How Shall They Hear?

Tuesday, September 30

"G" is for God

“G” is for God

By Susie Shelton of Independence, Missouri, USA

The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval.

—Romans 14:18 NRSV

I worked for years as a court reporter, but it seemed no matter how hard I worked, my work never satisfied me. Then I discovered real-time captioning—listening to people speak and transcribing the words instantly to the screen. I continued practicing and going to seminars. However, I still felt something was missing. My chosen career left me unfulfilled.

One day I used my real-time captioning skills to help a hearing-impaired man in court. Providing help gave me a deep satisfaction. As a child I learned: All that we are and hope to be, we can dedicate to God and use to serve others.

Years later, I prayed for guidance for my role in Christ’s mission. Then, the Architect of my life turned the light on. I recalled how I felt helping the man in court. I wanted that feeling back. I took a course in sign language to understand better those who were deaf or hard of hearing. I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up. I gave up my concerns to God. It was like jumping into the unknown, trusting God to catch me.

At a university I used my skills to help students. I was their ears. I wanted to expand this service into a ministry. I started contacting churches. Many did not need what I had to offer. I continued honing my skills and praying for opportunities to serve.

One Sunday I stopped at three churches before I came to the Stone Church Congregation in Independence, Missouri. I shared my idea of captioning for hearing-impaired people. The pastor expressed interest. I first wrote the services for me to build my biblical dictionary.

The first Sunday I provided captioning, a woman who was sitting behind me was watching my screen. When the service was over, she thanked me and gave me a hug as tears streamed down her cheeks. Many hearing-impaired people attend this congregation, and I feel joy in making the ministry accessible to them. I hope captioning ministry will expand to other congregations.

Prayer for Peace Architect of life, help us structure our lives to serve those in need.

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 give up my hesitation to serve, and trust you to guide me.

Advertisements

Forgiveness is only an “Amen” Away

Monday, September 29

9-29By Deb Crowley of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, USA

Do not turn away in pride, fear, or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones. Come before your Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew. Be vulnerable to divine grace.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:10b

It was time for bedtime prayers, and 4-year-old Tyson wanted me to start. I prayed, “Dear Jesus, thank you for letting Tyson, and Uncle Dustin, and Papa get so much done on the house today, and…”

“Wait, Grammie,” Tyson interrupted. His eyes were wide, and with a serious manner he continued, “I didn’t really help because I couldn’t use the tools. I watched TV!” Somehow I got through the rest of the prayer while stifling my amusement!

I marvel at the honesty of a child—honesty before God! Oh, that I were as a child at times. Willingly admitting my failures and repenting of what I did or did not do through bedtime prayer, cleansing my soul through repentance. Knowing that forgiveness is only an “amen” away.

Jesus understood the innocence and breathtaking honesty of children. He challenged adults who became too rigid, fragile, and stubborn to become again as little children. Tyson’s experience to this point in his life helped him understand in some subliminal way that his admission would not bring rejection or scolding. That no matter what he said or did or did not do, God loved him unconditionally.

I, too, would be vulnerable before God, knowing that no matter my admission, God’s love, grace, and forgiveness wrap around me like blankets tucked around my sleeping grandson. How refreshing to think that on occasion, my admission might cause God to stifle a chuckle or two!

Prayer for Peace God of grace and wisdom, be patient with us when we forget to repent. We know you forgive us even before we ask. Bless us with the honesty of a child. Bless us with generosity to share Christ’s peace.

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 voice 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 Tonight, God, at my bedtime prayer, I will be vulnerable to your divine grace. Amen.

Be of One Mind and Heart

Sunday, September 28

Ron Harmon

Ron Harmon

By Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

—Philippians 2:1–5 NRSV

Recently, during leaders meetings in Independence, Missouri, a woman approached me after a question-and-answer session. She was concerned that she had not made herself understood as she shared her comments with a large group of leaders from the USA. I could sense her frustration, so I asked her to elaborate.

She shared about some challenges in her mission center and then shared her specific concern. As I listened carefully, I not only heard, but felt, the depth of her concerns. As I responded, her eyes began to well up. She nodded and affirmed that I understood her concern. I assured her I would share this with my colleagues.

Something powerful happens when we create the time and internal space to listen intently to one another. We find ourselves in the sacred space of another’s deepest concerns, hopes, and ideals. The space that separates us fades in significance as we connect at a level beneath intellect and abstract ideas. We connect as human beings. And, although we may not agree, we sense the great importance of our bond as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Perhaps this is what the author of Philippians meant when he wrote, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Prayer for Peace Listening God, we have faith that you hear and feel our deepest concerns. Weep with us, God, so we may have joy in the morning light. Help us know this joy comes from you.

Spiritual Practice: God’s Healing Light Today’s intercessory prayer comes from the Quaker tradition. Become still and turn your attention to God. Prayerfully identify a person in need of healing, blessing, or guidance. Close your eyes and imagine God’s presence surrounding the person. See or sense the person being held in God’s light. Continue holding the person in the light and release the person into whatever blessing God knows is needed. Words are not necessary. Trust the Spirit to see and penetrate more deeply than human awareness. Thank God and close with “Amen.”

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will listen deeply and with compassion to another’s need.

Blessed amid Difficulty

Saturday, September 27

Four Hands Joined TogetherBy Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. …When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.

—Psalm 34:15, 17 NRSV

When my son was fighting leukemia, drawing his bone-marrow was such a painful experience for him. He needed me to be right there, even though he was 25, and a parent himself. At first I tried holding his hands during the procedure, but he was too strong and nearly broke my fingers. So then I started massaging his scalp during the process as I prayed.

While I prayed, I imagined the hands of all our family and friends—I felt the whole church community had their hands right next to mine, providing love and support. It was a comfort to Zac, but so much more for me. It was something I could do. It helped take away some of the helplessness I felt. We lost him to the disease, but I could at least do something while he was with us!

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, open us to the many blessings you desire for us. Help us be receptive to your healing love. Help us share your love and the peace of Christ.

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 healing and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter? When and how has God’s voice spoken to you? How does the assurance of comfort come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will listen for your healing words and not feel helpless as someone suffers.

A Deep Stillness

Friday, September 26

9-26By Diane Sosebee of Evergreen, Alabama, USA

I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

—Psalm 121:1–2 NRSV

Early morning is my favorite time for meditation, Bible reading, and devotions. A desk sits in front of a window with a view of my small backyard and garden. Each morning I sit in silence and listen for God to say, “Be still and know that I am God.”

One morning, I became aware of a deeper stillness and silence. No birds at the feeders, no hummingbirds hovering, no butterflies fluttering. Not even a leaf moved in a breeze. I looked to the hills and felt close to God, who created them.

I recognized the sacredness of that moment, when everything was silent before God. How many times a day do I miss sacred moments because I can’t be still; because I don’t listen? It was a humbling experience of seeing creation in stillness before the Creator, and hearing God in the silence.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, only you can speak so meaningfully without words—so forcefully without stirring the atoms. Only you can call to us from the hills by filling our eyes with the wonders of your creation. May we respond to your peaceful offerings by sharing the peace with others.

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. Look and listen for God in all creation. 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 find you in the deep stillness.

To Cry or to Scream?

Thursday, September 25

9-25By Glenn Johnson of Covina, California, USA

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…”

—Luke 4:18 NRSV

Sometimes injustice is obvious and so close that we want to cry out and to shout to God or anyone who will listen. It was my first time to drive the car as our congregation delivered “Wednesday love lunches” to the hungry among our friends without homes. I had no idea what to expect.

We drove behind a gas station, and Scott handed a sack lunch and a water bottle to David, a man in his 70s. He was in a wheelchair, his neck in a brace, both legs missing. How could it be that a man in this condition lived behind a gas station? I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream.

Then a man pushing a shopping cart slowly approached me on the driver’s side. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’m kind of slow,” he said. And then I saw he had only one leg and needed the shopping cart for support. Still bewildered, I handed him his lunch, and Scott directed me to our next stop.

Our 36 lunches were not enough to meet the needs we saw that day. Two people living without homes in our community had died just the week before.

Let us open our eyes to see the hidden injustices around us this day, and let us cry out that we might be mediators of God’s peace.

Prayer for Peace O God of justice, give us strength to serve and courage to cry out against injustices we see. Hear our prayers and bring us closer to the source of all peace so we might be voices for the afflicted.

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 through faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise?

Spend a few moments reflecting on when and how God’s voice speaks to you. When did you first feel called to join God in the pursuit of peace and justice? How does that call to shalom continue to come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will raise my voice as well as my eyebrows when I see injustice.

Soften My Heart, Lord

Wednesday, September 24

9-24

Gary McDonald

By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

…do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.

—Psalm 34:14–15 NRSV

I never thought of my earthy father as righteous. On the surface, he looked and behaved like everyone else, unlike my immature opinion of Jesus.

Dad grew up during the Depression years of the 1930s. Like his peers, he was rough, tough, and fiercely determined to be independent and self-supporting. When he connected with the church, Jesus softened his heart.

I witnessed Dad helping those who in need. His brother, Mickey, suffered from alcoholism after his service in World War II. Mickey spent many of his postwar years in an alcohol-induced haze.

Every so often, Dad would take me, and we would go look for him. We searched alleys and itinerant settlements along the Spokane River. We would find him beat up and hung over. Dad would bring him home, and Mickey would sober up at our place. He would play with us kids and eventually return to the streets. Eventually Mickey met a young woman, fell in love, and sobered up permanently.

My father helped people outside the family, too. One day there was a knock at our door. It was my father’s former supervisor, now selling cleaning products door-to-door. The last time we saw him was when he fired my father, who had covered for this man’s inadequacies at work. Clearly, his incompetence had caught up with him.

Dad treated his former boss like a long-lost brother, inviting him into our home and buying products from him. The man was humbly grateful. This amazed me because I wasn’t sure I could be as generous. Dad’s actions stand in my memory as acts of righteousness followed with forgiveness as taught by Christ.

Prayer for Peace God of the peace we seek, guide us to the life of Christ so we know how to find it. Help us accept one another, no matter our differences. Help us forgive one another, no matter the hurt.

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

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will not slam the door, but invite one who has hurt me into my home.

Priceless Legacy

Tuesday, September 23

9-23By Vivian Betts of Nottinghamshire, East Midlands, England

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

—Jeremiah 31:33 NRSV

My grandma was an amazing woman. She was never happier than when sharing what she had. During the war she took people into her home, and her spare bedroom was constantly in use. She would help anyone in financial need.

When I was young we did not own a car, and church was half an hour’s walk away. As we had four services to attend on Sunday, I would spend lunch and dinner with my grandparents. She let me help with the cooking, and she talked constantly about the church she had found as a young woman and the difference it made in her life.

She relied a lot on Granddad, but when he was 68 he was killed in a car accident. She went on to live until she was 97, spending her last years in Peace Haven, Britain’s Community of Christ residential home. When she died she had no financial assets. She had spent her years giving it away. Yet what she left for me were special memories of a woman who lived her life as a vivid example of Jesus Christ, and I thank God for her.

Prayer for Peace God of all generations, keep our covenants fresh in our hearts. We would respect the memories of our ancestors and carry forward traditions of generosity and peace.

Spiritual Practice: Connecting with God as Center Connect with God through journal writing or contemplation. Open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind. Your “communication with God” might include thoughts, questions, feelings, needs, artwork, quotes, or scriptures. Or it might take the form of a prayer, psalm, or poem. Try to write or meditate at least five minutes each day.

What do you experience? Is this an effective way to connect with God? What surprises you? How do you feel God’s love? What deepens or changes in your relationship with God, Christ, Spirit?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will remember whose I am.

The Summons

Monday, September 22

White Birch in Front of Maple TreesBy John Bonney of Springfield Oregon, USA

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord…

—Psalm 98:7–9 NRSV

The trees are almost bare, signaling the approach of the most wonderful time of year for me. In the winter months, the trees are dark, stark, and bare. They stand bleakly against the sky, showing their naked, gnarly bones. It is a sight with which I never grow bored. On an unadorned winter morning, I see such imaginative, creative gifts of the eternal Presence. The trees, stand, waiting for the summons to fulfill their purpose.

Soon spring unfolds, and those same unadorned trees find another season of expression. The leaves appear in their small light-green, almost yellow jackets. In time…in time, those same leaves become full, darker green, and glorious. They dress the tree in a verdant robe. They sing silent praise of the presence of the One who created them.

Time passes, and I see the trees of early summer. Decked in lush and deep green, in yet another stage of their splendor, they display their leafy tresses as if they were the only specimen on the block. They are gray-green, blue-green, and many more greens between.

In September the cycle comes to another completion. Not ending, but continuing to the next cycle. The leaves find their purpose. They take on a varied and glorious color palette to express their wonder at creation. Then the leaf falls and fulfills its purpose, completing its journey on Earth.

We, too, as humans feel the journey. Each season includes joy and pain. We see the passing of those we know, those who are close to us. It hurts, and we find relief in the memories of cycles past. We are left to watch others move on. We remember the lives we shared. Thank you, God, for continuing creation’s cycle.

Prayer for Peace You bring us home, God, when we have nowhere else to go. Thank you for the seasons and cycles of the Earth. Thank you for the renewal of creation, which delights us, and the comforting return of the familiar. Return us to peace.

Spiritual Practice: All That Lives Take a walk and find a tree where you can sit (or imagine walking). Lean against the tree and feel the texture of the bark. Listen to the wind move through the leaves. Sense God’s presence flowing through the tree and all creation. Offer a prayer of gratitude for your connection to all that lives. Ask for grace to discern and carry out one small act of justice or healing that creates greater wholeness for the planet, the community of creation.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will cherish the present season.

Live the Gospel

Sunday, September 21(Heritage Day)

9-21By Richard Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

…but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons…Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

—Matthew 10:6–10 NRSV

Today’s scripture tells of Jesus’ commission to his disciples to spend their lives bringing healing and hope to people in desperate need. They were to trust the Spirit to lead them. They were to travel light—no money, no baggage, no extra clothing. Jesus was already their role model, for scriptures tell us he had no place to lay his head as he shared his life with others so fully.

Elkana and Alicia Odupa of Kenya, Africa, sensed deeply a call to travel and set up their home and family among the Turkana people of Nakwamekwi. The village was on the brink of economic and social collapse. Consumption of alcohol had become epidemic, and the whole population was desperate.

The Odupas began working with the citizens, introducing agricultural and handcraft skills that within several months worked a transformative miracle among people of all ages in Lodwar and Nakwamekwi.

Elkana and Alicia, members of Community of Christ, also introduced the Christian gospel to the people. Soon more than 50 people united with the church through baptism. Equally important, the community left its destructive life patterns by embracing the gospel. People healed their addictions and built vocational opportunities that rescued families from poverty, disease, and despair. This was redeeming and transforming work.

All of this happened a generation ago, because Elkana and Alicia Odupa found great joy in living the gospel. They were foundational witnesses and part of the heritage we claim today.

Prayer for Peace Tender Shepherd, lead us to your lost sheep. Help us be faithful to the good news of the kingdom, not the polls of approval from the world. May we be laborers for peace.

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 rediscover my testimony in preparation to share the invitation.