catch my bus, the Creator caught my breath as I stopped to watch a hawk fly from one tree to another. She had food for her little ones. As I watched her preside over her nest, I became aware of God’s constant presence and care for us. God sees our needs and provides food for our nourishment. God knows our concerns—we need not fear. We need only be vulnerable to God’s grace. We are blessed with divine generosity and love.

God’s arms gather me in—
reaching far as hawk can fly
tenderly hold me safe
as we sweep across the sky
from dawn to fading light
companions through the night

 God’s love sends me out—
to gather and embrace
to soar with every hawk in flight,
a fledgling falters, needing grace
draw me safe within the nest,
then send me out to feed the rest.

                                     —Lu Mountenay

Prayer for Peace
We open ourselves to you, our ever-present Companion. We open ourselves and pause in the middle of our busy day. We are mindful from where the wind beneath our wings comes, and to where that wind blows us. We are mindful of where you send us and with whom we will share. We pray this journey leads us in pursuit of Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: All Living Things
Take a walk and find a tree where you can sit (or imagine walking and sitting beneath a tree). Lean against the tree and feel the texture of the bark. Listen to the wind move through the leaves. Sit quietly and sense God’s presence flowing through the tree and all creation. Offer a prayer of gratitude for your connection to all living things. Ask for grace to discern and carry out one small act of justice or healing that creates greater wholeness for the plants, animals, trees, waters, air, and land that are part of the community of creation.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will look for those near the risky edge of the nest and bring them to the center of the community.

A Joyful Day at Chemotherapy

5.30Thursday, May 30

By Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy…

—Isaiah 52:7–8

My mother remarried many years after my father passed away. We recently learned her new husband’s stage-four cancer, which had been in remission, had begun to metastasize. He has an exceptional oncologist, and yesterday he had his first day of treatment, not to cure, but to try to give mom and “dad” more precious time together.

I prayed, “Lord, help me find practical ways to hold them up in this uncertain future.” I joined my sister and them at the chemo session. I have no doubt that God answers prayer and, in this case, in most remarkable ways!

Yesterday, in what I can describe only as a desperate medical treatment, we shared together in one of the most joyous family companionship days I can remember since mom and dad’s blessed wedding day.

We laughed frequently and felt warmth in that tiny clinical room despite complex machines and multiple bags of poison dripping into his body. He was teasing, playing with words, and joking. When the nurses figured him out, they caught the joke “infection” and joined in the fun. He set aside his suffering and lifted his voice in joy.

He is a remarkable man with a positive witness. We looked at family pictures, talked of our many blessings, prayed together, and experienced overflowing cups of God’s joy and love throughout the eight-hour treatment. God blessed us beyond measure!

As I was driving home, I realized I was privileged to be part of a remarkable experience. I thought of the many people I saw alone that day in the same condition. What an opportunity for ministry. Are you aware of someone who is going through a similar experience? Will those who suffer be left alone? As a people with a mission to end suffering, we need to intentionally focus our listening skills and become the hands of Jesus.

Prayer for Peace
God who suffers with us, help us be present for others. Help us develop listening skills, a comforting witness, and a sense of peace to share with those who suffer.

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. Reflect on the call to be “Community of Christ.” Discern what act of blessing you are invited to complete and how you can reach out to those who are alone.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will respond to those who suffer, one lonely person at a time.

Drippin’ and Droopin’

Wednesday, May 29

5.29By Suzanne McMillan of East Sandwich, Massachusetts, USA

He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

—Exodus 33:14

Summer temperatures in the coastal town where we live rarely surpass 90 degrees. One spring we had three consecutive days with temperatures in the 90s. It was only May. It was suffocating, and I worried.

Adults were ill-prepared, school kids were drippin’ and droopin’, animals were panting heavily, and pregnant women were uncomfortable. The Public Health Department issued heat advisories, warning about poor air quality and urging us to stay indoors.

Except for air-conditioner salespeople, there was near universal welcome of the cool breeze accompanying a weather front arriving after 72 hours. Calming, soothing relief gently refreshed us, freeing us to stand outside and drink it in while taking deep, cleansing breaths, filling us with life anew.

God’s presence, the breath of the Spirit, often feels that way, too. Welcomed as healer of sagging spirits, balm of wounds, cool rest for weary travelers, it frees us from the heavy weight on our hearts and spirits.

Prayer for Peace
Healing God, surround us with your calming breath. Lift our spirits. May we be open to you that we may find rest and peace. May we share that peace with other weary travelers.

Spiritual Practice: Breathing with the Ocean
Sit or lie in a relaxed posture. Pay attention to your breathing. Let the rhythm become calm and even. Imagine sitting or lying on a warm, sandy beach with ocean waves rolling in and out near your feet. Listen to the waves as they “exhale” and “inhale.” Begin to breathe in time with the waves. Become aware of the ocean as the presence of God washing onto the shore to touch your body and spirit. With each breath receive what the ocean of God brings you. Let go of what is carried into the sea of God’s presence. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Ask how you can share God’s healing and peace today.

Peace Covenant
I will freely breathe in your presence, God, and rest in your Spirit.

The Family We Choose

5.28Tuesday, May 28

By Barbara Howard 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; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

—Colossians 3:12–17

My granddaughter, Grace, recently finished three years of preparation for confirmation in the Episcopal Church. On the way to the sacramental service, she asked her mother, “Why church? I mean, why is it important to join; to belong? I belong to my family. I am a member of a soccer club, an ice hockey team, and stuff at school. Why church?” Her mother wisely responded, “Why do you think church is important?”

Grace, quiet for time, responded with conviction. “I think church is the family I choose. The family that members choose to be their family. It’s a lot like our family. I know the people at church will be there for me for the rest of my life. I know I belong, and they care about me, no matter what. Yep, church is the family I choose.”

Perhaps one way we can offer ministry is to cultivate those preparing for baptism, enrich their understanding of scripture, offer support for service projects, deepen their testimony of a living, loving God. Develop Disciples to Serve. Provide opportunities for them to sense they are choosing a family of unconditional love.

Prayer for Peace
Loving God, we choose to be in your presence. Thank you for being there, always. We choose to be with your community. May we always invite others to join us as we share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve
Read and reflect on Psalm 42:1–2. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to people and their needs. The call to inward journey can restore us in times of physical or spiritual depletion. Imagine you can feel a vessel at the center of your being (a clay jar, a crystal vase, a metal bucket, or other container). Imagine drawing something from the vessel to share with another person, but as you reach inside you find only a tiny pool of stagnant liquid. You are thirsty and dry; empty. Listen prayerfully again to the psalm. As you feel restored, thank God for the opportunity to be a responding, serving disciple while you move into the outward journey. Remember this exercise as you drink water throughout the day.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will try to be the person others choose to be with.

A Time and Place for Spiritual Practice

Monday, May 27

5.27By Candy Brayton of Independence, Missouri, USA

For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

—Isaiah 61:11

In this fast-paced era, it can be difficult to set aside time for thoughtful, deliberate prayer. We settle for quick prayers for safe travel, hurried blessings for our fast-food, and only a minute spent on our e-mailed prayer lists. Nothing is wrong with that, but God sometimes desires a deep conversation with us that is longer than 140 characters with spaces.

It shames me to admit, but I just recently, finally, put forth the effort to have a regular time for prayer. I’m the person for whom the saying “out of sight, out of mind” is true. To correct that, I have set aside a small area in my home to use as sacred space.

Occupying this space is a decorative cloth, a candle, rocks placed to form a cross, a journal, and a book of daily devotionals. I see this first in the morning and last at night. Each morning I begin by lighting the candle and thanking God for another day. I read the daily devotional and follow the spiritual practice.

In the evening, I write in my journal blessings for which I am most grateful and what I’d like to change in my life. If I have specific concerns, I then speak to God about them. I finish by thanking God again for another day. I snuff out the candle, taking its light with me throughout the day. This prayer time takes about fifteen minutes.

Be creative with your sacred space. Customize it to fit you. Add a chime or flowers. Decide if it’s to be for personal use or for the whole family. You could even set up space for family worship and personal space for each family member. Plant the seeds now and reap the results for a lifetime.

Prayer for Peace
When we pray to you, God, we are in sacred space. Help us discipline our prayer life with regularity. Help us sow seeds of spiritual practices that we may draw on when we are low. May our prayer-life make us strong in our faith and in our sharing of Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Connecting with God as Center
Connect with God through journal writing or contemplation. Open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind. Your “communication with God” might include thoughts, questions, feelings, needs, artwork, quotes, or scriptures. Or it might take the form of a prayer, psalm, or poem. Try to write or meditate at least five minutes each day.

What do you experience? Is this an effective way to connect with God? What surprises you? What new God images or questions emerge? What deepens or changes in your relationship with God, Christ, Spirit?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will set aside time to pray and return there every day.

God Cares

Sunday, May 26

5.26By Steve Jones, presiding bishop

Oh Lord, our sovereign, how majestic is your name in all of the earth.

—Psalm 8:1

Many times while working for the church, I have experienced God’s ever-attending care for the whole church. Let me share three of those moments.

After the 2000 World Conference I attended a meeting of the Church name Change Committee. Our consultant said, “Stop, don’t you know what this name change is all about? Sure, you have to change signs, letterhead, business cards, and make other changes. But this is about a God who loves you enough to call you by a new name.”

From the experience, the committee refocused its efforts on the mission impact of our name change and developed the 40-day, spiritual-journey practices for families. God cared about spiritual and missional formation.

Two years later, at the 2002 World Conference, the Presiding Bishopric presented to the church a new understanding of tithing. This understanding moved us from formula-based method of tithing to one based on generosity principles. Our journey as a Presiding Bishopric was notable. We experienced and understood that our (yours and mine) sharing of tithing could not be a calculation. It must be a response to god’s generosity and our willingness to receive and then share it.

Finally, in 2010 and 2011, we again embarked on what leadership believed was a critical issue of how the church was funded. We challenged priesthood members to respond beyond the US$5 each week that a little more than 60 percent of priesthood members were contributing. Again God surprised us, because what we thought was a funding issue turned into a discovery.

We discovered the mission of Community of Christ and how Christ’s mission is our mission. The Holy Spirit guided church leaders to look beyond funding and to discover our mission. What emerged were five Mission Initiatives that call us to respond as disciples to Christ’s mission.

There have been many other examples of how God cares for the church and its members. These three discoveries, for me, point to how majestic is the name of the Lord.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, we are thankful for you continually revealing Christ’s mission to us. We are awed by the surprising ways we can make Christ’s mission our mission; new ways we can respond to your generosity and share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Ongoing Revelation
One Enduring Principle of Community of Christ is Continuing Revelation. We are a people always in process, becoming shaped by God’s interaction with us. In prayer, listen deeply to the name, “Community of Christ.” Write or say a prayer asking God to continue to form us through our name. Listen deeply to what it would mean to live in community, following and sharing the way of Christ.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will be open and expectant of your constant and surprising nature.

Family Camp

Saturday, May 25

5.25By Karen Porter of Liberty, Missouri, USA

So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

—Romans 12:5–8

Jaeden was 13 and had been going to family camp since he was 3. That year the junior high youth had three teachers. Anytime during the day you might see the kids talking with them. The teachers had great rapport with the kids and had late-night sessions in the dining hall after “lights out.”

There was a thunderstorm late on our last night there. Our cabin was about as far from the dining hall as one could get. When it was time for the kids to start heading to their camp lodging, I got a text message from Jaeden. “Grandma, everyone is staying a little while longer, can I stay too?” My reply was, “Sure, the weather is too bad to walk back to the cabin, so stay.” About 2:00 a.m. I woke up as he came in.

It’s usually a chore to get him go to the worship services, but that year he was going on his own. I’d find him sitting with his friends and a teacher. When we were loading the van to head for home I heard him ask his little sister, “Do you love Jesus?”

Thanks to donations for campgrounds and campership funds, we have camps and provide our youth with awesome experiences they can’t get in other ways.

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, we’re on the upward trail, singing your praises as we go. Camping, worshiping, working together, sharing the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice: 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.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will remember our church campgrounds and the spiritual experiences shared there.

Gabi’s Story: The Power of Prayer

Friday, May 24

5.24By R. Keith Lane of Valley Station, Kentucky, USA

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone… so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

—1 Timothy 2:1–2

The triplets were born seven weeks early. “Gabi” was first, weighing three pounds, five ounces, only one minute before her sister, and two minutes before her brother. She was a little fighter and slowly began to gain weight.

But a week after her birth the nurse noticed symptoms that led to a diagnosis of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Her intestines were breaking down. NEC is the leading cause of death in premature infants and almost always leaves some permanent damage to survivors. The doctor immediately took her off oral feeding because her intestinal tract had not developed fully. Nurses added hefty doses of antibiotics to her IV bottles.

We feared for her life. We asked our prayer group—friends and family from Australia, Oregon, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia, and Georgia—to pray for Gabi. We held her up to God’s healing light.

A week went by, and we prayed for Gabi every day. The doctor said she thought Gabi might be able to begin normal feeding again. From then on, she has thrived and had no permanent damage. We are grateful for the Blessings of Community, which supported our family through prayer.

Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, we hold the children of the world up to your healing light. Where there is sadness, let there be joy. Where there is illness, let wholeness thrive. Where there is violence, let us share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: The 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 pray without hesitation, as I become aware of needs.

A Very Present Help

Thursday, May 23

5.23By Karen Anne Smith of Ludington, Michigan, USA

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

—Psalm 46:1–3

My son, Alex, and I had just arrived at the Scottville Riverside Park. Alex ran gleefully ahead to see the river. I quickened my pace to catch up. It was a cold and cloudy autumn day, so no one else was around.

I stepped on something wrong and went down, twisting my already-arthritic knee. Oh, the pain! All I could do was lie in the grass and mud, crying out, “Help me God.”

I was alone with my severely autistic son, with a busy street not far away. I called Alex to come to me, hoping he would respond and not run into traffic. He did come, and he knew how to help me up gently, without excessive tugging. He kept his cool and helped me! I am so proud of him.

When you meet someone who is severely disabled and mute, never doubt someone is in there—a person, a brain, a soul. Never doubt how close God is when you need help. You can bet God was helping Alex help me.

Prayer for Peace
God whose help comes in unexpected ways, may we never doubt the source. May we always see the worth of persons that you see. May we be aware that everyone can share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Opening to God’s Presence
Today’s practice is a prayer of blessing for our bodies as we open them to God’s presence and purposes. Place your hands over your face and eyes, asking God for compassionate vision and insight (30 seconds of silence). Place your hands on your head and ask to be blessed with the mind of Christ (silence). Put your hands over your ears and pray for deep listening to the sounds, words, and needs around you today (silence). Place your hands over your throat and ask God to grant you wise, healing speech (silence). Put both hands over your heart and ask to receive and generously share God’s compassion and peace (silence). Say “thank you and amen.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will be aware of potential, even when it is hidden behind a disability.

Example of Love

Wednesday, May 22

5.22By Evelyn Richardson of Nauvoo, Illinois, USA

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

            —Isaiah 11:6 

I can’t say I am always shining example of love. Children learn by copying what they see others do or what they hear others say. I was reminded of this one Sunday as I sat on the piano bench at church to play for A Disciple’s Generous Response.

Four young ushers stood ready to go forward for the prayer of blessing when a 2- or 3-year-old boy went up to one of them. He couldn’t wait for the basket to come to him. He dropped his offering into the plate with enthusiasm and returned to his grandmother.

If the rest of the congregation could have seen his face, members would have recognized what it means to be a cheerful giver. Are we cheerful in all our giving? Do we let our love shine from our faces? Are we examples of love and generosity for our children?

Surely that morning a little child was doing what he had seen some big folks do, and adding his example of how we can do it better. Are we sharing generously and according to our true capacity that others may know our hearts as we respond? What examples are we setting, not only in word and action, but in our attitudes and expression of how we feel about our action?

Yes, a little child shall lead us. May we follow the example of children as we follow Christ. Children are the church now and in the future. May we work together to develop communities of joy, hope, love, and peace for all of God’s children, big and small.

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, by witness of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, may we show our love for you and our neighbors. By example of our way of living, may we share Christ’s love and peace.

Spiritual Practice: Teacher-learner
The first disciples of Jesus followed to hear his words, to be taught, to learn a new way of living, to practice what they learned in daily life. Prayerfully consider your role as a teacher-learner, disciple-apprentice; a people cultivator in Community of Christ. In your journal write the names of several persons you discern as teachers or mentors and several you feel called to nurture and encourage in specific ways. Ask God’s blessing on you and your congregation as a community of learners.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will show love in a way children can understand.