Companions on the Journey

Monday, March 31

3-31By Steven L. Shields of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

—Luke 1:78–79

Not long ago, my friend and his fiancé needed a ride from the airport. I met them at baggage claim and helped them load the luggage into my car. Not knowing the way from the airport to the fiancé’s house, I asked for the destination. My friend replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you where to turn along the way.”

I headed toward the motorway, when my friend suddenly said, “Take this exit.” With screeching tires, I barely made the turn, cutting off another car. I asked my friend to tell me where we were going, so I could think ahead of the route to avoid such dangerous maneuvers. He said, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you where to go.”

I knew that somewhere along the way I would have to exit the motorway, so again I asked, “What exit do I need to take next?” He replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when we get close.” I do not know that part of the city well, so I begged him to tell me what street we were looking for. He told me the name of the street, and soon I saw a signboard telling me it was a mile ahead.

We exited and headed east along the main thoroughfare. I asked, “What street are we looking for? Will we need to turn right or left?” My friend said, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when we get there.”

I have a much easier journey if I know the destination. However, the path of the disciple is not so much about the destination as it is about the journey. For it is along the way that we share the peace of Jesus Christ. Our minds focus so much on the destination we do not often notice the scenery. As we travel along the path of the disciple, we will meet many people who need our loving touch or kind words of encouragement.

With my friends in the car, I did not need to worry about the destination. We were together; we were community. As long as we journeyed together, we knew we would reach our destination, and we would know along the way when and where it was best to turn.

Prayer for Peace
Guide us, God. Shine your light on the path you would have us take. Whisper to us at each turn. Open our eyes to see your creation along the path to peace.

Spiritual Practice: Offering 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? How have you felt the love of the community? Go deeper each day as you discern what act of blessing you are invited to complete for stranger and friend alike.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will let go of having to know. I will put my trust in you.

Open Our Eyes

Sunday, March 30

3-30By Rick Maupin, Council of Twelve Apostles

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” …When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

—John 9:1–3, 6–7

I claim to want a close connection with God that will open my eyes. However, I am not always willing to walk all the way to the “pool of Siloam.” I sometimes seek a shorter and easier path.

Often I see evidence of a fast-food-drive-up-window attitude in my culture. Customers want their meals to arrive quickly and to taste good. They don’t want to spend much money. So what is the connection between the pool of Siloam and the fast-food window? I want a meaningful relationship with God, and I want my spiritual eyes to be open. However, there are times when I want that new sight to occur quickly. I want it to feel good, and I don’t want to invest much effort and energy.

Some fast-food meals are less than satisfying. Trying to find a deep connection with God, or opening our eyes to new truth in a fast-paced, feel-good, low-investment way is also less than fulfilling.

Jesus placing the mud on the man’s eyes was only the first step. New sight was not instantaneous or easy. The man then had to journey across town to the pool of Siloam. The journey may not have been fast. It may have been awkward as he stumbled with mud dripping from his face. He went because Jesus touched and sent him. Could it be that in the journey to the pool he was beginning to gain his sight? Today Jesus Christ continues to offer us “mud packs” so we can see his mission, our mission, more clearly. What new visions are awaiting you on the way to the pool?

Prayer for Peace
Shaping God, help us make a full investment of time and energy spent with you. Help us do the work it takes to become spiritually whole. Help us transform quick trips into intentional journeys as we share the peace of Christ along the way.

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 aspects of your life that are not yet just or whole. Place the strips in the glass container and hold it in your hands. Pray a prayer of confession and petition. Ask God to continue to breathe in and on you, shaping you into a just and compassionate person.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will slow down and absorb every part of your creation that I meet.

Every Word of the Psalm

Saturday, March 29

3-29By Hazel Sundell of Independence, Missouri, USA

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths *for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

—Psalm 23

One day as I was reading the Herald, I was attracted to a description of Christ’s mission of compassion. Everyone experiences suffering at some time in their life. When I was young I memorized the 23rd psalm. It gave me comfort and assurance of God’s love.

When I have a difficult time or am suffering, I always meet God through the Psalms. As I’ve grown into old age, I can’t always remember which line comes next, or I skip some words. This has bothered me.

Recently I discovered a growth on my skin. When the doctor was doing the painful removal, I began “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And every word came back to me perfect and clear, just as I had memorized. I felt Jesus there beside me.

Such assurance of God’s love for me makes my cup overflow. Now that my husband has passed, I depend on the 23rd psalm to get me through each day. Truly the Lord is my Shepherd.

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, in times of suffering, we call on you to restore our souls. We praise you for your goodness and mercy. In our youth and in our later years, we feel you beside us—we feel your peace.

Spiritual Practice: Psalm Writing
The psalms are prayers of honesty and trust. The psalmist trusts God’s presence in times of fear and failure, joy and plenty, growth and change. Write a short psalm-prayer expressing to God the truth about your physical, emotional, and spiritual state. What are your deepest feelings, longings, and needs? What prayer of praise, intercession, or petition flows from you as you consider your life and the life of God’s world?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will memorize a psalm.

Blessed In the Midst of Difficulty

Friday, March 28

3-28By Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom, invites all people to come and receive peace in the midst of the difficult questions and struggles of life. Follow Christ in the way that leads to God’s peace and discover the blessings of all the dimensions of salvation.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2a

I was enjoying two days of downhill skiing with my grown daughters. On the second day, my hands and feet began to get sore, so I stopped skiing early. By the following Saturday, I could not zip up my jeans or open a door. Two weeks later I was referred to a rheumatologist.

I am a pediatric physical therapist and orthotist. My hands are important in my profession. I had been unable to work. Thankfully, an appointment opened immediately, and I was diagnosed with sudden-onset severe rheumatoid arthritis.

I was scheduled to teach several workshops in Europe in the coming months and felt unsure how to handle those commitments. The doctor prescribed medication with an 80-percent chance of controlling, but not curing, my condition.

I prayed, “Lord, what should I do? What can I do?” Gently, within moments, the answer arrived. “I will take care of it.” That was all I was given to know. I could let go of fear and let God be with me. A profound sense of peace washed over me.

I had enough energy to teach the assigned workshops and many more. It took a year to bring the disease under control. I must take heavy medication to manage it.

Now I look at this experience from a nearly 15-year perspective. I have had strength well beyond my own resources. I could teach and share information in distant parts of the world. Most importantly I have been able to serve in my congregation and wider faith community as an ordained minister.

God did not take the difficulties away, but God has given me more than I needed. I thank God for blessings beyond measure! I praise God for divine grace and generosity.

Prayer for Peace
Revealing God, we hear your invitation to receive Christ, the embodiment of your shalom. We hear your call to be a blessing in our communities by sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God
What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for healing and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter? How does the assurance of comfort come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, in the midst of struggle, I will let go and listen for your assurance.

A Message of Reconciliation

Thursday, March 27

3-27By Dianna Vanderkarr of Charlotte, Michigan, USA
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

—2 Corinthians 5:18–19

I sit on a quiet morning, reflecting on the past year. I wait with joy, expecting tomorrow’s homecoming of the 1775th Military Police Company. Our son and daughter-in-law have been gone for a year—a year of many challenges.

While they were gone, our other son and his family spent time recovering from a tragedy. He was shot in his home by intruders. I realize it is only by the grace of God that I could hold it all together through these uncertain times. It was the support and prayers of many who God placed in my life that carried me through. Both young families, and I, have been on journeys of forgiveness.

I cannot imagine what it was like for my children in their struggles. I can understand only from my own perspective as a mother. There were many tears of joy, sorrow, and mixed emotions through it all. Some emotions linger today, and as I grow older I’m sure they will pop up now and then.

Knowing how I feel, I can’t imagine what God feels! Knowing what my children experienced must have made God weep. I wonder about our companionship with others in our daily life. Do we look the other way when confronted by difficult issues? Do we stand in the breach, supporting those who are not like us when they suffer?

I’m strongly reminded about the Worth of All Persons, today and always. I have to look through new lenses and try to see others as God sees them.

Prayer for Peace
Thank you, God, for entrusting us to forgive those who hurt us and reconcile with those who think differently than we do. Help us let go of our defensive and confronting natures and to love according to your will. Grant us peace as we shed feelings of unworthiness.

Spiritual Practice: Forgiveness
Sit in silence, releasing all thoughts. At the end of the silence, say a silent prayer of gratitude. Now, think of something you have not forgiven, perhaps an action by a family member or a member of your congregation. As you hold that thought, breathe in deeply. With each breath, whisper “God, open my heart.” Do this “breath prayer” seven times, remembering that Jesus asks us to forgive “seventy times seven.” Throughout the day take time to practice the exercise, always asking, “God, open my heart.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will see and love others as you see and love them.

Decision Time

Wednesday, March 26

3-26By Norma J. Cross of Independence, Missouri, USA

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

—Romans 15:13

Shortly before Easter was decision time for Jesus. He made plans.

Jesus would go to Jerusalem for a feast day, teach and do miracles, win some disciples. Then the Pharisees would turn people against him. Was that part of the plan? Now what? They took up stones to cast at him until he had to hide himself. He escaped to the Sea of Galilee, where he had no fear for his life. He fed 5,000 people. He spoke. He tried going back to Jerusalem again, but he couldn’t get them to understand that he was a shepherd, and his sheep would know his voice.

How relieved he must have felt back up in Galilee with his 12, enjoying their companionship, teaching, praying. And yet, all the time knowing his time was drawing near.

Then word comes of Lazarus being ill. Will he go? Decision time. Did he have a choice? Of course he did. If I forget the humanness of Jesus and say, “Oh, yeah, but that was Jesus,” I haven’t caught the depth of his love for me.

I ask myself, “Am I a true believer? Do I really believe he died for me?” I still have my struggles and hardships, but he always brings me hope and strength. His choices show me the way, and I know grace is there for me because of his decision.

Faith and strength have grown slowly for me. There are times when I feel such a close companionship, and then there are times that I pull away from him. Then I tire and say I just can’t do anymore.

He just smiles and assures me…“You have the power of the Holy Spirit. Make a decision. Pedal.”

Prayer for Peace
God of grace, we offer our humble faith in the power of your Spirit. Guide us in our choices for peace.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices
Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. Discernment invites us to orient our lives toward God and God’s vision for us and creation. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities in the day before you. Take these choices into prayer, asking God for wisdom and insight about what matters most.

Offer yourself to God with the prayer of Teresa of Avila: “God, what do you want of me today?” Sit prayerfully with this question as you review the day again. Be aware of images, thoughts, names, or actions that come to you. Ask for a blessing to live this day responsibly and compassionately in the Spirit of Christ.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, to my believing I will add deeds that prove it true.

Cramped in a Dollhouse?

Tuesday, March 25

3-25By Dawn Squires of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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…There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. …“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

—Psalm 46:1–2, 4, 10–11

While getting a new driveway at our home, we decided to lay concrete on the floor of the garage. We disposed of the old bench and cupboards to make way for the new floor. I delighted in the new roominess.

Some weeks later our eldest daughter came to our house, “Mum, Jack has packed his old building blocks into crates. He is not ready to give them away. We don’t have room to store them in our house. Can we put it in your garage?”

I now have three large crates of blocks, one doll pram, one doll pusher, one dollhouse, and four boxes of dolls themselves. We also store a wicker clothes basket full of doll’s clothes and two garbage bags full of I-don’t-know-what. I do know that my once-spacious garage is now very cluttered.

In our spiritual journey, we clean out the clutter to allow God room, and then sometimes we allow others to fill our space with new clutter. My garage is now my permanent reminder to make space for God. God would be with us, if we would make room. God would have us be still.

Prayer for Peace
God who calls us to be still, God who calls us to know you, help us make space, time, and clarity in our lives that we may know you as our refuge. Help us in times of trouble to make peace among the nations.

Spiritual Practice: Weeding the Garden
Inner transformation can take place in the midst of daily activities and work. Try cultivating the spiritual discipline of grace and acceptance while weeding the garden. As you pull each weed, offer a short prayer. Tug. (God remove from my heart all prejudice and fear.) Tug again. (God, keep me from making unjust judgments.) As you remove the weed, continue praying. (Plant in my heart the seeds of your love.) If you don’t have a garden, try this kind of transforming prayer while engaging in repetitive activities or work today (cleaning out a garage, washing dishes, cleaning the floors, mowing the lawn).

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will clear away my life’s clutter and make space for you.

Privileged to Care

Monday, March 24

Photo by Lu Mountenay

Photo by Lu Mountenay

By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, 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

We cannot own moments, no matter how long we want them to last. I remember my graduation from college. The moment just slipped by on an ordinary day, with ordinary weather, and ordinary people walking by. I stood among them—an ordinary person standing in a daze, peering at the sky, and waiting for the glorious feeling of accomplishment.

It never arrived. It was what it was. I had crossed that bridge, and the moment was over.

The longing that pesters me is to claim the emotion and savor the moment. It is that way when I see a flower in its glory and wish to hold that glory forever. It is that way when I come upon a waterfall, an ocean view, the surf washing in or pounding on the sand of the beach. The wonder of a bird’s song, the might of a mountain, the face of a child or a loved one, and the sound of magnificent music—all make me want the moment to last forever.

It is that way when we sense the presence of the Eternal in that thin place we share, even briefly. Those moments are not mine to claim and never will be. They are gifts, no doubt. They are blessings, even if momentary. But we cannot command or hold them. We call on a Presence that is already with us, but we need to be open, aware, centered to receive it.

It takes me months to imagine, envision, anticipate, and struggle to put an evangelist blessing into words. Finally the moment arrives—the blessing gives of itself—the moment is over. The struggle is removed from my shoulders. But shouldn’t I have some greater feeling than relief? I was pleased and glad for the opportunity to take part in one person’s life, but I want the moment to last.

Time to move on, though the road is not laid out before me—not until I take the steps that make it so. I had better get on with it then. There, beyond the horizon to the place where I am called. The place where all are called—to be blessed and to be a blessing.

Prayer for Peace
Maker of moments, we relive joy in telling the sacred story. We have faith that we will again experience your creative Spirit. We will keep our eyes and ears open for traces of the Divine and hold them in our hearts as long as they are offered.

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

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

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will set my blessings free to share with others.

Share Your Story

Sunday, March 23

3-23By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,* can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

—John 4:28–30

Yes, the woman at the well shared her story with everyone who would listen. I imagine how excitement shined in her eyes as she remembered Jesus. She invited them to “Come and see…” for themselves. Her animation and excitement ignited the imagination of others. Because of her testimony, “They left the city and were on their way to him (Jesus).” Her story made a difference.

What was different about her testimony and that of orators and sermonizers in the marketplace of the city? Her story came from within. It was not hearsay—she lived it. It was personal.

The difference between bearing our testimony and sharing it may be that we “bear” it like a burden, until we let it fall from our shoulders as we share it. We set it free for the listener to accept or reject. This freedom from having shared does not absolve us from sharing or bearing again and again, according to how we experience life—according to the needs of others.

One also may bare witness, if it has been hidden. Expose it to the world—expose it to the light and reveal God’s love. Strip away the shallow façade and bare what is true and what may be hidden from those who seek the truth. It may be hard to speak or hear, but it may be essential for healing to begin.

So share the story. Bear and bare your testimony. Go to the well where you meet Christ. Cross the street or cross cultural boundaries to share the story within.

Prayer for Peace
God of wisdom, help us listen and respect the stories of those animated with your love and peace.

Spiritual Practice: Vessel for Living Water
Visualize or feel a vessel at the center of your being. Imagine drawing something from the bucket to share with someone. Something clear and cool begins to pour over you. The living water of Christ pours on and in you. Your vessel fills and runs over, blessing your body and soul as you share living water with others.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will be vulnerable to your community of grace as I share my story.

Use Words if Necessary

Saturday, March 22

3-22By Barrie Fox of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England

And above all things clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is a bond of perfectness and peace; pray always, that you may not faint until I come; behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself.  Amen.

—Doctrine and Covenants 85:38c

The Clay Cross Congregation in the British Isles recently committed to make emergency food available for people in crisis. To consider this service project, we met at the church. People attended from many congregations of other denominations. Most committed to involvement in the new program.

The general public gives non-perishable food, which volunteers pack into parcels. Doctors and social workers give food-bank vouchers to people in crisis. People can exchange these vouchers for a three-day food supply. Our congregation opens the food-bank about three hours a week. Other churches open their doors at alternate times.

While recruiting volunteers, I often see them hesitate. I see them looking doubtful. People think, at first, “I can’t do this.” What a blessing when I hear the words, “Yes, I’ll try to do that!”

Francis of Assisi sent his friars into the villages and cities, telling them to preach the gospel everywhere they could. He then told them to use words only if necessary. It’s the same today—actions speak louder than words! I praise God that our congregation “speaks” to the community in need.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, bless us as we share with those in need. Open our hearts as we serve them. Open our doors that we may welcome them. Open our lives as we share the peace of Christ.

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 speak with charitable actions.