The Village Between

Wednesday, July 31

7-31By Elizabeth Else of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

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

—Romans 12:18

Music and literature can deeply affect our discipleship. I have found their worth as we include them in worship and community experience. As a child, I huddled by the radio, listening to classical symphonies and inspiring choirs.

I also loved stories. I immersed myself in children’s books and the church’s former publications, Zion’s Hope and Stepping Stones. I waited expectantly each month for my bundle of papers to arrive from International Headquarters in Independence, Missouri, to my small town in faraway Canada.

A few years ago, I shared in a community production of Fiddler on the Roof. As a village character I sang from the outer edges of the stage. But during the wedding scene, I was near the center, surrounded by others. As the men began to dance, I was caught up in something bigger than simple community theater.

I felt as if I were in a real village with real people, with dust rising from the dancers’ feet. Here danced a people, struggling to preserve their traditions and faith despite holocausts, alienation, and economic difficulty. I suddenly felt connected to many “villages” throughout the world. I thought of my own “village” within Community of Christ.

Sometimes we feel alienated as we struggle in a difficult economy. We try to be faithful, caught between traditions and new understandings. We despair at the world’s troubles. But let us take strength from the divine spark placed within each of us. May we celebrate joys among sorrows. May we move forward despite our doubts. May we forge community when fear and negativity would drive us apart. May we choose life. In our communities of joy, hope, love, and peace, may we shout “L’chaim!”—“To life!”

Prayer for Peace
Creator of time and space, may we embrace traditions from the past as we move peaceably forward. May we embrace traditions of other cultures and welcome them into our worship experience. May we live peaceably with all people.

Spiritual Practice: Music for Meditation
Identify a form of music for meditation. If hearing music is not an option, choose a song you can sing or play on a musical instrument. Choose music that carries a soulful, spiritual, or healing quality for you. Sit quietly and soak in the melody and resonance. Allow healing waves of sound to pierce body, spirit, and emotions. What do you feel or see as you listen? Does the music have colors? What spiritual message comes? How are you being restored, nurtured, healed, or moved to compassionate response?

Peace Covenant
Knowing it depends on me, God, I will bridge gaps for peace.

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Sawing off the Branch behind Me

Tuesday, July 30

7-30By Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

How blessed are they! For they published peace; they published good tidings of good; and they declared to the people that the Lord reigns.

—Mosiah 11:207

My older brother, Jim, was always more of a seeker than I. But, my sister remembers well that we would endlessly discuss religious questions. She called us deluded nerds. My brother’s search for a “New Testament church” took him to the Woodland Park Congregation of Community of Christ.

A short while later he received confirmation through the Holy Spirit that this was where God had been prompting him for years. I refused to attend his rebaptism when he invited me, thinking he had gone off the deep end.

He was so excited about what he discovered in the Book of Mormon, he made me the recipient of his persistent nagging. He interrupted me to read me this or that passage while I was trying to study.

One day I remember consciously giving in to his nagging. I stopped and paid attention as he read aloud passage after passage. It was enlightening and confusing! For all of my life I had been taught the Book of Mormon was not “scripture.”

I felt an urgency to respond that would not go away. I felt myself mentally climbing onto a shaky limb, needing to saw it off to separate me from previous misconceptions. I trusted God to catch me. I asked myself, “How could a book be wrong, that testifies so powerfully of the love, and divinity, and peace of Christ?”

I went to church with Jim. As I walked into the sanctuary, a clear voice inside my head said, “This is where I want you to be.” I asked Jim, “How do I get baptized?” Jim said, “You have to do something called cottage meetings (what we used to call discipleship-preparation lessons).”

Today, my brother and I live on opposite coasts of the USA. We both serve as priesthood members. I am excited about the growing responsiveness and courage as our congregation steps forward in faith where God is calling us. It’s a privilege to take part in Christ’s mission, which develops disciples to serve. I have never regretted the difficult decision to saw off that branch behind me so many years ago.

Prayer for Peace
Revealing God, may we be the prophetic people you call us to be. May we be the ones who share Christ’s peace with neighbors.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices
Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. Discern God’s vision for us and our mission. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities in the day before you. Ask God for wisdom and insight about what matters most.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will separate myself from negative misconceptions.

Who Knows?

Monday, July 29

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Terry West of Clay Cross, United Kingdom

Be fervent in your witness, passionate in your discipleship, and vigorous in your labor on behalf of peace and justice. Where two or three such disciples form community, there will the Spirit be. Many will come to see.

—Doctrine and Covenants162:8b

Let me share a few facts:

I would like to point out that I do not have a religion. My wife, Jackie, works for Community of Christ as a bookkeeper at the Clay Cross, United Kingdom, offices. She attends church every week with our children, Brandon and Tyler. We’re bringing them up with strong Community of Christ principles. I do attend church on occasion to support my family.

A couple of years ago we went to reunion (family camp) at Dunfield House for three days. This was the first time I had met with a large gathering of church members outside the Clay Cross Congregation.

The next year we attended reunion for the whole week—what a joy! The camp was full of great spirit. The singing was a joy. Conversation was a pleasure. I was asked to say a few words about what I gained from my reunion experience, which I gladly did. What came across most was the unconditional love from everyone. The passion and commitment of the young adults was high—they are the church’s future. It was a shame the week had to end.

On returning home, I was sitting at the dining table, just pondering. I noticed my wife’s Daily Bread on the table. I picked it up and started to read. I got involved with the stories inside, which led me to send you this story.

The point I’m trying to make is the people, each and every one, of Community of Christ have something special. This experience will stay with me forever, and I hope one day to say I am a member. For now, it’s just one step at a time. Who knows?

I needed to let someone know my thoughts. Thanks for listening.

Prayer for Peace
God, keep us ever mindful that we always witness of you. May we always have an inclusive and sharing spirit. May we always share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Invite People to Christ
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b and 163:2b. Pray to be aware of people who might be receptive, and therefore blessed, by your sharing of the message of the Living Christ. Imagine being in relationship with them and inviting them to Christ. In preparation, discover your personal testimony of Christ. “Be persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.” Repeat this mantra throughout the day: “Christ’s mission, our mission, my mission.”

Peace Covenant:
Today, God, I will extend to a stranger an invitation to “come and see.”

Teach Us to Pray

Sunday, July 28

7-28By Andrew Bolton, Council of Twelve Apostles

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

—Luke 11:9–10

I was 8 years old when I started to pray to God to make Dad better. We had lost the farm because our debts were too great. For the first time I heard my parents arguing. It puzzled me at first. Later I was afraid and sick to my stomach.

Worst of all, Dad drank, especially Tuesdays and Fridays, when he went shopping in a neighboring town. He would stop at the pub on the way home. He was always horrible after drinking. Always bad-tempered, often sarcastic. Sometimes he would hit my brothers. I prayed for five or six years.

Then one Tuesday, a cold, wet English day, Dad was later coming home. This usually meant he had been drinking longer and would be even worse when he returned. I hurried to complete my jobs for the night–feeding the hens, getting logs for the greenhouse boiler, and more. I then decided to go to my bedroom and be out of the way when Dad came home.

I got to the kitchen, and to my surprise Dad was already home. He was sober and speaking gently to my mother. Relieved, I went to bed.

On Friday Dad came home sober, again. The next Tuesday, Dad was sober. This continued. I began to do better in school. Dad became the gentle father I remembered from when I was younger. Our family began to do better financially. The tension in my mother eased. We were all happier.

How was my prayer answered? My mother later told me she met with Dad’s doctor, who then confronted Dad. At the right moment, God opened the door to sobriety for my father and brought hope and healing to my family. God answered my prayers.

I am still grateful.

Prayer for Peace
Open-door God, we praise you for being present for us. Let us never be the cause of the door closing. May we knock and ask continually. May we seek you and never stop sharing the peace of Christ we find with you.

Spiritual Practice: Healing for Broken Spirits
Begin with quiet prayer. Ask God to help you discern some “sore places” in the body of Christ and in God’s creation. Become aware of people who feel separated, wounded, or left out.

Reflect on or write a short journal entry of healing words to at least one person who comes to mind. Ask God for words that will touch this person’s broken spirit like healing ointment. Keep this person in your heart and prayers today and act on any ideas that come to bring blessing and wholeness.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will not hesitate to knock and ask through prayers.

Young Adults in the Ukraine

Saturday, July 27

7-27By Igor Karpachov of Donetsk, Ukraine

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

—Matthew 5:9

Community of Christ is sharing Christ’s peace with young adults in Donetsk, Ukraine. We come together, pray to handle every day, and try to realize the commitment we made through baptism.

Young people in Ukraine are beginning to see one another as unique and beloved children of God and members of a sacred community. When we gather each Sunday morning, we open our hearts to everyone. We reach out to others during the week, cheerfully sharing compassion. Young adults realize God will be with them always. Through this we are spiritually enriched.

Your contributions to world mission tithes make mission real to young adults in places such as Donetsk. Here we are developing disciples to serve. Thank you for responding generously and giving a sense of mission to these young people.

Prayer for Peace
God of all nations, gather us with gifts given to us by your grace. Gather us and help us send our gifts the world around, in proportion to our faith, responding with compassion and generosity. Help us share the peace of Christ with diligence.

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 where you know someone. Notice the geographic distance between your homeland and theirs. Pray for this person. Sense God’s love connecting you just as the oceans connect the continents. Thank God for the connection you have with this person and 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 reflect on my gifts and the ministry I can offer. I will explore ways I can use them to serve you.

On the Way Back: A New Perspective

Friday, July 26

7-26By Becky Willis Shantz of Lamoni, Iowa, 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

In the home of my sister, Kathy, sit some tiny sand dollars. She displays these small treasures among other unique shells collected from her strolls along the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. One inch or less in diameter, these tiny sand dollars are rare.

Kathy and her husband were already late for departure. But Kathy could not leave without one last walk along the shore, so off to the island they went. They walked north, along seawalls and rocky points. Between the rocks were small areas of sandy beach.

After a short while, they turned and headed back. About 50 yards from the end, Kathy spotted a tiny sand dollar near some rocks. Excitedly, she directed all her attention to the area. Her excitement grew as she spotted another, then another, and yet another. She searched every sandy nook.

We have scoured the same shore several times since with no success. We marveled that Kathy found the shells. But how had she not spotted them the first time she passed? She missed them while walking one way with many barriers blocking them from sight. The walk back gave a different perspective. With this new perspective, Kathy’s vigilant eye made the discovery.

How often do we miss God’s treasures when we look from only one perspective? What discoveries lie ahead when we are willing to look from another point of view? Perhaps from someone else’s perspective? The message seems to say, “Keep walking, keep looking, and be open and observant.” When the pressures of life control our journey, God may be close. What strength, wisdom, and knowledge reveal themselves to us as we lift our eyes and draw close to God?

Prayer for Peace
Thank you, God, for your creation, which surrounds us. Your creation that is ours to discover, cherish, and appreciate, ours to share in story, ours to share with 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.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will look beyond the horizon, I will look down around my toes. Then I will walk back and discover what I may have missed.

Make Me a Blessing

Thursday, July 25

7-25By Evelyn Richardson of Nauvoo, Illinois, USA

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

—Romans 12:2

The young man in a wheelchair played his guitar and sang beautifully. I asked if he would provide music for A Disciple’s Generous Response at an upcoming service. I was to preside, and my husband was to give the morning message.

He asked what he should sing. I told him I had faith in him and would leave it up to him. His quick response was, “I guess I’ll sing, “Skip to My Lou.” I just smiled and said, “Whatever you say!” I did not see him until the following Sunday’s service.

The theme was “Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love.” The young man wheeled himself to the front of the church and began.

“Lou, Lou, Skip to my Lou” as he looked out the corner of his eye at me. I smiled as he continued…“Lou, Lou, Skip to my Lou. Lou, Lou, Skip to my Lou. Skip to my Lou, God’s children.”

His sweet voice continued, and my heart melted. “Bring your offerings to the Lord. Bring your offerings to the Lord. Bring your offerings to the Lord, and God will surely bless you.”

Yes, we were blessed as that ministry of music added to God’s loving presence in our worship that morning. I find when we make our offerings to God, we are blessed. Who knows how many others also will receive blessings because of that offering?

From our Enduring Principles we learn, “We offer all we are and have to God’s purposes as revealed in Jesus Christ. We generously share our witness, resources, ministries, and sacraments according to our true capacity.”

May we allow God to use us as ministers, blessing all we contact on life’s journey.

Prayer for Peace
God of love, accept our outpouring of praise as we sing from our heart. Assure us our simple offerings are worthy and serve as a blessing for you. May we invite all to join in our song.

Spiritual Practice: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart
Open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breathing slow and deepen. Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity. With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. Let your heart expand to contain God’s gracious outpouring of love. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will be aware of blessings from new places.

Listen and Trust

Wednesday, July 24

7-24By Suzanne McMillan of East Sandwich, Massachusetts, USA

…Test my words. Trust in my promises for they have been given for your assurance and will bear you up in times of doubt…

—Doctrine and Covenants 155:7

My parents claim I learned to swim before I learned to walk. Many people who grow up near water learn to swim at an early age, so part of me thought everyone learned to swim before they grow up.

When my sister-in-law came from the Southwest United States for a visit, I knew she had never seen the ocean. But it took me a while to realize she had never learned to swim. After pacing up and down the beach, she finally accepted my invitation to take her swimming.

On a beach with a rocky slope, choppy surf, and slight undertow, conditions were less than ideal. I explained in detail what she probably would experience and what she should do. I would let go of her completely, and she would hold onto my back while I swam to a shallow, flat, submerged sandbar. There, she would be able to stand, jump, and start to feel her body float.

Parenting and working in the medical field, I’ve experienced my share of asking people to trust. But those 30 minutes with Mindy held some of the most remarkable moments of trust I ever have experienced. Until she was finally able to grit her teeth and venture out, holding my hand, trust didn’t mean a lot to her.

She slowly gained confidence, the white knuckles of two hands giving way to only one hand hanging on. She went from trusting in her ability to float to having my hand move a few inches from hers as she paddled. Her new courage held as much joy and wonder for me as for her.

The Creator has gifted us with a vast world and new experiences that hold wonder. God is there, keeping us in safe arms if we but listen and trust.

Prayer for Peace:
Creator, how wonderful is your diverse world. Thank you for the joy we feel when we overcome our fears. We reach out to embrace the world with two hands. You are always there waiting for us, and for that we feel humbled and encouraged to share the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Flowing Water
If possible, sit where you can hear the sound of water—a fountain, stream, the sea, (perhaps a CD of water sounds). Listen to the sound as you thank God for the life-giving, life-shaping power of water. Pray for God’s blessing on all the parched places of the Earth where there is injustice, oppression, violence, and disregard for life. Now, get up and drink a glass of clear, cold water as you pray, “God, let your justice flow through me as a disciple of Christ Jesus.”

Peace Covenant:
When I begin to feel doubt, God, I will put my trust in you to bear me up.

Another Garden to Plant

Tuesday, July 23

7-23By Gary Beebe of Orange, California, USA

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

—1 Corinthians 3:6

Recently, I had a marvelous experience of sharing and witnessing of my faith while hospitalized.

I had symptoms of a heart attack. My daughter insisted I go the emergency room. I lived through four days of tests, adjustments to the miserable hospital bed, not-so-wonderful gowns, and interrupted sleep for vitals checks and blood draws.

After all this and living on a (bland!) diet, the test results showed my heart was in excellent shape. My lungs were clear, and my blood was flowing as it should. I prayed my health and ministry would continue!

Despite the inconvenience and time off work, the four days in the hospital provided an outstanding opportunity to share my life’s story and hear the life stories of the hospital staff. The nurses and assistants were the greatest. And, what an array of international talent and skill—two nurses were from the Philippines, one from Vietnam, one from San Salvador, and one born in the United States.

Once we began to share our stories, the conversations flowed to family, children, and concern for an autistic son. This opened a door for me to introduce a nurse, who is the mother of an autistic boy, to church friends. They told their story of helping raise their autistic granddaughter, giving support and encouragement.

Jamie, my nurse from San Salvador, bonded strongly with me. Before going off shift, he came into my room and asked if I would offer a prayer for his mother, who recently had suffered a stroke, and for his 9-year-old son, whom he loves deeply. I gave him a copy of the Herald, on which I wrote our address and phone number and invited him to call any time. From this experience another opportunity to witness was given to me—another garden to plant. Thank you, God.

Prayer for Peace
Nurturing Gardener, may we plant seeds for you to nurture. May we help weed out obstacles that impede growth. May we be the living water and peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Invite People to Christ
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b and 163:2b. Pray to be aware of people who might be receptive, and therefore blessed, by your sharing of the message of the Living Christ. Imagine being in relationship with them and inviting them to Christ. In preparation, discover your personal testimony of Christ. “Be persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.” Repeat this mantra throughout the day: “Christ’s mission, our mission, my mission.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will follow through when I find opportunities to witness of Christ’s peace.

Gather Us In

Monday, July 22

7-22By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your wholehearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.

—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9b

These thoughts came to me as I was ministering in a congregation that was considering closing its doors. Since then, the congregation has grown and is now thriving.

People are gathering. They wave hello, stop to chat, and invite one another in. People are coming—world travelers as well as the homebound. Men and women, put down your tools of labor; children, put down your toys; cast aside idle pastimes to answer Christ’s call.

People come who have considered building community; others come who have never heard of it. They sit together to talk of Christ and ponder his mission. Christ stirs their hearts with hope as they sing praises, pray, and listen for the Divine.

They consider God’s bright promises of what is yet to be, what is beyond the horizon. The crowd is gathering. People are coming. Don’t close the doors. People are coming!

Prayer for Peace
O God, I would give my heart to you, but it is encased in a wall of stone. It is sealed with the mortar of doubt and pride, hardened by time spent alone. I am troubled by this, and cry out to you, “Cast this barrier down. I can’t, for I put all my strength into building it.” Why does this spinning sphere continue to fling us beyond your reach, O God? Gather us in so the sea of loneliness will not swallow us—so we will not be too far from people to share Christ’s peace.

—Peggy Michael

Spiritual Practices: 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 how you can invite people to Christ.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will seek the company of a stranger to make a friend.