Acute Need in Horn of Africa

Saturday, August 31

8-31By Alex Kahtava of Raymore, Missouri, USA

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

—1 John 3:17

A Community of Christ World Hunger grant of US$20,000 provided relief to many suffering from drought in the Horn of Africa. More than 11 million people are in acute need of food assistance. The United Nations has called it the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

A declaration of famine in parts of southern Somalia has been issued. The crisis extends across parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. World Church leaders are working with church leaders in Kenya, where Community of Christ has a strong presence.

As we strive to love one another, there is concern the famine will spread. Many people rely on livestock, which are dying in massive numbers because of lack of feed and water. The world’s largest refugee site, Dadaab, is overcrowded with more than 465,000 displaced people in camps originally designed for 90,000. Because of your contributions to the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Mission Initiative, which includes World Hunger, Community of Christ can respond as an international church to the famine in East Africa.

Thank you for responding generously to this acute need.

Prayer for Peace
God who weeps for the hungry, may we who weep with you turn our tears into tangible love. May we use our finances as funds of compassion. May we share food for the body and Christ’s peace for the soul.

Spiritual Practice: Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
Read and reflect on John 21:15–17 as a meditation. Let your mind be drawn to places where people have no homes. Think of refugees whose homes were destroyed by war or natural disaster. Be aware of the hungry and homeless, who wander the streets or live in shelters. Let the images fill your mind. Offer a prayer for those who suffer. Imagine Christ tending those sheep. Think of ways you might end their suffering as part of your mission. Throughout the day, carry in your mind the voice of Christ saying: “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will not reach for more bread than I need. May I rather reach out to those in need of the bread of life.

Advertisements

From the Diversity Team: The Differences that Bless

Friday, August 30

8-30By Karolyn Chapman Sharp of Kenmore, Washington, USA

…pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

—2 Timothy 2:22

I met Mike in a seventh-grade aerospace class. He is politically independent and a faithful member of a conservative faith community. I am politically liberal and a member of Community of Christ. We connected right away.

Over the years, we have seen each other’s personal challenges and triumphs. Mike joined the Air Force, and later did a tour in the Middle East. I prayed and prayed. No matter what was going on, when he called, I answered. The world would just have to wait.

We have struggled with our faith, found our respective spouses, married, and become parents. Mike and I each grew our own faith. As our political views developed, they drifted further apart. So now, our friendship is between a conservative and a liberal, each in faith communities that are distinct. Or simply, it’s between Mike and Karolyn.

When I learned I was pregnant, I was thrilled…and terrified. My emotions hadn’t yet settled when we learned something was wrong with the pregnancy. I was losing the baby, and there was nothing we could do. It devastated me.

My world blew apart. My pain trapped me under its rubble. Grief is a delicate process. Often there is an effort to make sense of our loss—to create an environment that will make it easier to bear. After my miscarriage, whenever anyone tried to comfort me, their words landed like blows. It was Mike who showed me a path out of the rubble. His words brought comfort when no one else’s could.

In the depths of pain, it was not “someone like me” who had the power to reach me. Rather, it was someone I loved, despite and because of our differences, who offered me one of the most intense blessings of my life. He offered hope amid despair. Our friendship is a testimony to Unity in Diversity. Had we let our politics or our theologies divide us, I would have lost a treasured friend. And, as it turns out, one of the greatest sources of blessing.

Prayer for Peace
We call on you, God, in different ways. Yet Christ is our connection, and it is his peace we share.

Spiritual Practice: Welcoming Unity in Diversity
Meditate on Unity in Diversity. Create a large 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 us from loving one another.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will open to a blessing from by my brothers and sisters who call on the Lord in different ways.

Good-bye Letters

Thursday, August 29

8-29By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Do not be discouraged. You have not been promised an easy path, but you have been assured that the Spirit that calls you will also accompany you.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:3a

My dear hummingbirds,

At the end of summer I ask, “Is this my last day with you? Will you come again tomorrow?” My fear of you leaving corrupts our time together.

Each morning I sit on the patio, expecting, hoping, and yet aware of the possibility you won’t come. But I didn’t say good-bye! And then again, saying good-bye would have been too final, would have meant giving you up.

I must say good-bye and wish you safe journey. I’ll be at peace with it…and what a surprise if you do show up for yet another visit to the feeder. Blessings—I’ll be waiting for you in the spring.

* * * * *

I write this as I sit in my son’s hospital room during the last week of his life. We had so much faith that he would survive, but now we finally believe the doctor when he says Zac will be gone any day.

So I listen to him breathe. We keep talking to him, even though we aren’t sure he can hear us. If there is the slightest possibility he can, I want him to know we are here and how much we love him. So with every ragged breath he takes, I ask God, “Is this my last day with him? Will he still be here tomorrow?”

My dear, dear son,

My fear of you leaving corrupts my time with you, and so I didn’t say good-bye while you were still conscious. I didn’t want to see the fear in your eyes when you saw what we knew. It would be too final. However, now I must say good-bye and wish you safe journey. I have no choice. I’ll try to be at peace with it, even though I know you won’t return in the spring. My darling son, wait for me in my winter. Go with God.

Prayer for Peace
Comforter God, be with us in our dark night of the soul. Lift us to your healing light. Send companions for our journey. Thank you for our community of peace.

Spiritual Practice: Tears of Compassion
Offer a silent prayer for the gift of God’s compassion. Cup your hands and ask God to make you aware of the suffering that causes the Earth and its people to groan and weep. Be open to faces or places, sounds or voices; feelings of connection with those who suffer. Imagine catching the tears of those you see and holding them in your hands. Listen for prayer images or words God may give you. Discern any active responses of ministry or healing you are invited to complete for those who weep.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will seek someone who needs comforting.

Tree Talk

Wednesday, August 28

8-28By Carol Norris Vincent of Independence, Missouri, USA

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

—Isaiah 55:12

I have tried various meditative and spiritual practices, trying to experience what I sense others are experiencing. However, I realize each of us is unique, and our experiences will be unique to us.

My mother, for whom nature was a great joy, nurtured a love of nature in me. I often express my love of nature in how I rejoice over trees and birds. Now that I am retired and disabled, I find myself with time to sit on my patio and enjoy nature.

There is a beautiful old elm tree that survived the Dutch elm disease so prevalent many years ago. It stands at the edge of the pond behind my home. One beautiful summer morning I was sitting outside “talking” to my tree. I began to sense a response to me, my comments about the tree’s beauty, and the joy I received.

Just then an eastern bluebird landed a few feet away. I felt all the power of God’s gift to me in that moment. I rejoiced because of the pure, spiritual joy I was feeling. Since then, bluebirds have visited my backyard, and the elm tree still “talks” to me. I praise God for the joy I receive. Whether it’s called meditation or not, I see it as a gift from God.

As I reflect on that experience, I can’t help but think of the beautiful old hymn, “This Is My Father’s World,” that reminds us that this is God’s world, where all nature sings and we can hear the music of the spheres. The second verse is what I experienced that day, “…the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the ocean’s might Declare their Maker’s praise. This is God’s wondrous world, God shines in all that’s fair; in rustling grass or mountain pass; God’s voice speaks everywhere.”

God does indeed speak to me!

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, we hear you passing close to us and we are thankful for your presence. We praise you for the trees and mountains, bursting with joy. We hear the carols of the birds and have no doubt this is your creation. We rest in peace and know it is the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Trees
Watch the trees outside your window for a few moments. Close your eyes and meditate on Alma’s words about seeds and trees. If you were to plant and grow the Word of God in your heart, what kind of tree might symbolically represent this process? Envision a seed as it grows into a tree of life and blessing. Ask God to show you how to begin (see Alma 16:152–173).

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will go out in joy and be led back in peace.

Encouragement for the Journey

Tuesday, August 27

8-27By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Open your hearts and feel the yearnings of your brothers and sisters who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, unloved. Reach out in understanding, clasp your hands, and invite all to share in the blessings of community created in the name of the One who suffered on behalf of all.

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:3a–c

My wife, Clare, and I made many car trips from Ohio to the Kansas City, Missouri, area to see our family. A trip would take about 12 hours one way. We made these jaunts to remain connected.

We suffered one hot summer day driving through the farmlands of Indiana. We pulled off the road to take advantage of a rest area. I was tired and needed a break. Walking to the restroom, we passed an older man who had raised the hood of his car and was peering inside. The urge to stop and help tugged at me, but I overrode it and went my way. “Besides” I thought. “There are plenty of people here who can help.”

On my return, I passed the old man again and plainly could see nobody was paying any attention to him. Reluctantly, I engaged him in conversation. I asked if he was having engine trouble; I could help if it was something minor. He said, “No. It’s just so hot I’m worried about my car.” He worried about the risk of being stranded in the heat. I inspected hoses and so forth but saw nothing wrong. I told him everything looked fine. He looked relieved continued his journey.

Later I shared this story with a friend because the meaning puzzled me. My friend suggested that sometimes in life people just need reassurance and encouragement to continue their journey. We need to feel we are not alone.

Prayer for Peace

God who leads us on our journeys, as we go let us be aware of companion travelers and their needs. Let us offer help when we can and share Christ’s love and peace with those who are alone.

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 map out a plan to Invite People to Christ.

In Touch

Monday, August 26

8-26By Barrie Fox of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

—Romans 14:19

Our congregation holds a monthly meeting called “In Touch.” The agendas vary, but the purpose stays the same: to keep people in touch with one another and to remember and pray for those who have fallen out of touch with the congregation. We seek to keep Jesus Christ at the center of our personal lives and the life of the congregation.

These evenings bring good experiences and bless us with companionship and common support. We also seek to stress the importance of being a caring community that practices faith in God. When we think about it, we can become even more aware that life consists of a multitude of everyday acts of faith. When we plant bulbs in a garden, we plant with faith they will grow. When we set out on a journey, we expect to arrive. When we post a letter, we have faith it will arrive safely. Faith is a staple ingredient of our lives.

People say it is our faith, and how we use it, that settles whether our lives are “scared” or “sacred.” We use the same letters to spell both words, but they have different meanings. Many people do become scared, for good reason, but it is the sacred influence of God and our faith community that restores our faith.

We are all made from the same alphabet, just arranged differently by the influence of our faith. I heard someone once say saints are just sinners who do not give in to their fears.

Prayer for Peace
Alpha and Omega, help us transform our everyday faith into a sacred trust. Help strengthen our resolve to pursue the peace of Christ by sharing it.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve
Read and reflect on Psalm 42:1–2. As disciples of Jesus Christ, God calls us to respond to people and their needs. The call to journey inward 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 a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” 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 rearrange my life so Christ’s mission matters most.

Be Compassionate

Sunday, August 25

8-25By Becky Savage, First Presidency

…She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

—Luke13:11–13

A court judge ordered me to train the parents of one of our kidney patients. The court ruling took the baby into protective care shortly after delivery. The baby had multiple physical anomalies and the medical professionals believed the parents could not meet the baby’s needs.

The first time I met the parents the father swaggered in with the mother lagging behind. She was bent over nearly double with her eyes looking down at the floor. She did not rise, make eye contact, or speak. The father boasted he could take care of the child and would get the child’s social security money for his efforts. But he did not follow directions, acted bored, his breath smelled of alcohol, and he slurred his words. After two sessions he quit coming.

The mother continued to come alone and gradually her posture and behaviors changed. She learned to take a blood pressure and temperature, measure medications, apply a special body cast and splints, and to count sodium and protein in foods. By the end of the lessons, she learned to care for her child. In addition, her body was restored to a straight posture and this once mute woman found her voice. She also bravely left the father and found a safe place for her and her child to live.

Jesus compassionately called the woman bent double forward, touched her, and released her from physical deformity. God asks us also to see those burdened by life circumstances. We are to share the message of Christ’s peace and healing touch. Most importantly, our open eyes, healing hands, soothing words, and active feet can make a difference in people’s lives. Those bent double under burdens and oppression can stand upright when healed by our hands serving with healing touch.

Prayer for Peace
God of compassion, may we find those who suffer and share the message of Christ’s healing. May we find those who are voiceless and share Chris’s justice and peace.

Spiritual Practice: Tears of Compassion
Offer a silent prayer for the gift of God’s compassion. Cup your hands and ask God to make you aware of the suffering that causes the earth and its inhabitants to groan and weep. Be open to faces or places, sounds or voices; feelings of connection with those who suffer. Imagine catching the tears of those you see and holding them in your hands. Listen for prayer images or words God may give you. Discern any active responses of ministry or healing you are invited to complete for those who weep.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will listen closely for the nearly voiceless and respond with compassion.

Life Is Better than Before

Saturday, August 24

8-24By Jeanne Marie Kalaba Kiwele of Lubumbashi, Congo

…for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part…3 they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 45and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us…

—2 Corinthians 8:2–5

In our community, we had a sister named Mambwe. She had a child named Mary, who was 2 years old. Mambwe was living in Village Poland. They stayed in a house made of bricks, with a grass roof.

Mambwe’s husband was not working. He had lost his job a long time before. Sister Mambwe’s daughter was very sick, but she did not decide to take the child to the hospital until a member of the Kafwa (HealthEd Connect volunteer) encouraged her.

When they arrived, the doctor examined the child and found she had malaria and anemia. She was admitted to the hospital for almost one week. They received a prescription for medicine, but they had no money. The Kafwa took the prescription and used its group money. Mary was discharged from the hospital and recovered completely.

Their life in the past had been bad from illness and poverty. Now, since the child has recovered, life is better.

HealthEd Connect helped because it did not wait for problems but prepared the Kafwa, who always have the heart to help people in time of need. This family appreciated so much the assistance. They are good friends now. Life now for sister Mambwe and her daughter, Mary, is better. Praise God.

Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, who weeps for the poor, may we always be aware of those in need around the world. We are thankful for volunteers who help when we are too far away. May we be generous in support of efforts to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. In this way we share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices
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 show my appreciation for all that I have by sharing.

Which One Fits?

Friday, August 23

8-23By Chris Lasley of Vancouver, Washington, 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

Here’s a story about Stan, a hardware store owner who is good news to the poor. A few years ago he received a phone call from an older woman named Anna. She wanted to know if he knew any good plumbers. Stan replied, “I know they will charge you US$80 for walking up your sidewalk and knocking on your door. What seems to be the problem?” Anna replied, “I don’t have any hot water.”

Stan asked if she had anyone who could look at her water heater, but Anna couldn’t think of anyone. So Stan wrote down her address and told her he would be off work at 5 p.m. and would drop by.

When Stan arrived at Anna’s house she showed him the water heater. He pushed the reset button, and Anna had hot water again. That’s all it took.

He asked, “How long have you been without hot water?” She replied, “About four years now. I’ve been heating the water on the stove.” She told him she had family coming from California and wanted to make sure they had hot water.

A few years passed, and Stan thought he would stop by to see how Anna was doing. When he knocked on her door, a young man answered. Two small children and a young mother looked on curiously. Stan recognized the man who had been in his store before but didn’t know his name. Stan asked if Anna still lived there.

“No,” the young man replied. “She went to a nursing home and then passed away.” Stan was surprised and then asked, “How’s your water heater doing?” “Not so well” the young man replied, “The water is only lukewarm.”

“Well,” Stan said grinning, “I just happened to bring two different thermostats with me. Let’s see which one fits.” Stan had a gift to give—to whoever needed it.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, thank you for guiding us to be the hands of Jesus whenever needed. Thank you for inspiring us to have our gifts and talents ready and tuned for your use. May we always be ready to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Shaping into Wholeness
Hold (or imagine holding) a glass cup, bowl, or vase. Explore its shape, texture, and color. Let the container symbolize your life as it is being formed. Write on strips of paper (or in your journal) the things that are not yet just and whole in your life. Place the strips in the glass container and hold it in your hands. Pray a prayer of confession and petition, asking God to continue to breathe in and on you, shaping you into a just and compassionate person.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will look for people who need my gifts.

At the Table

Thursday, August 22

8-22By Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.

—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9f

The table in our kitchen is about 100 years old. It originally belonged to my great-grandma. I have fond memories of gathering around that table when it was in my grandma’s kitchen, then my parents’, and now mine.

The table never received a formal blessing. It is plain, not ornate. It is not a holy relic. It is special to me because of the sentiment it holds and the rich family story it tells. What makes the plain, old table sacred, however, is the life and love lived and shared around it.

When we experience God through ordinary family meals, they become times of worship and ministry. Mealtime is more than just eating. It is the time when our family lifts joys and concerns. We connect with one another and in so doing connect even more closely to the Divine.

I will not try to portray our family meals as perfect, reverent, or even always peaceful. But I have learned to appreciate stressful times as opportunities to extend and receive grace, learn from one another, and grow together in faith.

In the congregational evangelist blessing my home congregation received, we were counseled to “…throw the door wide and invite all to come inside.” We can apply this in our homes. Hospitality has a wonderful way of bringing us in touch with the Divine through acts of serving and sharing, breaking bread, and being present in the lives of others. Time shared with others and with God is so important.

Prayer for Peace
Welcoming God, may we “throw the door wide and invite all to come inside.” May we make room at the table for the unseen guest. May we share our time and the peace of Christ.

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 invite a lonely person to the table.