A Good Problem

Saturday, November 30

11-30By Maria Glushkovetska and Anatoliy Huralskyy of Kiev, Ukraine

God is calling for a prophetic community to emerge, drawn from the nations of the world, that is characterized by uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Through divine grace and wisdom, this faith community has been given abundant gifts, resources, and opportunities to equip it to become such a people. Chief among these is the power of community in Christ expressed locally in distinctive fashions while upholding a unity of vision, foundational beliefs, and mission throughout the world.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:11a

The Kiev-Borispol Congregation used to meet in the home of one or our members. Over the years we grew in numbers so often there was not enough room for everyone. What a good problem to have.

Now, thanks to your contributions to the Mission Initiative Experience Congregations in Mission, we rent an apartment for our services and meetings. We have enough room for everyone to come together for worship and youth programs.

Our weekly programs include Bible study, singing, crafts and English lessons. Many new people attend our activities. We are very thankful that this is now possible here in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. We commit to sharing the good news with as many as we can. Thank you for responding generously so we might continue to grow.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, go ahead—give our congregations problems. We’d like some over-crowded parking lots, please. We’ll have too many people for the chairs in our worships and classes. We’ll be so full of joy, there’s not enough time to share them all. We’ll have too many services and projects to fit in the bulletin, too much giftedness to use in our congregations. Go ahead, God, we can take it. With your help, we’ll figure it out. With your help, we’ll share Christ’s peace from the peace overflowing in our hearts.

Spiritual Practice: Praying for Leadership of the Church
An important spiritual practice for disciples is praying for members of the body of Christ, particularly those who carry leadership responsibilities. Ask God to guide your awareness to persons who lead the community of faith at congregational, mission center, and World Church levels. See or sense these persons and ask for insight into any particular physical, emotional, or spiritual needs they may have. Pray for God’s outpouring of grace on each servant leader who comes to mind.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will assess my blessings. Because there are so many if I have time, I will count them all.

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Like the Tide…

Friday, November 29

11-29By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted… a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together…

—Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 5

I love this time of year. November is my favorite month. Where I live it’s cool, damp, and dark—somber, cloudy and gray. In the Pacific Northwest the day darkens into night early in the afternoon. At three o’clock in the afternoon, it is dark enough to put one in the mindset of evening. For me there’s something restful and peaceful about evening. That’s the attraction autumn has for me. It is a time for rest. It seems the demand to do something, anything, is reduced.

My reaction to increased sunlight is a feeling of needing to do. Of course the dark, cool, clouds only come to certain geographical areas in this cycle of the year. Hooray! This is my time.

My wife, Pat, and I conducted a memorial service for a distant relative on Sunday afternoon, followed by a meal together. We carried the bulk of the planning and officiating. We met with the family that evening. They cremated his body. A cycle completed.

That Sunday I introduced myself to a new baby. At the time he was about 100 hours old. His mother and grandmother both call him by a nickname already. They didn’t say how they got from his given name to the nickname, other than the baby’s grandfather died a few years before, and his name was the baby’s nickname. So it is with memories, we continue the cycle.

Interestingly, here was this tiny newborn baby, just beginning life, still trailing wisps of living in Creative Presence. The one we honored at the memorial service had finished the race and moved on. He passed through the portal of life fewer than 100 hours before. One goes out and one comes in. And so it goes. Praise God for the awesome cycle.

Prayer for Peace
We pray, God, our sharing will take us past the time for weeping and bring about a time for peace.

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
Today, God, I will not question your timing. I will look for what matters most under heaven, and I will respond.

Revealing Steps

Thursday, November 28

11-28By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken…

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:10

Moses stepped down from the mountain
confronted by God’s mystery
challenged by God’s authority
changed by God’s love.
Tablets enfolded in strong arms—
Heavy. Heavy on his heart.
Disappointed by the people
broken covenant
broken hearts
broken tablets.
Moses stepped back up the mountain
into the Presence.
Brokenness reflected
people atoned
covenant renewed
Mosaic law restored
and God said,
“It is an awesome thing
I will do with you.”
And the people were healed.

If you look closely at a piece of mosaic art you might see rough, ragged edges. The artist breaks individual pieces into irregular shapes and sizes—no two exactly alike. They don’t fit with perfect and precise margins. You’ll find the pieces varying in color and you might not see how they matter to the big picture. Step back.

Now we see. The difference in colors is what it’s all about. This light shade brings the figure forward; this dark shade takes it back, creating a shadow, lending depth. The artist groups like-colored shapes together forming an image—perhaps a figure or a landscape emerges. Placing contrasting colors next to each other defines a new shape for us. The varied surfaces of the tiles, glass, or other pieces, help define the artist’s theme and give it texture. Step closer.

We lose the intended shapes once more. The image disappears. We see chaos again. The artist created this piece with a certain perspective in mind. The various colors, textures, and shapes have a purpose—they do matter. Step back.

The image comes back into focus. The fragments work together to complete the whole when we don’t try to judge each piece’s worth. When compelled to judge, we need to step back and pause. Now, reflect on one particular tile, one life. If we left it out because of its flaws, the creation would not be complete. All Are Called. Diversity unifies us. We are whole.

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, may we always find Unity in Diversity.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring 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. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers of unfamiliarity that keep you and others from being one in Christ’s peace.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will step back to get a better perspective on what matters most.

Developing a Disciple to Serve

Wednesday, November 27

11-27By Barbara Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

Do not neglect the smallest among you, for even the least of these are treasures in God’s sight. Receive the giftedness and energy of children and youth, listening to understand their questions…. Respond to their need to be loved and nurtured as they grow.”

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:4a

“We are communities in time… Our lives are touched by those who lived centuries ago, and we hope that our lives will mean something to people who won’t be alive until centuries from now. It’s a great ‘chain of being.’” (Dorothy Day, as quoted in Dorothy Day by Robert Coles)

Hands were a significant part of the sacrament of the blessing of our friend, Brian, who is now an adult. Members of his parents’ congregation gathered to celebrate his birth, a new life in their community. As part of the blessing service, each person received a hand, made of felt, on which to write his or her name and a blessing for Brian. The congregation placed them on a banner that hung in Brian’s room for many years.

Those hands represented people who were significant in Brian’s development in this faith community. Some of them held him when he was an infant in the nursery. Other hands helped him cut out his craft work in church school; others held his hands at campfires during church retreats. Some of the people who shared in that early blessing service are no longer living. The community has changed, but the strength of those hands still touches and nurtures Brian’s life.

Because Brian was a warm, loving child, his own hands brought ministry to others. One woman in the congregation still tells the story of the time when he was four and he sat with her in church. She was grieving over the death of a friend, and he kept rubbing her arm and touching her face, whispering, “It will be all right.”

When congregations equip us for Christ’s mission, they equip their children for Christ’s mission. Brian’s hands will continue to serve, to love, to heal. He learned from a caring community, who helped develop a disciple to serve.

Prayer for Peace
Nurturing God, as we serve and love our children, may they continue to serve and love others. May they, with us, share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Hand Ministry
Place your hand on a piece of paper and trace around it. Add details of fingernails, wrinkles, or skin color if desired. Look at your hand and meditate on what you do with your hands each day. Ask God to direct your thoughts to a person in need of blessing, kindness, or healing touch. Pray for wisdom about the specific act needed by this person and discern how and when you will use your hands to complete this ministry.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will hold a child with loving arms, and reflect on their future as a disciple.

God Speaks in the Wee Hours

Tuesday, November 26

11-26By Karen Moreland of Independence, Missouri

God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a

Working the night shift, I would arrive home in the wee hours of the morning. It was hard to unwind. Watching television was one way to relax. One night I watched a documentary about children living in poverty. My heart ached for their plight. I decided to respond to the plea and sponsor a child. I marked my money should be applied “where needed most.”

Soon a picture arrived of a young girl in Ethiopia named Tigist. Two years later, my own daughter suddenly passed away and I decided to sponsor a second child. I kept dreaming about a young infant crying and crying. I felt many emotions when I received the information packet and a picture of a young Ethiopian boy named Dessalegn. This was the child I had known in my dreams.

Shortly after, one of my co-workers had an opportunity to visit Africa with his church group. They were going to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was anxious to talk to him when he returned. I asked if my dollars were specifically helping the struggling families and children in Ethiopia. The young man planned to stay three weeks in Africa, but returned after one. He explained that he had never seen such destitute poverty and food was so scarce he could not cope in those living conditions. I asked, “Is my support needed?” and his reply was “Oh yeah, they need all the help they can get.”

I feel blessed that God led me to share my plenty with children in far off lands that they, too, would find blessings. That was 13 years ago, and I still sponsor both children in Ethiopia. I feel led to continue Christ’s mission of compassion.

Prayer for Peace
Open my heart, God, to feel compassion for your suffering children. Open my ears to hear their cries.

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 are suffering. 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 respond to Christ’s mission of compassion.

I Will Be With You

Monday, November 25

11-25By Sara Parkin of Midland, Michigan, USA

…And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

—Matthew 28:20

(Part 9 of my journey with Alzheimer’s Disease) I have been struggling for two to three weeks to write this. I know what I want to do with my words, yet I can’t put them where I want them. I have about three different messages in my mind waiting to deliver to you. I start on one and I can’t remember the words or where they go; the letters don’t look right. I want to scream. I need help. I need focus. I need patience. I need rest. I need God. I know that God is here all the time. And I started to think that God does not want me working on this project and wants me to rest.

The word “focus” came in to my mind. I need to sit down and take on only one thing at a time. Then I said to myself, “Sara, you have to get the bulletin ready for the service on August 29.” The instant I saw the theme “I will be with you,” it hit my heart hard and I went looking for the pastor to claim it. I wanted to preside. Then I started to doubt.

I know there is no bad service. If only one person is blessed by God, it is good.

I had two months to be ready. I read the scriptures, the music, the readings, and all the things that were laid out that week. Then, I took a break and made time to feel it in my soul.

Then it was August, got to get going. About that time I was slowly getting tired, and I was getting upset, angry. Why can I not be able to work on my writing? I am not laughing or smiling. Why, Why, Why?

I went back on my knees, and again asked “Why, what is wrong, when will it get better?” I know it will get better. Ah! Your will! O Lord, I am sorry. I have been focusing at the wrong times, not taking rests. It was OK. Lying on my bed, I took the time to listen to God as I kept my mouth shut. God answered my questions in my prayer: Focus on the next two weeks, and you will be able to preside at the service if you keep focusing. Can I focus? Yes I can, as long as I walk side by side with God.

Praise God, who was with us at our service on Sunday. “I Will Be With You.” What a beautiful day! And the Lord gives us one beautiful day at a time.

Prayer for Peace
Ever-present God, may we always feel you beside us. We have so many questions and frustrations. Give us patience. Give us strength to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Spiritual Hunger
Jesus discerned hungers of body and spirit, and he fed them through a physical, verbal, spiritual ministry of presence. In a time of listening prayer ask God to help you discern physical or spiritual hungers of people in your congregation, community, and global family. Invite the Spirit to move you to one hospitable act that “feeds” someone’s hunger today.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will focus on what matters most.

God’s Chosen One

Sunday, November 24

11-24By Jane Gardner, Hymnal Steering Team

And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”… “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

—Luke 23:35, 37, 39

On “Christ the King” Sunday, there is paradox in this scriptural account of Jesus’ last hours. Three times Jesus is mocked: by the leaders, by soldiers and by a criminal being crucified next to him.  “Save yourself,” they said. But, as we know from this account, he doesn’t save himself. Instead, the world is offered peace through his sacrifice. On this last Sunday of the Christian year, take time to reflect on this paradox and many others present in Jesus’ ministry as voiced in this hymn text by Sylvia Dunstan (sung to the tune PICARDY).

  1. You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd.
    You, Lord, are both prince and slave.
    You, peacemaker and sword-bringer
    of the way you took and gave.
    You, the everlasting instant;
    You, whom we both scorn and crave.
  2. Clothed in light upon the mountain,
    stripped of might upon the cross,
    shining in eternal glory,
    beggar’d by a soldier’s toss,
    You, the everlasting instant;
    You, who are both gift and cost.
  3. You, who walk each day beside us,
    sit in power at God’s side.
    You, who preach a way that’s narrow,
    have a love that reaches wide.
    You, the everlasting instant;
    You, who are our pilgrim guide.
  4. Worthy is our earthly Jesus!
    Worthy is our cosmic Christ!
    Worthy your defeat and victory.
    Worthy still your peace and strife.
    You, the everlasting instant;
    You, who are our death and life.

                  —Sylvia G. Dunstan ©1991 GIA Publications

Prayer for Peace
Help us understand, God, the complex nature of Christ. Help us know to serve the servant. Help us share his radical peace.

Spiritual Practice
Reflect on this hymn as a poem, or sing to the Picardy tune.

Mittens and Scarves and Boots, Oh My!

11-23Saturday, November 23

By David Ettinger and Nick Moore of Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

—Proverbs 3:27–28

In the winter of 2011 in Iowa, we had below-freezing temperatures, blizzards, and ice. The Community of Christ Thrift Store in Council Bluffs, Iowa, became actively involved in giving new cold-weather clothing to needy, local elementary-age schoolchildren. A letter to the thrift store from teacher, Nick Moore, expressed the overall gratitude of the young recipients.

“I hope that you know the impact you are having on these children. When there may not be as much to celebrate as we would like, services like this matter most. The mother of one of my students came to school the next day and told me all about how her daughter interrupted their bedtime routine because she would not take off her new boots! They were her ‘most special and prized possession’ and she wanted to sleep in them…she has worn them to school every day since.”

Your contributions to World Mission Tithes help to provide Tangible Love grants that make mission possible through ministries such as Council Bluff’s Thrift Store and Pantry. Thank you for responding generously and helping to equip the children for winter.

Prayer for Peace
Loving God, we know the smallest among us can sometimes have the greatest needs. Help us nurture them and keep them warm. May we always witness to them that they will be safe in your loving arms. May we be generous and share Christ so the children may be at peace.

Spiritual Practice: Listening to Children
Sit in your quiet place and center your heart and mind on God’s presence. Spend several minutes asking God to bring into your awareness the names and images of children in your life. You may see their faces or hear their voice as you receive these impressions. Listen deeply to the unique gifts and needs of the children who come to mind. Offer a prayer of blessing for each child and the needs you perceive. If you feel led, you also may want to write a note or card and give a message of affirmation and love to each child.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will do something to provide love and warmth to a child.

Coming Out of Hibernation

Friday, November 22

11-22By Evelyn Spence of Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

—Philippians 4:7

This cold morning, in an otherwise warm winter, I sought tranquility. I felt compelled by the Spirit to seek a quiet hibernation from the din of my busy world. I went to the scriptures for counsel and spiritual help. I went from one reference to another searching for a message.

The hostile world presented by the news media affected my usually optimistic outlook on life. I cannot do much about the violence and greed in our world. I often need to escape and seek assurance from the Lord.

As I read encouraging passages of scripture, I regained courage and peace of mind. God reaffirmed my need to continue working in the programs of our congregation, where I find comfort chatting with my friends. Studying with my church school classmates enlightens me. Reaching out to the community blesses me. I even find satisfaction as I clean the church bathroom. And, I gather more strength in worship.

Learning and doing are blessings for our mind and body. I thank the Lord that I still can learn and do things. I am thankful for my congregation where I can experience Christ’s mission.

Prayer for Peace
God of wisdom, we seek you for assurance that what we do matters for Christ’s mission. We can always learn more and share more of the Peace of Christ.

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

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will find a place to rise above the clamor and learn from you.

These Are My Disciples

Thursday, November 21

11-21By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

—Psalm 85:8, 11, 13

I am sitting quietly in church when the Holy Spirit becomes visible through the loving actions of those around me. An elderly gentleman in our congregation named Dean, decides to part with a treasured possession, an antique Boy Scout knife he has owned for over 60 years. He gives it to a young man honored as an Eagle Scout. A grandmother named Wanda shares how her granddaughter likes our church because we think she’s beautiful. A priesthood member walks over to visit with a frail, elderly woman and gives her a kind hug.

But it doesn’t stop there. A man stands to sing a touching song during worship and it brings tears. Our speaker of the morning apologizes. She is under medication that dries out her mouth. Someone in the congregation provides her with a cup of water. Our granddaughter attends church because it is here she finds love and acceptance.

Our Enduring Principles capture all of these actions. They are voluntary. They come from the hearts of those who turn to God. I am humbled and my heart is full.

There are times when my critical, cynical nature takes these people to task. Sometimes these moments are private and other times public. Unkindly I have privately criticized them for being “unspiritual.” Now I must take my words back and confess I know nothing about them or about what it takes “to be a spiritual people.” Yet, I am forgiven. God knows Christ’s disciples, and moves among them.

Prayer for Peace
All-knowing God, we turn our hearts to you. We know your Spirit speaks to us. We see you in the Christ-like actions of the community. We feel humble. Allow us to be disciples who share the peace of Christ.

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 journey inward can restore us in times of physical or spiritual depletion. When you are thirsty, dry, empty, listen 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 recognize Christ in peaceful actions.