T is for Thankful!

Tuesday, November 4

11-4By Gwen Simpson of Lamoni, Iowa, USA

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

—Psalm 16:11 NRSV

When our sons were young, every November we would get a piece of poster board and write in large letters at the top, “T is for Thankful.” Each evening, just before bedtime prayers, we all would think of things for which we were thankful. With pens or pencils we drew on the poster board and let the rest of the family guess what we had drawn. We drew pictures in the beginning because the boys were too small to spell. It was fun guessing what each child drew.

Throughout the month our poster filled with drawings. After the typical pictures of mom, dad, brother, our house, and friends, it became a game to see who could think up something new. Toilet paper, zippers, safety pins, fingernails, and doorknobs were some of our more unusual ideas. Each year we compared it to the previous year’s board to see if we had thought of more blessings than before.

The boys have grown now and have kids of their own. But each November, I remember that long-ago tradition. Throughout the month that joyful memory reminds me to count my blessings. The list is always long. I find when my heart fills with gratitude my whole attitude is different. I am more thoughtful, more caring, and yes, more joyful. At this busy time of year, that is a blessing in itself!

Prayer for Peace Generous God, we have so much for which to be thankful. Help us be aware of each blessing in our lives. Help us look on every day of the year as a blessing of your love and 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 voices as you receive these impressions. Listen deeply to the unique gifts and needs of the children who come to mind. Offer a prayer of blessing for each child and the needs you sense. If you feel led, you also may want to write a note or card and give a message of affirmation and love to each child.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will look right under my nose and find blessings too many to list.

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Consider What Is God’s

Sunday, October 19

10-19By Jane Gardner, president of Quorum of High Priests

…Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

—Matthew 22:21 NRSV

I often get my priorities mixed up. It’s so easy to selfishly place myself first, ahead of faithful discipleship. One Sunday a young, single mother and her two daughters showed up at church. With a judgmental sigh, I thought, “The only time we ever see her is when she needs money.” My attitude lacked grace!

At the end of the service, I happened to be at the coat rack when this young woman was there. As I put my coat on and reached into my pocket for my gloves, I found instead some money. I had no idea where it had come from. I didn’t remember putting the bills in my pocket.

An internal voice prompted, “Give her the money.” I argued back, “I also have two kids, and they have many needs. We don’t have money to spare.” By the time I finished this conversation with myself and came to my senses, the young woman was gone, and the opportunity had passed. To this day, I confess that unchristian behavior.

Prayer for Peace God, forgive us, sinners. All comes from you, generous God. Help us as we strive to place you at the center of our living and our giving. Help us make your mission our top priority!

Spiritual Practice: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart Open your heart to God’s Grace and Generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breathing slow and deepen. Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity. With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. Let your heart expand to contain God’s gracious outpouring of love. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will remember I am steward over your wealth.

Prayers for Central America

Saturday, October 11

10-11By Kendra Friend of Independence, Missouri, USA

God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a

Our prayers are still with the people in Central America, where several days of torrential rains in October 2011 led to flooding and mudslides. We lost lives, crops, homes, and infrastructure. The storm is still affecting the community.

Apostle Carlos Enrique Mejia reported: “The country that has suffered the most damage is El Salvador where, according to official figures, 1,300 millimeters of rain fell in seven days. This is equal to three times what falls during a typical winter month, and is double what fell during Hurricane Mitch in 1998!”

Said Gonzalo Mejia, president of the Central America Mission Center: “It was devastating to see several families lose everything and other families remove mud from inside their homes.”

A team provided basic needs and mattresses and prepared 100 care packages. Your contributions to the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Mission Initiative helped support a $10,000 relief grant to one of the hardest-hit areas. Thank you for your generous response.

Prayer for Peace God who hears our cries above the storms, thank you for the community’s response to those who suffer. Keep us vigilant that we may be aware of poverty and need. As we share our funds, may we also share Christ’s peace.

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 capable of giving 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 listen for the voice of Christ leading me to lost lambs.

Excuses…Spilled onto the Floor

Saturday, October 4

10-4By Callie Streich of Independence, Missouri, USA

“…When you are in the service of your companion beings you are only in the service of your God.”

—Mosiah 1:49, adapted

How often do we take a hard look at ourselves? It might be like going into our mind’s cellar, grabbing an old canning jar off the shelf, and beginning to pry open the rusted lid. When that proves too difficult, we put the jar back, next to all the other dusty relics. We save it for another day…when the jar is not so hard to open.

During the summer of 2002, I went to Zambia with an international volunteer program that allows young adults and adults to take part in intercultural experiences. Zambia and all of Africa has a way of finding its way into your heart and soul and setting up camp. I remember the faces, smells, sights, and sounds…all of them are now part of me.

I am lousy with directions. (My husband bought me a global positioning system and joked that if I got lost, it was now a customer-service issue, not his.) However, I can remember my village, those nearby, and how to navigate in and between them.

Of all the events in my life until then, the experiences of that summer are the most vivid. Zambia still tugs at my heart, but I was at a loss for how to reach out.

A source of recent inspiration for me is someone who devotes time to the HealthEd Connect Mentor Program. She works with orphaned children in Zambia. To bring awareness to her work and to raise money, she ran a marathon. I have never been a runner, but I decided I want to run a half marathon (because I’m only half-crazy) to raise money for this amazing program.

HealthEd Connect provides education, counseling, health education, and services that save lives in Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nepal. My goal is to raise a specific amount of money. Even if I don’t reach my goal, every bit helps.

In my right hand, in that dank, dark cellar, I hold the jar labeled, “What do I have to offer?” In my left hand is the opened lid…excuses spilled onto the floor.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, help us discover in ourselves, a need to reach out to relieve suffering in the world. If we can’t run a marathon, God, help us run half a marathon for peace.

Spiritual Practice: Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Read and reflect on John 21:15–17 as a meditation. Draw your mind to places where people have no homes. Think of refugees whose homes were destroyed by war or natural disaster. Be aware of the hungry and homeless, who wander the streets or live in shelters. Let the images fill your mind. Offer a prayer for those who suffer. Imagine Christ tending those sheep. Think of ways you might end their suffering as part of your mission. Throughout the day, carry in your mind the voice of Christ saying: “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.”

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will set a goal for supporting a worthy outreach program.

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.

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.

A Little or a Lot—It Matters Not

Saturday, September 20

9-20By Mary Palko of Gladstone, Michigan, USA

A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

—Mark12:42–44 NRSV

Several years ago, I considered myself privileged to attend a worship service in another congregation. It surprised me that it did not include a Disciple’s Generous Response or any offertory. Being a congregational financial officer in my home congregation, I wondered why. I had the opportunity to talk with the pastor after everyone left.

He told me that most people who attended the services come from low-income households—many below poverty level. He did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, so he put the offering plate in a back corner of the church, where people discreetly could give their offerings.

The pastor was sincere in his concern for his congregation, but I would have chosen differently. I remembered the story of the widow’s mite and President Steve Veazey’s story about the little girl who was excited to place her postage stamp in the collection plate. The generosity of those considered financially poor continually astounds me. They, too, know the importance of sharing so no one goes without.

Knowing poverty firsthand, they know its heartbreak. They can choose to help abolish it. It provides the opportunity to give our offering of any size to receive blessing and to be a blessing. This joy is one we should not deny anyone.

Prayer for Peace God of the rich and the poor, bless us as we give what we can give. Whether we give a little or a lot—we know it will bless someone.

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 for creation. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities of 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 will honor the gifts of others.

Knit 1, Pray 2

Saturday, September 13

9-13By Joann Condit of Phoenix, Arizona, USA

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

—Romans 12:6–8 NRSV

I am a part of Guideposts’ Knit for Kids project, serving for the last nine years. We are a large group of knitters who make sweaters for children in need of warmth all over the world. We are fast closing in on a million sweaters completed.

At the time I write this, I personally am finishing sweater number 294. There are those whose total is much higher, and some who produce perhaps two or three sweaters a year. It doesn’t matter how many sweaters one completes; each recipient receives a blessing with a new and warm sweater, knitted with love.

I believe that most knitters are like me. We try to use tasteful combinations of colors, and we strive to make each one unique, though we work from a common, overall pattern. As we knit, we imagine the child who will receive that particular sweater. We knit our prayers into each one.

We choose to give of our time in this way. We knit on long trips. We knit while watching television, and while waiting for meals. We knit every chance we get. Other people choose other ways. Some people work at food banks or volunteer in schools and hospitals. Some give money, and some lift their prayers for the good of others. Some give the gift of a smile or a listening ear. There are as many gifts to give as there are people to receive them.

May we each find a way to give today—to give liberally, each chance we get, as God gives us gifts to share.

Prayer for Peace Generous God, help us develop the gifts you give us so we may become generous disciples. Help us apply them to ways of sharing peace.

Spiritual Practice: Generosity and Discipleship Bring a basket or other container to your place of prayer. Meditate on the link between generosity and discipleship. Write a prayer of commitment in which you name specific acts of generosity and sharing to which you feel called. Fold the paper and place the prayer in the offering container. Close by singing a hymn of gratitude or praise as you offer your gift to God.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will knit generosity tightly into my discipleship.

Generosity…Only the Beginning

Saturday, September 6

9-6By Cindy L. Korf of North Platte, Nebraska, USA

This covenant entails sacramental living that respects and reveals God’s presence and reconciling activity in creation… especially those devoted to asserting the worth of persons, protecting the sacredness of creation, and relieving physical and spiritual suffering.

—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9c

Generosity is something we cannot measure. It keeps going beyond the original gift, beyond the time the giver can imagine.

In my job, victims of crime come into my office every day. They come in pain, misery, hurt, guilt, and confusion. I had a fishbowl on my desk and noticed how the fish and the water had a calming effect on the people who visited me. But, my fish kept dying. I finally decided to do away with the fish, though many of my visitors would watch them as they told their stories.

I mentioned to my friend the problem I had with keeping the fish alive, and that I no longer had them. I told her I wasn’t planning to get more. A week later she appeared at my office with an aquarium—complete with heater, filter, light, gravel, plants, fish food, and fish.

Her generosity went beyond the gift she gave to me. This gift continues giving joy each day. It blesses the people who come into my office, looking for sanctuary and peace.

When we cast our bread upon the waters,
we can presume that someone downstream
whose face we may never see
will benefit from our action,
even as we enjoy the gifts sent to us
from a donor upstream

—Maya Angelou

Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us look beyond the horizon and see how the gift we give today will minister tomorrow; how the peace we plant today will grow in years to come.

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 capable of giving 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 look at gifts I have received, and how I can use them for future