Start Up a Conversation…

Monday, June 30

6-30By Sergei Bogolepov of Novosibirsk, Russia

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus…

—Romans 15:5 NRSV

While waiting in a Novosibirsk shopping mall, I sat next to a middle-aged man with a black beard. He was deeply involved in playing chess on his iPod. Sweat on his forehead showed a high level of concentration. He was struggling with tactical issues.

I am not a chess master, but I have a decent first sport category in blitz chess, and I am good with tactics. I offered some help, and we solved the puzzle together in a couple of minutes. It was good opportunity to start a conversation about this challenging game, and I recommended to Oleg some Internet sites where he could polish tactical skills.

I asked him what he did for a living. He is an ordained minister in the Russian Orthodox Church, which is well known to me. I introduced myself as an ordained minister of Community of Christ. Father Oleg immediately became defensive.

Official Russian orthodoxy states that any church besides Russian Orthodox is a totalitarian sect. As far as I know, orthodoxy forbids priests to have contacts with “heretics.” Father Oleg felt caught between his personal freedom to talk to me and obedience to church authorities.

Looking for common ground, I talked to Oleg about my theology studies. My interest was in Hesychastic spiritual practices that were deeply rooted in traditions, such as his. We talked about Bishop Gregory Palamas, who warned Hesychastic monks that besides doing spiritual practices, they also should do works of charity.

Father Oleg shared with me that they have a special day to commemorate Bishop Gregory, and he invited me to visit his church.

The game of chess, Gregory Palamas, and doing charity work were all good subjects to establish rapport with Father Oleg. This also allowed me to share about Community of Christ. Father Oleg listened attentively and told me that although he is not happy that I belong to a “foreign sect,” the information was interesting, and he would like to stay in contact with me.

We shared our phone numbers and agreed to pray for each other. I hope the conversation continues.

Prayer for Peace Universal God, help us find common ground to keep the conversation going. Help us find opportunities to affirm the worth of persons and share Christ’s peace.

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. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers to love.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will find common ground to include all people in the conversation.

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Extend Welcome

Sunday, June 29

6-29By Richard James, Council of Twelve Apostles

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

—Matthew 10:40–42 NRSV

I was in Independence, Missouri, for meetings, and I went to a congregation for morning worship. Following the service a family invited me to lunch. As I entered the restaurant I was surprised not only to see the family that had invited me, but a much larger and wider group of family and friends.

It was a wonderful meal, where we could talk about what was important to us as we built community. Christ was with us in our conversations.

They invited me as a stranger, and by the time the meal had ended I was part of the family. The hospitality they shared blessed me. I felt loved and accepted. I felt fed and watered physically, but the spiritual food we shared was more nourishing!

Jesus was encouraging his disciples to offer and to accept hospitality from people. When we offer a genuine welcome, when we offer the cup of cold water to someone in need, it is a blessing. The blessing is the presence of Jesus with us. When we see each other as one in Christ, as sisters and brothers, as no longer stranger but family, Christ is present in a tangible way.

Hospitality is a part of discipleship. So, whom are you going to welcome today? What hospitality are you going to receive from another person today? Prepare yourself to meet Christ in the giving and receiving!

Prayer for Peace Generous God, we praise you for open arms and open hearts; for welcoming words from smiling faces. May we be open to your Spirit and reflect it to others as we share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Offering Blessings of Community Receive and share Blessings of Community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the friendships 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?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will extend a warm welcome to stranger and friend alike.

Not Alone or Forgotten

Saturday, June 28

6-28By Sherri Kirkpatrick of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their refuge in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and rescues them…and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

—Psalm 37:39–40 NRSV

We met with the Kafwa health workers in Kasompe, Zambia. They took us on home visits to six clients. What a powerful experience! These incredibly courageous and upbeat people live in extreme poverty with few creature comforts.

To a person they thanked us profusely for visiting their little homes and beamed with pride that “visitors” had taken time to see them.

The Kafwa have an emergency fund provided by HealthEd Connect. It provides critically needed items for their clients. During the last six months, they spent about 90 Zambian dollars and accounted for every Kwacha (currency of Zambia) in a well-kept ledger. The ledger includes an account of the need with the items bought. It touched me that they had arranged transport to the hospital for a client who had no family.

Though the Kafwa workers essentially had done all they could and had placed her in the care of medical professionals, their care and compassion did not end. They took a few of their precious Kwacha from the emergency fund and spent it on bus transportation to the hospital to let their client know she was not alone and forgotten. She passed away while in care. However, she had Kafwa working for her until the end.

Prayer for Peace Comforting God, help us to be comforters, too. May those in need find refuge in us. May we bring hope to those who cry alone. May we share with them the peace of Christ.

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 stay by the side of a person in need, and not leave the person alone.

Committed Community

Friday, June 27

Photo of  Scott Blair

Photo of
Scott Blair

By Scott Blair of Independence, Missouri, USA

This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said…Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call)…So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.

—Romans 9:8–9, 11–12, 16 V

When I was 15 I joined Community of Christ. Since then, I’ve been going to family camps (reunion), and I love it. Even though I go only once a year, this camp helps shape me into someone who is passionate about discipleship. The people at these camps have encouraged me, taught me, guided me, loved me, held me accountable. Now they work beside me in ministry. They have committed to me, and I am committed to them.

This year the camp experience was even more significant. My wife and I recently had our first child, and we took her to camp with us! She was only 6 weeks old, but we could not imagine not going to camp or not bringing her with us. It was a little more work than usual on our part, but well worth it. Everyone fell in love with our little girl. We could see the people around us commit to our child.

We know there will be a time when our little girl won’t be so little. She’ll lean on others for advice and guidance. I know the same community that has helped shape me since I was 15 can greatly affect her life. No longer is camp just about hanging out with friends, going to campfires, and doing the practices that fill my spiritual needs. It’s now about keeping a little girl involved in a community of people that can help her become a self-sufficient woman with a sense of value and self-worth.

I now understand the importance of my church family on a new level. I hope the members understand how much my family needs them, as I now understand how much they need me. We commit to Christ and his faithful community. It’s one of the most sacred actions we can take as individual disciples and as a church. May you have a deeper understanding of your role in your sacred community, and commit to your divine call.

Prayer for Peace Covenant God, we are at the mercy of your grace and take comfort in your compassion. May we commit to a compassionate response for the community we share.

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 voices 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 sense. 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 commit to the spiritual welfare of the children of my community.

Spiritual Positioning System

Wednesday, June 25

Painting by  Vera Entwistle

Painting by
Vera Entwistle

By Vera Entwistle of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Listen to the Voice that echoes across the eons of time and yet speaks anew in this moment. Listen to the Voice, for it cannot be stilled, and it calls you once again to the great and marvelous work of building the peaceable kingdom, even Zion, on behalf of the One whose name you claim.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:1b

We were moving to make our home in a town we knew nothing about. Expecting to face challenges in finding our way around, we invested in a state-of-the-art global positioning system (GPS) for our car.

We thought it would solve our problems. We were wrong!

Day after frustrating day we tried to get the GPS to take us to new destinations. However, it continually responded with an emergency signal, advising us our request was denied. We often resorted to asking pedestrians to help us. Finally, we decided to return to the car show room to ask for help.We quickly learned that unlike a previous GPS we’d owned, this new GPS required us to be at a stand still before we could set it to a new destination—a logical safety feature.

As I thought about this, I realized I could learn a lesson from this feature. I soon found myself humming a few bars of the campfire song, “Be Still and Know that I Am God.” I thought of how seldom I stood completely still. I wondered if perhaps this is the reason my spiritual life is often in turmoil. Just like my GPS, I need to be still so I can carefully and prayerfully listen to God’s direction.

Prayer for Peace We pause, God, to praise you. We are still…to attend our many blessings. We are silent…to listen for your direction in our lives. We pause, praise, listen, and pray. From this place, we can journey on to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Time with God Sit quietly and let your breathing become calm and deep. Ask God’s Spirit to rest on you. See or sense the Spirit anointing you in the form of light, a dove, wind, color, or other images that might come. Ask to become aware of God’s love. Listen to the ways in which God wants to flow from your heart as living water. Give thanks that your name is “beloved,” that our name is Community of Christ.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be still and listen before I embark on my journey.

An Evangelist’s Psalm

Photo of  John Bonney

Photo of
John Bonney

Thursday, June 26

By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

—Psalm 22:23 NRSV

Hear me, eternal Presence, in hours of distress and discomfort. Hear my cries and sighs—expressions of my longing for connection. My words and thoughts go outward to creation, yet they descend to become the whining of an aging man. My querulous voice becomes a grating chant, a scratching of the limb on the windowpane in the winds of evening.

Ah, if I look, I shall find myself on the lap of the Eternal, receiving the proffered balm. I shall count myself blessed among peoples. I have a sense of Presence, wonder of eternal creation, bliss of that love and grace.

The glory is the glory that honors that which creates. The praise is for the Ground of all being. Eternity has come among us…No, Eternity is always among us. How is it that my ears are so calloused, my eyes so blind, my senses so dulled that I do not ever and always sense that Presence?

Yet how glorious those moments are when I do sense creation and glory in its holiness. How dimly I see, but how much I hope for the moment when I will see more clearly.

Now I know of the love that has borne me, if even my understanding is in part, and very small part. Yet still, I know I am loved. How precious is a reminder that I am cherished and cradled in the bosom of eternity. I am no longer alone, no longer cast off in my own eyes. I am wanted and loved.

There is light beyond light, music beyond the sweetest of sounds. There is the eternal and consummate Lover of my soul. In this I find my rest. To this I owe sacred allegiance. Amen.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, we stand in awe of you and your creation. We long to connect with you through prayer and psalm. In our darkest night and our brightest joy, we would know your presence. May you bless us as we share the peace of Christ.

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 praise your presence in fear’s darkness and faith’s light.

Spiritual Positioning System

Wednesday, June 25

Painting by  Vera Entwistle

Painting by
Vera Entwistle

By Vera Entwistle of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Listen to the Voice that echoes across the eons of time and yet speaks anew in this moment. Listen to the Voice, for it cannot be stilled, and it calls you once again to the great and marvelous work of building the peaceable kingdom, even Zion, on behalf of the One whose name you claim.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:1b

We were moving to make our home in a town we knew nothing about. Expecting to face challenges in finding our way around, we invested in a state-of-the-art global positioning system (GPS) for our car.

We thought it would solve our problems. We were wrong!

Day after frustrating day we tried to get the GPS to take us to new destinations. However, it continually responded with an emergency signal, advising us our request was denied. We often resorted to asking pedestrians to help us. Finally, we decided to return to the car show room to ask for help.We quickly learned that unlike a previous GPS we’d owned, this new GPS required us to be at a stand still before we could set it to a new destination—a logical safety feature.

As I thought about this, I realized I could learn a lesson from this feature. I soon found myself humming a few bars of the campfire song, “Be Still and Know that I Am God.” I thought of how seldom I stood completely still. I wondered if perhaps this is the reason my spiritual life is often in turmoil. Just like my GPS, I need to be still so I can carefully and prayerfully listen to God’s direction.

Prayer for Peace We pause, God, to praise you. We are still…to attend our many blessings. We are silent…to listen for your direction in our lives. We pause, praise, listen, and pray. From this place, we can journey on to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Time with God Sit quietly and let your breathing become calm and deep. Ask God’s Spirit to rest on you. See or sense the Spirit anointing you in the form of light, a dove, wind, color, or other images that might come. Ask to become aware of God’s love. Listen to the ways in which God wants to flow from your heart as living water. Give thanks that your name is “beloved,” that our name is Community of Christ.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be still and listen before I embark on my journey.

The Blue Sign

Tuesday, June 24

6-24By Emma Gray of Sioux City, Iowa, USA

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! …Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars…Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah.

—Psalm 84:1, 3–4 NRSV

It had been a beautiful, warm day, so I went for a run. The Washington, DC, Congregation is happily found about 1½ miles from my university campus. It’s the perfect distance for a halfway point. So, as usual, I headed out on Massachusetts Avenue.

I think a lot when I run. I think a lot all the time. Maybe I’m just more aware of it when I run because I’m trying to make sure I don’t pass out when I have to go up the long hill before Wisconsin Avenue. I think about people, behavior, regrets, wishes, plans, questions, and more. The path starts downhill, just soon enough, and I can start to make out the lighted blue church sign. Almost there.

When I see that blue sign, I feel more like I’m running home, more so than when I turn around and run back to campus. The church is home. It is the same blue sign that welcomes me to my home congregation in Sioux City, Iowa. It’s the same blue sign that welcomes me to the campgrounds in Onset, Massachusetts. It’s the same blue sign that will welcome me no matter where I wander, even if it’s just waiting for me whenever I decide to wander back.

Community of Christ’s blue sign is a beacon in my life. It tells me, “It’s OK. You’re on the right track. You’re almost there. You will find community here.” These are the same words I long to hear every second of my life.

Tonight, after I reached the church, I stopped to sit on the front steps and breathe for a while. It was starting to get late, and I was alone. But I just couldn’t leave. I began to wonder why I was where I was at that second.

After many thoughts, I still couldn’t articulate a perfect answer. The night glowing as a deep navy blue from the city lights, caught my eye when I looked up for answers. “Blue is a good color for you, God,” I thought.

There was not one car on Massachusetts Avenue at that moment. A breeze cooled the perspiration on my forehead. My reflection ended as a loud motorcycle zipped by. I laughed.

So you could enjoy that moment, Emma. That’s why you’re here.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God, thank you for our time together.

Spiritual Practice: Time with God Sit quietly and let your breathing become calm and deep. Ask God’s Spirit to rest on you. See or sense the Spirit anointing you in the form of light, a dove, wind, color, or other images that might come. Ask to become aware of God’s love. Listen to the ways that God wants to flow from your heart as living water. Give thanks that your name is “beloved,” that our name is Community of Christ.

Peace Covenant Here I am, God. I am listening.

The Mission of the Children

Monday, June 23

6-23By Lisa Soignier of Independence, Missouri, USA

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

—James 3:17 NRSV

My grandmother loved taking her family to summer church camps. When I was a little girl she and my grandfather took me and my two young uncles to a reunion (family camp).

The two adults rode in the cab of the truck, and the children rode on a bench in the back. It was raining. A big plastic tarp was tied over the truck bed to keep us dry. Today’s law would consider this method of transportation unsafe. As I got older, transportation got a little safer.

One year my grandmother drove a large motor home to camp and took 10 grandchildren. It was comical to see so many children emerging from the vehicle—like off-loading the ark.

My own mother continued this tradition, plus seatbelts. This past summer four generations from our family attended reunion at Bald Knob, Arkansas.

Attending reunions affects our family’s involvement in church in a big way. The children learn from an early age that they are an important part of our faith community. They become familiar with reading scripture, offering prayers, ministering with music, and receiving the offering for worship services. They are enthusiastic to serve the Lord. They minister with their presence, as only children can do.

May our children continue to lead the way. May Christ’s mission be our mission, and their mission.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, may we be as children—peaceable, gentle, without hypocrisy. May we follow them to share the good fruits of Christ’s Mission.

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 voices 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 sense. 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 send an e-mail or letter to a child who has touched my life.

Take up Your Cross

Sunday, June 22

6-22aBy Larry McGuire of Marion, Iowa, USA

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.”

—Matthew 10:24–25 NRSV

I grew up on a farm in Michigan. One of my chores in the fall and winter was to get wood from the pile. Often I would slip on my dad’s boots because his foot was bigger, so it didn’t take as much effort to get the boots on and off. The problem was that my foot often would slip out of the boots unless I walked slowly or took time to lace them.

Later, the problem wasn’t that my foot wouldn’t stay in. Rather, it wouldn’t fit. My feet were now bigger than my dad’s. I no longer could use his boots; I had to walk in my own.

Reading today’s passage from Matthew reminds me of a song from the band U2. The song, “The Wanderer,” says, “I stopped outside a church house where the citizens like to sit; they say they want the kingdom, but they don’t want God in it.” Jesus is teaching the disciples that walking in his path and sandals requires them to decide and choose a path.

We hear people say they want God’s peaceable kingdom here on Earth, but when they begin to realize what that means, some opt not to walk in the path of Christ.

Jesus asks his disciples to cross boundaries. He asks them to carry the needs of the neighborhood and of the neighbor. In many ways, Jesus was helping the disciples understand that if they want to walk in his path, they need to be comfortable walking that path in their own sandals with an understanding that they don’t walk alone. And if they can do that, then they will find a life fitted for Christ’s mission.

Prayer for Peace Master and Teacher, we would be like you. Help us realize if we would take on your mantle, we need to make ourselves fit.

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. Ask for a blessing to live this day responsibly and compassionately in the spirit of Christ.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will walk in the shoes of another, bearing the person’s burden, until I fit into your Spirit.