Persistent Praise (or “Please Stop Singing!”)

Thursday, July 31

Close Up of MusicBy Carl Mesle of Independence, Missouri, USA

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous. Praise befits the upright…Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

—Psalm 33:1, 3–5 NRSV

As a teenager, John loved to sing with the other youth in his congregation. It wasn’t long before someone would say, “Please, John, stop singing!” When he asked why, they would say, “John, you sing in monotone, always singing the same note.”

These comments would crush him, until one day a compassionate choir director arranged for John to take voice lessons. The other singers could hear only John’s poor voice, but the choir director heard John’s need to praise God.

When asked by his new voice coach why he wanted to learn to sing, John answered, “I want to be a missionary. In some small congregations I will have to lead the singing.” The voice teacher took on her new charge (and challenge), spending twice as long with him as with other students.

Because John was the son of a cash-strapped missionary himself, the teacher charged only half her normal lesson fee. The teacher’s determination and John’s faith brought progress. I soon saw him singing bass in the Messiah Choir at Stone Church. This shows the power of persistence, the result of a youth leader who listened, and the patience and generosity of a teacher.

Prayer for Peace Patient God, help us be patient, too. Help us respect the desires of others to serve. May we welcome their gifts, offered from the heart. May we invite them to join us in sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring God’s Call to Others Reflect on God’s call in your life. Quietly reflect on the moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation to expand your gifts. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come. When have you experienced God through the calling and gifts of others? How do your gifts connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will listen to the heart of those who praise you.

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Amid the Traffic

Wednesday, July 30

7-30By Jannis Urena of Puyallup, Washington, USA

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

—Philippians 4:9 NRSV

Several ponds are in our neighborhood. Toward the end of summer we see the geese fly south in classic V-formation. Some stop in these miniature lakes to nest and raise chicks.

Last week I was amused to see a bright-yellow sports car ahead of me come to a full stop in the road. Oncoming traffic stopped, as well. We all waited as a mother goose authoritatively guided her fluffy babies from one side of the road to the other.

All the horsepower and sleek creativity of Detroit—brought to a standstill by the power of our small feathered friends.

Somehow we tend to forget that God often invites us to stop and “smell the roses” or watch the goslings. How wondrous is the diversity of God’s creation—our very human souls draw us to observe Creation with awe. Even amid the traffic.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, thank you for being present through all the seasons of our lives—the heartaches and the joys, the deeps and the shallows, the ebb and flow, times of conflict and peace. Help us share those peaceful times and be at home with you.

Spiritual Practice: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation Choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following practices or create your own. Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude while looking and listening for God in all things. Write or pray a psalm of praise for the Earth’s beauty or offer a prayer of healing and blessing for its wounds.

Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, or fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will see your creation’s beauty.

I Close My Eyes…

Tuesday, July 29

7-29By 14-year-old Rachel Huerkamp of Delta, Colorado

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you…to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

—Romans 12:1–5 NRSV

I close my eyes and lock my hands. I pray away my sorry day and end it with the hope of tomorrow. With the dreams that follow me to sleep, I see my life of faith carved by mistakes, wisdom, and my surroundings. With these, the Divine helps me learn and choose the person I will be.

I will be a person who makes a change. I will not fear change, but absorb and embrace it. I will be the person who not only seeks change, but is part of creating change. I will choose change. I will be a person who makes a difference in the world God has created for us.

I will trust God’s call and praise God for lessons learned. The result of my response will reflect what I put into it.

With my eyes shut and my hands together, I lift everything that I am to you, O God. Know my faith is genuine—so you may cleanse my heart, soul, and mind. Help me on the path of life to finish the race at home with you.

Prayer for Peace Creator, God, shape us with the breath of your Spirit. Help us respond to our experiences with faith and generosity, willing to change what needs changing; willing to accept the shape that is good and acceptable to you.

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, I choose to be a person who will share Christ’s peace.

Straddling the Divide

Michele McGrath

Michele McGrath

Monday, July 28

By Michele McGrath of Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

—Jeremiah 29:11

God of the edges,
I confess how much I want to sit safely in the middle.

God of the margins,
forgive me for my need to be in the center of the moment.

God of diversity,
I am sorry for how often I want there to be one simple answer.

Liquid God,
I regret how often I have allowed my witness of you to solidify,
and grow cold.

Savior Incarnate,
I am sad to think how often I avoid entering the muck and messiness of life for your sake.

Disruptive Spirit,
I confess my desire for consistency rather than the chaos preceding change.

Spirit of Truth,
forgive me the many times I have spoken reassuringly
rather than prophetically.

God of all seasons,
I repent my constant hurrying to see results.

Risking Redeemer,
forgive me for straddling the fence so much of the time.

God of hope,
take another chance on me, on us, on your people.
Let us be your body in this world.

Prayer for Peace Triune God, I repent the many times I chose my own company over relationship.

Spiritual Practice: Contemplate the Names of God Reflect on this prayer. What word or phrase most closely identifies your idea of God?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will respond to opportunities to leave the fence and take a stand for peace.

Bring forth the Kingdom of God

Sunday, July 27

7-27By Steve Hatch of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

—Matthew 13:31–32 NRSV

In the mid-1980s, my faith was in crisis. I experienced what many theologians call the “dark night of the soul.” The crisis offered no resolution, and it felt like God had abandoned me. I was alone to deal with my darkness, and I felt all my pleading was fruitless. I kept asking God why this was happening, and why God wasn’t helping. The more I prayed, the more distant from God I felt.

One week amid my darkness, I went to Sunday school, where we were studying the parables. We explored the parable of the mustard seed. The author suggested one important lesson from this parable is the need to plant our seed in faith, leave it alone, and allow God to provide the germination. We must leave the seed alone and let it “die” as a seed so it can become the tree that God intended.

Instead, we sometimes dig up the seed to make sure it’s viable and still growing. That, of course, keeps it from doing exactly that…growing as God created it to do. As I heard these words I realized I never had left my issue with God. I hadn’t planted my seed with faith that God would provide the germination. That day I committed to leave my seed planted in God’s fertile soil, which would allow my faith to grow to maturity.

Prayer for Peace Master Gardener, help us cultivate rich soil where we can plant seeds of faith. With your rain and sunlight and our tools and labor, may we be co-creators with you for a healthy spirituality. Help us sow seeds of peace.

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

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will pull weeds from my life, and bring them to you as a repentant bouquet. Then I will accept your grace as flowers of forgiveness.

Threaded Together

Saturday, July 26

Photo from HealthEd Connect

Photo from HealthEd Connect

By Sherri Kirkpatrick of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

You have been given the principles of generosity, rightly interpreted for a new time. …look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go. Each disciple needs a spiritual home. You are called to build that home and care for it, but also to share equally in the outreaching ministries of the church. In that way the gospel may be sent to other souls also yearning for a spiritual resting place.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:7c–d

Cherry Newcom challenged the Kafwa health workers in Zambia to make 1,000 string bracelets for the campers at SPECTACULAR, also known as SPEC. It is a sports and leadership camp on the Graceland University campus in Lamoni, Iowa. Cherry got her wish!

I received 1,092 bracelets of every color imaginable, ready to deliver. Some people even stayed up late on the last night to reach the last-minute quota of bracelets.

The bracelets are beautiful, and all have one or two handmade paper beads threaded into the design. When they ran out of thread, the Kafwa bought colorful yarn and kept making bracelets! It was a great example of can-do spirit! Everyone in Africa is used to substituting and making do with what they have. They give what they can.

The SPEC campers understood the efforts to thread together the Zambians across the world with the people of many cultures at the camp. It was a great way to share the spirit of peace.

We set a goal to raise $3,000 to build a cook shack for the volunteer school cooks. In true SPECTACULAR fashion, we raised nearly $5,000.

Prayer for Peace God within us, God of the far-flung places, help us accept and encourage the efforts of all those who wish 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 support the outreach ministries of the church.

Another Point of View

Friday, July 25

night owlBy Joann Condit of Phoenix, Arizona, USA

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

—Colossians 3:12–15 NRSV

Since birth, I never remember a time when anything more than a few feet away appeared clear and sharp in my sight. Doctors tested my eyes when I was 11. I have worn glasses or contacts for nearly seven decades.

I had cataract surgery this year, and now I see! What a transformation! I can see far and near, in vivid color, in crisp detail. It is, to me, a tangible miracle. I expressed that thought to my eye doctor and asked him if people thank him for miracles. He laughed and said he hears that sentiment almost daily, adding, “I am on the happy side of medicine.”

He said that when he was a medical student, he and his girlfriend caught the distinctive cry of an owl and stopped to search the trees. He spotted the outline of an owl in a tree some distance away and pointed it out. She saw it immediately and said, “Oh, look at its cute little ears!”

He could not see the features in detail as she could. He mused, “I have often thought what it would be like to look through her eyes and be able to see what she sees.”

What change would occur in our lives if we could see through the eyes of another—physical eyes, mental eyes, or spiritual eyes? What if we could see clearly what the other sees? What would it be like to see from another’s perspective—walk in another’s shoes, have compassion for another’s life journey?

Prayer for Peace God grant us new eyes to see, new hearts to understand, and new compassion. Guide us to your peace.

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

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will try to walk in the shoes of another to gain a new perspective for peace.

Just a Coincidence?

Thursday, July 24

By Jimmie Kurtz of Fulton, Mississippi, 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 NRSV

After graduating from Western Illinois University in 1971, I took a position with the state. My wife, our toddler son, and I moved to another city. Our apartment had an outside entrance but was up a flight of steep stairs. It was a holiday weekend, and no one was available to help us unload the rental truck.

We arrived on Friday evening and took only the essentials up to the apartment. We offered our nightly prayers, which included our concern about getting our furniture moved in the next day. Early the next morning I went down to the truck to survey the problem, still not knowing how we were going to get everything up those steep stairs. I could carry some furniture, but not larger items like the refrigerator and sofa.

Just as I arrived to unlock the truck, a couple of teenage boys walked by. Immediately I asked, “Hey, fellas, how would you like to make a few bucks this morning? I have a truck to unload, and I don’t have any help.” Their response was a quick “Sure!”

Within a short time, what had looked to be an impossible task was complete. I handed the boys $10 each, and they cheerfully went on their way. Some would call it a coincidence that the boys walked by at just the right time. I believe it was one way God answered my prayers. I am thankful for the help of the boys and for the hope I find in Christ.

Prayer for Peace God of hope, you capture our attention, sometimes, in unexpected ways. Coincidence or blessing, we are aware of your Spirit in our lives. We find joy and peace in believing.

Spiritual Practice: Joy of Gratitude Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time, aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will join someone and make a difficult task, easier.

Impact on a Young Disciple

Wednesday, July 23

 

Gary McDonald

Gary McDonald

By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval.

—Romans 14:17–18 NRSV

As a new graduate, I went into the mountains of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, to ponder my future. Possible directions were open, but I felt confused about how to begin my journey, where to go, and what to do. The people I met at reunion changed all of that.

They challenged my every thought. One of the two men teaching my class was a Dr. Lloyd, whom I had never met. The other, evangelist Glaude A. Smith, also was a stranger to me. Apostle Arthur A. Oakman attended as a visiting minister. These men would influence my life greatly.

Lloyd was a US Navy veteran. He also had been a missionary to Honduras and was a medical doctor. I thought if the church interested him, maybe I should take another look. Smith talked about the importance of evangelist blessings, after which I vowed to have one. Every evening Apostle Oakman preached, and I still remember one of the personal, spiritual experiences he used for a sermon illustration. It was a powerful witness!

After the reunion, I began changing my life. The first step was to look up Smith and get my blessing, which I did. I began considering the inspirational word of the blessing. I am eternally grateful for that reunion experience so long ago. Those good men never knew of their influence on me, but it was powerful. I hope I can influence others half as much.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, guide us in our times of doubt. Send us disciples of vision who share their witness freely. Send us leaders who share the peace of Christ so that we may share with others.

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 of persons who lead the community of faith in congregations, mission centers, and the World Church. Pray for God’s outpouring of grace on each servant leader who comes to mind.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will think back on who has influenced my life, and how I might influence the discipleship of a young person.

Knee-high by the Fourth of July

Tuesday, July 22

7-22By Julie Conway-Sword of Gainesville, Florida, USA

Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:10a

With our faces pressed to the car windows, my two sisters and I watched each passing Iowa cornfield. On either side of the road, as we traveled southward from Minnesota to Iowa, maturing green cornstalks filled many fields. “How high are the cornstalks, Daddy?” We would ask, trying to compare to our own small bodies. “Are they knee high?”

“Knee high by the fourth of July,” we chanted, more for the rhyme and rhythm than from a child’s calculated understanding.

When we arrived at our relative’s home, there were exclamations, such as, “Look at you girls!” Chattering aunts, uncles, and grandparents grabbed, hugged, and measured us by comparison to our previous visits. “It doesn’t seem possible that you’ve grown so much!” they remarked repeatedly.

We measure corn and children in feet and inches, but what about our spiritual growth? How does the Divine picture us, God’s children? Section 163:10a tells us, “Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken…” God sees and blesses each effort to follow Christ. How encouraging God is, cheering us on, drawing us “close” as we respond to Christ’s mission. Let us take faithful steps daily.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, we know you are with us on our journey, encouraging each step. Thank you for our companions on the way. May we encourage one another as we share Christ’s peace.

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.

Imagine you can feel a vessel at the center of your being (a clay jar, a crystal vase, a metal bucket, or other container). Imagine drawing something from the vessel to share with another person, but as you reach inside you find only a tiny pool of stagnant liquid. You are thirsty and dry, empty. Listen prayerfully again to the psalm, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

As you feel restored, thank God for the opportunity to be a responding, serving disciple while you move into the outward journey. Remember this exercise as you drink water throughout the day.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will take the next step in my mission of service.