Choose God

Friday, October 31

10-31By Terry Smith of Naples, Florida, USA

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

—Romans 8:28 NRSV

My meeting with Michael was near the airport, where he had an aviation business. He was a friend, as well as a client, and our business together allowed me to fly his twin aircraft.

Michael was unusually quiet. He finally told me a close friend had crashed his own airplane in the Everglades, killing himself and his wife. A grieving Michael looked at me intently, and asked, “Do you believe in life after death?”

It was no longer a business lunch.

Michael was religious. He was a lifelong, observant, and obedient Catholic. But this tragic event shook his faith. His faith journey slammed to a stop while he considered the most profound question facing people. Michael was asking me, “Is there a God?”

How does one answer? Science is not applicable and can only add more questions. Often science dissolves, leaving us with subjective conviction. So I testified.

I told Michael of worship experiences when I “sensed a presence.” I told him of harboring a hatred that was eating at me, from which I felt healed by the Holy Spirit. I told him I railed at circumstances I could not control, and I felt healed when the elders prayed for me. I told him of when God chose to save my life, and that of 400 sleeping sailors. Where was the proof? I had none, but I believe it because I could not account for it any other way.

Scriptures testify of God’s love for us. They offer hope, of which God is the source. They tell us God calls us according to God’s purpose for us, and that we are a worthy investment. I told him that choosing to believe was respectable. We can model our universe with or without God, but God’s presence changes everything for the better. God offers us hope and forgiveness and what Apostle Paul called inner strength. God offers the promise of peace and a community of loving people.

God or no God? Both are conclusions based on the lack of repeatable evidence. I choose God—it is a far better way of life.

Faith begins as a whisper and finally becomes the voice of conviction. Faith is like falling in love with Holiness, and Holiness loves you back.

Michael began to feel better. The act of discussion, probably as therapeutic as my testimony, strengthened faith. I don’t know about his, but it strengthened mine.

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, help us develop inner strength so we may share your peace.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. The practice of 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.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will weigh the evidence of creation and choose you.

Long-distance Prayers

Thursday, October 30

10-30By Linda Porter of Maryland Heights, Missouri, USA

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.

—1 Peter 3:12 NRSV

My daughter had a condition that caused her joints to pop out of place. This was painful and dangerous. When she had a job teaching at night in a town seven miles away, she had a terrible incident that needed long-distance prayers.

Jeni was going to her car and dropped her keys. As she bent to pick them up, her ribs dislocated and pressed against her lungs. She couldn’t breathe or move without pain. As she made it into her car, she knew she had to navigate home. She prayed all the way.

Because this was before cell phones, Jeni prayed alone. She knew she would not be able to turn her head or move without severe pain. She went in faith. As she approached intersections, the lights changed, and she could drive through. As she approached the busy highway, there was a break in traffic, and she could enter and drive without worry. As she exited the highway, she again had green lights all the way home.

Jeni crawled up the steps into the house and across the floor. She knelt at the sofa, where she struggled to breathe. Her grandmother found her there and called me and my husband. The people we were visiting stood and joined us in offering long-distance prayers. Our elderly aunt took Jeni’s hands and prayed. Jeni now had a good support group praying for her. She made a sudden small movement and heard her ribs pop back into alignment. She could breathe again.

As we rushed to her side, I thought how I had felt a power leaving our circle so far from Jeni and how those prayers joined with others. The x-rays later showed where Jeni’s ribs had bruised and nearly punctured her lungs. The doctor could not imagine how she could have done what she did with such injuries.

Jeni healed that night. She healed in God’s perfection and has had no more painful incidents of joint or bone distress. Today, she will tell you that God hears prayers of faith. And I know that even long-distance prayers are never too far away.

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, you know our needs even before we utter them. You know our concern for our loved ones. You see us and know us more deeply than we know ourselves. Know that we pray to you in faith, trusting that you hear.

Spiritual Practice: Intercessory Reflection Sit quietly with your eyes closed as you enter intercessory reflection and prayer. Ask God to bring persons who need prayer to your mind and heart. Be open to images of the persons or spiritual insight into their needs. Listen for signals from their lives and let the depth of God’s love for them become powerful and real to you. Ask God to help you see ways to affirm and support them when you meet them in daily life.

Peace Covenant Today, God, as you hear my prayer, I will hear and respond to the needs of another.

Guilty, without Feeling Guilt

Wednesday, October 29

10-29By Vera Entwistle of Eugene, Oregan, 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…

—Romans 14:17–18 NRSV

I have one skill down to a fine art: the laying on of guilt…upon myself. On my long “to-do” list I was to shop for the ingredients to make a pie for the potluck at church.

As I wandered around the store loading food in my cart, I began to realize this pie would not be cheap! Just then, I noted a “special” sign, and I went to see what the bargain was. Dozens of pies were on display. They included every variety of fruit pie. They all looked delicious. Best of all, they were not expensive!

Then my struggle began! The good steward in me said that buying a pie would be far cheaper than making one. However, what will I say if anyone asks, “Who made this pie?” Worse yet, someone might ask me for the recipe! And, chances are other wonderful, homemade masterpieces would surround my ready-made pie.

On the other hand, think of the time I would save! On and on went the inner wrangling as I tried to decide what to do.

Another shopper saw me standing there and said, “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Why do I spend hours, sweating over a hot stove baking pies, when these are so cheap?’”

I laughed and admitted I had a church potluck to prepare for and wondered if showing up with a store-bought pie would embarrass me. She told me she often bought pies and then slipped them into one of her own glass dishes before taking them to church. We agreed that we humans often make life far more stressful than it needs to be.

So, I walked back up and down the aisles, returning the pie ingredients, and then I selected a fruit pie. I would take it to the potluck but would not slip it into one of my own dishes. Instead, I would attach a label saying, “Store-bought and carefully selected by Vera.” Then I went home, sat in a comfortable chair, and read my store-bought book!

Prayer for Peace Generous God, help us make Responsible Choices for spending our time. May we use our hands to bless others. Help us use more time for sharing the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Hand Ministry Place your hand on a piece of paper and trace around it to create an outline. Add details of fingernails, wrinkles, or skin color if desired. Look at your hand and meditate about what you do with your hands each day. Ask God to direct your thoughts to a person in need of blessing, kindness, or healing touch. Pray for wisdom about the specific act needed by this person and decide how and when you will use your hands to complete this ministry.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will spend some time reading my store-bought Bible.

The Leaves Keep Falling

Tuesday, October 28

Autumn LeavesBy Paul McCain of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

—Romans 14:19 NRSV

Across the street from my front door is a huge maple tree. Next to the driveway are two large Bradford pear trees. In the middle of the yard is a tall pin oak—the kindest tree, because it drops its leaves sparingly throughout the winter and spring. The others are relentless leaf-droppers, and the scene needs much attention with leaf blower, yard rake, snow shovel, and compost bins.

Like many tasks, if not attended to several times over the fall and winter, the mess becomes harder to cope with. The blower coaxes the leaves into piles, preferably on the drive or street, so I then can scoop them up with the snow shovel and load them into containers. Then I smash the leaves in the compost pile to make room for more. It is worthwhile work.

I find the same in other areas of life. Consequences develop in my spiritual life if I do not attend to the daily leaves that fall. These leaves are the insensitive treatment of friends and family, less-than-thoughtful reaction to requests by co-workers, and any response of mine that does not show how much I value people. I find this causes pain much worse than back pain. This too, is worthwhile work.

I give thanks for understanding the burdens that these “leaves” make. I give thanks to the Lord as we build better habits of encouragement and peace while interacting with others in life.

Prayer for Peace God of the seasons, may we build peace throughout the year. Help us respond to others with kindness every day. When we fail, help us pursue what makes for peace.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the words sink deeply into your mind, heart, and body. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”?

Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and everyone. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How does God invite you to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be consistent in my spiritual practices for peace.

Variation on an Arizona Theme

Monday, October 27

Low angle view of rock formations, Utah, USABy Pat Marmoy of Independence, Missouri, USA

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

—Psalm 36:5–7 NRSV

Shortly after arriving in Mesa, Arizona, for our annual winter stay, I stopped to soak in the brilliant sunset. One feature I enjoy about Arizona is that sunsets offer many colors. The scene changes so fast that if you do not take time to enjoy it, it is gone.

When we first started spending winters in Arizona, people commented about how nice it must be to escape the cold, messy winters in Missouri to spend time in warm, sunny Arizona. I would respond, “But I like snow.” Later I realized what I meant was that I like seasons—all four, distinct seasons.

People are curious to hear me say I enjoy the rain. Day after day of 70-degree, clear-sky weather in Mesa becomes monotonous for me. Bring on the rain, and let me sit on a porch and listen to its rhythm and enjoy its fresh smell.

Traveling through Utah I found the rock shapes and formations visually interesting. Just when I thought that God could not create one more variation on the theme of rock formations, we would happen on new ones.

When I think of all the diversity in God’s creation of plants, geology, weather, animals, and people, I am not only intrigued, but thankful. What a boring place it would be if we had only one type of flower, one scene of the setting sun, and—most of all—one look and culture for all of God’s people.

We welcome the diversity of nature yet find it harder to accept the diversity of people. To be honest, some variations in humans irritate me. But surely the differences in human personality, attitudes, behaviors, and perspectives must be a delight to God. So, I have begun to try to see diversity as God does. What a difference it makes when we purposely choose to enjoy the uniqueness of someone rather than try to make that person fit our expectation. Thank God for diversity!

Prayer for Peace Steadfast Creator who offers various and spontaneous blessings, may we embrace your creation anew. Help us learn ways to share Christ’s peace with different people.

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 and people too different or “dangerous” to invite into your spiritual home. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers that keep us from loving one another.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will look beyond the ordinary to find the extraordinary.

Commanded to Love

Sunday, October 26

Ron Harmon

Ron Harmon

By Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles

 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

—Matthew 22:37–39 NRSV

I recently had opportunity to share with a gay man whose greatest struggle is accepting that he is worthy of love. It is hard for many of us to imagine such a world, but for many it is a daily struggle. Words are powerful. Over time, they affirm our basic worth as individuals or gradually erode our sense that God loves us and we are children of God.

This young man was not a Community of Christ member. He came across the words of Doctrine and Covenants 164:5:

…Former ways of defining people by economic status, social class, sex, gender, or ethnicity no longer are primary. Through the gospel of Christ a new community of tolerance, reconciliation, unity in diversity, and love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God.

These words prophetically envisage a creation where our primary identity finds itself in our community with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. As the man read these words, the Holy Spirit bore witness of his inherent worth in the eyes of God. It was a turning point in his life and began a long journey of restoring a healthy sense of self-worth—of being lovable.

In Matthew 22 Jesus is clear about what matters most. How we, in love and word, change lives of those who have yet to hear the restoring and redeeming message of Christ’s love. We often think we are just one person or that our witness does not have much effect.

In a world more often characterized by fear and separation than love and community, the words of Doctrine and Covenants 161:3c encourage us:

Be assured that love will overcome the voices of fear, division, and deceit.

Prayer for Peace Loving God, we thank you for continual assurances of your love. May we be aware of those who might not know of your love. Help us assure them through word and witness that you love them.

Spiritual Covenant: Honoring the Worth of All Persons Read Psalm 139:13–18. Imagine God watching you grow in your mother’s womb. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)? Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and everyone. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant

Today, God, I will express my love for you by showing love to a neighbor.

Waiting in Line? Not so Bad!

Saturday, October 25

10-25By Dustin Davis of Los Angeles, California, USA

…so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith…

—Romans12:5–6 NRSV

I like to go to theme parks to escape the mundane world. It’s not unusual to strike up a conversation with people around you in the long lines.

One morning while waiting, my friend, Carla, and I met Jessica and her younger sister, Lindsay, who had come from another city. They shared in our excitement, and, later we were happy to share our place in line for one of the new rides. Afterward, we said good-bye and hoped to see them again.

Not long after that, we met a young man named Jason, with whom we instantly clicked. Before we knew it, we were wandering around the park together, sharing our stories. We continued to meet him throughout the day, and we saved a spot for him at an evening show.

We also made friends with two new high school graduates, Rebecca and another Jason, while waiting in line. They were hungry, so we promised to save their spot in line so they could go eat. Delighted to not lose their spot, they came back with ice cream to share. We spent the rest of the time in line laughing and getting to know each other. When we got to the front of the line, we all rode together.

Sometimes I was in the most unlikely places and with unlikely strangers that we found community. We met such friendly people at every turn. Instead of simply experiencing our excitement and enthusiasm with each other, we shared it with others, multiplying it.

We long for deep and real connections, hard to come by in our fast-paced and social-media-driven society. Be ready to share the peace of Christ wherever you may find yourself—at work, school, the gym, your home, or even standing in a long line. For a few joy-filled hours that day, we experienced one of the Blessings of Community.

Prayer for Peace God of the universal community, help us always be aware of opportunities to connect with people and to share moments of blessing.

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 discern what act of blessing God invites you to complete.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will not waste my time while in line…I will use it to share peace.

Holy is the Name of the Lord

Monday, October 24

10-24aBy Ward Serig of Pensacola, Florida, USA

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel said: “Blessed be the name of God from age to age, for wisdom and power are his. …He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him.”

—Daniel 2:19–20, 22 NRSV

God of Shalom, eternal Presence, God of networks, we connect with you. Faithful God, whispering God, merciful God, God of the vulnerable, God of enduring love, we respond to your love.

Divine Presence, Creator God, God of hope, God of the oppressed, free us now.

Stronghold in times of trouble, God of the universe, God within our hearts, burden-lifting God, listening God, God of the open doors, welcome us home.

God of wisdom and knowledge, God of the downpour, God of the mist, healing and compassionate God, Center, Rock, Pillar, Root.

As I studied the images of God expressed in the prayers for peace in the 2012 Daily Bread, these were among the ways used to address God in January alone. Scanning the prayers for the rest of the year, I note more than 140 terms, trying to portray God’s nature. Perhaps the title which best summed it up was used February 29, “God of Many Names.”

I find that often I spend as much time meditating on the character of God expressed in the daily prayer as on the message of the article itself. I am grateful for my faith in a God whose nature is beyond all description and human understanding and yet is intensely personal and involved in all creation.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty!

Prayer for Peace YHWH, unpronounceable, indescribable, and mysterious God, we dare utter your name. Love has overcome our fear of the unknown. Love reaches out and inspires our words of praise. We do not try to capture your essence, holy One, but to ponder your limitless presence.

Spiritual Practice: Many Names of God In many languages, God’s name contains “ahh,” a sound we make when we breathe out or sigh. Our prayer will use the aah names for God with a gentle arm movement that opens us to God’s presence. Begin with hands in front of you at chest level and move them up and in a large arc or circle as you breathe out each name for God.

You may speak the name of God or find a single musical note to hold or chant as you sing God’s name. 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. Say or sing “amen” to close.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will call to you with my heart, knowing you will hear and respond.

Home at Last

Thursday, October 23

10-23By Melba Jean Dixon of Farwell, Michigan, USA

“Agree with God, and be at peace; in this way good will come to you.”

—Job 22:21 NRSV

Frank and Carol were seeking a church to attend—a place where they would feel comfortable and welcome. Both were previously baptized in other denominations. Each became dissatisfied.

Frank worked at a hardware store with Glen, a member of Community of Christ. Frank and Carol decided to try Glen’s church. They entered and felt a connection when they saw Dee, who had brought ministry to them many years before.

It was Communion Sunday, and the congregation’s pastor, Dean, was presiding. During his Communion thoughts, Dean invited all who came with faith in Christ to take part in the bread and wine. Carol said Dean’s invitation brought to her a feeling of acceptance. She and Frank experienced a welcoming presence, and they continued to attend.

At a later service, as I prepared to give the message, I felt an urge to issue an invitation to the congregation. During my message, I explained the church’s new policy, “Baptism, Confirmation, and Church Membership,” which provides a way for previously baptized people to become members of the church through confirmation. At the close of the service Carol told me that she and Frank wanted confirmation as members of Community of Christ!

Frank and Carol received the sacrament of confirmation on a Communion Sunday in 2012. The sanctuary filled with a spirit of peace and joy. Members of the congregation love and welcome them.

They are a blessed addition to our church family as they bring their cheerfulness and gifts of music. They are eager to pitch in and work on any project. The Farwell Congregation welcomes their first new members by confirmation, and Frank and Carol have finally found a church to call home.

Prayer for Peace Welcoming God, may those who come seeking a spiritual home find a welcoming and open community. And further, may we go out to find those who are waiting. Help us share Christ’s peace with them.

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 open my heart to the urging of your Spirit.

GPS: God Positioning System

Wednesday, October 22

10-22By Joann Condit of Phoenix Arizona, USA

Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I. …Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.

—Isaiah 52:6, 8 NRSV

It was a matted and scruffy-looking toy fox, the beloved and constant companion of our 5-year-old grandson. The fox went with Tyler; his brother, Stephen; his parents; and Pa; and me to California to visit relatives. The house was full of family, and all the beds spoken for. Our grandsons slept in our sleeping bags.

Tyler and 8-year-old Stephen played hard all that day. By bedtime Tyler was tired and cranky. He needed to cuddle his fox and go to sleep. Alas, the fox was nowhere to be found, and Tyler was inconsolable. First Pa and I looked, then brother, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins joined the foxhunt. We thoroughly searched the house and the big backyard—even the tree house.

Outside lights shone brightly, and flashlights probed the corners. No fox. Tyler cried himself to sleep. His beloved fox had vanished from sight but not from his heart. He mourned.

Some 10 months later, I went to a women’s retreat and unrolled my sleeping bag onto a top bunk. When I climbed up, I found a large lump in the bottom of the bag. I hoped no one had put some unlovely object in there! Cautiously, I unzipped and folded back the bag to reveal…yes, the fox! The lost was found and gratefully and lovingly received home by Tyler.

We humans don’t resemble lost toys, but we do lose sight of God and become inconsolable. We are assured that God continues to love us, to search for us when we are lost, to make the divine voice known to us. Listen, for it is God who speaks. We reunite in love.

Prayer for Peace We are listening, God. Speak so we may find our way back to you.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom, God’s dream of beauty and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the voice of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise?

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 be guided by your voice and consoled by your Spirit.