“Here I Am”

Sunday, August 31

8-31By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. …God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then (God) said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”…Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”

—Exodus 3:2, 4–5, 13–14, NRSV adapted

Entering the Worshiper’s Path at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, one of the first artworks is a three-layered tapestry of the burning bush. The artist, Linda Henke, entitled it, “I Will Be Who I Will Be.” As you would expect, she made it with bright oranges and reds, warm and hot colors overlaying the strong, black silhouette of the bush, which stands firmly, unconsumed by the flame.

Before Linda created this work of art, she came to see the place where it would hang. She immediately took off her shoes in reverence of the place she sensed as holy. She looks back on her work today and shares this:

One of my favorite scripture texts, the Exodus 3 account of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, inspired this design. In a response to Moses’ inquiry about how God wishes to be known, God responds in what typically is translated as “I Am Who I Am.” I, however, prefer the Hebrew translation of “I Will Be Who I Will Be.” For me, the difference between the two is significant and powerful. Humankind will not limit God by its perceptions of who God was, is, or yet shall be. God’s identity will be determined by the endless possibilities of the divine will as it unfolds over time. The quest is to discern how God is seeking to be known in our world.

Shortly after hanging the tapestry at the path’s entrance, a gathering of international leaders held a worship service in the Temple Sanctuary. As the first worshipers entered the path, they responded to the image of the burning bush by spontaneously removing their shoes. They left their shoes at the foot of the path, and everyone who followed that day did the same.

How do we respond when we sense we are in sacred space or on holy ground? When God reveals God’s self to you, will you answer, “Here I am”?

Prayer for Peace God of the mountain, God of the earth at our bare feet, we are ready to know you.

Spiritual Practice: Many Names of God Pray or sing each name several times as you call on the God of many names: Yahweh, Adonai, Jehovah, Yeshua, Sophia, Allah, Alpha, Omega, Abba, I Will Be Who I Will Be.

Peace Covenant Today, Creator, I will walk on your holy Earth with reverence.

The Gift of the Cactus

Saturday, August 30

Photo by Lu Mountenay

Photo by Lu Mountenay

By Doreen Horsley of Independence, Missouri, USA

As soon as the word spread, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. …“Since they began to bring the contributions into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and have plenty to spare; for the Lord has blessed his people, so that we have this great supply left over.”

—2 Chronicles 31:5, 10 NRSV

We have some cacti that we transplanted from my mother-in-law’s property. We planted them in a spot under an old maple tree, where we couldn’t get anything else to survive. These prickly cacti produce beautiful yellow blossoms. Each blossom lasts only one day. However, each day the cacti give us more. Some days there are several at one time.

One year we had at least 90 blossoms over several days. I am always sad to see the last one fade, but I know they will be back next year.

As with the cactus, we each give of our individual offering. Like the cacti, when we combine our efforts together there is greater beauty—a beauty that keeps coming back, and keeps giving.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, how you lavish us with blessings. You plant gardens and fields, and edge the desert sands with golden blooms. You chart the course of the wild geese and bid the tiny ant to scurry out of the storm and hide beneath my feet. You give, and give, and give again.

—Peggy Michael, adapted

Spiritual Practice: Generous Offerings Spend time meditating on the act of giving an offering. Begin by asking God for the spirit of generosity. Pray and reflect with these questions: How do I feel when I bring my offering to a worship setting and share it? What deep reasons motivate me to give? What is my best understanding of A Disciple’s Generous Response? Considering my financial circumstances, do I feel I am giving to my true capacity? In other words, am I giving the amount I am able without risking the needs and well-being of my family? Is God asking me to be more generous? How will I respond?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will collaborate with others to meet a need I cannot fill alone.

Shalom Place: Spiritual Practice at IYF, 2014

Friday, August 29

8-29aBy Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Wickliffe, Ohio, USA

Be still, and know that I am God!

—Psalm 46:10 NRSV

Three teenage girls moved attentively and reverently through the spiritual practice stations in Shalom Place during the International Youth Forum (IYF) at the Temple in Independence, Missouri. They did not chatter, but participated, eager, in each practice invitation. I watched them deliberately tie knots into string and then run their fingers slowly over it as they engaged in a form of the examen practice. It seemed like they were searching for something, and they were doing it together. With the murmur of activity just outside, something of Spirit drew them into this quiet, still place.

I held each of them in prayer. I was curious about the experience they were having. I wondered what these moments at IYF would mean in their spiritual development as disciples of Jesus Christ. How was the Spirit forming within them in that very moment as they held string in their fingers and bowed their heads in prayer?

I glanced over at the Expressions of God wall and smiled at the phrase someone had written, “She’s awesome!” I noticed electric candles flickering at the Holding in the Light station and prayer request cards in the basket. Each day I read the concerns and held them in the light of God’s healing love. Staff and campers shared issues of identity, health, relationships, and desire for God-connection. I am in awe at the ways our lives come together in these shared sacred spaces—untold stories and concerns and hopes intermingling as vulnerability beckons.

All week at IYF in Independence, Missouri, Shalom Place served as a space of prayer, practice, and rest. I was impressed by the responsiveness of those who volunteered as a presence to our youth during this transformational experience in their lives. People responded as though being available to our youth and holding them in prayer was a sacred privilege. They generously offered their time and prayer to the youth and staff that came in seeking God in the form of a new practice, a moment of silence, or the yearning for a deeper conversation. Words of blessing from evangelists hung around the room embracing the youth in a spirit of love and care. People from nearby and far away, sent beautiful words of support and guidance, and held our youth in prayer.

I am grateful to the IYF team for making spiritual practice a priority by designating this space. My prayer is that this time in the life of our youth will continue to awaken them to the God who is always present and inviting them to experience and live Christ’s peace.

Prayer for Peace Listening God, we whisper, and you hear us. We cry out in pain, and you hear us. We sit in lonely silence, and you hear us. We praise you with thankful hearts, and you hear us. Hear our answer to your call for peace, “Here I am, send me.”

Spiritual Practice: Prayer of Examen Spend a few moments recalling your day. If it is morning, recall yesterday. Let all the details, events, and conversations drift through your memory. Offer gratitude for the day and pray that you might be aware of how God was present with you. What did you notice or feel that brought meaning? As you review your day, pay attention to the times you could have been more Christ-like. Offer a prayer of confession, seeking forgiveness for the times you were unaware or potentially caused harm to yourself, others, or creation. Pay attention to the moments your life was in harmony with God’s vision for creation. Pray that you will be even more aware the next day of God’s presence with you and opportunities to respond to that presence. Amen.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will ask local IYF attendees to tell their stories, and I will listen. Or go to the church’s website and see the photo gallery at http://www.cofchrist.org/iyf/.

Hold Fast

Thursday, August 28

8-28By Cindy L. Korf of North Platte, Nebraska, USA

The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast.

—Deuteronomy 13:4 NRSV

When I took water-safety and lifeguard classes, I learned to throw a lifesaver ring to potential drowning victims. To practice, I threw the ring next to the person, who had to grab the ring. As the victim held it tightly, I pulled the person to shore.

The problem in real life, though, is the person often does not reach for the ring or hold fast to it.

I have found the same true with my life. I fail to reach for God. For many reasons I don’t feel I need God yet. I can do it myself. I’m too busy. Then when I need God, I can’t always see or find the lifeline God extends to me. I founder. But, when I reach out and cling tightly to God, I can make it through the treacherous waters of life. Christ leads me safely to sanctuary.

Prayer for Peace Saving Grace, be patient with us as we founder. Help us stay in touch with you by our spiritual practices. Help us grow closer to you with each prayer and Christ-like deed. We will then find you when we need you. Tug on the strings of our heart. Bring us home to you.

Spiritual Practice: Praying with a Partner Pray with a partner if possible, or imagine Christ sitting with you. The heart is a center of compassion and spiritual connection. Stand or sit across from your partner with hands open and palms up. Invite your partner to place their hands, palms down, on your hands. Close your eyes and be aware of the connection between your heart and your partner’s heart.

What needs, feelings, or longings do you sense? Invite God’s presence to flow into you and move from your heart to the heart of your partner. Feel or see God’s healing light and love flowing between your hearts. After silent prayer, thank God and your partner. Say, amen. (You also may pray this prayer by imagining a particular person across from you.)

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will hold fast to your Word.

God-size Job…We Need Not Apply

Wednesday, August 27

8-27By Deb Crowley, of Charlotte, Michigan

My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you. …Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will make straight your paths.

—Proverbs 3:1–2, 5–6, NRSV adapted

God is God, and we are not. These words from a sermon resonate loudly for me. The job of administrator of close to a hundred congregations is daunting. On good days, there is excitement, camaraderie, and the Holy Spirit, giving insight, energy, and hope.

Other days, there is dealing with conflict, anger, heartbreak, and overwhelmingly heavy burdens. Do you ever have days like that?

A couple of months ago I had a hard day. Bickering members in a few congregations saddened me. Financial woes that go with every charitable organization depressed me. I cried to God in frustration because no easy answers could relieve the pain and suffering. “Why, God? What can I possibly do to make a difference? People are too stubborn. They’ll never get along, and it’s just too hard! I want to quit before the dark hole swallows me!”

At my lowest point, God spoke. Not in a verbal voice, but through a message in my mind that was clear and concise. “All you have to do is love them. I’ve got everything else under control!”

I could feel the weight fall from my shoulders as God reminded me that God is God, and I am not.

There is no way I can carry the weight alone. No way to solve the problems of the world. No way to stop the bickering over insignificant concerns that stem from fear or a sense of loss. It is a God-size job!

It is my job to administrate justly and ethically. It is my Christ-like joy to love unconditionally and pastor with tenderness and patience. It is also my job to trust God as directed in Proverbs. God is God, and we are not. Bring on the challenges! With God anything is possible, and there are plenty of good days for those who faithfully rely on the Lord!

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, help us lay our burdens at your feet. Help us trust your love when life challenges us. We rely on you to help us share Christ’s peace.

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 be aware of your comforting presence when I face a challenge.

What Can I Do for You Today, God?

Tuesday, August 26

BibleBy Wendy Ballard of Forster, New South Wales, Australia

…do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

—Psalm 34:14 NRSV

Recently I had the privilege of conducting the memorial service of a 95-year-old disciple, with emphasis on the word disciple because she was. She was also faithful, prayerful, scripturally literate, and an inspiration to me. Whenever I visited her, we would pray. First I prayed. She would follow, thanking and praising God for life, her many blessings, and then—wonder of wonders—for me.

She shared with me her favorite scriptures, her significant hymns, her beloved people, and her love of writing and reading poetry. Here are a few lines from one of her poems, which I quoted at her celebration service:

I love my God, and God loves me, too,
without my faith what would I do?
God is my strength and my refuge, too,
God’s response is amazing and true.

I can remember thinking, she is 95 years old, and in life and near death, she still finds ways to proclaim her love of and total faith and trust in the Living God. I remember her morning prayer: “Dear God, what can I do for you today?” Wow! What if we prayed a prayer like that each day?

God relies on people like you and me to engage in mission. God needs us to share our experience of the Living Christ. Let us, like my friend, begin our day by asking God what we can do for Christ’s mission. Let us also listen for a response and then act. This opportunity might be the one waiting for our response.

Prayer for Peace Great Listener, we thank you for the mentors in our lives. Help us listen to them and by doing so come closer to you. May we then encourage others to listen for ways to share peace.

Spiritual Practice: Praying with a Partner Pray with a partner if possible, or imagine Christ sitting with you. The heart is a center of compassion and spiritual connection. Stand or sit across from your partner with hands open and palms up. Invite your partner to place his or her hands, palms down, on your hands. Close your eyes and be aware of the connection between your heart and your partner’s heart. What needs, feelings, or longings do you sense? Invite God’s presence to flow into you, and move from your heart to the heart of your partner. Feel or see God’s healing light and love flowing between your hearts. After silent prayer, thank God and your partner. Say, “Amen.” (You also may pray this prayer by envisioning a particular person across from you.)

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will do what you want me to do.

Community Expands and the World Seems Smaller

Monday, August 25

8-25a

Australians and Grover’s – IYF 2014

By Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

—Psalm 117 NRSV

Five young men from Australia became part of our family during their stay for the International Youth Forum (IYF) at the Temple and Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, this July. Brodey, Tarron, Zac, Sam, and Tim were delightful and generous guests who shared with us a glimpse into the similarities and differences of our cultures. They never did get used to vehicles and traffic being on the opposite side of the road from which they are accustomed.

On the first day of IYF, I walked into the Temple Sanctuary for the Prayer for Peace, and was immersed in the energy of nearly 1,000 young people from around the world. I was overwhelmed by the hope and potential these young people embody. What an amazing experience! My personal challenge is to live beyond the feeling of that moment. I want to be awake and ready to respond. I want to risk something new to be a blessing of God’s love and peace in the world. The great news is I’m not doing this alone. I am on this journey with my church family. We are on this journey with brothers and sisters around the world. Our community is ever expanding, and the world continues to get just a little smaller.

On the last night of their stay, we shared in a gathering with yet more Australians, as well as a group of young women from Tahiti. We learned how to play cricket and touch “footie,” and enjoyed some traditional Tahitian dancing. I marveled at the event that brought this particular group of young people, leaders, and host families together from different cultures to enjoy an evening of fun and companionship—transcending language and culture.

Events such as IYF and World Conference highlight the rich blessings of a diverse community. I feel at home among brothers and sisters from around the world, and as my sense of community is greatly expanded, the world grows smaller. I capture a glimpse of God’s vision for all of creation…each person finding voice and belonging in a community of oneness and equality.

How do we extend those experiences beyond church events happening every three or four years?

Becoming a radically invitational and welcoming community goes beyond our hospitality to those who walk through our doors. We have a message of hope and acceptance that has the potential to transform lives, communities, and the world. We do not keep it to ourselves; it is what “Christ’s Mission, Our Mission” is all about.

Prayer for Peace God of the wide world, God of the small world, bless us with hospitality inclusive of all. Expand our realm of concern; bring your finest details into focus. Help us gather your world into a community of 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 expand my community to the world and get to know its people personally.

Declare the Messiah

Sunday, August 24

8-24By Linda Booth, Council of Twelve Apostles

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

—Matthew 16:15–16 NRSV

Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” If Jesus asked you that question, how would you respond? Your answer makes all the difference in how you engage in Christ’s mission of evangelism, compassionate ministries, and justice and peacemaking.

I met a woman at a mission center conference. Over a meal, she shared her story. When she was 8 years old her father came into her room and kissed her goodnight. His attention was unusual. Sometime in the night she heard her mother talking to someone. She stood hidden as the police officer said her father had driven his car into a concrete wall at high speed. He was dead.

Her mother became withdrawn and distant. When she interacted with her daughter it was to criticize and belittle. On her 16th birthday, the daughter left home, barely surviving on her waitress tips.

At the diner where she worked, a kind couple always asked for seating in her section. One night they came in late for pie. During frequent stops at their table, the couple invited her to dinner in their home. She went, felt their compassion, and recently asked for baptism.

“For the first time in my life, I know that God loves me,” she said.

God needs people who will boldly confess that Jesus is the Messiah. God needs people willing to follow Jesus into the diners of life to find and befriend the lonely and to proclaim a God who loves the world and them.

Prayer for Peace Tender Shepherd, after our time of centering with you, send us to the margins—to the places where those on the margins of society are waiting for someone to share the peace of Jesus Christ.

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 widen my witness to include trash receptacles and ditches.

A Good Day at School

Saturday, August 23

8-23By Sherri Kirkpatrick of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

…I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty…I can do all things through God who strengthens me.

—Philippians 4:11–13, NRSV adapted

While in Zambia, we met the new headmaster, hired for the Kasompe School, sponsored by HealthEd Connect. His obvious ability and passion impressed us. Then we met with the school board and learned something unexpected. A board member said, “We have a problem. The new headmaster cannot read or write.”

Trying to appear calm while inwardly panicking, I asked for confirmation, “Can’t read or write?”

“Yes, that is a problem,” replied the board member. “That is why he is teaching nursery rather than fourth grade.” I took a long pause to recover. Then I asked, “What is the reason he can’t read or write?”

“He broke his glasses and cannot see,” they told me. I sighed in relief! We can fix that. So, we decided to advance him his first paycheck so he could get his eyes examined again and buy new glasses—we hope sooner rather than later.

We moved on to everyday matters. The usual lunch at our schools in Zambia consists of porridge (made of cornmeal and soya flour) or nshima (thick cornmeal) and beans. Because it was the last day of school before vacation, there was a special meal!

Our good friend, Gershom, wrote, “It was a good celebration. Food was just enough for all the children, the cooks, and the staff. We had nshima, chicken, salad, rice, and potatoes. This was a wonderful experience for the schoolchildren. Parents who were present were happy, and children took home a favorite treat, orange soda, to share with their families.”

This meal was a generous offering of love. It took more than 20 cooks, working over wood and charcoal fires, to prepare the 165 meals for Kasompe School and 259 meals for Chipulukusu School. Gershom called it a wonderful day.

Prayer for Peace Generous God, we pray most gratefully for the plenty you provide. May we partake mindfully. May we use the strength we gain to share the peace of Christ around the world.

Spiritual Practice: Reflection on Hunger Reflect on all the people and work that make our bread possible. See and remember the farmers growing and harvesting the grain; the millers, bakers, transportation workers, and grocers. Offer a prayer of gratitude and blessing for all who work to make our food. Ask for compassion and courage to offer bread to all who hunger.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be content with what I have in preparation to share.

Tikkun Olam

Friday, August 22

5-30

Barbara Howard

By Barbara Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

—Jeremiah 29:7 NRSV

A conversation with our Jewish daughter-in-law introduced us to Tikkun Olam, “to repair the world.” This is the heart of Judaism, she said. After our conversation, I realized that our Christian faith shares that calling and immediately thought of our friend, Linda.

Linda found her calling in a section of the city where poverty and unemployment are significant. She began walking the neighborhood and soon started a small mission. “Welcome Home” meets Sunday afternoons for worship and community, always sharing a meal as folks do when they are home.

On Tuesdays, she creates a scripture study, followed by a light supper. On Wednesdays, Welcome Home delivers “Love Lunches” to more than 30 people who live in places such as behind trash bins. Linda’s commitment is to feed the “whole person spiritually and physically.”

While Linda’s city widely extends beyond her congregation, she witnesses of a person who lives Tikkun Olam. Her commitment reminds me of my role as a disciple. While this offers many ways to serve, I believe God calls me to move beyond my sheltered walls. I am called to work in the political arena to end poverty. I am to see need in my congregation and respond.

I will welcome everyone, no matter who they are, into my world. There, I will try to repair any pain or deprivation I may experience. These also are ways to be a community of blessing.

Prayer for Peace God of hospitality, may we open our arms as you do and welcome the homeless. Help us open our heart to the city and the world. Let Christ’s peace flow like a river from our hearts to share with all.

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 have you felt 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 sense what act of blessing God invites you to complete for stranger and friend alike.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will seek the welfare of the city, because I love its people.