Meet Florence and Titus

Saturday, May 31

Photo by Lisa Ash

Photo by Lisa Ash

By Lisa Ash of Liberty, Missouri, USA

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

—Romans 12:5–8 NRSV

This is Lisa, reporting from Zambia. Nine-year-old Florence is shy around adults, falling nearly silent when addressed. Her quirky smile is difficult to incite, but when it flashes across her face, it melts your heart. Her 11-year-old cousin, Titus, on the other hand, is well spoken and friendly, ready to share his cordial greeting and his captivating story.

They are both “double orphans,” the term Zambians use when both parents have passed. They live with the same auntie caretaker. “Florence is the only remaining child of four sisters. There are seven of us children, and we stay together in one house,” explains Titus, a third-grader. Their auntie tries to pay the small school fees (US$2.00 per term) but can’t always manage even this.

The kids are thankful they can attend school even if their fees aren’t paid on time. The HealthEd Connect school programs directly benefit the children of Zambia. “I like school,” says Florence, a second-grader, “because I want to change my life. My auntie doesn’t have permanent work, just piecework. If I go to school, then I can work when I grow up. Then I can help my family.”

The good news is the lives of children are changing dramatically thanks to generous supporters of HealthEd Connectand contributions from world mission tithes.

Prayer for Peace Generous God, help us be aware of the body of Christ in Zambia and other places around the world. Remind us that we are all members of one body. May we be generous. May we be compassionate and cheerful as we share Christ’s peace.

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 tell a child about Florence and Titus and how much they love school.

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The Blessings of Strangers

Friday, May 30

5-30

Barbara Howard

By Barbara Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

 

…the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

—Numbers 6:25–26 NRSV

I looked up at the clerk while I muttered about my inefficient brain as I shuffled through my wallet to find my credit card. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I forgot my own birthday.” A pause, then she said, her voice trembling, “But my mother just died.”

I handed her my credit card and looked into her tear-filled eyes. “I’m sorry.” I said. Then, as she struggled for composure, I said, “I have only one daughter. She is the most terrific woman I know. She teases me about the women friends I have—the “daughters-of-my heart.” The clerk smiled. “Bobbie,” I said, seeing her identity card, “let’s call you a daughter-of-my-heart.” Again her eyes filled. “Thank you,” she said, and finished the transaction.

I started to walk away with my package, when she came from behind the counter, both arms outstretched. She hugged me tightly, tears filling her eyes again. “Happy birthday, and bless you,” I said as I left the store.

On the way to the car, moved by the experience, I wondered how many hurting wounded people I see during the various activities each day. I vowed I would cease ignoring strangers. I will look them in the eyes, smile, and if they respond, perhaps I’ll speak to them. Just as I completed the thought, a young man approached, head down, his red hair shining in the sun.

“You have beautiful hair,” I said. He looked up, gave me a half-smile, and said, “Thanks.” Then, in a lower voice, he said, “I get teased about it at school.” I responded, “Well, just remember, it is beautiful.” He smiled again.

As I drove from the mall, I felt so blessed, so thankful—as though someone had given me a gift. My prayer list increased to include Bobbie and a young man whose name I didn’t know.

I came home with a new understanding of my role as an evangelist. Our call is to bless. But how seldom I think of the blessings I receive. My mall experience lifted my spirits, gave me incredible energy, and something to remember always—there are people all around us who are hurting. To share that pain is a blessing to us. By simply accepting another as a pilgrim in life beside us, we strengthen and energize our community.

Prayer for Peace Loving God, help us see past the smile to the pain in someone’s eyes. Let us return the smile with compassionate eyes, sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has of you and every child. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will pray for the next person I see.

Garden of People

Thursday, May 29

5-29By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Understand that the road to transformation travels both inward and outward. The road to transformation is the path of the disciple.

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:3d

A potted plant’s roots follow the perimeter of its pot. When plants start to lose vigor, a quick investigation reveals the problem. If you lift the plant to expose the roots and you see circles of roots going round and round, it doesn’t take much guesswork. The plant is root-bound.

The roots have turned in on themselves and are choked by the confines of the pot. They’ve absorbed all the energy and nutrition the spent soil has to offer. Their inward journey is complete in this space, and it’s time to guide the roots in a new direction. So we provide a larger pot or even let the plant go free into the great outdoors of our garden.

To repot the plant, we put fresh soil in the new, larger pot. We manipulate the roots to change their direction to an outward path toward the fresh, expanded soil. If the root ball is dense enough, we may even cut off the bottom inch of rooted soil for a healthy “letting go” of offending roots. If you practice “talking” to your plants, you might say, “It’s for your own good, dear,” or “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”

We water the plant and say a prayer to make it (and us) feel better. We might change its location to a sunnier window. We stand back and watch it thrive, spreading joy and foliage, and being happy to live in the home of a good gardener. You also might put a doily under the plant—that helps a lot!

Seriously…we, like plants, sometimes get too comfortable on our paths. We become root bound on our inward journey. Once we get to a still and centered place, we can gather strength and do some letting go, starting an outward journey on Christ’s mission. A new direction opens, and we create room to grow. We stimulate our roots with learning and spiritual practices and then find a new place at the expanding table of grace.

Rerooted in our foundation, soaking up the light of the Holy Spirit, and refreshed with Christ’s living water, we flourish and develop into disciples to serve the community, God’s garden of people.

Prayer for Peace Master Gardener, help us open to change and growth. Give us discomfort when the status quo satisfies us, and we begin to lose vigor. We would make Christ’s mission our mission. We would share his peace with the gardens of the world.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to people and their needs. Pray about using your skills to help another person. As you feel affirmed, thank God for the opportunity to be a responding, serving disciple while you move into the outward journey.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will grow in a new direction.

Because of Who God Is

Wednesday, May 28

5-28By Jackie Porter of Thornton, Colorado, USA

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

—James 3:13 NRSV

I like company and didn’t want to go shopping alone. My husband, friends, daughter, and daughter-in-law were all busy, so I went alone. After about three minutes on the freeway, I saw trouble heading right for me.

A large truck tire was flying from oncoming traffic, heading for my car. The traffic was heavy, and I could see no way out. Big trucks were in front and beside me. Slowing down suddenly could be dangerous because we were going about 65 miles per hour.

My life passed in front of me in the space of seconds. Then an impression came to “hang on tight to the steering wheel, and lean left!” I saw the tire bounce up and head straight for my windshield. Terrified, I grasped the steering wheel and leaned to the left. I think I even closed my eyes for a second. I heard a loud bang as the tire tore through the windshield and the roof of my car. I heard and felt the tire fly by my head. Then an inner voice said, “Slow down and pull over to the left.” And I did.

I was alive! Relief flooded my soul. I knew God had been with me. As I finally stopped on the median, I sat there trying to take in what had just happened. A woman opened the car door and asked how I was. “Fine!” I exclaimed. She said I had a bad gash on my arm, which I hadn’t noticed. She made me stay there until the ambulance arrived.

As I walked to the ambulance, I looked at my car. The roof was rolled under like a sardine can. The space where my head was, before I leaned left, had a big piece of metal in it. Another big piece of metal was in the passenger seat. The tire lodged itself in the backseat—in the infant car seat! I was most grateful that I was alone in the car.

God was with me through this storm of terror and has been with me during other storms. The world became new to me that day. The next day a new baby blessed us—our first grandson! Had panic set in, I would have missed holding him in my arms. I was blessed, not because of who I am, but because of who God is.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God, you are with us through all our storms. Help us to listen for your presence, your voice, and your desires for our lives. Help us respond to your longing for shalom 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 shalom; God’s dream of beauty and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise? Reflect on when and how God’s voice speaks to you.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be alert and responsive to your direction.

What Does Your Community Believe about Peace?

Tuesday, May 27

5-27By Lillian Kirby of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

—Isaiah 2:4 NRSV

As a chaplain at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, I have the opportunity to answer phone calls from people asking questions and seeking information about Community of Christ.

One day a young man called from Ogden, Utah. We talked about 30 minutes. His interest was in the Doctrine and Covenants sections about peace. He told me he was a member of another denomination and was interested in our beliefs. He also wanted to know about our reasons for building the Temple.

My answers focused on our mission to be a peace church. I told him about the sculpture on the World Plaza of “beating swords into plowshares.” I stressed the importance we place on “open doors” to all people of the world. All are welcome for the healing ministries available to those seeking reconciliation. As we talked, I sensed a good spirit present between us.

We ended our conversation with him thanking me and calling me “Sister Kirby.” Later I mailed him a Doctrine and Covenants and a Book of Mormon, courtesy of the Presidents of Seventy office. I hope he has an opportunity to accept my invitation to visit us. My prayer is that my new friend, my brother in Christ, might be guided as he studies and pursues peace.

Prayer for Peace Welcoming God, help us share Christ’s message of peace to all who will hear. Let us share in our prayers, in our songs, our scriptures, art, pursuits, and ministries that flow from our temples.

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 live as a sanctuary of peace.

Flood of Community Response

Monday, May 26

5-26By Evelyn Spence of Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA

“Humble yourselves and continue in prayer to him; cry to him when you are in your fields, and over all your flocks; cry to him in your houses, and over all your household, morning, midday, and evening…And when you do not cry to the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer to him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.”

—Alma 16:219, 222

Our city did not experience an EF5 tornado, a hurricane, or a tsunami. Instead, we fought record-high Missouri River water. Devastating floods hit north and south of our home. Our interstate highway flooded and closed, as did other major roads. For an extended time, some people traveled long detours to get to work.

Floods cause more damage when water stays for a month or six weeks. This wasn’t just a flash flood. The high water level for such a long time devastated the people affected. We knew some, and our hearts broke for them.

In Council Bluffs, a pall settled over us as the danger became imminent. At least half of the city is in a floodplain. Residents sandbagged businesses and houses. The city officials enlisted civilians and the National Guard to help patrol the many miles of levee next to the river and two large drainage creeks. They placed pumps at danger points to send seeping water back into the river.

In the lowest area of our town, seeping water caused basements to collapse, making houses unlivable. Recreation trails closed because they were atop levees. The lakes, too, were unusually high and could not support normal water activities.

A different aura permeated the area and people on higher land. We each knew people affected. This was just one place of many in the world suffering the effects of natural disasters. When families lose everything, the loss not only devastates the families, but everyone feels the devastation with them.

I cannot imagine how many prayers were offered. Bearing one another’s burdens, we volunteered at sandbagging efforts and distributed supplies. The community prayed with faith over our households, and we pulled together.

Prayer for Peace Steadfast God, we humbly pray for the families and homes of neighbors and strangers who suffer loss. We know you weep with them and send your Spirit of peace to be with them.

Spiritual Practice: Offering Blessings of Community Receive and share Blessings of Community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the relationships in your life. What blessings flow to you from these circles? How have you felt the love of the community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will sandbag to hold off danger. If I can’t sandbag, I will feed the sandbaggers. If I can’t bring food, I will pray for them.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come

Sunday, May 25

butterfly landing on flowerBy Becky Savage, First Presidency

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

—John 14:15–17 NRSV

In July 2012, 150 women gathered for the first Women Leaders Conference in the mountains above San Pedro Sula, Honduras. They came from small villages and large cities, from Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. They ranged from teenagers to women in their 80s. There were single women, mothers, and professionals. It was a remarkable group of dedicated and gifted women.

Several younger women danced to the theme song played and sung by a band specially formed for the conference. The planners spent months designing decorations and ordering supplies, chairs, tables, water, and food. They brought everything onto the rented grounds to prepare the place for the women.

The preparations made the place look wonderful. The planners converted a large pavilion into a sanctuary filled with butterflies. Butterflies were on the banner, tables, pillars, hanging mobiles, and two centering posters.

As guest minister, I was dependent on simultaneous translations by Geri Macias. When translations are needed, there is greater complexity, leaving only half the time for effective ministry.

When Geri and I arrived, we walked into the pavilion filled with joyful women and a powerful Spirit of love and gracious peace. The Holy Spirit’s abiding presence enhanced the experience. Each woman left with a butterfly, taken from the centering posters, to symbolize God’s continuing presence in their lives and ministries. The Holy Spirit continues with each one of us.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God who abides in us, help us be aware of your transforming presence. Help us be aware of opportunities to share Christ’s peace.

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. Notice the geographic distance between your homeland and this one. Picture a person living there. Pray for this person. Sense God’s love connecting you just as the oceans connect the continents. Thank God for the spiritual connection you have 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 smile at a stranger, an action that translates into any language.

Tornado Site

Saturday, May 24

5-24By Kendra Friend of Independence, Missouri, USA

He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses…and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel. Your name, O Lord, endures forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. For the Lord will vindicate his people, and have compassion on his servants.

—Psalm 135:7, 12–14 NRSV

On May 22, 2011, a devastating tornado struck Joplin, Missouri. The death toll was 160, with 1,000 injured. We prayed for the affected families. Members of the Joplin Congregation in Missouri were accounted for after the tornado. Some suffered minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises, but no serious injuries.

Several families lost homes and businesses. The World Church provided funds for meals, bottled water, and shelter. Opportunities for worship were available to help in the healing.

South Central States USA Mission Center President Karen Tillery said, “Thank you for the ministry you shared with those affected by the disaster. I feel such peace, knowing our church family around the world is praying for everyone concerned.”

Because of your continuing contributions to the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Mission Initiative, Community of Christ has the ability to respond as an international church in times of crisis to provide support and relief in difficult situations. Thank you for responding compassionately and generously.

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, we thank you for disciples who respond to those in crisis. Thank you for the comfort of their prayers. When we hear of urgent need, may we add tangible aid to our prayers and share from our abundance.

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 not wait for disaster to occur before sharing tangible love.

One Almost Forgotten

Friday, May 23

5-23By Lynda Lyons of Kansas City, Kansas, USA

That Spirit is even now touching alive the souls of those who feel the passion of discipleship burning deeply within. Many others will respond if you are persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b

The older I get, the more I believe that nothing happens by chance.

Take for example last week. Ethel, Joan, and I scheduled ourselves to meet Jim for lunch. He canceled just a few hours before we were to meet because he was not feeling well. That meant we had to make a few phone calls to set up new appointments for our pastoral-care work.

The first call was to Jack. On calling him, I learned his brother-in-law had passed away the night before. It turned out this was a call for much-needed comfort. I told the pastor, so we could do further outreach.

The next call was to Dorothy. She was confused because she couldn’t find her daughter, who probably was at work. I scheduled a place on my calendar to make a home visit soon.

Next was Bea. I let the phone ring 12 times with no answer. This is not normal. Bea is 91 and in declining health. I immediately called her family and planned a follow-up visit.

I called Susan next, and she welcomed our offer to visit. In the conversation, we learned she had lived in her apartment five years and still had not had a visit from her congregation. She attends our women’s meetings but goes to a church closer to home. We also learned of some health issues to keep in our prayers. We had a delightful visit with one almost forgotten.

All of these encounters need follow-up action. I believe that first cancellation led to other opportunities for action. Thank you, God, for directing our mission.

Prayer for Peace Loving God, touch us, make us alive so we may touch others. Help us follow Christ’s example and seek out those who are lost, lonely, and in need. Immerse us in Christ’s peace that we may share, forgetting no one.

Spiritual Practice: Intercessory Reflection Sit quietly with your eyes closed as you enter intercessory reflection and prayer. Ask God to bring people to your mind and heart who need prayer. Listen for signals from their lives and let the depth of God’s love for them become powerful and real to you. Write, speak, or think a prayer of blessing and healing for these much-loved disciples and friends. Ask God to help you see ways to affirm and support them when you meet them in daily life.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will look beyond my everyday surroundings and discern who needs Christ.

Home Again in a New Place

Thursday, May 22

Painting by  Vera Entwistle

Painting by
Vera Entwistle

By Vera Entwistle of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

—Romans 8:28 NRSV

We adopted Aaron when he was 2 weeks old. Once old enough to understand, we told him about his adoption. We encouraged him to find his birth mother. But for years, he showed no interest. Then, two years ago, he did his search and found her living in Greeley, Colorado. He and his family traveled to the USA to meet her.

What thrilled Aaron even more than meeting his birth mother was meeting his half-brother, Ty. Aaron and Ty bonded. The result was that after returning to Australia, Aaron told us he wanted to take his family to live in Colorado. However, he would not move unless his dad and I would agree to come, too. So here we are! Aaron built a bridge between two families. His birth mother and I are now good friends.

Our move to Fort Collins has been great. We knew that our friends, Dick and Julie, lived here and attended the Fort Collins Congregation. What we did not realize is how many other friends we know who retired here.

The Fort Collins Congregation lists itself as a “Welcoming Congregation” and members live up to that name. They welcomed us and put us to work quickly. We soon felt at home. Our mission center president was just as welcoming, involving us in mission service, too.

Any concerns we had about leaving our home of 30 years in Australia and returning to the USA are gone. It is good to be “home” again—part of another loving family and congregation.

Prayer for Peace Loving God, we are thankful for family and friends, far and near. Help us also welcome the stranger and share Christ’s peace.

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? How do you feel the love of the community?

Reflect, pray, or write in your journal about the call to be “Community of Christ.” Go deeper each day as you discover what act of blessing you can complete.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will connect with an old friend, and express how valued the person is.